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.”
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