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Find out what's happening in the blog. Below is a list of blog items.

Jun 29

Larry Stephens - Water System Chief Operator

Posted to City Workers Ahead by Ken Kocher

Larry Stephens

Larry Stephens, Jr., is an Atlanta baby and a quiet Madison institution. Born at Crawford Long Hospital, Stephens found himself as the night stock manager at Madison’s Piggly Wiggly in 1990 and at a crossroads. He had arrived at “The Pig” after leaving a day job at a hardware store and a night shift job at a convenience store. Larry was a young man trying to support a family.

A job at Madison’s water plant became available and Stephens, who was about to have a larger family, gave the opportunity a hard look. “Charles Young (former Madison city manager) talked a good game.” Young’s pitch: learn a valuable skill, work hard, and provide an important service to your community. Stephens took the job and working at the plant for four years before moving his family to south Georgia to be closer to his wife, Audra’s, family. He moved back to Madison in 1998 and resumed a career with both the city and the water department.

Larry has since been elevated to Chief Operator of the Madison Water System, controlling the quality and flow of approximately 2.5 million gallons of safe drinking water every day. He is surrounded by computer monitors that give him real-time data on the city’s water system. Stephens takes ownership of the system that provides an entire city with fresh, clean, clear drinking water. City Manager John Klimm relates that, “Larry is an exemplary employee. We are blessed to have such a dedicated and knowledgeable employee. He cares deeply about the citizens we serve, and he is a role model for every city employee.”

Stephens and the seven employees with whom he works at Madison’s two water plants, “make sure we do things the right way.” The water that flows to the city’s plants from Hard Labor Creek and Lake Oconee is tested constantly for contaminants and harmful agents. “We do a large amount of testing, and we have monitors that take readings every 15 seconds,” he says. Workers at the plants complete 40 to 50 additional tests on the water quality every shift. Stephens also monitors both the levels and water quality of the five water towers the city maintains on College Drive, Atlanta Highway, Lions Club Road, Woodkraft Road, and in the Flat Rock Community.

Larry says the water department team “takes care of each other.” “I’ve never met anybody here I can’t get along with.” The water department supervisor says he expects the best of his workers and tries to set an example. “We talk like people. That’s how my guys and I talk. There’s no reason to get loud.”

Since Stephens, a certified Class One Drinking Water License holder with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, introduced new testing policies and employment schedules in 2012, the system has not failed an EPD inspection. On average, he says, the water department receives two complaints a year from customers. When a complaint comes in, he travels to the customer with his test kit and works with them to get a resolution. The city has approximately 2,600 water taps.

Stephens says getting the city job was “luck” and it has given him an opportunity to enjoy serving the community and providing for Audra and the couple’s three children. It also, he says, has given him insight. In November 2014, Stephens suffered a grand mal seizure and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. On December 8 the same year, his daughter Dawn’s birthday, he underwent successful surgery to have the tumor removed. Prior to the surgery he made a promise to Dawn that when it was over, that day, he would sing Happy Birthday to the then 25-year-old. Stephens says he came out from under the fog of anesthesia at Athen’s St. Mary’s Hospital alive and with a good prognosis. So, he says, he sang as best he could to Dawn. “It was kind of blurry,” the affable Stephens says. “But I sang.”



Sep 13

Madison Fire Rescue - Staffed for the Weekend

Posted to Department Details by Ken Kocher

Gear of the part-time firefighters

Madison Fire Rescue had a desire to reduce the average response time to incidents and to also provide some coverage at the station on weekends when full time personnel were not on duty. This is also when volunteers like to do things with their families which either reduced the number of available volunteers to respond or lengthened their response. The idea was to staff the station continuously from Friday night at 7 pm to Sunday night at 7 pm with at least 1 person on shift. With backing from City Manager John Klimm and approval by the City Council, MFR started this staffing need on Oct 8, 2022. During this first shift MFR was dispatched to a fire burning near the Freshman Academy. Upon arrival the fire was burning the bushes and pine straw directly beside the building with flames touching the eves of the school. The fire was extinguished quickly. No one can say for sure what would have happened had it not been for on-duty staff being at the station but there is a chance that fire could have made it into the structure of the school building if there had been a more delayed response.

