VERIFY: Warner Robins Mayoral Candidate Forum
This election season, 13WMAZ will Verify the claims you hear from candidates vying for office to make sure you're getting the full story.
Jacob Reynolds was at Tuesday night’s mayoral forum in Warner Robins and kept an ear out for statements to double check.
After the three candidates running for mayor’s office answered questions at the forum, we went to work.
When asked about choosing his top three priorities once elected, candidate Joe Musselwhite chose recreation as one of the top on his list. He made a claim about recreation spending from the stage.
“We have 5 to 6 million dollars in the bank, SPLOST money on hand to improve our recreation. We just simply haven't done anything. We need to get out in our parks and enhance them, repair them, add to them,” Musselwhite said Tuesday.
We went directly to Chief Financial Officer Holly Gross and Recreation Director Jared Reneau.
Musselwhite's first claim is true and verified. Warner Robins currently does have $6,047,818.00 in the SPLOST recreation account, according to Reneau.
But, the second part of Musselwhite's answer is not.
The Department has spent SPLOST and other funds totaling just under $800,000 to improve and open parks since October of last year. They’ve made improvements to Ada Lee Park, Fountain Park’s pool, the golf course, and opened Wellston Park along with private contributions.
They’ve also approved new statues and a memorial wall for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park.
While answering a question about how he hoped the city would look at the end of his four-year term if elected, candidate Chuck Shaheen said this.
“Are we safer today than we were four years ago? And the answer is no, crime has tripled. My goal in four years is to be safer in four years than we are today,” Shaheen said Tuesday night.
To verify that claim we went to FBI crime statistics and reports for Warner Robins in 2012 and 2016, the last year full numbers are available.
In 2012 there were 366 violent crimes. In 2016, there were 494, according to FBI reports.
So, Shaheen was correct that violent crime has increased, but it did not triple.
In fact, we verified it did not even double.
We also looked at crimes like property crimes, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. Those also increased. In 2012, there were 7,976 total. In 2016, there were 8,235 total, according to FBI reports. But, those crimes did not triple.
Mayor Randy Toms was asked what the city was doing to clear blighted properties. He said they are working as hard as they can and then said this.
“We have an incredible public works department that is getting the job done, it's hard because we are understaffed in every department for now,” Toms told the crowd on Tuesday.
So, we reached out to the city's Human Resources Director Bryan Fobbus to try and verify that claim.
Fobbus says every department has openings except two, so the Mayor's claim that every department is short-staffed is not correct.
But, Warner Robins’ main departments of Fire, Police, Public Works, and Utilities have openings.
The city currently has 52 unfilled positions, according to Human Resource numbers.
The only two departments fully staffed are Building and Transportation and Community Development.
FULL TIME OPENINGS
Administrative Services 3
Public Works - 9
Fire - 4
Police - 24
Recreation - 3
Building and Transportation - 0
Economic Development - 1
Utility - 8
Community Development - 0
We'll keep an eye on the Warner Robins election and others across Central Georgia to make sure voters are getting the most up-to-date and accurate information.
if you have something you want us to verify send it to our Facebook page or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Holly Gross - Warner Robins Chief Financial Officer
Jared Reneau - Warner Robins Recreation Director
Warner Robins Human Resources Department
Bryan Fobbus - Warner Robins Human Resources Director