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Posted: January 1, 2011 12:00 a.m.

Dreaming big for 2011

Here we are, ringing in yet another New Year.

It’s time for the annual wringing of hands at remembrances of ironclad resolutions made 12 months ago which somehow went unfulfilled. I planned to drop 60 pounds in 2010, but the scales report a 10-pound gain.

The scales are probably wrong, after all, they’re made in China. Obviously, something was lost in translation, although my girth is evidence of what was not.

But 2011 is another year. We all have another shot at rectifying dissatisfying elements of life within our capacity to change. As the 2010 elections proved, it is possible for even those who feel powerless to make a difference in the voting booth.

Aware, however, that the number of New Year’s opportunities remaining rapidly diminish with age, I thought about narrowing my focus to pursue things which, in my naivety, I deem achievable.

But that’s no fun. I know I actually can rake my yard. Just because I have not proved it to patient neighbors familiar with my prolific yard work malaise, I should at least dream a little bit higher.

So I’m still dreaming big about what I’d like to see happen in 2011. I’m thinking we can solve, at least on the local level, issues including trash, recycling, energy production and consumption, the cost of living and skyrocketing unemployment.

First, though, let me fix the 2011-2012 Newton County School System budget. We need to slash $9 million. Let’s start by parking the school bus fleet for this one school year. Utilizing seniority, allow select drivers to operate buses for only traditional extracurricular activities: sports, band, academic field trips.

Suspend benefits and wages for furloughed drivers to make them eligible for unemployment benefits. Sell fully depreciated buses, cancel insurance on parked units. Savings from fuel alone will exceed $3 million.

Yes, that puts the burden of getting kids to school on the parents. What a concept. Folks will car pool. Others will walk. A free public education is not a right; it’s a privilege. I have a few other ideas for radically improving our corner of the world.

Our Korean corporate presence, SKC, is expanding operations to produce film used to cover solar panels. Another corporate presence, Nyloboard LLC, produces from recycled products a durable building material which looks like wood, but wears like iron. We have an abundance of retired executives in our area with expertise from banking to manufacturing roof trusses to everything in between. The state maintains a major Department of Labor office here, and Newton County’s Department of Family and Children Services is one of the state’s best. In addition, many area churches conduct missions to foreign lands building everything from schools to homes.

Newton County Commissioners have proposed a SPLOST package which I plan to vote against, unless amendments are made.

Let’s take those ingredients and concoct a new recipe.

Scrap the millions of "unspecified" SPLOST funds designated for Commissioner Henderson’s district and for Commissioner Ewing’s agricultural center, and redirect the money to establish the last needed steps to manufacture solar array panels. Coordinate with DFACS and the Department of Labor to employ and train our own unemployed people. Utilize the expertise of retired executives to direct the enterprise. Build frames with Nyloboard, cover the arrays with SKC film, and install these panels — at cost — for citizens of Newton County on private homes, businesses and government buildings.

For altruistic assistance, instead of separating church and state, promote collaboration of church and state. "Missions for Us!"

Meanwhile, tap existing technology and retrofit closed landfills to capture methane gas, while outfitting existing landfills to generate electricity. Lower power costs for everyone by feeding excess power back into the grid.

As our jails are bursting at the seams, revive chain gangs to pick up trash and cut the grass along our highways and byways: exercise with a purpose, benefiting all taxpayers.

To all, have a safe and Happy New Year!

 

Nat Harwell is a long-time resident of Newton County. His columns appear regularly on Sundays.

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