The Winder City Council did the right thing last week when it began steps to abandon plans for the city to borrow $5 million in a 40-year loan to build a major new city complex. There are several problems with the idea, but a key issue is how it was handled. Although the loan application and plans had been under way for months, Mayor Chip Thompson and city administrators kept it secret from the rest of the city council and the public. Only recently did the council learn of the plans and initially agreed to go along.
But wisely, council members had second thoughts. Why should Winder take on additional debt in the middle of a recession to finance spiffy new buildings for the city? And why should Winder ratepayers see their utility rates climb to fund such a project?
The secretive nature of this effort appears to follow a pattern of a secretive Winder leadership. In addition to this mess, Mayor Thompson has attempted to skirt state law on holding open city budget hearings and presented the council a utility study that called for a multi-year massive rate hike, although that fact was buried in the fine print.
And even now, the mayor is trying to again skirt state law by taking council members two at a time to tour existing facilities rather than have everyone do that at once. That’s illegal, too; you can’t meet with public officials two at a time in an effort to prevent an open meeting, according to the state’s attorney general.
And anyway, if it’s a legitimate idea, why try to hide it, Mr. Mayor? Why do you consistently try to shut out the public and your own city council from major city decisions?
Winder does have a strong mayor government, but it’s not a dictatorship. The Winder council should not be ambushed with last-minute decisions for major projects from the city’s administration as was done with this loan effort.
Winder city council members do not work for the mayor or the city, they work for the citizens. They, and the public, should be kept fully informed at public meetings about all of the city’s business, especially major projects.
Next month, the council plans to hold a final vote that would kill the $5 million loan deal for new city buildings.
They should. It’s a bad idea to hammer city ratepayers in the middle of a recession for additional city buildings and to take on more debt to do it.
If they only knew
07/23/10 at 09:13 AM
"The secretive nature of this effort appears to follow a pattern of a secretive Winder leadership. In addition to this mess, Mayor Thompson has attempted to skirt state law on holding open city budget hearings and presented the council a utility study that called for a multi-year massive rate hike, although that fact was buried in the fine print."--AMEN. If the citizens of Winder only knew the type of Mayor Chip Thompson is, he would not be re-elected, he would be impeached. Better yet, criminally charged.