Monday, August 03, 2009

3 AUG 09: Mistakes Near the Lake

Did you hear the good news about some area lakes? The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has waived "day use fees" for boat docks and swimming beaches through next Sunday. For a few days, the Columbus docks have some competition - and I keep waiting for someone to drop truckloads of sand at local splash parks.

Without even knowing it, I was able to get a head start on this celebration over the weekend. I made my first-ever trip to West Point Lake. But no, I didn't go boating. I didn't go swimming. In fact, the only time I got wet was when I hurried to my car for an umbrella during an afternoon shower.

The church group I attend decided to have a weekend retreat at one of the West Point Lake campgrounds. I joined the group for a Saturday worship service and potluck lunch. You see, I don't own a tent. I don't have a sleeping bag. And dropping a futon on the ground in the open air simply would look weird.

The Corps of Engineers rules specify camping fees are NOT waived for the first nine days of August. Yet a nice woman at the campground entrance decided to let me in with NO three-dollar charge, because "it's a church group." Hopefully someone remembered to give her a "love offering" at checkout time Sunday.

Our group gathered at the Running Deer campsite, which is part of West Point Lake's Holiday Campground. The Kee Kee campsite is next to it - but so far the Corps of Engineers has resisted the temptation to rename it Kia Kia.

A breeze off the nearby lake and a mix of clouds and sun made for a marvelous worship atmosphere, and an overall splendid day. It's tempting to say it was a perfect day at the campground - but no. Someone had to bring up the Henry Louis Gates case after lunch.

The time came for me to drive home - and that's when the adventure began. The Presiding Elder at church had printed Mapquest directions in advance, for people to drive from Columbus to the campground. They worked well, except when I had to guess about whether a four-lane road was Georgia Highway 109. Apparently the state can't afford corner signs with two placards on them these days.

To return to Columbus, all I had to do was take the Mapquest directions in reverse. Right onto Georgia 109 - check. Left onto Fling Road - check. As I drove down that road, I presumed it would be my last Fling for the afternoon....

But then trouble happened. I turned left from Fling Road onto U.S. Highway 29. In one mile I should have seen Lukken Industrial Drive, and I presumed the worst I could do was wind up in the heart of LaGrange. About 15 miles later, I was proven wrong - as my car was at the edge of downtown West Point.

I turned around at a gas station, and drove the other direction down U.S. 29. I must have missed the turn for Lukken Industrial Drive, right?! Yet no signs appeared for it - and soon I was back at Fling Road. This simply is NOT supposed to happen when a guy follows directions.

A Shell station stands at the corner of Fling Road and Georgia 109. I stopped there and traded a bottle of diet cola for some information. A woman behind the counter wrote on my sheet "Gabbetville," for making a right turn toward Columbus. I remembered this road, because signs point there for driving to the Kia plant. Hopefully the signs beyond that would be in English, and not Korean....

But I soon found a problem with this woman's advice. Gabbetville Road was a LEFT turn off U.S. 29. A right turn put me on Upper Glass Bridge Road. I took that right turn, and eventually wound up at a West Point Lake campground entrance. It was as if days of rain had made the lake start creeping over its banks.

That right turn occurred at a landmark the Shell employee had noted - a little store called Ribitz. I stopped there and asked a second time for directions. But the man there tried to convince me to drive back to West Point, then get on Interstate 85. In other words, being 15 miles off-course actually was right?! Maybe on the lake, where so many boat docks look alike....

I rejected the Ribitz employee's advice, and concluded Lukken Industrial Drive must have changed names at some point. But this conclusion forced me to try every left turn between the store and Fling Road, heading away from West Point. None of them were right - and I was almost ready to fling my instruction sheet out the window in frustration.

But on one wrong road, I received better guidance. A Troup County Sheriff's Deputy had pulled over a driver at the entrance to a subdivision. I stopped my car behind his squad car, put up my hands with my instruction sheet. We weren't even asked to surrender this much, back at the worship service.

The deputy was at his car, doing some kind of check on the driver he'd pulled over. But he was nice enough to help a man who admittedly was completely lost -- giving me two landmarks for finding Lukken Industrial Drive: a Chevron station and a Domino's Pizza shop. I "had 30 minutes," but I'd squandered it already on wrong roads.

