There's enough wasteful spending to drive most of us taxpayers battMy daddy used to have a saying about rats. He would get people to ask him what he thought about rats and he would invariably answer, "I'm rough on rats!" I never knew what, exactly, he meant by that, but it was fun and I used to play the same little game with my own children.
My daddy obviously didn't care too much for rats. He had little to say, however, about their airborne counterparts -- bats. I can only assume that he would be rough on bats as well. I, myself, have never cared too much for bats -- even though people tell me they eat their weight in insects.
But did you ever look at one close up? They are some scary looking creatures. Their noses are turned up like a pig's and they have those pointy ears that stick straight up, and those fangs! Even if their bite can't turn you into a vampire, I want no part of those fangs. It makes me tremble all over just to think about their beady eyes and those brown wings. Ugh.
I was camping with my Boy Scout troop in the north Georgia mountains one spring and got caught in an unexpected ice storm. We sought shelter for the night in a cave on the side of Blood Mountain and survived quite well. We were warm and snug -- until daylight. Then we looked up and saw that there were hundreds of bats clinging to the top of the cave. We all decided to take our chances with the ice and snow.
I am not a fan of bats, understand.
Now I told you all of that to tell you this. Bats, or, more accurately, a bat, is costing you and me and every other taxpayer in the state of Georgia millions of dollars a day -- just by being here -- and I think it is just one more example of the stupidity of the federal government. At a time when our elected officials haven't a clue as to how to trim the federal budget and help get the economy back on it feet, so to speak, the Georgia Department of Transportation is being held hostage by one little brown bat that has made its way here from just across the state line in Tennessee. We are holding up a $459 million road project for perhaps a year and a half and are fixing to spend another $8 million to see if we can find a similar bat living within our borders.
I ain't making this up, y'all. It's the truth!
The aforementioned bat was spotted in a tree near Ellijay and this particular bat is a member of an endangered species. The federal government, in its infinite wisdom, has enacted rules to save this little brown bat and so the entire work project has been put on hold so we can try to learn whether building our road will endanger the bat or its habitat.
It is a bat, for goodness sake. One solitary bat -- who wasn't invited here to begin with.
Now the price tag associated with these delays is based on the supposition that our little Tennessee wanderer -- which is called an Indiana bat, by the way -- is here on his own. Heaven forbid other such bats are found. If they are that will trigger even more federal guidelines, and we will spend millions and millions more dollars to protect the bats' habitat.
And the Georgia DOT is not the lone ranger in this drama. The rare Indiana bat has been delaying projects from Iowa to New York. I'm in favor of letting the bat move back to Iowa or New York and letting us build our roads.
These are some of the projects that will be delayed and their costs. Bartow County has spent $24.7 million acquiring land for projects that cannot go forward. Hall County has spent $18.4 million to widen Ga. Highway 20 but can't, because a bat might want to hang in one of the trees that would be cut down if the project were to go ahead.
Floyd County is sitting on $5.6 million worth of land for road widening projects, and on and on and on.
Environmentalists applaud the decision to move heaven and earth and spending money we don't have to spend a couple of years looking for another bat. They compare this with saving the bald eagle and the American bison from extinction.
Give me a break. It is one more example of bureaucracy run amok and exhibits a complete loss of common sense. Of course we are talking about the federal government so we shouldn't expect common sense to come into play anyway.
Meanwhile, we remain sequestered. Education budgets continue to be slashed. Teachers continue to work for less take-home pay than they received 10 years ago and our soldiers are having their promised tuition reimbursements taken away in the name of sequestration.
But at least that one bat is being left alone.
Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/darrellhuckaby.