Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Fire Station No. 6 Still Vacant

Yesterday marked nine full months since that late-season snowstorm damaged the roof of Fire Station No. 6, located at the intersection of Olympic and Athena Drives. The facility is still vacant, is still enclosed by a chain-link fence, and still exhibits absolutely no indications whatsoever that it will be operational anytime within the foreseeable future.

Though we are busily contemplating redoing the streetscape around City Hall (didn’t we do that just a few years ago?), potentially spending far more for a new jail than necessary, pouring millions into the former bank building next to City Hall (which housed the bank’s operations just fine until a few months ago), flushing millions down the toilet on an unneeded Tennis Center, begging the General Assembly to allow the Unified Government to jack up taxes, and wanting to take even more property off of the tax digest, we apparently have no interest in funding a project that directly impacts public safety.

I have neither the time nor the inclination to rehash the details concerning the continuing saga that has been Fire Station No. 6. For that, readers may consult the Banner-Herald’s coverage of the issue here, here, and here. For what they are worth, my previous laments on the matter date from March, April, May, June, and July. Suffice it to say that money appears to be of little concern when we are talking about frivolous expenditures (and yes, I understand the legalities of SPLOST – which to my mind is just another reason to vote down the next iteration of it) but appears to be the sole determining factor when we are considering much more important ones.

Well into the holiday season, not a word regarding the repair or reconstruction of Fire Station No. 6 has appeared in the Banner-Herald, Flagpole, or on the Unified Government’s web site since the height of the summer. I daresay that if Fire Station No. 3, the Classic City’s own little Taj Mahal located in Five Points (complete with any number of different kinds of bricks and stone, ornamental iron work, and a clock tower no less), had to be closed for some reason or another, it would not remain so for a single day longer than required to get it back up and running – funding sources be damned.

The residents who live in that formerly unincorporated area of Clarke County, that area euphemistically termed the “general services district,” seem to be of lesser value than those located within the former city limits and, consequently, get the shaft yet again.

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Anonymous said...

you do realize voting against SPLOST means an increase in your property taxes right?

The jail gets paid for one way or the other...honestly I'd rather have it on the sales tax.

james said...

1. SPLOST has been a disaster. It has been used to fund all manner of unnecessary projects for years, always supposedly on someone else's dime, that have collectively put an ever-growing drain on the general budget in terms of maintenance and operations expenses.

2. The problem in exemplified by the Clarke County School District; it used the "keeps property taxes low" argument for years - and its portion of the millage rate kept going up and up, finally hitting the 20 mills cap imposed by the Georgia Constitution.

3. Now, the Unified Government is engaged in the same thing. The folks down at City Hall upped their portion of the millage rate this year, and is poised to do so again next year, even through we have been collecting SPLOST taxes for how many long now? And if you are going to use SPLOST revenue to build a jail, use it to pay off the jail as soon as possible jail - not use it to pay some on bonds and interest for decades.

Just how did things like schools, fire stations, and jails get built before SPLOST? Through the use of sound fiscal practices, that's how. SPLOST has merely let the politicians and bureaucrats con taxpayers into believing that they are getting something for nothing by removing capital expenditures from the general budget.

Anonymous said...

sounds like you are imply ACC doesn't use sound fiscal policies.

In fact ACC (I can't speak to the school board) is in relatively good financial shape... particularly compared to other GA governments. They've laid off a few people... raised taxes a tiny bit, but there has not been a need to enact furloughs or other massive emergency spending cuts...unlike so many other GA local governments.

And to say SPLOST has been a failure is rather dishonest. The projects have added a lot to the quality of life in this community. You may not like them... and not all of them have gone smoothly (eg tennis center), but the vast majority (say 99%) have gone on without a hitch. We now have nicer parks, better roads, better sidewalks, better fire coverage, etc.

And unlike so many other communities enacting SPLOSTs, ACC brings in the community into the decision making process. Again you may not like what they have decided. You may not want a tennis center or a whatever... but it was not the commission that came up with the idea of building a tennis center... no that was a citizen group of tennis players.

How did they pay for things like the jail in the past? They had GO bonds...which add to the property tax. You can look back to the 80s and see special millage rates for all sorts of projects. If you want higher property taxes Jimbo... kill SPLOST.

Anonymous said...

James, fess up!

What is your particular interest in FS 6?

I can REMEMBER when the Chief and the insurance guys ran around saying rates would go up if we didn't build and re-equip fire departments. That led directly to the Taj.

As good as you are at spending the tax money, you seem to have a blind spot on this one.

Sure, there is some necessary level of fire protection. But that's often used, politically, simply to get more money. Same with the police, sheriff and the jail.

Since you seem to have a personal interest, I'd like you to vet the numbers, per capita, or along some other metric that'd allow us to compare how much ACC spends for fire protection vs. other similar areas. If it's way low, then you can talk about FS 6, some more!