Your (late) jolt: South Georgia state park raided by feds

The Tifton Gazette/Moultrie Observer reports today that federal agents have descended on a state park near Moultrie:

There may be merit to allegations of illegal dumping of hazardous wastes at Reed Bingham State Park. Federal authorities dropped a backhoe into one suspected area Thursday afternoon, and there was an immediate sound of scraping metal. Two drums had been unearthed by 4 p.m. and the digging had only just begun.

Federal environmental agents descended upon the park Thursday morning to run tests for possible illegal hazardous chemical dumping. They came in just a couple of weeks behind state environmental agents whose findings are yet to be released. The state agents did not dig up anything.

The newspaper is hinting at an inside job:

The allegations of illegal dumping came in close proximity to the DNR firing park manager Chet Powell. The alleged dumping reportedly occurred on another manager’s watch and sources told The Observer that an employee told Powell about the dump sites after he was dismissed.

Meanwhile, Powell’s firing has brought a hailstorm of protests from supporters of the park who say that Powell’s leadership has brought the park much success with state, regional and national attention.

Powell’s attorney, Charlie Cox of Macon, said Powell’s dismissal has to do with his objection to the state planning to clear cut timber on the park. The DNR said it did not plan to clear cut, but The Observer obtained DNR e-mails via Georgia Sunshine Laws that showed clear cutting was indeed a plan. Those e-mails were excerpted in an earlier edition of The Observer and printed in full on its website, www.moultrieobserver.com. DNR has not commented on those communications.

“I think they’re trumping all of this up, and I think the whole thing centers around plans to clear cut timber at the park,” Cox said.

Travis Fain of the Macon Telegraph reports today that Gov. Sonny Perdue’s legislation to shift teachers to a system of merit pay has hit a wall:

State Sen. Don Balfour, who is carrying the governor’s legislation through the Senate, said this afternoon that the bill changing the pay structure will be sent to a study committee.

The bill has been unpopular with teachers, and the study committee will look at some of their questions, Balfour said. The details of the plan — exactly what measures teacher pay will be based on and how to judge teachers who don’t teach traditional, testable subjects — have never been fully set out.

This is a strange one, reported today by Tom Crawford of the Georgia Report:

Georgia’s desperate financial straits have inspired some House leaders to introduce legislation that would result in the state buying what is known as “dead peasants insurance” to shore up the funding of the pension plans.

Rep. Ben Harbin (R-Evans) and Rep. Mark Burkhalter (R-Johns Creek) have quietly introduced HB 1380, which would provide for the state’s retirement systems to buy mass life insurance coverage for current and retired state employees.

As those employees die off, the proceeds of the insurance policies would be paid off not to the survivors of the deceased employees but into the coffers of the state pension plans.

Over at WGAU (1380AM) in Athens, morning talk show host Tim Bryant had this exchange today with Jane Kidd, chairman of the state Democratic party:

Bryant: Would it be appropriate to have a meeting with some of these folks who are dragging up the rear with polling right now, and say, ‘Look, it might be time – for the good of the party to make a decision – about the status of your campaign?

Kidd: Well, yes. As a matter of fact, I do think – anytime before qualifying, you have to hope that your candidates are looking at everything that’s going on in their races, and for the good of the party, let’s keep the competition down to as few candidates as possible. Just because of the shortages in campaign funds and money…It’s always more economical to have fewer candidates in a primary.

This week showed the difference a competitive race for lieutenant governor might make.

On Tuesday, Republican incumbent Casey Cagle unveiled for reporters a task force report on how to fix state finances. On Thursday, Democratic candidate Carol Porter of Dublin issued this:

The task force is representative of elite interests, and therefore unable to fully gauge the impact of their recommendations on everyday Georgians. There were no minority voices on the task force—nor were there any educators, doctors, farmers or small business owners. The task force is not representative of Georgia—it is representative of Cagle’s campaign donors. It seems you only belong in Cagle’s Georgia if you work for a firm that cuts big checks for campaigns.”

“Asking educators and students to sacrifice even more—in the form of cuts and restructuring of teacher benefits, and tuition hikes—shows how short sighted Cagle is concerning Georgia’s future,” said Porter. “So much money has been squeezed from education, I’m surprised Cagle and his allies aren’t showing up in schools to shake down fifth graders for their milk money.”

