The Commerce News
September 15, 1999
For News After The Hurricane
This is being written early Tuesday morning;
by the time you read this paper late Wednesday afternoon or sometime
Thursday, the events I'm writing about will have unfolded.
The Weather Channel this morning said what I'd feared was inevitable.
Hurricane Floyd, a massive category 4 storm, is bearing down
on Florida. An e-mail from my sister indicated that she and her
husband were fleeing Titusville, a community on the Space Coast,
inland to stay with part of his family in Orlando.
They live in a beautiful home on the edge of the marsh, perhaps
a mile and a half from the ocean. They built their house on a
massive pillar about 10 feet off the ground, a successful effort
to catch the prevailing coastal breezes.
"What will you do if there's a hurricane?" I once asked.
"We evacuate," she said simply.
So, this morning (or perhaps last night), they packed up a few
sentimental items, picked my mother up from the nearby Alzheimer's
home, and went inland. To wait.
I can't remember the exact words of the e-mail message, but Laurel
said something to the effect that a hurricane was a hell of a
way to cull your possessions.
I've got a host of other relatives in Florida, most of them on
the west coast, where I grew up. An aunt in Sebring would be
the next closest to the path of Floyd. But if Floyd hits dead-on,
it has the ability to wreak havoc all across the state, should
it go inland.
Growing up on the west coast, we wanted hurricanes to come. They
provided a sense of adventure, caused schools to be closed and
made great surf. The truth is, however, that in the 20th century,
no hurricane ever hit that part of the state dead-on.
A direct hit on my area could have been a catastrophe. Miles
and miles of what had been bay in the 1930s was dredged up to
make island real estate. A storm surge of even minimal proportions
would have simply washed away thousands of homes.
Hurricane Andrew erased Florida's complacency. People who would
never have thought about evacuating before will flee now. If
Floyd hits, the death toll will be lower because Andrew came
My prayer this morning is that Floyd turns northward. It is a
selfish prayer, because anywhere it hits, the storm will cause
devastation. It will kill, and it will destroy massive amounts
of property. And when it is over, the experts will tell us that
global warming or La Niña is causing more big storms and
that the extent of the devastation is largely due to man's insistence
on developing property susceptible to damage from such storms.
But looking at the Weather Channel's satellite pictures, you
realize that a storm like Floyd can cause damage far inland.
Sure, the barrier islands and coastal areas where even a Northeaster
can wreak havoc will get pounded, but so will areas 10, 50, maybe
even 100 miles inland. And if it follows the western-most possible
course, it could come here!
If I didn't have family in danger, this morning I'd be in awe
of this marvel of nature and I'd be reminded that for all our
science and technology all we can do is get out of the way. But
I do have family possibly in harm's way, so like millions of
other people, I watch TV, pray and wait.
The Commerce News
September 15, 1999
Lead In Support Of Sales Tax
The Commerce City Council voted Monday night to endorse the passage
of the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) referendum
Nov. 2. It is a prudent move, and other town councils should
take similar action.
Passage of the referendum will bring in $35 million or more over
five years, a relatively painless way of paying for the infrastructure
needs the city and county have, many of them from the area's
rapid growth. Commerce stands to get approximately $2.4 million
of that total.
That seems like a lot of money, and it is, but two projects that
the city faces will require more money than that. Commerce has
just awarded a $1.598 million contract to complete the expansion
of its water treatment plant. The drought this summer and the
subsequent city water restrictions should have hammered home
the need for the city to increase its ability to provide water.
The city is also beginning work on expanding its sewage treatment
plants. A glimpse at growth projections for the city indicate
that Commerce must spend several million dollars to meet that
growth. With or without a sales tax, these two projects must
go on. If the SPLOST vote fails, the cost will be absorbed by
water and sewer customers.
Only 70 percent of the money can be used for water and sewer
projects. Twenty-three percent can be used for roads, bridges
and sidewalks. Without SPLOST, the only roads to be resurfaced
will be the two to three the Department of Transportation accepts
The rest of the money, 5.5 percent for recreation (the other
1.5 percent goes for a county fire training facility), is not
as significant, though any item purchased with SPLOST is one
that does not have to be purchased with other city funds.
Other cities have similar needs for the SPLOST money. Like Commerce,
they should go on record in support of the referendum and ask
their constituents to vote for it. The last attempt failed by
66 votes. Jackson County and its cities cannot afford to let
the Nov. 2 referendum fail.