- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

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Dec. 30

Savannah Morning News on removing trees along highways:

The Georgia Department of Transportation is caught between a rock and a hardwood tree. If it fails to clear out dead and damaged trees from the medians and boundaries along Interstates 16 and 516, then it is ignoring a public safety hazard that is contributing to more injuries and fatalities.

But if it aggressively removes the trees, underbrush and other debris - including a huge number of old tires that were carelessly dumped along the roadsides - then the DOT is committing a sin against nature and scenic beautification.

There’s no question that the buzz cut that the DOT’s contractors have been giving to the medians and areas near the interstate have an ugly, scorched earth look. Casual observers may wonder if the workers doing the clearing used chain saws and ditch witches or napalm and Agent Orange.

But looks are deceiving. What today’s roadsides look like should have no similarity to what they will look like in the future.

DOT officials say that after the trees are removed and the stumps ground, the areas will be planted with pollinator gardens and grasses for hay. Let’s face it - the roadside pine forests and scrub trees were not much to look at. While they were green, their numbing uniformity and color made I-16 one of Georgia’s most boring highways to drive.

As an added bonus, the revenue from the sale of the timber is expected to be about $600,000. That’s money the DOT can use to cover more expenses, as opposed to hitting up taxpayers.

Now fast forward to the not too distant future.

Imagine wide expanses of colorful wildflower gracing I-16 and an occasional hayfield. The drive between Savannah and Macon and Atlanta has just gotten a bit more interesting and pleasant.

And safer. GDOT spokeswoman Jill Nagel said traffic fatalities involving a single vehicle running off the road and hitting a fixed object such as a tree are up 67 percent over the last two years.

These accidents appear to be largely the fault of the drivers, as trees aren’t suddenly dashing out in front of the traffic. But don’t forget about the deer that use all this lush foliage as cover then suddenly spring out and make a mad dangerous dash across four lanes of fast-moving traffic.

Tree advocates seem to properly recognize those safety concerns, but worry that GDOT will cut more than is necessary for safety.

That’s often the case with government work, especially when money is tough to come by. Instead of doing the minimum amount of work to address only today’s problems, governments are tempted to do more than what is absolutely necessary when it has the money, resulting in overkill.

“It’ll be a shame to see all the mature trees at the I-16/Pooler Parkway interchange removed, but at this point the Savannah Tree Foundation voice isn’t strong enough to stop GDOT - especially when Georgia Forestry Commission is involved,” said executive director Karen Jenkins.

For that reason, GDOT and the Georgia Forestry Commission should reach out to the Savannah Tree Foundation and seek the group’s help in saving and protecting certain healthy trees that are specimen-quality and don’t pose safety hazards. There’s no reason everyone can’t work together on such a project for the good of the state and the community.

Indeed, the workload is a heavy one. State officials had to remove 247 trees off I-16 after Hurricane Matthew struck last October. Removing trees near the road is expected to reduce the vulnerability of this major hurricane evacuation and re-entry route to any future blockage, which is in the public’s best interest.

“These two safety enhancement projects will remove overgrown vegetation that will allow for better visibility from one system (I-516) to another system (I-16),” Ms. Nagel said. “They will remove vegetation that are in recoverable areas (clear zones) and remove vegetation that could hinder re-entry efforts during hurricane recovery. It will also clean up landscaping planted for the 1996 Olympics.”

The DOT, as one of Georgia’s largest and most visible public agencies, is a frequent target of public criticism, but in the case of its latest efforts to make highways safer, it’s largely getting a bad rap.

Online: http://savannahnow.com/

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Jan. 2

The Augusta Chronicle on the Rose Bowl:

It started as one of the biggest games in Georgia history.

It ended as one of the best - not just in Georgia’s eminent past, but in college football lore.

The University of Georgia’s momentous, stirring, come-from-17-points-behind national semi-final win in double overtime over an explosive Oklahoma Sooners team - led by Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield - was a classic story being written before our very eyes.

With more plot twists, hurdles and heroes than a suspense novel, and a more satisfying conclusion than Casablanca, the highest-scoring, as well as the first overtime, Rose Bowl in its storied history will be talked about in these parts longer than the Dawgs’ last one 75 years ago.

And there’s yet one more chapter to write for this special Dawg pack, with an all-Southeastern Conference national championship game next Monday featuring Georgia and perennial power Alabama.

The plot thickens, too, as the game will pit UGA Coach Kirby Smart against his friend, former boss and mentor, Nick Saban.

If the Rose Bowl were indeed a novel, it might be titled A Tale of Two Halves. Oklahoma started red-hot, looking as if it would score on every possession. But Georgia came out smoking in the second half, tying the game with two third-quarter touchdowns and ultimately matching the big-play Sooners with long Sony Michel and Nick Chubb runs for the roses.

You could just hear the late Bulldogs broadcaster Larry Munson yelling “Run, Sony, run! Run, Nick, run!” If there are rickety chairs in heaven, he fell off one Monday.

In the second overtime, a mammoth field goal block by national standout Lorenzo Carter opened the door for Michel’s clinching 27-yard touchdown run.

You couldn’t write it any better for Georgia fans.

And to think, this mythical tale is being authored by a second-year coach and a freshman quarterback in Jake Fromm - who stepped unexpectedly into the starting role in Game 1 last fall after an injury to sophomore phenom Jacob Eason.

The epilogue awaits. But this story’s already among the best we’ve ever seen. Classic.

Online: http://chronicle.augusta.com/

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Jan. 3

The Valdosta Daily Times on cold weather:

The National Weather Service forecasts a cold week for the South, with no end in sight just yet.

With night-time temperatures falling below the freezing mark, preparation is key for staying warm and safe this week. While we should be in no danger from snow or ice, temperatures close to the teens are a challenge for an area far more accustomed to heat than cold.

There are serious dangers to exposure to the elements and particularly since most are not used to freezing temperatures.

With lower temperatures and a possibility of precipitation, icy roads are a possibility. Motorists should travel with care and be aware that conditions may be slippery.

For people at home, working outside, or who might be temporarily exposed to the freezing air, take precautions to prevent hypothermia and potential frostbite. The following safety tips are paramount to ensuring the safety of your home and your loved ones:

- Bundle up your children. Layering, wearing a hat, coat and gloves are all a must.

- Never put a space heater where it can be knocked over or near anything flammable.

- Protect your pets. Bring them indoors.

- Protect your pipes. If you live in a mobile home or a house where the pipes are exposed to the elements, ensure they are wrapped properly and keep a faucet or two running continuously to prevent freezing.

- Beware of carbon monoxide buildup in your home, which can be caused by kerosene heaters and generators.

- Do not use candles, lighters or other highly flammable items as heat sources.

- Make sure your fireplace flue is open and the chimney is clean before lighting a fire in your home.

- Above all, prepare for the cold weather that is here to stay for at least the week and be diligent about protecting your family and your pets from the freezing temperatures.

Online: http://www.valdostadailytimes.com/


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