Realtor lashes out at Smartway building talk

This week, City Ink is going to set the record straight about the illegal cow in Blythe, the real time it took for a sheriff's deputy to respond to a wreck in the Red Lobster parking lot and the real "major donors" responsible for bringing the consultant to Augusta to advise city officials on drawing up a chronic nuisance property ordinance.

 

And we will talk about various and sundry other ironies and inside baseball, such as Realtor E.G. Meybohm's letter to City Administrator Fred Russell complaining he'd been shafted by Commissioners Joe Bowles and Jerry Brigham during the meeting in which commissioners voted to build a new sheriff's administration building downtown instead of renovating the Smartway furniture store at Southgate Plaza.

"The remarks by Commissioners Brigham and Bowles were erroneous, and I cannot help but be offended by implications that I was seeking to profit from the matter," Meybohm wrote the day after the meeting. "Nothing could be farther from the truth, and I was only involved because of my interest in helping the city."

During that meeting, Bowles said the Smartway property sold May 5, 2008, for $772,000, and he questioned why the city would even consider paying $1.8 million for it.

Brigham objected to allowing Meybohm to rebut some of the figures discussed at that meeting, saying if they were going to start arguing about construction costs they should open it up to other contractors.

Meybohm said he'd been in the real estate business for more than 40 years and had been financially and personally involved in the betterment of the community.

"When I think about all the time, effort and money I have expended to improve our community, I feel my contributions should merit more consideration than I was given at yesterday's meeting," he said.

Well, Mr. Meybohm, I can tell you from having been to hundreds of commission meetings, commissioners are like newspaper editors. They only want to know, "What have you done for me lately?"

A GROWING PROBLEM: Augusta Tree Commission Chairman Leroy Simkins spoke to commissioners about city employees committing crape murder and butchery on Riverwalk Augusta, chain-saw massacres on ancient oaks, camellia carnage in Summerville and other arboricultural atrocities. He said every great city in the country has "a serious tree program, a serious tree commission and at least one department that is primarily concerned with what the city looks like."

"I've had the good fortune of visiting a number of countries, even Third World countries," he said. "And I can tell you gentlemen, the tree program in Windhoek, Namibia, is better than the one in Augusta, Ga."

That was Monday. On Thursday, the mayor's office issued a news release saying Augusta has been recognized by the nonprofit Arbor Day Foundation as a Tree City USA community for the 22nd year.

Maybe the Arbor Day Foundation folks are like those at Forbes magazine who ranked Augusta, with its 9.2 percent unemployment rate, as the 23rd-strongest metro area in the nation. They make you wonder whether they've ever been here, or been here lately anyway.

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL: In an item slugged "Maybe It Was 45 Minutes for a Takeout" last week, City Ink related a vignette from the commission meeting attended by Sheriff Ronnie Strength in which Commissioner J.R. Hatney said he didn't want the sheriff to think he was "being funny" but that he remembered a wreck in the Red Lobster "yard" about a year and a half ago that "took 45 minutes to get police."

I thought that sounded a little fishy, so I asked the sheriff for a list of wrecks on the Red Lobster lot and at the adjacent intersection of Walton Way and Gordon Highway the past two years.

As it turns out, there were 62 wrecks at those locations, and the maximum time it took for a patrol car to arrive was 20 minutes.

NO LIMIT TO WHAT YOU CAN ACCOMPLISH IF YOU DON'T CARE WHO GETS THE CREDIT: A ranter called The Chronicle to complain that I hadn't done my research when I wrote in last week's column that Clay Boardman, Pete Caye and Barry Storey were major donors who helped pay the $7,500 cost of bringing John Campbell of Campbell DeLong Resources Inc. to Augusta to talk about creating a chronic nuisance property ordinance. He said three "concerned citizens" had donated individually more than those three combined.

"There is no doubt these men are interested in helping, but to say they were major donors is to belittle the efforts of so many 'average people' who want things to change," the ranter ranted.

Belittle the efforts of so many average people? Please.

What happened is that during one of Campbell's sessions, Butch Palmer, an active member of the Harrisburg Neighborhood Association, said the three men were "major donors." I concluded that must be the case when Campbell met privately with Boardman, Caye and Storey in the final session of the two-day event. I mean, Butch ought to know.

Then after Friday's meeting of the city's committee formed to work on a chronic nuisance property ordinance, I told Harrisburg Neighborhood Association member Lori Davis about the complaint, and she said her husband was the one who made it. She said they were very angry because they and Palmer were chief donors, not Boardman, Caye and Storey.

I said Butch told me they were, and she said she knew that, but that I shouldn't listen to him. Bowles, the chairman of the ordinance committee, agreed.

"Only listen to Butch about your makeup and hairdos," he said.

"That's right," said Butch, who calls himself a "recovering hairdresser."

A COW AND BULL STORY: Last week, I told you I'd be milking a story about the city of Blythe's efforts to get a cow out of town. As it turns out, the cow is actually something quite different, though certified letters from the city to owner Betty Saxon of Piney Grove Road stated she was in violation of the city's zoning ordinance because she had not removed a cow and goat from her property in a residential district.

The city and planning commission have been trying since August to get Saxon to remove the cow -- and the goat, too, until it died -- but she keeps missing deadlines. The cow supposedly is being used for therapy for Saxon's son, Lemuel James Chester.

Mayor Pat Cole asked city attorney Chris Dube to check to see whether any type of variance could be applied for if, in essence, the doctor wrote Chester a prescription for a therapy cow, but he couldn't find one. So at least one of Saxon's neighbors will ask the planning commission to change the zoning ordinance during Tuesday's planning commission meeting at Blythe City Hall.

When I heard the cow wasn't what it was purported to be, I called City Clerk Loriann Chancey, who had previously said it was a cow, to ask her what was up, and she said as far as she knew it was a "bull-cow."

"A bull-cow?" I said with a laugh. "I didn't know there was such a thing."

"I haven't inspected him, so I don't know, but I believe it is a bull-cow," she said.

Well, there goes the warm-milk-makes-you-feel-better defense they could have used at an ADA hearing.

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