You've got to hand it to the Builders Association of Metro Augusta. The group's members have consistently been among the biggest opponents of impact fees, but they've also heard the rising tide of residents demanding the fees be considered on new construction.
So, the association has put together a free seminar, set for 8:30 a.m. April 18 at the Government Center Auditorium in Evans, to talk about impact fees.
No one, of course, expects a favorable presentation from the builders. Even so, just the fact that the builders are willing to bring the topic to the public (or at least the portion of the public able to attend a session on a weekday morning) signals that the increasing calls for impact fees have gotten their attention.
Among those making the best case for such fees is Scott Nichols, the new chairman of the county's Democratic Party.
Nichols, an engineer by trade, takes over from Terry Holley, who's held the post for the past four years. Nichols says he wants to make sure no one can accuse local Democrats of having no ideas and instead only attacking initiatives of the ruling Republicans, so he comes right out with three ideas:
First, he'd turn the appointed Planning and Zoning Board positions into elected offices;
then, he'd add two at-large members to the County Commission; and,
he'd fight any proposed tax increase or bond project if impact fees weren't part of the mix.
At first glance, I'm in favor of the third idea but opposed to the first two. Even so, you've got to admire the willingness of the new leader of the opposition party to offer his opinion and bring ideas to the table, not just criticize those of the majority party.
One person who certainly could be counted on to offer his opinion was U.H. Pittman, the former county commissioner who passed away a week ago Saturday while in hospice care.
Pittman never failed to seek support for friends or work hard against any political opponents. He knew he wouldn't win every battle, but that didn't stop him from making a valiant fight of it.
Other than his dedication to conservative politics, though, the thing I remember most about U.H. Pittman is his warm, friendly greeting, punctuated with what had to be the worst handshake of anyone, ever.
Pittman had a really annoying habit of digging the ball of his thumb into the back of your hand when he shook it. I'm not a particularly wimpy guy for a writer, but U.H.'s handshake sometimes made me want to squeak like a girl.
Still, enduring that brief pain was certainly worth the kind words and solid advice Pittman was always ready to give. Columbia County will certainly miss him; bad handshake and all, so will I.
Think you know Columbia County? If so, like me you would enjoy a sampling of its history with a visit to two Web sites.
The first is a new one set up by the Georgia Secretary of State's office. A visual archive of Georgia images is available at www.sos.state.ga.us/archives/Vault/ArcVirtualVault/. While Columbia County doesn't have many images on the site, it does have some old county maps and a picture of the long-lost Columbia gold mine.
The other is an older site, www.cviog.uga.edu, the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. By navigating through to Georgia Place Names, you can find a long list of communities within Columbia County.
The list includes such obvious names as Grovetown, Evans and Appling, and somewhat obscure places like Sawdust and Berzelia. But there also are oddities that I'd never heard of: Bowery, Cerlastae, Nebraska, Leoron and (believe it or not) Republican.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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