• His firm, Elder Trucking, owns a fleet of diesel-powered trucks, and in order to start those vehicles on cold winter mornings, Elder must heat the engine blocks every night. Imagine 30 electrical cords extending to 30 large semi trucks and charging a heating element in each motor, an element much like the one in your kitchen stove.

    “There are times in winter when those heaters are going every day and we’re probably over $2,000 [per month] in electricity,” Elder said, shaking his head.

    Last year, Elder Trucking joined the Garfield Clean Energy Challenge and, with the help of electrical contractor Charlie Terrell and Holy Cross Energy, Elder recently installed a timing system on his engine block heaters that should cut his winter power bills in half.

    “They’ll start at midnight and shut off at noon,” Elder said. “I’m hoping to get those bills down to three digits.”

    The project was finished last March, at the tail end of a mild winter, so Elder doesn’t yet know how much energy and money he’ll save. But he has other energy-saving factors in his favor.

    Along with the engine block heaters, he also made some energy-efficient lighting improvements, first to the exterior lighting around his property, then in the shops where his crew maintains and repairs the truck fleet.

    Elder Trucking has been around since 1996, hauling gravel, asphalt, water and other materials to build roads for the natural gas industry and serve the communities of Western Garfield County. He occupies a sunny, 15-acre lot near the county airport.

    Scattered around Elder’s office, shops and parking areas are 16 light fixtures that, until recently, contained sodium lights between 70 and 100 watts apiece. Those have been replaced with 13-watt LED lights that not only consume less power, but also emit a brighter and more natural-looking light.

    Inside the shops, Elder has replaced 400-watt floodlights with high-output T5 lamps that, like the exterior LEDs, give off a more pleasing light and use less energy. Unlike the old lights, the T5s switch on and off with no warm-up or cool-down time. And by using two separate switches, Elder can use all or half of the available lights at any time.

    Because of the brightness of the T5s, Elder was able to reduce the number of fixtures in his tire shop (a separate building) from nine to five, and the overall number of bulbs from 36 to 20.

    “They [the employees] like it better because they actually have more light,” he said.

    Between the exterior and interior changes, Elder expects to cut the lighting portion of his utility bills by roughly two thirds. The real savings, however, will come from the timers on the engine block heaters.

    Elder spent $13,000 on all his energy-efficiency measures, and thus far has received rebates from Garfield Clean Energy and Holy Cross for over $3,000. If the engine block timers save as much energy as they should, Elder will recoup his expenses for that project in less than a year.

    The lighting upgrades will take between eight and nine years to pay off, but Elder is already exploring ways to invest the savings in more energy-efficiency upgrades, including solar panels.


  • Payne said that there has been an ongoing discussion about replacing the Athens EMS station.

    “Everyone involved knows it is old and needs repairs,” he said. “The commissioners have been trying to find a suitable location to build or convert an existing building to replace the Athens Station.”

    Payne informed ACEMS employees that they “can always speak with me or email me about any concerns they feel are not being meet by the director.”

    He promised to check into the issues raised.

    “I just took a tour of the Coolville Station, with the Coolville station chief, earlier this month, and besides the recommendations listed, the station is in very good condition,” Payne said.

    The commissioners will be going over the matter with Lenigar at their regular meeting, he added.

    Meanwhile, Lenigar suggested that he’s been aware of the maintenance concerns in an email exchange with Commissioner Eliason. His email amounted to seeking advice on how to proceed with addressing the issues.

    “Several of the station chiefs have requested some maintenance issues to be completed at their stations during my last meeting with them,” Lenigar wrote. “A majority are minor issues such as some appliance updates and things such as painting and minor landscaping for spring.”

    He questioned at what point must maintenance issues be contracted out as opposed to being handled at the station personnel level.

    “One example is the crews of Station 51 Athens have requested that the awnings that were damaged during the high winds this spring just be removed and the Station itself be painted, which they have offered to do,” he wrote. “Several other chiefs have requested that they have some overhead fluorescent lights repaired or replaced. I would assume that such electrical projects should not be done by station personnel.”

    Lenigar cited county maintenance staff that takes care of various county buildings.