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

22 comments Add your comment

James Wilson

March 19th, 2010
12:04 pm

And Lee Hawkins is out bashing Tom Graves JOBs Bill! This guy is unbelievable.

Last week he was attacking the Tea Parties, now he’s attacking the most pro-business, pro-jobs, private sector solutions focused piece of legislation in the House. Today he called it a “sham” and is promoting his own knock-off version.

Lee Hawkins, will will not fall for your dirty tricks and mud slinging.

SallyJoe

March 19th, 2010
12:05 pm

He’s attacking it because Lee Hawkins is a democrat.

We should not be taken aback by him revealing his true colors.

Base

March 19th, 2010
12:30 pm

Enron economics its best and Sonny is in the lead.Porter has it right!

wesleywhatwhat

March 19th, 2010
12:34 pm

can u morons stick to the subject please? whatever the hell u two are rambling about has nothing to do with any of the many topics that were brought up in this blog.

double up on your adhd meds and try again.

DRhen

March 19th, 2010
12:35 pm

Tom Graves’ family and staff on these AJC political blogs makes me laugh.

SallyJoe

March 19th, 2010
1:04 pm

Laugh it up, Lee Hawkins won’t be laughing once the voters of the 9th send his liberal backside home!

And I am not staff, but I do make voter calls from home for Tom and other true conservatives!

n

March 19th, 2010
1:15 pm

Parks: A lot of hanky panky bubbling to the surface about Reed Bingham State Park. Word is the newly-appointed DNR chief waged war against RBSP’s manager Chet Powell because Powell resisted the clear-cutting of a large swath of RBSP. Somehow clear-cutting a state park seems wrong, if only because no one will visit a state park if it looks like an industrial park. For his efforts, Powell was fired, after years of loyal service and incredible community support–and now apparently is currently the subject of concerted character assasination attempts by the political hacks at DNR.

Carol Porter: What a joy to hear her take on the good ol’ boys, and their enablers. With an honest, forthright person or persons leading this state, we might be able to crawl out from under the political patronage system, which has lined the pockets of politicians and their cronies, to the detriment of the citizenry.

Mass life insurance on state employees: This convinces me that the Republican leadership wants to do away with state government and it’s employees–literally. Don’t they need an insurable interest? Could I take out a life insurance policy on Sonny Perdue or Ben Harbin? I don’t think so, and there are good public policy reasons why I can’t.

DICK

March 19th, 2010
1:58 pm

n;
YES YOU CAN TAKE OUT A LIFE POLICY ON PERDUE AND BEN HARDEN AS LONG AS THEY KNOW THIS HAS BEEN DONE AND THEY SIGN THE APPLICATIONS. WHAT IRKS THIS SOUTH GA RED NECK CITIZEN IS THE HARDHEADED ATTITUDE OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS HAVE. tHEY CAN GENERATED MILLION OF DOLLARS BY INCREASING TAX ON TOBACCO PRODUCTS AND ALCOHOL PRODUCTS. I HAVE BEEN TOLD ALCOHOL IS A NO-NO BECAUSE OF A TOUGH LOBBIEST GROUP. TIFT COUNTY STATE PATROL ISSUED 493 DUI CITATONS IN 2009. IF WE WERE TO SURCHARGE CURRENT FINE $500.00 EACH, THIS IS $246,500.00 OF ADDITIONAL REVENUE. I HAD RATHER MEET SOMEONE ON HIGH SMOKING OR CHEWING THAN I HAD SOMEONE DRINKING.

Terri

March 19th, 2010
2:09 pm

Mass life insurance on state employees??? Are you kidding me! We need to elect all new legislators.

oldfart

March 19th, 2010
2:33 pm

More investigation is needed on Reed Bingham State Park. If the guy truly was fired for objecting to clear cutting in a STATE PARK and if there has been illegal dumping allowed in a STATE PARK, then some higher heads need to roll. I don’t care if it is R or D or whatever. State parks are owned by the citizenry and should be managed as such. I know it is a long drive and a bit of an expense but it seems like even the strapped AJC could look into this little powder keg.

Beelzebubba Demon of the South

March 19th, 2010
2:44 pm

News Flash………. Large barrel dug up at Reed Bingham contains the remains of Jimmy Hoffa according to Nancy Grace.

