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Posted to City Workers Ahead by Ken Kocher
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.”
Posted to Department Details by Ken Kocher
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.
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
Posted to Madison Moments by Ken Kocher
John Claus Bohlen, originally from Stadt Bremerhaven, Germany, arrived in Madison via Augusta to ply his skills as a baker less than a decade after his service during the Civil War. Possibly arriving as early as 1872, Bohlen built the building at 173 S. Main in 1876. Described in the Augusta Constitutionalist as “a fine brick store, handsomely furnished with every convenience for carrying on the baking and confectionery business.” Behind the main body of the store was a bake house and behind that an oven. While the oven has been removed, the bake house remains in place.Bohlen was popular, known for his kind heart and gentle spirit. This may have led to a miscalculation on the part of a young man choosing Bohlen’s store to play a prank – riding a horse into the store. The story goes that when one of the boys started riding into Bohlen’s store, he reached for a big cheese knife and meeting the rider at the door lost no time in showing him exactly what would happen to him if he rode “that damn mule” in his store. The ride ended at the door.In 1893, a new bakery opened in the building, that of I.D. Comstock. Like Bohlen, Comstock also dealt in confectionaries, fruits, and fine groceries. He also made “the nicest Saratoga Chips you have ever eaten.” What’s that you say? We call them potato chips now. Five years later Comstock closed up shop and moved to Michigan, his home state. W.L. “Will” Walker opened a Hat and Shoe Store here around 1905. He went out of business September 1, 1913, and it was reported that “a man from South Carolina” would conduct a bakery in the place. The rumor was unfounded as the Madison Shoe Store, run by Mell Richardson and Ed Prince, opened instead. The business lasted a year.Mrs. Bohlen, her husband having passed in 1911, advertised the building for rent noting in the ad that Madison needed a bakery. A few months later, the Madisonian echoed this sentiment stating, “Madison needs a bakery, and Mrs. Bohlen has the place for it.” The call was answered by G.L. Moore who opened the Model Bakery in this space in December of 1915. Moore employed Paul Lex as his baker who, like the original baker in this building, brought his skill “from far away Germany.” Despite an August 9, 1918, report that Moore was doing a splendid business, the building came available for rent December 1. This would not be the end of baked goods produced at this location, but it is the end of this post. We will pick up the thread later.