    “But I understand that they are understaffed and not able to service the ACEMS buildings,” he said.

    In response, Eliason suggested discussing the possibility of hiring a maintenance person.

    “We could hire one in the general fund and have you contract for services or hire one for you directly,” he wrote. “I don’t think anyone of the staff should be doing anything beyond routine cleaning, changing light bulbs, etc., at any time since that changes their scope of work.”

    Lenigar compiled the list of maintenance concerns that were submitted to him during a station cheifs’ meeting in late February. He said he’s been waiting for the first tax assessment to come through before addressing the concerns.

    As for the specifics, the Athens Station, according to Lenigar and the station chief, needs an electrical check, light repair, awning repair or removal, paint, a plumbing check, repair or replacement of kitchen cabinets, window and door repairs, drywall repairs, heating and cooling system maintenance, drop-ceiling repairs and general landscaping work


  • The recent running battles between street vendors and the Malawi Police Service, under the auspices of the Lilongwe City Assembly, convey one clear message about policy makers in the country: They consider street vending a problem that needs to be controlled. Quite an unfortunate perspective, it has to be said from the outset.

    Without getting too much into conspiracy theories, it is obvious that attempts to control, oppress, bully and harass street vendors from the sidewalks and public spaces are not in anybody’s political interest. It may therefore be safe to suggest that the animosity against the vendors could be a way of protecting and maintaining the interests and privileges of certain groups in society, particularly those of shop owners (foreign and local), who fear competition from the local informal traders. Whether those shop owners have any political machinations is for the reader to judge.

    Pretexts of security, sanitation, traffic obstruction or “eyesore to towns” due to street vending are no-brainer scapegoats, as certain institutions exist and thrive on our taxes in this country for the exclusive purpose of dealing with those issues. The incompetence and subsequent failure of those institutions to perform their duties should not be blamed on street vending.

    Street vending in Malawi has, to a large extent, been one of the unintended consequences of structural reforms of the 1980-90s, which have forced people to expand their survival strategies. The reforms led to drastic cuts in social spending and privatization of public enterprises, thereby shrinking opportunities for formal employment, particularly in the public sector.

    Unemployment has further been aggravated by poor economic policies of recent governments, which have led to bankruptcy, massive retrenchments and closure of some processing factories. The situation is most likely to get worse, if current trends in Malawi’s economy are anything to go by.

    Street vending has acted as a sponge that sucks up the surplus labour from the precarious labour market generated by these economic policy gaffes. The phenomenon should, therefore, be lauded for yielding a positive impact on poverty, entrepreneurship, (un)employment, domestic security and political stability.

    Street vending has been a livelihood option for the urban poor, including poor women, and is one of the most important avenues for youths and women to support their families, including providing for the education, health and nutrition needs of their dependents.

    City and town bye-laws should regularize street vending and give street vendors a clear legal status. In this way vendors will be able to claim their rights to economic livelihoods and their right to space.

    When they legally exist, street vendors can be registered, may easily be identified and may establish vibrant mechanisms for collective voice, self-regulation and participatory governance. More so, authorities can collect legal taxes from the vendors with little room for extortion and rent-seeking, as may currently be the case.

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  • Along Havana’s northern coastline, storms that roll down from the north send waves crashing against the concrete seawall, drenching vintage cars and kids playing games of chicken with the salty spray.

    Fishermen toss their lines into the warm waters, shirtless men play dominoes on card tables, and throngs of young people gather on weekend nights to laugh, flirt and sip cheap rum.

    This is the achingly beautiful and most instantly recognisable part of Havana’s cityscape: the Malecon seafront boulevard, with its curlicue lamp posts and pastel buildings rising into an azure sky.

    Just about anywhere else in the world, it would be a playground for the wealthy, diners in four-star restaurants and tourists willing to spend hundreds of dollars a night for a million-dollar view.

    But along the Malecon, many buildings are dank, labyrinthine tenements bursting beyond capacity, plagued by mold and reeking of backed-up sewer drains. Paint peels away from plaster, and the saline air rusts iron bars to dust. Some buildings have collapsed entirely, their propped-up facades testimony to a more dignified architectural era.

