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Sparks fly in Athens council over blasting permit

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com 340-2445

ATHENS — The topic of a blasting permit led to two Athens city councilmen blasting each other.

"You're not going to dress me down as a school boy!" Councilman Harold Wales yelled at Council President Johnny Crutcher after slamming his fist on the table during Monday's meeting.

"I'm not dressing you down," Crutcher replied. "I'm going to take you outside. You keep pointing at me when it takes five votes."

Some in the audience then joked about taking bets on who would win a fight.

The argument occurred during the work session portion of the meeting, when the council discussed a blasting permit application from Atlas Blasting Corp. The company wants to detonate explosives to move dirt to install sewer at Piney Creek Subdivision.

Wales asked that the council get more input because he said his home and others on Birkdale Circle in the Canebrake Subdivision have experienced cracking since blasting there about a year ago for road construction. Wales said his driveway and garage are cracked, and other homes on the circle have cracked driveways.

"A nickel will fit through some of them," Wales said.

Insurance companies are trying to determine if the cracks are construction issues or a result of blasting.

"All I know is that the homes built after blasting don't have the cracks," Wales said.

Wales and Crutcher often interrupted each other during the discussion, which led to the outburst by both men.

"You keep pointing at me and referring to me," Crutcher told Wales.

"I'm addressing you as council president," Wales replied. "You run this meeting, and you talked to me like a high school boy."

Councilman Ronnie Marks admonished both men to calm down and continue with the meeting.

The result was that the council opted to table the permit application until an engineer determines what has caused the cracking at Canebrake.

The council meeting lasted long enough for both men to cool down and find their humor.

"We've been here so long that we've had a shift change of officers," Crutcher said when Lt. Steve Moore was replaced by Sgt. Fred Millward as security for the meeting.

The meeting lasted four hours.

At the meeting's end, Crutcher and Wales laughed and shook hands when a reporter asked if they were going to kiss and make up.

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