Just as it has become a refuge for citizens seeking suburbia, Columbia County is getting a reputation as a haven for former Augusta officials.
Weve got Doug Barnard, the highly esteemed former 10th District congressman.
Weve got Inez Wylds, a former member of the Augusta City Council (who actually delights in referring to herself as a has-been).
Weve got Austin Mc-Lane, the last man to serve as chief of the Augusta police department.
And soon we may have Ronnie Few, the first man to serve as chief of the consolidated Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department.
You all know the story. Few is the chief of the Washington, D.C., fire de-partment, where he has been for two years. Few came on board in 1997; before that, he served more than 20 years in East Point, Ga., as fire chief.
Twenty years, three years, two years: Fews tenure has gotten progressively shorter the higher he has climbed the ladder. Media reports in D.C. - primarily, from the conservative Washington Times, which has whacked Few like a piata from Day 1 - say the latest tenure will soon end: Few is supposed to quit or be fired within 30 days.
Few got in trouble because he lied on his resume. He said he had been named Firefighter of the Year by the International Association of Fire Fighters (he hadnt), and that he earned a bachelors degree from Morris Brown College in Atlanta (he didnt). He blames the resume-padding whoppers on a secretary, as if anyone believes a job applicant doesnt review his material before sending it off to a prospective employer.
Its embarrassing that Few got away with the lies for as long as he did. Barely a year after Few took the job in the nations capital, the folks in D.C. dug up dirt two Georgia cities had failed to find. (In our defense, Few didnt invent the 1998 firefighter award until hed left town.)
Now that it appears Fews days in D.C. are numbered, the big question is whether hell join Barnard, McLane, Wylds, et. al. in Columbia County. After all, Few owns a $200,000 house in Evans, in the Farmington subdivision on Hereford Farm Road.
Those other ex-public officials, though, were the good guys in office; Few certainly doesnt fit their mold.
And I doubt the Martinez Fire Department will seek Fews services, either.
Fire HQ fight
Speaking of the Martinez Fire Department, those officials have been frustrated in their attempts to find a new site for their headquarters.
The current, cramped Station No. 1 on Washington Road is gridlocked with traffic, so a new headquarters is needed - one with more room, and with easier access to the congested Martinez area.
The first choice was a site near Kroger in Martinez, but the land is expensive. Because the fire department is a private company, it has to buy land on the open market. Unlike a government-run department, Martinez Fire isnt able to use the power of condemnation to get any land it needs.
Thats what makes a little-used baseball field off Old Evans Road at-tractive. Co-lumbia County already owns the property, and is ready to work out a deal with the fire department. Unfortunately, the field is in a residential area and would need to be rezoned to allow the fire station. The countys Planning and Zoning Com-mission - which just a few months ago rejected a residential-to-commercial rezoning in the same area - voted last week to turn down the fire departments rezoning request for the field.
Its a tough situation. The rezoning request ultimately will get the final thumbs up - or down - from the County Commission when it hears the case in a couple of weeks.
The vote could be an election-year showdown be-tween Planning Commis-sioner Steve Brown, who voted against the rezoning, and County Commissioner Frank Spears, who likely will favor it.
My prediction is that the rezoning will go through, in spite of opposition from some nearby homeowners. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, its hard to say no to firefighters.
The hidden library
All eyes right now are on the new courthouse annex, nearing completion in the Evans town center. But as an event Saturday made clear, theres also plenty of excitement building over the countys new main library.
At a celebration of Library Day, officials unveiled the floor plans for the new library and for the amphitheater that will be located behind it.
It will be an awesome facility, with one minor drawback: Because of its location behind the government complex, the new library will forever be in the shadow - literally - of that grand new courthouse.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 863-6165, extension 106.)
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