    Now, for the first time since the 1959 revolution, a new law that permits the sale of real estate has transformed these buildings into extremely valuable properties. Another new law that allows more people to go into business for themselves has entrepreneurs setting up shop and talking up the future. And a multimillion-dollar revitalisation project is marching down the street improving lighting, sidewalks and drainage.

    The year has seen some remarkable first steps toward a new Cuban economic model, including the sacrificing of a number of Marxism’s sacred cows. The state is still firmly in control of all key sectors, from energy and manufacturing to health care and education, but increasingly people are allowed to engage in a small measure of private enterprise. Officials say the changes are irreversible, and this is the last chance to save the economy.

    Yet Cubans will tell you that change comes slowly on the island. Strict controls on foreign investment and property ownership mean there’s precious little money to bankroll a capitalist revival. Even some Malecon denizens who embrace the reforms see a long haul ahead.

    “It’s not that I see the future as black, more like I’m seeing a little spark from someone three kilometres away who lit a match,” said Jose Luis Leal Ordonez, the proprietor of a modest snack shop.”But it’s a match, not a lantern.”

    Leal’s block, the first one along the promenade, has offered a front row seat to five decades of Cuba under Fidel Castro. The residents of Malecon 1 to 33 have watched the powerful forces of revolution play out beneath their balconies, and today they’re bracing for yet another act as Castro’s younger brother Raul turns a half-century of communist dogma on its ear.

    Given that Cuba’s national identity has been inextricably bound up with its powerful neighbour 150 kilometres to the north, it is perhaps fitting that the Malecon is the legacy of a “Yanqui”.

    The year was 1900 and the country was under US control following the Spanish-American War. Governor General Leonard Wood, who commanded the Rough Riders during the war with friend Teddy Roosevelt as his No 2, launched a public works programme to clean up unsanitary conditions and stimulate the economy. A key element was the Malecon.

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  • Port Dover’s own John Axford will forever be in the record books as the winning pitcher in a game that sent the Brewers to the National League Championship Series in 2011.

    All things considered, Axford would rather have had the save.

    After Axford had blown just his third save of the year in the ninth inning to allow the Arizona Diamondbacks to tie the game at 2-2, his teammates rallied in the 10th to make him a winner and send the Brewers to the NLCS for the first time since divisional play was instituted

    Summoned into a game the Brewers led 2-1 into the ninth, Axford, who has been lights out for Milwaukee all year long, saving 47 games, gave up a game-tying run. But that only prolonged the agony for the Diamondbacks, who missed a variety of chances to blow the game open in the late innings.

    Axford came back out and pitched a clean 10th and in the bottom of the inning, Nyjer Morgan singled into centre field to score Carlos Gomez with the walk-off run.

    The Brewers may have slugged their way into the playoffs but Friday evening, Axford’s hiccup aside, they pitched their way In a battle of staff aces, Brewers’ Yovani Gallardo and Arizona’s Ian Kennedy, went toe-to-toe with little to choose between them through six innings.

    Both bullpens threw up zeros the rest of the way to the ninth but it was Milwaukee set-up man Francisco Rodriguez who bowed his neck and got out of a potential game-blowing jam in the eighth. The D-Backs wrapped a walk to Aaron Hill, a single by Miguel Montero and another walk to Chris Young around a pair of strikeouts, setting up a winner-take-all at-bat between Rodriguez and Ryan Roberts.

    Rodriguez, who was wild low through the entire inning, got the groundball he needed against Roberts to get out of the inning. It was the third time in the game that Roberts had made an out with a runner in scoring position.

    Over the first three innings, the only tangible difference between Gallardo and Kennedy, aside from that one Upton swing, was that Kennedy had been far more economical with his ammunition. Kennedy needed only 35 pitches to get through his first nine outs while Gallardo was at 66 pitches at the same point, a disparity that promised to haunt Gallardo as he reached the middle innings.

    Instead, though, it was Kennedy who almost came unglued first. In the bottom of the fourth, he gave up just his second hit, a leadoff double by Morgan. A walk to Ryan Braun compounded the problem. One out later, Kennedy nailed Rickie Weeks with a pitch to load the bases.

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