Watch videos below story. Interview with Danny Hall and Charlie Paris. FYN questions Sanford and Smith about grant.
Who in Gilmer County is really suprised that the completion of the Clear Creek ballfields may now become a reality. A couple of weeks ago, at a forum held in Gilmer County between David Ralston and Sam Snider, Ralston surprised everyone by announcing that when Governor Deal signed the 2014 State budget there would be $540,000 to complete the Clear Creek Ballfields.
On the surface that sounds like great news and it appeared to be breaking news to Post Commissioners Danny Hall and Dallas Miller. FYN asked Hall and Miller if they had any knowledge of the money coming to Gilmer County? Both replied it was the first time they had heard anything about money for the ballfields coming from the State.
Sanford did not react quite as surprised, seems he already knew about the money. Sanford is running for re-election as Chair Commissioner and is opposed by Danny Hall, Charlie Paris and Mark Simmons. FYN interviewed Danny Hall and Charlie Paris concerning Sanford keeping this a secret from the other commissioners and citizens until only three weeks left until election day. (full video interviews below) Mark Simmons was not available for comment.
Where is the money coming from? In a recent interview Sanford stated it was a grant from DNR. Sanford went on to say that he and Jim Smith made a trip to Atlanta to meet with Speaker Ralston. In that same interview the statement was made that the ballfields where not complete due to a lack of funds. That is not true.
That brought into question, when did Gilmer County apply for a grant? Citizens have been waiting for five years on these ballfields. FYN has asked Sanford at every other meeting since 2011 for an update on the ballfields. In 2012 Speaker Ralston offered to have the Department of Correction’s construction crew provide all the labor at no cost to the County. The County would simply buy the material and the DOC construction crew would do the rest. How can you pass up a deal like that? Well, JC Sanford and Jim Smith did. FYN questioned this decision several months later in a ballfield update,
“what happened to the Department of Corrections deal on building the ballfields?”
Sanford replied that after he and Smith looked at the engineering plans the DOC required they decided it would be cheaper for the county to do the work itself. Not sure how you turn down free labor.
Sanford watched a $90,000 donation for the ballfields from Amicalola EMC expire in February 2013. Fortunately AEMC extended the offer and the County still has the money.
By the end of 2013 Hall and Miller increased the pressure asking about finishing the ballfields. Sanford’s only response was the bad weather prevented them from moving forward. In January of this year Hall placed on the agenda for discussion an update on the Clear Creek Ballfields. Sanford would only reply that the County did not have the money. He asked Miller and Hall how do you propose we move forward? Hall went so far as to offer a joint venture with the Board of Education, anything to get them finished. Sanford did not agree, he was clear he did not want to lose control of the project.
This is the same month Sanford and Smith say they traveled to Atlanta to meet with Ralston. The meeting was kept a secret from the public including Miller and Hall. Sanford and Smith sat on this secret through the February, March and April BOC meetings. Each month the post commissioners pushed for answers and updates on the fields. Sanford offered no clear answers on the cost to complete the project or the status. He would only say we are going to start planting grass next week, putting in the grease trap and septic system.
In the April BOC meeting Gilmer County received a grant to upgrade safety at the airport. Miller made a statement in that meeting that he did not want to see one truck load of dirt go to the airport before the ballfields were complete. This would have been the perfect time for Sanford to share the news about the possible grant for the ballfields, no nothing.
After the announcement in late April of the State funds turned Grant, FYN wanted to find out more details on this election year grant. During the BOC workshop (watch video below) FYN asked about the grant and were there any strings attached. Smith and Sanford said at this time there are no strings attached, to which I responded,
“you mean they are sending you the money and telling you to use it any way you want?” Sanford responded “pretty much.”
Later that night during the BOC regular meeting, FYN again asked questions. I asked Miller and Hall on the record if they were aware of Sanford’s and Smith’s trip to Atlanta in January, to which both replied
I also asked, on the record, if they knew about the grant before Ralston’s announcement, and they both responded
I then asked for a copy of this grant application, Sanford said there is no grant application. I asked
“then how did you apply for the grant?”
Smith answered that they sent DNR a spreadsheet of the cost to complete the fields. I pressed again about what strings were attached to this grant money? Smith said that DNR would send an intergovernmental agreement for the grant. I asked,
“have we seen that agreement?”
and could not answer when we would see that agreement. Sanford said DNR will send the check in July.
The BOC did vote to request RFP’s on completing the project. The county has already installed the septic system and the grease trap.
I had also asked if we didn’t apply for this grant, how did we happen to get it? Sanford said that when he visited Ralston in January David asked,
“is there anything I can do for Gilmer County?” Sanford said, “that’s his responsibility,” to ask for what we need.
Repeat, according to Sanford that’s Ralston’s responsibility. If that’s the case why didn’t Sanford go to Atlanta in 2011, 2012, and 2013? Was that not also Sanford’s responsibility?
A couple questions come to mind. Have you ever seen a grant with no strings attached? What will the Intergovernmental Agreement look like from DNR? Depending on the election outcome is this a win or lose grant?
Including the $90,000 donation from AEMC that brings the total to finish the ballfields to $630,000. Who will be accountable for the money? Has anyone ever drawn up a scope of work for this modified project? Does anyone know precisely what parts of the original project have been deleted and what are we now going to complete?
I suppose after diverting the original ballfield bond funds to the Whitepath Golf Course, citizens paying higher property taxes to pay these bond payments might have some questions.
Then when the Chairman couldn’t find the mismanagement of $2 million highlighted in this year’s county audit, nor explain how the construction bond fund only had $600K plus or minus at year end and now has over $2.2M that could have been used for the ballfields, I guess it’s time to