Tuesday, December 22, 2009

22 DEC 09: Fire and Fur

Today we borrow from Charles Dickens, and present a tale of two hospitals. Monday was the best of times for one, and the worst of times for the other. One had an event which was warm all over -- while executives at the other feared things would become much too hot.

The first hospital to get attention Monday was Columbus Regional Medical Center. A fire broke out in a kitchen, while workers prepared breakfast for patients. The smart-aleck patient who requested oatmeal fajitas needs to stop that....

Fire calls to The Medical Center happen all the time - but the vast majority of them turn out to be false alarms. This one was real, as smoke from the kitchen reportedly could be seen miles away. Besides, the hospital can't possibly have THAT many employees smoking outside the door at once.

(The fire apparently was declared a "Code Red." Either that's a really serious emergency, or Columbus Councilor Red McDaniel is there for an inspection.)

Columbus fire crews kept the damage to a Medical Center kitchen. Some people on the first floor were evacuated, but no patients had to be moved out. In fact, a few probably hoped their expensive medical records were going up in smoke.

Deputy Fire Chief Greg Lang says the Medical Center fire was traced to a flexible natural gas line behind a stove. The gas line ruptured - and suddenly the hickory flavor to the bacon was replaced by something else.

Until the Medical Center kitchen can be repaired, patients will have their meals delivered from Doctors Hospital. If Rose Hill Seafood served breakfast, the managers could have enjoyed a year-end windfall.

The scene was very different later in the day at St. Francis Hospital. This time the visitors were not firefighters, but law enforcement officers. And in a bit of a surprise, the officers did NOT try to persuade hospital security director Joe McCraa to return to a public safety job.

A mix of law officers continued a 20-year tradition, by delivering gift teddy bears to patients at St. Francis Hospital. A Georgia State Patrol officer explained it was an opportunity to show law enforcement in a "different light." You know, as opposed to flashing blue....

But something seemed missing from this event. Maybe I'm showing my age -- but if you're going to give away teddy bears, shouldn't an Elvis Presley impersonator be there to sing about them?

While we're talking about hospitals, the Ledger-Enquirer had a story the other day about the old Phenix Regional building. It's been vacant for years, its future apparently is still in doubt - and there's not even talk about putting a combined city-county animal shelter there.

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

BLOG UPDATE: We were first to mention last week that Jason Dennis is becoming the 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. co-anchor on WTVM. Now he's disclosed online Barbara Gauthier will continue to anchor the 11:00 news by herself. Dennis DOES look young, after all - and Columbus has city curfew rules.

Now we operate without an anchor (or even a paperweight), in reviewing other Monday news....

+ The morning low in Columbus was the coldest of the season, at 27 degrees F. Atmos Energy employees finally feel comfortable about holding a holiday party.

+ Acquitted attorney Mark Shelnutt filed a motion in federal court to have the government pay his expenses for his recent trial. If you think about it, this is shocking - because Democrats don't often support "loser pays" rules in court cases.

(Shelnutt's motion claims the legal fees and other bills come to about $250,000. There's another way to raise that money, of course. But this time, Shelnutt would have to stand at the doorway of a Publix store with a box - instead of walking around the parking lot.)

+ A court hearing in Connecticut considered whether Pratt and Whitney can be blocked from transferring hundreds of jobs to its Columbus plant. The machinists' union claims its contract requires the company to make "every reasonable effort" to keep jobs in Connecticut. So when does NCR plan to file a "friend of the court" brief?

+ Russell County Sheriff Tommy Boswell was named to the Alabama Historical Commission. Then Boswell asked county commissioners to hire an architect to expand the jail - perhaps forgetting the county firing range already is named after him.

+ Parts of Hurtsboro were added to the National Registry of Historic Places. They include a downtown bank which is now the library, Perry Hardware - but for some reason, former Constable Robert Schweiger and his horse were left out.

+ Auburn University football coach Gene Chizik suspended two running backs, after they were arrested on drunk driving charges. They could have played in the Outback Bowl - but now they're simply out.

+ Instant Message to the Columbus Civic Center: That's some uncanny timing you have - holding your next mixed martial arts card on 15 January. You know, the day when Martin Luther King Junior was born....

2009 IN REVIEW CON'D: March began with an unusual sight in Columbus - a Sunday morning snowstorm. So has anyone checked local hospitals this month, to see if the birth rate is higher?

The snow was followed by a five-inch mid-March rainstorm, which led to flooding in some Columbus neighborhoods. This should have been a sign that a wet year was ahead -- but local officials kept stalling on making the Chattahoochee River a kayaking course.

As it happened, Columbus Water Works marked "Fix-a-Leak Week" during March. The utility later realized how much it costs to do that -- hundreds of thousands of dollars, to settle lawsuits near River Road.

March was a difficult month in some ways for Columbus Police. One officer was charged with helping in a bank robber. Another officer was the target of NAACP calls for a state investigation. So when a program called "Cops and Clergy of Columbus," was announced, a few people expected it would include confessionals.

Not even the Muscogee County Marshal was immune, as rumors surfaced about political favoritism in the Junior Marshal program. Those rumors eventually were dismissed - but Greg Countryman probably wished the robotic talking dog he introduced in March was equipped with real teeth.

In a stunning move, the editor of the Ledger-Enquirer turned against District Attorney Julia Slater in March with a scathing front-page commentary. But that strategy must not have done much good. If newspaper employees had to take furloughs later in the year, cranky Republicans still must be staying away.

Several curious crimes made news in March. Federal agents raided the Joche and Associates tax offices. Someone was charged with cattle rustling in Hurtsboro. And a brawl broke out at Chuck E. Cheese in Columbus - which we're happy to report had nothing to do with using rustled cattle to top pizzas.

Aflac stock hit a low price of $10.83 per share during early March. It closed Monday at $46.18 - which optimists see as a sign the economy has recovered well recently. Of course, pessimists see that big nine-month jump as evidence of hyperinflation.

Columbus Council voted in March to have the city buy the Legacy Terrace apartments, east of downtown. Perhaps in 2010 they will be converted into luxury flophouses for recovering panhandlers.

Columbus Council also approved new rules for restaurant alcohol sales in March. Drinks now can be served within 300 feet of schools and churches - yet there still isn't even a church close to the National Infantry Museum, much less a nice restaurant.

Columbus received a top national ranking in March from U.S. News and World Report - the best U.S. city for older single people. By some definitions, I'm one of those. Yet I lack one key element for finding older single women - membership in a military veterans club.

The Columbus Cottonmouths took an unusual break from their playoff drive in March, by traveling to metro Atlanta for a NASCAR race. So why haven't any NASCAR drivers returned the favor? I can think of a couple who could give the hockey players a good fight in the middle of the rink.

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