Archives for February 2009

Bryan County School Board Coups d’etat

A campaign promise made by three school board members was fulfilled on the night of the 19th February when Bryan County School Superintendent Sallie Brewer was voted out of office by the school board.   Jeff Morton, Charlie Johnson, and Dennis Seger (all first termers who were elected to the school board on the campaign promises to remove Dr Sallie Brewer) along with Board Chairman Eddie Warren voted for the dismissal almost three quarters of the way through the school year.

The cost?  A quarter of a million dollars.  Considering the cost of locating, interviewing and hiring a new superintendent and the cost is going to be much higher.  This is an appalling waste of taxpayers’ money.   Mortons response?  According to The Bryan County News (21 Feb) he stated the change was worth it as the system has a $50 million budget!   Sounds like this board member is going to be an excellent steward of taxpayer money! Dr Brewer has had perfect evaluations and worked for the Bryan County school system for more than 30 years.

The common grievance against Dr Brewer is her apparent “lack of interest in extracurricular activities”.  Cited by one resident was her refusal to allow the Richmond Hill band go to Washington.  Other citizens complained about sports activities.  Of course, with these gentlemen the fact Bryan County’s graduation rates increased by 17.7 percent, a jump from 64 to 82 percent in five years from 2002 to 2007 would mean nothing apparently.  In 2008 Bryan County was one of 18 systems that scored a high graduation completion rate in the state according to the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. (Cite)  Which is more important in their minds?  A good solid education or extracurricular activities?  They stated where their interests lay…….and the interests of the constituents who voted them into office for the purpose of removing Dr Brewer.

Now, these gentlemen, in deciding to stage this coup, determined no input was required from the audience in attendance. According to WTOC, “People don’t usually line up for Bryan County Board of Education meetings, but Thursday night they did so they could have say about the board buying out the superintendent’s contract, but from the start the board didn’t want public debate. They voted against it, saying it’s a personnel issue.”

I have to agree with board member Mary Warnell who stated, “This is driven by personal agendas, egos and fulfillment of campaign debts.”   Warnell went on to say, “I’m disappointed and I am deeply ashamed in the lack of integrity demonstrated by these board members.”

OK gentlemen, the ball is in your court.     According to first term board member Charlie Johnson, “…but there are a lot more opportunities for our children that are not being looked at.”  Well, Mr. Johnson, here is your opportunity to look at all those opportunities for our children.  Just what were they again?  You never really said.  You fired an excellent administrator in a manner that was less than honorable.  It is now your responsibility to find a superintendent that will be superior to Dr Brewer for the same amount of money.  But hey; at least you fulfilled your campaign promises! 

Best wishes to Assistant Superintendent John Oliver who was appointed to replace Dr Brewer until a replacement is found.

Water Treatment facility in Tradeport East, Liberty County

For the last few weeks, I have receiving various E-mails from supporters on both sides in the pending water treatment plant proposed for Liberty County.   I am neither an expert in water treatment nor the ecology of the marshlands; I do however have a few questions and observations.

If I understand the situation correctly, the Liberty County Development Authority (LCDA) wants a $30 million wastewater treatment facility built adjacent to the Tradeport East Industrial Park.  To this end they have contracted CH2M Hill to construct the facility.  CH2M Hill conducted an environmental study and submitted their paperwork to the Environmental Protection Division (EPD).  This wastewater plant would initially handle two million gallons of wastewater daily and in phase two advance to processing three million gallons.  Some of the facilities freshwater effluent would drain into the Laurel View River and that apparently is the crux of the matter.  (this will impact South Bryan County rivers and estuaries)

As I stated in the first paragraph, I am not an expert but I do have a question or two regarding this treatment plant.  According to year 2000 figures, Liberty County withdraws 17,330,000 gallons per day of potable water.  Can the output from this wastewater facility be further treated and used to serve a potable water need in Liberty County?  Why dump freshwater into a saltwater estuary or river? It would seem to be a no brainer that dumping a sizable amount of fresh water into a salt water body would adversely affect the living things in that immediate area and start drifting out over time. Is this solution of reusing the treated water impractical? Not cost effective?  Three million gallons is one fifth of the daily potable water consumption using year 2000 figures.  Given Coastal Georgia’s potable “water shortage”, this seems like a practical idea.  I’m open to corrections.

