Oh, my ... tell me it ain't so! Please!!
The county recently announced that its 10-year walk in the wilderness is coming to an end and the ribbon will be cut officially opening the V. E. and Lydia Owens Park on Monday, May 13.
There is a fly in the punch bowl, however.
Mrs. Owens' name was not Lydia.
Her first name was Leila!
That's L-E-I-L-A, not Lydia.
Now when a couple gives you something like $1 million to create a park in the county, getting their names correct must be priority one.
Apparently it was not in this case.
After 10 years, countless committee meetings, enough paperwork to choke a horse and even a planning company that reaped loads of money converting a bankrupt golf course into what we all hope will be a nice park, checking the names should have been the easy part.
It was not.
The signs have been made, the invitations sent, the grants awarded, the contractors and advisors paid, etc., etc. and the wrong name was used over and over again.
Her name was Leila -- not Lydia.
Now there is nothing wrong with the name Lydia -- except, of course, that it was not the name of one of the persons making this impressive gift to the county.
Golly ... how embarrassing.
But believe it or not, this situation gets worse.
Last Friday, I got a call from an Owens' family member and while he was upset about the county's careless mistake, he wasn't as livid as most of us might have been.
What really frosted his socks is that he had been trying to reach county officials by telephone for several days -- and leaving message after message -- but none, not one, of those messages had been returned.
I tried to console him by explaining that it is possible that the county's telephone system, at least where top administration is concerned, may not offer two-way communication. We have the same problem. We leave message after message after message and a return call almost never comes.
Okay, I just wrote almost never comes. I'm sure my editorial page cohort would suggest that saying return calls "almost never" come from top county management is being entirely too charitable.
Be that as it may, the county owes this family a huge -- yes, HUGE -- apology and every step possible must be taken to correct signage and the records associated with this obviously careless mistake!
Mistakes happen. We all make them -- and those of us in the newspaper business make more than our fair share.
The test comes in how those mistakes are dealt with and, speaking from experience, the best response is to own the mistake, apologize profusely and move heaven and earth to try to correct it in the best way possible.
That does not mean ducking calls and ignoring pleas for return calls because that only makes a bad situation worse.
I told the family member that we at The Times will do our best to make sure that Leila Owens gets the proper credit in our stories. But that's about all we can do.
County officials are going to have to dig themselves out of their mess and do all they can to correct this unfortunate situation.
We'll see how they respond!
Remember county officials, her name was Leila Hart Owens!!
Next time we hope our county officials follow the sage advice of a long-time journalism professor at the University of North Carolina. He often told students that "if your mother says she loves you, check it out."
It goes without saying that if someone gives you a million-plus dollars, the least you can do is get their name correct!
There's one thing about being a newspaper reporter that many folks find a bit disconcerting. And that is you never know what you might be covering -- and often, you have no choice about it.
If something happens on "your watch," well, get going and try to figure it out.
Over the years I've covered just about everything imaginable, some good news stories and a lot of horrible tragedies, but I'm certainly glad I'm not in the nation's capital these days covering the circus that our government has become.
That all came into focus last week as I watched Attorney General William Barr ponder, pontificate, stumble and mumble as he fielded tough questions from mostly Democrats during a public hearing.
Barr's fancy footwork trying to avoid answering anything with a simple response would qualify him for a top spot on "Dancing with the Stars!"
In my experience there are at least two kinds of lawyers, those who can shuffle paper and dither on the fine print until the cows come home and those who are lightning-fast on their feet, making snap decisions and creating verbal responses that, at least on the surface, make sense. Or, seem to make sense until you try to parse the meaning from a lot of words.
After listening to Barr, I'm not sure which category he fits. He surely isn't glib -- and if he was being truthful, he certainly hadn't mastered the details of the Mueller Report that he was being grilled about -- and which he supposedly summarized in a mere four pages.
What was truly remarkable was that the appeared somewhat flummoxed, so badly that he refused to return the next day to a hearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee.
Really, he just pouted -- and refused. Not professional, General Barr, not professional and a sad commentary on the way you're running that office.
Even worse was his lame excuse. He said he didn't want to be questioned by staff lawyers. Fact is, many of the folks in Congress are lawyers and what's a few more added to that mix?
Besides, Barr is supposedly one of the nation's top lawyers and now he wants us to believe he is afraid of questions from lawyers. Really?
Interestingly, most lawyers I know love a good debate, even a good fight, so to see one of the nation's top legal eagles tuck his tail and run away was telling.
Of course, the politicians had a field day with Barr and his refusal to man up and testify.
One, Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., arrived with a bucket of fried chicken, apparently to mock Barr as being a "chicken" for failing to appear.
Granted that made some good photos for Cohen's next political ad -- but really, was bringing chicken to a House hearing any more professional than staying home, hiding under the bed or wherever Barr hid that day?
It's reached a point where we need to call in the experienced day care teachers to manage what we have left of a national government!
All I know is that I'm extremely glad I'll not be personally dealing with that mess, which would be difficult enough to cover without the partisan hacks yelling "fake news" every time they read or hear something they don't like, even if the actual story is documented three ways from Sunday!
Come to think of it, all this refusing to testify, ignoring subpoenas, lawsuits, refusing to release reports or releasing only redacted reports calls to mind an old saying.
If you don't have anything to hide, don't hide!
Some time ago, we took the county to task for changing the way the county's name-challenged airport was being governed.
For years -- very successful years! -- the Franklin County Airport (inappropriately named the Triangle North Executive Airport) was governed by an Airport Commission.
Suddenly, and without adequate explanation, the Airport Commission was abolished and the county assumed direct control of the facility. The old commission's name was changed to an "authority" which is a board with a lot less influence and control.
At the time, the only "explanation" was that the move was designed to protect members of the commission from liability associated with their service, an explanation that simply didn't hold water.
We suspected at the time -- and still believe -- that the change was designed to give the seven commissioners more direct control of the county's most successful department, especially at a time when grant money was flowing into the department by the millions of dollars.
Clearly there was enough at stake that the county didn't change its mind and assumed full control -- and responsibility -- for the airport.
At the time, the airport was without a manager after the previous manager died in a plane crash, so for the last 15 or 16 months, the airport has been run by an interim manager.
Not long ago, the county administration crowed that it had found a new, professional manager -- and frankly, we were impressed.
He was a guy who grew up in Franklin County, actually earned his pilot's license at the local airport, got a solid education in airport management and was the assistant manager of a similar airport in Florida. He looked like a great fit.
But then the bottom fell out.
Before he did little more than land the airport job he abruptly quit.
The county, typical of our county, made no official mention of this change of circumstances, leaving it for us to find out almost accidentally.
Although we've been poking around, we've yet to get a firm handle on why this young man accepted the job and then abruptly left. We'll keep digging.
But his is not the only such departure in recent years.
Not too long ago, the county hired a woman who seemed eminently qualified to serve as the county's finance director.
If memory serves, she worked about a day and a half before she quit and went back to South Carolina, even though she, too, had family ties to Franklin County.
There can be all kinds of reasons for these abrupt changes -- but if you're a cynical old reporter, you just have to wonder what in the world is going on.
At the very least, it would appear that the commissioners' switch to an airport authority has backfired since they are now clearly and solely responsible for the situation at the county airport and for fixing it.
Sometimes the best-laid plans simply run off the track!