WILL DAVIS

Will Davis

With many Monroe Countians trapped in their homes with family over the past three months, I wondered if we’d see a spike in divorces.

Well incoming clerk of court Lindsay Taylor was kind enough to check the numbers. After the first six months in 2020, from January to June, 62 Monroe County couples have filed for divorce. For the same period in 2019, 60 local couples had filed for divorce. So no big increase. In 2018, 71 Monroe County couples filed for divorce in that same period of time.

So if you’re looking for good news, maybe the COVID shutdown hasn’t been as bad for family life as we might have feared. Or maybe the attorneys are just behind in filing. I hope not.

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News that Florida Power and Light, which owns Unit 4 at Plant Scherer, plans to close that part of the plant in 2022 is sobering news indeed. Plant Scherer is literally the golden goose of Monroe County. It pays 40 percent of our property taxes to the county government and schools. Take that away and…well, as Scarlett O’Hara said, I’ll think about that tomorrow. 

Certainly the environmentalists have been attacking coal for a long time. Once Plant Scherer survived the Obama Administration with its promises to bankrupt coal plants, I thought we would be OK. Heavy-handed regulations have certainly made it harder for companies to operate coal plants at a profit. But what appears to be the biggest problem for coal is that natural gas has become so cheap. That’s thanks in large part to blasting into the earth with high-pressure water, so-called fracking, which has tapped into huge vats of natural gas. And when supply goes up, boys and girls, price goes down. So our country is increasingly being powered not by coal but by natural gas. While that’s good news for consumers, it may not be good for Monroe County and our No. 1 taxpayer. 

So what does the future hold? Well, nobody knows. Georgia Power and the last two plant managers at Scherer have assured us that the plant is here for the long haul. They’ve spent billions to bring the plant up to date environmentally, we’re told. It’s too big of an investment to leave now.

I hope and pray they’re right. 

Some of our friends in Juliette have blamed the plant for contaminating wells. Others say the contaminants in wells around Plant Scherer are no worse than areas without coal plants. I don’t know for sure. But I do wish the county had stuck to plans to hire Dr. Avner Vengosh from Duke, who could’ve told us whether the contamination was naturally occurring or from coal ash. Instead, we still don’t know for sure what’s happening in those wells. We just borrowed $20 million to take county water to those folks. Commissioners said we can pay off those loans without a tax increase due to an increasing property tax base. But if Plant Scherer shrinks or, heaven forbid, closes, we will have a big fiscal problem on our hands that will take generations to resolve.

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I want to thank you, dear readers, again for your support this summer. The number of new subscriptions, kind messages and words of support have been overwhelming. We’re having to get a real, bonafide raffle barrel to handle all the names entered for the AR-15 drawing Friday. I’m glad to live in a county that celebrates both the First Amendment, as exercised weekly in this newspaper, and the Second Amendment, symbolized by the AR-15. It may seem like the angry mob is winning in this country — tearing down statues and trying to “cancel” people with whom they disagree. But your support tells me there’s a large silent majority banding together to preserve our freedoms and traditions that have made this the greatest country in human history. Happy Independence Day indeed!