Some observations. 

Several critics criticized EPD and CH2M Hills environmental studies, stating they were self serving.  I’m guessing they would prefer to shop around until they found someone willing to present scientific evidence supporting their position?  I’ve heard complaints for years; companies do not conduct studies prior to taking action.  Apparently when a company does just that-the study is drawn into question.

Another questioned the need for taxpayers to support this facility construction.  This is called investment.  It attracts new business, new industry, and new residents which in turn lower your taxes. Target, for example came into the county hiring five hundred workers initially and will hire more workers in the future. SNF Chemtall, Inc. employs 1065 workers. Interstate Paper Corporation has hired 240 and International Greetings USA has hired 165. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure attracting business pays off for everyone.

Others questioned the need for a new wastewater plant.  I find this one somewhat amusing.  Usually local governments wait until the need for infrastructure is urgent before taking action and citizens go up in arms because the local government didn’t anticipate the need.  Liberty County is being condemned by some because they are being proactive and anticipating growth. 

Yet others have condemned the project because it would permit growth, wanting things to remain as they are apparently with comments such as, “”This development in Liberty County: I think we’ve got enough of it.”

Like many others, I too feel the need for further study on the part of LCDA.  I applaud the concept of building a new facility, think it is a great idea and believe it will pay off in the long run.  However, I am not comfortable with the freshwater runoff into the saltwater estuary.  I believe other, more practical uses can be made of the treated water.

A Henry Ford City

Mr. Kent is back in the Bryan County News again.  This week stating he “remains vigilant in his quest to get the city of Richmond Hill to alter or remove the line on their welcome signs that read ‘A Henry Ford City’”.   He states he is willing to pay for the alterations to make this happen.

The mayor is equally adamant in his position saying, “We don’t want him paying for anything.  He can just take his money and buy some more plywood for more of his sorry-looking billboards.” 

Mr. Kent states he is opposed to what he calls egregious wording on the Richmond Hill signs referring to “A Henry Ford City”; alluding to Henry Ford as an “anti-Semitic, anti-labor, pro Nazi bigot.”  This attitude apparently did not stop Mr. Kent from donating money to put a statue of Henry Ford in the City Hall lobby. 

Mr. Kent’s intent is to deter visitors from coming to Richmond Hill until he achieves his goal.  Economic extortion would be the proper name for his tactics.  In order to achieve his quixotic goal, he is willing to sacrifice the economic well being of our town.

Isn’t it about time Mr. Kent takes a more mature and responsible approach to resolving his petty feud with the city of Richmond Hill?  He is a retired Army Colonel and ex Chairman of the School Board.  Presumably he knows how to resolve differences without resorting to childish tactics that border on economic extortion.

Dedicating the town to Henry Ford has less to do with honoring a man who at one time held despicable attitudes and recanted them later in life and more to do with a man that conducted many philanthropic acts and created the beginnings of a prosperous town.

The simple fact is Henry Ford took a little town called Ways Station, developed it and gave it a vision.  Prior to his first visit, Ways Station was a little town still devastated after General Sherman’s March to the Sea, with moonshine and malaria dominating peoples’ lives and 80% of the county residents living at the poverty level.

According to the History of Richmond Hill, “…Ford’s philanthropic initiative saved Fort McAllister and enabled the fort to be reconstructed, and preserved for all to enjoy.

Eventually, Ford bought 85,000 acres, drained the swamps, constructed a sawmill, subsidized health care, built schools, a church, commissary, trade school, community house, and homes for his 600 employees.  Ways Station was one of the most impoverished areas of Georgia.  Ford sought to improve the quality of life and ultimately built 272 buildings on his property.  With friends Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone, Ford formed the Edison Botanic Society and conducted laboratory experiments, attempting to turn agricultural products into goods useful to the auto industry.

Ford Farms transformed former rice fields into fields of fine iceberg lettuce and grew 365 varieties of soybeans, testing their properties for extracting rubber…”

But for the vision provided by Henry Ford, Ways Station would be just another of the couple of hundred little towns in Georgia with populations under a thousand and no significant claim to fame or would be annexed into Savannah.

Jackson Court – Finally, some entertainment in Richmond Hill

There has rarely been enough entertainment in Richmond Hill to keep children and teenagers amused. This is however changing with the development of Jackson Court, a $5 million investment that is the brainchild of developer Wayne Jackson and his partner Johnny Carnes. A groundbreaking ceremony was conducted on the 27th January.

