Will the real Jerry Hardvall please stand up

Published 12:59 pm Friday, August 27, 2010

Jerry, Jerry, Jerry, my feelings are hurt.

I really believed you when you wrote a letter to the editor two years ago (when you criticized the Republicans) in which you said, Id like to compliment our two continuing county commissioners, Tommy Melton and Warren Watson, on having done a great job for our county. If you attend a commissioners meeting you will notice that they conduct themselves in a professional manner and treat everyone with respect.

In your most recent correspondence to the Bulletin, you lament about how unprepared and uneducated we are on items pertaining to the agenda.

Wait a minute, what happened?&bsp; &bsp;

Commissioner Watson and I are the same people we were two years ago and even four years ago, for that matter. The only thing that has changed is the fact that we are no longer members of the Democratic party.

Another thing that amazes me is the fact that you would even know how unprepared we are; since becoming a commissioner I am approaching approximately 96 meetings and I can only remember seeing you at a half dozen meetings or less.

For you to compare the construction of this DSS building to a fire house is a little over the top. I am pretty sure that most people can see right through that one.

I want to see this building get built as much as anyone in this county. An unfortunate series of events have occurred to delay the process. However, from the beginning, I have had certain convictions and reservations about the size of the building. I feel that it is approximately 1,000 square feet too large; and seven empty offices are too many for a Department of Social Services. &bsp;

We need to build a functional building, large enough to provide the type of environment that allows our employees to serve the citizens that require social services, but not overbuild.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities talks about the national recession and what it is doing to our state and local budgets. In the 2009 and 2010 fiscal years, the imbalance between available revenues and what was needed for services has opened up budget gaps in most states. In addition, most states have now addressed significant budget shortfalls in enacting their 2011 budgets and even more budget gaps are projected for fiscal year 2012.

States had record reserves heading into this recession, but those have mostly been drawn down. Since federal economic recovery funds are quickly dwindling, states must address remaining shortfalls with a combination of spending cuts and/or tax increases. Without additional federal aid and if states continue to cut spending as they have in the current fiscal year, the national economy stands to lose up to 900,000 public- and private-sector jobs.

Since the recession began, over 30 states have raised taxes, sometimes quite significantly. Increases have been enacted or are under consideration in personal income, business, sales, and excise taxes. Major state revenue packages have been enacted in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Washington and Wisconsin, among other states.

North Carolina s FY11 budget included a contingency plan to fill the more than $500 million gap that would be left without additional federal funds. The plan calls for a one percent across-the-board reduction to all agency spending in addition to already-enacted cuts, plus a reduction in contributions to the state retirement system, if the funds are not granted by January 1, 2011.

A number of states are imposing furloughs and/or pay cuts for some state employees. These include Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Polk County had a very healthy fund balance going into this recession. In fact, some people said it was too healthy; we had too much money in the bank. We were able to keep the same tax rate this year, but it is predicted that next year will be a different story.&bsp; That is why I believe it is imperative that we stick as closely to budget as possible. Judging from the emails, phone calls and on the street conversations I have had, I am not the only one in Polk County who feels this way.

One citizen recently emailed to the commissioners his concerns with the bidding process, stating any high or low bid that is totally out of line with the bulk of the bidding should especially be carefully inspected for oversight or padding by the bidder. This was precisely commissioner Watsons point concerning the bids for the grading. The top three bids were all over $250,000. The next lowest was around $239,000 and the low bid was approximately $165,000. &bsp;

Was there oversight here by the lowest bidder, whom was chosen to do the work?&bsp; He was $45,000 over budget, but was still $85,000 less than the high bidder.

By the way, I respectfully disagree with Jeff Byrds editorial in Wednesdays Bulletin. Just because he owns the ink doesnt necessarily mean his word is final authority. That was his opinion, just as he graciously allows other people their opinions. I think he will be the first to tell you that. Mr. Byrd states, We applaud the commissioners who voted to move forward. Who is we? We at the Bulletin? We, my wife and I? I am unclear about that statement.

Please go to my website, www.tommymelton.com and see my reasons for leaving the Democratic party, rather than bolting it. Its on the front page. I will say that I do not like the picture being painted here that commissioner Watson and I are unnecessarily trying to hold this thing back. How could we hold it back anyway, when we are the minority of the voting board?

The truth is, it is not our intention to stop or delay the process. We are committed to building this building it would be foolish to say it is not long overdue. We want to look back over it, however, and say we did the best we could do for all citizens, the ones who will be utilizing the building and the ones who will be paying for it.