Boy, if you want to feel really creepy in a Big Brother sort of way, check out the improvements to the county's Web site.
After a couple of years of delays, the maps portion of the site has now been updated to include aerial photography. If you look up a piece of land on the site, you no longer get just a flat map with each parcel marked with straight lines.
Instead, you now get an actual photo of the property from above. And then you can zoom in. Sorry, guys; it's not live, high-resolution photography -- there won't be any zooming in on the cute sunbathing neighbor in the backyard.
Even so, the view is space-age amazing, with property lines and street names overlaid on the bird's-eye-view photos.
Lewis Foster's tech crew with Columbia County has done a bang-up job, not just with the much-used mapping system but with the entire site. If you haven't checked it out lately, you're missing a tremendous resource for county information on everything from events to ordinances. Check it out at www.columbia countyga.gov.
Joe Shepherd of Burke County won the regional spelling bee recently, again, for the fourth time in a row. It's his last year of eligibility, and his local success is a testament to the amount of focus on a particular topic -- in this case, spelling -- that a home-schooler can get.
Too many folks have portrayed his back-to-back-to-back-to-back victories as an example of how wonderful home-schooling can be. Certainly there are plenty of home-schooled kids out there getting great educations. But the home-school environment also gives the student the freedom to pursue one thing doggedly, and make the most of it.
I just hope the boy can do math, too.
Columbia County's spelling champ, Vipul Sekhawat of Lakeside Middle School, survived into the later rounds. He's a smart kid, and it runs in the family: His brother, Nakul, a Lakeside High School senior, is the county's co-STAR student this year.
Real first library
In all of the conversation and all of the stories over the past few years about the Columbia County libraries, one of the basic, often-repeated facts has been that the county's first public library was the Harlem Library, which opened in 1981.
Most recently, The News-Times repeated the information in a Jan. 30 story about Nancy Morrison, who opened the Harlem Library in 1981 and who recently retired.
It turns out that what "everyone" knew was wrong.
This past week, in The Columbia News from May 24, 1956, I stumbled across this little item, headlined "Branch library opened in Evans":
"The public was cordially invited to attend the formal opening of the Evans Branch Library of the Augusta Regional Library at 10 a.m. Monday, 21 May.
"Library service began Monday afternoon. The branch is housed in the old post office building adjacent to the Evans School." (That's the site of what is now Evans Middle School.)
The brief story goes on to add that "This is the first branch library of the Augusta Regional Library established outside the city limits of Augusta. The branch is jointly sponsored by the Augusta Regional Library, the Columbia County Board of Education, Evans School District and Evans community."
This discovery is big news all by itself, but it adds special significance to the opening in Evans next year of the county's new main library: It will be exactly 50 years since what we now know as the county's first library opened.
The party already was going to be big, but this should make it even bigger.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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