The deputy was correct - and I turned out to be very wrong. Way back at Fling Road and U.S. 29, I didn't transpose the Mapquest directions properly. I should have turned right, not left. I missed Lukken Industrial Drive by only one mile - but this was one time when a miss was as good as 50.

So I was wrong in reversing the Mapquest sheet - but the woman at the Shell station reinforced my mistake, by sending me the wrong way after I asked for her advice. And the Georgia Department of Transportation didn't help, because there are NO signs along the LaGrange-West Point road telling you which town is ahead. Maybe next time I should take a woman with me to these road trips?!

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. People from around the world are visiting "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: A local activist has spread a couple of mass e-mails against the current hot topic before Columbus Council. This one was addressed (more or less) directly to us....

Do you support this office of Crime Prevention and a salaried Director making $63,000 plus a year?

I am sure you have seen my concerns. I just have a bad gut feeling about this and I have learned to trust my gut over time, even though I'm skinny as a rail.

Anyhow, I do believe its needed but we need a blue print, schematics of day to day operations. An agenda that has to be met by its director or they find another job. If this person will make over $60 K a year for this position and have a clerk, I expect a lot more from them along with a vigorous work load to ensure this office is working to tax payer expectations.

Our city managers office has within it salaried over $300 K. Why can't the city manager remove one deputy and create the office of Crime Prevention with the money saved?

I want to know what you think and why. Hope to hear back from all of you soon.

Jeremy S Hobbs

Chairman and Founder

The Chattahoochee Valley Better Way Foundation, Inc.

Jeremy Hobbs may not realize we tend to stay neutral, when it comes to big issues like this one. Besides, we really wouldn't expect a city Crime Prevention Director to come to our door and offer to check all the locks.

But wait a minute -- what's this business about the Crime Prevention Director having a clerk? I haven't heard anyone suggest this before. But then again, I'm getting so old that I still assume the Government Center has a "steno pool" somewhere.

I don't claim to speak for Mayor Jim Wetherington, but I suspect he'd say the Crime Prevention Director would be funded from a different part of the budget than the City Manager's staff. That office is part of the "streets and safety" sales tax, while the Deputy City Managers are funded from general revenues. Of course, the right grant application might provide money for three of everything.

The Crime Prevention Director issue is NOT on Tuesday's Columbus Council agenda. That's because it's Proclamation Day, with the mayor handing out awards to several city employees. But Mayor Jim Wetherington forgot one big event, which could help the city in that fight for stimulus money. There's no proclamation to mark President Obama's birthday.

By the way, when it comes to "trusting your gut" - I've done that far too much in recent weeks. And that may explain why my running totals are down this summer.

Now let's wrap up other items from a mid-summer weekend:

+ The four-day Georgia sales tax holiday ended. I found plenty of people shopping for shoes at Peachtree Mall during the afternoon. And one store had so many employees wearing striped shirts that I thought I'd stumbled into a training camp for football officials.

(Then there was the store which offers shoes for "technical running." The staff member laughed when I asked if they were for jogs through industrial parks.)

+ Fort Benning hosted the "Warrior of the Year" contest for the Army National Guard. Athletes at Russell County High School will have to settle for the usual laps around the track.

+ The Christ Community Church broadcast on WBOJ-FM featured an admission by Pastor Keith Cowart. Construction of a new building along Milgen Road has been suspended, due to a lack of funds. I'm not sure why they haven't offered the open lot to those drive-in movie promoters - because high-priced popcorn can build a jackpot in a hurry.

+ The "West Georgia Auburn Club" held a mid-summer picnic in Columbus, complete with an appearance by Aubie the mascot. It must be strange to be a collegiate Tiger - since you're expected to hibernate during summer, not winter.

+ Instant Message to the guys in the car in the Sonic commercial: I'm sorry -- you're wrong. The legal age for becoming a member of Congress is 25, not 35. It may have helped you remember your locker combination years ago, but it might also explain your "B" grade in U.S. government class.

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