Located between Motel 6 and Pierceville subdivision on hwy 17, this ten acre plot of land will soon be converted into a mecca for entertainment by the end of this year. Plans are for the facility to include a 9,000 square foot “Lasertron” lasertag gaming area, a 5,000 square foot “Bouncetown” inflatable playground, and an indoor batting cage. A facility called “Cyber Sport”, which is a bumper car game, may also be coming to a 3,000 square foot area within Jackson Court. Mr. Jackson is contemplating a roller rink or bowling alley on a large tract of land next to Jackson Court in the future.

Jackson Court will also host several restaurants and shops within the complex; Wing Stop and Power Smoothie Café are already on board. Negotiations are in progress with several other restaurants and concession stands. A couple of suggestions from an interested bystander would be a cyber café and perhaps a video arcade.

According to The Bryan County News (28 Jan) Mayor Davis is quoted as saying “I’m excited about it, and it should be a great addition for the children of Richmond Hill”. I agree wholeheartedly.

Not only will this project benefit our communities’ children, but neighboring communities will be coming to our town for entertainment and spending money in the community while they are at it. I suspect there will be more than a few Interstate travelers who will visit the complex to burn off some of the children’s excess energy before hitting the road again or the hotel for the night.

This project is one that is long overdue and I congratulate Mr. Jackson and his partner, Johnny Carnes, for stepping up to the plate and making an investment in the community.

Update;  As an informal survey (and my own curiosity),  I asked neighbors and random shoppers at Krogers if they were interested in this project and if they had a preference between a skating rink or a bowling alley.   There were no negative responses-people were 100% in favor of the facility going in.  There was also 100% interest in a bowling alley versus a skating rink.  This was an unscientific survey-your results may vary.  But, maybe it might kind of urge someone on the path to a bowling alley?  (hint hint)

Circle Perspectives

“Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform.”
– Mark Twain

I so enjoy the variety of people I know. The differences in my circle are vast on everything from political views to familial status, formal education to employment choice. I appreciate these people as they provide me great opportunities to consistently experience different views. Granted, mine may not always change, but it is an improvement still to be able to expose myself to a different perspectives.

When we talk about “varied perspectives,” we aren’t necessarily talking about debate, transformation, or convincing others. We are simply seeing how similar things in our sphere may be different. Why is this important?

  1. We can’t possibly be an expert in everything – learn from those around you.
  2. There are always two sides (typically more) to every story – always strive to have all the facts.
  3. We may be wrong – unlikely, I know, but it could happen – the correction from others can make us better.
  4. We may be doing our family, friends, or clients a disservice – your perspective is valuable and important. It is important to give when needed and guide when appropriate.

I am so thankful for my circle of perspectives. You keep me sharp, informed, and safe.

New BRH Blogger

My name is David and I have resided in Richmond Hill since 1992 with my wife of 33+ years, Mary. I have a daughter, Carrie-Anne who works for the Chamber of Commerce and a son David who lives in Indianapolis. Both are graduates of Richmond Hill High School.

I retired from the Army as a First Sergeant in 1993 after serving a little over 20 years. My assignments include Germany, Okinawa, Colorado, Massachusetts, Texas, and Georgia. Along the way, I visited on temporary duty status many scenic locations such as Korea, Central America, Egypt, and Jordan, as well as many of our own states.

Although it took many years, I finally earned my Bachelors Degree from American Intercontinental University in Information Technology; Network Administration. This will give me the moral high ground to encourage my grandchildren to attend college and earn degrees.

I enjoy reading immensely and try to read a couple of books a week. At the moment I am reading The Conservative Mind: from Burke to Eliot by Russell Kirk and for light reading; Marine! The life of Chesty Puller by Burke Davis.

I first became interested in blogging around the turn of the century. (I never thought I would be able to use that phrase) I visited many blogs, some daily, and soon became a regular at posting on those sites until 2008, when I thought it was time to become a blogger. I acquired a domain name, set up a blog ( Oh no, another Conservative blog ), and started posting my own content. It is still fairly small, but is growing at a good pace. This didn’t satisfy a desire to write on local issues, so Blogging Richmond Hill consented to allow me to post as a guest blogger.