Friday, February 05, 2010

5 FEB 10: The Millionaire Next Door

Our title today comes from a 1998 book about wealth-building. While I haven't read it, the book claims ordinary people like you and me can develop a net worth of at least one million dollars through a series of wise decisions. Obviously this book was written long before the Internet bubble burst and the housing market collapsed....

The title is appropriate because a millionaire was crowned Thursday right down the street from my home. A Phenix City man received a $2.5 million check at the Villa Nova package store on Fourth Street. There's a good reason why this event was not publicized in advance. The man would have been stopped by at least five beggars on the way back to his car.

John Tull Sr. hit the jackpot at Villa Nova, by purchasing the right Georgia Lottery scratch-off ticket last week. Tull admitted to the Ledger-Enquirer he visits the package store "about every other day," after he works at Wal-Mart. I can hear the cynics now - if Wal-Mart stores sold lottery tickets, their employees finally would have a living wage.

(I mentioned Tull's big win Thursday night during a poker tournament at Lil Kim's Cove. It happens to sit next door to Villa Nova. The table went rather silent after I brought up the lottery win - perhaps because we were only playing for 50 dollars.)

But here's the thing - did you notice where John Tull Sr. lives? His home is in Phenix City. He's one of many people who have crossed the river from East Alabama to win big Georgia Lottery prizes in Columbus. I will resist the temptation to say the Alabamians need the "fire-breathing goats" from lottery commercials to heat their mobile homes....

Long-time Columbus residents will recall the TV ads from a 1999 question on starting an "education lottery" in Alabama. Students on Georgia college campuses were shown saying, "Thank you, Alabama!" Should John Tull Sr. stick out his tongue at Georgia for single-handedly gaining some revenge?

But I digress: my point is that Alabama residents who want to gamble cross the state line to Georgia on a regular basis. While I don't play lottery games, others do. And the Governor's Anti-Gambling Task Force could be bringing Columbus businesses many more customers -- although I haven't seen Columbus convenience stores selling Crimson Tide championship cigarette lighters.

The traffic toward Columbus may increase today, in the wake of Thursday's big ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court. The justices ruled 7-2 that the Anti-Gambling Task Force can raid Victoryland. And I doubt officers will wait for that mechanical rabbit to race by before they begin....

(Somewhere in Alabama, Judge Roy Moore must have been stunned when he heard about this decision. After all these years, some justices actually might agree with what was on his Ten Commandments monument.)

Victoryland owner Milton McGregor responded to the Alabama Supreme Court ruling by closing his complex completely. Montgomery's WSFA-TV reported even the Oasis Hotel was closed - which may prove the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site isn't thrilling enough to bring in crowds, even during Black History Month.

An attorney for Victoryland warned the Anti-Gambling Task Force will need a search warrant to get onto the grounds. Of course, that will require the approval of a Macon County judge - and thus we have the next roadblock to a raid. But then, the task force might rule the electronic bingo games are a health risk because they're simply too exciting.

The Quincy's 777 web site still had not been updated Thursday night, to indicate anything had closed. The schedule for Satchmo's Night Club still indicates Dr. Feelgood will perform Saturday night - and by then, he might be the only person in Shorter feeling good at all.

E-MAIL UPDATE: The messages we posted Thursday inspired quick responses. It turns out we didn't ask the right person about that 70-year-old building....

Good morning, Richard,

I read the e-mail regarding the old Georgia Welcome Center on Victory Drive, and want to give you an update on its use.

Several months ago, the veterans groups that use the building came to Mayor Wetherington and asked if the city could help with the renovation of that facility. The original building was not built for office space. In fact, the walls didn't go all the way to the ceiling so that air could flow through the building -- there was no heating nor air conditioning. Mayor Wetherington contacted the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Corrections and asked for assistance in construction and renovation on the building. The Dept. of Corrections had a construction team in Columbus to work on a number of projects in the Government Center, and the Mayor asked if the team could stay and renovate the Welcome Center. The Commissioner agreed, and that's the construction crew you've seen there. When the Dept. of Corrections construction team works on a governmental project, there is no cost for the labor, only materials.

So, as soon as the renovation is completed, the veterans groups will move back in and will be able to meet clients in a much nicer building that will have heating and air, and they will have a first rate office in which to help our veterans.

I hope this information is helpful to your readers.

Judy Thomas

Executive to the Mayor

It appears the "Department of Corrections construction team" includes prison inmates -- which makes the work on Victory Drive quite ironic. Workers have left the confining walls of a prison, to build higher walls for free people.

Another reader is following our e-mails from New Delhi....

Dear Richard,

I am concerned about something. Can you clarify?

According to Veeresh Malik, the former TSYS employee in India, someone at the TSYS group somewhere is altering records, or taking money?

Who are Bob Philbin and Eric Craig? Sounds like someone either went from Cadillac to Betsy or maybe from Cadillac to Rolls Royce. Remember what happened to Elliot Spitzer when he made fun of the corporate kissing cousin of the you-know-who bank.

Since the city houses reserves with the same "family" maybe....

I'm sorry, but I must interrupt the e-mail at this point. This reader again wants to connect TSYS with Synovus, when we noted last week the companies became separate more than two years ago [26 Jan]. No evidence has been submitted that the split is in name only - or even that Dr. Phil McGraw is attempting an intervention.

Our online check found Robert Philbin is the President of TSYS Acquiring Solutions, while Eric Craig is a TSYS Vice President. Both appear to be based in Arizona, not Columbus. -- so they're used to taking "dry heat," even when it comes from half-a-world away.

Our series of posts about TSYS have yet to bring any response from the company -- not by phone, not through e-mail, and thankfully not through a deputy holding a court summons.

Let's wrap up other news from "Thank a Mailman Day" - which is something I actually did:

+ Columbus Police told WLTZ the city had more than 3,700 burglaries last year - the highest number since the 1980s. Wherever those new police beats are, they'd better be working the night beat.

+ The Muscogee County Election Board delayed a final decision on consolidating the number of voter precincts from 48 to 28. The argument that this will build a more close-knit community still isn't working....

+ Columbus Planning Director Rick Jones told WTVM an extension of the Riverwalk from 12th to 13th Street should be ready in 60 days. I'm assuming this prediction has factored in everything -- including about 20 days of rain.

+ Kia announced it's received more than 31,000 applications to work at its West Point plant. The car company is still hiring - and it can expect a large stack of applications this weekend from people living in Shorter, Alabama.

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths flicked away Fayetteville 4-3. But there was one big problem at the Civic Center, as the Zamboni broke down. Workers had to remove ice shavings between periods by scraping the rink with plexiglass - because the Cottonmouths don't have a female dance team to heat up the ice.

+ Instant Message to the Ledger-Enquirer: Aw, c'mon - since when did a recap of "Real Housewives of Orange County" become breaking news on your web site? WXTX doesn't even stoop to that label, when "American Idol" is on.

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