Santa in LyonsJanuary 2-- Children in Lyons got a special treat on Christmas eve when Santa took time out of his busy schedule to spend some extra time in Lyons handing out toys along with the Lyons Fire Department and the Lyons Police Department.

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker explained how the event came about. “Our Fire Chief Darel Corley came up with the idea of asking Santa Claus to ride one of his fire trucks around town and meet with the kids and have their picture taken with Santa Claus and give out candy and toys on Christmas Eve and fortunately I had a local church donate some toys to give out to some families at the same time. We took the opportunity to use Darel’s idea to hand out those toys with Santa Claus being there,” said Chief Walker.

“It was special to see the children of our community light up when we were there with Santa Claus to hand out toys. We really thank Santa Claus for taking time out of his busy schedule on Christmas Eve to ride around Lyons and meet the kids of our community,” added Walker.

Chief Walker went on to say, “It’s tough for us to do our jobs in law enforcement and fire fighting if you don’t get support from your local community so it’s very important that we get out and interact with the community outside of our normal official duties.”

January 2--  Vidalia Police Chief Brian Scott reports the following arrests.

Singleton,Tyrone-B/M-31 YOA-942 North Circle Dr. Vidalia, Ga-Warrant Service (Aggravated Assault X2, Battery 

Hunt, Ronald Steven- W/M- 34 YOA- 2822 County Rd 423, Lake Panasoffee, FL- Theft By Shoplifting

Hitchcock, Jessica Lynn- W/F- 40 YOA- 732 Amanda Rd. Metter, GA- Willfully Obstruction of Police Office Simple/Verbal, Theft by Shoplifting

Sturgis, Margarita Maria- W/F- 28 YOA- 1680 Ga Hwy 292 Lyons, Ga- Theft by Shoplifting

Grimes, Marcus Lance- W/M- 32 YOA- 1503 E First St, Vidalia, Ga- Criminal Trespass, Possession of Methamphetamine, Possession of Tools for the Commission of a Crime, Warrant Service (Probation)

Barnes, Jason LaMichael- B/M- 32 YOA- 70 Lakeside, McRae Ga.- Theft By Shoplifting 1st , Warrant Service

Harden, Iyana- B/F- 17 YOA- 204 Kenworth St, Vidalia Ga.- Disorderly Conduct

Morris, Jayla Monic- B/F- 23 YOA- 803 Morris St. Vidalia, GA- Aggravated Assault

Goodrum, Lataisha- B/F- 32 YOA- 27 Haygood Ave SE Atlanta, GA- Loitering/Prowling

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Avila, Irene – Vidalia, Felony Arrest Warrant-Aggravated Assault

Berry, Daron, Sr. – Reidsville, Probation Violation – Misdemeanor

Cook, Lloyd - Uvalda, Bench Warrant-Failure to Appear, Probation Violation Misdemeanor

Eason, Jarrett – Brunswick, Felony Warrant, Probation Violation

Harden, Joseph – Lyons, Felony Warrant, Probation Violation Felony

Robertson, Linda – Pembroke, DUI, Failure to Maintain Lane

Rogers, Rickey – Lyons, DUI, Speeding

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Page, Peyton R - Mount Vernon, DUI, Failure to Yield to Emergency Vehicle, Fleeing, Attempting to Elude Arrest, Driving Without License on Person, Possession of Marijuana less than 1 Ounce, Possession of Drug Related Objects

Braddock, Dakota James – Lyons, Possession of Marijuana Less Than 1 Ounce

Williams, Chasidy Chavon – Lyons, Headlight Requirements, Driving Without License on Person, DUI

Lee, Angela Ann – Hinesville, Warrant Service

Clark, Shanna Marie – Reidsville, Simple Battery

Dees, Justin Lamar – Vidalia, Public Drunkeness

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests. 

12/16-Diamond Devonne Calloway, Vidalia, Felony Probation Violation

12/16-Shana Jordan, Glenwood, Defective Equipment (Headlights), Child Restraint Violation, Driving w/Suspended License

12/18-Sedric Sanders, Mt. Vernon, Misdemeanor Probation Violation

12/21-Tony Colt Kight, Alston, battery (Family Violence)

12/26-Lindsey Wilkinson, Blyth, Ga., DUI, Failure to Maintain Lane

12/26-Beverly Elaine Beasley, Lyons, Possession of Controlled Substance, Possession of Drug Related Objects

December 31-- As we move into the new year and a new decade, there are new laws taking effect for residents of the State of Georgia. Governor Brian Kemp signed over 300 bills into law in 2019; some having already gone into effect. Some of these new laws may affect you greatly, some not so much, but here are some of the more popular new laws beginning January 1st.

The bill that garnered most of the attention and was definitely the most controversial was House Bill 481, better known to most as the Heartbeat Bill. The law will ban abortions after a heartbeat can be detected and would have gone into effect January 1st but a federal court ruling in October has the law in limbo for now.

House Bill 63 gives physicians a way to maneuver around “step therapy” which is basically when an insurance company wants you to exhaust every other preferred medication before allowing you to receive the prescription that your physician wants to prescribe for you.

House Bill 478 makes the requirements to be placed on the state’s sex offender registry stricter and by requiring abusers to be 18 years of age instead of 13 to be listed.

House Bill 266 allows people that utilize a 529 plan to save for college to take a state tax deduction that doubles from $2,000 to $4,000 per child for single taxpayers, and from $4,000 to $8,000 for taxpayers filing jointly with a spouse.

House Bill 239 created a new business court that would handle contract disputes, copyright disagreements, and arguments over who came up with a money making idea.

Another law that has already gone into effect as of last Friday is a federal law that prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing tobacco products of any kind, including cigarettes, cigars, and also e-cigarettes. The law is designed to deter teenage tobacco use and vaping. The Food and Drug Administration still has 6 months to finalize the law even though it went into effect December 27th.

James Nixon Head ShotDecember 30--  Meadows Regional Medical Center’s Chief Operating Officer James A. Nixon, FACHE, is one of 30 outstanding alumni to receive 21st Century Leaders “30 for 30” Alumni Award. He is one of 17 Georgia honorees, who now represent organizations ranging from LinkedIn to NASA, which will be recognized at an awards reception on January 16, 2020 at The Gathering Spot in Atlanta.

In celebration of the organization’s 30th Anniversary, alumni were honored for leading the way in business, leadership, community, educational, and philanthropic endeavors. The 30 award winners represent a diverse group of individuals at different stages in their careers and a wide variety of organizations.

“I am humbled and honored to be recognized by an organization that has poured into me so that I can pour into others,” said Nixon. “21st Century Leaders is the foundation to my formal business and leadership training. These skills have followed me through my internships, early career and even now.”

Nixon has been Chief Operating Officer at Meadows since July 2018. He completed his Bachelor’s Degree in Finance at Mercer University and his Master of Science in Health Administration at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is Board Certified in Healthcare Management as a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Management (FACHE) and has spent the last 10 years as an administrative leader in the healthcare field. A native of Tifton, Nixon served as the Vice President in different capacities and divisions at Tift Regional Health System prior to joining Meadows.

21st Century Leaders is a non-profit organization that connects, transforms, and inspires high school students across Georgia to leverage-diversity, explore career opportunities, and become leaders in their schools, communities, and ultimately the workforce.

About 21st Century Leaders

Since inception in 1989, 21st Century Leaders has served more than 14,000 diverse high school students from over 250 Georgia high schools. 21st Century Leaders is a non-profit organization that connects, transforms, and inspires high school students across Georgia to leverage diversity, explore career opportunities, and become leaders in their school, community, and ultimately the workforce. For more information about 21st Century Leaders, visit www.21stcenturyleaders.org.

Meadows Health

Meadows Health is a regional health system featuring the only nationally accredited hospital in Montgomery, Toombs, Treutlen and Tattnall counties, a 15,000-square-foot cancer center and a network of physician practices that serve Vidalia and the surrounding communities. We offer the latest in medical advancements including cutting-edge cancer care, life-saving heart attack procedures, women’s services, wound care, orthopedic medicine and more. For more information visit www.meadowshealth.com.

December 30-- It’s been in the news recently that Georgia Power is planning a rate increase for its customers in 2020. John Kraft of Georgia Power explains the reason for the increase.

“This is our first rate case since 2013. We filed this case back in the summer with the Public Service Commission as we’re required to do and I think it’s going to enable us to continue making the investments in our state’s electrical grid. It’s also about our environmental programs that are required to comply with federal and state regulations. And then it’s also about our storm restoration efforts. After six years of hundreds of storms across that time and three straight years of major hurricanes in Matthew, Irma and Michael, we were under due to storm cost to the tune of $450,000,000,” said Kraft.

Kraft added, “What was included was a measure that will increase about $5.89 for the typical customer which uses 1,000 kilowatt hours a month. Part of our case included an increase in the base service charge. That’s the fixed charge that everyone pays each month regardless of the amount of energy they use. That’s to cover the cost that exists like having the grid available 24/7 whenever they flip the switch, metering, billing, and customer service. It will go up $2 beginning in 2021and $2 in 2022.”

December 24--  Vidalia Police Chief Brian Scott reports the following arrests.

Haynes, Lashunda Renia- B/F- 41 YOA- 406 Symonds St. Vidalia, GA- Possession of Drug Related Objects, Willfully Obstruction of Police Officer Simple/Verbal 

Poole, Damien Stuart- W/M- 40 YOA- 220 Jane Dr., Vidalia, GA- DUI, Driving While License Revoked

Hitchcock, Jessica Lynn- W/F- 40 YOA- 732 Amanda Rd. Metter, GA- Willfully Obstruction of Police Office Simple/Verbal, Theft by Shoplifting

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Anderson, Blake, Glennville, Criminal Trespass

Anthony, Iesha, Vidalia, Probation Violation – Misdemeanor

Collins, Katlyn, Lyons, Aggravated Assault, Theft by Taking, DUI, Speed Restrictions

Davis, Chiuro, Swainsboro, Aggravated Assault

Escobar, Andy, Hazlehurst, Hit and Run – Misdemeanor

Evans, Amber, Twin City, Conceal/Destroy/Removal/Transfer Property for Security Interest

Raper, Joshua, Uvalda, DUI, Possession of Marijuana < 1 oz., theft by taking, probation violation

Stewart, Freddie, Vidalia, Simple Battery

Taylor, Tiffany, Vidalia, Controlled Substance-Purchase, Possession, Manufacturing, Distribution, Sale

Tinsley, Shuconda, Soperton, Grand Jury Bench Warrant for Toombs County

Tooke, Christopher, Tarrytown, Aggravated Cruelty to Animals

Walden, Michael, Jr. Lyons, Probation Violation-Felony

December 23-- As the year comes to a close, Georgians across the state are opening their wallets and giving to those less fortunate. Georgia can proudly count itself among the most charitable states in the country. But even as we open our hearts to others, Georgians should be careful to ensure their donations are used honestly and effectively.

“The holiday season is a time when we take stock of the things that are most important – friends, family, community – and remember those who are less fortunate,” said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. “I encourage all Georgians to continue to give charitably to those in need but, at the same time, to make sure they are donating to causes that will put their contributions to good use.”

Before making charitable contributions this year, please keep these tips in mind:

  • Research Online – If there is a charitable organization or cause to which you would like to donate, research online beforehand to ensure the charity is right for you. The Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator, Guidestar, and other websites provide evaluations of different charitable organizations.
  • Check For Charity Filings - Before making any donation, be sure to confirm the organization you are supporting is a legitimate 501(c)(3) charity. Ask for the organization’s Employer Identification Number (EIN) and search it on the IRS website, or look for the organization’s 990 tax filings.
  • Effectiveness Matters – Take the time to look at an organization’s financial situation. Tools available online, such as those mentioned above, will provide you with information necessary to ascertain how much of your contribution will actually go to those in need versus administrative or other costs.
  • Do not share personal financial information over the phone – Do not share your credit card, debit card, or bank account information over the phone. Donate by check or credit card, rather than cash. And send the contribution directly to the organization rather than through a third party.  If you donate more than $250, the organization should send you a letter confirming the size of your donation.
  • Tax Deductible Donations – If making a tax-deductible donation is important to you, search the database of tax-exempt organizations available on the IRS website. Before making your donation, ensure the charity you have identified is in fact tax deductible. Then, once you have made the donation, be sure to get a receipt for your contribution.

More donation tips can be found here.

The Charities Division encourages Georgians to contact division staff if they receive suspicious charitable solicitations. To report suspicious activity, call (470) 312-2640. You can also email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to submit a complaint.

santa

December 23-- For a town of less than 150 people, the city of Santa Claus, Georgia is doing big things for fans of Christmas cheer. Sue Grisham has been working as Santa's secretary by postmarking thousands of letters for the past four years and according to Grisham, "some people bring them to me and some mail them from as far as West Virginia to receive an unofficial postmark from Santa Claus, Georgia." 

Many from all over have taken advantage of this opportunity and it has kept Sue Grisham extremely busy. "Last year I had over 4,200 cards and so far this year we have had about 3,900 cards send for postmarking. One day a few weeks ago, we had 529 cards come through in just one day" Grisham said. 

With the massive amounts of rain hitting the state of Georgia over the last few days, Toombs EMA Director Lynn Moore says we can expect flooding by Friday.  "The Altamaha River flood stage is 74.5 feet, the Altamaha at the moment is 73.5 and by Friday we are expecting it to be at 78 feet, or three and one-half feet above the flood stage. All of the low lying areas on the Toombs County side will be flooded, "said Moore.   Not only do citizens along the Altamaha need to pay attention to the flood stage, but "the Ohoopee River's flood stage is 11.5 feet and the National Weather Service out of Charleston, SC is expecting 15.5 by tomorrow (Tuesday)."  The rain that has hit our area isn't necessarily the problem, but as Moore explained, "when they release the water at Lake Sinclair we will see the rivers down here rise significantly as we have seen in the past."  In order to be safe, citizens along the rivers need to plan accordingly and do so in a hurry, as more water comes from the northern part of the state affects our area in days to come.

December 20-- With 2020 fast approaching, getting ready for the upcoming elections is extremely important, especially with all the new changes that are being implemented from the State of Georgia for the upcoming year. Toombs County Election Supervisor Carey Alligood gave an update to the commissioners at their regular meeting Tuesday night.

While the initial cost of the equipment is being paid for by the state, the maintenance and upkeep will be the responsibility of the county. Alligood said, “What we will receive from the Secretary of State’s Office is sixty nine touch units, nine scanners, one central unit which will be located in my office at all times, twenty seven touch pads, and one ballot printer and the program itself.”

“If we had purchased this equipment ourselves at the county level it would have cost us $369,000 but because the state went in and purchased all this equipment under them, the value of the equipment is $242,000,” said Alligood.

While the new systems will be quite a bit different from what voters are used to in the past, they will be very simple and easy to use. “It’s actually like a huge touch pad or a big screen TV. They are about 34 inches high and about 12 inches wide, and that’s what you’ll actually touch to vote. When you are through voting, you will hit print and print out a paper ballot with a bar code at the top. You’ll take that to the scanner and scan that in yourself. That’s when your ballot will be cast and counted,” stated Alligood.

blaketillery2019December 19--  The last quarter of 2019 has certainly been full of hustle and bustle.  You’ve likely already heard of the major employment announcement in Telfair County- the Guidoni Group, a Brazilian company, will bring 455 jobs and a $96 million investment to the space formerly occupied by the Husqvarna plant.  Several other economic projects are in local pipelines and I’m very proud of the team effort our local communities have made toward creating jobs here at home.

While we’re seeing success, the item that has single-handedly limited more success is our local workforce.  Simply put, we don’t have enough workers. Our local Career, Technical, and Agricultural Educational programs (CTAE) and technical college programs have been working hard to fill this void.   I’ve been traveling the state to see how other communities are filling this void and some of the findings have been interesting.

One middle Georgia community our size has its high school students taking YouScience tests and matching the results with local industry. YouScience is a computer-based test which the State of Georgia owns licenses.  The test takes about 4 hours to take.  The test takes a high school student’s interests and abilities and matches these with skills necessary for jobs in the workforce. (I took the test myself to understand it better.  Apparently, I should have been a construction project manager!)

A counselor in another part of Georgia took the step of getting at-risk student’s parents involved after seeing the results of their student’s YouScience tests.  The parents and counselor toured local manufacturing facilities, discussed starting salaries and benefits then presented all this information to the students.  The result was placement of 100% of the targeted students in a job at graduation.  Local businesses loved the help finding labor. In fact, some of the parents were so impressed, they wanted to apply for the job openings too!

This is just one example of ways communities are creatively tackling workforce needs.  Many of our local schools are tackling this need through other outside-the-box measures, including mentoring, internships, and CTAE experiences.  I know Toombs County Schools is using the YouScience program.  I’m sure others are too.  I look forward to sharing what I’ve seen with our local education leaders.

In closing, I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a start to 2020.  May we never forget the reason for this season and may your homes be full of joy and love during this time.  If you have any questions about the topic mentioned above or other items we may face in the 2020 session, please don’t hesitate to call.  My cell number is still (912) 245-9915.  Thank you for the opportunity to represent you in the Georgia Senate.

41MjXZES9mL. AC UL320 ML3

December 18--  About seven to eight years ago, 84 year old attorney Duston Tapley, Jr. sat down and decided to write down various stories that chronicled his experiences and events that he has had as well as dealings with various people throughout the years, without ever really considering publishing, but publishing he did. 

Tapley is the author of the book Ruminations, a book that has stories that will make readers laugh and stories that will make people cry. Although his motivation was not to publish, readers have given him positive reviews. His book is available on Amazon and costs $10.00.

December 18-- On Sunday, December 15, 2019, at approximately 1:29 p.m., the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office requested the assistance of the Eastman GBI Office to assist with a death investigation.  When law enforcement arrived, two individuals identified as 36-year-old Tina Marie Austin of Eastman and 25-year-old Charlie Kiundre Barnes Jr. of Sandersville were discovered deceased outside of Eastman Healthcare and Rehab located at 556 Chester Highway in Eastman, Dodge County, Georgia.       

Autopsies were performed on Tuesday, December 17, 2019 at the GBI Crime Lab in Decatur.  Both individuals died as a result of gunshot wounds.  The investigation indicates Barnes shot and killed Austin. Barnes then committed suicide. The preliminary autopsy results are consistent with the investigative findings. Barnes and Austin were in a relationship as boyfriend and girlfriend.  Both Austin and Barnes were employees of Eastman Healthcare and Rehab; however, only Austin was working on the day of the incident.   

The investigation is active and ongoing.  If anyone has information, please contact the GBI Eastman office at 478-374-6988 or the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office at 478-559-1130.

Taser Training 2December 17--  On Monday, December 16th, 2019, Sheriff Doug Maybin hosted a multi-agency Taser Certification / Recertification Class. Officers from the Mount Vernon Police Department and the Toombs County and Jeff Davis County Sheriff’s Office joined the Montgomery County Deputies to renew their taser certifications. The training class is comprised of classroom instruction, practical exercises, written examinations and voluntary exposures. Toombs County Sheriff’s Office SGT Kevin Collins was the instructor.

Sheriff Maybin continues to be a strong proponent of continued officer training and is appreciative of the opportunity to join forces with other area agencies.

Vidalia Food Bank 2December 17-- For more than 150 years, Georgia Power employees have lived by the motto of being “A citizen wherever we serve.” This holiday season, company employees and members of the Citizens of Georgia Power volunteer chapters in Savannah, Brunswick, Hinesville, Statesboro and Vidalia are making Christmas a little brighter for their neighbors.

Citizens of Georgia Power in Savannah provide donation to Savannah Feed the Hungry

Employees from Georgia Power kicked off the holiday season by providing a sizeable donation to Savannah Feed the Hungry. The Citizens of Georgia volunteer chapter members used the last of their funds raised throughout the year to purchase food and toys for the non-profit.

After a trip to a local Sam’s Club, employees were able to purchase 16 turkeys, a variety of canned good, five playsets, basketballs and footballs for families in need this holiday season. Several volunteers plan to return to Savannah Feed the Hungry to help at their Christmas dinner on December 23rd.

Citizens of Georgia Power in Brunswick support families, senior citizens

The volunteer chapter in Brunswick has been busy this month supporting local families and elderly residents in Coastal Georgia. Last weekend, the Georgia Power employees completed their annual legacy project at Camden House in St. Mary’s. Volunteers and line crews built an outdoor seating area for parents to watch their children at the playground.

Employees also helped install LED lights at the nonprofit and stocked a commercial freezer. Funds for the project and donations were provided by the Georgia Power Foundation, the non-profit arm of the Georgia Power Company. Camden House is a family violence shelter that provides assistance for the community in Camden County.

Members of the Citizens of Georgia Power – Brunswick chapter also served at local nursing homes over the weekend, providing holiday snacks and games for residents and staff.

Citizens of Georgia Power in Hinesville create picnic area at Pembroke Elementary School

The volunteer chapter in Hinesville donated a set of new picnic tables to teachers and students at Pembroke Elementary School in Bryan County. Georgia Power employees helped set up the tables over the weekend that were purchased with a financial donation from the Georgia Power Foundation, the non-profit arm of the Georgia Power Company.

Citizens of Georgia Power in Statesboro sort canned goods for Bulloch County residents

Volunteers from Georgia Power’s Statesboro office gave their time at TMT Farms over the weekend. The Bulloch County holiday light display has over 10,000 visitors during the month of December and collects toys and canned goods for those in need. Members of the Citizens of Georgia Power chapter helped sort those donations.

Citizens of Georgia Power in Vidalia make large donation to local food bank, make the holidays brighter for local children

Georgia Power employees in Vidalia have been working hard this holiday season to give back to their local community. Earlier this week, members of the Citizens of Georgia Power local chapter volunteered at His Works Ministry Outreach & Food Bank in Lyons. The chapter provided a $3,500 donation to the company from the Georgia Power Foundation that went towards new shelving, a printer, a freezer and new signage. Employees and line crew helped install these items on Monday.

Additionally, the Vidalia chapter will be purchasing and donating 20 bicycles for underprivileged children in the area this Christmas.

About Citizens of Georgia Power

Citizens of Georgia Power is the employee volunteer arm of Georgia Power Company. With 42 chapters statewide and more than 3,400 members, consisting of employees and their spouses, volunteers contributed more than 143,000 hours equal to $3.5 million in 2018.

