Just think of it as Fort Gordon returning the favor.
In August, a contingent from Fort Gordon visited a Columbia County Chamber of Commerce breakfast session, with Brig. Gen. Randolph P. Strong leading a discussion about how the county and the fort can build a better relationship.
The second part of what had always been planned as a two-part session will continue at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Gordon Club inside Fort Gordon. The focus will be on highlighting the fort's business-friendly environment.
Attendance at the August meeting was tremendous. Columbia County business people packed the Columbia County Board of Education auditorium. The real test of the outreach will be Thursday's follow-up, however; the key to building a business and leisure relationship with the fort is for private citizens to venture inside Fort Gordon's well-guarded gates.
It's cordial, but it can be intimidating. I met a friend for lunch there a few months ago, and the guards were unfailingly polite as they had me pull off to the side of the gate, open my vehicle's hood and doors, and step off to the side. The quick search delayed me only a few minutes, but I certainly understand how the prospect can be a mental barrier to those pondering entry to the fort's physical barrier.
If Columbia County citizens, many of whom are military retirees, want to help build a better working relationship with Fort Gordon, attending Thursday's networking session is a great place to start. The chamber office has more information available at (706) 651-0018.
Of course, many of those citizens may also be attending the county's final information session on the proposed $43 million bond referendum. If you're a real info junkie, you can catch the 4 p.m. Fort Gordon event and then scoot out in time for the 6 p.m. session at Savannah Rapids Pavilion.
Other than a handful of government folks, I'm still waiting on the groundswell of enthusiasm for the bond. Judging from all the requests for spending citizens made as the projects were being put together, there has to be some sentiment for at least some of the bonds to pass - especially those related to roads, fire service, water and recreation.
Perhaps the biggest aggravation of all of this is that, inevitably, any discussion of the bonds brings back the spectre of consolidation - as in, the franchise fees from consolidation would have paid for everything the bond is supposed to fund. And, furthermore, that future consolidation could retire the bonds early.
I don't buy it. Everyone who votes for or against these things should do so only if they want the specific item to get done - not based on speculation about what might happen later, or anger about who wrote the details.
Enjoy that break
Speaking of details, I hope everyone with children in school, like me, enjoyed the long fall break. Columbia County students were out of school on Friday, and again this week through today.
However, the change in school calendars means that this year's six-day span of days off (including the weekend in the middle) evaporates next year. Starting with the 2007-08 calendar, students will get two days off, plus a weekend, while educators get a three-day weekend in mid-October.
The change is necessary so the first semester can start later but still end before Christmas holidays. When the calendars were juggled to create a later start time the days had to come from somewhere to fit it all in, so fall break was the casualty.
Now: If they could just figure out a way to get the entire week of Thanksgiving off, that would be great.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.
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