The start of a new year typically is a time when everyone from media pundits to streetcorner palm-readers pronounce their prognostications.
We're not immune to the lure of sooth-saying, even though it seems odd that rarely does anyone take a look back to see how accurate, or inaccurate, the previous year's predictions actually turned out.
In any event, however, it doesn't take a crystal ball to foresee a few of the things coming up in Columbia County in 2011:
- Once his considerable amount of accrued vacation time runs out, retiring Recreation Department Manager Charlie Beale's job will be open and county officials will put someone new in charge of the agency Beale has shepherded for nearly 35 years.
After Beale is gone, some county officials undoubtedly will be tempted to continue an ill-advised push toward privatization of the department. To do so is to ignore the importance of the role recreation leagues play in developing a community's children - especially those of more modest means.
- One of the models the county often points to for privatization is the Family Y. In the coming year, the county will get an event facility and the Y will get a new center thanks to a recently signed agreement. Taxpayers will pay for construction of the building; the Y will lease most of the space for nearly $27,000 per month.
The plan calls for the Y to build its own facility nearby within 10 years and the county will then take over the whole building. Construction of the facility, at the Gateway Center near Grovetown, is expected to be finished by year's end.
- Even sooner in Grovetown - next week, in fact - two new members will be seated on the City Council to replace Barry Davis and Robert Newman.
Both remaining council members and Mayor George James will choose two people to complete the unexpired terms of the members who stepped down Saturday.
They could give a newcomer an incumbent's advantage for this November's election, or they could choose for the post a "caretaker" with no ambition of serving past the end of the year. We don't have any predictions either way, but members certainly have a rare luxury of being able to choose the people they'll work with.
- Finally, in the new year - in fact, perhaps even sooner than resolution of Grovetown's vacancies - there should be closure on the puzzling case involving county Commissioner Scott Dean.
District Attorney Ashley Wright said last week that she has received the investigative file from the sheriff's office of a probe for which very little information is available beyond a somewhat-cryptic police report referring to "inappropriate behavior in the household."
If there were to be any charges filed, they could come as early as this week from a grand jury. If there are none, that should be resolved just as soon.
We don't have any predictions either way except to note that no matter the outcome, Dean potentially has a tough road ahead. His best way forward is to keep his head down and his nose clean, and do the job voters returned him to. It's entirely premature at this stage to join the call from some quarters calling for Dean's resignation; the (grand) jury is still out in that regard.
Whatever happens this year, best wishes to all for safety and prosperity in Columbia County.
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