Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Unified Government’s Culpability?

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.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I happened to ride my bike through Dudley Park, recently, and yes, they's somethin in the water!

Unfortunately, I have to side somewhat with the environmental alarmists: the ACC water supply remains vulnerable.

We have Bear Creek, and some wells, I believe, but a determined enemy could shut down our water delivery system easily. With all due respect to your assertion that the delay at re-building FS6 is something of a smoking gun ... that seems something of a stretch. Now if this mandated a delay of 30 minutes to 1 hour in response time, then you might have a point.

Probably, though, ACC will vest liability when lawyers point-out that the firefighters failed to dispatch due care re the method (lots of water) used to fight the blaze; they are supposed to be pre-informed re such things and should have adjusted their strategy or let it burn out.

Now then, mistakes were made, but let's not forget this was an accident, and accidents happen.

On the other hand, a system to supply potable water in an emergency should be seriously considered; moreover, some thought should be given to alternative water sources -- as it would seem this strategy could pre-empt one catastrophic spill, or contamination, that then shuts down the entire system.

Finally, ACC could push rain-water catchment systems that can, if done correctly, save water while adding another disparate source. I hate to admit some of the valid points the environmental weenies have made; and let's not forget that ACC, seemingly, has done very little to expand water supplies and this fact is 'carry-over' from the 'green' idea that such an expansion would simply translate into greater per capita usage; they've argued a limited (and more vulnerable) supply is a catalyst for better management.