It’s easy for me to lose sight of the trees because the woods keep getting in the way.
And then sometimes I can’t see the woods because trees keep popping up and smacking me in the face.
But that, along with my natural inclination to be the tortoise when it can seem the rest of the world is running around like someone lit its pants on fire, means I tend to get behind on things and am forever playing catchup.
Like now. Anyway, here’s a column in two parts. Part 1: Bob Mock.
I was thinking the other day that I should’ve done a better job covering Bob Mock.
If you recall, Bob was the subject of two stories not so long ago regarding his quite sizable donations to his alma mater, The Citadel, his church, St. Elizabeth’s, and two other causes near and dear to his heart - the homeless and animals.
All told, those gifts will amount to $4 million, maybe more.
Anyway, during our conversation, Bob said he visited every church in South Bryan by attending church there, one Sunday at a time, and by his account it was about 30, I think.
He said he did so just to learn about the churches and the people who attended, and I think maybe to gain a deeper understanding of his faith. That’s a heck of a story.
No, I’m not necessarily a church goer, but I like folks who have a curious streak and want to learn more about the world they inhabit. More than that, I like people who are down home and unpretentious, those who don’t see themselves as particularly special. Those with humility.
Bob has that quality in spades, and was about as unassuming a millionaire as I’ve yet to meet.
In fact, when he walked in that one day to tell someone about his desire to anonymously talk about his million dollar donations, my co-workers thought he’d probably escaped from what paramedics I covered described to me as a Granny Ranch - apparently EMS lingo for a nursing home.
Nope. He was real.
“I’ve been awfully fortunate,” Bob said to me when he was talking about his donations and his initial desire to remain anonymous, and his reason for giving what he’s given.
“We come into this life we make a good living and then we die and we’re gone,” he said. “I think it’s more rewarding if, when you die, you don’t have anything left. You start out with nothing, you build a lot, and when you leave it’s all gone.” But some folks get remembered. I’m hoping Bob will be one of them.
Part 2: Legal stuff There are some stories from last year that you haven’t read much about lately, or at least I haven’t.
There’s the lawsuit filed by the city of Richmond Hill against Bryan County which led to court ordered mediation involving both those entities and the city of Pembroke. The suit was filed in 2018 in part because of Bryan County’s millage rate equalization, but that was tied in somehow with service delivery agreements between the three governments.
Word is the sides are getting close to a solution, though that may be wishful thinking. The three sides have met a handful of times in mediation sessions which are not subject to Georgia’s open records laws, but as far as I know they haven’t come to an agreement.
That said, it’s a costly deal for taxpayers, given that all this involves lawyers and consultants and paying someone to act as mediator and holding the meetings at the Richmond Hill City Center. Here’s what each government says it has spent on the SDS process so far: Bryan County, $200,862.65; Richmond Hill, $121,357; Pembroke’s spent around $10,000.
Lawsuits over service delivery aren’t uncommon, by the way, so this one isn’t peculiar to this community. Google SDS lawsuit and you’ll come across a number of them, including one involving Lowndes County which has been appealed up to Georgia’s Supreme Court.
Lawsuits from developers stymied by local governments aren’t uncommon either, and Bryan County is defending its impact fee ordinance and ordinances that would regulate builders more closely. As you probably remember, the Savannah Area Homebuilders Association filed suit in 2019 and asked a judge to stop Bryan County from enforcing the regulations or collecting its approximately $3,000 per home impact fee until the case is decided; the judge refused, and that’s where the thing has sat waiting for a court date.
The industry has also tried to go around local governments with legislation that would limit efforts to more strictly regulate what they build, and that effort is likely still alive somewhere in Atlanta.
It’s possible if not probable that Bryan County Commissioners who are seen as being responsible for the stricter ordinances and the impact fees will be targeted in the upcoming elections, among them Chairman Carter Infinger, who has championed impact fees for as long as I can remember.