He’s too sharp for his critics, and sold on water quality

UNION COUNTY, GA. – Volume 2

By Tom Bennett
Special to Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition

Blairsville, Ga., Feb. 16, 2013 – One of the unexpected benefits of the Internet lies in the realm of health. This is blessedly true for many living here in the Hiwassee River watershed. The great worldwide web provides an outlet as bile builds steadily in the blood in the retirement years.

One recent day, one of the critics of Lamar Paris, sole commissioner of Union County, was seeking to construct an argument, as always from the safety of anonymity. It was that Paris consistently gets wrong his metes and his bounds and so the commissioner is unfairly assessing the writer’s property values.

Well, as I can see from the postings, it happens that on that very day, Paris was penning in his column in the North Georgia News the precise details of Union County’s impressive new addressing system.

The program’s green pylons are located at each residential parcels driveway. They’re findable down to the foot of roadway. This permits Paris’ emergency officials in Blairsville/Union County to locate 9-1-1 callers on computer screens and quickly rush to them whatever is needed. The sheriff, police, fire or ambulance can easily find any address in the county based on distance from an intersection.

PARIS, A CONSERVATIVE DEMOCRAT in a Deep South that is colored deep red on political maps, is the only commissioner Union County has had this century. He’s starting his 13th year in office in 2013.

The front pages of the North Georgia News have recently reported how the Blairsville police broke up a rolling meth lab and three men were arrested by the sheriff in connection with the torture of a goat.

Meanwhile, Paris has devoted most of his past five weekly News columns at this writing to the county’s watersheds, streams, buffers, Butternut Creek, and TVA’s Nottely Lake.

“We should all want to protect our water quality,” he wrote Feb. 13. “Just because you want to protect our water quality and just because you want to clear out a view of the stream from your home, also be aware how you may be negatively impacting the environment and water temperature. There are ways to do both if you are careful.”

Nottely Lake provides 61,600 acre feet of flood-storage capacity behind an earthen dam 197 feet high that stretches 3,915 feet across the Nottely River.

Paris described how TVA officials were “working like the devil” to deal with the rising lake level after heavy rains Jan. 15. This water-minded commissioner also wrote that although no hard and fast data proves it, “Choestoe and Suches are prone to larger than average rainfall or snow than other parts of the county.”

Paris is a political wonder whose grasp is unmatched here in the watershed. He’s preoccupied with everything going on, including flowing water, in a verdant county with a $13.68 million fiscal-year budget.

Soon after election night, Paris announced a lowering of the millage rate. And with his tongue only slightly in his cheek, he put to rest a rumor he said was going around (and may have been planted by his desperate opponents) that he intended to “close all the churches” and take away their property-tax exemptions.

Paris won, 59 percent to 41 percent, for a fourth term.

Georgia is the last state with sole-commissioner counties, according to the National Association of Counties. The number of counties in Georgia with only one commissioner is down to eight, according to Paris.

The South’s the stronghold of Republicans. Union is one of only three sole-commissioner counties in 159-county Georgia to have Democrats as their chief executives. That’s how deft Paris is politically, and it’s a tribute to how hard he works.

Tom Bennett of the Martins Creek community near Murphy, N.C., is a retired newsman, Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition member/volunteer/donor and recipient of the 2015 Holman Water Quality Stewardship Award. E-mail him at farblumtn07@gmail.com