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Staff Editorials

At fall festivals, let’s keep tradition alive

    Think back to being a kid and of the events you looked forward to the most every year. Outside of the big daddy, Christmas, the annual school fall festival probably topped your list – and to the delight of local kids, Pickens schools are in the throws of hosting their own festivals.
    For kids, the fall festival conjures up thoughts of hayrides and apples, pumpkins and games, cider and ponies. These festivals have been celebrated for thousands of years by communities around the world as a way to pay homage to a good harvest at the end of a long, hard growing season. Celebrations include festival games, music and bountiful feasts that incorporate food that matures during that time of year. Decorations are mostly organic, from gourds to dried corn stalks, to hay and pumpkins. 
    We love how these festivals can offer our kids a peek into a time when people lived off the land, and we think the best way to celebrate is to keep those earthy traditions alive - even if there are modern elements incorporated.         Today, for example, most fall festival organizers (especially at schools) include elements of Halloween themes like costume contests and decorations. It makes sense to blend the two holidays when PTOs are already strapped for time and kids enjoy these fun-themed parties.
    A new national trend we’re not crazy about is the shift to schools holding fall festivals in the evening. There’s something about a nighttime festival that just isn’t the same. If the sun sets around 7:15 p.m. it means half the event will be in the dark. 
    That being said, attendance at last Friday’s festival at Hill City Elementary (6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.) was astounding, the biggest crowd we can remember there. The halls were absolutely packed with parents and kids standing in line for the cakewalk, bowling, ring toss and other games located inside the classrooms, and we hope their PTO raised lots of money. Unfortunately, weather was not cooperative that night. The bouncy houses that were supposed to be placed outside were moved into the gym, and the hayride was a total washout. 
    We’re not sure if attendance was so good because it’s more convenient for parents to squeeze the festival in after work and salvage their Saturday, but we would like to see that national trend swing back to daytime festivals on the weekend with as many events as possible held outside.
    We also miss those old games like bobbing for apples and greased pig chases, but we know PTO volunteers and schools have their hands tied with these traditional games that are now considered unsanitary. 
    As fall festival season continues on we want to applaud all the PTO volunteers - as well as festival organizers for cities and townships and other organizations - for taking the time to keep our traditions alive for kids. We encourage you to attend one (or all) of the many festivals coming up in town to take part, and to get in the last of the warm weather with our families and friends before winter settles in. 
    Happy fall from the Progress.

County should know property zonings

Following a September 10th Progress story that announced Dollar General is considering a new store at the corner of Grandview and Cove roads, a flood of comments were posted to our Facebook page and website mostly in opposition to the potential project.  

Unfortunately, because the county may not have an up-to-date zoning classification for the parcel on their books, these concerned residents don’t know if they will have say in a store being built there or not. 

Right now this 6.22-acre particular tract is owned by Northside Church of Christ in Jasper. A representative of the church told the Progress the property is under contract with the developer, and that a portion is zoned rural residential and a portion is zoned for business and commercial usage. 

If the county records are correct and the property is zoned rural residential, adjacent property owners will need to be notified of the requested change (if it is ultimately requested); signage must be posted on the property and a public hearing must be held before the planning commission, which will then make a recommendation to the board of commissioners. After this the board of commissioners will make the final decision on whether it stays residential or is switched to a highway business zoning. 

If the property owner is correct and a portion of the parcel is already zoned for business, the store construction could proceed without delay. 

After talking with the church we followed up with the county by checking information on the QPublic website for Pickens [] and by contacting the planning and development office and the tax assessor’s office.

All of their information reflects only a rural residential zoning, but when asked about the possibility of two zonings on one property the county’s public information officer said the current property owner could have “other documentation that indicates a highway business zoning.”  

What? That’s right. He said it was possible the county records weren’t up-to-date, and that the conceptual drawings for the Dollar General that have been shown to county officials were “likely based on documentation or information that reflected a portion of the property has a highway business zoning.” 

He then pointed to 2005 when the county first adopted the Land Use Ordinance (prior to this property here did not have any zoning). There was a 90-day window before the adoption of the ordinance in which property owners could pick and choose their zoning and apparently some of these zoning classifications didn’t make it into the county’s records. This is blatantly unacceptable that 10 years after zoning was adopted there are incomplete records.

This Dollar General case shows perfectly the pitfalls of sloppy record keeping by the county. On the one hand, you have adjacent property owners who may be shocked to learn that a parcel they had long thought was safely residential is actually open for commercial growth. On the other hand, you may have Dollar General planners and a church finding a huge kink thrown into their property deal if they discover a piece they had thought was commercial really isn’t.

Either way, someone loses because of government ineptitude.

The county has routinely hedged their bets on accuracy by cautioning that the QPublic website maintained in the tax office may not have the correct zoning on the parcels, since zoning is the province of planning and development. 

