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Jail project depends on informed voters
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Forsyth County News
In a woefully tough economic climate, county officials in November will try to convince local residents to spend their hard-earned money on something many would prefer not to consider in even the best of times — a new county jail.
Doing so will be no easy task.

Despite an indisputable need for a new detention center, county voters have on multiple occasions in recent years refused to give their support to the financing of a new jail.

If a majority is to be convinced of the need to vote in favor of a $75 million bond to build a 480-bed facility on Veterans Memorial Boulevard in Cumming, jail supporters are going to have to be convincing in their arguments for construction.
A successful campaign for the new jail will have to include:

• An open and transparent government — Every-thing connected to the jail has to be available for review and inspection, from land acquisition documentation to jail design plans.

Rumor, speculation and innuendo fostered by secretive behind-the-scenes transactions are at least partially to blame for the failure of previous votes.

• Precise and specific information — County residents have in the past proven they aren’t going to buy a pig in a poke. If voters are to be convinced to finance the project, they deserve to know exactly what they are buying and at what cost.

• A financially sound foundation — Voters have to believe that the money is being judiciously spent and that the proposed jail is in line with the cost of similar facilities built elsewhere.

They also have to understand the current, and potential, costs of not building a new detention center. Such costs include the possibility of court intervention at some point to mandate construction on a timetable that suits the courts rather than the county government and its constituents.

There are certain pieces of governmental infrastructure that by their very nature generate negative public reaction — landfills, sewer plants and county jails among them. But time and again taxpayers have shown a willingness to do what must be done if they are convinced those in command are trustworthy stewards of public dollars.

In hard financial times, that compelling trust in elected leadership is more critical than ever when asking residents to reach into their pockets for the funding needed for even the most critical of construction projects.