By: Steve Trubilla
Owen's Park: Volumes have been written on it, untold man hours have been expended, and well over a million dollars are involved. Literally, many years have passed since the people of Franklin County became the benefactor of Edgar Owens' estimated over $965,000 gift.
Controversy swirls over the purchase of Bull Creek golf course. The property was in foreclosure. Somehow it was taken out of it before a possibly better price could have been obtained on the courthouse steps.
Many questions remain on how and why this property was chosen, including allegations of officials making the final decision to purchase based on personal interest.
When it comes to the public trust, even the perception of impropriety further eroded that trust.
Confidence in the fidelity of leadership in such things cannot be in question.
I have seen people, to include officials, shake their heads expressing their frustration. To say it is the norm in such matters would not be understating it.
Often, when witness to this, I press the conversation to explore the reaction further. Almost without exception I hear: "Well this is Franklin County, what do you expect?"
If you doubt what I am saying, test it for yourself. Pick your subject/issue. Invariably you will hear, "That is just the way things are done here."
The problems with this are many. The least of which is not, there is a tendency to paint everyone with the same brush. To blame and say everyone in leadership; both elected and employed, is contrived, incompetent, and/or corrupt.
Having been involved, and taken the time to become familiar with both the people and issues, I can tell you without reservation this is simply not the case.
This said, and as unfair as it is, those that are, visit the consequences of their acts on everyone. To illustrate the point I offer this.
You hear the story of a police officer involved in wrongdoing, what is your reaction? Does it color your view of all police officers? Over time, with each headline, has it lowered overall trust?
A further measure of this is at one time I trusted, without question, all of those in the clergy, teachers, those in law enforcement, and charitable institutions. Now I still believe, or certainly want to, that the majority deserve that respect.
The simple truth is now everyone one is suspect, particularly when children could be at risk.
Expectations, if you expect to be treated with contempt, or arrogance, the probability of you asking questions is limited; over time even if you resist, indifference and apathy will overtake you.
Ironically, this operates to embolden those that treat you with the very contempt and arrogance you find so loathsome.
You would think at some point those doing this would be happy. Finally your resistance has been broken, and you simply stop asking questions.
Then an event occurs that so insults your sensibilities, once more you take a stand. Maybe it happens when you ask a question, not only is it not answered, you get laughed at.
Enter the county leadership deciding to call a public meeting to spend a reported up to $48,385 for the development of a master plan for the Owen's Park.
Really! After all of this time, and there still is not a master plan for this, and it is going to cost as much as $48,385 to get one? It is a glaring and prominent question that screams out to be answered.
How could anyone possibly know what the bottom line is for operation and development if there is no master plan? How could one even venture a guess?
It is absolutely mind boggling when you consider the money involved.
These questions aside for the moment, what would you say if I told you the public and media were locked out of the public meeting?
Giving reasonable consideration to the possibility, which I feel is most likely the case, the locked door was just an oversight, and allowing for routine security not being at the meeting also as an oversight, what followed, in this writer's opinion, was totally unacceptable.
The lockout was turned into a joke by some officials.
As reported by Franklin Times staff writer Carey Johnson, a review of the meeting's audio revealed County Attorney Pete Tomlinson saying "that's a good thing" when word spread that the media was shut out of the meeting. A few chuckles could be heard on the recording, as well. Tomlinson said his comments were made in jest. I am sure they were.
It occurs to me there are laws that govern public meetings, and for good reason.
What has happened in all of this reflects a culture of indifference. Not that long ago I was at one of these meetings that ran long into the night. I was one of three Franklin County residents still there at 10 p.m.
A county commissioner actually said to me, "Steve you must not have anything better to do than to be here at this time of night."
You know, I do not think he realized what he was saying.
Things said in jest, questions not being answered, phone calls not being returned, public meetings that appear to be little more than an inconvenience, held only as a formality to matters already decided.
I suspect some officials reading this may have a good laugh.
By the way, in case you have forgotten, your taxes just went up. Do you think that is funny, are you laughing yet?
Franklin County, you can change this in 2016 because there are four county commissioner seats up for election/reelection.