Friday, June 18, 2010

18 JUN 10: Environmentalist Whacked

As Georgia political candidates visit Columbus these days, they face a "lab exam" of sorts. What will they do about the plans to close the local state crime lab? Don't they realize our microscopes are every bit as good as the ones in Atlanta? And besides, patrol cars might collide on those tight construction lanes on Interstate 85....

But have you heard about the other state office in Columbus that's closing? I didn't realize until Thursday that the Georgia Environmental Protection Division is moving Columbus operations to Macon. I assume the furniture and paperwork will be hauled to Macon on Postal Service trucks.

A news release was issued 1 June, announcing the closing of the Columbus EPD office. While the actual closing date is 1 July, people in this area were told to begin calling the Macon office this week. Calling the Columbus office wasn't easy in the first place, considering it wasn't listed in the white pages.

Perhaps you didn't know the Columbus EPD office is on Gentian Boulevard. It's apparently in the same building as the Columbus State University Cunningham Center. But it's so obscure that if you type in the office address on Google maps, you're pointed to an out-of-position Burger King. [True!]

The Columbus EPD office has served a seven-county area. It's handled licenses and permits involving matters of clean air, clean water and hazardous waste. But this move may force the Keep Columbus Beautiful staff to work a little harder, between garden tours.

(The Georgia EPD website also indicates employees enforce laws on "surface mining." I don't think that happens very much in the Columbus district - unless another sinkhole develops downtown.)

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division estimates office closings in Columbus, Savannah and metro Atlanta will save about $400,000 per year. I know the state budget is tight -- but doesn't a move to Macon send a wrong message? Staff members will have to drive farther from the office to do inspections in Columbus. The air pollution haze here could extend all the way down U.S. 80.

(Of course, there's another way to get around that potential problem. But I'll leave it to the Ledger-Enquirer reporters, to see if EPD employees car-pool on their trips from Macon.)

One weekday for moving the Columbus EPD office to Macon has been lost, because of Georgia's tight budget. Next Friday is a state furlough day -- or as the Columbus staff members might be calling it, a house-hunting holiday.

But where is the outrage about this state office move - especially compared to the concern about the state crime lab? Have Columbus city officials decided a local environmental office is no big deal? Or will it take a few more Columbus Water Works sewage spills, before that approach changes?

-> We're marking an anniversary this week, at local poker tables. Read all about it at our other blog,"On the Flop!" <-

BIG PREDICTION UPDATE: The three women who won preliminary events at the Miss Georgia pageant Wednesday night also won preliminaries Thursday night. None of them are the woman I picked to win the title - so Miss Cherokee Rose may have to win the "Miss Georgia Pajama Run" downtown tonight by a wide margin.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our Tuesday topic about the trouble with jailbird billiards brought these thoughts....

Richard, Your comment about Muscogee County prison inmates counting ceiling tiles in the Comer auditorium and getting experience to be census workers reminded me of Senator Shelby's (R-AL) letter to the head of the Census Bureau reference a number of Census Bureau enumerators being on the Sexual Predator List. His letter got a lot of airplay on the news but I haven't heard anything about the response, have you? I have worked for the Census Bureau and we were told that thorough background checks were done on us. It sure makes me wonder how thorough the checks were! It reminds me of the time when I looked in my personnel file (on my federal job) and saw that the FBI did a background check on me for my Top Secret Clearance in Columbus, Ohio! By the way, I've never been there but I was born and raised in Columbus, GA!

To be honest, I hadn't heard about this complaint by Richard Shelby at all. It's apparently been covered up by Gulf coast oil, as much as the shorebirds.

An unofficial response to the late-May complaint came through news reports. A blog written in Seattle notes only one Census enumerator was on a sex offender list, and he reportedly used a phony name to get the job. Census officials say they didn't know he failed the background check until he was on the job - so do you want a government that works quickly or not?

That questionable case occurred in New Jersey - but we're going to try to focus on more local stuff here:

+ Columbus Police reported three separate robberies occurred on the same night, outside the Carousel Lounge. Officers think the hold-ups are connected - and I think someone needs to remind the new officers of that old cliche about "always returning to the scene of the crime."

+ The recount of Republican ballots in Lee County concluded, with Alabama gubernatorial candidate Tim James gaining 15 votes. James could do more to promote his effort to make the July runoff - but he still hasn't persuaded former President Bush to make any personal appearances.

+ Tim Hudson pitched Atlanta to a 3-1 triumph over Tampa Bay. Third baseman Chipper Jones now says he'll announce at the end of the season whether or not he'll retire from baseball. Two big factors are at work here. Jones has a multi-million dollar contract option for 2011 - and the Spanish economy could collapse at any moment.

+ Instant Message to whomever wrote the words, "MATT I LOVE YOU SEXY BEAST" on a pickup truck parked near Ninth and Broadway: You'd better watch your step the next couple of days - because behavior like that could get you disqualified from the Miss Georgia pageant.

SCHEDULED THIS WEEKEND: A Father's Day "Daddy" unlike any other in Columbus (guaranteed)....

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