Commissioners Consider $700,000 Donation to Children's Healthcare

Chairman Brian Tam brought the Issue before the board.

Three weeks after Forsyth County commissioners directed department heads to cut 1-2 percent from their departmental budgets to help plug a $1.3 million gap in the 2012 budget, they are now considering donating $700,000 to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta to buy a pediatric neonatal ambulance for the new facility in Forsyth County.

Commission Chairman Brian Tam placed the issue on last week's work session agenda and commissioners voted unanimously to direct County Attorney Ken Jarrard to meet with Children's Healthcare officials to draft an agreement.

Beth Buursema, the community outreach liaison for Children's Healthcare of Forsyth and North Fulton said, "This is just amazing that they are considering doing this. It would be a great service to children in our community."

Children's has six of what Buursema calls a rolling pediatric ICU unit but the Forsyth facility doesn't have one dedicated to its full time use.

Commissioner Todd Levent said Wednesday, "There is a desperate need in Forsyth County for this type of specialized ambulance. If it saves just one child's life, it will be a tremendous asset to our community."

But, Levent added, "I don't want taxpayers to bear the full cost. I believe that we, as commissioners, need to do our best to get private industry more involved in this effort. Encouraging businesses in our community to donate to help save children's lives is the proper role for government to play."

Levent said it now appears the budget will be balanced and that paid holidays and cost-of-living raises for county employees will be restored.

Critics, however, questioned the propriety and wisdom of gifting such a large amount of taxpayer dollars in the midst of one of the worst recessions in decades.

Brad Wilkins, vice chairman of the Forsyth County Republican Party and one of the founders of the conservative group Concerned Citizens for Forsyth County, agreed that it is a worthy cause, but added, "It is not government's role to dictate to citizens which charitable contributions they must make."

Wilkins said he will make a recommendation to commissioners at Thursday's meeting about how to raise some, if not all, of the necessary funding for Children's Healthcare without forcing citizens to donate.

Bill July 08, 2011 at 06:51 PM
Hi Bill and thanks for reading CummingPatch. I hope when the commissioners bring this issue back for a vote, they will hold a public hearing or, at the very least, not hide it under the Consent Agenda. When government gives away $700,000 of the taxpayers money, the citizens deserve to be heard.
Steve Voshall July 08, 2011 at 07:19 PM
Clearly our County Commissioners dont get the idea of limited government and fiscal responsibility. If the fire department has this much money then why did they raise the millage rate on tax payers last year. Children's Healthcare has an ambulance parked in the parking lot at the Avenues right now. They have the money and contacts to "raise donations" for this. Children's will bill insurance companies for its use. It is not the Counties responsibility and tax dollars should not be used to pay for this.
Bill July 10, 2011 at 11:07 AM
Thanks for being a CummingPatch reader, Steve. The plan to donate $700,000 of taxpayer money originated with Chairman Brian Tam. But the feedback I'm getting from county officials indicates commissioners are beginning to re-think this very bad idea. Some have even said they want to consider Brad Wilkins suggestion about letting citizens round up their water bills to the next highest dollar IF they would like to donate to Children's Healthcare.
Dennis Brown June 20, 2012 at 04:15 PM
This is the one last night at the Debate that Mr.Tam said he did not sponsor. He said that I have my facts wrong. Oh well.
Hal Schneider June 20, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Tam caught again prevaricating! No surprise there!


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