Originally created 11/27/98

Official requests backup



When Tropical Storm Earl roared through the area this year, the Columbia County Roads and Bridges Department spent much of the time responding to calls.

"Then all of the sudden, the lights went out," said Nick Crawford, the county's construction and maintenance director.

The outage also claimed the department's telephones and radios -- leaving officials communicating only by radios in vehicles.

The next time adverse weather affects the area, Mr. Crawford wants to be ready. He is asking the county to purchase a generator and some other equipment that will keep the department running.

A generator for both the roads and bridges office on County Camp Road and one for a radio tower near Columbia Middle School would cost the county about $40,000, according to preliminary estimates.

"I figure if the lights go out three or four times, this generator will pay for itself," Mr. Crawford said.

The generator is definitely needed, especially if power outages affect the department's phones, County Commissioner Diane Ford said.

"We have an obligation to our citizens," she said. "Other than 911, our citizens don't have any other way of calling us."

Employees could start the generator before a storm hits to ensure there is no down time in crucial moments.

"We'll be able to react faster and get our people back out there," Mrs. Ford said.

Jason B. Smith covers government for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 115, or ccchron@augusta chronicle.com.