Sometimes neighbors just can't get along. If they could, we wouldn't need lawyers and courts.
In recent days, we saw a settlement emerge after a long dispute between Pam Bugg, owner of Little River Marina, and a group of people who own trailers parked on land leased to them by the marina.
The fight got ugly. Bugg ran afoul of the Environmental Protection Division by failing to properly monitor and maintain wells that supplied water to the trailers. Then she tried to make the owners pay a hefty tab for hooking up to county water, and cut off water or blocked access to some of the homes when they refused.
The frustrated owners quit paying their rent. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, usually militant about its property (the marina, like all marinas at Clarks Hill Lake, is on land leased from the Corps), stayed clear of the confrontation.
After a few days in court, both sides reached a settlement that's a victory only for the attorneys.
That's not the only un-neighborly fight. County workers have just finished installing speed humps in the Rivermont subdivision after a contentious vote by county commissioners.
The humps were installed after supporters filed a petition signed by a majority of residents on the Evans street. Problems arose when some of those residents later claimed they didn't know what they were signing, and said the people passing around the petition lied to them.
Commissioners voted to accept the original petition, and county workers jumped on the speed-hump job quicker than any government project I think I've ever seen. The opponents had threatened to challenge the process in court, and I suspect the county hopped on the hump installation to render the issue moot.
Meanwhile, the current Ronnie Few debacle in Augusta isn't the first time Columbia County has been dragged into a debate over this thoroughly unqualified public official wannabe. But this time it likely will take a court to sort it out.
It was Few, as Augusta's fire chief, who succeeded in alienating the city's Emergency Management Agency director, Pam Tucker. Columbia County came out on the winning end of that deal.
Few later landed in Washington, D.C., as fire chief after skeedaddling from his disastrous and expensive tenure in Augusta. It wasn't long (2001) before I was welcoming Few to Columbia County, where he bought a house in the Farmington subdivision shortly after being run out of Washington for lying on his resume.
(In case you forgot, he claimed he had been awarded "Firefighter of the Year," and had graduated from Morehouse College. He wasn't, and he didn't. He blamed the fibs on the secretary who typed the resume.)
When word got out that Few had bought a home in Evans, the rumor spread that he was a candidate for Augusta assistant city administrator. He didn't get that job, or other jobs he's applied for since. And he didn't sell that Columbia County home, either; instead, by 2003, he was filing the first homestead exemptions on the property, in which he certified that he lived at the house. He filed again in March, adding his wife's name, and then sold the home.
That's what has caused all the fighting over Few's legal residency. Now that Augusta's Board of Elections has chickened out of the fight, the courts likely will hear the challenge to his qualifications for mayor. And because Columbia County officials were slow on the trigger, businessman Jim Bible is mounting a challenge to Few's fraudulent homestead exemption.
Significantly, the charge that potentionally would have been sought by county tax officials was a misdeameanor for filing a phony homestead exemption; Bible's challenge will result in an investigation for false swearing, which is a felony.
Columbia County residents would probably prefer to stay out of the battle for Augusta mayor; we have enough neighbors fighting on our own. But Augusta's tide lifts or drowns everyone, and likewise its government problems have accelerated the pace of residents fleeing to our county.
Neighbors need to work together. But when they can't, at least the courts can sort it out.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.
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