Augusta news heard while stuck at home with the pets

I really must start getting out of the house more. I've been stuck inside with the animals while workmen bang around outside fixing things. The dogs put on quite a show the first morning the roofers showed up at 5 a.m. and started beating on the roof with sledge hammers.

The point of telling you this is that I've gotten way behind on the local news and just found out that former radio reporter Scott Hudson came out of the closet on Facebook. Also, Augusta's former first lady and Realtor Gwen Young has turned over the day-to-day operation of her company to her daughter Andrea Johnson. Gwen is recuperating from a serious ear operation and is hooked up to a PICC line like Ernie was for 12 weeks after he broke his foot and got a staph infection a few years ago. He couldn't walk without crutches for two years. Remember how I shared my pain with you when I weed whacked and cut the electric cord while trimming the shrubbery?

Anyway, back to the news. I also learned my ailing friend Linda Beazley is resigning as chair of the Richmond County Board of Elections. She's back on chemotherapy and fighting the good fight.

THE BLUE GOOSE: This isn't really news, but it's a good story. Library board president Jane Howington told me her husband, Dr. Jerry Howington, is responsible for the Georgia War Veterans Home being called the Blue Goose. He was a junior at the Medical College of Georgia in 1966 when they were building the home. One day he saw they'd put up four tall white pilings with some blue construction material on top. He said, "That looks like a blue goose." And the name caught on.

Over the years, Jane and Jerry have had seven miniature black poodles with the same name -- Tassie -- except that they're called Tassie 1, Tassie 2, and so on. When one dies, they immediately get another one. Jane said a friend asked her what she was going to do if Jerry died and she remarried, and Jane said, "He'll be Jerry 2."

Jane said Jerry thinks she has Alzheimer's. When she told me that, I said something like I didn't believe it. But she said, "No, I'm serious. I'm going to be tested."

All I could say was, "Can I go too?"

DO-OVERS: Commissioner Corey Johnson wants commissioners to rescind the board's previous vote to lease the Patch golf course to the Patch LLC because he mistakenly voted in favor of it two weeks ago. If six commissioners vote for Johnson's motion to rescind at Tuesday's meeting, and another vote is taken, he said he will vote to hire Affinity Golf Partners to manage the course.

Another do-over is the re-advertisement of request for proposals from real estate brokers interested in selling the city's excess property. City officials want to sell unused property such as the Depot on Reynolds Street and the old library on Greene Street to raise money to help with the budget deficit.

The city's procurement department recommended Sherman & Hemstreet to handle the sales. But City Administrator Fred Russell suggested that commissioners consider the three top-ranked firms before making a final decision. Of course Sherman & Hemstreet objected, or tried to, and representatives from another firm tried to present their case at the next meeting, but commissioners voted to re-advertise.

Meanwhile, commissioners bought more property last week, agreeing to pay $175,000 for the historic Penny Savings Bank at Laney-Walker Boulevard and James Brown Boulevard, purportedly to help stabilize that part of the boulevard.

COMPRESSED GAS GIVES LOCAL TRASH HAULERS HEARTBURN: Trash haulers are dumping on the new garbage contracts that require them to use trucks that run on compressed gas, as well as pay for filling stations the city will own from which they will be required to buy the gas.

So it looks like the city's attempt to go green and produce its own energy is a pile of garbage to the haulers who still love the smell of diesel fumes in the morning. It's a big problem, the solution to which is not as simple as taking Beano.

BUY AN IPAD, SAVE A TREE: Nationally, Congress is talking about saving trillions of dollars, but locally they're talking about saving paper by buying iPads and dropping out of national organizations because the city can't afford to send commissioners to national conventions.

Commissioner Bill Lockett wants to save money by eliminating paper usage in the day-to-day administration of the government. He contends the use of iPads would significantly reduce the need for paper and provide instantaneous access to documents by elected officials, department directors and other designated staff.

"Last meeting, somebody provided me with an 800-page ordinance," he said. "It sat there. It was so tall it was blocking the view. Eight hundred pages. I don't know how many copies of that ordinance were made. But you've got to think. You've got paper. You've got to cut down trees for paper. You've got toner. You've got labels. And for what?"

That's a good question, but Lockett's desire for an efficiency study based on his 27 years in federal government service makes me more than a little nervous.

IT'S NOT LIKE IT'S REAL MONEY OR ANYTHING: Johnson wanted to talk about commissioners taking trips to national conventions since the National League of Cities annual conference is coming up in November.

Johnson, apparently stung by criticism for attending the National Association of Counties convention in Colorado last year, said if commissioners aren't going to participate they should drop the memberships and save the dues. After commissioners had weighed in on the subject for awhile, Commissioner Alvin Mason asked whether there was a prohibition on trips to national conventions. When told no, Mason told Johnson to go if he wanted to, that there was nothing stopping him.

"Until or unless there's a stipulation, I don't know why we're discussing this," Mason said.

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH, WILL THEY BE? Commissioners are moving forward to hire a consultant to study the efficiency of the government. Lockett said they should audit everything, including the finance department. Russell intervened to say he was concerned about the wording of what Lockett said he wanted.

"The document says independent audit," Russell said. "What you described was more a management audit than a financial audit. We do the financial audit every year. The working 'independent audit' makes it sound like we're going to hire an auditor to audit our auditor. That might be a little more complex than we want it to be."

He warned the board they should be ready to make some "hard decisions" and be willing to follow up with the auditors' recommendations.

"That is going to be the hard part," he said. "We can hire lots of people to tell us what we ought to do. Getting it done is where the rubber meets the road. And that's going to be the tough part."

WILL HE TELL WHERE THE BODIES ARE BURIED? You'll probably be able to hear a pin drop when city employee Donald D'Antignac gets up to speak on the subject of "Concerns With The Administrator" at Tuesday's commission meeting. D'Antignac is scheduled to speak on "agreements, contracts, laws, state and federal, municipal laws, policies and procedures, civil rights violations, cover-ups, corruption and misappropriation of tax dollars."

D'Antignac, whose job is slated for extinction under the city's restructuring plan, was convicted of murder in 1974 and served 11 years in prison before coming to work for the city in 1986. Until recently, he worked for several years out of Russell's office, serving as his "eyes and ears," Russell has said.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.

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