Donnie Fetter…Good Job!

News-Times News Editor Donnie Fetter hit a home run with his July 20th story about the Georgia Highway patrol station paid for with county taxpayer money.  We have been tough on Donnie and don’t regret it.  But this article is what we should all expect from our local newspaper, and to Donnie Fetter, a formal thank you for such a taxpayer friendly story!

Fetter came right out of the gate and said:

When a Georgia State Patrol post opened near Grovetown in November 2009, it came with a promise of added revenue for Columbia County coffers to justify the $2 million price tag to build it.

Since that time, revenues instead have dropped considerably.

Revenues from state patrol citations in Columbia County totaled more than $143,000 in 2009. The year before that, Columbia County collected nearly $159,000 in revenues from such citations.

In 2010, the first full year the state patrol post operated in Columbia County, revenues from fines dwindled to less than $108,000, according to the county Probate Court.

We are pleased that Fetter included this comment; “Though based on William Few Parkway, troopers from that post cover several counties in and around Columbia County. Citations written by troopers are adjudicated in the counties in which they were written, with revenues from fines collected by those counties.”  Columbia County taxpayers, and only Columbia County taxpayers, pay for a station that the state should have paid for and is responsible for paying for since it is a STATE PATROL STATION.  But the superb and underpaid Highway Patrolmen patrol other counties, and when they issue a ticket, when it’s paid, Georgia’s general fund gets 5% and the county it was written in gets 95% of the fine money.  WHOA!  Columbia County paid for a state project and other counties benefit!  WHOA!

“Interim Probate Judge Alice Padgett said some of the fine collections also might be distributed to various funds, but she could offer no specifics as to which funds and how much money they receive” Fetter stated.

We cannot discuss irresponsible spending and money management without Ron Thigpen’s name coming up.  Thigpen is an executive at Georgia Bank & Trust and receives an annual salary/compensation package of more than $560,000.  Fetter added that “When county commissioners first considered using local 1-percent sales tax dollars to pay for construction of a state patrol post in Grovetown to replace an older post in Thomson, some officials estimated that revenues from citations would top $300,000 each year.”

Commissioner Ron Thigpen said, at that time, the post could pay for itself within five years. Thigpen recently said he was told then that the revenue from fines would be about $200,000 each year.

“We felt like the revenue made the financial model work, because over time it paid us back for the cost of the post,” he said. “We estimated at that point in time somewhere between seven to 10 years (to recoup the construction cost).”

The post also saves the county money, Thigpen said, by reducing the need to hire additional sheriff’s deputies.

But the added revenue was not a driving factor in the commission’s decision to fund a new post, Thigpen said.

What does Maxwell Smart say?  “Missed it by that much”.  When the 5th year is up, let’s do a follow up with Thigpen and then see how well Georgia Bank & Trust is doing.  Mr. Bankerman, if the station will pay for itself in 5 years, and if the price tag was $2,000,000, then by our math it would have to generate $400,000 each year, so your claim of revenue from fines of “about $200,000 each year”, leaves after year 5, a million dollar shortfall, or, one dredging of Ron Thigpen’s West Lake pond.  With Ron Thigpen at the wheel for Georgia Bank & Trust, we’re not surprised that Georgia Bank & Trust has a C- rating.  Georgia Bank & Trust must pay some big dividends, eh?

During the 2010 primary campaign season, Ron Cross and Ron Thigpen were boasting about the station, and Barry Paschal was humming right along with them.  Cross’ primary opponent was Brett McGuire.  You may remember that the County Commission created a new rule in order to oust McGuire from the Planning and Zoning Commission and then Ron Cross appointed Jim Cox to the position.  Did we mention that Cox does the marketing/buying for Cross’ campaign and Ben Harbin’s campaigns?  WHOA!

In 2010, McGuire was telling anyone who would listen that the county has no business building a state facility, and said that there was no way it would bring in $2,000,000 in revenue in 5 years.  Cross and Thigpen laughed.  All we can say is that Thigpen must be doing a wonderful job over there at Georgia Bank & Trust.  We wanted McGuire’s view on this but he could not be reached for comment.





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