April 27, 2013 6:07:48 PM
A rose to Stark Aerospace officials for their generous offer of a sophisticated surveillance system to be used by the Columbus Police Department for this year's Market Street Festival. The Pop200 (Plug-in Optronic Payload) electro-optical sensor system weighs 35 pounds and is roughly the size of a basketball, but it can "read" heat signatures from miles away. The device, similar to one used to locate the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, allows law enforcement to see and track anything that produces heat, from a human or animal to a lit cigarette or recently fired gun. The Pop200 costs around $150,000, and newer models can cost $500,000 or more. Market Street Festival organizer Barbara Bigelow said plans began months ago to use the sophisticated surveillance system, and it was not prompted by the recent bombing at the Boston Marathon. But with 30,000 to 40,000 people expected to attend the May 3-4 event, it may give people an added comfort level, Bigelow said.
Stark is well-known for working on sensitive government and military projects, but officials said they plan to become more visible and interactive within the community -- a decision we applaud.
A rose to the county and city schools for their efforts in helping make sure high school dropouts complete their high school education. For the first time, all Lowndes County schools are offering a GED program to encourage dropouts to complete their high school education. In Columbus, the schools not only offer GED classes, but are implementing Project 2020, a new program that will return dropouts to school by offering high school courses at various e-centers around town. The program will allow those students to earn a high school diploma. We hear much about the virtue of second chances. It's nice to know that spirit prevails in our schools as well.
A rose to everyone involved in this year's American Cancer Society Relay for Life, held this weekend at Columbus High School. The event featured 61 participating organizations and thousands turned out to help meet the event's $160,000 fund-raising goal. Long-time volunteer Mott Ellis deserves a rose, but she would be the first to acknowledge that the success of the Relay for Life is a testament to a large number of volunteers, organizations and sponsors.
A thorn to the Starkville municipal election candidates who are refusing to participate in the candidates forums next week. Those declining the invitation were Ward 6 incumbent Roy A. Perkins, Ward 7 incumbent Henry Vaughn, Ward 6 candidate Lerin Pruitt and Ward 2 candidate Lisa Wynn. Wynn initially declined the invitation, then rearranged her schedule to allow her to attend, but missed the deadline to commit to the event. When you seek public office, you are making a commitment to work for the good of the citizens. If a candidate cannot set aside a few hours to meet with voters at a candidates forum, it calls into question just how committed those candidates really are. Ask anyone who have served on the board of aldermen and they will tell you the position requires a lot of time and hard work. Anyone who is seeking such offices primarily for the prestige of having a title should seriously reconsider. Voters, meanwhile, should be mindful of which candidates just didn't have the time to attend this public forums as well.
A rose to Roberta Weeks, a parent at volunteer at New Hope Middle School who was singled out the Lowndes County School District's Parent of the Year. The mother of four has been volunteering since her children were small. While she is involved in broad range of programs, she is most noted for her work in helping Hispanic parents and children who are having a difficult time coping with the language barrier in an area where bilingual services are limited. In her typically understated fashion, Weeks said, ""There was a need and I could meet that need without it being an expense to the district." In an age when many parents do little about schools but complain, Weeks demonstrates that actions speak for louder - and are often far more effective - than words. Esta rosa es para ti, Roberta!
1. Voice of the people: Robert Gillis LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (VOICE@CDISPATCH.COM)
2. Voice of the people: Johann Christoph Arnold LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (VOICE@CDISPATCH.COM)
5. Other Editors: Solid panel looking at prison contracts NATIONAL COLUMNS