That is textbook example of bureaucracy – the buck doesn’t stop anywhere with zoning. It is not too much to ask that an accurate and public index of property zonings for the county be created and one that will stand up to challenges.


Book treasure hunting

By Dan Pool
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.    
    One of my favorite events of the year is coming up Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
    It’s not as exciting as JeepFest and not as lively as a big DAWGS game, but all year long I look forward to the Friends of the Library used book sale – nobody laugh. I really get into used books.
    And with more than 10,000 tomes laid out for the public, this is the Holy Grail of old books, unusual reading selections and plenty of page turners.
    After going several years, I have a system of sorts to prevent me from coming home with too many books that I will never get around to, like that really old hardback whaling history that I bought about five years ago. [Though in my defense, last year on vacation I read a paperback of In the Heart of the Sea, a perfect beach book/adventure story about a whaling expedition – also a Friends purchase.]
    My system is to have one bookcase where I put all the Friends book fair purchases and I can’t buy more until I clean some off. It’s a pretty simple system but I always cheat as I never get around to reading all the ones I bought and can’t resist wedging in extra books to the point that the wooden sides may shatter some day.
    Using this system, in theory, I should only buy seven books this year and, in reality, if I stayed home this year, I have enough books in the bookcase to last several years. In theory that works, but in reality I am compulsive.
    Looking over the titles that I still intend to read, there is no pattern to my selections. There is a phone-book sized biography of Alexander Hamilton right alongside Christopher Moore’s Secondhand Souls, a funny and irreverent novel.
    There is a book called Dam Break in Georgia that deals with the disaster in Toccoa Falls, something I know nothing about, but it was only 50 cents so why not find out?
    On my book fair shelves is a novel by John Irving and Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier, about the period of the Cherokees in the Appalachians. I liked his Civil War book Cold Mountain and will probably really like this one – if I ever get around to it.
    There is a collection of essays Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace and a Wallander mystery by Henning Mankell still awaiting reading.
    Part of the excitement of going to the Friends sale is seeing what else you can find. Books at bookstores are expensive and you don’t want to waste money getting something like the dam break book that may turn out to be bad. But at the Friends event, price is no object. The challenge, and it’s fun one, is figuring out which books are worth carrying out of Chattahoochee Tech. I pick some can’t-miss-ones, like the Frazier and Irving, but also take chances like the whaling book.
    I am always inspired and worried about the people who bring carts to load up or leave with so many selections that volunteers help them out in several trips. If those are one-year supplies, then someone really burns the midnight oil with their reading.
    Me, if I find a couple of books I have been meaning to read plus a few unknowns that catch my eye, I consider it a good day.
    Do yourself a favor and go check out the sale and, follow my lead, buy at least one book on something you know nothing about or by an author you have never read before.


Animal shelter workers, volunteers doing amazing things - everyday

By Christie Pool
Staff writer
    Over the past month or so, my daughter and some of her friends have volunteered at the Pickens County Animal Shelter walking dogs and playing with kittens. During the time I’ve spent there I have been truly amazed at the incredible work shelter employees and volunteers do -  every single day.
    Each time we’ve dropped by to give doggie treats or walk the dogs, we are greeted by the staff with stories of new animals they’ve rescued from the streets or from homes where they were being abused or neglected. From the Director, Phillip Tippens, to Assistant Director Judy Moody, Animal Control Officer Billy Lingerfelt, and Kennel Technicians Tim Beck and Jeff Cantrell, the Pickens Animal Shelter team always works to care for the animals that wind up in our shelter.
    Day after day they continue to be positive and supporting of these animals - some of whom, because of their advanced age or perhaps an injury, wind up staying at the shelter waiting for a home for many months. 
    And loyal volunteers, like Ashley Evans who spends countless hours photographing the dogs and cats to post online in the hopes of getting them adopted, take time out of their own lives every week to help immeasurably. Shelter workers and volunteers - and there are several others who donate their time weekly or monthly - are  incredible, high-quality human beings. They open themselves up emotionally to experience intense sadness and heartbreak. But they can also experience intense joy when a dog or cat that seems like he will never find a forever home, finally meets that one person or family who was looking for a pet exactly like the one they saw at the shelter.
    Director Tippens has said he expects at least 800 animals to be adopted through the shelter this year. That’s an amazing number. In the first six months of this year, the shelter took in 692 animals and placed 386 in permanent homes or with rescue groups. And each animal that leaves the shelter is spayed or neutered, reducing the county’s potential animal population by thousands.
    The cost of spaying or neutering a pet is less than the cost of raising puppies or kittens for a year.
    Some 2.7 million animals are euthanized in shelters each year in America - 1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats. That number, however, is not bolstered by those at our local shelter where just two percent of the animals who are brought in wind up being put down.
    While we applaud the Pickens Animal Shelter employees and volunteers who work so hard to give so many animals a  chance at a life they deserve, we’d also like to encourage more of you to be a part of the solution.
    Get your own pet spayed or neutered so you don’t contribute to the problem of pet overpopulation. Volunteer at the shelter and become part of the solution. By volunteering you can make the jobs of everyone working for animals a little easier by lending a hand and spreading the message of responsible pet ownership.
    If you volunteer, you know your efforts will help an animal get ready and increase its chances for a new home. Help socialize the animals that may have been abused. Animals that appear happy and healthy have a higher chance of being adopted, and our shelter needs your help to achieve this. Besides, you’ll never find a more grateful companion than an animal you’ve comforted.
    So instead of walking laps to get your Fitbit steps in for the week, drop by the shelter and help an animal get some exercise too. Being a volunteer keeps your mind, body and emotions healthy. Sitting at home on weekends in front of a television can get boring; playing with a puppy sounds much more fun than being a couch potato.
    If you can’t physically visit the shelter, there are other ways to help. Monetary donations to Partners of Pickens Pets are always appreciated to help individual animals. Blankets and toys are always appreciated.

