Ripping defeat from the jaws of success

November 15, 2013 

On an early April 25, 2010, morning, a fire sparked by lightning struck Twiggs County’s library. The building was a total loss as were the 15,000 books inside. That could have been the end of the story, but the community came together and Nov. 5, 2013, three days after the city of Jeffersonville held its Harvest Day Festival, Sandra Deal, Georgia’s first lady, cut the ribbon on a new 6,700-square-foot, $1.29 million facility paid for by the state and insurance proceeds.

It was a big deal (no pun intended). Deal read one of Chuck Leavell’s books to local children and the town was mighty proud. That glow was short-lived.

The acting chairman of the library’s board of trustees, Billy Humphries, announced Wednesday that the library could close because it didn’t have funds to operate. Bills submitted to the County Commission had not been paid.

The library is funded by the Twiggs County Commission, school board and the city of Jeffersonville. However, Humphries blames the county commissioners. He called them “totally incompetent and belligerent beyond belief.”

Twiggs commissioners have been called that and more since the 2012 election that brought former Probate Court Judge Ken Fowler to the chairmanship after defeating incumbent Ray Bennett in the Democratic Primary and Glen Christopher in the general election. Fowler was removed from the bench in 2010 by the Georgia Supreme Court for several counts of misconduct. Since the 2012 election, the commission has fought with just about everyone -- even the Georgia Department of Transportation about work already contracted and in progress. The school board, due to cuts on the state level, had to slice its commitment to the library by more than half. The city has pledged $6,000 next year.

The bottom line is the library should be the county’s responsibility, period.

Instead of a good story line for the county’s development authority, the commissioners have thrown a monkey wrench at it (not the first) and wasted the effort of Rep. Bubber Epps, who went to bat with the governor for the money to replace the library. However, commissioners have managed to generate horrible headlines from Athens to Jacksonville.

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