Wednesday, December 30, 2009

30 DEC 09: Fighting Like Cats and Dogs

Do you make New Year's resolutions? Maybe public officials at all levels in Russell County should make one - to borrow from a Glen Campbell song and "Try a Little Kindness." Don't sue each other. Don't telephone each other when you're angry. And if you simply must get something off your chest.... well, the "write me" link below still works.

The latest public fight in Russell County involves a newly consolidated animal shelter. Yes, we've moved beyond fireworks and football - and now they're feuding over fur.

It started last week, when the Russell County Commission voted to put a combined animal shelter under control of the Phenix City Police. WRBL reports that's fueled a controversy involving veterinarians. And with Fort Benning so close by, you're asking for trouble if you get the "vets" upset.

Phenix City Police Chief Ray Smith says a trained "shelter coordinator" is ready to take care of animals in need. But veterinarians who used to serve on the Russell County shelter board warn the coordinator lacks proper knowledge and experience. That hasn't stopped some people from winning election to city councils and county commissions lately....

The Phenix City Police Chief explained the shelter now is using veterinarians on an "on-call" basis, instead of keeping a full-time doctor on staff. Ray Smith explains this will save the city money. Which reminds me - why aren't animal rights groups lobbying to have pets covered by health care reform?

The animals at the combined shelter are available for adoption, and Phenix City officials want to offer vouchers to have them spayed or neutered. But Tuesday night's news revealed two east Alabama animal hospitals are refusing to accept them. Those hospitals had better watch their step - because the Police Chief might bring in Bob Barker to pressure them.

I wondered Tuesday night what other shelters in the Columbus area do, when it comes to treating sick animals. The Paws Humane web site didn't offer a clear answer. But its building on Milgen Road has a spay/neuter clinic - and hopefully employs staff members who know the difference between the two.

The Lee County Humane Society web site doesn't explain its approach to veterinarians, either. But volunteers can be "Animal Behavior Assistants" - perhaps training dogs to become skilled in tracking down energy-saving lightbulbs.

The "animal story" thickened in another way Tuesday, when Russell County's administrator claimed money might be missing from the old animal shelter board's budget. LeAnn Horne says some paper documentation hasn't been submitted. But of course, a dog at the animal shelter might have eaten it.

Former leaders of the Russell County animal shelter board say they have the receipts to back up their expenditures. They might want to take those documents to the District Attorney's office, because the administrator has taken the matter there. Prosecutors who usually spend their time handling cases of robbery and rape soon could be investigating 25-pound bags of dog food.

-> We tried to hit it big in yet another online poker tournament Tuesday night. How did we do? Find out at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <--

BLOG UPDATE: My guess about Ron Sparks was proven wrong Tuesday. The Alabama Agriculture Commissioner announced he'll stay in the race for governor, and a change to run for Congress next year never crossed his mind. But Sparks would like to thank whomever started the rumor, because he gained some free campaign publicity from it.

Now let's see what else stepped up to the microphones Tuesday:

+ Columbus Police reported the Fred's store on Auburn Avenue was burglarized for the fifth time in recent weeks. It's about time the discount store dumped that "how low can you go" jingle....

(Two break-ins occurred in the last week at Fred's. Cigarettes were stolen the first time. Then early Tuesday, perfume was taken - perhaps in a last-ditch attempt to get the cigarette smoke out of clothing.)

+ Manchester's mayor announced all city employees will have to take two furlough days a month. Anthony Clifton explained to WTVM Manchester is a "poor little town" with a tight budget. So why doesn't he do what people do in Columbus - and go door-to-door with boxes of candy?

+ Union Springs Mayor John McGowan denied he was drunk when he was arrested last week. So he's apparently heading for trial - and we'll see if there's a recording of McGowan claiming the town's springs simply are too bubbly.

+ The children's production "Elmo's Green Thumb" opened at the Columbus Civic Center. I didn't go to opening night, so perhaps someone can help me. If Elmo has a green thumb, does that prove he's the secret love child of Oscar the Grouch?

+ The South nipped the North 27-20 in the annual Georgia high school all-star football game at McClung Memorial Stadium. Again this year the crowd was small, and I admittedly never read or heard much publicity about the game. The organizers ought to follow the example of local college football games -- and give Columbus its sixth downtown parade in three months.

+ The Atlanta Hawks were clipped by Cleveland 95-84, before the largest regular-season crowd in Philips Arena history. The Hawks failed to score for the first 8:49 of the fourth quarter - and then Hawks announcer Steve Holman dared to say the officials are "blinded by the stars?!"

+ Instant Message to Wanda the "Bang Bang Lady" at Fireworks Outlet: I'm with you on this one. If someone told me about "wigging out," I'd think a costume party was coming up.

2009 IN REVIEW CON'D: Speaking of fireworks, November was an explosive month of showdowns in the area. Mark Shelnutt was a big winner. The Phenix City Central Booster Club was a loser. And part of me hopes January's mixed martial arts card at the Civic Center adds a "DiChiara-Wetzel" match.

November was the month when Mayor Jim Wetherington finally received what he wanted from.... well, make that half of what he wanted. Columbus Council approved a new Crime Prevention Director. But then a Councilor had to prevent Wetherington from running unopposed for re-election.

The impact of the "streets and safety" sales tax became apparent in Columbus during November. With dozens of new officers on beats across the city, no bridal shop can stash champagne in its back room anymore.

November was a month for grand openings. Kia rolled its first car off the assembly line in West Point. The Muscogee County Public Education Center held an open house. And thanks to pieces of Hurricane Ida, the heavens opened up in a grand way again.

Some people were in a gambling mood during November. First there were arrests outside the Fountain City Classic football game. Then the Alabama Supreme Court issued a six-point ruling on what defines a legal bingo game. Nursing homes across the state are still scrambling to respond to that.

A November tradition in Columbus was off a bit from past years. SOA Watch protest attendance seemed to be down - but at least no one blamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation for removing the two Spanish-language radio stations.

We found a fascinating federal statistic in November: 30.5 percent of the people in Muscogee County are obese. Yet as the year ended, Fat Boys Farmers Market still refused to change its name -- and there are NO scales for pedestrians walking on the Brown Avenue Bridge.

Big-name country music stars visited Columbus in November. Charlie Daniels had a day named in his honor. Darius Rucker didn't even get an honorary luncheon hosted by Calvin Smyre.

That brings us to December. So far it's been a month where Cessna announced plans to cut dozens of jobs, Carmike Cinemas saved a job by not decorating its building -- and the Russell County School Board pulled the Superintendent's job listing out of a recycle bin one more time.

SCHEDULED THURSDAY: An unusual "picture day" as we party like.... well, you'll see....

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