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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

Nov 01

Bearden's Stable

Posted to Madison Moments by Ken Kocher

Newspaper clipping stating Fire at MadisonThe Savannah Morning News, August 5, 1892

Capt. F.B. Terry ran a livery stable in a large wooden building on the corner of Second Street (now Academy) and W. Washington Street in 1892 (Amici's). On August 5 of that year a fire destroyed the building, Terry narrowly escaping death by jumping from a window. He lost one horse, one mule, and several fine carriages and buggies. Several small adjoining houses were also destroyed. M.E. High offered use of his stables to Terry and petitioned Mayor E.W. Butler to allow Terry to conduct a livery business in his stables without taking out a new license. Butler refused. According to the Savannah Morning News, “[This] angered Mr. High. He met Mayor Butler on the streets. Some words passed between them, and the two men clinched. Friends interfered and the two gentlemen were separated without any great personal injury to either. The mayor’s coat was nearly torn off while Mr. High’s finger was hurt slightly.” F.B. Terry does not appear to have opened another livery stable in Madison, eventually moving to Griffin.

Meanwhile, the lot where Terry’s stable had been remained vacant. The Madisonian lamented in 1893, “Now, if somebody will improve the burnt livery stable lot… that part of the city would look better.” It would be four years before anyone heeded this call. In 1897 J.T. Newton, who owned the lot, built brick stables for G.A. Bearden’s use. Hence, the structure’s original name: the Newton Building. Almost immediately, Bearden (known as Gabe), added a forty-foot wooden addition to the rear. There was a lot going on there. In addition to the feeding, hitching, trading, and swapping horses and mules, J.H. Houghton offered a stallion (Bourbon Belmont) for stud services, Gabe had a fine Jersy bull available for the same, and a fine breed of boars were available for purchase. Plus, Oliver Hollis, an African American Madisonian, had a restaurant in a portion of the building. No jokes about the source of the meat please. And, in case anyone was worried, Mr. Hollis assured everyone that, “He has a separate apartment where his white friends are served by polite waiters with all good things to eat.”

Bearden's Stable ad and 1901 Sanborn Fire Insurance mapThe High Shoals messenger. (High Shoals, Ga.), October 14, 1897/1901 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map

Building on his success, Bearden rented a second stable on the corner of Burnett and Hancock (no longer extant) in 1901 specializing the use of each. In his words, “Now I want to run livery business alone in the Newton stable, as the space is too small for transient, and kindly ask my customers who wish to hitch, feed, sell, buy, or swap to stop at the BIG STABLE.” In other words, if you wanted to hire out a buggy or carriage and/or horses, the Newton stable was your place, but if you were stabling for the day – kind of a horse & mule parking garage – or were looking to buy, sell, or swap you would head over to Hancock Street. Despite his apparent success, G.A. Bearden put the livery outfit – ten head horses with vehicles, harness, etc. to match – and business up for sale in August of 1902.

Brick livery stable building