July 12, 2008

BEAR CREEK RESERVOIR—A Political Plum ready for Picking

 During public comments of the June BOC meeting, the commissioners were told that  Bear Creek Reservoir was discussed at a recent EPD meeting.  According to Ken McMichael who attended that meeting, Newton County is just waiting for the election results in Jasper County to be able to partner with new commissioners in the Bear Creek Reservoir project.   Mr. McMichael emphasized that this should be the most important issue in the upcoming elections and voters need to know where each candidate stands.

If the Bear Creek Reservoir contract had been signed in 2003-2004 as the previous board of Bennett, Wyatt, Crow, Pennamon, and Hill had wanted, the taxpayer’s of Jasper County would have already been paying our 25% share for the past 5 years on a reservoir that still hasn’t been permitted and doesn’t exist.  This would have already amounted to $700,000 (assuming our payments would have stayed the same.) IF Bear Creek Reservoir ever does happen, it will be at least 10 more years for permitting, building, and having water available. By that time we would have paid Newton County $2.1 million without a drop of water to show for it.

The projected cost of Bear Creek Reservoir is now between $350M and $500M.  Based on another controversial Tommy Craig project, Hard Labor Creek Reservoir in Walton County, the cost will probably be close to $350M.  According to Mr. Michael’s comments to the BOC, all Newton County commissioners are waiting for is the political dust to settle in Jasper County.  One must wonder why certain people are running for BOC slots and question who recruited them to run.  There are those that stand to make many dollars if Bear Creek Reservoir does go through.  While the taxpayers will be paying for a lifetime, a few will become wealthy.

After the June meeting Mr. McMichael handed each BOC member and at least 2 candidates a sheet of paper asking them to sign it.  It stated that if they were on the BOC next term they pledged not to commit any Jasper County tax money toward the Bear Creek Reservoir project.  Who signed? Mary Patrick (Dist 4 candidate), Alan Cox (Dist 5 candidate), Comm. Bernard and Comm. Johnson.  Comm. Pennamon and Comm. Hill declined to sign it. Russell Bennett (Dist 4 candidate), Ronnie Payne (Dist 3 candidate), and Gene Johnston (Dist 3 candidate) all said they would not sign the pledge at the candidate forum held at Turtle Cove when asked. Joe McMichael (District 1 candidate) said Jasper County needs its own reservoir; Bob James (District 2 candidate) has said he wouldn’t sign until he saw it; and Tom Brazil (District 5 Candidate and former JCWSA member during the Bear Creek Reservoir controversy) told people at the Chamber forum that Bear Creek Reservoir was a “scare tactic and wasn’t going to happen.”

Both Greg Wyatt and Russell Bennett said they thought Bear Creek Reservoir was still a good thing after they were defeated in the 2004 elections with Wyatt telling the Covington paper that he hoped they could still pass it before leaving office. 

“The Covington News” recently ran an editorial stating that citizens in Newton County should get over their qualms about the project and move forward.  They encourage the building of Bear Creek Reservoir even though NO COSTS have ever been provided to the citizens of Newton County (or Jasper County).  On blind faith Jasper County was to pay 25% of whatever Newton County told us to pay.

Voters, you are now aware.  Make your choice for Commissioner of your district very carefully.


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