Iconoclast

March 19th, 2010
3:00 pm

Unless timbering in a state park is part of a comprehensive habitat restoration plan, this sounds as fishy as when Zell had the north-end of Sapelo’s coastal forests razed.

If Atlanta’s wonder what a clear-cut swatch looks like in a state park, just drop by Panola Mountain and look at the daylight behind the visitors’ center.

Reed Bingham is a gem that shoudl be polished, not cut.

Robert

March 19th, 2010
3:19 pm

Madame Porter, You just gained another supporter!

Been Around-Done That

March 19th, 2010
3:27 pm

Carol Porter sure has Cagle’s number! But then it doesn’t matter much who’s in power…Republicans or Democrats. They all cater to their “special interest” campaign contributors at our expense. Wonder what Carol would do for the “folks” if she actually won the election (which seems unlikely)? We sure could execute a royal flush (down the political crapper) on Election Day by running all the rascals out. That incldes Nathan Deal, Oxenswine, and You can’t “Handel” the truth. Oh, yes! King Rat Roy also. Nothing much ever seems to change. Voters are usually uninformed and pull the lever for the best liar. Then they spend the next four years bitching because the idiot they elected is as bad as the one they got rid of.

GaBlue

March 19th, 2010
3:30 pm

Go Carol! Way to break it down!

Tony

March 19th, 2010
4:19 pm

I believe that the citizens of Georgia will be shocked when they realize what damage the Department of Natural Resources has done with our forests on state parks and wildlife management areas. As one who frequents these sites, It appears that clear-cutting is being done all over the state for the purpose of generating revenue. Devastating our forests for some temporary quick cash is not the solution. Next they’ll have the titles for these state properties at Loans R’ Us.

Waiting

March 19th, 2010
4:33 pm

Why isn’t someone from the ajc investigating this on one of the best parks in this state? Reed Bingham State Park is a gem for sure, and the DNR, along with MANY others should be investigated as well. As I have read on the ” Citizens & Friends of Keeping Chet Powell at Reed Bingham State Park”’s facebook page that: Mr. Powell denied a clear cut that the DNR proposed of 170+ acres or more, DNR then came up with every excuse they could to fire him, like another POLITICAL MONEY TRAIN, they did whatever they could to get the $$$$ from the trees. The facebook page has almost 2,000 members and there are thousands of signatures on petitions that were sent and presented to the DNR Commissioner Chris Clark, Governor Perdue would not set up a meeting with the representatives and concerned citizens for the park. I believe if someone from the AJC would do some research on this subject, you would find that this is a truely, truely interesting STORY. If you dont believe, join the facebook page.

Daniel

March 19th, 2010
6:58 pm

The AJC need to do an Open Records Request on Chet Powells firing so they can show the world that DNR has no grounds. I am surprized that the local papers have not published the actual record why Chet was fired. This is a sham.

Dying Peasant

March 19th, 2010
9:21 pm

The “dead peasant” scheme isn’t about refilling the state’s coffers with death benefits (although that thought alone is unseemly enough, since the only way the state or local government “wins” is if the employee or retiree dies much sooner than projected–which sure gives the state or local government an added incentive to reduce health care for aging employees or retirees). Instead, it’s about funneling premium payments to an insurance company–a sweetheart deal of sizable proportion, considering the number of teachers, police, firefighters, and other public servants whose lives would be “insured.” And those premiums won’t be paid out of the state general treasury, either–they’ll be robbed from the public pension funds. Certain folks have long and greedily eyed those pension funds, viewing them as a pot of gold for the taking, never mind the fact that those funds are supposed to be held in trust for the employees who contributed to them out of their own paychecks.

As Deep Throat said, “Follow the money.”

waiting

March 19th, 2010
10:13 pm

Daniel, the reason the local papers haven’t published the “real” reason Chet Powell was fired is because there is no valid reason. The DNR has seem to change their “reason” for firing him a few times. I’m not quite sure if they know what they are doing. It’s called crooked politics!!!

Port O'John

March 21st, 2010
11:51 am

State parks in Georgia used as a hazwaste dumps?

Sound like Sonny has finally found a use for the Georgia Park System — use it to dump hazwastes and save the state a bundle on disposal costs. Now that’s a true conservative governor in action. .

[...] Friday, in an interview with WGAU (1340 AM) in Athens, state Democratic party chairman Jane Kidd was asked whether it was time to winnow the [...]