Mayor assists film presentation

From Staff Reports


Deke Copenhaver took his positive-guy role to a new level Tuesday when, from his seat on the commission panel, he dipped into his own pocket to help a documentary filmmaker.

Bryan Williams , a co-owner of Evans-based Bryton Entertainment LLC, went to the commission asking for $1,000 to sponsor In Their Own Words: The Tuskegee Airmen , which premieres at the Imperial Theater on Saturday at 7 p.m. Mr. Williams said he needed money for show programs and to fly in original airman George Watson , one of 17 interviewed in the movie.

His pitch wasn't going well. City Administrator Fred Russell said that, unfortunately, he needed to make a speech he'll be making often this year: 2009's budget is too tight.

Then the mayor stepped up, saying he'd sponsor the movie in the city's name and in the name of his 84-year-old father Bill Copenhaver , who flew B-17 bomber missions over Europe for the Army Air Corps during World War II.

"As awesome as that was," Mr. Williams said, "it doesn't surprise me that he did that. He's a great guy."

If only all budget conundrums could be solved that way.

CONGRATS, QUINCY: State Rep. Quincy Murphy has been elected by his peers to serve another term as chairman of the Augusta legislative delegation.

Mr. Murphy bested Sen. Ed Tarver by one vote at a meeting Dec. 29 at Augusta Technical College. They were the only two legislators nominated. Mr. Murphy received three votes -- from Rep. Gloria Frazier , Rep. Wayne Howard and himself. Mr. Tarver got two -- from Rep. Hardie Davis and himself.

Rep. Barbara Sims abstained, and Sen. J.B. Powell wasn't present.

The delegation unanimously elected Ms. Sims vice chairwoman and Mr. Howard secretary/treasurer.

This will be Mr. Murphy's second two-year term as delegation chairman. He also served out the unexpired term of Rep. Henry Howard after he died in 2005.

AND CONGRATS TO JEFF: Jeff Lewis , a desktop specialist for the city's Information Technology department, was named Augusta's employee of the year at Tuesday's commission meeting. Mr. Lewis, 29, has worked for the city for almost two years and sits in on meetings to keep the commissioners' computerized voting system running.

Along with a plaque, Mr. Lewis got a $100 American Express gift card.

SPEAKING OF RECOGNITION: During Tuesday night's Columbia County Commission meeting, the county's Animal Care and Control department was recognized as the county employee team of the year.

During the awards presentation, Emergency Services Director Pam Tucker was asked to talk about the new animal control facility to be built near Grovetown.

It will be bigger, she said, more centrally located in the county and more visible to the public.

And it will no longer be next door to the sheriff's office training facility, which includes a firing range.

"People hear the gunfire and think we're out back shooting animals," Mrs. Tucker said.

SIGN OF THE TIMES: A few odds and ends are still up for sale at Richmond County's surplus properties. Among them is a sign hanging over a gate at the old public safety office. The sign reads: "Confession is good for all that ails you."

GATOR LOVER: Richmond County's superintendent made no qualms about who he was rooting for in Thursday night's college football championship game.

Dana Bedden propped a University of Florida football and a Florida Gator stuffed animal in front of him during a school board meeting Thursday.

"The GATOR Nation is ALIVE," he wrote the next day in a text message. "An $82 million athletic prog self-funded showing you can have strong athletics and be in top 30 academic rankings of public schools."

MOVING ON: It seems former Columbia County Commissioner Tom Mercer wasn't quite ready to let go Tuesday, but he was ready to leave.

For the first time in eight years, someone else, Trey Allen , represented District 2 at Tuesday's meeting.

Mr. Allen sat with commissioners, at the right hand of Chairman Ron Cross , while Mr. Mercer, now sporting a beard, sat in the audience.

At the end of the meeting, Mr. Mercer could restrain himself no longer and loudly stated, "I make a motion to adjourn."

Once the laughter died down, Mr. Cross called him out of order, but adjourned the meeting.

TIME'S UP: Former Augusta Mayor Bob Young says he'll be home from Washington, D.C., on Saturday. When President-elect Obama comes in, he's out.

"You serve at the pleasure of the president, so you give the next president the pleasure of your resignation when he takes office," Mr. Young said.

The former TV news anchorman resigned as mayor in 2005 when President Bush made him the Atlanta-based regional director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In March 2007, the president appointed him HUD's assistant deputy secretary for field policy and management in Washington.

His last working day will be Friday, then he'll return to his patio home in Summerville. Mr. Young said he has no plans to get back into politics, only to reconnect with old friends.

"And I know Mrs. Young is anxious to see me again," he said.

HIGH ROAD TO A HANDOUT: Cities across the country have been lining up for handouts from Mr. Obama's proposed economic stimulus package. The U.S. Conference of Mayors submitted a list -- a book, actually -- that's making the rounds on Capitol Hill.

The Mainstreet Economic Recovery report has 641 cities asking for a total of $96.6 billion for more than 15,000 projects.

Augusta is nowhere to be found on the list, nor has the city made a direct appeal for a chunk of the bailout like Atlanta.

It's not that Augusta officials don't want money. They just have a different strategy for getting it.

"I promise you, I'm on top of this," Mr. Copenhaver said.

Augusta turned in a wish list of infrastructure projects totaling $417 million to the Georgia Department of Transportation, which plans to work through the Federal Highway Administration. The DOT asked cities and counties to come up with "shovel-ready" infrastructure projects that can be started within 120 days. Based on his talks with Democratic U.S. Rep. John Barrow , the mayor said, that's the best way to go right now.

Another reason Augusta wasn't on the Conference of Mayors' list is that the mayor's not part of the group. Membership costs $10,000 per year, and the city faced a deficit when he took office in 2005, so he didn't join.

It might have spared the city some embarrassment, as the report has come under heavy criticism.

Purporting to lay out infrastructure projects that will create jobs, the list includes $6.1 million for corporate jet hangars in Fayetteville, Ark., $4.8 million for a polar bear exhibit in Providence, R.I., and $20 million for a minor league baseball stadium in Durham, N.C.

Staffers Greg Gelpi, Johnny Edwards, Donnie Fetter and Columbia County News Times Publisher Barry Paschal contributed this week.