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Bobby Haven/The Brunswick News 

An Easter cross stands outside Wesley United Methodist Church on St. Simons Island.

Water line 'workaround' may prevent village restaurants' closure
 tcooper  / 

Three restaurants in the Pier Village on St. Simons Island may not have to shut down next week after Glynn County and water utility officials found a way to keep the water flowing.

“We did find a way to keep those folks operational through the modifications of the lines that are interfering with the storm drainage, but to do that we had to rely on the county’s cooperation to use their water line,” said Jimmy Junkin, executive director of the Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission.

Contractors hired by the county dropped the news on local business owners at a Wednesday Pier Village drainage project update meeting: the JWSC would have to issue a precautionary boil water advisory after lowing a section of water main that conflicted with the proposed path of a new drainpipe.

The advisory, which would apply to St. Simons Tea Company, Barbara Jean’s, Brogan’s South and The Half Shell, would force the restaurants to close at least on Monday and Tuesday, possibly longer.

Many village business owners weren’t happy with the news, including Jim Barta, one of the owners of Barbara Jean’s restaurant at the corner of Beachview Drive and Mallery Street.

“In other words, we won’t be able to open,” Barta said Wednesday. “... You’ve got to be kidding.”

Many details were still up in the air Friday — such as how the utility would charge the restaurants for usage and where, exactly, the water line would run —but Junkin said the big picture was already pretty figured out.

“Basically, in conjunction with the county, we’re going to be able to tie off to a line that services the lighthouse and Casino, and come in the back way to serve those restaurants,” Junkin said.

Deputy utility Director Andrew Burroughs said the utility will put a meter on the bypass water line to keep track of how much the restaurants use. That amount will be deducted from the county’s water bill, he said.

Whether or not the utility will charge the restaurants for water used during the outage is undecided Burroughs said, and it’s likely something the utility commission will discuss at its Thursday meeting.

David O’Quinn, at-large county commissioner, contacted Junkin during the Wednesday meeting to start trying to find a solution. He tempered his optimism, however, stating they couldn’t definitively say it was going to work until the water started flowing through the bypass.

“It’s encouraging to see how responsive they were. I know I really appreciate them taking the time to make it happen,” O’Quinn said. “There’s still no guarantee it’s all going to work, though.”

Hearing that these businesses could be shut down for two or more days during a tourist-heavy season caused him to realize how severe the issue could be, he said.

“If you remember, the news was for them to be shut down most likely for two days if everything went right. It could have been longer,” O’Quinn said. I think that, for me, was an important realization that we need to try to do something to help these folks out. The restaurant business is a tough business, there’s not a lot of margin.”

St. Simons Island Commissioner Peter Murphy, who also attended the meeting, said he was glad the restaurant owners were getting some good news, adding that “poor diagrammatic records” of water and sewer lines in the village have regularly created issues for contractors working on the project.

“We’re extremely pleased that joint water and sewer was able to come up with a workaround to allow them to have a clean water source during the project,” Murphy said.

O’Quinn also noted that restaurants can file water interruption plans with the Georgia Department of Public Health, which would allow them to continue operations under certain conditions when their water service has been compromised.

“It’s good information for restaurants to know. It does take time, it is laborious, but it is out there,” O’Quinn said.

Bad for business: Local merchant suffers with road closure
 gjackson  / 

Rakesh Patel has run a successful business on L Street for the past decade, but now he is wondering if he can endure the challenge he faces for the next year.

Business at his store, L Street Liquors, has dropped off considerably since the barriers blocking the road and adjacent side streets have been erected.

“Everything’s blocked off,” he said. “It’s confusing. You can’t get through. The city didn’t even tell me this was going to happen.”

Patel estimates his business is losing about $2,000 a day in lost sales because most of his customers are motorists traveling to and from St. Simons Island.

“From the minute I open I’m busy until I close,” he said. “You usually see this whole parking lot filled. A lot of people from the island stop here because of the prices.”

Traffic has been rerouted, making it challenging for anyone to drive to his store, even if they want to go out of their way to support his business.

“It’s a big hit. I can’t even get most deliveries here” he said.

Drivers had to drop off deliveries at other stores and Patel would pick them up later in the day because of the difficulty in finding an alternative route to the store.

Patel said he is going to have trouble paying his bills such as sales tax and property tax as a result.

“They’re not going to wait,” he said.

Garrow Alberson, the city engineer said he met with Patel on Thursday and is trying to find ways to make it easier to access Patel’s store.

“We’re trying to help him out and get delivery trucks and customers there,” he said.

Regardless of what the city does to accommodate Patel, his business will be impacted until the road reopens, Alberson said.

“He’s going to take a hit,” he said.

