Monday, July 11, 2011

11 JUL 11: Testing, 3-1-1

It's one thing to see a pothole in the middle of the street. It's another thing to find a hole in the street - one which isn't supposed to be there. If the old saying is true about stepping on a crack to "break your mother's back," driving into a hole could take an awful toll.

I came upon such a hole this past week, as I stepped outside for an evening jog. I took this picture from the safety of a sidewalk, peering over a curb in the Historic District. Had I chosen to step down and run in the street, my weight could have made the hole dreadfully worse.

This hole was roughly the size of a basketball, and practically all I could see below it was darkness. I realized this had the potential to become another one of those sinkholes which have developed in the downtown area. They've been blamed largely on old sewer lines -- as if gophers never think about tearing up something other than lawns.

But I knew what to do about this discovery. I did NOT take matters into my own hands. I could have done what they do with Atlanta street repairs. But covering the hole would have meant sacrificing the only 13-by-nine-inch metal cookie sheet I own.

Instead, I picked up the phone and dialed the Citizens Service Center. That's 311, as opposed to 911 for emergencies. Had a smart-aleck ventriloquist been hiding across the street from this hole, things might have been different.

The hotline is only staffed during city business hours, so I left a voice-mail message explaining what I saw and where I saw it. After hanging up the phone, I realized this would be a good opportunity to see if 311 really works. Would a crew respond quickly? Or would I come back to find the rear of a pickup truck sticking straight up and down?

I passed the same spot 24 hours later, on the way to poker night - and found things really had been done. Either the hole was filled with rocks, or it was covered by an orange warning barrel. I don't recall seeing one of these in Auburn, but I assume they're orange and blue there.

And finally, this is how the spot looked Sunday morning -- filled with what appears to be a mix of rocks, sand and dirt. All that remains is for a paving truck to cover the spot with fresh black asphalt. But wouldn't that make the original problem even more obvious?

It looks to me like the 311 hotline passed this test. A crew was on the scene within 24 hours, and had the problem practically solved within 72 hours. For the moment, I don't have to worry about jogging on hole-y ground.

Columbus city officials ask you to call the Citizens Service Center about all kinds of non-emergency matters. For instance, the AT&T white pages indicate you should call 311 with "questions about Columbus government." The shorter "public agenda" time lasts at Columbus Council meetings, the better.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Speaking of city employees doing good work....

Richard..This e-mail is to thank the detective division of the Columbus Police Dept..They caught the burglar who has been terrorizing our University Ave neighborhood..Also,thanks to the alert neighbor who gave a description of the car that left the scene..BRAVO...

On top of that, Columbus Police have arrested a man on charges of impersonating a sheriff's deputy and attempting to enter several homes. The suspect reportedly had a badge number, and claimed other officers were knocking on doors nearby. Remember: law officers normally do NOT work this way - because they hire telemarketers in Florida to appeal for Fraternal Order of Police donations.

BLOG UPDATE: The pastor who preached that sermon about "America's forgotten motto" [4 Jul] asked for our forgiveness over the weekend, and we granted it. The minister explained he was trying to cite several issues which concern many people. It's sad to think some congregation members can't even afford a radio to listen to Glenn Beck.

Now we need to catch up on our own issues from the last several days....

+ WRBL showed a mug shot of an alleged Columbus "peeping tom." Trouble was, the word "peeping" was misspelled - with (ahem) the second "p" missing. Only Sean "P Diddy" Combs could get away with something like this....

+ WTVM reported six people were arrested during last week's Thunder on the Hooch. This is startling for several reasons - including the fact that the TV station admitted criminal misconduct occurred at its own premier promotional event. Of course, the suspects may have been "inciting a riot" by wearing Kurt Schmitz T-shirts.

+ Gas prices in parts of Columbus jumped 30 cents a gallon, to the $3.59 range. I thought the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve was supposed to lower prices. But then again, maybe most convenience store owners are Republicans instead of Democrats.

+ WRBL reported some veterans are upset with the quality of chairs in the Russell County Veterans Affairs office lobby. There's apparently not enough state money to replace them right now - and surplus chairs from the American Legion hall probably have too much built-up cigarette smoke.

+ The Courier and Eco Latino presented several "Community Awards." I'm told Mike Gaymon from the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce did NOT attend this event. I have not been told whether the tabloid named Gaymon its Whipping Boy of the Year.

+ The Columbus Lady Wings concluded their first home season by misfiring against Montgomery 86-79. The basketball team is 2-6, yet the Ledger-Enquirer reports they could make the playoffs with a win next weekend. Has Tony Adams found something new to influence?

+ Caleb King was kicked to the curb by the Georgia football team, as the running back was declared "academically ineligible." I read one online comment that it shouldn't be hard to remain academically eligible at Georgia. Hmmmm - so it's U-G-easy-A?!

(Caleb King's canning clears the way for Isaiah Crowell to become the top Georgia running back this fall. Overenthusiastic boosters had better stay out of the way - and NOT try to turn him into Isaiah the Profit.)

+ Instant Message to the Georgia NAACP: As I recall, you declared a police review of the Parks Department audit "frivolous" last year [8 Jun 10]. So where is your complaint about the current police review of the Civic Center audit? At least you could admit Chief Ricky Boren is consistent -- and maybe even right.

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $3.43 a gallon (as of Sunday afternoon) at RaceWay on Victory Drive.... milk for $3.29 a gallon at Target.... and countless Columbus transplants wishing in vain for a free slurpee on "7-11 Day"....

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