Wednesday, June 29, 2011

29 JUN 11: One, Way or Another

So you thought the fight over trash collection was over. You thought last week's Columbus Council vote on a fiscal 2012 budget settled everything. Unh-unh. Think again. The mayor indicated Tuesday the debate is NOT buried in the landfill - it's simply in a "Blue Bin," bound for recycling.

Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson told WTVM a new city review of the Integrated Waste Fund will result in once-a-week trash collection, even though Columbus Council decided against it last week. Someone should connect hundreds of "twist ties" together and organize a tug-o-war between the mayor and Skip Henderson.

When Columbus Council approved the city budget last week, it also approved a comprehensive study of the Integrated Waste Fund. Mayor Tomlinson insists the fund's budget deficit can be eliminated without raising monthly fees. You want to buy collectible trash bags with pictures of Councilors on them, don't you?

But two words in the mayor's TV interview could have made a lot of jaws drop across Columbus. Teresa Pike Tomlinson said money for garbage collection could be taken from "LOST funds." Yes, as in the Local Option Sales Tax - the money set aside primarily for police officers. The man handling your trash can might be a prisoner -- or it might be an undercover detective.

Using "public safety sales tax" money for trash collection would have been scandalous only one year ago. Then-Mayor Jim Wetherington opposed any proposals to tap the LOST fund for things other than law officers and street improvements. It's almost like the current mayor is trying to provoke the former one out of hiding.

One Columbus Councilor who may have been especially stunned by Mayor Tomlinson's words was Judy Thomas. Thomas proposed the city study of a comprehensive waste plan - and she took credit during last year's campaign for stopping several attempts to use LOST money for things other than public safety. But is Thomas strong enough to stop a fleet of new trash trucks?

Another idea mentioned by the mayor Tuesday is one that's been kicked around for years - capturing methane gas from the landfill, then selling it. If only there was a way to capture the hot air uttered at Columbus Council meetings, and sell it as a heating source next winter.

Mayor Tomlinson says Columbus needs to save hundreds of thousands of dollars to prepare for the closing of the current landfill, while purchasing new garbage trucks. I think this comment means we can scratch "garbage truck manufacturer" off the list of prospective businesses coming from Germany.

The mayor hopes to have a comprehensive waste plan finalized by fall. It's good to know she's taking her time - because a debate about garbage collection during summer probably would stink every bit as much as trash bags at the curb.

BLOG UPDATE: Meanwhile, Mayor Tomlinson presented Columbus Council Tuesday evening with the results of an audit of the Civic Center. In a major surprise, Councilors apparently saw the audit before the Ledger-Enquirer did.

The city audit began after Dale Hester suddenly retired as Civic Center Director in January. It ends with questions about how Hester handled free concert tickets, as well as city funds. But it could have been worse, you know. Hester could have coached a youth hockey team.

Auditor John Redmond concludes Dale Hester gave free Columbus Civic Center tickets to business owners he liked - including a business selling fish for aquariums. I'll assume the free tickets in that case were for the "Finding Nemo" production by Disney on Ice.

The city audit reveals Dale Hester made extra money during the 2009 Greater Columbus Fair, by paying himself $24 an hour to work at South Commons. Hester allegedly approved that payoff himself, without going through supervisors at the Government Center. And you thought "cutting out the middle man" saved money....

The audit was presented as Columbus Council approved Dale Hester's replacement as Civic Center Director. Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson told WRBL Ross Horner understands business should NOT be done through "old-school back room dealings, because that's not Columbus, Georgia anymore...." It might describe parts of Phenix City, but not Columbus.

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E-MAIL UPDATE: We're editing out one part of this message which we are unable to confirm. But we can post the part which clearly (we think) has matters of fact and speculation....

I noticed in today's BLOG, that the name Armondo Pitters popped up. I'm quite familiar with that rascal. He was the attorney for "Hurt'sboro during the Tarver-Yoba years. He rarely showed up at Council meetings - but when he did he napped throughout the session on a bench at the back of the room.

His most nefarious (in my opinion) involvement in our association was the "Charter" trial he made a complete fool out of Tommy Worthy. I've long contended that Mr. Sumbry will weather his troubles successfully. Anyone who can pull the "wool" over everyone's eyes for thirty years, is nobody's fool. Now that he has Pitters in his corner - you can consider him a shoo-in!

R.J. Schweiger

I remembered the connection between Pitters and Hurtsboro -- but what's the big deal about him sleeping through meetings? Haven't we known all along Hurtsboro fits the classic description of a sleepy Southern town?

Robert Schweiger is the man who tried to get the Hurtsboro town charter dissolved in Russell County court several years ago. Tommy Worthy was Schweiger's attorney -- so this reference to Armando Pitters may be the closest Schweiger's ever come to complimenting someone connected to town government.

Now let's try to separate more fact from fiction about Tuesday's news:

+ Which local man is telling friends Kurt Schmitz was barred from Sam's Club, because his WTVM membership card was revoked? I hope no WTVM managers catch Schmitz wearing clothing with the station logo....

+ Rep. Sanford Bishop toured the NCR plant near Schatulga Road. He noted on Twitter the plant produces "state of the art ATM machines...." So which Republican candidate will be the first to demand the withdrawal buttons be dusted for Bishop's fingerprints?

+ A federal judge clarified what happened to a court reporter Monday at the Alabama bingo corruption trial. Myron Thompson explained the reporter passed out due to a diabetic coma. I assume the judge has ordered attorneys NOT to compare that moment to a big jackpot winner at Victoryland.

+ A church youth choir from Montgomery was scolded during a visit to the U.S. Capitol, because it sang the national anthem. Police warned the group it could not sing inside the Capitol at all without a permit. [True/WSFA] So much for getting lawmakers together to sing "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"

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