About Georgia Power

Georgia Power is the largest electric subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO), America's premier energy company. Value, Reliability, Customer Service and Stewardship are the cornerstones of the Company's promise to 2.6 million customers in all but four of Georgia's 159 counties. Committed to delivering clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy at rates below the national average, Georgia Power maintains a diverse, innovative generation mix that includes nuclear, coal and natural gas, as well as renewables such as solar, hydroelectric and wind. Georgia Power focuses on delivering world-class service to its customers every day and the Company is consistently recognized by J.D. Power and Associates as an industry leader in customer satisfaction. For more information, visit www.GeorgiaPower.com and connect with the Company on Facebook (Facebook.com/GeorgiaPower [facebook.com]), Twitter (Twitter.com/GeorgiaPower [twitter.com]) and Instagram (Instagram.com/ga_power [instagram.com]).

JD Dickerson SOMLeft to right: (Top row) Paisley Toler, Paizlei Beacham, Bailey Walker, Blayke Sasser, and Patrick Pearson; (Third row) Aisley Coursey, Madelyn Morris, Edie Whitaker, and Johnathan Behar; (Second row) Cameron Franklin, Landon Brownlee, Kaisley Phillips, and Major Fields; (First Row) Hudson Bell, Meya Allen, Ashanti Lane, and Marco Kyles; Not pictured: Solomon Johnson and Kamiah RansomDecember 17--  J. D. Dickerson Primary School would like to announce the Students of the Month for December. They were all dressed up in their Grinch Day-best today! Merry Christmas!

December 17-- Last week two rival schools came together for a friendly competition to help raise money for their respective booster clubs and help with blood donations in the process. The Vidalia Indian Booster Club and the Toombs County Booster Club had 66 units of blood donated as well as raised over $1,300 for their student athletes courtesy of McLendon Enterprises. McLendon donated $20 per blood donation to the respective booster clubs.

Biram Chapman, Blood Donor Account Manager for the American Red Cross was pleased with the response from the schools. “We had a great two days. Toombs County won the challenge 41 to 25 and we saved lots of lives and McLendon Enterprises stepped up and donated $20 per unit. Everyone had a wonderful time and we plan to make it an annual event,” said Chapman.

Chapman added, “McLendon donated $820 to the Toombs County Booster Club and $500 to the Vidalia Booster Club. Toombs County gets a trophy to hold on to and bragging rights for the next year. Someone in America needs blood every 2.5 seconds. Bottom line is it was a win-win for everyone involved but ultimately we saved lots of lives with this fun challenge.”

December 17--  Bikes for Kids is a non-profit charity that runs out of Toombs County and was started by five local leaders several years ago.  The volunteers reach out to teachers in elementary and middle schools in Vidalia and Toombs County Schools and they receive a list of kids in need. The charity then takes that list and puts together a number of presents including bicycles, helmets, Bible, t-shirts, hoodies, stuffed animals, and a variety of different toys.  The total product that is to be given out this year totals nearly $150,000 which means many kids in the area will have a Christmas that they might not otherwise would have had. According to one of the leaders of Bikes for Kids, local attorney Frank Smith, "we will be doing one final pack-up, wrapping the remainder of the presents this Saturday and if anyone wants to help out or donate, they can contact me at Smith Law Group."

December 16--  Toombs County Schools Recognizes Employees of the Month

Toombs County Employee of the MonthToombs County Special Education Director, Sabrina Woodruff, Debra Brantley Award Winner, Elaine Allen and Toombs County Middle School Principal, Dr. Renee GarbuttDebra Brantley Award for Special Education

Toombs County Schools Extra Mile WinnerMaria Collins pictured with Lyons Primary School Asst. Principal Reggie Roberts and Superintendent, Barry WallerToombs County Schools Extra Mile Award Winner (Certified Staff)

Toombs County Schools WOW winnerLyons Primary School Cafeteria Manager, Emma Rogers pictured with Toombs County School Nutrition Director, Courtney Gay, LPS Asst. Principal, Reggie Roberts and Superintendent, Barry WallerToombs County Schools WOW Award (Classified Staff)

December 16--  Vidalia Police Chief Brian Scott reports the following arrests.

Nichols, Nicholas Darren- B/M- 27 YOA- 703 Winona St. Vidalia, GA- Operating a Vehicle While Registration is
Suspended, Canceled or Revoked Possession Of Marijuana Less than 1 oz

Brown, Jacquita Anneequa-B/F-36(YOA)-518 Second Ave Vidalia, Ga-Acccident,Driving While License Suspended or Revoked 1st

Dixon, Elizabeth- B/F- 30 YOA- 1049 Arch Street, Soperton, GA- Theft by Conversion (State Warrant)

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Brandon David Spires, Lyons, Aggravated Assault, Criminal Damage to Property

Harley Daniel Davis, Lyons, Warrant Service

Jason Jacob Powell, Lyons, Give False Name, Address, Birthdate to Law Enforcement Officer, Warrant Service

William Stephens, Higgston, Give False Name, Address, Birthdate to Law Enforcement Officer

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Erika Barrow, Vidalia, Theft by Receiving Stolen Property

Magdaleno Estrada, Reidsville, Driving While Unlicensed, Speeding

Charles Glisson, Uvalda, Controlled Substance-Purchase, Possession, Manufacturing, Distribution, Sale, Disorderly Conduct

Cirano, Guerrero, Savannah, Driving While Unlicensed, Speeding

Santiago Lopez, Uvalda, DUI

Andrew Passailaigue, Baxley, Probation Violation-Misdemeanor

Tammie Reese, Vidalia, Burglary 1st Degree, Failure to Appear-Felony

Jimmy Sanders, Lyons, Methamphetamine-Purchase, Possession, Manufacturing, Distribution, Sale, Possession of Marijuana, Prescription Drugs must be in original container

Cassandra Stewart, Vidalia, Bench Warrant-Failure to Appear

Staci Williamson, Vidalia, Theft By Receiving Stolen Property

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

12/11-Penny Geanette Fountain, Tarrytown, Felony Probation Violation

12/11-Sabrina Wicker, Mt Vernon, Bondsman Off Bond

12/11-Bryant Jesse Knight, Broxton, Possession of Marijuana <1oz.

December 16--  Notice from the Governor's Office of Highway Safety

The Governor's Office of Highway Safety is joining state and local law enforcement in warning drivers to avoid the risk of going to jail during the holidays by making the right decision to not drink and drive.

Georgia is once again participating in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's annual Drive Sober Or Get Pulled Over campaign from December 13, 2019 through January 1, 2020.  With more than 100 million travelers expected to hit our nation's roads during Christmas and New Year's, Georgia law enforcement will be continuing their year-round zero tolerance policy during the Christmas holiday season by taking all impaired drivers to jail.  

"Consider this your warning because state troopers, sheriff's deputies and police officers are going to arrest all impaired drivers they find on the road," GOHS Director Allen Poole said. "If alcohol is going to be part of your holiday plans, please include a plan for a sober ride with a designated driver, ride-share service or cab before the party starts."

NHTSA data shows that 839 people lost their lives in traffic crashes involving a drunk driver during the month of December in 2018. During the Christmas and New Year’s Day holiday periods in 2018 alone, there were more drunk driving-related fatalities than during any other holiday period that year. Georgia's alcohol-impaired fatalities last year accounted for approximately 25 percent of all traffic fatalities statewide with 375. While that's better than the national average of 29 percent, that's still 375 too many.

GOHS focuses on impaired drivers during the holiday season, but they are also warning drivers who might never drive drunk that there are still things they can do to help get home safe.

"The holidays are a busy time with so many of us trying to get so much done in a short period of time, and we want to remind people to avoid rushing on the road by obeying the speed limit and complying with Georgia's hands-free law," Poole said.  "And always remember the best defense against a drunk, distracted, or speeding driver is a buckled seatbelt." 

AAA's "Tow-To-Go" program is another option for those who fail to plan ahead for a sober ride home. The service will once again offer free tows and rides up to 10 miles from Friday, December 20 until 6:00 a.m. on Thursday, January 2.  Those interested in the free ride can visit https://autoclubsouth.aaa.com/safety/tow_to_go.aspx or call (855) 2-TOW-2-GO for more information.

GOHS also offers the following tips for partying with a plan this holiday season:

  • Remember that it is never okay to drink and drive. Even if you’ve had only one alcoholic beverage, designate a sober driver or plan to use public transportation or a ride service to get home safely.
  • If you're hosting holiday festivities, be sure to have non-alcoholic drinks available to encourage designated drivers and be prepared to take keys away from anyone who tries to leave after drinking and make arrangements for them to get home safely.
  • If you see a drunk driver on the road, call 9-1-1, *GSP or your local law enforcement agency.

December 16--  Notes From the Senate

STATE WILL NEED HUGE INCREASES IN NEXT MONTHS

November state revenues continued the very worrisome trend of flat/decreasing state revenues with a monthly total of -1.2%. So not only did the revenues not break even with last year, the total does not account for the increases in budget the state is presently operating under. In other words, revenues should be increasing at least $70 million per month just to meet the budget we are operating with.  
WHAT ARE THE ODDS OF 3 TREMENDOUS MONTHS OF THE 7 REMAINING?
Right now, the state needs a couple of $300 gain months and another month of about $100 million ahead just to meet the present budget the state has passed. Last year, in the final 7 months, here is how they turned out:
December
Minus $102 million
January
Minus $314 million
February
Up $67 million
March
Up $108 million
April
Up $559 million
May
Up $1 million
June
Up $146 million
So what are the odds?
OCTOBER NUMBERS CONTINUE TO CONCERN
Within the revenue numbers, Individual Income Taxes for November were negative -$31.3 million or -3.4%. Corporate Income Taxes were also down, -$23.1 million.
  
SALES TAXES REGAIN SOME MOMENTUM
About the only bright spot in the revenue report was Net Sales Taxes which regained some ground with a positive 6.9% gain for the month.
OTHER NUMBERS REMAIN TROUBLESOME
Title Ad Valorem Taxes continued a downward trend, coming in at -$14.7 million while tobacco taxes were negative -0.8%. Alcoholic Beverages were positive at 4.3%.
FUEL TAXES STILL TRENDING DOWNWARD
November Fuel Taxes/Fees were down $1.3 million or a little less than 1%. There is no logical explanation why these fees, which include Impact Fees and a $5 per night Hotel/Motel fee, should be negative.
YEAR TO DATE REVENUES SERIOUSLY DEFICIENT
It is really very simple...after five months, the state has not only not matched or increased revenue collections of the same period of a year ago, but revenues have actually lost ground to the tune of $33.5 million or -0.3%.   So far this fiscal year, the state has collected $9.62 billion but a year ago at this time, collections totaled $9.65 billion.
Because the state's budget is based on growth, the state needs to take in about $70 million more each month just to meet this growth and obviously, it has not done that. In plain english, the state is over $300 million under budget for this year so far. Each month that goes by, that difference grows if that month is not a positive month.
YEAR TO DATE NUMBERS SO FAR ARE DREADFUL
Of course none of us knows what the remaining months of the fiscal year will bring. We are hopeful the state will start a positive growth spurt and by the end of the Fiscal Year in June will have gained the $600 million plus that is needed to fund the FY 2020 budget.  
INCOME TAXES NEGATIVE FOR THE YEAR AFTER 5 MONTHS
The Individual Income Tax category is down $44.4 million for the 5 month period so far or almost -1%. Corporate Income Taxes are also negative at -2.8%.
SALES TAXES MARGINALLY UP
November's positive Sale Tax collections improved and now stand at a positive 2.1% YTD. Title Ad Valorem Taxes are down $50.2 million YTD while Tobacco Taxes are negative at minus 3.7%. Alcoholic Beverages are up 5.1%.
FUEL TAXES/FEES INEXPLICABLY NEGATIVE YTD
No one seems to have a reason why the Fuel Tax/Fees category would be negative after 5 months. Actually the Impact Fee portion is actually up almost 10% and the Hotel/Motel Fees are also slightly positive, up 3%. The main decrease in in Fuel Excise Taxes, based on consumption, which are down about 4 tenths of one percent.
OTHER STATES CONTINUE TO OUTPACE GEORGIA
Revenue growth through November:
State
Year to Date
12 month trailing average
Texas
21.4%
16.0%
Alabama
6.9%
7.8%
Kentucky
3.9%
4.6%
Arkansas
3.8%
6.6%
Louisiana
1.2%
1.8%
Georgia
-0.3%
1.9%
West Virginia
-2.0%
5.9%
Revenue growth through October:
State
Year to Date
12 month trailing average
Virginia
8.5%
8.3%
Tennessee
7.7%
6.4%
South Carolina
6.2%
8.4%
Louisiana
4.9%
3.6%
Mississippi
4.8%   
5.6%
SO WHAT ACTIONS ARE CALLED FOR?
We have run out of room this week, so we'll wait to explore what options may be available.

I may be reached at

234 State Capitol, Atlanta , GA 30334

(404) 656-5038 (phone)

(404) 657-7094 (fax)

E-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Or Call Toll-Free at

1-800-367-3334 Day or Night

Reidsville office: (912) 557-3811

December 15-- Finding a proper way to dispose of scrap tires can be a issue for homeowners, businesses, and even county governments. Montgomery County has received a grant to help with that in the form of a tire amnesty event.

Montgomery County Manager Brandon Braddy said, “The Georgia Department of Natural Resources awarded Montgomery County a scrap tire abatement grant. We’ll have a scrap tire amnesty event that will begin on Monday, December 16th through Thursday, December 19th beginning at 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The public needs to follow certain rules about dropping off scrap tires. The tires must be free of debris and some commercial truck tires will be accepted. We certainly want the public to take advantage of this.”

Also, at the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners meeting, the board voted to renew the EMS contract for another three years. “The agreement is with the Toombs County Board of Commissioners and is for $212,467 to be renewed as of January 1, 2020. There will be an increase based on the consumer price index for medical services that will applied to that once we have that information,” said Braddy.

A bid to resurface Church Street was also passed. Braddy added, “The resurfacing of Church Street involves a portion of the City of Ailey, and another portion of that road will be in Montgomery County. The entire project was awarded to East Coast Asphalt for $93,170 with $25,168 being Montgomery County’s portion.”

December 12-- Sidewalks has been an issue for the City of Vidalia for some time now and finding a way to pay for them has been the biggest issue. Well the City of Vidalia just received a big Christmas gift in the form of a TAP Grant for $1,000,000.

Vidalia City Manager Nick Overstreet explained the grant on this week’s Vidalia Today radio show. “Back in January I first approached the council about a new concept that the Department of Transportation was coming out with called a TAP Grant. Out of our Heart of Georgia Altamaha Region, we were the only one to submit an application. The application is for installing sidewalks from Sally Meadows School all through Fifth and Third street area out to Highway 280, over to Green Street. The long and short of it is the City of Vidalia is receiving the grant for $1,000,000 with our portion being $200,000,” said Overstreet.

Overstreet added, “Every time I take my kids to Sally D. Meadows to school I see kids are walking in the street.” So why put the sidewalks there? Why not over here? Vidalia Finance Director Bill Bedingfield said, “You have to meet the criteria. The area has to meet a certain criteria. Getting those grants, you have to meet that. You can’t just say we’re going to put sidewalks out here in front of the radio station.”

Overstreet added, “But if you don’t apply, guess what, somebody else is going to get that money.”

December 11-- The trial of Antoine Miller concluded this week with the defendant being found guilty of all charges. Miller was charged in the shooting and robbery of Jonathan Lanier in October of 2018 when Miller robbed and shot Lanier while he was waiting for his wife to get off work at McDonald’s in Vidalia. Lanier’s children were waiting in the car with Lanier when the incident occurred.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Tripp Fitzner said, “It was an armed robbery, aggravated assault, and cruelty to children case that happened on October 12, 2018. Jonathan Lanier had been playing cards with Antoine Miller that day and Antoine had lost all his money to Lanier. After Lanier left Miller’s house and picked up his kids, he and his kids were waiting for his wife.”

Fitzner added, “The defendant shows up and gets in the car with Lanier and his children and asks for his money back and Lanier said no. Then he shoots Jonathan in the leg, gets the money from him and runs away. Miller is ultimately apprehended on November 9th, 2018 with the assistance of the United States Marshalls.”

On the sentencing of Miller, Fitzner stated, “On the armed robbery he got life with the possibility of parole. For the aggravated assault, he got 20 serve 10 consecutive to the life sentence. For the possession of a firearm by a convicted felon he got 5 years probated consecutive to the aggravated assault. And then for the three counts of cruelty to a child in the third degree he got 12 months to serve concurrent with count 2.”

Fitzner was pleased with the hard work of law enforcement. “I’m happy with the work that the Vidalia Police Department did. The investigator on the case, especially Chris Morgan, he did a fantastic job. It was an investigation that relied predominantly on eye witness testimony. If they hadn’t have done such a good job I know that we wouldn’t have gotten a conviction,” said Fitzner.

December 11-- As Christmas nears, the sound of bells ringing is commonplace, especially as you enter your favorite stores for shopping. Along with the bell is usually a warm smile and a red kettle which means the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army helps people with the basic necessities of life like food and shelter.

Sandy Roberts of the Salvation Army said, “We help year round with households that have things like a medical emergency or lost wages or household bills. We have a food pantry, clothing vouchers, a summer camp program, even a disaster vehicle but most people associate the Salvation Army with Christmas time, but we help year round.”

Roberts added, “The rest of our income for the year is from our thrift store sales. We have over 174 seniors signed up which we do gift cards for groceries and we have kids signed up for the Angel Tree. All the money we raise stays here in the community. The gift cards alone was over $8,000.”

“We need help with the bell ringing all the way up to Christmas Eve. We do it in two hour slots. You can get a friend and split it up to an hour each. It really helps us a lot by not having to pay bell ringers. Most other communities they have to pay the bell ringers but we’re blessed to have such a giving community that they volunteer their time to go out and do it. It’s a great thing to do with your family,” said Roberts.

If you would like to help, call the Salvation Army at 912-538-8203.

December 10-- On Tuesday afternoon, December 10, 2019, the City of Vidalia was contacted by Mr. David Liskey, of the Genesee & Wyoming Railroad, requesting that two railroad crossings in the City of Vidalia be closed while improvements are being made to the crossings.

The crossing at Highway 280 and McIntosh Street (GA 297) will be temporarily closed beginning on Thursday, December 12th through Saturday, December 14th. The crossing closing will create a need for traffic to find alternative routes to temporarily utilize. Citizens can use nearby crossings at Highway 280 and the intersections of Morris, Thompson, and Montgomery streets.

The crossing at Highway 280 and Rigsbee Drive will be temporarily closed beginning on Saturday, December 14th through Monday, December 16th. The crossing closing will create a need for traffic to use nearby crossings at Broadfoot Boulevard and NE Main Street or Highway 280 and Stockyard Road (located by the Vidalia Recreation Department).

If you have any further questions regarding the temporary closing of the railroad crossings, please contact City Hall at 912-537-8718.

December 10--  Vidalia Police Chief Brian Scott reports the following arrests.

Chester, Ottis Charles- B/M- 59 YOA- 700 North St. East
Vidalia, GA- Cruelty to Animals (State Warrant)

Harvey, Clarence- B/M- 35 YOA 218 Lucky St. Swainsboro,
GA- Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (Bench
Warrant)

Sanders, Jimmie Rex- W/M- 55 YOA- 379 Regency Road Vidalia, Ga.- Possession of Controlled Substsance, Possesion of Marijuana Less Than Oz, Controlled Substance not in Original Container

Arkwright, Theron Derek- B/M- 32 YOA- 805 E. 5th St. Vidalia, Ga.- Battery (FVA), Warrant Served (Chatham Co. Bench Warrant)

Brewton, Danielle Leona- B/F- 26 YOA- 404 Winona St. Vidalia, GA- Aggravated Assault, Reckless Conduct, Cruelty to Children, Criminal Damage to Property, Willfully Obstruction of Police Officer Simple/Verbal, Hit & Run, Property Damage or Injury- Fail to Stop, Leave Scene

Aaron, Curtis Robert- W/M- 33 YOA- 902 Fifth Ave Vidalia, GA- Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense

Atkins, Natasha Nicole-B/F-35 YOA- 706 Loop Rd.- Vidalia, GA –Disorderly Conduct/ Willfully Obstruction of Police Officer Severe/ Forceful

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Williams, Demetrium, Lyons, Criminal Damage to Property, Criminal Trespass

Merson, Donna M, Waycross, DUI Combination 1-3, Driving While Unlicensed, DUI-Less Safe Alcohol

McGraw, Ansley Claudette, Lyons, DUI-Less Safe Drugs, Possession of Marijuana less than ounce

Smith, Dillon, Lyons, DUI-Less Safe Drugs, Possession of Marijuana less than ounce, Seatbelt violation-18 and up

Lawson Alexandria Shambrell Monay, Vidalia, Criminal Warrant

Rogers, Jeffrey Eugene, Lyons, DUI-Less Safe Drugs, Possession of Methamphetamines, Possession of Drug Related Objects

Childs, Melissa Ann, Vidalia, Possession of Drug Related Objects

Kirkland, Mary Elizabeth, Lyons, Family Violence Provision Simple Battery

Paul, Alexander Emory, Alamo, Headlight Requirement, Tail Light and Tag Light Requirement, Driving While Unlicensed, Open Container, DUI-Less Safe Drugs

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Flagler, Clinton, Vidalia, Bench Warrant-Failure to Appear

Fletcher, Aldous, Lyons, Probation Violation-Felony Warrant

Harris, Jarvis, Atlanta, Probation Violation-Felony Warrant

Lawson, Aleandria, Statesboro, Out of County Hold, Probation Violation-Misdemeanor, Safety Belts, Child Passenger Restraining System, Penalty for Violation

Lewis, Jason, Hazlehurst, Out of County Hold

Martinez, Cecilio, Lyons, Driving While Unlicensed

McGraw, Ansley, Reidsville, Possession of Marijuana less than ounce, DUI-Marijuana

Music, John, Lyons, Driving While License Suspended or Revoked

O’Connor, Donald, Lyons, Simple Battery FVA

Rivas, Selina, Lyons, Possession of Marijuana less than ounce, Safety Belts, Child Passenger Restraining System, Penalty for Violation

Santoyo-Granados, Daniel, Vidalia, Driving While Unlicensed

Singleton, Tyrone, Vidalia, Driving While License Suspended or Revoked

Thomas, Shawn, Lyons, Federal Detainer for U. S. Marshall-Federal Warrant

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

11/29-Justin Allen Corouthers, Vidalia, Criminal Trespass-Misdemeanor (x5), Obstruction of Officer-Misdemeanor (x2), Theft by Taking-Misdemeanor (x2), Theft by Taking-Felony, Driving w/Suspended License

12/03-Shannon Derrick Wyche, Ailey, Deposit Account Fraud

12/06-Brian Todd Keyes, Vidalia, Battery, Battery (Family Violence)

December 9-- Keeping the streets safe in any town is a big task for local police departments. It takes manpower, resources, and of course money. Well the City of Lyons Police Department just received a big boost when they found out they received a grant for $20,000 from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker said “We received a grant from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety for twenty thousand dollars that will help us in purchasing equipment for traffic safety and enforcement and also training and expenses for training those officers on those issues as well. It’s based on the numbers that is sent into the state every year as far as the number of seat belt tickets, speeding tickets, DUI’s, etc.”

