Friday, July 02, 2010

2 JUL 10: Timber Wolves

Don't you love the hyperbole in political ads at this time of year? Georgia gubernatorial candidate Roy Barnes has a commercial declaring his state "the Saudi Arabia of pine trees." Yet federal statistics show Alabama plants more trees each year than Georgia does - and comparing Georgia with oil production in Russia probably would upset military veterans.

But what would happen to Roy Barnes's promise of thousands of tree-related jobs if the tree market collapsed? A man I know who sells pine trees for a living says that's exactly what's happened in the last two months. The price of trees fell in a forest of events, and it seemingly hasn't made any noise on newscasts.

This pine tree salesman based in Chambers County tells me timber prices have dropped about 60 percent since mid-May. As of last week, timber was trading below cost - and when it comes to pine, the profit margin is probably about as skinny as the trees.

It's not clear what caused the hardwood floor bottom to drop out of the timber market. I suppose the continuing economic slump could be a factor. When housing starts essentially stop, the lumber pile can really pile up.

The Roy Barnes campaign ad talks about requiring Georgia electric companies to use pine pellets for ten percent of their production. I thought those things falling from trees were called pine cones - but I'm from the North, after all....

But I wondered about something else, when I heard the pine tree salesman talk about a collapsing market. Could this be good news for people planning home projects over the Independence Day weekend? Can you build a deck for half-price, without waiting for YellaFella to ride back onto television for a new contest?

To see if the timber market's drop is affecting Columbus lumber prices, I made several calls Thursday afternoon. A man at Lumber Liquidators gave me an 800 number to call - only it was for "customer care." The corporate market experts required a different long-distance call, which was NOT toll-free. Learning if boards cost less should NOT cost me a lot more.

So the next phone call went to the Columbus Lowe's store. But I can't really tell you what the lumber salesman told me, because Lowe's has some sort of corporate policy against providing pricing information to bloggers. Maybe for one day, I should have changed this site to The Log of Columbus?!

The Phenix City Home Depot was more helpful and cooperative. Nathan Lovell in the lumber department told me from what he's seen, the price of boards has been relatively steady recently. The phrase "pressure-treated pine" does NOT refer to pressure to bring up the price.

Nathan Lovell said Home Depot is selling two-by-four-by-eight boards for $2.59. He noticed the price hitting three dollars in recent months, before a slow decline occurred. So for all we know, it could be a case of more children behaving and NOT needing a spanking.

So there's no sign yet that a collapsing timber market is lowering lumber prices in area stores. If you choose to wait for the price to drop, you do so at your own risk. I can't really say if that approach wood work, or wood not....

-> If you like comeback stories, what until you read what happened at our Thursday night poker tournament. The story is on our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION on "Rec-Gate" ended Thursday night, with a split decision. Four voters say Columbus Police should review the Parks and Recreation Department audit. Four say the Georgia Bureau of Investigation should do it. One wants the District Attorney to handle it. And I'm glad no one voted for "Someone Else," because I'd have to apply for grant money to do the job.

One commenter in this horrendously non-scientific poll wrote the audit review needs more than police. It takes "a CPA, plus investigators with experience in tracking money.... and an attorney...." In other words, it's like breaking up a drug ring.

E-MAIL UPDATE: This will teach me NOT to sleep in, during election years....

On Thursday's RisnShine - the 4 candidates for Columbus mayor was on there and seemed to have no one to keep things in order.. one Candidate would talk when others tried too- yet the host let it go on,

When Callers did get thru, the Host let a caller runoff at the mouth about being a candidate for Council and not sticking to the agenda, should never had happened, and then the B.S. from same caller about a Candidate having an Abortion, which she over and over Denied it saying it Never happened, yet the Host allowed it again,,(came up before when they were on before from the same mouth),

Only when a caller mentioned to the host that there were 2 other candidates in the group did the host turn to them for answers.

Someone needs to step in and step up to be a forum host.

This reader needs to keep watching WLTZ's Rise N Shine. Host Calvin Floyd promised me Thursday afternoon he will offer a personal response to this e-mail on the air. Floyd isn't allowing me to give the response away - but let's just say he is NOT bringing in Judge John Allen to serve as a referee.

