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Georgia editorial roundup

May 8, 2019

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

May 6

The Augusta Chronicle on preserving history:

We mentioned the historic significance of the Academy of Richmond County’s football stadium in an editorial Saturday. But the location of Augusta’s first night baseball game, we’re told, actually was at old Jennings Stadium off Walton Way, not at ARC.

We couldn’t be more pleased that Augusta folks really know their history.

And they should. It’s important. Everything we do, in a split-second, becomes part of our history. Most of the mundane activities never get recaptured.

But occasionally they do. Examples are all over the place in the form of time capsules.

On Sunday, St. Paul’s Church observed the 100th anniversary of the building’s dedication with its own time capsule. Again.

Apparently while the church’s History Committee was researching St. Paul’s consecration, time capsules were found to have been buried with the church’s cornerstones. Local Masons laid one cornerstone in 1819, and another in 1916, when the church was rebuilding after Augusta’s Great Fire that year.

Another capsule now joins them, in a ceremony at St. Paul’s, again presided over by Masons. The new capsule, buried Sunday near one of the others, contains compact discs, annual church reports, Masonic coins, a musical piece commemorating the Great Fire, a copy of Sunday’s church bulletin and a copy of St. Paul’s church directory.

What’s in the old capsules? Glancing back at the Sept. 30, 1916, Augusta Chronicle: “Among the articles laid with the new cornerstone, which was laid above the old stone, were a copper plate, which is a replica of the old plate taken from the old cornerstone when it was opened some days after the fire.”

There are other time capsules around town if you know where to look. In 1951, for example, when the J.B White department store opened a warehouse annex on Ellis Street, a time capsule was sunk on the site in concrete, with “records and mementoes concerning the progress of the Central Savannah River Area,” according to Chronicle archives.

The building is still there. Now it’s home to the relatively new offices of the Augusta Downtown Development Authority. Presumably the time capsule is there, too. We’re just not sure precisely where.

Sometimes capsules are found by accident. When Central African Baptist Church on Hopkins and 12th streets was torn down in 2003, workers chiseled open the building’s cornerstone and found a tin box. Inside was a copy of the New Testament, a Nov. 5, 1911, copy of The Chronicle, a Confederate $100 bill, a few Lincoln-head pennies and an envelope marked “To unborn Generations? signed by Central’s pastor in 1911, the Rev. R.J. Johnson, and containing a handwritten church history.

We’ll have to wait until 2076 to revisit the contents of the city’s stainless steel time capsule, in a concrete vault buried in 1976 next to the Municipal Building statue of Lady Justice. One of the items reportedly inside is a Sears catalog. In today’s age of Amazon, that already sounds quaint.

Time capsules are fascinating, and we hope more of them locally are buried and more of them are found. Sometimes reflecting on our past helps us ponder our future. Knowing where we’ve been can tell us - and future generations - where we should, or shouldn’t, be going.

Online: https://www.augustachronicle.com

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May 6

The Savannah Morning News on the failure of a tornado warning siren:

Most area residents, particularly on Chatham County’s islands, use words like “lucky” and “blessed” in regards to Saturday’s tornado strike on Whitemarsh Island, Turners Rock and Wilmington Island.

Add one more adjective to the list: Unacceptable.

The failure of the most fundamental part of the tornado warning system — the outdoor sirens — could have been catastrophic. The explanation for why the sirens remained silent is almost as scary as tornadoes themselves.

According to the Chatham Emergency Management Agency, or CEMA, the sirens never sounded because the National Weather Service was conducting a software update that took the warning system offline. This interrupted communication between the National Weather Service’s tornado monitors and the company that operates the sirens, WeatherWarn.

This account baffles on so many fronts.

First, the National Weather Service choosing to perform maintenance on a tornado warning system late on a spring afternoon — primetime for severe weather — lacks good sense.

Chatham’s islands have seen several twisters and other wind events in recent years, almost all of them striking between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Just last summer, a tornado tore across Oatland Island and part of Whitemarsh Island around 4 p.m. one afternoon, causing property damage but no reported injuries. The year before, an afternoon tornado blazed a path across the southern tip of Wilmington Island, made its way over marsh and water and made landfall again on Cockspur Island, doing extensive damage at Fort Pulaski National Monument. Again, no one was hurt.

Second, that there was no preparation or communication between the National Weather Service and WeatherWarn and CEMA borders on negligence.

We can assume this was scheduled maintenance, and as such WeatherWarn and CEMA could have had personnel in place to monitor conditions and sound the siren in the absence of the National Weather Service’s system. Local television stations have meteorologists that post alerts when tornado conditions emerge. CEMA has an online alert system.

Those resources could have been leveraged had there been better coordination.

Saturday’s event should set off metaphorical sirens in the aftermath. The warning system comes with inevitable flaws — the sirens failed to sound during the Oatland strike last year because weather conditions did not warrant a tornado watch or warning for Chatham County. Sometimes, Mother Nature behaves inexplicably.

But officials need to close the loopholes in the warning system. That no one has been hurt, let alone killed, in recent twisters is nothing short of a miracle.

And residents should heed the advice from CEMA’s Catherine Glasby: Download weather and local media apps on your mobile devices and “don’t depend on one thing,” such as tornado sirens.

Online: https://www.savannahnow.com

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May 5

The Valdosta Daily Times on the need for a new animal shelter:

Lowndes County needs a new — and better — animal shelter.

In the past, county leaders have been proactive in passing pet-friendly legislation.

When the county placed a ban on the selling of puppies and kittens in parking lots, protecting both animals and consumers, it was a strong, proactive move that we highly commended.

When the county placed very stringent rules around the tethering of pets, we hailed it as common sense legislation that sent a strong message to residents about responsible pet ownership.

At that time we also highly commended veterinarian Amanda Hall as a strong advocate for animal rights in our community and for the leadership she demonstrated in working with county officials to be more proactive in setting high standards for pet ownership.

In addition, the county’s animal control officers are true professionals, dedicated public servants who provide a very high level of service in a most courteous way. Theirs is an endless task, because the stray and feral population is significant.

When you look at vibrant, growing communities, one of the things they have in common is being pet-friendly.

Regulations such as the ones previously passed by the county — that we are urging each city to pass — go a long way toward making our communities more pet friendly.

Pet-friendly communities also have strong spay and neuter programs and local veterinarians here volunteer their time to fix the animals housed at our shelter.

Spaying and neutering is a part of responsible pet ownership, but someone must also take care of the stray and feral animals or the problem of strays just gets worse and worse and worse. And while local veterinarians volunteer their time selflessly that does not make the problem go away.

That brings us back to the animal shelter.

The existing structure has served our community for years but like all things, it is old and worn out. In this case, it seems a replacement is a much better option than repair.

There are some great ideas out there for how to supplement existing SPLOST funds for a new shelter. A public-private partnership and even crowd-sourced funding are other options that county leaders should take seriously and consider.

There are a lot of stakeholders in the community with ideas and some with resources; county leaders should covet their ideas and expertise.

A new, larger — and better — animal shelter should not be a unilateral decision with no community input.

It needs to be a conversation.

But after all the talking is done, the new shelter must be larger, modernized, energy efficient, easier to clean, accessible and expandable.

Animals are part of our community.

We must do all we can to ensure a safe and humane shelter for the animals that are lost, that are neglected, that are homeless. A safe place for the animals, for the people who care for them and for people looking to adopt pets into their families.

Online: https://www.valdostadailytimes.com