Citizens’ group holds first meeting
BY KRISTI REED
The Barrow Citizens’ Partnership for Effective Government (CPEG) held its organizational meeting Sunday, May 18, at The Georgia Club. Approximately 35 people attended.
District 3 commissioner Bill Healan and county commission chairman candidates Danny Yearwood and Jim Beckemeyer were among those in attendance.
CPEG chairman Len Ebersberger said he was pleased with the turnout.
“We felt really good about it,” he said.
A number of people joined CPEG and signed up for various committees the group is organizing.
“We’re pumped up and ready to go,” Ebersberger said.
Ebersberger said the purpose of the group is to encourage more effective government in Barrow County.
“We think the tax money is not being spent wisely in this county,” he said. “We think that the infrastructure is much more important in the county at this time than it is to build the Cultural Arts Center.”
“The county is supposed to supply sewer and road improvements and there’s no money in the county coffers to do that. Our job is to assess the budgets to see that the tax money is being spent wisely. If it’s not, then we’re going to be a forum for those citizens in the county that are looking for a much more efficient government,” Ebersberger said.
CPEG is a non-partisan group. Ebersberger said the group will not publicly endorse any candidates, but will hold voters forums as a way to provide its members with the opportunity to listen to the candidates and learn their positions on various issues facing the county. The group will also publish a quarterly newsletter for its members.
Ebersberger said the group has several major issues of concern currently. Chief among those is the proposed Cultural Arts Center.
“There’s no guarantee of a return,” Ebersberger said. “There has not been an assessment on it. There’s not been an operating budget put together to show what it is going to take to support this center. We’ve estimated it is going to be $1.5 million per year which is ten percent of the tax coming into the county government to support that facility. Who then is going to be responsible for the bond?”
Ebersberger said county tax payers should not be funding what will primarily be used as a venue for Barrow County School events.
“We’re not opposed to the school having an auditorium,” he said. “But that’s a school board function, not a county function. If the people want that, they need to go to a school board meeting and demand that.”
Ebersberger said CPEG will have eight committees to monitor various government agencies and issues. Committee members will attend all board meetings and work sessions of various government groups to keep members apprised of current issues facing the county.
The committees will include board of education, county commission, audit, environmental, communications, fire and safety, utilities and planning and development committees.
Planning and development is an issue of major concern for CPEG.
“We have some real concerns about the relationship of some of the real estate people in the county with the county commission,” he said. “We don’t think that a county commissioner buying property near the county airport, 50 acres for $9,500 an acre, and then putting it on the market for $60,000 an acre and then voting to condemn property opposite from him is a good representation of a county citizen.”
The utilities committee will monitor what is happening with water, gas and sewer.
“One of our big concerns is the exorbitant amounts of money that Winder natural gas charges to the citizens that are not in the city of Winder and then uses that surplus to offset city property taxes,” Ebersberger said.
The county commission and board of education committees will monitor government meetings. Ebersberger said CPEG is concerned that open meeting requirements are not being fully met by the BOC or BOE.
“We want the meetings to be open,” he said. “We want the meetings to be able to recognize people that come in to speak on legitimate subjects. And we want the commission to respond to the questions that those people put to them and we want the same thing of the Board of Education. These are public groups and as public groups, they have the obligation to give the information out to the citizens on how and why they make decisions.”
PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
Ebersberger said CPEG does not see its activities as a short term project.
“The day of back door politics is over,” he said. “One of the things that Barrow County has a problem with is that citizens of this county have not taken the time to know the issues, have not taken the time to look at the issues. They look at the personalities more so than issues.”
Ebersberger said CPEG will work with other citizen groups to monitor issues and support government actions when it makes sense to do so.
“I assure you that there is a dedicated group of people here that will ask the various governing entities to be more efficient and more effective managing our money. Hopefully, in time we will get a substantial number of people to join our group,” he said.
Ebersberger said CPEG will provide information to help voters understand the issues facing the county.
“If you are interested in living in a county that is run efficiently and effectively, you need to join our group,” he said.
The non-profit, bipartisan group is open to all property owners in Barrow County. For more information, visit www.barrowcpeg.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.