By the time you read this, Columbia County will have set a new record for whacking deer with cars.
On Monday, the county tied the record set in 2003 with 472 "deer strikes," according to Columbia County Emergency Services Director Pam Tucker. That's up from 394 deer-car collisions last year.
Rob Pavey's story about the collisions points out that State Farm Insurance says the average property damage from a deer-car collision is nearly $3,000.
Needless to say, it's usually fatal for Bambi.
I've certainly had more than my share of deer collisions through the years, starting with the buck I whacked in 1977 out on Tubman Road near Appling while driving my future wife's Plymouth Horizon.
The worst was about six years ago on Hardy-McManus Road. It was about 7 a.m., a cold, foggy drizzly morning, with very low visibility. I had just passed Halali Farm Road. The deer suddenly appeared in front of the Pontiac Bonneville in mid-leap, crashing into the windshield and roof without even scratching the hood.
Luckily I was alone, because the main impact was on the passenger side. I limped back home, pulled into the garage and went inside to get all the glass out of my face - and to explain to my wife why I'd gotten back so quickly.
If there is any good news to come from all these deer collisions, it's that they help keep the folks at the paint and body shops in business. In tough times, random deer and the occasional hail storm will do wonders.
Of course, lots of folks will rightly blame Columbia County's growing deer-car conflicts on, well, growth. The more houses are built, the fewer places there are for deer to live, and the more they are squeezed onto the highways.
The economy has cut into that growth significantly this year. As Donnie Fetter reported the other day, the number of building permits in Columbia County has dropped by a third through October when compared to the same period last year.
Meanwhile, Augusta has seen a drop of more than 60 percent - this year issuing just 151 permits compared to Columbia County's 556. North Augusta and Aiken permits also have dropped.
So where's the growth? Mostly in Grovetown, which is just 37 permits away from matching last year's total. And Harlem has already issued three more permits than last year.
It's amazing: Grovetown has issued 90 more building permits this year than Augusta.
Quicker with liquor?
Speaking of Grovetown and Harlem, there is no longer a barrier to the two cities attracting more full-service restaurants.
Grovetown approved Sunday liquor-by-the-drink sales in 2005. Likewise, Harlem citizens finished knocking down the last of their barriers to alcohol sales during the Nov. 4 election, approving by-the-drink and Sunday liquor sales.
There are just two voting precincts in Harlem: At Harlem Middle School and at Harlem Baptist Church.
Curiously enough, voters at the church precinct approved both ballot questions by about a 5 percent greater margin than voters at the school.
Chambliss to visit
Speaking of voting, early votes for the Dec. 2 runoff started Monday and are available daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Board of Elections office in Evans.
The key race is for U.S. Senate, and incumbent Saxby Chambliss is supposed to be at the county's Republican' Party headquarters in Evans from 12:30-2 p.m. Saturday for a barbecue and get-out-the-vote rally.
Reservations aren't required.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.
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