“We’ve already received part of the funds and equipment has been ordered. Some of it has come in and I’m sure the community has probably seen or heard that we did a concentrated patrol this past Thursday,” Walker added.

Chief Walker said, “We’re just thankful that we we’re awarded the grant and I think it has a lot to do with the enforcement numbers that the Lyons Police Department produces every year. We do that in order to make the streets of Lyons as safe as possible for the people of the community to travel on.”

Ben MitchellDecember 7--  Longtime Lyons City Council Member Ben Mitchell passed away on Friday.  He was serving in his 8th term as a city council member.  He also served as Mayor Pro-Tem.

Below is a press release from the City of Lyons.

December 9, 2019
 
From the office of Mayor Willis D. NeSmith Jr.,  and the Lyons City Council
 
We are shocked and grieving over the untimely death of Lyons Council Member Benjamin Mitchell on December 6, 2019. But one person’s feelings are secondary to the fact that all of Lyons and Toombs County has lost a great man and advocate for unity and community service.   
 
Benjamin Mitchell became a member of the Lyons City council in 1988.  During his tenure, he was outspoken regarding the safety of the community and unity among its council and the county.  He supported the Mayors and served many terms as Mayor Pro-Tem.  Never one to boast or grandstand, Councilman Mitchell was a steadfast voice for Lyons and the surrounding community.
 
Councilman Benjamin Mitchell was an active member of St. Luke AME Church and served there in many roles.  Councilman Mitchell also served in the United States Military and was a Vietnam Veteran.  Councilman Mitchell captured the essence of being a public servant. Our heart goes out to his family, friends, colleagues and all city residents.  The council and I urge everyone to honor his memory by serving in your community, in a civic organization, a church or your neighborhood.
 
Councilman Mitchells arrangements are as follows:
 The Family will receive friends at Vidalia Funeral Home on Friday, December 13th, from 6:30 to 8:00 pm.
 Funeral Service will be Saturday, December 14th at 11:00 am at St. Luke AME Church, located at 327 E. Columbia Ave, Lyons GA  30436.  

December 7--  Notes from Senator Jack Hill

RURAL HOSPITAL TAX CREDITS STILL NEEDED

By now most everyone has read of the plight of many rural hospitals. Georgia's Rural Hospital Tax Credit was passed in 2016 to encourage Georgians and corporations who owe state income tax to direct some or all of their state tax obligation towards rural hospitals either by direction to a local qualifying hospital or one of those listed as being in need.

THE PLIGHT OF RURAL HOSPITALS

According to a report published by the Southern Legislative Conference, of the 6210 hospitals in the U.S. in 2017, 2250 of those were classified as rural or generally served populations of less than 50,000. This report observed that the average rural hospital showed 56% of revenues coming from two federal reimbursement programs (Medicare & Medicaid). In 2017, that rate was twice as high as in the previous five years.

Southern states had approximately 831 of those rural hospitals and almost 10% of those have closed since January, 2010. In fact, in the South, 27.8% of rural hospitals are considered to be at high financial risk. Alabama had the highest number of hospitals at high financial risk at 50% while Georgia was at 41.3%. Georgia was third highest in the South.

WHAT FACTORS SQUEEZE RURAL HOSPITALS?

Poverty is one of the indicators of an area where a rural hospital will struggle to survive.   Almost certainly, those hospitals will serve a higher percentage of Medicare and Medicaid patients and a lower percentage of patients with private insurance. Both programs reimburse rural hospitals less than the cost of the services provided.

Uncompensated Care or those services provided to those who cannot pay, called Uncompensated Care, runs into a lot of money. Nationally, Uncompensated Care totaled $619.6 billion in 2017.

Rural hospitals also have difficulty hiring medical professionals and attracting physicians. Larger hospitals have hired many physicians and specialists like hospitalists who free doctors for more regular working hours. This is an advantage for larger hospitals and a quality of life issue for physicians.

HISTORY OF THE RURAL HOSPITAL TAX CREDIT

Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan was the original author of the underlying bill which provided $60 million in state income tax credits which could be directed to qualifying rural hospitals.  In FY 2018, eligible hospitals reported receiving $59.5 million of donations funded through this tax credit and expended $50.7 million.

The Department of Revenue publishes a list each year of qualifying rural hospitals ranked by need. A taxpayer can dedicate their tax contribution to a specific hospital or choose from the ranked list. Hospitals are limited to $4 million in contributions.

QUALIFICATIONS FOR THE TAX CREDITS

The criteria to qualify as an economically vulnerable rural hospital include:

            --Must be operated by an authority or be non-profit

            --Must be located in a rural county

            --Must accept Medicare and Medicaid patients

            --Must provide amount equal to at least 10% of hospital revenue in Uncompensated Care

            --Must develop a five year plan to expend the contributions

CONTRIBUTIONS RECEIVED BY FOURTH DISTRICT QUALIFYING HOSPITALS

As of Oct. 31, 2019, receipts for Fourth District qualifying rural hospitals show:

Candler County Hospital

$665,990.00

Effingham Health Systems

$241,357.00

Emanuel Medical Center

$434,650.00

Evans Memorial Hospital           

$161,264.49

HOW PREVIOUS CONTRIBUTIONS HAVE BEEN SPENT

In 2018, the Fourth District qualifying rural hospitals spent the following amounts of contributions for the following purposes:

Candler County Hospital

$764,000 on nurse and physician retention and recruitment

Effingham Health Systems

$679,000 on surgery patient room renovations, monitoring technology and improvements to the Cancer Care Center

Emanuel Hospital

$520,000 on equipment upgrades, replacing an outdated imaging unit, reducing accounts payable and staff retention

Evans Memorial

$902,000 to purchase new radiology equipment and building upgrades, reducing accounts payable and staff retention

As of October 31, 2019, only $36.2 million of the potential total of $60 million in tax credits had been pre-approved. So anyone who is interested in making a contribution of state taxes to rural hospitals can still do so.

For more details, contact DOR or the local hospital. Contact numbers are provided below:

        

Candler County Hospital

Marty Ray- Director of Public Relations

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

912-685-1785

Evans Memorial

Lisa Ryles- Director of Public Relations

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

912-739-5105

Effingham Health Systems

(912) 754-6451

Emanuel Hospital

Carmen Tanner- Public Relations

478-289-1274

I may be reached at

234 State Capitol, Atlanta , GA 30334

(404) 656-5038 (phone)

(404) 657-7094 (fax)

E-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Or Call Toll-Free at

1-800-367-3334 Day or Night

Reidsville office: (912) 557-3811

December 5-- As 2019 comes to a close, it brings good news to the City of Vidalia in the form of higher sales tax collections than in the past. City of Vidalia Finance Director Bill Bedingfield is excited about the trend.

“What we’re seeing is some of the results of the legislature passing some bills that are getting these online retailers to pay tax in Toombs County. Georgia is a point of delivery state, being that when an item is delivered here that’s where the taxes should be paid. We’re beginning to see that and it’s been exciting,” said Bedingfield.

Bedingfield added, “SPLOST for example has been fantastic. For example our latest month versus last year is up 15%, and up 8.9% year to date.” With the holiday season coming up Bedingfield expects that to continue. “Did you see Cyber Monday’s numbers? 6.2 billion. If they’re charging the sales tax correctly and paying to the local counties then we should see a tremendous boost. And we see a boost normally from just local shoppers. We hope people are shopping locally but those that do shop online should be getting those funds back into our city,” said Bedingfield.

SPLOST collections are not the only revenues that are up. “TSPLOST is up too. It’s a one percent tax based with the distribution based on the number of miles of roads you have in your city. Hotel/motel continues to grow also. We’ve had some tremendous growth in that tax. All in all, just good news for Vidalia,” stated Bedingfield.

December 4-- As we get closer to the holiday season, one thing that sometimes gets forgotten is the need for blood. With traveling and accidents up and the blood donations down due to the busy holiday season, it’s more important than ever to give blood.

Biram Chapman of the American Red Cross has come up with a great idea to help out. “During summertime, Thanksgiving break, Christmas break, any of those times, the blood drives just drop off because we’re not able to have the drives at the schools. It’s very important during any major holiday to give blood.”

Chapman added, “We’ve got a blood drive coming up next week, the Battle of the Booster clubs. We’ll be at Vidalia High School on Tuesday, December 10th and Toombs County High School on Thursday, December 12th from 1 – 6 PM each day. Whoever gets the most donors to come in gets a trophy and we hope to make this an annual event.”

“McLendon Enterprises is the sponsor for this and has agreed to donate $20 for every unit of blood given to each of the respective booster clubs. The donor will specify when they give blood which school to make the donation,” added Chapman.

Vidalia Booster Club President Darren McLellan said, “Biram approached us about this and I thought it was a great idea. The winners are those who receive the blood.”

Toombs County Booster Club President Bill Benton said, “The beautiful thing about the boosters is it’s going to touch every kid in every sport, it’s not specifically for one group. It’s huge.”

You don’t have to give at your school; you can give at either school. “Vidalia can donate at Toombs and Toombs can donate at Vidalia so if you can’t make it on that particular day it’s ok,” said Chapman.

Mammography photoDecember 3--  Meadows Regional Medical Center has announced that is the first facility in Georgia to offer GE’s 3D stereotactic biopsy technology that will both increase the capacity for early cancer detection and provide patients with access to enhanced breast imaging services closer to home.

The 3D-guided breast stereotactic biopsy is a minimally invasive procedure that uses mammographic imaging techniques to gather tissue samples from a breast abnormality. The 3D biopsy software is utilized to precisely target and sample asymmetries, masses, architectural distortions, and calcifications in the breast especially those that were best (or only) seen on 3D. The biopsy software also reduces the number of images taken from 12 to four, therefore reducing the amount of radiation the patient receives and the time the patient is in compression. The procedure can be used, in some instances, as an alternative to more invasive surgical biopsies. The good news is that around 70% of breast biopsies are benign. If there is a potential problem, early detection is essential and increases treatment options and the likelihood of successful recovery.

“We are very excited to be the first facility in Georgia to have GE’s 3D-guied stereotactic breast biopsy capabilities,” said Tracey Kennedy, Meadows Regional Medical Center Director of Radiology. “We’re also only one in five facilities in the United States to purchase and receive the GE Pristina 3D biopsy software. The performance and image quality of this system is exceptional. The efficiency of the system features ease of operation, and the ability to visualize fine calcifications and find lesions only seen on 3D. Our mammography technologists say it is the “Cadillac” of stereotactic systems.”

Meadows Regional Medical Center, located at One Meadows Parkway, Vidalia, has been using the GE Pristina 3D biopsy software since October 2019.

For more information about the new technology or to schedule a mammogram today, call Meadows Health Scheduling at 912.535.5679.

December 3-- The Toombs County Commission voted to approve the Inter-Governmental Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding for the continuation of the 1% Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) which expires on December 31, 2020 during their called meeting Monday night.

Toombs County Manager John Jones said, “The 1% SPLOST is basically a tax that allows local governments to buy capital items. It cannot be used for operating expenses. It cannot be used for salaries or anything like that. It can only be used for capital purchases that are identified in the referendum. This is just a referendum to continue that 1% sales tax.”

Jones added, “Fortunately in our community, we are a regional retail hub and so a lot of the sales tax we collect are from citizens outside our county helping to pay for our capital improvements.”

The funds received from the SPLOST are divided between the cities of Vidalia, Lyons, and Santa Claus, along with Toombs County. The percentages that each receive will change slightly from the last SPLOST. “As you know we’re fixing to build a courthouse and expansion to the jail and the plan is to pay for it through sales tax so those percentages have been renegotiated,” said Jones. He added, “the county will get more than it had previously gotten to go directly toward paying for the courthouse and jail expansion.”

“The City of Vidalia will receive 31.72 percent, the City of Lyons will receive 11.98 percent, the City of Santa Clause will receive .65 percent, and Toombs County will receive 55.65 percent,” said Jones.

 

December 3--  Vidalia Police Chief Brian Scott reports the following arrests.

Stokes, Reginald- B/M- 64 YOA- 610 Second Ave Vidalia, GA- Criminal Trespass

Adams, Willie William- B/M- 48 YOA- 350 B Arena Rd. Perry, GA- Identity Theft

Raburn, Emma Leigh- W/F- 20 YOA- 124 Bethlehem Church Rd. East Dublin, Ga.- Warrant Service (Treutlen County S.O.-
Bench)

Mathews, Brittany Sierra- W/F- 27 YOA- 141 Arrow Trail, Lyons, Ga.- Warrant Served (Vidalia Probation), Driving
While License Susp/Revoked (1st Offense)

Arnold, Matthew Brian- W/M- 34 YOA- 914 Clyde Blvd, Ga.-Public Drunkenness, Indecent Exposure

Galbreath, John Edward Jr. - W/M- 37 YOA- 931 S. State St. Lot D1 Lyons, GA- No Drivers License 

Gonzales, Marcus T. -B/M- 21 YOA- 303 Poe St. Vidalia, GA- Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense/Willfully Obstruction of Police Officer Severe/Forceful

Holloway, Moses- B/M- 57 YOA- 603 Martin Luther King Ave Vidalia, GA- Terroristic Threats

Young, James Albert- B/M- 26 YOA- 209 Epstein St. Vidalia, GA- Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense

Towler, Carolyn Denise- B/F- 54 YOA- 1901 Nina St. Apt 613A, Columbus, Ga.- Warrant Served for Columbus Ga Roberts,

Shonda Latrell- B/F- 47 YOA- 2105 Gabbies’s Run Statesboro, Ga.- Driving With Expired Tag, No Insurance (1st)- Driving While License Suspended Or Revoked (1st)

Summerset, Brandon Donnell- B/M- 35 YOA- 1805 Edwina Dr. Apt 35, Vidalia, Ga.- Aggravated Assault (FVA)

Mulling, Levi Blake- W/M- 26 YOA- 380 Dasher St. Lyons, Ga.- Aggravated Assault

Joseph, Ji-yone Kair- B/M- 17 YOA- 301 E. Jenkins St. Vidalia, GA- Possession of Marijuana Less Than Ounce, Possession of Methamphetamines, No Driver’s License (Bench Warrant)

White, Angela Yvonne- B/F- 35 YOA- 507 S. Broadfoot Blvd. Vidalia, GA- Criminal Trespass, Willfully Obstruction of Police Officer Simple/ Verbal  

Celeo, Lemus Alcidez- H/M- 27 YOA- 64 Red Oak Lane Hazlehurst, GA- No Drivers License Powell, Jatwinder Syrita- B/F- 37 YOA- 1234 Susan Way Vidalia, GA- Warrant Served (Dodge County SO- Bench)

Sanders, Jamie Vachon Jr. - B/M- 19 YOA- 800 NE Main St. Vidalia, GA- Armed Robbery, Aggravated Assault

Marshall, Alesia Vantalice- B/F- 30 YOA- 212 Patrick St. Vidalia, GA- Harassing Phone Calls

Gonzalez, Marcus Taejon- B/M- 21 YOA- 1908 N. Maple Dr. Vidalia, GA- Possession of Marijuana Less Than Ounce

Music, John Adam- W/M- 41 YOA- 444 Reedy Creek Cir. Lyons, GA- Theft by Taking, DUI- 3rd Offense, Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (Second)

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Jimmy Williams, Baxley, DUI, failure to maintain lane, driving while unlicensed

James Edward Oglesby, Lyons, DUI, failure to maintain lane, open container

Amanda Kimberly Forbes, Lyons, Driving while license suspended or revoked

Marianne Burk Harden, Lyons, DUI, tail light tag light requirements

Erica Yala Castillo, Lyons, Furnish/acquire alcohol to/for minors

Michael Dylan Conner, Lyons, Underage Possession/purchase/consumption of alcohol

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Martonia Cephus, Lyons, Driving while license suspended/revoked, speeding

Jose Gonzales, Lyons, Driving while unlicensed

Ronnie Hulett, Glenwood, Hold for Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office

Maciel Lopez, Jacksonville, FL, speeding, driving while unlicensed, failure to maintain lane

Nathan Monds, Vidalia, Parole violation

Jonathan Morris, Lyons, Probation violation-felony

Jesus Ortiz, Lyons, driving while license suspended/revoked, windshield and windshield wipers, possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, DUI

Jatwinder Powell, Vidalia, Hold for Dodge County Sheriff’s Office

Danny Webb, Lyons, Probation violation-felony

Warren Williams, Kite, Parole violation, open container

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

11/28-Lucky Benhur Huyng, Covington, Warrant Served for Forsyth County

11/30-Kiandra A. Geiger, Claxton, Felony Theft by Deception

Board Certified Chris Hopkins newsL-R) STC Board Member Chris Hopkins and STC President Larry CalhounDecember 3-- Chris Hopkins of Toombs County was recently awarded Board Certification from the Technical College Directors Association of Georgia (TCDA).

In order to become TCDA certified, a local board member must complete four required workshops, one elective workshop, two required activities, and eight selected activities which educate board members on various topics that they will hear about and deal with concerning Southeastern Technical College (STC). The workshops also inform board members of state and local guidelines that affect the college.

The required and selected activities allow the board members the opportunity to learn about community advocacy, budgeting and financial management, as well as much more in relation to the operations of technical colleges on both state and local levels.

The majority of the required workshops are taught at a TCDA Leadership Conference each year. The board members then receive their certification at the awards dinner, held during a Leadership Conference, once all of the requirements are officially completed.

The STC Board of Directors meets at least eight times per year to discuss topics related to STC. Board members serve a three-year term and can serve two additional three-year terms, for a maximum of nine years before retiring from the local board.

The TCDA Leadership Conference was held October 28-30 in Savannah, Georgia, in conjunction with the Technical College Foundation Association (TCFA). STC was also recognized as having 100% board certification at this year’s Leadership Conference.

For further information on STC, visit www.southeasterntech.edu or call (912) 538-3100 (Vidalia) or (478) 289-2200 (Swainsboro).

December 2-- The November term of the Toombs County grand jury returned 40 True Bill indictments.

Drug-Related Indictments

Tasha Michelle Henrick for possession of methamphetamine, DUI

Tiffany Marie Taylor for possession of pregabalin

Andre Govan for possession of methamphetamine

David Allen Dees for possession of methamphetamine

Emory Coy Kirkland for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute

Donnie Edmund for possession of cocaine

Emerry Brook Bailey for possession of cocaine

Diane Williams for possession of cocain

Tracy Lee Foreman for trafficking meth and possession of a firearm during commission of a felony

Marques DeQuan Harris for aggravated assault and possession of meth

Indicted for other alleged crimes are:

Euduen Tatanish Polke for aggravated assault

Billy Joe Courson for aggravated assault

Charles Edward Cowart for aggravated assault 2 counts

Thomas James Drew for aggravated assault 2 counts

Shuconda Tinsley for Medicaid fraud, false statements and writings

Cavarus Jackson for involuntary manslaughter

Michael Kaleb Giles for first degree battery

Ira Mitchell Aaron for first degree burglary

Jessica Nicole Brown for first degree burglary

Miranda Irene Wilson for first degree burglary

James Lamar Taylor for first degree burglary 2 counts

Christopher Conte Tooke for aggravated cruelty to animals

Daniel Thomas Roundtree, Jr. for theft by taking

Brandon K. Green for theft by taking 2 counts

Loren Lewis Evans for theft by taking

Shontavia Lamar White for obstruction of an officer

April Dawn Lynn for incest 2 counts and aggravated sodomy 2 counts

Terry Lee McCoy for aggravated assault and terroristic threats

James Kenneth Luke for aggravated battery, aggravated assault, battery

Channing Chapman for fleeing and attempting to elude

Roberto R. Hernandez for rape, enticing a child for indecent purposes, child molestation

Kenneth Bradley Clifton for criminal damage to property

Kent Clifton for criminal damage to property

Tyreece Anthony Smith for entering an automobile

Davlares Dewayne Lattimore for entering an automobile

Benjamin Tyler Simpson for aggravated assault and battery

Mary Youmans for public assistance fraud

Joshua Payne Tanner for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon

Savalas Montrell Harden for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon

Sheree Ann Sikes for cruelty to person 65 years of age and older

Kenneth Wayne Clay for failure to register as a sex offender, violation of sex offender registry conditions

Billy Benard Hendley for riot in penal institution

November 30--  A clerk at the Circle K convenience store on Highway 280 in Vidalia was shot during an armed robbery around 9 p.m. Friday night. An investigation is currently underway and Vidalia Police Chief Brian Scott confirms that an arrest has been made in the case. 

The following Press Release has been issued by the Vidalia Police Department.

ARREST MADE IN FRIDAY EVENING ROBBERY THAT LEFT CLERK SHOT

On Friday, November 29, 2019, at about 9:00 PM officers with the Vidalia Police Department and
deputies with the Toombs County Sheriff’s Office responded to an armed robbery at the Circle K
convenience store, 905 E. First Street. One of the store clerks, a 48-year-old Vidalia resident, was
shot once during the robbery. The victim was transported to the Emergency Department of Meadows
Regional Health where he was treated and released.


The initial investigation revealed a lone male entered the store armed with a handgun and demanded
money from the store clerk. After complying with the robber’s demand, the clerk was shot once by
the offender who then fled on foot. Vidalia Police patrol officers and investigators worked together
throughout the night investigating the incident and following up on leads. During the investigation,
19-year-old Jamie Sanders, Jr. of Vidalia was identified as having been the person who committed
the robbery and shooting.


On November 30, 2019, at about 3:00 AM Sanders was located hiding inside a room at the Econo
Inn and arrested without incident. He is charged with one count of Armed Robbery and one count of
Aggravated Assault, and is incarcerated in the Toombs County Detention Center.


If you have information on this incident please call the Vidalia Police Department - Criminal
Investigations Division at 912-537-4123 or CrimeStoppers at (912) 386-4480.

