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Opinion

Kneece refuses to release estimates to public, members of county council


A Column by the Editor
web posted September 26, 2009
COLUMN – I suppose I live in a very strange world, one where laws, rules, and words have meaning. Words such as those spoken by Edgefield County Chairman Monroe Kneece on Monday when he said in front of Interim Administrator Barbara Stark and me, “we have nothing to hide,” when the report of the costs of the building project and the Calliham property was received. The first thing that happened was a litany of excuses refusing to release the figures all week. Chairman Kneece is even refusing to share the work product with other members of the county council.

Moreover, the documents sought by EdgefieldDaily.com, and at this point even members of the county council, are the work product documents from the architectural firm 2KM on cost comparisons between building a new 5,000 square foot office building on Railroad Avenue and remodeling the Calliham building. Work bought and paid for by the taxpayers.

It is the numbers that Chairman Kneece stated he didn’t like and insinuated that he thought costs would be down, not up. When asked when the numbers would be available Chairman Kneece stated he wanted Building and Planning Director Mike Reed to clarify a “couple things” and they would be released. 

On Monday night a written request was filed to have the email containing the requested information be forwarded to EdgefieldDaily.com for the public to examine the fruits of their tax dollars at work.
 
Mike Reed wrote back on Tuesday that he sent the request to Barbara Stark, as the Administrator, and she would have to be the one to release them. Which did not happen.

On Thursday I appeared in person to review the records with Barbara Stark and Mike Reed both present in the Administration Building. Ms. Stark said she was looking for a piece of paper that former Administrator John Pettigrew signed to commit 2KM to produce the work product that was provided, and asked for another day to produce the records.

I returned on Friday only to find Ms. Stark and Mike Reed both “taking the rest of the day off” and were unavailable. Later I was told they were not going to release the information because it was “inaccurate”.

Really?

If the architectural firm 2KM cannot produce accurate estimations, perhaps we need to find a new firm to do the work. 2KM was also told they could not release any information except to Mike Reed, who is not even to a member of the county council that voted to hire the firm to produce the work product.

What?

The wagons are being circled around Chairman Kneece. The excuses continue to grow and change by the day.

So, according to the way things sit at this time, Chairman Kneece, Mike Reed, and Barbara Stark are the only people worthy of seeing the work product, accurate, inaccurate, incomplete or otherwise. Not the members of council elected to oversee the project or the taxpayers who are paying for it. And since when does a firm send their report to a county if they are incomplete or inaccurate?

What is inaccurate? Well, one thing that was involved in the estimation was the site work that will be required regardless of where the building is built or remodeled. That was not supposed to be included according to Mike Reed.

Site work was not to be included on a major construction project? In nearly 20 years in the construction field I have never heard of such.

Oh wait, the site work at the Calliham building would be very expensive due to the steep slope of the land, the water runoff problem already reported, and problems dealing with an existing building rather then just clearing a lot to start a new construction.

Now I understand why they do not want those numbers included. It would reveal the true costs involved. The people of the county do not need to know that.

But who would do the site work? Is the county road crew going to do it? No, that would be improper since the county road division is paid for through a special tax to do only county road maintenance. Maybe the site fairies are going to swoop in one night and do it for free.

I had one official that told me they were afraid that if the records were released EdgefieldDaily.com would report on them and it would cause an “uproar in the county”.

So hiding the records is permissible because releasing public information would cause the people to go into an “uproar” over what they are doing and they want to prevent the people from getting mad.

Yeah, I see no problems with that logic.

I suppose any council member who is not worthy of having the public information shared even to them should just not bother going to meetings. They do not need to be any more informed than the general public and obviously, at least to Chairman Kneece, they are no more important than the taxpayers they were elected to represent.

I suppose I will now be accused of writing “negative” things about Edgefield County because I am accurately reporting what is actually taking place.

I’m sorry, but I am just a camera of sorts. If the baby in the picture is ugly, don’t blame the camera, the baby is ugly.

 




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