Report refutes Chicken Little; dam not falling

 

Former Augusta Commissioner Andy Cheek , who has been compared to Chicken Little, came before the commission a while back and said, "The dam is falling! The dam is falling!"

So, not wanting to take any chance that Cheek might be right, Commissioner Joe Bowles got the ball rolling to have dam experts come in and take a look.

And those experts said the dam was OK.

In fact, it hasn't changed since it was inspected in 2005, and the hole Cheek is so concerned about has been there for 30 years.

One significant thing the inspectors did note, though, was that the mortar on the Georgia side of the river has held up better than the mortar on the South Carolina side. I guess that gives us here on the Georgia side something to brag about.

Jorge Jiminez , the president of ZEL Engineering, the city's water consultant, said the hole in the dam will be repaired at the same time a new fish ladder is put in to let shad swim upriver, which will be after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approves the license.

What the shad will do until then is anybody's guess. Probably the same thing they've done since 1886, which is when the fish ladder on the Carolina side of the river was built. It was designed by the Chief of Fisheries of the United States, but it never passed any fish, at least that's what Jiminez said. How he knows that is also anybody's guess.

DAM EXPERTS AT WORK: Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver and commissioners had fun talking about the dam experts. As Assistant Utilities Director Drew Goins was introducing Jiminez, the mayor said, "I guess the question here is can we trust those dam experts?"

After Jiminez's presentation, Bowles made a motion to receive it as information, and the mayor said, "We have a dam motion and a second to the dam motion. Is there any discussion?"

"Have the dam vote," Commissioner Don Grantham said.

TASKING A TASK FORCE: Commissioner Bowles made a motion last week that would have put the proposed Special Neighborhood Task Force on the back burner, but it has become too big an issue in the District 4 commission race for Mayor Pro Tem Alvin Mason and his challenger, Sammie Sias , to let it lie.

So last week's meeting turned into a dog and pony show with Sias speaking in favor of the task force in the public comment part of the meeting. Backing him up in the audience were residents and members of the Augusta Neighborhood Alliance, over which Sias previously presided.

Not to be outdone, Mason came out strong to let the folks know where he stood. "We're not asking you," he said. "We're telling you that's what needs to happen, so that we can do what we need to do to see if this task force will work."

Then he "tasked" the sheriff, the marshal and License and Inspections Director Rob Sherman to provide an officer to serve on the task force for 90 days, which seemed kind of silly because the sheriff and marshal weren't even there.

Anyway, Mason is pretty savvy, and he certainly knows commissioners can't task Sheriff Ronnie Strength or Marshal Steve Smith -- both elected officials -- to do anything. Therefore, because both of them say they don't have an officer to spare and don't think a task force will work, there won't be one. And after the election, it won't matter anyway.

A LONG SHOT: Agriculture Commission candidate J.B. Powell said Georgia could add as many as 20,000 jobs and an economic impact of $1 billion by legalizing horse race betting. He said that is just one of five proposals he has for boosting the state's income through agriculture.

We wonder how many of those new jobs will be bookies and how many are going to be shoveling manure.

Two of his other proposals are exporting more agricultural products and increasing locally grown and organic foods, which will be a good place to put the manure from the horses.

WHERE AM I? Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes , running for his old job as the Democratic nominee, toured the Medical College of Georgia Cancer Research Center recently.

Funding for the center began under Barnes' administration and he had not been in it since it was completed. Asked about the future of MCG in Augusta in light of a branch campus of MCG School of Medicine opening in Athens, Barnes gave some reassurance.

Or thought he did.

"The Medical College of Georgia has historically been in Athens, Ga., and it is going to stay in Athens, Ga.," Barnes said. "I meant Augusta. The Medical College of Georgia has historically been in Augusta, Ga. And that is where it is going to stay."

To his credit, he did later correctly quote the date it was chartered as 1828.

LOCAL POLITICS IS ALL: Also on Barnes' Augusta itinerary was a luncheon at the Pinnacle Club attended by some staunch Republicans, including developers Clay Boardman , Bert Storey , Jim Hull and Pete Caye , banker Richard Fairey and attorney Jack Long . Democrats included attorney Sam Nicholson , Jimmy Drew , the owner of Drew Expositions, and Sheriff Strength.

Barnes claims to have strong support from Republicans throughout the state, and many in Augusta will vote for him because of the short shrift they believe the area has received during the reign of Gov. Sonny Perdue .

In addition to pledging that any decision about the growth of MCG will be made at MCG, Barnes has said he would appoint someone from Augusta to the Georgia Board of Regents. That representation has been sorely missed the past eight years.

And for the record, Barnes' Republican opponent, Nathan Deal , has said basically the same thing.

SOMETIMES I WISH I WERE A LIBERTARIAN: Barnes and Deal started slinging mud early in the race for governor, which is pretty hard to do in a drought, but they've managed to pull it off.

Barnes has been complaining that Deal hasn't revealed his tax records. Barnes put his own records online weeks ago, but we all know nobody understands tax forms. So who really cares?

Barnes says Deal is a crook. Deal says, quoting Richard Nixon , "I am not a crook."

NO FLUBBED LINES HERE: Registered nurses and others at Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center staged an informational picket Wednesday to protest what they say is a lack of staffers and unreasonable reassignments.

Leaving nothing to chance, the nurses worked off a "chant sheet." There were the usual chants, adapted for the occasion: "What Do We Want? Safe Staffing. When Do We Want It? Now!" and "Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Unsafe Staffing's Got to Go."

And we all know the power of the nurse, but the way they delivered the message was unforgettable.

"Ain't No Power Like the Power of the Nurses 'Cuz the Power of the Nurses Won't Stop (Say What)"

And this warning: "1, 2, 3, 4 Our Veterans Deserve More, 5, 6, 7, 8 Hire More Nurses Before It's Too Late."

It's never too late to do what's right for our veterans -- or our nurses.

TWO THOUSAND NINE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY SEVEN DEAD: On Saturday, while the City of Augusta officially remembered those lost in the attacks against our country on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, some pretended that the ninth anniversary of that act of war was an occasion to serve. Isn't that sweet?

I grieve some on 9/11. But mostly I still deal with righteous anger.

I'm not looking for avenues of service. It's not a day of service any more than is Dec. 7.

I remember well what happened in New York City that clear morning and it had nothing to do with service. I remember how it happened and who did it. I'm not confused by rhetoric of the new moment.

City Ink thanks Staff Writer Tom Corwin for his contributions to this week's column.

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