November 27 -- For the twentieth consecutive year God's Storehouse and the Jesus Inn in Vidalia prepared for their annual community Thanksgiving dinner. The event took place on Wednesday, November 27th and they fed nearly 1,600 people from the community.  Pastor Tina Houser of God's Storehouse and the Jesus Inn says, "I am doing this for the needy and the people that don't have food. I am trying to provide a home cooked meal for them."  Although God's Storehouse and the Jesus Inn is trying to meet the need for the community, Houser says, "the need is getting greater, not smaller, and it just breaks my heart over the people that are hungry." 

Not only was there a great need this year, the need continues after Thanksgiving. According to Pastor Houser, "the need is still here after Thanksgiving, that is why we have the shelter and food/clothing ministry. We need canned goods and money to support the facility so we can provide food and housing for the homeless."  For those interested in helping combat the problem of homelessness in our community, they can reach Pastor Houser at 538-1730.

November 27-- Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said Wednesday that Heart of Georgia region posted a lower unemployment rate in October.

At the same time, the number of employed residents increased in October across the 17-county area, preliminary numbers show.

“October was a great month for Georgia and our local communities,” Butler said. “We continued to create jobs and people gained employment – often at record numbers.”

Nationally, the unemployment rate climbed in October to 3.6 percent, an increase of 0.1 percentage points. The nation also grew to its labor force by 325,000, increased employment by 241,000 and added more 125,000 jobs. 

Georgia’s unemployment rate, meanwhile, fell in October by 0.1 percentage points to 3.4 percent. That tied Georgia’s all-time low set in December of 2000.  

Rates fell or held steady across nine of Georgia’s 12 planning regions. Seven set or tied a record for lowest rate ever.

In Heart of Georgia, the unemployment rate dropped 0.2 percentage points in October, settling at 4.2 percent. A year ago, the rate was 4.5 percent.

The labor force in Heart of Georgia decreased by 282 in October, bringing the total to 116,150. The number has decreased by 1,239 when compared to the same month a year ago.

Heart of Georgia added four employed residents in October, bringing the total to 111,289. The number is down 822 for the year.

Claims for unemployment insurance were up by about 32 percent in October. They were down by about 31 percent when compared to the same month a year ago.

Employ Georgia, the GDOL’s online job listing service at employgeorgia.com showed 877 active job postings in Heart of Georgia for October.

The Heart of Georgia region includes Appling, Bleckley, Candler, Dodge, Emanuel, Evans, Jeff Davis, Johnson, Laurens, Montgomery, Tattnall, Telfair, Toombs, Treutlen, Wayne, Wheeler, and Wilcox counties.

November 27--
The Vidalia Board of Education recently met at a called meeting to address assurances for their participation in  SECCA at the High School level and according to Superintendent Garrett Wilcox, "We approved our MOU which allows the four schools systems, Montgomery, Toombs, Vidalia, and Treutlen to enter into an agreement that allows us to combine resources. That being said, it gives our students more opportunities to be exposed to vocational based classes as well as ROTC."
One important goal when it comes to having a program like SECCA is keeping students engaged, something that Dr. Wilcox says, "is evident by all four systems improved graduation rate."
Additionally, SECCA in cooperation with Altamaha EMC and Georgia Power added an "energy pathway" for students to be exposed to job opportunities within the energy field.

November 25-- Sheriff Alvie (Junior) Kight reports that between October 25 - November 1, 2019, there were 87 reported registered sex offenders (RSO) residing within Toombs County, with two being classified as predators, which is determined by the sex offender registration review board to be at risk of perpetrating any future dangerous sexual offense.

There were no homeless offenders or absconders reported to be residing in Toombs County as of October 25, 2019.  

There were 88 attempted residence verifications, which included multiple attempts for each offender during the week of October 25 - November 1, 2019. One warrant was issued for residence violations during this same week.

There were no warrants issued for new sex offenders or for violation of sex offender registration (SOR), other than residence violations.

From the Georgia Sheriff’s Association 

Thanks to an initiative involving Georgia’s Sheriffs, 40 sex offenders were arrested and 147 warrants issued across the state from October 25 - November 1, 2019 for violations of state registration laws. In 2015, the first coordinated effort across the state was launched to conduct residence verification and compliance checks of registered sex offenders during a specific time period. The coordinated initiative became known as Operation Watchful Eye. Due to the overwhelming success of the original initiative, Georgia’s sheriffs have made this an annual operation and recently conducted Operation Watchful Eye IV.

The Office of Sheriff is mandated by law to register sex offenders and to keep the public informed of where registered sex offenders reside, work and attend school. Throughout the year, each sheriff’s office verifies addresses provided by registered sex offenders. While conducting residence verifications, deputies also assure additional registration requirements are being adhered to.

The purpose of this statewide effort is to create awareness that sheriffs’ offices work collectively, network, and actively engage their office by participating in statewide verification checks and other non-compliant matters in order to make our state safer. In numerous counties, deputy sheriffs, U.S. Marshals, U.S. Probation officers and Department of Community Supervision probation/ parole officers worked together to verify sex offenders comply with the law.

Preliminary reporting by 77 sheriff’s offices reveals 9,178 registered sex offenders, 240 predators and 123 homeless sex offenders are currently living in their counties. During the seven-day operation, 7,3535 residence verifications were conducted, 96 new sex offenders moved into the reporting counties, 18 new warrants were issued for residency violations of the sex offender registry law, 13 warrants were issued for new sex offenses, 48 other miscellaneous new charges. More importantly, it was discovered that 190 sex offenders had absconded from their last known address, which will require the sheriff to work with other supporting agencies and track these individuals down.

Remember, for the protection of your family and neighbors, visit your local sheriff’s office website at https://toombscosheriff.org/ or visit the http://gbi.georgia.gov/georgia-sex-offenders-registry for more information on the whereabouts of registered sex offenders in your community.


November 25 --

On Thursday, Nov. 14, Meadows Regional Medical Center nursing staff held a special Clinical
Ladder Awards Ceremony to recognize and promote registered nurses and clinical staff for their level of
achievement. Meadows Regional Medical Center Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief
Nursing Officer, Jeffrey Harden, presented each recipient with a certificate and check based on their
level of completion within the program.


The Clinical Ladder Program was put in place by Meadows to boost professional development among
clinical bedside leaders and improve quality of patient care. Several models can be used for creating
clinical ladder programs. Meadows’ Clinical Ladder Program includes four levels of development. Serving
as a clinical preceptor for The Bridge to Professional Practice Program where participants serve as
mentors to new graduate nurses and new employees. National certification where nurses and other
professionals are accredited by a professional subspecialty as clinical experts. Clinical Excellence Council
which serves as a form of a shared governance models, these individuals represent each unit across the
organization and come together over the course of a year to develop strategic initiatives that drive
quality, staff retention, and overall organizational improvements, members are then challenged to
initiate and communicate the efforts to their peers within the department. The final level is advanced
healthcare degrees, employees who have obtained a Bachelor's degree or higher are recognized for
their effort for continued education.


“I am so honored to work with this group of professionals,” said Jeffrey Harden, Meadows Regional
Medical Center Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer. “We accomplished a
lot as a team this year. This is a wonderful opportunity for our clinical staff to get involved and truly
control their own work environment. I am thankful that our organization can have this type of program
to encourage continued growth and development among our clinical team.”

Clinical Ladder 2019

Bandblast1

November 25 -- The Toombs County Redcoat Marching Band competed at the East Georgia Regional Marching Championships on October 26. The competition was held at Statesboro High School. The band received the following ratings in Class AA: 

Percussion - Excellent

Auxiliary - Superior

Drum Major - Superior

Overall - Superior

SOTM

November 25 -- Toombs County Middle School announces its November Students of the Month.  These students have worked hard to obtain this by having good grades, attendance and citizenship.  Back Row:Tommie Hower, Kimberly Borja, Dawton Hitchcock, Kylee Edwards, Javier Gonzalez, Edlyn Botello, Lashunn McArthur,Jr., and Shivani Patel.  Front row: Michael Polke, LaDiamond Mosley, Denya Ramirez-Leon, Osvaldo Tinoco, Ally Goodwin, and Lynet Casas.

November 25--

Meadows Regional Medical Center Lab Phlebotomist Sheila Gupton and The Tommy and Shirley Strickland Cancer Center RN Candace Martinez received awards Monday, Nov. 11. Gupton received the Meadows Moment Award, and Martinez received the November Daisy Award. The Meadows Moment Award was created to recognize staff members and physicians who are noticed for exemplifying Meadows’ values of compassion, teamwork and integrity. Awards are given to
deserving employees for coming up with new ideas, helping coworkers, and other efforts that bring value to the team.

The Daisy Award was established in memory of J. Patrick Barnes, who died at 33 of complications of Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP), a little known but not uncommon auto-immune disease. The family noticed that during the course of Patrick’s illness the extraordinary care he received from
nurses made a difference not only in his health but his personal well-being. The family wanted to recognize the extraordinary work nurses do daily while performing other duties involved in caring for their patients. The Daisy Award for Extraordinary Nurses is a nationally recognized award that is
celebrated across the country. Recipients from Meadows become part of an elite group of professionals
across the nation. 

“The extra steps that Shelia and Candy both took to ensure one of our Cancer Center patients’ needs were met are extremely touching and also exemplify the types of actions that go unnoticed by so many in the healthcare field but make a lasting impact on the patients’ lives who are affected, “said Jeffrey
Harden, Meadows Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer. Gupton has been employed with Meadows since 2008 and currently resides in Vidalia. Martinez has been employed with Meadows since 2013 and currently resides in Baxley.

Sheila Gupton Candace Martinez

Sheila Gupton, Meadows Regional Medical Center Lab Phlebotomist,
and Candace Martinez, The Tommy and Shirley Strickland Cancer Center RN, receives awards Monday,
Nov. 11. Gupton received the Meadows Moment Award, and Martinez received the November Daisy
Award. Front row left to right: Assistant Vice President of Post-Acute Care Johnny Carroll; Lab
Phlebotomist Sheila Gupton; RN Candace Martinez; RN OCN Director of Cancer Care Services Samantha
Walker. Back row left to right: Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer Jeffrey
Harden; Assistant Vice President of Quality and Process Improvement Robert Lummus; Vice President of
Physician Enterprise Mid McCain; Vice President of Revenue Cycle Operations/Information Services
Mike Hagan; Chief Operating Officer James Nixon; Chief Financial Officer Tony O’Steen.

Lampp

Pictured L-R: Vice President of GISA Dr. Stan Whitlock, Mrs. Lampp, and President of GISA Dr. Jeff Jackson

November 25 -- Robert Toombs Christian Academy is proud to announce that Ashley Lampp, High School Science Teacher, was recognized as a GISA Master Teacher on Monday, November 11th at the South GISA Conference in Valdosta. At this conference, the "Master Teachers" were recognized and received a plaque and pin to commemorate all their hard work.

Last school year, Mrs. Lampp was nominated by Mr. Absher to participate in the GISA Master Teacher Program. “Mrs. Lampp encompasses all of the qualities that we want in a teacher. She is extremely knowledgeable in her content area; she is dedicated, approachable, caring, and has a passion for educating young people. Mrs. Lampp goes above and beyond the call of duty and is willing to do whatever it takes to help each one of her students. She has high expectations for her students and pushes them so that they are ready for the rigorous college work that lies ahead,” states Mr. Absher, Head of School at RTCA.

Mrs. Lampp worked on her portfolio during the Spring semester and submitted it to be considered in May. She had to collect letters of recommendation, document her teaching practices, present proof of collaboration with other teachers, write several self-reflections, and even film herself teaching several times. Once all of the qualifications were completed, her portfolio was reviewed by the Master Teacher Review board over the summer.

In August, she found out that out of 36 schools across the state and 160 plus members of the GISA Master Teacher Program, she was chosen to be recognized as a "GISA Master Teacher". “The portfolio was a lot of work, yet very rewarding to see how far I have come since being a new teacher. I think it is very important for experienced teachers to push themselves and not get complacent. I am always looking for ways to push myself so that I can better serve my students. The opportunity to participate in the GISA Master Teacher Program provided opportunities for self-reflection that I feel are necessary for personal growth,” states Mrs. Lampp.

Mr. Absher acknowledges that “after reviewing the portfolio that she turned in to the GISA, I proudly say that she represented our school well and is very deserving of this recognition.”

2019 10 28 12.35.09
L - R: Lion Mitch Johnson (representative from Peoples Bank), T.J. Jackson (Student of the Month), LaRee Findley (Teacher, RTCA)

November 25--The Lyons Lions Club Student of the Month program is a program that recognizes deserving students for their “Dedication, Commitment and Service to Others” and is sponsored by Peoples Bank.

For the month of October the award was presented to T.J. Jackson of Robert Toombs Christian Academy.  In addition to this honor, T.J. has also recently been elected President of the newly formed RTCA Leo Club which the Lyons Lions Club is honored to sponsor.  Teacher, LaRee Findley is the club advisor.

By State Senator Jack Hill, Reidsville

HEMP FARMING MOVING CLOSER

Farmers who have been looking to the production of hemp to give them another cash crop are moving closer to being able to produce the product.

The State Department of Agriculture issued a notice on Oct. 31, 2019 called an interim final rule which   formalized the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program which was published in the Federal Register.

Action by U.S.D.A. in issuing rules and regulations followed the inclusion of allowances for hemp production in the Farm Bill passed by Congress last year.

FOLLOWING A COMMENT PERIOD

U.S.D.A. expects to approve state plans within 60 days of submission. Once approved, Georgia is set to move quickly with a Domestic Hemp Production Program and activate the Georgia Hemp Farming Act. Georgia's rules will be finalized after posting final notice for 20 days with the Georgia Secretary of State.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF HEMP

The early settlers in America grew hemp, even requiring its production in Jamestown as a necessary and acceptable resource. States in the 1700's even offered bounties to support its production.

The Declaration of Independence's first drafts were on hemp paper and it is believed that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp on their farms.

As other fibers became common, hemp lost favor and in the 1930's concerns were raised over the narcotic use of Cannabis and the use of marijuana resulting in the passage of the Marihuana & Tax Act of 1937. The act also created the Bureau of Narcotics.

Soon the Bureau announced they would treat and penalize the possession of any plant that could be considered marijuana and would be treated as marijuana.

The United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1970 defined marijuana as a schedule one narcotic. Cannabis sativa L continued to be classified as a narcotic until the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.

WHAT THE FEDERAL FARM ACT DID

The 2018 Farm Bill did two major things that changed everything for potential hemp growers. One, it defined hemp as the plant Cannabis sativa L with a THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) level of 0.3% or less. This allowed for hemp to be removed from the list of schedule one narcotics.

Second, the 2018 Farm Bill established guidelines for states to set up their own registry and licensing programs for hemp production.

The bill required the regulation of growing in conjunction with USDA and for each state to submit a plan for its regulation to USDA.

Federal requirements include maintaining information on the land for production, procedures for testing for THC level and how nonconforming plants would be disposed of.

GEORGIA PASSES THE HEMP FARMING ACT OF 2019

Georgia's Hemp production bill closely tracked the parameters of the federal Farm Bill. The Act include procedures for testing and for destroying the crop if THC levels are out of compliance, higher than 0.3% and provides a process for destroying the crop.

There are two kinds of registrations for grower's licenses and processor's permits. One permit can be applied for annually and fees are assessed depending on the number of acres the farmer intends to plant. The fee is $50.00 per acre with a cap of $5000.

Processors can apply for one permit at $25,000 for the first year and $10,000 yearly afterward. There are requirements on both the farmer and processor as far as the background of employees.

MANY SPECIFICS IN THE RULES AND REGULATIONS

As expected, there are a number of very specific rules and regulations regarding the production of hemp. Applicants must list the GPS coordinates of the growing site. Additionally, each site under an acre or visible from the highway must have a 36 inch by 24 inch sign stating that the site is a hemp grower's site listing the licensee, license number Ga Department of Agriculture's phone number.

For further info and registration of intent to register to grow, contact:   http://agr.georgia.gov/industrial-hemp-production.aspx

HEMP PRODUCTION MEETING HELD IN WAYNESBORO

This past Tuesday, November 19, a hemp production meeting was held in Waynesboro featuring Dr. Timothy Coolong speaking.

Apparently, the USDA is in the comment period and Georgia's approval won't start until final release of USDA's regulations are complete.

November 22--  Vidalia Police Chief Brian Scott reports the following arrests.

Thigpen, Login Ciara- W/F- 26 YOA- 138 Zandra Ave. Lyons, Ga.- Criminal Trespass

Pinkston, Reggie Tyrone- B/M- 17 YOA- 607 E 7th St. Vidalia, Ga.- Battery-Family Violence

Bostic, Teandrea Dereshoe- B/F- 39 YOA- 624 Fourth Ave. Vidalia, Ga.- Warrant Served, Child Support Violation

Dixon, Rosemary Hulett- W/F- 41 YOA- 705 E First St. Vidalia, Ga.- Theft by Shoplifting 2nd Offense

Lawhorn, Joshua Dennis- W/M- 39 YOA- 607 Lawson Rd. Perry, Ga.- Warrant Served, Failure To Appear

Kirkland, Shanyya V.- B/F- 28 YOA- 903 E. 5th St. Vidalia, Ga. Disorderly Conduct

Atkins, Devin Cortez- B/M- 25 YOA- 911 Bay St. Vidalia, GA Possession of Firearms by Convicted Felon, Possession of Marijuana Less Than Ounce

Phillips, Macobia Anthony- B/M- 26 YOA- 710 Sly St. Vidalia, GA- Possession of Marijuana Less Than Ounce

Jackson, Keith Tyeree- B/M-26 YOA- 900 W. Second St. Vidalia, GA- Possession of Marijuana Less Than Ounce

Phillips, Shacobia Antony- B/M- 26 YOA- 710 Sly St. Vidalia, GA- Possession of Marijuana Less Than Ounce

Nichols, Nicholas Darren- B/M- 26 YOA- 703 Winona St. Vidalia, GA- Possession of Marijuana Less Than Ounce

Collins, Michael - W/M- 22 YOA- 28 Middle Rd. Collins, Ga.- Theft By Shoplifting 2nd Offense

Green, Brandon - B/M- 19 YOA- 352 E Grady Ave, Lyons, Ga.- Robbery

Montano Maldonado, Ronal D. - W/M- 19 YOA- 678 Victory Cir., Lyons, Ga.- Robbery

Baker, Tekelia- B/M- 18 YOA- 318 Toombs St. Vidalia, Ga.- Robbery

Toby, Tyquan - B/M- 18 YOA- 185 North Hall St. Lyons, Ga.- Robbery

Gillis, L.C. Jr.- B/M- 62 YOA- 200 Morris St. Vidalia, Ga- Theft by Shoplifting 2nd Offense

Whitaker, Brittany Lynn- W/F- 29 YOA- 1941 Hwy 1 S, Lyons, Ga- Theft by Shoplifting 2nd Offense

Mclendon, Shannon Michael- W/M- 38YOA- 283 James St. Vidalia, GA- Theft by Taking - Financial Transaction Card Fraud

Durant, Xavier Myshon Tyreek-B/M 26 YOA- 321 Jerriel St Apartment 40-Vidalia, GA- Willingfully Obstruction of Police Officer Severe- Forceful / Simple Battery

Sharpe, Glenn Edward- B/M- 25 YOA- 201 Roller St. Mount Vernon, GA- Warrant Served (Montgomery County SOProbation)

Walker, Tykevious- B/M- 20 YOA- 607 E. Seventh St. Vidalia, GA- Aggravated Assault (x4), Aggravated Battery (x2), Cruelty to Children

Bradley, Tyshon- B/M- 47 YOA- 213 Dexter St. Vidalia, GA Discharge of Gun, Pistol Near Public Hwy, Street/Criminal Use of an Article with an Altered Identification Mark

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Leon Alfonso, Lyons, DUI, open container, traffic violations

Alexander Mainer, Vidalia, DUI, speeding

Jonathan Gillis, Lyons, open container, underage possession of alcohol, failure to dim headlight

Gary Miller, Lyons, possession of marijuana

Koneechee Hudson, Vidalia, child restraint violation,giving false info to officer, driving while license suspended/revoked

Christopher Tooke, Tarrytown, discharging firearm

Michael Britton, Brunswick, open container, public drunkeness

Lynn Cherry, Vidalia, warrant served

Nathaniel Horne, Lyons, shoplifting

Jerome Reddish, Reidsville, DUI, headlights

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

David Garcia, Vidalia, DUI, speeding

Kenneth Griffin, 210 Washington St., Vidalia, registration of sex offender

Justin Kersey, Lyons, aggravated assault, conspiracy to commit crime

James Luke, Lyons, aggravated assault and battery

Andre Mazion, Valdosta, controlled substance, possession of weapon during certain crimes

Wykebia McKinney, Vidalia, probation violation

Ronald Phillips, Lyons, driving while license suspended/revoked

Joshua Raper, Uvalda, theft by taking

Elijah White, Vidalia, theft by taking

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

11/12-Ray Charles Powell, Jr., Mount Vernon, Following Too Closely, Speeding, Driving w/Suspended License, DUI, Open Container, Possession of Cocaine, Possession of Drug Related Objects, Misdemeanor Probation Violation

11/13-Mayce Fernando Langston, Lyons, Felony Probation Violation

11/13-Glenn Edward Sharpe, Mount Vernon, Felony Probation Violation

11/14-Carla Renea Shepard, Vidalia, Possession of Methamphetamine w/Intent to Distribute, Possession of Controlled Substance, Possession of Drug Related Objects

Mercy Clinic FundraiserNovember 21-- The Mercy Clinic in Lyons held their annual fundraising luncheon Tuesday to raise awareness and funds for the upcoming year. The annual luncheon is the main fundraising event of the year for the Mercy Clinic and is essential to meet their needs to assist people in need in the Toombs County area.

Mercy Clinic Executive Director Carly Benton said, “Today’s luncheon was to invite new friends of the organization to make a financial investment in the Mercy Ministries so that we can continue to help those in need right here in our community and to do so in the name of Jesus. We want to be here not just for the next decade but for many years to come.”

Benton added, “In the last decade the Mercy Clinic provided access to healthcare for more than six thousand eight hundred individuals in our county and surrounding areas. Some of these folks we treated for a few months and some for a few years, but they all were accepted because they were uninsured and low income but because they were all chronically ill. I dream of the day we can say yes to every person that is uninsured and does not have a medical home and can’t afford health insurance.”