Patel said he has been a Brunswick businessman since 2001 and believes his local store fills a niche in the community.

“I understand the need to do this, but why block off the whole road?” he asked. “I can’t wait a year.”

New chief magistrate thanks others during investiture
 wwolfe  / 

Effusive with his praise of others, new Glynn County Chief Magistrate Judge Wallace Harrell took his oath of office late Friday afternoon at the county courthouse, before a gathering of local leaders in the legal and law enforcement communities, and his friends and family.

Harrell comes to the job with one of the most impressive qualifications and recognitions of anyone in Georgia law. U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood, designated to speak at the ceremony, opened by saying it was no wonder the sun was shining on Glynn County that afternoon.

Wood said the magistrate court is the people’s court, a venue for the resolution of disputes for people with few other options. She said a judge of that court has to come to it with wisdom and expertise.

Wood said of Harrell that he was a lawyer’s lawyer, and will become a judge’s judge. Harrell was a name partner in the second-oldest operating law firm in the state, and while accomplishing much with the law, dedicated himself to his family and raised not only his biological sons, but his stepson, a step-granddaughter and a step-great granddaughter.

He plays golf like he practices law, Wood said, in that he makes it look easy because he’s so good. She said she tried her first case 30 years ago with him, and that his success is thanks to his decency, honesty and being honorable, which — as a result of becoming a judge — he’s honorable both officially and unofficially.

Glynn County Chief Superior Court Judge Stephen Scarlett — who said he’s known Harrell since he sported long blond hair — remarked that his father and Harrell were good friends.

Harrell, noting Wood has introduced him a number of times at other occasions, said, “If you ever want to feel really good, have Judge Wood introduce you.”

As he was preparing for an interview with the county superior court judges for the job, Harrell said Glynn County Clerk of Court Ron Adams advised him to at least pretend to be young. Harrell said he couldn’t get away with dying his hair or wearing distressed jeans, so he decided he’d go into it as spry as he could manage. He said that didn’t last long when Judge Anthony Harrison greeted him with a question of who was older — him or Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

For reference, Harrell received his law degree from Mercer and earned his law license in 1956. Ginsburg received her degree from Columbia University in 1959.

Harrell said to those gathered, regarding the judges he’s known, interviewed with and who were sitting to his right, “The judiciary, my friends, is in good shape in Glynn County.”

Harrell went on to wax lyrical about many of the local leaders who were in attendance, including District Attorney Jackie Johnson, Sheriff Neal Jump, Adams, the magistrate court clerks and the magistrate judges.

He said the reason the county needs so many magistrate judges is that they’re on call 24 hours a day for warrants and other matters that cannot wait. Harrell said magistrate courts handle lawsuits involving less than $15,000, violations of ordinances, evictions, applications for civilian arrest warrants regarding allegations like assault and stalking, and magistrate judges hold court at the county jail four times a week for initial appearances.

He closed by saying he was thankful for his extended family, and especially for his wife, Mary.

Recovery funds announced for 2013 shrimp fishery failure
 wwolfe  / 

Almost six years after a white shrimp fishery disaster off the Georgia coast, the U.S. Department of Commerce released $1.062 million to help state fishers and companies affected.

“The Department of Commerce and (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) stand ready to support communities working to rebuild and rebound from fishery disasters,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement March 27. “We will continue to work closely with our partners to help American fishermen preserve their livelihoods.”

The money comes as part of an overall $20 million package to assist “tribes, communities, fishermen and businesses affected” by various fishery disasters not only in Georgia, but California, Oregon and Washington between 2013 and 2017.

According to the state Coastal Resources Division, September-December 2013 had a significant underabundance of white shrimp, which led to a 43 percent reduction in the fishery’s overall value compared to the five-year average.

Per a CRD statement, “CRD scientists believe abnormally heavy rainfall during the late spring and summer caused a white shrimp recruitment failure, meaning young shrimp did not survive to reach maturity. Exacerbating the situation was a higher than normal occurrence of black gill syndrome in the white shrimp population during the summer and early autumn.”

The federal assistance has been years in the works. The state petitioned the Commerce Department in 2014 to declare a disaster, which it did in August 2015. With Congress appropriating the money for relief, NOAA Fisheries’ Southeast Region office is collaborating with the state to develop a plan for appropriate spending of the money to help affected communities.

John Williams, executive director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance, said in a statement, “Shrimp fishery disaster requests, determinations and congressional funding is something the Southern Shrimp Alliance pays very close attention to in Washington, D.C. We are pleased that this long-sought financial assistance will soon become available to Georgia’s shrimp fishermen and communities.”

At present, however, it’s not known when or how the $1.062 will be released to those affected.

CRD states it is waiting for further guidance and will announce the pertinent information once it becomes available.