tornado warning - phone

This is what a lot of Athens area residents saw on their phones in the middle of the night Monday.


Once the warm weather hits, it becomes more difficult to carry an editorial theme throughout a personal column. Well, it sure does for me. But that provides an incentive and opportunity to run an occasional “quick hits” column with short, succinct (i.e. half-baked) opinions.

Here goes:

Remove the Roadkill

I hereby authorize the state highway department to divert some of its budget into collecting roadkill on area highways. The same deer carcass has been slowly rotting on the side of Rt. 50/32 southwest of Athens for the past week or more. Every time I drive past, I can’t help but look at the poor thing’s tongue hanging out. This may be revisionist history, but I really don’t recall deer roadkill just being left to bloat and rot in the sun interminably. (The gods of newspaper journalism dictate that somebody will clean up said carcass before this goes to print. No applause necessary.)

Trash Contract Gets Recycled

Along with what seems like an overwhelming number of Athens residents, I’m glad to see the Athens city administration back away from awarding a trash/recycling hauling contract to an out-of-town, for-profit company, purely on the basis of what seems like a flawed bidding process. Read the article in today’s issue.

At a raucous Athens City Council committee meeting Tuesday evening, city Service-Safety Director Andy Stone said the administration will give the current vendor, nonprofit Athens Hocking Recycling Centers, a year’s extension on its contract for trash/recycling hauling services in the city of Athens, while the city repairs its bidding process.

At the meeting, City Council members expressed significant doubts about awarding the contract to Waste Away Systems, despite the Licking County business getting the best overall score in the city’s bid evaluation process. Moreover, heavy public opposition on social media in recent days, on top of substantial and determined criticism at the council meeting, made it no surprise that the city administration would seek a face-saving way out of shoving locally based AHRC to the side of the road.

In the city of Athens, with its mainly progressive population, “other” factors not tied to costs – the socially redeeming ones such as the effect on local workers and their families and how a company will fulfill recycling and zero-waste goals – do carry substantial weight with the public, and City Council members know that. Some council members also likely were pondering the plausible stated concerns that major regional hauler Rumpke somehow would find a way to benefit from Athens discarding AHRC.

As soon as I saw which way the wind was blowing, well-respected local community members coming with passionate criticism of the possible move away from AHRC, I knew the city wasn’t going through with the change.

Twas a Dark and Scary Night

I wasn’t exactly shaking in terror Tuesday around 2 a.m. when my iPhone started shrieking with tornado warnings, but it sure caught my attention. And when the warnings on my phone’s weather app indicated that a severe thunderstorm with the potential for developing a tornado was just 30 miles away, and headed east toward our home southwest of Athens, my wife and I got downright scared. We hunkered down in our half-basement and waited it out, counting on either dumb luck, my translucent agnostic faith, or a vague notion that tornados don’t like hilly terrain to pull us through. Even our cat seemed afraid, and that takes a lot.

But we had good reason to be afraid, especially after seeing coverage the next day of the violence perpetrated by the same storm system in Celina and Dayton, Ohio.

I know it’s a cliché, but most of us really do think that tragedies such as tornadoes always happen to someone else. When you’re staring at your phone or computer screen and seeing a big, ugly red storm system, with demonstrated potential for producing a tornado, a half hour away and heading your way, you start realizing, well, that really could happen to me. It’s humbling.

As it turns out, the thunderstorm that swept through our immediate area overnight Monday wasn’t much to write home about (a good thing). Most of the drama was in the “advance publicity.”

The Best Festival

The 15th annual Nelsonville Music Festival kicks off next Thursday, and assuming something doesn’t prevent me from attending (a tornado?!), I’ll carry on my tradition of attending every one of them, starting with the first one on Nelsonville Public Square on July 23, 2005.

Watching the NMF evolve from its modest one-day start in ’05 to its current status as a four-day mid-major festival that generates substantial regional, if not national, buzz, I’ve been happy to see it never lose its positive, laidback atmosphere. From what I’ve heard, the NMF is as popular with the musicians who attend as it is with their fans.

And the coolest parts are that’s the NMF: 1) raises money for Stuart’s Opera House’s various community endeavors, including its very popular Art Education Program for K-12 students in the area; and 2) features a free stage just outside the festival grounds at Hocking College’s Robbins Crossing, with many local, regional and national acts performing for community members and others who can’t afford the steep price of festival admission. Plus, they sell beer, no small benefit on a hot day in Nelsonville.

Saying the NMF is the area’s “best festival” shouldn’t be considered a slur on other local fests. For my money, for example, the Ohio Pawpaw Festival every September at Lake Snowden ranks pretty near the NMF in terms of its positive, laidback vibe (plus it sells Jackie O’s pawpaw wheat beer!). And Ohio Brew Week, the Athens Community Arts & Music Festival and Boogie on the Bricks are all great events as well.

Consider this: When I returned to Athens to live in 1986 (after attending school here in the ’70s), all of these festivals and events were still several years or more away. Somebody – a lot of people – deserve ample praise for changing that.

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