The cost to sponsor a patient at the Mercy Clinic is approximately $1,000 per year or $84 per month per patient. The luncheon raised $62,000 in cash and pledges to cover 62 of the 150 patients scheduled for next year.

If you would like to help sponsor a patient for next year at the Mercy Clinic and help them reach their goal, call Carly Benton or Clint Hutcheson at the Mercy Clinic at 912-524-4000.

November 21--  Nineteen rural school districts in Georgia are receiving grants from the Georgia Department of Education to provide more fine arts education for their students.

Districts Awarded Funding

School District

School

Funding

Appling County

Altamaha Elementary School

$10,000

Baldwin County

Baldwin High School; Oak Hill Middle School

$10,000

Brooks County

Brooks County Middle School

$10,000

Brooks County

Delta Innovative School

$10,000

Colquitt County

Colquitt County High School

$10,000

Colquitt County

Willie J. Williams Middle School

$10,000

Cook County

Cook High School

$10,000

Cook County

Cook Middle School

$10,000

Echols County

Echols County Elementary School; Echols County Middle School

$10,000

Fannin County

Blue Ridge Elementary School

$10,000

Gilmer County

Clear Creek Elementary School

$10,000

Gilmer County

Clear Creek Middle School

$10,000

Gilmer County

Mountain View Elementary School

$10,000

Grady County

Cairo High School

$10,000

Jefferson County

Jefferson County Middle School

$10,000

Jenkins County

Jenkins County Elementary School

$10,000

Laurens County

Southwest Laurens Elementary School

$10,000

McDuffie County

Thomson-McDuffie Middle School; Thomson High School

$10,000

Meriwether County

Mountain View Elementary School

$10,000

Meriwether County

Manchester High School

$10,000

Pierce County

Pierce County Middle School

$10,000

Quitman County

Quitman County Elementary School

$10,000

Quitman County

Quitman County High School

$10,000

Taylor County

Taylor County Upper Elementary School

$10,000

Thomas County

Thomas County Middle School

$10,000

Thomas County

Thomas County Central High School

$10,000

Washington County

TJ Elder Middle School

$10,000

IMG 0870We would like to announce the November, Students of the Month for J. D. Dickerson Primary School. Congratulations!

Left to right

Back Row: Anna Brooke Burkett, Quinn Driggers, Arianna Perry, Harper Moore, N'khia Hill,  and Brinson Martin

Middle row: Carter Williamson, Kace Rush, La'Monte Parker, RaeShun Corouthers, and Jeremiah Sock

Front Row: Lawson Chambers, Camden Richardson, Sophia Wilcher, Jack Laubacker and Luke Sasser; Not pictured: Cameron Alamo, Phoenix Coggins, Thomas Alonso, and Silas Whitaker

November 20--  Georgia Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan made a swing through rural Georgia Wednesday including Toombs County.

He said he agrees with concerns expressed by State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, regarding a slowdown in state revenue collections.

"There's no better expert on the budget than Chairman Jack Hill, a tremendous friend and ally of the Senate and the whole state of Georgia.  I think there's a mixed message going on.  I think corporately there's a global slowdown going on with some of the larger companies.  We're still trying to figure it out.  I think we're in a different economy from what we grew up in.  It's a lot more complicated and a lot more global, but I think the Governor is being responsible looking for opportunities to cut spending across the state's budget to make sure we're ready for any slowdown." the Lieutenant-Governor said, and added, "One, I think it's to make us leaner, and two, to be prepared for a slowdown."

ltgovandstevenLieutenant-Governor Duncan (left, with Vidalia Rotary Club President Steven McComas) spoke to Vidalia Rotarians and later accompanied State Senator Blake Tillery of Vidalia on a Toombs County economic development tour,a visit to Plant Hatch and a trip to Wayne County.

When the state legislature convenes in January, Lieutenant-Governor Duncan says he has two major concerns.

"I'm going to continue to gain ground on healthcare.  I think there's an opportunity to increase price transparency and allow patients to really know what they're paying before they get home from the hospital. Secondly, I want to focus on foster care.  This is a group of folks that my faith calls on to take the best care of them.  We champion being the best state in the country to do business, I want to be the best state to take care of foster kids," he said.

Harry Moses Construction 2Seated - Mr. Carroll Williams, Standing L-R - Elaine Deloach and Deanna GlissonNovember 20--  Southeastern Early College and Career Academy (SECCA) has selected Harry Moses Construction as the November Business Partner of the Month.  Deanna Glisson, a senior at Vidalia High School, has been employed with Harry Moses Construction for two and half years while enrolled in the Work-Based Learning Program.  Deanna has learned valuable work ethics as well as formed long lasting relationships with her mentors, Mrs. Elaine Deloach and Mr. Carroll Williams.  

VOD winnersL-R, First Row - Mikelle Peters-VHS, Third Place VOD, Lily Grace Maybin-RTCA, First Place Patriots Pen, Walker McCord-VHS, First Place VOD. Second row, John Sharpe-Principal VHS, Shirley Curl-President VFW Auxiliary, Bobby George-Teacher VHS.November 20-- Each year the local VFW Auxiliary holds their Voice of Democracy competition where local middle and high school students compete in a patriotic themed audio-essay competition with the chance to win college scholarships. The local winners have the opportunity to move on through district, state, and national competitions with the national winner receiving a $30,000 scholarship.

Shirley Curl, President of the local VFW Auxiliary oversees the competition and this year’s theme was “Why is America Great?” Middle school students compete in a similar competition called Patriots Pen. “All the students did extremely well this year, we are so proud of them,” said Curl.

This year’s winners of the Voice of Democracy are:

First Place - Walker McCord, Vidalia High School

Second Place – Briley Braddy, Vidalia Heritage

Third Place – Mikelle Peters, Vidalia High School

And this year’s Patriots Pen middle school winner is Lily Grace Maybin of Robert Toombs Christian Academy.

November 20-- The Montgomery County Board of Education voted Monday night to place a referendum on the ballot in March to extend its local option sales tax for education (E-SPLOST) an additional five years.

The current E-SPLOST, which expires in another year, will remain at the same rate of 1% for the new five year extension if the voters approve the referendum next year.

Montgomery County School Superintendent Hugh Kight says the E-SPLOST funds are vital for the school system and helps relieve the tax burden on the property owners. “It keeps it lower for our property owners and helps them out. You can use this money to purchase equipment, to purchase a school bus, whatever air conditioning needs and repairs. And I hope our community has the trust in us to know that we are going to spend it wisely,” said Kight.

Approximately $566,000 of existing E-SPLOST funds will be used to build a new track facility for athletics at the school. Kight added, “The track is something we’ve been needing for years now. Our school is paid for in full and our track will be paid for in full. We’re really in good shape financially now and we have one of the best small school athletic complexes around.”

Kight is hoping to have the track completed in February so that it can be used this season. “I’m putting pressure on them to have it by February so that we can use it this track season. That’s our goal. Our kids are excited, we’re excited and I think our community should be excited because it’s going to be a community track also.”

November 19--  The one penny sales tax for transportation which local voters approved a few years back is still paying dividents.

The Tombs County Commission used $1,155,036 of the money to award a contract to East Coast Asphalt for paving on the Lyons-Center Road, the New Normantown Road and  Five Points Road.

wallacethompsonToombs County Sheriff Junior Kight recognized Sergeant Wallace Thompson for 30 years service to the people of Toombs County and the Sheriff's Department and thanked him for his dedication and professionalism.

Also at its November meeting Tuesday night, the Board of Commissioners:

* Agreed to pay Brice Ladson's "MPL Ventures" $85,000 in sales tax revenue to buy five acres of land off Bulldog Road as the future home for occupants of the Ross Bowen Building near the county courthouse.  The building will be torn down to make room for planned construction of a new courthouse.

*Approved $6,550 to Whitaker Laboratories in Savannah for a "GeoTech" study of the new courthouse site to determine soil compaction.

*Allocated more than $38,000 in landfill revenue for repairs of landfill equipment.

*Heard a report from County Manager John Jones that county expenses to date are five percent under budget and revenue is up five percent.

November 19--  The state of Georgia has approved a grant to improve technology in the Montgomery County school system.

School Superintendent Hugh Kight says the $395,509 dollars will put Montgomery County Elementary School on par with the county's middle and high school when it comes to technology.

He says the money will be used for classroom cameras,interactive boards and chrome books plus it will allow export of internet "hot spots" via the Eagle Express classroom bus to rural parts of the county.  It will allow 25 students to do their homework on the bus in parts of the county which don't have internet access.

Montgomery County is one of nine rural systems in the state to receive a grant.  Telfair County schools also got a grant for $524,610.

By State Representative Greg Morris, Vidalia

Governor Kemp/Health Insurance. Gov. Kemp has unveiled his plan for a Medicaid waiver that will replace Obamacare in Georgia with a proposal that would help provide affordable health insurance for working Georgians. He has named it “Georgia Pathways”, a more workable and fair plan than a full-scale Medicaid expansion that would eventually bankrupt our state. Gov. Kemp ‘s plan seeks to help Georgias poorest working citizens, that do not qualify for Medicaid. This is what I like about the plan. To qualify, you must be employed, enrolled in school, or doing specific community service for at least 80 hours a month. Gov. Kemp’s point is to not just throw money at the problem but to encourage and promote full time employment. Which is why the liberals naturally hate the idea.

The plan would have to be approved on the Federal level, and although Gov. Kemp is particularly close to President Trump, approval is not a given. And Obama appointed judges in other states have blocked similar waiver plans with work requirements. The cost is estimated be 36 million for the state and 128 million for the Federal government. Gov. Kemp also has a plan to help Georgians with higher incomes qualify for more affordable insurance that I will detail in a later report.

New Voting Machines. In Six counties voters tried out Georgias new voting machines. With a very few glitches, the machines got positive reviews from election officials and voters alike during the elections earlier this month. The new machines will still allow voter to cast ballots on a large electronic touchscreen , but it will also print the selections on paper to be fed through a scanner to record the vote. That adds a step in voting from what we are used to, but now there is a paper ballot to verify results. The state hopes to have 30,000 machines ready for the March 2020 Presidential primary.

#1 Again. For the 7th year in a row Georgia has been named by Site Selection Magazine as the best state in which to locate a business. Factors again included our efforts to cut burdensome regulations, and gearing our post-secondary education efforts to produce a world-class workforce. 50% of the criteria is based on our favorable tax policy.

November 19--  A Tattnall County High School senior won the Miss Georgia Olive Scholarship Pageant in Vidalia.

Seventeen-year-old Emma Waters wins the $500 scholarship from the pageant which promotes self-esteem, self-confidence, self-awareness and the importance of education to today's young woman.

missoliveFront Row (left to right) Little Miss – Chloe Morris, Tiny Miss –  SiAnna Moore and  Petite Miss – Jordie Grace Kight

Back Row (left to right) Teen Miss – Valorie Whitman, Miss Georgia Olive – Emma Waters and  Junior Miss – Kaytlyn Crabbs

November 19--  Four teenagers who snatched a rifle from a teen at a Vidalia convenience store are under arrest.

Vidalia Police Chief Brian Scott says the quartet took the AR-15 from a 17-year-old Lyons boy early Sunday morning in the parking lot of the Circe K at 905 East First Street in Vidalia.

The four fled the scene and were later apprehended by Lyons Police who assisted Vidalia police in the search of a residence in Lyons where the stolen weapon was recovered.

Charged with robbery are 19-year-old Brandon Green and his accomplices Tekeila Baker and Tyquan Toby, both 18, and 19-year-old Ronaldo Maldonado, all of Lyons.

November 19--  Two men are in custody and a third is being sought in connection with a Vidalia shooting.

Vidalia Police Chief Brian Scott reports 20-year-old Tykeavius Walker and 24-year-old Dominique Henderson, both of Vidalia, are charged with the November 9th shooting which hit two vehicles and injured four people on Wiggins Street. 

Walker was arrested during a traffic stop of North Main Street Tuesday, November 12 and Henderson was picked up by U.S. Marshals at his place of employment Friday, November 15.  They are charged with four counts of aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated battery and one count of cruelty to children.

bookingatkinsA third man, 29-year-old Denarius Atkins, also of Vidalia, is also wanted in connection with the shooting and remains at large.

The shooting seriously injured a ten-year-old girl and wounded her mother, 34-year-old Rosanna Simpson of Vidalia, 43-year-old Creg Page and 45-year-old Terrence White, both of Soperton.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Atkins is asked to call CrimeStoppers at 912-386-4480.

STATE LOOKS FOR ANSWERS WITH REVENUE DEFICIT

A negative revenue collection month in October of -1.6% has forced state leaders to begin study of a number of revenue issues as Year to Date figures point to alarming totals for the first 4 months of the Fiscal Year.

OCTOBER NEGATIVES

Individual Income Tax Revenues are flat for October coming in at 0.1% increase. Inside those numbers, Withholding Payments declined by -$52.6 million, while Individual Income payments were up $51.7 million. Refunds were up $17 million. Corporate Income Taxes were up $11.3 million for October.

SALES TAXES NEGATIVE FOR FIRST TIME

Net Sales Taxes were a negative -0.4% for October for the first time in memory as Sales taxes have been relatively strong over the past two years. Title Ad Valorem Taxes were down some minus $19.1 million for the month. Tobacco and Alcoholic Beverages were both positive, at increases of 2.8% and 21.7%

MOTOR FUEL TAXES/FEES

Motor Fuel Taxes/Fees, Impact Fees and Hotel/Motel Fees were up slightly, $413,000 or 0.2%.

YEAR TO DATE REVENUES UNDER BUDGET SUBSTANTIALLY

After 4 months, fully one third of the budget year, the state has dropped alarmingly below budget spending levels. No longer just flat for the year, total revenues now lag 2018 revenues for the first 4 months by $11.1 million. This means when you apply the FY 2020 budget increase, that spending has now exceeded what the state has collected by some $233 million. Each month that goes by accumulates another $50 million or so in spending above last year.

INCOME TAXES SLIGHTLY NEGATIVE

The top category of state revenues, Individual Income Taxes, is now negative for the first 4 months, -0/3%.   This category normally accounts for about half of state revenue.

Corporate Income Taxes are positive YTD, at 4.2%.

The Sales Taxes category has been a relatively stable area of growth for the state the last couple of years. But this fiscal year, Net Sales Taxes have grown an anemic 1.0% YTD.

Title Ad Valorem Taxes are negative some -$35.5 million YTD and Tobacco Taxes are negative -4.3% while Alcoholic Beverages category is positive at 5.4%.

EVEN FUEL TAXES/FEES ARE NEGATIVE

For the first time, I believe, since the fuel tax was updated under HB 170, we have a period of time where Motor Fuel Taxes/Fees are slightly negative, -$1.5 million or -0.2 % for the first 4 months of the Fiscal Year.

CLARITY IS LACKING

No one seems to have the answer as to why state revenues are not even growing a little bit over the first one third of the fiscal year. While it is true the State Income Tax Rate was cut this past January to 5.75%, it is not clear that we have the full effect of that cut on revenues so far this year. Even so, that cut would not explain the Net Sales Tax collections dragging along at 1% growth where normal has been 3-5% over the past two years.

And none of this explains why the Fuel Tax/fees category should be negative for the year so far. Nothing in the economy that we can put our collective fingers on points to a smoking gun that would unequivocally explain this turn in revenues.

The economy is the state continues to hum along and all of the signs of the problems of the world economy have yet to find their way into our calculations, but yet our revenues tell us something is clearly not well with the state economy.

GEORGIA CONTINUES TO TRAIL SOUTHEAST IN REVENUE GROWTH

These July-October revenue growth numbers point to the dilemma in Georgia as we struggle to figure out why we are not growing as the state has in the past and why Georgia continues to trial other Southeastern States.

Texas

23.3% Growth July- October

Virginia

8.2% Growth July- October

Tennessee

7.7% Growth July- October

Alabama

7.6% Growth July- October

South Carolina

6.2% Growth July- October

Louisiana

4.9% Growth July- October

Mississippi

4.8% Growth July- October

Florida

4.8% Growth July- September

Arkansas

4.1% Growth July- October

Kentucky

3.4% Growth July- October

Georgia

-0.1% Growth July- October

West Virginia

-1.7% Growth July- October

image1November 15-- The Toombs County Board of Education honored the school system's teachers of the year at its November meeting.

The system "Teacher of the Year" is Toombs County High School teacher Megan Morris,"I'm really honored because the competition was really tough because we have a lot of really great teachers, and I feel really blessed to have been chosen. I actually graduated from Toombs County High School and this is the only school I've ever taught at. I'm a life-long Bulldog and I'm really proud of our school and everything we've done together."

Toombs County Teachers of the Year were announced at Thursday's Board of Education meeting and are (L-R) Michelle Padgett, Toombs Central Elementary; Lisa  Bishop, Lyons Primary; Teacher of the Year Megan Morris; Lindsey Harris, Lyons Upper Elementary and Hunter Adams, Toombs County Middle School.

New Security Cameras

The school board approved the expenditure of $350,000 for new security cameras at Toombs County's schools.

Nathan Miller, the school system's Technology Director, said  "We're in the process of installing a new video security system. This is a project that's been about two years in the making. We've had a lot of issues with the security system at the high school and especially at the primary school. We've been looking for a solution and waiting for the funding to become available, and we're finally at a point where the two have come together at the same time. Ideally, we'd like to begin the installation over the Thanksgiving break."

November 15-- It was another successful United Way Campaign this year in Toombs, Montgomery and Wheeler counties.

UNITEDWAY19United Way Executive Director Patricia Dixon says the goal was exceeded by more than $35,000, "This year so far we've raised over $585,000, which is really a big number for a community our size. We're real excited because we've got 22 agencies that are depending on our funding and our community has once again stepped up to the plate and we hit a home run. I thank everyone in our community that has done their part to make it happen."

For more than 20 years, Patricia Dixon has been leading the effort to help community service agencies in the three-county area, "I've been the director for 21 years, and the Lord has truly blessed me. I tell people all the time that if you sat in my office and see and hear what I hear, and how the United Way of Toombs, Montgomery and Wheeler counties changes lives, you would never think of the United Way the same. People come here when they are hopeless, but they find hope through our agencies."

For years, Vidalia Communications Corporation has played an active role in supporting the United Way Campaign and this year the United Way recognized retiring General Manager Zack Fowler for support, "We just wanted to recognize Zack for what he has done for our United Way. One of the main things he started was asking our agencies to do public service announcements so people could know what our agencies are doing and just educate our community, and that is so important."

November 14--  One of the two men arrested in the shooting death of a Toombs County man will spend at least the next 30 years in prison.

bryantpleaTwenty-four-year old Hollis Bryant of Toombs County pleaded guilty to felony murder in the death of 26-year-old Brandon Colson of Lyons and was sentenced to life with a chance for parole by Superior Court Judge Bobby Reeves.

Colson had been reporting missing October 4th. His body was found weeks later in a makeshift grave in a wooded area near Bryant's residence at 148 Ponderosa Road. A GBI agent said Bryant and his accomplice, 19-year-old Israel Williams, burned the body and buried it after the shooting.

According to Agent Craig Pittman, Colson had borrowed money from Williams to rent an U-Haul and to get his lights turned on  and the two claim efforts to collect the debt led to the shooting.

District Attorney Hayward Altman said, "It was about money, about money owed and money taken, basically it's greed that happens in these kind of cases," and the DA said authorities aren't sure who did the actual shooting, "According to the testimony of the agent, we don't know exactly which one pulled the trigger."

Regardless of who pulled the trigger, Williams is also being charged with felony murder, "He's been indicted and if he doesn't plead guilty or take other avenues, he'll go to trial," Altman said.

Colson's mother and brother made statements before Judge Reeves passed sentence.  His mother, Beverly Powell, said she hopes her son's killers "find God" and that she is praying for their families.

The District Attorney consulted with the family before recommending life with parole for Bryant,"I explained to them to celebrate their son's life and to let us deal with that hour or two hours of that life and let them celebrate the joys and memories of their son.  It takes a while for family members to get to that point n time, but I always tell people, forgiveness is for the people doing the forgiving.  The defendants in this case may never accept their forgiveness, but it allows them to move on."

November 13--  Vidalia Police Chief Brian Scott reports the following arrests.

McLeod, Octavia Nicole- B/F- 31 YOA- 611 Largo Dr, Vidalia, GA- Warrant Served (Probation)

Walker, Laquintez Sadayvion- B/M- 20 YOA- 604 NE Main St, Vidalia, GA- Criminal Trespass

Powell, Jason Jacob-WM-20 YOA-200 Reedy Creek Circle- Lyons, GA-Loitering-Prowling/ Possession of Marijuana less than 1 0z.

Bellamy, Damion Lashawn-B/M 22 YOA- 700 BAY St. Vidalia, GA-Battery (Cruelty to Children)

Branch, Archie- W/M-55 YOA- 715 E Oxley Blvd.- Vidalia, GA-Driving While Intoxicated/ Improper Lane Change

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Heather Brooker, Lyons, disorderly conduct

Wilson Lee Price, Lyons, possession of marijuana, speeding, driving without license on person

Marcelino Martinez, Lyons, driving unlicensed, tail and tag lights

Alexander Mainer, Vidalia, DUI, speeding

Gary Miller, Lyons, possession of marijuana, obstruction

Koneechee Hudson, Vidalia, driving while license suspended/revoked, child restraint violation, giving false info to officer

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Tiffany Warren, Lyons, driving while license suspended/revoked

Franklin Watson, Hazlehurst, terroristic threats

Terrance Adams, Lyons, simple battery

Robert Carver, Uvalda, probation violation

Louis Estrada, Vidalia, criminal trespass

Joshua Jacobs, Valdosta, probation violation

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

11/04-Tyrone Allen, Jr., Mount Vernon, Telfair County Warrant Served

11/08-Ti’Ara Lenada Williams, Swainsboro, Possession of Controlled Substance (x2), Failure to Dim Headlights, Window Tint Violation

11/08-Tyler Royshawn Roundtree, Vidalia, Possession of Controlled Substance (x2)

11/08-Quashaun Chillious, Mount Vernon, Possession of Controlled Substance (x2), Misdemeanor Obstruction of Officer, Giving False Name/Information

11/08-Michael Chase Coleman, Mount Vernon, Affray

11/08-Dawson Everett Hale, Mount Vernon, Affray

11/08-Levi Joshua Griggs, Fort Valley, Misdemeanor Obstruction of Officer

11/09-Chance Phillip Butler, Vidalia, DUI, Seatbelt Violation, Failure to Maintain Lane

November 13--  Members of the Toombs County Commission attended the November meeting of the Vidalia City Council to thank two retiring members of the council for their service and cooperation during their time on the council.