    [The shelter is located at 3563 Camp Road. Phone 706-253-8983 or online at
    They are open Tues. - Fri. noon to 5 p.m. Sat. 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.]

The boy on the beach

    Aylan Kurdi began his day on September 2nd dressed in a red shirt, blue shorts and shoes. The three-year-old was travelling with his father, mother and five-year-old brother on a dangerous sea journey from Turkey to Greece, fleeing from civil war in his home country of Syria. His tragic day ended with him drowned and washed up on a beach in Turkey.
    Since that day the toddler, whose mother and brother also died when the boat they were in capsized, has become the symbol of the plight of refugees.                     While not alone in his quest for a peaceful life (there are more than 16 million people in need of assistance inside and outside of Syria according to Mercy Corps), it was the drowned little boy  that  inspired a lot of  soul-searching among Westerners about how to deal with such a large influx of refugees into European borders.
    The photo of the toddler washed up, face down on a beach has wrenched the hearts of everyone who has seen it. The photographer who took the shot said “the best thing to do was to make this tragedy heard. At that moment, when I saw the three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, I was petrified. The only thing I could do was to make his outcry heard. When I realized there was nothing to do to bring that boy back to life I thought I had to take his show the tragedy.”
    As Americans, this tragedy seems so far away. We see these images of people fleeing from their civil-war ridden homelands on news shows and online and think how terrible the situation is. Then we turn our attention to other, less tragic news while thinking to ourselves this is something Europeans must deal with.
    But the picture of the boy changed that. It was shared widely on Twitter and Facebook and drew comparisons to the 1993 photo of a vulture near a starving child in Sudan.
    The sad fact is people are dying. Children. Mothers. Fathers. Brothers. Sisters. Wars are destroying families and lives. The people fleeing from war-ravaged Syria has been called “the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era.” Half of Syria’s population has been displaced since protests began in March 2011 and there are now more than 4 million Syrians in refugee camps, fleeing from the mass-murdering regime of Bashar al-Assad and the violence of ISIS.
    While it would be ideal to solve the problems inside Syria quickly, practical experience shows Middle East triumphs rarely happen.
    So, as a global leader, America - a nation of immigrants ourselves - should stand with the Europeans and allow more than the 1,500 Syrian refugees we’ve already allowed in our country to resettle here. If an already crowded Germany (who announced Monday they can take in 500,000 refugees a year for the next several years) can make room, surely we can too.
    It can be overwhelming as individuals to consider the larger, global ramifications of intervention from a military or humanitarian perspective, often feeling we don’t know enough to offer useful comment on policy decisions. But the inscription on the Statue of Liberty should provide direction:
    “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
    Opposition to allowing more refugees inside our borders primarily stems from worries about terrorists slipping through. And our Homeland Security officials have already said that any potential refugees from Syria would receive “the most rigorous screening.”
    We couldn’t agree more. Yes, be thorough in the vetting process to keep out potential terrorists and don’t allow the refugee process to become a backdoor for jihadists.
    The State Department’s director of Refugee Admission for the Bureau of Population said: “It’s not a matter of should we do it, it’s really a matter of how we do it. One of the fundamental principles of our country is that we care about others. We will help others.”
    We don’t advocate that America should always “do something” about international situations, but with this tragedy we can humanely take in some of those dislocated by cruelty.  Absorbing immigrants and refugees is always disruptive - for the nations taking them in and the refugees themselves.
    We need to help in a meaningful way. We need to be a part of the solution that makes sure Aylan Kurdi’s father is the last parent who has to see his entire family eradicated from this earth.