There is plenty of time between now and Nov. 7, the General Election, to dissect and discuss Columbia County's Capital Improvements Plan.
But it's obvious there is a huge chunk of misinformation that needs to be nipped in the bud: The notion that taxpayers bought West Lake's Bowen Pond.
They didn't. But they might have to clean it up.
Bowen Pond, like many others in Columbia County, is partially filled with silt - an unfortunate consequence of soil-disturbing development upstream, despite all the silt fences and hay bales that are supposed to prevent dirt from eroding off of construction sites.
Bowen Pond is one of the thornier issues in the county's Nov. 7 bond referendum, whose total cost of about $43 million would be paid back during the next 12 years with higher property taxes. The bond includes $1 million to clean silt from the pond, which is surrounded by private property in West Lake and Stevens Pointe.
Unlike other dirt-filled ponds not on the list for taxpayer-financed cleanup, Bowen Pond is owned by the county - but not because taxpayers purchased it.
Bowen Pond was donated to Columbia County to become part of the county's inventory of greenspace. That's right - donated. Taxpayers didn't spend a dime for it.
The problem is that taxpayers now are being asked to spend $1 million to clean up their gift.
So, did the West Lake and Stevens Pointe residents give the county a pig in a poke? Or, did the county get a huge, valuable donation for the greenspace program, and maintenance is now its obligation?
Whatever the case, there is another issue involved: The West Lake and Stevens Pointe landowners don't want to allow public access to Bowen Pond.
If the public owns the pond, the public should be allowed to use it; with no public access, taxpayers shouldn't be obligated to clean it up.
To settle all this, commissioners should establish public access to the water and demand surrounding property owners help pay for the lake's cleanup. That's only fair.
Whatever voters have to say about the bond referendum, this minor piece shouldn't be the deciding factor. Because lingering questions could taint everything else on the list, commissioners must flesh out these details before the vote.
To see the entire list of Capital Improvement Plan projects, in four categories, go to www.columbiacountyga.gov and click on "Capital Improvements Plan Update."
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