Commission Chairman David Sikes said, "We as a Commission and county officials wanted to come here tonight and publicly thank Lisa and Kailey for your service in our county and our great city of Vidalia.  We're very thankful for the jobs you have done and are honored and humbled to be a part of serving with you."

lisaalford4th Ward Councilwoman Lisa Chesser is completing her third term of office and is thanked by Commissioner Alfred Cason.

wendellkaileyCity At-Large Councilwoman Kailey Dees is thanked by Commissioner Wendell Dixon.

In other actions at its meeting, the council:

*Heard praise from Ebony Simpson of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs for being selected for renewal as one of the state's "Plan First" communities making it eligible for increased grant amounts the next three years.

*Accepted donation of a small parcel of land and two outbuildings next to the Darby Gym from the Vidalia school board.

*Approved $40,047 to buy Jaws of Life and other emergency equipment for the fire department.

* Okayed $27,835 to make field repairs at the Ezra Taylor Road and Ed Smith Recreation Complexes.

* Was informed that sales tax collections are up significantly over last year.

November 13--  Governing authorities in Toombs County have agreed on how they will share the cost of building a new county courthouse and expand the county jail in Lyons.

Initial cost estimates for the project are in the $34 million range with a bond issue to repay the debt over a 20 to 25 year period, according to Toombs County Manager John Jones.

Authorities plan to use Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) revenue to finance the annual estimated debt service costs of $1.6 million.

According to an annual payment plan worked out between elected officials in Toombs County, Vidalia, Lyons and Santa Claus, Toombs County would pay 59.31% ($949,000), Vidalia 28.13% ($450,000), Lyons 11.56% ($185,000) and Santa Claus 1% ($16,000).

Voters will vote on extending the SPLOST for another six years next March.

 

November 13--  A man indicted on 18 counts regarding sex with children under the age of ten will be in prison the rest of his life.

johnjoeybrannonAccording to Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight, 45-year-old Joey John Brannon of 118 James Johnson Road in Lyons was sentenced by Toombs County Superior Court Judge Kathy Palmer to four life sentences plus an additional 280 years in prison.

Brannon pleaded guilty to aggravated sodomy, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sexual battery and sexual exploitation of a child. 

According to the indictment, Brannon used minors, including a two-year-old boy, to create digital videos of various sex acts.

tcbookinglynnAlso arrested in the case, but yet to be indicted, was Brannon's live-in girlfriend, April Dawn Lynn, who is charged with aggravated child molestation.  She's in the Toombs County Detention Center pending an $80,000 bond.

According to officials, Brannon and Lynn lived with another couple and molested at least one of their sons.

November 12--  Area veterans were honored Monday at the annual Veterans' Day banquet hosted by the Downtown Vidalia Association.

vetsingers

Youngsters from the Cornerstone Children's Center got the ceremony off to a rousing start with their rendition of "Yankee Doodle Dandy!"

fredThe keynote speaker, former Navy SEAL Fred Godbee of Vidalia, saluted veterans for their service and noted the sacrifices being made today by members of  the United States armed forces, "It's massive  I don't think people understand how increased the divorce rate is, the suicide rate among veteran populations and how many walking wounded have come back.  You've got spouses who are having to step up and deal with a lot of problems."

For those reasons, Godbee would like to see less emphasis on "nation-building," which he says is something for which  the U.S. military is not well suited.

"I think most politicians up in Washington put themselves and their campaigns before their constituents.  They don't think about the impact it's having on people.  We've proven as a country that we're pretty horrible at building nations.  One thing we're great at though, we can punish you, but I'm not sure we're great at all in building nations, so let's let somebody else do that," Godbee said.

Because of the impact the Navy had on him, Godbee would like to see more young people join one of the military services, "I would encourage everybody who's coming out of high school to consider military service.  My son's doing it now and my other two may.  It was the best time of my life, I loved it.  You learn service, you learn excellence, you're serving your country and others and there's a history and comradeship behind it that you can't understand until you get out there and do it," he said.

post97Veterans from American Legion Post 97 presented the service flags of the Marines, Coast Guard, Air Force, Army and Navy.

semperfiSemper Fi!

November 12--  The Vidalia Police Department is searching for this man in connection with a weekend shooting which injured four people including a ten-year-old girl.

vpdbooking

November 12-- The Vidalia School Board named its Teachers and Employees of the Year at its November board meeting.

VBOETeachers(L-R) Vidalia High School Teacher of the Year Candace Chomkis, J.R. Trippe Employee of the Year Joe Hall, J.R. Trippe Middle School Teacher of the Year Portia Anderson, Sally D. Meadows Elementary School Employee of the Year Jennifer Cardinal, Sally D. Meadows Elementary School Teacher of the Year Ashley Driggers, J. D. Dickerson Primary School Employee of the Year Ashley Crump, J.D. Dickerson Primary School Teacher of the Year Sonja Hamilton.

(Back Row, L-R) Vidalia High School Principal John Sharpe, J.R. Trippe Principal Sandy Reid, Sally D. Meadows Principal Scott Stephens, J.D. Dickerson Principal Brenda McLain.

IMG 5687 1Nov 12--J.D. Dickerson Primary would like to congratulate its Teacher and Employee of the year; Mrs. Sonja Hamilton and Mrs. Ashley Crump. Mrs. Hamilton has taught for a total of 23 years with 21 of those years in special education and 2 of those years in Pre-K. She has been an asset to the profession and to our school, system, and community.

Mrs. Ashley Crump has been employed with the Vidalia-City Schools System for 10 years as the bookkeeper of J.D. Dickerson Primary School. She has done so with great enthusiasm and excellent job performance proficiency. She too has been an asset to our school, system, and community.

We are thankful to have both of these hard-working women on our team here at Dickerson. Congratulations again from all of the staff, students, and administrators of J.D. Dickerson Primary School.

November 11--  The little girl who was wounded in a Saturday night shooting in Vidalia is reported in stable condition at a Savannah hospital.

The ten-year-old was one of four people wounded when their vehicles were fired upon in a shooting on Wiggins Street. Police are looking for three black males they want to question in connection with the shooting.

One of the shooting victims, 34-year-old Rosanna Simpson of Vidalia, is the same woman who was injured in February in a shooting at the Huddle House in Vidalia which resulted in the death of 28-year-old Roderick Harvey, Jr. of Alamo.

Twenty-five-year old Zeary Davis of Toombs County was indicted for the murder of Harvey and for the aggravated battery of Simpson.

He remains in jail pending trial.

November 11--  A Lyons man drowned Saturday afternoon in a Toombs County pond.

According to Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight, 58-year-old Archie Eugene Foster was driving a side-by-side off-road vehicle in an area off of Keene Road in Lyons when it ran into a private pond.

He was trapped under the vehicle in the pond before being freed by Toombs County First Responders.

Toombs County EMA Director Lynn Moore said Toombs County EMS personnel restored Foster's pulse before he was transported to Memorial Hospital in Savannah where he later died.

The Sheriff said a passenger on the vehicle identified as Tami Lurie of Johnsons Corner  was uninjured.

November 11--  On Sunday, November 10, 2019, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was requested by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office to investigate an officer involved shooting and homicide investigation.

Preliminary information indicates that on November 10, 2019, at approximately 1:30 p.m., Montgomery County Deputies were dispatched to 1316 Joe Hilton Road in Vidalia, Montgomery County, Georgia to a report of someone possibly being shot. Once the deputies arrived they made contact with John Fountain on the exterior of the residence. Fountain ignored the deputies’ commands to step away from multiple firearms he was standing near. While talking with Fountain, a deputy observed the body of a female on the ground behind a table near Fountain. Fountain picked up one of the firearms and ignored deputies’ commands to put it down. As a result, a deputy opened fire on Fountain. Fountain was airlifted for medical treatment.

After securing the scene, deputies discovered the remains of Alice Faye Humphrey. Humphrey lived at this location with Fountain. An autopsy will be conducted on Humphrey to determine her exact cause and manner of death.

The homicide investigation of Humphrey is ongoing. The GBI will continue its independent investigation regarding the use of force incident involving Fountain. Once complete, both investigations will be turned over to the Oconee Judicial Circuit District Attorney for review. 

Anyone with information regarding these investigations is asked to contact the GBI Eastman office at 478-374-6988.

November 11-- Amanda Montford, a Registered Nurse at Meadows Regional Medical Center Labor, received the October DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses.

“I am so proud of Amanda, “said Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer Jeffrey Harden. “Her keen assessment skills likely saved the life of a newborn infant. Because of her, that family gets to celebrate the first birthday and hopefully, many more to follow. She is an asset to the organization and community.”

Montford has been employed with Meadows Regional Medical Center for six years and currently resides in Vidalia.

The Daisy Award was established in memory of J. Patrick Barnes, who died at 33 of complications of Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP), a little known but not uncommon auto-immune disease. The family noticed that during the course of Patrick’s illness the extraordinary care he received from nurses made a difference not only in his health but his personal well-being. The family wanted to recognize the extraordinary work nurses do daily while performing other duties involved in caring for their patients. The Daisy Award for Extraordinary Nurses is a nationally recognized award that is celebrated across the country. Recipients from Meadows become part of an elite group of professionals across the nation.

daisynov19(L-R)  Vice President of Physician Enterprise Mid McCain; Assistant Vice President of Quality and Process Improvement Robert Lummus; Assistant Vice President of Post-Acute Care Johnny Carroll; Vice President of Revenue Cycle Operations/Information Services Mike Hagan; Chief Operating Officer James Nixon; Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer Jeffrey Harden; Labor and Delivery RN Amanda Montford; CMO/Vice President of Medical Affairs Dr. Karen McColl; Chief Financial Officer Tony O’Steen; President & CEO Alan Kent; Director of Women’s Services Heather Hooks.

By State Senator Jack Hill, Reidsville

Return of Georgia Guard Units from Afghanistan reminds us of the vital role the Guard plays in the military reach of the United States. The Springfield unit and the Glennville units, as part of the 48th Brigade recently returned from a second deployment to a Middle East area where the United States is actively involved in fighting ISIS and terrorism.

These citizen soldiers gave up as much as 13 months of their lives to deploy to a dangerous part of the world and fill a vital role in the war on terrorism. Georgia's National Guard sent 2100 troops in this latest conflict.

There are approximately 14,000 Army and Air Guardsmen and women serving in uniform in Georgia today. Since 9/11, some 21,000 Georgia Army and Air Guardsmen have deployed to the Mideast.   Most (11,000) of these Guardsmen are "traditional" or part-time military men and women and hold civilian jobs or are students. Today, there are still 500 Guardsmen deployed around the world in Kosovo, Europe, the Pacific and the southwest border.

THE GUARD SERVES BOTH STATE AND FEDERAL MISSIONS

The missions of the Army and Air National Guard extend across Georgia and Guardsmen are called to state active duty whenever hurricanes or state emergencies call for their assistance in personnel and equipment. The Air National Guard even flew disaster relief supplies to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

The Army and Air Federal missions can extend around the world with Army Guard units called to active duty in a number of contingencies over the past 3 decades and the Air Guard's missions routinely extending to the four corners of the globe.  

THE GUARD'S KEY ROLE IN NATIONAL DEFENSE

My years in the Guard left me with several positive impressions of Guardsmen who quietly go about serving in both state and federal capacities and at the same time maintaining a citizen occupation. I would submit that these very special individuals succeed in both worlds.

There was a time when the National Guard played a very minimal role in national defense. They were poorly equipped, but that has changed over the years and today, the National Guard is not only better equipped, but plays a key role in supplementing the active force in military commitments around the world.

ATTRIBUTES OF A GUARDSMAN

My years in the Guard showed me several qualities that Guardsmen seemed to share. These are:

- Leadership

- Maturity

- Ingenuity

- Experience

- Perseverance or stick-to-it-ness

This resourcefulness has been greatly used in deployments to the Middle East and in the interactions with local indigenous communities, The "real world" experience of Guardsmen pays huge dividends in meeting these missions.

I found virtually every Guardsman to be uniquely special. The qualities we see in Guardsmen are also seen and valued by employers and that is why you see these individuals succeeding in both arenas.

Why do Guardsmen seem to have these attributes? Well, when you look at the Core Values of the Army and the Air Force, you can grasp a little of why those qualities exist and are so valued in the business and professional environment.

ARMY CORE VALUES

AIR FORCE CORE VALUES

Loyalty

Integrity first

Duty

Service before self

Respect

Excellence in all we do

Selfless service

Honor

Integrity

Personal courage

ISSUES FOR THOSE SERVING IN THE GUARD

A Guardsman gives up a lot to serve. There are weekends and training segments that often exceed two weeks yearly. More and more deployments extend for one year and more. The men and women of the Guard miss many special days, family events and business and job opportunities. (Most employers value Guardsmen as leaders in their businesses and support the Guard's mission.)

That is getting harder to do given the extended deployments that have evolved as a mission of the Guard. Its active role in National Defense means deployments now often extend over holidays. Serving in today's National Guard is a real life, real time experience where Guardsmen are held to the same standards as active duty personnel and they excel at their duties. Today, the Guard is a full partner with the active force and the pressure on Guardsmen has never been more intense.

We owe a great debt to Guardsmen who are balancing military duties with job and personal responsibilities. It takes an unusual person, truly unique, to succeed at all of these assignments. But as said earlier, "all Guardsmen are special."

November 10--  Vidalia police are looking for three black men they believe were involved in a Saturday night shooting which seriously injured a ten-year-old child and wounded three adults.

According to Vidalia Police Chief Brian Scott, three people were shot in one vehicle and a fourth was shot in a second vehicle in a shooting on Wiggins Street about 8:45 p.m. Saturday.

Police say one vehicle was occupied by 43-year-old Creg Page of Soperton, 34-year-old Rosanna Simpson of Vidalia and two children, ages ten and two. The older child was hit once and airlifted to Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah in serious condition.  The woman was hit by several gunshots, Page had a single gunshot wound, and a man in a second vehicle, identified as 45-year-old Terrence White of Soperton, was also hit once.  All three were treated and released from Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia.

Chief Scott said, "It was a very tragic event to have four people shot like this, especially since there's a ten-year-old involved.  We're working diligently to try to get this solved."

The GBI and Lyons Police are assisting with the investigation and Chief Scott doesn't believe it was a random act, "I can't go into a lot of details, but I don't believe this was folks just out randomly shooting citizens.  I think this was a targeted event."

Police are searching for three black men who they believe were in a dark-colored SUV, possibly a Chevy Tahoe, with damage to the passenger side front fender area, scratches on the side and with after-market custom rims, one of which is different from the other three.  It also has tinted rear windows.

Police worked throughout the night Saturday and all day Sunday, according to Chief Scott, "Yes, we do have some leads we're following up on."

Anyone with information is asked to call Vidalia Police, 537-4123, the GBI at 478-374-6988 or CrimeStoppers, 912-386-4480.

November 9-- The Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce partnered with Toombs County Schools to offer a coffee bar at the chamber office this past Thursday.

Students served as "baristas" and served coffee to members of the community.  The students, who are enrolled in Camp Bullpup and Bulldog at Toombs County Middle School and Toombs County High School, learned valuable job and life skills.

chamberkidsFront Row, L-R:  Toombs County Students Lucy Badie, Ben Rewis, Keegan Pittman and Angel DeLeon.

Back Row, L-R:  Chamber of Commerce staff members Michele Johnson, Dana Brown, Ann Owens and Debbie Evans.

White House Visitor Logs Detail Meetings of the CIA’s Eric Ciaramella



We have conducted an in-depth analysis of Obama-era White House visitor logs, and we have learned a good deal about the people who controversial CIA employee Eric Ciaramella met with while assigned to the White House.

Ciaramella reportedly was detailed to the Obama White House in 2015 and returned to the CIA during the Trump administration in 2017.

Real Clear Investigations named Ciaramella as possibly being the whistleblower whose complaint sparked impeachment proceedings against President Trump. As reported by the Examiner, Fox News’ legal analyst Gregg Jarrett indicated that a key takeaway was the “reported direct relationship” Ciaramella had with former President Barack Obama's CIA Director John Brennan and national security adviser Susan Rice, as well as the “Democratic National Committee operative who dug up dirt on the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.”

The visitor logs also reveal Alexandra Chalupa, a contractor hired by the DNC during the 2016 election, who coordinated with Ukrainians to investigate President Trump and his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, visited the White House 27 times.

The White House visitor logs revealed the following individuals met with Eric Ciaramella while he was detailed to the Obama White House:

  • Daria Kaleniuk: Co-founder and executive director of the Soros-funded Anticorruption Action Center (AntAC) in Ukraine. She visited on December 9, 2015

The Hill reported that in April 2016, during the U.S. presidential race, the U.S. Embassy under Obama in Kiev, “took the rare step of trying to press the Ukrainian government to back off its investigation of both the U.S. aid and (AntAC).”

  • Gina Lentine: Now a senior program officer at Freedom House, she was formerly the Eurasia program coordinator at Soros funded Open Society Foundations. She visited on March 16, 2016.
  • Rachel Goldbrenner: Now an NYU law professor, she was at that time an advisor to then-Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power. She visited on both January 15, 2016 and August 8, 2016.
  • Orly Keiner: A foreign affairs officer at the State Department who is a Russia specialist. She is also the wife of State Department Legal Advisor James P. Bair. She visited on both March 4, 2016 and June 20, 2015.
  • Nazar Kholodnitzky: The lead anti-corruption prosecutor in Ukraine. He visited on January 19, 2016.

On March 7, 2019, The Associated Press reported that the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch called for him to be fired.

  • Michael Kimmage: Professor of History at Catholic University of America, at the time was with the State Department’s policy planning staff where he specialized in Russia and Ukraine issues. He is a fellow at the German Marshall Fund. He was also one of the signatories to the Transatlantic Democracy Working Group Statement of Principles. He visited on October 26, 2015.
  • James Melville: Then-recently confirmed as Obama’s Ambassador to Estonia, visited on September 9, 2015.

On June 29, 2018, Foreign Policy reported that Melville resigned in protest of Trump.

  • Victoria Nuland: who at the time was assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs met with Ciaramella on June 17, 2016.

(Judicial Watch has previously uncovered documents revealing Nuland had an extensive involvement with the Clinton-funded dossier. Judicial Watch also released documents revealing that Nuland was involved in the Obama State Department’s “urgent” gathering of classified Russia investigation information and disseminating it to members of Congress within hours of Trump taking office.)

  • Artem Sytnyk: the Ukrainian Anti-Corruption Bureau director visited on January 19, 2016.

On October 7, 2019, the Daily Wire reported leaked tapes show Sytnyk confirming that the Ukrainians helped the Clinton campaign.

The White House visitor logs revealed the following individuals met with Alexandra Chalupa, then a DNC contractor:

  • Charles Kupchan: From 2014 to 2017, Kupchan served as special assistant to the president and senior director for European affairs on the staff of the National Security Council (NSC) in the Barack Obama administration. That meeting was on November 9, 2015.
  • Alexandra Sopko: who at the time was a special assistant and policy advisor to the director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, which was run by Valerie Jarrett. Also listed for that meeting is Alexa Kissinger, a special assistant to Jarrett. That meeting was on June 2, 2015.
  • Asher Mayerson: who at the time was a policy advisor to the Office of Public Engagement under Jarrett had five visits with Chalupa including December 18, 2015, January 11, 2016, February 22, 2016, May 13, 2016, and June 14, 2016. Mayerson was previously an intern at the Center for American Progress. After leaving the Obama administration, he went to work for the City of Chicago Treasurer’s office.

Mayerson met with Chalupa and Amanda Stone, who was the White House deputy director of technology, on January 11, 2016.

On May 4, 2016, Chalupa emailed DNC official Luis Miranda to inform him that she had spoken to investigative journalists about Paul Manafort in Ukraine.

Spreadsheets of visitor records are grouped alphabetically by last name and available below:
A – Coi
Coig – Gra
Graz – Lau
Laug – Pad
Padd – Sor
Sorr – Zyz

Our analysis of these Obama White House visitor logs raises obvious additional questions about the Obama administration, Ukraine and the related impeachment scheme targeting President Trump. Both Mr. Ciaramella and Ms. Chalupa should be questioned about the meetings documented in these visitor logs.


It’s Time to Designate Mexican Cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations

The Mexican cartels operate largely at will in the United States. Last year the Drug Enforcement Agency declared: “Mexican transnational criminal organizations, including the Sinaloa Cartel … remain the greatest criminal drug threat in the United States.”

Note the reference to the Sinoloa Cartel. The horrendous massacre of nine Americans this week, as detailed in our Corruption Chronicles blog below, occurred in Sonora state in northern Mexico, which reportedly “is being fought over by two rival gangs, … [including] ‘Los Chapos,’ which is part of the Sinaloa cartel.” [Emphasis added]

We can give our law enforcement officials additional weapons to fight these organizations if we designate them as “Foreign Terrorist Organizations.” We produced a white paper back in March explaining the rationale for this designation.

Here is our reporting on this latest carnage.

The massacre of nine Americans by a Mexican drug cartel this week creates yet another excellent opportunity for the U.S. government to finally designate the sophisticated criminal operations as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO). Judicial Watch has long advocated for this and earlier this year published a White Paper providing comprehensive documentation that Mexican drug cartels undoubtedly meet the U.S. government’s requirements to be designated as FTOs.

To meet the criteria for FTO designation requires that organizations be foreign, engage in terrorism or terrorist activity or possess the capability and intent to do so and pose a threat to U.S. nationals or U.S. national security. Mexican drug cartels are inherently foreign, routinely commit criminal acts within the statutory definition of terrorism and arguably represent a more immediate and ongoing threat to U.S. national security than any of the currently-designated FTOs on the State Department list. On Monday one of the illicit Mexican enterprises ambushed and murdered six children—including 8-month-old twins—and three women on a highway in the Mexican border state of Sonora. Other children, including an infant and toddler, survived with some seriously wounded.

Mexico has not identified the cartel responsible for the horrific attack, but reports indicate it was a calculated and well-planned operation typical of an organized criminal enterprise. The victims received no help from Mexican authorities, according to one of the family members quoted in the country’s largest newspaper. Julian LeBaron said that fellow family members responded to the crime scene because officials in Chihuahua and Sonora refused to help. He said he wasn’t sure if it was out of fear, or because they were cowards or in cahoots with the delinquents. In a smaller, Sonoran newspaper article, LeBaron revealed that a young girl, a cousin of his, who survived the ambush walked 14 kilometers with a gunshot wound. The outrageous anecdotes indicate Mexico can’t be relied upon to combat the cartels and the U.S. must act.

