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 OPINION PAGE - SEPTEMBER 15, 1999 - COMMERCE, GEORGIA



Column
Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
September 15, 1999

Waiting 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 first.
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.



Editorial
The Commerce News
September 15, 1999

Commerce Takes 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 every year.
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.



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