NEWTON COUNTY FORENSIC AUDIT VINDICATES ALL THOSE OPPOSED TO BEAR CREEK RESERVOIR
How exciting can it be to know that when you stand up for something, you might eventually make a difference?! It took 13 years, but TWG, Mary Patrick, and all those that stood and opposed the Bear Creek Reservoir have been vindicated!!
“The taxpayers could be paying several millions of dollars for a reservoir that doesn’t exist and might not ever exist.” —Mary Patrick, 3/14/2004
Folks, I’ve been thinking for days what to write and how to write it. There is so much—so much that was said back in late 2003 when TWG first found out about the Bear Creek Reservoir (BCR) contract that had been done in secret (Yep! Secret! There’s that word again!). So much more done in 2004 when the project was continuing to be pushed by JCWSA, Linda Jordan, Steve Jordan, Don Kelly, Ray Gardner, and others that said those that didn’t agree with the BCR were not open minded. They defended the project and Tommy Craig at every turn; they said we couldn’t miss this chance at a water source for Jasper County.
JCWSA, Frank Sherrill-engineer working with Tommy Craig on several projects (including BCR & JDA), Tommy Craig, W.Dan Roberts—attorney for both JCWSA and JCBOC, and finally the JCBOC worked on a contract totally against the interests of Jasper County and its citizens during 2003. The proposal was presented by Tommy Craig and Frank Sherrill to a packed courtroom in late 2003, with the board members of JCWSA being the main cheerleaders.
We all owe a big debt of gratitude to the Newton County CITIZENS that protested, pushed, called, and complained about Tommy Craig and his outrageous legal bills they were paying, and the Newton County BOC kept approving and paying. For years Tommy Craig billed Newton County over $1,000,000 a year. Part of his bill was for his “legal fees” and part was for his role as “water consultant.” The Newton County BOC finally authorized a FORENSIC AUDIT to be done, and the parts released list, in minute detail, the fraud perpetuated on the Newton County taxpayers under what was called Bear Creek Reservoir.
Here is a copy of the entire audit:
Anyone that remembers BCR and all the letters to the editor, such as the one reproduced below from 3/14/2004, will find this report a real page turner, very eye opening, and something that shows you that just because the “leaders” of the county push something doesn’t mean that the citizens that fight it are wrong.
Here’s a few highlights of the forensic audit concerning BCR:
- Tommy Craig knew since March 2008 that BCR was not viable and was not going to be approved. Yet he continued to push it, charge for it, and tell Newton County leaders that it was going to happen (repeatedly). Page 27
- Eco-Tech & Eco-South were interlocking companies with Tommy Craig and they were involved in BCR, the Newton County landfill, and most likely JDA. The bills were sent to Craig’s office.
- Page 24 lists Tommy Craig’s role, how he benefitted, and how financially detrimental to the taxpayer’s of Newton County BCR was –in excess of $25M
- BCR was all perpetuated and supervised by Tommy Craig bringing money in for himself and business associates and some relatives
- Tommy Craig “used insider information to influence county leaders”
- Tommy Craig was intent to continue & prolong the BCR project to his financial benefit and to the financial harm of the taxpayers
- Tommy Craig knew years in advance the reservoir would not be approved.
- Page 41- BCR was “disguised as a water supply, but was really an amenity lake to benefit realtors” (and we add to benefit “developers” and land speculators)
Page.55 of the audit shows the BCR Financial damage summary and Page 57 shows the payments that directly benefited TC or close associates &/or relatives. Page 82 shows the summary observations. The audit details of the land acquistions for the BCR are particularly interesting.
You can also read other articles about the report here and see a WSB-TV report:
TWG will also have more information on this audit, and how many of the players in the BCR project are the same as the Newton County Landfill project and the Joint Development Authority (4 County Development Authority).
” Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” -Aldous Huxley ….or because they are considered “negative” by those that don’t like the facts or try to cover them up!
The Monticello News —-3/14/04 LETTERS
At their March 1, 2004 meeting, I presented some information to the Commissioners concerning the cost of the proposed reservoir.
I am a little surprised that none of them have contacted me to request further information or to ask questions. One Commissioner had told me previously that all he wanted to do was get the letter back from the attorney that is reviewing the contract, modify the contract, and sign it. Here are my concerns both as a citizen in this county and as chairman of the TWG. (The Watchdog Group)
First, I don’t think anyone realizes what the real cost of Bear Creek Reservoir (BCR) will be. We have been told that we will pay $2 million or $35,000 per quarter to pay for what Newton County has already done. Over 25 years this $2 million will become $3.5 million.
Second, when (if) the reservoir is built, Newton County tells us it will cost approximately $23 million (including a 15% contingency).
Our 25% will be around $6 million. That means Jasper County property owners will be paying $8 million, not $2 million. If Newton County only charges us 5% interest, this $8 million will become $14 million. We will be paying NewtonCounty almost as much in interest as we are in principal. Newton County needs this money to pay for the revenue bonds that they have already floated on BCR. There is no revenue from BCR because there is no reservoir; however there will be revenue when Jasper County starts making these payments.
Third, I gave the Commissioners a chart showing what the cost would be just to continue to purchase water from Newton County on the contract that the JCWSA already has with Newton County. This chart shows our population and water usage increasing for 50 years to match the figures Newton County has presented. If you start with the cost of water that JCWSA is now paying to buy water and you increase it every year by 1.5%, the total cost of water will be $5.5 million over 50 years.
Another huge concern is real cost of the reservoir. After doing research on many reservoirs, it seems they all cost at least 3 times more than originally estimated. Some examples to back this statement up are RockdaleCounty’s reservoir was estimated to cost $3.25 million–”it ended up costing $23 million (almost 8 times more). Yahoola Creek Reservoir in Lumpkin County was estimated to cost $3-4 million; so far it has cost $14 million and isn’t finished yet. If the same holds true with BCR, it will cost $70 million or more.
Reservoirs also take years to complete. The 2/18/04 issue of the Newton Citizen quoted Newton County officials as saying that the BCR and treatment plant would be constructed in 2017. That’s 13 more years. (Costs will go up in 13 years–how much is only a guess.) Rockdale’s reservoir took 8 years longer than expected to complete. The West Georgia Regional Reservoir project over near Bremen has been ongoing for 12 years, has cost the taxpayers $12 million, has not yet been approved by the Federal agencies, and has now been put on hold and is very likely not going to be built. [Note: WGRR was never built, but GA DNR paid Tommy Craig $2M.)
This exact same thing can happen with Bear Creek Reservoir. The taxpayers could be paying several millions of dollars for a reservoir that doesn’t exist and might not ever exist. There are many citizens in this county that have done research such as this, written letters, and will become more mobilized if and when the BCR permit is again applied for. It seems that alternative sources of water may be available that would be much cheaper in the long run and Jasper County would be in control of it’s own water.
It is up to all the people in Jasper County to ask the Commissioners to look at the real cost (there are many other issues I could go into), the time table, the open ended contract, etc. Some have said that those of us who object to rushing into signing this contract are “hard-headed obstructionist.” These are the very people that have done no research on their own. The Commissioners should sit down and go over the information with an open mind. A 50-year contract will burden many future generations, and it is up to those of us that will pay for it to make sure it is a good deal for Jasper County.
Citizens, be informed and stay informed! Only by being informed, can the citizens understand what is being done and talked about, and then press our officials to make good decisions for everyone in Jasper County. That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.