When the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition crew visited Augusta early this month to oversee construction of a new home for Earnestine Graham and her family, everyone swooned over the celebrities and gawked at the projects.
Apparently it wasn't until after the stars packed up and left that someone finally thought to check to see what this thing was costing us.
Augusta's part of the project racked up more than $12,000 in overtime bills for Richmond County sheriff's deputies alone, and thousands more in waived construction fees. City taxpayers picked up the tab.
But what about Columbia County's role? While Bill Beazley Homes was building the Graham house, a group of volunteers also visited the Girls Scouts' Camp Tanglewood in Columbia County to build a new cabin.
Taxpayers got a bill for that, too: A whopping $345.
What's the difference? The cabin was much smaller than the house, of course; waived fees for its overnight construction, along with keeping an inspector on site, accounts for the small total tab, says Development Services Division Director Richard Harmon.
There also were no overtime costs for Columbia County deputies protecting the Tanglewood project, says Columbia County Sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris. The secluded site didn't need extra security.
And unlike Augusta's shuttle parking for volunteers at crumbling Regency Mall, no additional deputies were needed in Columbia County to prowl the shuttle parking at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church.
There is an undeniable reality that a publicity-grabbing feature like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition makes a ton of money for the television network, in large part because local businesses and citizens pay most of the expenses. It's also undeniable that it sounds Grinch-like to talk about the price amidst all the fun.
But at least for Columbia County, our reputation as a safe, secure community helped keep our costs for joining the fun much lower.
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