Live Oak —
A couple of thoughts this week about the Sept. 18 public hearing at which the Suwannee County Commission agreed to a group of terms set out by Klausner Holdings USA.
As you may already know, Klausner is an Austrian-based lumber company looking for a site in the deep south on which to build a huge sawmill. It reportedly will be capable of cranking out up to 700 million board feet of lumber annually.
Due to its potentially beneficial economic impact, Suwannee officials hope that Klausner will select as its site, land in the county’s industrial park near I-10 and US 90 and to that end last week agreed to virtually every demand made by the company.
The wisdom of the county acquiescing to some of those demands was at the center of last Tuesday’s big public hearing.
With that background information, let me begin by giving a tip of the hat to Wellborn resident Wendell Snowden. He is part of a group of area residents who take the local democratic process very seriously. Seldom is there a county commission meeting that you won’t find Wendell and a small number of like-minded citizens sitting in the audience and observing.
While I applaud Snowden’s regular involvement in local governmental activities---more of us should be as conscientious as he is---it was his extraordinary effort just prior to last week’s public hearing that I want to especially recognize. Snowden wrote a detailed, well-crafted letter to the editor of this newspaper, in which he carefully outlined his concerns and objections to the then proposed contract. I thought his letter was particularly valuable, as I knew he lived nowhere near the proposed site and initially had even supported efforts to bring the lumber company to the county.
Whether you agree or disagree with his viewpoint, Snowden should be saluted for taking the time to organize and voice his concerns. I suspect it was the first opportunity many local residents had to contemplate the possible negatives attached to this project.
Secondly, I want to take this opportunity to commend the conduct of the citizens of Suwannee County who attended the Sept. 18 hearing.
As a long time reporter, I’ll be honest about it. I was dreading attending the meeting, for in recent years it seems to have become acceptable---at least in some communities---to publicly deride or demean those who speak their minds on hot button governmental issues. Insulting those with whom you disagree all too often has become the norm…one of the impacts, I suspect, of “talk radio.”
To me, it is infuriating. Joe Citizen walks to the podium to voice views on an issue of importance to him, only to be heckled by those in the audience who disagree.
Let the record show that DID NOT happen in Live Oak on Sept. 18. For more than two-hours, one person after another voiced their views on this important issue. Supporters would then applaud, while those who disagreed sat quietly and respectfully waiting their turn at the speaker’s lectern to express a differing view. Oh, some folks would quietly whisper among themselves when they thought a speaker was off the mark, but they made no effort to interrupt or make some loud, snide comment, as I have seen happen elsewhere.
I’m not certain if the county commission was wise to vote as it did. I don’t think even the commissioners are 100 percent sure. Only time will tell. But I am certain about this. I am glad to live in a community where people can still be civil, even if they might vehemently disagree on some issue.
Jim lives in Live Oak.