Calvin Floyd confirmed two callers to Rise N Shine in recent weeks have accused a candidate for mayor of having an abortion. Hmmmm - I wonder which candidate that might be? Will someone next accuse Zeph Baker of secretly listening to country music?

I'm told one of the phone-in accusers was Columbus Council candidate Bert Coker, who's a long-time ally of mayoral candidate Paul Olson. If Coker has evidence to back his claim, I'd openly invite him to present it to me. Don't wait for an anonymous mailing in mid-October, because postage rates might be higher then.

I admittedly missed Thursday's four-in-the-ring battle royal candidate forum. If things were as unruly as our reader claims, this may explain why four mayoral candidates have filed their papers at the Government Center on separate days this week. [True!]

But this e-mail tells me something else. The race for Columbus Mayor is getting ugly -- early. You'll recall the 2006 mayoral campaign had no such finger-pointing. Police officers simply gathered with smiles around Jim Wetherington, and voters obediently did the rest.

The Rise N Shine mayoral forum may have been wild and unruly. But it apparently wasn't newsworthy enough to make WLTZ's 6:00 Report Thursday night. It wasn't even mentioned on "Alabama First News" at 7:00 - and any passing mention of the word "Alabama" by a candidate should have been enough to make the lineup.

By the way, qualifying week for local offices concludes at 12:00 noon today. You may be surprised to learn as of Thursday night, three incumbents on the Muscogee County School Board were unopposed. The first challenge came Thursday, with Adele Lindsey filing to take on Cathy Williams. The candidate who gives away the most new homes by Election Day could be the winner.

And speaking of some wild television....

Richard, I noted with interest your comment about "Antiques Road Show" on the TV in the Red Barn bar in Phenix City. The other night my spouse and I stopped at the McDonald's on US 280/43l No. (across from the Walmart SuperCenter in Phenix City). We usually stop in a couple of nights a week to have a snack and watch Fox News while we eat. We were quite surprised when the only thing on the big screen TV was an infomercial "Brazilian Butt Lifters". It played over and over and mostly consisted of various size women in scantily clad clothing and mostly showed their "you know whats". I asked an employee if the channel could be changed and was told "they no longer have cable, that the infomercial was all you could watch". Another employee told me that lightning had struck the cable and it had been out for almost a week and that the infomercial was the only option available now. My spouse and I agreed that the informercial was not very appropriate for a "family type restaurant". I did call McDonald's headquarters in Columbus to voice a complaint. The Mgr of that McDonald's called to tell me she didn't know that infomercial was playing and that from now on we could watch Fox News and that she was hiding the remote! The whole incident shocked me, including the manager's explanation!

Maybe these upset customers are missing a point. Eat too often at McDonald's, and you'll probably need that infomercial product someday....

As it happens, McDonald's announced Thursday it's taking the "Big 'N Tasty" sandwich off the menu. You may remember that was test-marketed in Columbus around ten years ago. But now, it's more like the Big 'N Toast.

Let's check other items from a busy Thursday....

+ Mayor Jim Wetherington announced Georgia's Governor has been persuaded to move money back into the State Bureau of Investigation budget, to keep the Columbus Crime Lab open. Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle personally intervened in the mayor's behalf - but now the Democrat challenging him in November might have a "Cagle finagle" issue.

+ The Columbus Sports Council announced the Pioneer Bowl between small-college football champions will be played at McClung Memorial Stadium in December. So much for youth football teams doing that at Britt David Park....

+ University of Georgia Athletic Director Damon Evans admitted he was arrested for drunk driving this week in Atlanta. He's still on the job, pending an investigation - but Evans could be barred from all Sanford Stadium luxury boxes for the first three home football games.

(Evans didn't come out directly and admit to drunk driving. But the way he sounded at a news conference, he may have some inner Damons to battle.)

+ The University of Alabama announced its football game with Georgia State is being moved up two days, to the Thursday night before Thanksgiving. Translation: Auburn football is back.

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