Properly designating the major Mexican Transitional Criminal Organizations (TCOs)—including Los Zetas, Juárez and Sinaloa cartels—as FTOs would enhance the federal government’s ability to combat them. An official FTO designation would enable the prosecution of those who provide material support to them, facilitate the denial of entry and deportation of TCO members and affiliates and eliminate the organizations’ access to the U.S. financial system. “FTO designations play a critical role in our fight against terrorism and are an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities and pressuring groups to get out of the terrorism business,” according to the State Department. For years Mexican cartels have hijacked and sabotaged buses, commercial trucks and trains, which constitute terrorist activity under U.S. law. Judicial Watch’s White Paper lists specific cases, including gasoline tankers and more than a dozen robberies daily of Ferromex trains, one of the three largest rail transport operators in the country.

Mexican TCOs have also committed hundreds of political assassinations in recent years and members of Los Zetas launched a grenade and shot small arms fire at the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey. Los Zetas members also murdered Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent Jaime Zapata a few years ago. Judicial Watch’s White Paper also documents Mexican cartels’ use of explosive devices and high-caliber firearms, including rocket-propelled grenades and other military weapons. In 2018 Mexican officials seized nearly 2,000 high-caliber weapons from suspected cartel associates in Mexico City and there have been approximately 150,000 organized-crime related murders in Mexico since 2006. Last year alone, there were nearly 1,200 kidnappings in Mexico, according to official figures provided in the White Paper.

Most of the crimes are financially motivated, but a significant number are executed to intimidate political, judicial, military and law enforcement officials from going after cartel members. Examples include two Mexican federal agents kidnapped and murdered by the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, the kidnapping of Veracruz congresswoman-elect Norma Rodriguez and the kidnapping of Hidalgo Mayor Genero Urbano. Under U.S. law the seizing or detaining and threatening to kill, injure, or continue to detain, another individual in order to compel a third person (including a governmental organization) to do or abstain from doing any act as an explicit or implicit condition for the release of the seized individual constitutes terrorist activity. The danger created by these criminal organizations is nothing new. Years ago the DEA determined that Mexican TCOs are the greatest criminal threat to the United States. After this week’s massacre President Donald Trump said the U.S. is willing to help Mexico “wage war on the drug cartels.” His administration can start by officially designating them as Foreign Terrorist Organizations
 

Sheriff Frees Illegal After Child Sex Crimes, Says Immigration Not His Duty

Sanctuary policies are illegal and dangerous. Rather than follow the law, state and local politicians knowingly place you, your family, and the families of every American (and alien) at risk by releasing criminal illegal aliens onto the streets rather than into the custody of federal authorities. Here is the latest outrage from our Corruption Chronicles blog.

In what appears to be a growing national trend, another elected law enforcement official released an illegal immigrant with a serious criminal conviction—in this case child sex offenses—rather than turn him over to federal authorities for removal. Sanctuary policies ban local law enforcement from honoring Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers placed on illegal aliens who have been arrested on local criminal charges. If the detainer is honored ICE takes custody and deports the criminal rather than release him or her back into the community. When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and free serious criminal offenders, it undermines the federal government’s duty to protect public safety.

This latest case comes out of Buncombe County, North Carolina where the recently elected sheriff, a Democrat, issued a policy earlier this year refusing to cooperate with ICE when it comes to inmates at his 608-bed jail who are in the country illegally. At the time the sheriff, Quentin Miller, proclaimed that enforcing immigration laws is not part of his agency’s duties. Miller also said that “it is vital that members of our immigrant community can call the sheriff’s office without fear when they are in need of assistance from law enforcement.”

Hiding behind that popular open borders rhetoric, the sheriff recently discharged a child sex offender to keep with his county’s sanctuary policy of protecting illegal aliens, even those with atrocious criminal records. The illegal immigrant from El Salvador, Marvin Ramirez Torres, has been on ICE’s radar since 2017 when he got arrested and charged with four felony counts of statutory sex offense with a child. At the time Torres was 23 and his victim was an 11-year-old girl, according to a local newspaper report that also states Torres must register a sex offender for 30 years. The illegal alien was convicted in North Carolina Superior Court for Buncombe County and was sentenced to less than two years in prison. Last week he was freed into the community because the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office refused to honor the federal detainer.

Thankfully, ICE captured Torres a day after he left prison during a targeted enforcement operation in downtown Asheville. The agency blasted county officials in a statement released shortly after Torres was apprehended. “By releasing an illegal alien with a serious sex offense against a child, Buncombe County chose to release a serious public safety threat into the Asheville community where he was free to potentially harm others until his capture by ICE,” the statement reads. In the document, the agency’s acting director, Matt Albence, points out the obvious: “Continued decisions to refuse cooperation with ICE serve as an open invitation to aliens who commit criminal offenses that these counties are a safe haven for persons seeking to evade federal authorities, and residents of Buncombe County are less safe due to these misguided sanctuary policies.” ICE’s regional field director accuses elected law enforcement officials who chose to ignore ICE detainers and arrest warrants of failing to protect their communities and placing politics above public safety.

Incredibly, it is a growing national trend among law enforcement officials that has gained enormous traction throughout North Carolina. About a month ago Judicial Watch reported that nearly 500 illegal immigrants with ICE detainers were discharged into communities throughout the Tar Heel State in less than a year. The offenders included those charged with serious crimes such as homicide, kidnapping, arson and sex offenses. A few weeks before the statewide figures were released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Judicial Watch reported that the elected sheriff in North Carolina’s largest county, Mecklenburg, released numerous violent offenders rather than turning them over to federal authorities for removal. Among them was a previously deported Honduran charged with rape and child sex offenses. Though they are charged with enforcing the law in counties located about 120 miles from each other, the sheriffs in Buncombe and Mecklenburg counties share the common bond of protecting illegal immigrants who commit the most heinous of crimes in the jurisdiction they were elected to protect. For Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden it was actually a campaign promise. Immediately after getting elected in 2018, he ended the program known as 287(g) that notifies ICE of jail inmates in the country illegally.


Veterans Day – Why We Fight

As we honor the sacrifices of our great nation’s veterans on November 11, I’d like to call your attention again to the Veterans Day speech given in 1985 by then-President Ronald Reagan, particularly this section:

And the living have a responsibility to remember the conditions that led to the wars in which our heroes died. Perhaps we can start by remembering this: that all of those who died for us and our country were, in one way or another, victims of a peace process that failed; victims of a decision to forget certain things; to forget, for instance, that the surest way to keep a peace going is to stay strong. Weakness, after all, is a temptation — it tempts the pugnacious to assert themselves — but strength is a declaration that cannot be misunderstood. Strength is a condition that declares actions have consequences. Strength is a prudent warning to the belligerent that aggression need not go unanswered.

Peace fails when we forget what we stand for. It fails when we forget that our Republic is based on firm principles, principles that have real meaning, that with them, we are the last, best hope of man on Earth; without them, we’re little more than the crust of a continent. Peace also fails when we forget to bring to the bargaining table God’s first intellectual gift to man: common sense. Common sense gives us a realistic knowledge of human beings and how they think, how they live in the world, what motivates them. Common sense tells us that man has magic in him, but also clay. Common sense can tell the difference between right and wrong. Common sense forgives error, but it always recognizes it to be error first.

We endanger the peace and confuse all issues when we obscure the truth; when we refuse to name an act for what it is; when we refuse to see the obvious and seek safety in Almighty. Peace is only maintained and won by those who have clear eyes and brave minds.

I know millions of Americans have “clear eyes and brave minds” and these patriots desire the same qualities in our political and judicial leaders. It certainly reflects Judicial Watch’s modest approach to our mission.

God Bless America!

Until next week …

November 8--  A teacher who's in her fourth year of teaching at Montgomery County High School is the school system's "Teacher of the Year."

Math teacher Brittany Hobbs thought she wanted to farm, but says God had other plans for her life, "It's God's plan.  It all fell into place and he wanted me to be a teacher and I tried to stay away from it, so that's why I'm here."

mocobrittanyTeacher of the Year Brittany Hobbs (left) with School Superintendent Hugh Kight and Assistant Superintendent Marcee Pool.

Dr. Scott Barrow, Principal at Montgomery County High School, observed, "She teachers Geometry and Algebra II and we're glad to have her.  She does an amazing job in the classroom and has a well organized standards based classroom.  It's well deserved and I'm proud for her and I'm proud for the school system."

Brittany believes in getting creative teaching her students, "My goal is to make sure they're up and moving and they're constantly learning and engaged with fun activities.  I've had them singing their formulas and that's a new thing I tried this year and they loved it.  Keeping them engaged and moving is the new key to things," she said.

She also believes she can make an impact on her students' lives, "I hope to be changing their life and convince them they can do more than they think they can.  If they just work hard, they can accomplish anything in life."

Dr. Barrow believes the school environment in Mount Vernon helps teachers make a difference, "We try to do a good job building relationships with our students to make sure they understand that we care about them and we love them so they learn like they need to.  These teachers here and others in the building have really got a good handle on that," he said.

Two other teachers were honored for being "Teachers of the Year" in their respective schools.

mocoskyeFourth grade science teacher Skye Joyce (left) is the "Teacher of the Year" at Montgomery County Elementary School with Superintendent Kight and Assistant Superintendent Marcee Pool.

mocoshannonTwenty-seven-year-veteran math teacher Beth Shannon (left) won the honor at Montgomery County Middle School and was presented the award by Superintendent Kight and Assistant Superintendent Marcee Pool.

November 8--  Vidalia Police Chief Brian Scott reports the following arrests.

Morris, Corinthians Ann- B/F- 41 YOA- 1208 Easter Drive Vidalia, Ga- Driving While Licince Suspended or revoked(2ND) / Failure to Obey Stop Sign

Cash, Joseph Edward- W/M- 41 YOA- 155 S. Lanier Street Lyons, Ga.- Obstruction of Officer/ Warrant Served(Lyons )

Brewer,Ben Kevin- B/M- 24 YOA- 2104 W. Smalley Drive Vidalia, Ga- Warrant Served (Criminal Trespass)

Mikel, Michael Angelo- B/M- 29 YOA- 1208 Easter Drive Apt 38 Vidalia, Ga.- Warrant Served (Probation Violation)

Salazar, Justin Gage- W/M- 25 YOA- 181 Hwy 56 W Lyons, GA- DUI- 1st Offense, Failure to Obey Stop/Yield Sign

Bryd, Jasmin Seirra- W/F- 20 YOA- 251 West Grady Ave. Lyons, GA- Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense/Warrant Served (Bench- Jeff Davis Co SO)/Abandon Drugs, Poisons, Controlled Substances

Cribbs, Shawn Eon- W/M- 37 YOA- 707 W. Second St. Vidalia, GA- Theft by Receiving Stolen Property (State Warrant)

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Michael Childs, Lyons, underage possession, purchase and consumption of alcohol

James Thevenin, Lyons, underage possession, purchase and consumption of alcohol

Justin Westberry, Soperton, driving unlicensed, defective equipment

Misael Perez, Metter, driving unlicensed, hands free law

Robert Sharp, Dallas, TX, criminal trespass

Joshua Page, Lyons, DUI, seatbelts, failure to use turn signals

Darnell Collins, Vidalia, theft by deception

Teresa Gonzalez, Reidsville, theft by deception

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Jasmine Bailey, Columbia SC, probation violation

Edward Carter, Baxley, forgery

Brian Colby, Hazlehurst, probation violation

Timothy Conner, Vidalia, DUI, reckless driving, speeding, driving without license on person

Hulan Curtiss, Vidalia, probation violation

Loren Evans, Baxley, failure to appear

Hunter Kersey, Vidalia, obstruction/interference of duties

Mayce Langston,II, Uvalda, simple battery

Marissa Mills, Hattan, ND, probation violation

Jessica Morgan, Lyons, probation  violation

Timothy Morgan, Vidalia, purchase, possession, manufacture, distribution and sale of marijuana, obstructing police

James Odom, Lyons, requesting ambulance when no need exists

Jennier Singletary, Hazlehurst, battery

James Thevenin, Lyons, theft by taking, possession of alcohol by a minor

Keith Williford, Vidalia, probation violation

Harold Wright, Sr., Savannah, failure to appear

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin

10/28-Jaqun Quayshon Jordan, Mount Vernon, Aggravated Assault, Possession of Firearm During Commission of Crime

10/28-Zachary Eugene Woods, McRae, Simple Battery on Peace Officer, Misdemeanor Obstruction of Officer

10/31-Herschel Harper, Jr., Ailey, Burglary, Criminal Damage to Property-2nd

10/31-Tabitha Briana Philyaw, Vidalia, Driving w/Suspended License, Failure to Maintain Lane

11/01-Charlie Edward Glisson, Jr., Uvalda, Driving w/Suspended License, Misdemeanor Obstruction of Officer

11/04-Griffin Tate Wheeler, Villa Rica, Failure to Dim Headlights, Possession of Marijuana <1oz.

November 8--  The Georgia Association of County Agricultural Agents selected the radio stations of Vidalia Communications Corporation to receive its 2019 Mass Media Award in Radio.

mediaawardpicToombs County Extension Service Agent Jason Edenfield (center)  presented the award on behalf of the Association to John Koon (left) and Jeff Raiford.

For the past eight years, Edenfield has produced "Eye on Agriculture" features which are broadcast on radio stations WYUM-FM and WVOP-AM each weekday. 

The award also recognized the support of the two stations plus WTCQ-FM  and their webpage www.southeastgeorgiatoday.com for supporting and promoting 4-H in Toombs, Montgomery and Treutlen counties.

"I can think of no better partner in helping me promote our Extension programs than Vidalia Communications Corporation," he said.

November 7--  The two high schools in Toombs County made improvements this year on their state performance ratings.

Vidalia High School improved its score by ten points while Toombs County High School made a nine point jump.

The 77.4 rating at Vidalia High School is nearly a half-point higher than the state average and is a step in the right direction, according to Principal John Sharpe, "The most exciting thing is the teachers are not satisfied with where they are now, they want to continue to grow."

The Principal says Vidalia High School's low score of 67.2 in 2018 was attributable to how the state scored performance that year,"The year we dropped it was because they changed the way they recorded the scoring.  We had to make the adjustment and I told the teachers it is what is is and we're not satisfied with this score and we're going to have to work hard to get at least above the state average. We've reached that mark and now we're going to continue to hopefully improve next year."

At Toombs County High School the jump to a 71.3 is due to improvements in a number of areas, according to Principal Marissa Morris, "Our scores came up in several areas.  Social studies was really high for us and we made gains in biology.  We've still got a ways to go in math, but we're working on that, and we saw increases in language arts as well. 

"Also, our attendance and our Pathway completers and overall students who attend dual enrollment increased, so that helped us tremendously along with our discipline problems being cut in half," she said.

Overall Principal Morris believes teachers are making progress working with Bulldog students, "We're all about the kids and building relationships that lead to successful academics and overall success in life.  We've worked hard on that and trying to keep stability with teachers and standards and I think that has made a difference for us with consistency."

November 6--  Twelve years ago Peggy NeSmith had a dream to use what she knows as a recovering substance abuser to help other women kick the habit.

rotarydreamcenterPeggy with Vidalia Rotary Club President Steven McComas, left, and Rotarian Andy Hartley after her presentation to the club Wednesday.

"I have the history of drug and alcohol abuse and when I came to the Lord I just felt like this was the ministry he was calling me to so I could help others who are where I've been."

Eight years later she's running the non-profit "Dream Center Vidalia" and estimates that 60% of the women she has helped are off drugs and alcohol. She believes part of that is because she has empathy with the women who come to the Dream Center, "If you've been there, you know it.  I can basically read the hearts and minds and hurts and it's a great thing that I've been there and can better minister to the girls," she said.

Peggy knows it's a hard road back for those who are hooked and that they have to hit rock bottom before they can start to recover, "Each person has to come to the place where they are at the end of themselves.  That is the first step.  If they don't, none of the rest will work.  If they do, it always works. It's the individual who has to come to the place where they are sick and tired of being sick and tired.  I would have to say that is 90 percent of the battle."

The Dream Center is governed by a group of volunteer board members headed by former Vidalia High School principal Larry Cowart, "Peggy came to me one day and she knew I taught a Sunday School class.  She asked me and my wife if we'd go out to the Dream Center to teach some classes out there.  We did and it just sort of  evolved from that.  God just put in my wife's heart and my heart to be at the Dream Center and work there.  It's something that's close to us and we believe in it.  The community has certainly backed the Dream Center and we thank everyone for that.  That's how it started for me.  It's in my heart and I have a feel for it.  Alcohol and drugs have been in my family for a long time and it was just a way I thought I could help," he said.

For information on how the Dream Center may help you, visit their website at www.dreamcentervidalia.org.

November 6--  Tracy Johnson, President of the Toombs County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, has been named a "Life Member" of the organization.

naacpjohnsonHe accepted the Certificate of Life Membership from former Georgia NAACP President Reverend Dr. Francys Johnson, right, at the Branch's Fall Banquet.                                                                             

November 6 -- Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin welcomed Pre-Kindergarten students from Montgomery County Elementary School to his office Wednesday.

mocoprekThe children took a tour of the office and got an up-close look at a patrol car.

"Our staff is always excited to have the opportunity to meet children from our community and tell them about the Sheriff's Office," Sheriff Maybin said.

November 5-- Voters went to the polls in four of Montgomery County's towns Tuesday.

Mount Vernon

Incumbent Mayor Joey Fountain was re-elected by a wide margin over Mackey Hill, 435 to 57.

In the race for three at-large city council seats, incumbents Pete Horton and John Roller won with 262 and 254 votes, respectively.  The third seat goes to Elizabeth Williams with 245 votes versus 200 votes for Nakia Brazell.

Uvalda

Three incumbents were re-elected to at-large city council seats.  Among the four running for the three seats Arren Moses got 75 votes, Bennie Sammons 64, Janice Braddy 60 and John Carpenter 45.

Voters also okayed extending Sunday sale of alcohol in Uvalda from 12:30 p.m. till midnight after a petition circulated by Ladson's Food Mart got the question on the ballot.

Higgston

Voters gave 30-year-old Jesse Ledford 38 votes over challenger Chris McLendon's 16 in the mayor's race.  Current Mayor Donna Powell is not seeking re-election but still got18 write-in votes.

Ledford went door-to-door urging people to vote and promising more openness in city government.

Tarrytown

Voters in Tarrytown said no to alcohol sales.  They voted 13 to 9 against liquor sales by the drink and 14 to 8 against Sunday sales.

November 5--  Two men who have spent most of their adult lives fulfilling civic duties in Vidalia will be serving the next four years on the Vidalia city council.

Both Bob Dixon and Loyd Mobley won their city council races Tuesday by large margins.

Dixon defeated former Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits 974 to 225 for the at-large city council seat being vacated by Kailey Dees and said, "I want to listen and learn and I want us to grow and keep Vidalia progressive and moving forward.  Anything I can do that's good for the city, I want to do it.  If anyone has any ideas or thoughts that I can use to make us better, I'd certainly be glad to hear them and be open to the folks, the people."

In the 4th Ward, veteran council member Lisa Chesser will be succeeded by Loyd Mobley who defeated his young challenger Logan Lawrence 362 to 98 and said serving on the city council is a family tradition, "It's a challenge, but I've always enjoyed a challenge and I'm looking forward to it.  My Dad was a councilman for 16 years and he loved it and I think I'll enjoy it.  I know it's a lot of hard work and a lot of responsibility.  It's a big job and I don't take that lightly.  I'll be ready to go to work on January 1 and between now and then I'll be learning all I can about the city,"

Third Ward councilman John Raymond Turner was unopposed as were Vidalia Board of Education members Bruce Asberry, Doug Roper, III and Julie Torrance.

In Lyons there was no opposition to incumbent Mayor Willis NeSmith, Jr. nor to councilmen Ivy Toole and Rick Hartley.

In Santa Claus Amy Lawler takes over as Mayor with incumbent Vince Meadows not running, Donita Bowen succeeds incumbent Timothy Horton who decided not to run for re-election to the city council and incumbent councilman Tad Bryant was re-elected without opposition.

November 5--  The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office has arrested a man in connection with a shooting in Ailey.

bookingjordanAccording to Sheriff Doug Maybin, Jaquan Jordan of Mount Vernon is charged with aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during commission of a crime.

He's accused in connection with assaulting and injuring an unidentified person in Ailey the night of October 25.

The same night shots were fired into a residence on West McKinnon Street in Mount Vernon and a second suspect is being sought in that case.  

Sheriff Maybin says there may be a connection between the two shootings.

The GBI is assisting the sheriff's office and the Mount Vernon Police Department with the investigation.

November 5--  The Toombs County Branch of the NAACP awarded college scholarships during its10th Annual Fall Freedom Fund Banquet over the weekend at Chatters in Lyons.

naacpswinners(L-R) Mrs. Sonja Eason accepts the scholarship of behalf of her daughter Cari Eason, a 2019 graduate of Toombs County High School who is attending Clayton State University; Bakari Woods, a 2019 graduate of Montgomery County High School who attends Albany State University; and Mrs. Valerie Burnette, chairman of the Toombs County Education Committee, who presented the scholarships.

Branch President Tracy Johnson said, "Congratulations to Miss Cari Eason and Mr. Bakari Woods for being our 2019 scholarship recipients. It was a great pleasure to honor these two deserving and high achieving college students from our local area in continuing their future endeavors.

"We also honored several phenomenal individuals who have been outstanding pillars of our community.

"On the behalf of all members and officers we’d like to thank all of our donors, special guests and honorees, and all who were in attendance at this year’s event."

The Reverend Dr. Francys Johnson, former congressional candidate and President of the Georgia NAACP, was the guest speaker and spoke on the theme of the ceremony, "When We Fight, We Win."

November 5--  Voters in Tarrytown are voting today on two questions regarding the sale of liquor in the city limits.

City Clerk Jean Kinney says voters will decide if they want to okay the sale and consumption of liquor on premises and also if they want to authorize the sale of liquor during certain hours on Sundays, the so-called "Mimosa Law."

Voting is taking place at the Tarrytown Volunteer Fire Department station until seven p.m.

