Commissioners discuss controversial loan - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Commissioners discuss controversial shooting range loan

Should taxpayers pony up $500,000 to help a private company build a shooting facility in south Georgia?

That's the question before Early County commissioners. Economic developers want the county to put up a loan for the project they say will create jobs in the area. At a time when government budgets are so tight, some taxpayers aren't sure that much public money should be going to a private project.

The decision is still up in the air after the development authority asked Early County commissioners to loan $500,000 to the American International Marksmanship Academy. Supporters say the loan would help create roughly 30 jobs and improve the county's economy. Commissioners say they still have a lot of questions. So did we.

No commissioner would do an interview following the meeting. When Commissioner F.C. Wiggins put a motion on the table to authorize the loan, it didn't pass. Jody Glass and Chairman Perry Jarrett said they didn't have enough information to approve the loan.

Tom Bell attended that meeting. He thinks the Academy is a good idea, even if that means using taxpayer money to fund the facility that military, police, and everyday people would use for training.

"Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and do what's best for the county," said Bell.

Some critics say members of the development authority and county commission are too close to the company. Up until a few weeks ago, Commissioner Hank Jester owned stock in the company.

Off camera, commissioners say they need more time to discuss the request. Other folks at the meeting say they want to see the academy create more jobs in Blakely, but they're concerned by the $500,000 price tag for the taxpayers.

Some people complained to us that commissioners aren't getting enough input from taxpayers.They say Thursday's 4:00 p.m. county commission meeting was held at a time when many people were still working and couldn't show up.

Commissioners likely will discuss the plan again at their next meeting Monday October 3rd at 6:00 p.m.

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