- Associated Press - Friday, September 11, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) - Records show taxpayers spent around $92,000 to pave a road leading to Gov. Nathan Deal’s personal home in Habersham County, a decision which has prompted criticism from government watchdogs.

The idea came from State Patrol Commissioner Colonel Mark McDonough, reports WAGA-TV, the Atlanta station that first disclosed details of the road project (https://bit.ly/1XPqNNm ).

The project was completed to improve access to the home in an emergency such as a winter storm, McDonough said.

Government transparency advocate William Perry calls the expense an abuse of taxpayer money.

“This isn’t the governor’s residence that will be passed on to the next governor. This is his personal home,” Perry told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (https://on-ajc.com/1VRBSeQ ).

“And I have to question why these improvements are being made now and not earlier in his first term,” Perry added. “Why go to such great taxpayer expense to work on this property that may not be heavily utilized until after he’s out of office?”

Deal declined comment to the newspaper, saying he wouldn’t discuss security decisions.

“I don’t comment on them,” Deal said. “Nor do I participate in executive security decisions.”

Deal typically resides in the Governor’s Mansion in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood during the week. But on weekends he often escapes to the Habersham County home near the banks of the Chattahoochee River, the Atlanta newspaper reported. The home near Demorest is about 75 miles northeast of Atlanta.

McDonough says he was only trying to plan for emergencies. He would need to ship in fuel trucks, supply vehicles, communications towers and a mobile command center if the governor is forced by a disaster to leave Atlanta and turn the Habersham County property into an emergency headquarters, he said.

“And to do that, I need to get all of that stuff out of there, and I have a whole bunch of people coming and going,” he said. “And if I’m doing that on an unimproved roadway, we would tear it up pretty quick.”

The home is at the end of Log Cabin Road, once a dusty county-maintained roadway until it was repaved in early June. The county funded the project through a state Department of Transportation grant.

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