Heard on the grapevine

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Now don’t take this as gospel, but do you remember all that fill sand that had to be trucked into Suffolk and dumped on the hill where the Hilton was to be constructed? Well, what would you think if it all had to be removed, 8 feet deep, so the soil beneath it can be better compacted? Watch for trucks exiting the site with a full load unless they can find room on the wharf to erect a mountain. It appears there is not only a problem with the seawall zigzagging; there may be a problem under the hill. If true it bears out early worries by engineers not connected with the project, worries because many years ago the entire site had been abandoned. More important, who pays for this if true? And what would be the final, final cost to the taxpayers? I doubt if the Hilton groundbreaking will be rescheduled anytime soon, and it will be years before hotel occupancy will pay the mortgage. I wouldn’t be surprised if one or more of the backers backed out of the deal. Stay tuned; we may end up with just an expensive park.

We poked around in the city budget a bit after hearing a few citizens question various expenditures following a council meeting. You know, the three-minute time limit standing before an intimidating Council, like someone facing a firing squad. Only it was the lone figure out front that did the firing. We played around with the $127,000 the city budget allows for &uot;memberships and dues.&uot; The description of the item said nothing about &uot;meals.&uot; So I was questioning the $700 one department listed for membership in the Suffolk Rotary Club, the budgeted money also pays for approximately 50 meals; they meet weekly. Then we learned that several city officials are allowed $700 for the same reason, they belong to the Rotary.

We cast no aspersions on Rotary, although you can belong to a monthly Ruritan for about a hundred, but we do ask why Rotary. What happens there that makes it important to belong? Does Rotary lend prestige to city hall members, or do city hall members lend prestige to Rotary. We’re just curious, although as taxpayers we believe city staffers, who get their money from collected taxes should pay for their meals. I object to feeding city officials 50 times a year. Even if Rotary members do represent the Who’s Who in Suffolk, there might be a bit of snobbery attached to belonging, or pride. I hear the same debate between alumni of Virginia and Virginia Tech. One thing I find favorable about Rotary is their good sense in making whatever they do on a coed basis. I love women.

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On the subject of lone individuals facing off with Council during a tense three minutes of allowed time, I have a suggestion. Those folks on the dais never respond to what has been said by those courageous enough to take them on. Mum’s the word, perhaps so as not to provoke a discussion or an argument, debate, or even nasty words. So why not have the council members leave but each one provide a stuffed dummy likeness to fill the chairs. It would be far less intimidating to the citizen facing the dais and produce exactly the same responses from council members. In fact, council members could hurry home and watch the proceedings on TV. There they could at least, to themselves, mutter what they’d really like to say to that audacious bozo. I’ll bet more citizens would ask for three minutes.


There is magic in numbers and if you own a calculator you can prove it to yourself. I’m serious; try this. Put in the number 142857 and multiply it by 2. You will see the same numbers, and only those numbers, in sequence but in a different order. Multiply 142857 by 3, then by 4, then by 5, then by 6. Each time you multiply 142857 you find only those numbers; notice, not once did you see a 9. Now multiply 142857 by 7. What happened?

Here’s one even more puzzling. According to the Division of Tourism, travelers visiting Suffolk – that’s right, Suffolk – contribute $31 million to the local economy, and provide employment for 407 people, generating payroll of $6 million. We wouldn’t dare question that figure but I’d sure like to see how they came up with that magic. If the number is correct our Tourism budget of only $280,000 is a steal. Would they fudge it?

Just so you know, Earth is hurtling toward Mars at the speed of 25,000 mph and on Aug. 27 we will pass each other, narrowly missing by only 36 millions miles. But maybe you’d better stock up on bottled water and batteries just in case.

Robert Pocklington is a resident of Suffolk and a regular News-Herald columnist.