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Pay attention to the process in politics

Government has never been known for its ability to work efficiently, but the McDuffie County Commission took sluggishness and inconsistency to new heights last week.

It began with a long - very long - process to possibly change the company that provides probation services in the county.

Commissioners listened to more than a half-hour of presentations from the current provider, CSRA Probation Services, and the company vying for the contract, Client Management Systems - a company formed by former CSRA Probation Services employees. CSRA Probation touted increased fine collections and decreased warrants in the past two years. Client Management Systems, on the other hand, trumpeted a recommendation from acting Probate Judge Valerie Burley (who was carrying on the recommendation of retired Probate Judge Gene Wells).

Following the presentations, commissioners simply confirmed Judge Burley's recommendation and approved it - on the second attempt at a vote - with little discussion among themselves.

We aren't saying commissioners didn't make the right decision, but we do have a question about the process: If commissioners were going to pin their decision on what the probate judge wanted, why didn't they just ask her to begin with and save everyone some time?

And that was just the beginning.

Commissioners also decided - after much discussion - to take bids on solid waste disposal, even though the county is about halfway through a 15-year contract with Waste Management, who, according to officials, has provided "good service" during that time.

Why? Well, Advanced Disposal officials say their new landfill - which is closer to McDuffie County than Waste Management's facility - will result in a cost savings for the county.

But where was the cost savings consideration when commissioners later discussed a lawn maintenance contract? Commissioners deadlocked on whether to stay with the current provider - even though the cost to taxpayers was $95 per month more - or go with the lowest bidder. That decision is in line for more discussion next month.

Now, price, recommendation or service should never be the only consideration for a governing board, and loyalty is just a commodity in politics. There's certainly a place for competition, for allowing new businesses a chance, and for thorough debate of all decisions.

It's all part of the process.

And regardless of the outcome, it's that process that is too important to by-pass.

Web posted on Thursday, January 25, 2007

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