Originally created 07/18/04

Interim administrator's hard work is not unnoticed by commissioner



Augusta Commissioner Tommy Boyles has had nothing but praise for Interim City Administrator Fred Russell and his staff since George Kolb, the former administrator, left.

"I just want to admire the attitude the commissioners have had and the thoroughness and the organization that has been presented to us by Mr. Russell and his group," Mr. Boyles said at a Thursday sales tax work session. "And I even feel like department heads feel they're a little bit more free to talk, and I just appreciate that."

But the love fest quickly turned into laughter after Mr. Boyles praised the city's new administration for giving commissioners a "thorough" list of dates needed to be met to get the city's next special purpose sales tax on a ballot this year.

"Thank you," Mr. Russell said. "But we made a mistake in the election dates. We've got to correct it real quick."

IS IT READY YET?: Richmond County school administrators were back in their new downtown offices last week after being booted out in June. City inspectors evicted them from the unfinished building over concerns about the fire alarms, construction debris and a malfunctioning elevator.

At one point, Superintendent Charles Larke got stuck in an elevator for 10 minutes.

That's probably why board member Johnny Hatney - upon hearing that administrators were headed back downtown after a final inspection - told project officials to "make sure they ride the elevator before people go back out there."

WHAT WOULD MARTHA DO?: The occasional power struggle over who supervises purchases made by Columbia County's elected, constitutional officers will rear its head again next week, this time over the contentious issue of interior decorating.

County commissioners will discuss Tax Commissioner Kay Allen's ability to use her funds at her own discretion. Earlier this month, officials balked at purchase requests Ms. Allen made to repaint her new Evans office and pay for $15,000 in chairs, draperies, window valances and artwork because she did not go through the procurement office or receive competitive bids like other county departments have to do.

Ms. Allen budgeted the money from her discretionary account at the end of the last fiscal year, which ended June 30. She said that as a constitutional officer, she has a right to use her budget how she sees fit once the county approves it.

SPEAKING OF NITPICKING: Since it doesn't appear that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation will release a conclusion before Tuesday's primary about their inquiry into whether someone illegally released Columbia County police officers' contact information to sheriff candidate Lewis Blanchard, his campaign is making a last-minute effort to distance him from the lingering question mark.

Campaign workers for Mr. Blanchard, who has denied any such list existed, blanketed calls Friday to emphasize that the investigation to the list - which they say doesn't exist - is not targeting Mr. Blanchard and he is not facing criminal charges from an incident - which, again they reiterate, didn't happen.

SO LONG, OLD FRIEND: The Richmond County Sheriff's Office mourned the loss of longtime officer Lt. Ed Harris this past week, who died unexpectedly Tuesday.

Many in the agency said his death was a hard blow to take. At a packed house at the lieutenant's funeral at Curtis Baptist Church, an emotional Sheriff Ronnie Strength gave an anecdote-filled eulogy for the best friend he knew for nearly 30 years while rising through the ranks.

"Law enforcement officers are supposed to be tough, and I have been - until now," the sheriff said, his voice breaking. "But I am so thankful to have such great memories of him."

Regular contributor Sylvia Cooper is on vacation. Contributors Preston Sparks, Greg Rickabaugh, Jeremy Craig and Vicky Eckenrode are not.