Madison County Opinion...

JANUARY 28, 2004

By Frank Gillispie
The Madison County Journal
January 28, 2004

Frankly Speaking

The values we learned from Mr. Bramlett are his legacy
When the first four graduating classes from Madison County High School gathered for a joint reunion last fall, we did not know we were saying goodbye to a great man. The honoree of the event, former principal D. W. Bramlett, died January 19, 2004 in Winterville.
The late 1950’s can be accurately described as “a pause before a storm.”
Those of us coming of age at that time had led a quiet life. We were mostly rural with little experience in the great national movements that were beginning to develop. Because Madison County was a large, thinly populated area, many of the students did not know each other until the four small schools were merged into a single high school.
In my case, having just returned to Madison County from Athens, I didn’t know anyone. Mr. Bramlett, the faculty and staff of the new school quickly changed that.
Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of Mr. Daniel Bramlett’s term as principal of Madison County High School was his school spirit programs.
He and the faculty quickly involved us in programs to select a school mascot, preparing the campus for an athletic program, as well as school-wide recreational and academic challenges.
Mr. Bramlett took an active roll in teaching us to be strong, law abiding, competent citizens. He taught us to be prepared for any eventuality, and that was perhaps the most valuable lesson of all.
Shortly after we left high school, we were confronted with a dramatic list of challenges. We faced the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the social upheaval of the ‘60s and a rapidly shifting economy. We were faced with technical advances that we couldn’t have imagined.
Can you imagine an inexperienced farm boy like myself suddenly confronting a whole range of “advanced weapons” while serving in the Army’s NATO forces?
I had to deal with an unknown European culture and an array of “Weapons of Mass Destruction” possessed by our armed forces that constituted our defense in the event of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. That was quite a bit for a naïve 20 year old to confront!
In the early ‘70s, while starting a career in retail management, I saw my first hand held calculator. In the ‘80’s I used early home computers to start one of Georgia’s first desk top newspapers. As I write this, I am following the adventures of two Mars Landers on cable TV while listening to an Internet based Southern oriented radio station. I am not unique. I am just one example of the success my classmates have found in dealing with a rapidly changing world.
Mr. Bramlett and the first faculty of Madison County High School instilled in us a high level of confidence based on a wide and deep education. We have prospered in this unpredictable world because of the foundations they built into our education. As a group, we have added much to the spiritual, social, economic, political and military growth of Georgia and the nation.
We, in turn, have passed on their teaching to our children, students, co-workers, readers and companions. The values we learned from Mr. Bramlett are his legacy. And that legacy has lived and grown in our hearts, and will continue to grow as we pass them on.
Can one man change the world? D. W. Bramlett did!
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is

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By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
January 28, 2004

In The Meantime

Pipeline in Madison County deserves closer look
The only sound now is the thump of the fat file — case (97-MV-135-J) — dropping on the desk.
But in 1997 there was plenty of noise, at least in the form of legal briefs, well water chemical analysis and out-of-court negotiations.
The thick file in the Madison County Clerk of Court’s office is the official record of a little-publicized battle between a major oil pipeline company and a county family in the Colbert Grove Church Road area, who claimed that Colonial Pipeline was failing to keep petroleum products from contaminating their water.
It’s an interesting read.
Ultimately, however, the story shown in the case file ends with no bang, but a whimper. There is a “dismissal of action with prejudice,” meaning, a settlement. No terms of the settlement are spelled out in the file.
But the paper trail from that six-month suit does not paint a pretty picture of the company. For one, there is undoubtedly contamination of drinking water, as evidenced by the positive testing for benzene — a carcinogen that can lead to leukemia — shown in chemical analysis of the plaintiffs’ well.
Moreover, the plaintiffs allege that Colonial knew about contaminants it was releasing, but never notified them or the owners of “at least 66 privately owned water supply wells within a one-half mile radius of the DBS (Danielsville Booster Station)” about the contamination. Colonial denied this allegation in its response to the plaintiffs’ complaint.
The case file also shows that the company was willing to threaten an end to all negotiations unless the plaintiffs dropped their lawyer.
“(W)hile we are desirous of continuing direct personal negotiations with any property owner whose property has suffered any nature of contamination from our business operations, we cannot do so as long as you are represented by counsel,” a Colonial Pipeline attorney wrote to the plaintiffs.
Of course, this case paints just one picture of Colonial Pipeline.
And there are many more that we will examine over time.
Look at Colonial Pipeline’s website — — and you’ll get a much more favorable image of the company than what comes across in the Madison County case file. The company says that it is very safe, very concerned about the environment, while pointing out that its services are crucial to the economy.
Or you can look at www.stopcolonialpipe (and double click on “links”) to get an idea of the company’s failures, or perhaps type in “Colonial Pipeline oil spill” on Google, where you can find out about the company’s 1996 spill of nearly one million gallons of diesel fuel into the Reedy River in South Carolina or its 1993 spill of some 477,000 gallons of heating oil in Reston, Virginia.
Madison County is, of course, just one small link in the chain of Colonial’s petroleum transportation. Look at the company’s website and you can see a map showing the vast line that runs from Texas to New Jersey, crossing through Madison County on the way.
But we shouldn’t consider ourselves insignificant in that chain.
Commissioner Bruce Scogin was right to bring up the matter of contamination in the Colbert Grove Church Road area in last week’s Journal. And we would be right, as a community, to take a look at how our neighbors in the Colbert Grove Church Road area are faring next to the Colonial facility some 10 years after the contamination was discovered.
Consider, we have a new subdivision planned for Colbert Grove Church Road. And we have some in the community who are convinced that the contamination is spreading beneath an unknowing public.
It seems appropriate to question the citizens in the Colbert Grove area and determine how many people have been seriously ill. We should also look at the standards for testing wells around the contamination site and see whether there are an appropriate number of test wells to determine whether contaminants are spreading.
Our leaders also need to work together to ensure residents in the Colbert Grove area get fresh and safe water.
Oil pipelines are certainly not too high up on the list of things we want to think about. But this paper and this community need to do just that. Stay tuned for more.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.
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