In my column of a few days ago (2/5), I mentioned that there has been criticism in both newspapers of the county’s plan to renovate the old Whitepath factory. The plan is to move some county offices there, and possibly also the library. I also mentioned that there had been a lot of talk about an advertisement for a Republican campaign event featuring David Ralston (Speaker of the Georgia House), Doug Collins (House of Representatives), and Kelly Loeffler (Senate). One sponsors listed was the Fannin County Commission, which made it look like taxpayer dollars were being used for a partisan fundraiser.
I try to be fair, so I emailed Mr. Helton and asked him if he wanted to comment. I got a reply that same day, but then I emailed him another question at the wrong email address. Hence the delay in posting his response.
He started by saying, “I greatly appreciate that you ask for my side of local issues – – I don’t get that very often.”
In response to the Whitepath situation, he said: “We purchased this for $1.3 million using SPLOST dollars. The 2016 SPLOST approved by Fannin voters mandated a Administrative Building and/or a parking deck. The Whitepath purchase fulfills both goals as the 30,000 + sq. ft. and 100 + parking spaces would greatly improve the parking challenges around the current downtown Courthouse. We have about $2 million remaining on the 2016 SPLOST for renovations and – perhaps the Library could also move over and improve their space and parking needs. IF – – – the Library grant works, then we could use that money along with our $2 million remaining SPLOST to re-purpose most of that building and minimize what will be needed for completion from local taxpayer funds.
The library has been stuck in an inadequate location for about 20 years – this is a great opportunity to solve that problem once and for all. If this were easy the library would already be in a better spot instead of a lot of broken promises over the years. I’m willing to take a chance because I believe our community will benefit from this move.”
With respect to the Republican event, he said: “On the upcoming Valentine’s event – I am a lifelong Republican and have attended this event for many years in a row. Never thought about this as a fundraiser but it is a non-issue since I paid for the Board of Commissioners table out of my own pocket.”