This staffing was put in place to augment the volunteer force on the weekends. We also use the part-time firefighters to fill in during special events, holidays when full-time staff is off and days that staffing is low during the week

Typically there is one person on shift during those weekend hours. Each of the current 14 part-time FFs can sign up for available shifts in 12 hour increments.

Most of these part-time FFs are full-time with other departments in the area and pick up a few shifts during a month here on their off days.


Current Staffing:

18 Volunteers on call 24/7

2 Full-time personnel Mon-Fri 8 am to 9 pm

14 Part-time personnel Fri 7 pm to Sun 7 pm, other times as needed

Dec 21

The Hough Brick Stores

Posted to Madison Moments by Ken Kocher

In 1881, the south side of W. Jefferson Street between First and Second streets contained P.V. Carbine’s hardware store, W.A. Hough’s grocery store, A.S. Hough’s stove store, and David LeSeuer’s store. Carbine’s building was a new brick building while the rest were wood construction. About seven o’clock in the evening, a young boy was sent from W.A. Hough’s store to the stove store to draw some oil. He struck a match to illuminate the dark room and accidentally dropped it on the oil-soaked floor. The result was a conflagration that destroyed the entire block face. Carbine’s building, though left a brick shell, was credited with keeping the blaze from jumping First Street and destroying the buildings in the next block all of which were wood at the time.

Alveron Sandford Hough rebuilt his stores in brick which came to be known as the Hough brick stores. He again sold stoves from the store on the right and his son, W.A. Hough, resumed selling groceries from the store on the left. Will’s brother James joined him in the business. Following the elder Hough’s death in 1889, we know from fire insurance maps that the right store held a clothing & variety store in 1890 and a stove store in 1895. Who the proprietors were is unclear. In April of 1898, Lem C. Baldwin moved his Madison Music Store to that space, adding furniture and eventually Singer sewing machines to his fare. He moved his store a year later.

1885 map and 1885 stove ad

Will Hough died at age 40 of Brights disease in 1899. J.E. Hough continued their grocery business for another year when his stock of goods was sold off to satisfy a debt. Click here to see a list of the inventory sold. Following this, the stores were vacant for nearly a decade apart from being the location of the spring flower shows of the Ladies Garden Club. Life returned to the stores with the opening of the Madison Buggy Company in the left-side store in 1908 and the Lamar Grocery Company in the right-side store in 1909. H.M. Lamar’s grocery shared the space with a Chinese laundry operated by Charlie Loo.

The Madison Buggy Company letterhead

1909 map

Shortly after W.H. Adams purchased the buildings in 1912 & 1913, R.H. Barker of Monticello was hired to convert a portion of the building into a Ford Service Station for Ben S. Thompson. Thompson opened the station in 1915 selling and servicing Fords there until 1917 when he built his own building for the purpose on Main Street. The effort in converting the building into an automobile service station was not wasted, however. Adam’s Buick sales had progressed from a sideline to his furniture store to a full fledge business. He opened a Buick Service Station upon Thompson’s departure. Like Thompson, W.H. Adams would vacate the space in 1920, moving to a new building he constructed on Hancock Street.

One store would remain an automobile focused business with Stansell Auto Top & Trimming Company moving in next. This was the father-daughter enterprise of J.F. Stansell and Miss Maybell, specializing in auto repair, painting, and the making of new tops. Miss Maybell was considered one of the best auto painters in this section of Georgia. In the other store, C.T. Mead opened a shoe shop. Frank Kaskie opened a Harness and Harness repair shop shortly thereafter sharing the space with Mead’s Shoe Shop. The space further diversified when Kaskie, along with D.L. Royal, who bowed out a few months later, opened a fruit and fancy grocery store.
1920 Stansell ad

Meanwhile, Frank Stovall had purchased the buildings and was using the space vacated by the Stansells as a furniture warehouse. Fire struck the buildings on June 28, 1922, burning off their roofs. Stovall quickly rebuilt within the brick shells again warehousing furniture in one store and Mead repairing shoes in the other. Kaskie did not reopen his businesses. Come 1924, Stovall decided he was finished renting space for his furniture store and hired W.D. Cavin to combine the two Hough brick stores into one creating a grand location for Stovall Furniture. Read about this era of the building the Furniture-Furniture-Furniture part 1 blog post.