Wednesday, August 18, 2010
I have waited for weeks to see just how this story developed – but I can remain silent no longer, as no one else is even mentioning this important aspect of the fiasco that is the recent J&J Chemical Company fire. A much abridged version of what appears below appears as a letter to the editor in today’s edition of the Banner-Herald.
In the aftermath of the recent J&J Chemical Company fire, with its resultant runoff of industrial chemicals into Trail Creek and the Oconee River, local politicians and environmentalists remain in high dudgeon, wringing their hands and pointing their fingers. They are all asking questions and demanding answers as to the responses of the Unified Government and the state’s Environmental Protection Division, or more appropriately to the seeming lack thereof, to that runoff and the deaths it caused of thousands of fish, frogs, and turtles. All of this is well and good – but only insofar as it goes.
To my mind, though, they are all missing an obvious point. The real culpability of the Unified Government in this matter occurred long before the blaze itself. That culpability has to do with the extended (and continuing) closure of Fire Station No. 6, located a mere mile down Olympic Drive from the J&J Chemical Company site on Trans Tech Drive.
To recap, Fire Station No. 6 has been vacant since 01 March 2009 because of damage to its roof due to an accumulation of snow. Not content to rebuild the station in a supposedly lesser, utilitarian manner, the Unified Government opted to apply for an Obama Administration “economic stimulus” grant so as to reconstruct the station to a “suburban” standard consistent with its elaborately overbuilt stations erected through local SPLOST funding.
That being the case, City Hall applied for an ARRA grant on 13 July 2009, more than four months after the snowstorm. A full ten months after that, on 13 May 2010, the Unified Government was informed that its grant application had been denied.* It was only at this point that plans began to be made to rebuild the station with local government’s own funds (see here and here). and
I cannot claim with any certainty that the situation with which we are faced would have been any different had Fire Station No. 6 been operational. I can claim with absolute certainty, however, that the response time to the J&J facility from the corner of Athena and Olympic Drives is considerably less than the corresponding times from the county’s next nearest stations, which I believe to be those located on Nowhere Road and College Avenue.
And response times are a factor in firefighting, are they not?
Unfortunately, Fire Station No. 6 is the one closest to a preponderance of the county’s industrial and manufacturing facilities, a point I raised almost a year and a half ago (see here). As it turns out, the Unified Government is finally doing precisely what I have advocated all along, namely using the insurance settlement and its own funds to repair Fire Station No. 6 – but only after an inexcusable delay of well over a year.
Note the total lack of interest in this salient fact displayed by all of those politicians and environmental groups mentioned above (and, it must be pointed out, by the local media). The predictable result of this delay was that when Fire Station No. 6 was needed the most, it sat unused, unoccupied, and unprepared.
And those almost fifteen months of inaction cost us dearly, did they not?
If our betters down at City Hall are looking for someone to whom they can assign some blame, perhaps they need look no further than the nearest mirror.
*As an aside, this in and of itself is somewhat perplexing. As I recall, the entire “economic stimulus” debacle was sold to the public as being intended for “shovel ready” projects. The Unified Government already had the land (obviously, the current site of Fire Station No. 6) and the plans (from Fire Station No. 9) for the project, not to mention an immediate need This project was as “shovel ready” as any that one is likely to find (of course, one may properly ask how rebuilding an existing fire station really constitutes economic stimulus is any meaningful sense, but that is fodder for another day). Anyway, the denial gives lie to the rhetoric about the ARRA being anything other than a political slush fund for the Obama Administration.Sphere: Related Content
Posted by James at 8:19 AM