November 5--  Some folks in Toombs County think they can vote today for Toombs County Sheriff, but they can't!

Toombs County Voting Registrar Carey Alligood says "a lot of folks" have shown up today to vote for sheriff, however, that race isn't on the ballot until May, 2020.

She says the early announcements by two candidates for sheriff, incumbent Sheriff Junior Kight and Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker, gave people the idea the election for sheriff was today.

The only area contested races today are in city elections in Vidalia and in Mount Vernon, Higgston and Uvalda.

Find out who won those races after the polls close tonight at seven p.m. on NewsTalk WVOP, AM 970 and FM 105.3; Your Favorite, 98Q (FM 97.7), Sweet Onion Country 1017FM and streaming on the web at www.southeastgeorgiatoday.com.

The election coverage is courtesy of the Peoples Bank of Lyons and Vidalia.

November 4--  The primary schools in Vidalia and Toombs County showed big improvements in their 2019 performance reports released by the Georgia Department of Education.

In 2018, J.D. Dickerson Primary School had a dismal rating of 44.3, but in 2019, during the last year under Principal Scott Stephens, the school jumped 33 points to a rating of 77.3.  

The new principal at Dickerson, Brenda McLain, has been the assistant principal for the last  14 years and says additions to the curriculum accounted for some of the higher score.

"We had the opportunity to add some extracurricular courses which helped.  We had not had arts and music for several years, but were able to add those back last year and that gave us extra points.  Also, the teachers made sure we were communicating with the community so we could all be on the same page and understand that our mission here is to get them ready and prepared for the next level," she said.

Principal McLain also said the open door policy implemented by Stephens contributed to the five-star school climate rating, "I think people felt like it was great to send their children here and that they were safe when they were here and were learning when they were here, and I attribute a lot of that to that."

Meanwhile, at Lyons Primary School. the performance score jumped eleven points and busted the 80 mark.

Principal Chris Bell says he knows why, "The biggest thing I can say here at  Lyons Primary is that we have a hard working staff that goes above and beyond to try and prepare these students for what comes after the second grade when they leave us.  We're trying to build a strong foundation.  We're not just teaching kids how to read and write and do math, but we're teaching them how to function in a classroom environment and get along with each other.  It's a very challenging job, but we have a building full of people who are up to the challenge."

November 2-- Members of the Vidalia High School chorus attended the Georgia Music Educators Association District One Honor Chorus in Springfield this week.

According to Chorus Director John Morgan, "These students proved their excellence in local auditions and were selected to participate in the clinic for two grueling days of rehearsal culminating in a wonderful performance for their parents and peers."

vhschorus19Vidalia Comprehensive High School was well represented at the annual event by Makynna Beasley, Canyon Beck, Emma Braddy, Autumn Claxton, Maliyah Cooper, Cheylyn Cowart, Miguel Cruz, Felicity Day, Ashlynn Goodwin, Kaylie Gunter, Autumn Harris, Jaquan Johnson, Landon Lindsay, Joy McCullough, Morgan Osborne, Makenna Rakes, Keishay Smith, Luke Stinnett, Ja’Via Walton, and Walker Wheeler.

Landon Lindsay was featured as a soloist in the concert.

"These students rehearsed for several weeks on the difficult and unfamiliar repertoire for the event, and represented our school well in both their discipline and musical skills under the batons of master conductors. The concerts were thrilling, and many choral parents attended the event, Morgan said.

"I congratulate the students and thank the parents, chaperones, Principal John Sharpe and the Vidalia  Board of Education for allowing these students to attend this memorable event" he added.

November 2--  Vidalia Police Chief Brian Scott reports the following arrests.

Wiggins, Shcaya Kenay- B/F- 17 YOA- 1208 Easter Dr. Apt. 43 Vidalia, GA- Disruption of a Public School (State Warrant)

Walker, Tykeavius Desmond- B/M- 20 YOA- 176 Freaman Graham Blvd. Eastman, GA- Warrant Served (Dodge County)

Smith, Tyler Will- W/M- 27 YOA- 2600 S. Old River Rd. Uvalda, GA- Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense

Reffitt, Vernon Lee- W/M- 37 YOA- 116 Beechwood Dr. Vidalia, GA- Theft of Mislaid Property/False Statement and Writings (State Warrants)

Smith, Stacey A. - W/F- 33 YOA- 3178 Lyons Center Rd. Lyons, GA- Financial Transaction Card Fraud (x11- State Warrants)

White, Angela-B/F- 35 YOA- 507 S Broadfoot Blvd. Vidalia, GA- Criminal Trespass

Holmes, David Sylvester-B/M-39 YOA- 661 Sherwood Dr. Jonesboro, Ga- Crimnial Trespass

Thevenin, James Paul-W/M-18 YOA- 141 CW Driggers Rd Lot#2- Lyons, Ga-Theft by Taking

Childs, Michael W/M- 18 YOA- 141 CW Driggers Rd. Lot#2- Lyons,Ga-Theft by Taking

Poss, Kyra Mae- W/F- 17 YOA- 1704 E. North St. Vidalia, GA Burglary, Interference with Government Property

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Lon Tosolla, Lyons, driving without license on person

Mayra Juarez, Lyons, battery family violence

Jonathan Zamorano, Lyons, battery family violence

David Anderson, Lyons, seatbelt violation

Michael Childs, Lyons, underage possession, purchase and consumption of alcohol

James Thevenin, Lyons, underage possession, purchase and consumption of alcohol

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Hollis Bryant, Uvalda, felony murder, probation violation, failure to appear

Brittany Carswell, Vidalia, financial card transaction

Kathryn Cortes, Vidalia, bad checks

Michael Cox, Statesboro, aggravated assault, criminal damage to property, possession of firearm or knife during certain crimes

Marquita Johnson, Reidsville, failure to appear

David Milliron, Cobbtown, DUI, hit and run, failure to maintain lane

William Mitchell, Lyons, probation violation

Fermen Ramirez, Baxley, driving unlicensed, operating vehicle without registration/license plate, traffic control devices

Michael Robinson, Lyons, probation weekender

Gudiel Soto, Savannah, driving unlicensed, speeding

Michael Whitfield, Lyons, probation weekender

La Rica Wilder, Vidalia, disruption/interference with operation of public schools

Israel Williams, Lyons, felony murder

Quintavius Williams, aggravated assault and battery

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

10/21-Ginger Michele Moxley, Vidalia, Cruelty to Children-2nd, Possession Controlled Substance w/Intent, Parole Violation

10/22-Bobby Brown, Glenwood, Warrant Served - Chatham County

10/24-Jamie Lynn Allen, Uvalda, Theft by Taking (Felony)

10/25-Fredericka Monice Seay, Lyons, Loud Music, DUI

10/27-Krysanna M. Crapps, Hazlehurst, Tag Light Violation, DUI

By Senator Jack Hill, Reidsville

UNRESOLVED ISSUES IN DUAL ENROLLMENT

Dual Enrollment for high school students has existed under different names such as "Move On When Ready" and "Accel" for a number of years.  High school students have always been able to enroll in colleges while still in high school but there were always impediments to full participation. One of the barriers was that school districts lost funding for the period of time that a high school student was taking a college class. Another impediment was that students' credit hours would count against their HOPE Scholarship eligibility later on. An ad hoc committee finally worked out the details of what became known as Dual Enrollment and for many reasons, the program has grown exponentially.

HOW DUAL ENROLLMENT WORKS

Dual enrollment at a college, public or private, or technical college is free to the student.  When a high school student enrolls in a college course, the state continues to pay the school system under the QBE Formula for the student's regular attendance. If a student takes classes at a TCSG or USG institution, their credit hours count towards the funding formulas for each higher education system. Additionally, the Student Finance Commission pays the college tuition for the student to attend class. The student thus is earning postsecondary college credit or technical college credit towards a certificate at no cost to them.

COSTS ROSE RAPIDLY

At the start of the current program, the Technical College System and the Board of Regents System shared about an equal amount of the cost and private institutions had a much smaller portion. In these few short years, private institutions have taken a larger portion of the total cost and along with TCSG have accounted for the bulk of the growth. From FY 2016 to FY 2019 Dual Enrollment costs increased 67.8% at USG institutions, 107.9% at TCSG institutions, and 224.4% at private institutions.

In 2016, Dual Enrollment costs totaled about $45 million in state dollars. In FY 2020 the state appropriation is underfunded at almost $100 million dollars. The original projection for Dual Enrollment called for nearly $126 million in total funding, but the budget was reduced to reflect changes to program which would have happened if HB 444 had been passed this past session.

BOOK PAYMENTS ENDED

Costs have leveled out between FY 2019 and FY 2020 due to the decision by the Georgia Student Finance Commission to cease paying for books and fees beginning this coming fall. This decision was made by the commission to maintain the cost of the Dual Enrollment program within the available funding. Unfortunately, the levelling out is temporary because the overall demand for the program is unchanged. For FY 2021, GSFC is projecting it will cost $123 million.

ISSUES WITH CURRENT DUAL ENROLLMENT SYSTEM

A State Auditor's report in 2018 outlined some of the reasons for the rapidly advancing cost of Dual Enrollment and some of the areas where increasing costs have been rampant. The report pointed out there are no restraints on the number or content of courses students can take under Dual Enrollment. The report also outlined that there is no statewide standard grade requirement and grade levels as low as a "C" can qualify for some colleges.

There is no standard amount that the Student Finance Commission pays all colleges, public and private. Instead, for USG and TCSG institutions, Student Finance pays the standard tuition per-credit-hour rate which varies from $95.00 to $341.93 although, most Dual Enrollment classes taken at USG institutions are at cheaper colleges. All TCSG institutions have a $100 per-credit-hour tuition rate. Private institutions are paid at a fixed rate of $250 for colleges using a semester system and $187 for colleges using a quarter system.

STANDARDS FOR INSTRUCTORS?

Dual Enrollment classes can be taught on a college campus, online, or on a high school campus. If they are taught on a high school campus the instructor can be a normal college professor who travels to the high school, or the instructor could be a high school teacher who is made an adjunct faculty member at a college. No matter where the class is delivered or who teaches it, the cost is the same. Additionally, there are no statewide standard requirements for Dual Enrollment instructors except that they meet the general requirements to be an adjunct faculty member that each college sets.

IDEAS ON REDUCING COSTS, SETTING STANDARDS

Cutting down on what Dual Enrollment funds will lead to short term savings. However, until the growth in demand for the program is addressed, the high cost will return eventually.

Setting a standard award payment across all sectors of Dual Enrollment and allowing colleges to make the choice to continue accepting Dual Enrollment students could help to limit the program's growth. Requiring a minimum standard GPA for all high school students would limit program costs and it could incentivize high school students to get better grades so they can participate in Dual Enrollment. Additionally, eliminating payments for summer classes to align Dual Enrollment with the high school calendar would result in savings.

Limiting a student to 30 credit hours, or ten classes, and then counting credit hours taken above that limit towards their HOPE Scholarship eligible hours would reduce costs and incentivize high school students to be thoughtful in the college classes they take.

DUAL ENROLLMENT- A SUCCESS STORY

Ultimately, it will be up to the General Assembly in the upcoming session to determine what changes will be made to Dual Enrollment to preserve the benefit for future students while addressing the very high cost of the program.

Dual Enrollment at its core is a wonderful advantage for high school students to get ahead in college attendance, get a feel for college while still in high school or attain a trade or skill before graduation that may assist in a job search.

We shouldn't forget that Dual Enrollment is succeeding. The audit report referred to earlier noted that 83% of high school graduates in 2015, who participated in dual enrollment, were enrolled in a postsecondary institution within one year of graduating. Nearly half had earned a credential or degree within six years. 

November 1--  Not many people took advantage of advance voting for the Tuesday city council races in Vidalia.

Voting registrar Carey Alligood reports 457 voters, seven percent of the city's 6,741 registered voters, cast ballots.  She says 43 people have returned absentee ballots so far.

Running city-wide for the at-large seat on the city council are former Vidalia police chief Franks Waits versus accountant Bob Dixon.

The race for the fourth ward is between business executive Loyd Mobley and law firm research director Logan Lawrence.

Rumors started floating around Vidalia Friday that Lawrence was accepting a job in Atlanta and would be moving.  In an interview on NewsTalk WVOP, he denied the rumors.

"That is not true,  I'm not going to be moving to Atlanta right now.  I'm still in the election and asking people to vote for me.  I'm still campaigning, talking to people and hoping for a positive result on Tuesday," Lawrence said.

When asked if he's been offered a job in Atlanta, the candidate said, "That's not something I'm willing to disclose.  I don't really think that's anyone's business," but he reiterated regarding a move, "I have no plan right now to do that."

The polls are open Tuesday from 7 a.m. till 7 p.m. and there's only one voting location.  It's at the Vidalia Municipal Annex.

November 1 -- Toombs County Middle School announces October Students of the Month. These students have worked hard to obtain this by having good grades, attendance, and citizenship.

From The Top
1st Row: Ryan Galbreath, Cassandra Romo, Justin Harrison
2nd Row: from the top: Alicia Montes
3rd Row: from the top: Neal Hower, Alejandro Tinoco Zamora, and Rhyanna Howard
4th Row: from the top:Samual Kelly, Aaliyah South, and Richard Santiago
5th Row: from the top: Aleah Carroll, Jean Peterson, and Jessi Meeks
Not Pictured: Mario Rojas Perez and Autumn Jarriel

November 1 -- Congratulations to our October Students of the Month! We are very proud of you!

Front Row L-R: Dan Giron (3rd Grade), Brooklyn Jackson (Pre-K), and Walker Nabb (Kindergarten)
Back Row L-R: London Bishop (1st Grade), Ivan Tinoco (2nd Grade), and Makenna Gardisser (5th Grade)

October 31--  The two elementary schools in the Toombs County school system have the best performance ratings this year among elementary schools in the immediate area.

Toombs Central Elementary has a performance rating of 82.5 which is five points higher than the state average while Lyons Upper Elementary School improved its rating more than eleven points over last year for a 75.1 rating.

Toombs Central Principal Tonawanda Irie says the school is maintaining the standard it set last year," Once again it's just consistency of practice, great community support and support from our county office.We just continue the course.  We look at the data, we make adjustments and we just keep moving forward. Regardless of the kids who walk through those doors, we stay the course.  We've maintained a "B" for many years and we're very proud of that."

At Lyons Upper Elementary, Principal Tabitha Nobles credits the school's rebound to a combination of hard work and prayer, "There are kids who need us and kids who have deficits that we want to address.  We want to help the whole child and put it in God's hands.  We all pull together, analyze the data and see what our students need moving forward.  One thing we all agreed on was that we would continue to give our students the best and hand those results over to God.  Our big push here is to pray daily that God is going to guide us with what our students need.  We really believe that the big difference is that we've handed it over and we're really blessed."

Primary schools in both Toombs and Vidalia saw significant improvements in their ratings this year and there's more to come on that in a future report.

October 31 -- Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals Honors Outstanding Community Contributions
(Greensboro, GA) – Dr. Alan Kent of Meadows Regional Medical Center was named 2019 CEO of the Year by the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals (the Alliance) at its 36th Annual Conference, held on October 16-18, 2019.
GA Alliance 2 3The Alliance annual awards highlight the impact of member not-for-profit hospitals and their executive leadership on individual patients, the health and wellness of Georgians, and the quality of life of their communities. Dr. Kent is recognized by his colleagues as an executive leader who has expanded and improved the services provided to his community and garnered industry accolades for Meadows Regional Medical Center.
Dr. Alan Kent has served as President of Meadows Regional Medical Center since 2000, having previously served in leadership in hospitals in Alabama, Florida, Virginia, and Newnan, Georgia. He is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives.
Dr. Kent is also heavily involved in his community and our industry, including on the ACHE Georgia Regents Advisory Council, as Chairman of the Master of Healthcare Administration (“MHA”) Advisory Committee at Georgia Southern University, and on the board of the Georgia Health Information Network. He has also served on the Board of Southeastern Technical College as a member and as Chairman.
Under Dr. Kent’s leadership, Meadows Regional Medical Center has significantly enhanced access to care in the community by expanding its services to include interventional cardiology and comprehensive cancer services, building a state-of-the-art facility, and significantly improving the quality of care provided to their patients. He has led Meadows Regional Medical Center to broad recognition for excellence in healthcare.
“I am pleased to recognize Dr. Alan Kent for his excellent stewardship as CEO of Meadows Regional Medical Center, for the widespread recognition of the hospital’s high standards for patient care and its constant striving to better serve the surrounding community,” said Alliance President, Monty Veazey.
About the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals
The Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals (GACH) has been working for the best interests of community not-for-profit hospitals and Georgia's health care consumers since its founding in 1983. The Alliance works to foster goodwill among community health care professionals; to advocate the enactment of sound laws, rules and regulations affecting community hospitals; to conduct and disseminate research; and to share ideas that improve the health care delivery system in Georgia.

October 31-- On Friday, October 25, 2019 an incident occurred at the Montgomery County High School that resulted in an unprovoked threat being made. The threat was not relayed to anyone or school officials until Tuesday, October 29, 2019.

The juvenile who made the comments was immediately located and suspended in accordance with school policy.

Upon notification of the incident, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office determined further investigation was warranted. Deputies interviewed witnesses, and as a result of the investigation, a Juvenile Complaint has been filed with the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice for terroristic threats.

The juvenile did not have a weapon on campus nor in his possession that was found or located.

Sheriff Doug Maybin said, "Montgomery County School Superintendent Hugh Kight, Principal Scott Barrow, all school officials, and I would like to encourage anyone who hears or sees any type of threat to notify officials immediately. Notification can be made in person, by telephone or social media anytime, day or night. Working together will keep everyone safe at school and at home."

October 31-- Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said Thursday that Heart of Georgia region added employed residents in September.

At the same time, the unemployment rate decreased in September across the 17-county area, preliminary numbers show.

“Georgia had an amazing month in September,” said Butler. “More than half of our regions set a record for lowest unemployment rate ever.  Many of our counties also posted similar numbers. Those are very strong results.”

Nationally, the unemployment rate dropped 0.2 percentage points in September to 3.5 percent. The nation also grew its labor force, increased the number of employed residents and added more 130,000 jobs.

Georgia’s unemployment rate also fell 0.1 percentage points in September to reach 3.5 percent.  A year ago, Georgia’s unemployment rate sat at 3.7 percent. The state’s all-time low of 3.4 percent was set in December 2000.

Rates fell across all 12 of Georgia’s planning regions. Seven set a record for lowest rates ever.

In Heart of Georgia, the unemployment rate dropped 0.7 percentage points in September, settling at 4.4 percent. A year ago, the rate was 4.4 percent.

The labor force in Heart of Georgia decreased by 609 in September, bringing the total to 116,820. The number has decreased by 36 when compared to the same month a year ago.

Heart of Georgia added 280 employed residents in September, bringing the total to 111,679. The number is up 11 for the year.

Claims for unemployment insurance were up by about 82 percent in September. They were up by about 2 percent when compared to the same month a year ago.

Employ Georgia, the GDOL’s online job listing service at employgeorgia.com showed 612 active job postings in Heart of Georgia for September.

The Heart of Georgia region includes Appling, Bleckley, Candler, Dodge, Emanuel, Evans, Jeff Davis, Johnson, Laurens, Montgomery, Tattnall, Telfair, Toombs, Treutlen, Wayne, Wheeler, and Wilcox counties.

October 30--  The Montgomery County Middle and High Schools are leading the area in performance according to the Georgia Department of Education.

The Middle School is number one in the Heart of Georgia region with a performance rating of 85.4 which is 13 points better than the state average and more than nine points higher than last year.

The High School shows a ten point improvement over last year.  Its 78.8 performance rating exceeds the state average and is the highest of any high school in the immediate area.

Dr. Scott Barrow is the principal of both the middle and high school, "This is my fourth year here and we've been very fortunate to get some very good quality teachers and we've got a really good staff right now that is doing a great job building relationships and have a standards-based classroom.  The staff and students have bought in to what we're trying to do and I could not be any more proud."

This is the second consecutive year the Montgomery County Middle and High School have exceeded the performance of other area schools and Dr. Barrow says that's a point of pride.

"Montgomery County can be proud and this general area can be proud of what our students are accomplishing.  I've told my students and staff I want them to be able to put on that Montgomery County Eagle pride gear and feel comfortable wearing it anywhere, not just in Mount Vernon.  If they go to another town, they need to be able to wear it proudly, not in a boastful way, but just in a proud way.  Our social media hashtag is #EaglePride and everything we do, we try to represent that, whether we're home or away so to speak," Dr. Barrow said.

While Montgomery County Elementary School is still seven points below the state average of 77.1, the school has improved by nearly eleven points over last year.

October 30-- The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office is making routine and legally required updates to Georgia’s voter file that will reduce the size of the voter roll by 4 percent. These updates are required by federal and state law in order to ensure that the state has the most up-to-date voter information.

 “Election security is my top priority,” said Secretary Raffensperger. “Accurate and up-to-date voter rolls are vital to secure elections, but at the same time I want to ensure that anyone potentially affected by this routine process has notice and opportunity to update their information. That is why my office is releasing the full list to ensure that people who are still eligible voters can update their information.”

The Georgia General Assembly passed additional laws in 2019 requiring election officials to mail a personalized notice to the last known address of people prior to removing them from the voter rolls due to a change in address. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has decided to take the additional step of posting the list of people online.

“States like Nevada, Minnesota, Colorado, Arizona, Illinois, Maryland and Vermont have similar rates of cancellations due to people moving as Georgia,” said Jordan Fuchs Deputy Secretary of State. “The 4 percent rate that we are seeing is similar to what states across the country are seeing.”

Next week, election officials will mail a notice to the last known address of people who have been in “inactive” status for more than three years and had no contact with election officials during that time. A registration is moved to “inactive” status when the person fails to respond to a pre-addressed, postage paid confirmation card asking them to confirm or update their information. The confirmation card is required to be sent to people who have filed a National Change of Address Card with the U.S. Postal Service indicating that they have moved to a new address, had election mail returned as undeliverable, or did not have any contact with election officials (including not voting) for the three prior years.

The process started under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, signed into federal law by then-President Bill Clinton. Additional laws were passed in Georgia regarding list maintenance in 1994 by a Democrat majority General Assembly and signed into law by a Democrat Governor. Lastly, these laws were implemented by a Democrat Georgia Secretary of State.

Both federal and state law require election officials to conduct list maintenance on registration records where the person has died or moved to a different address. Georgia law specifically requires elections officials to remove registration records that have been in “inactive” status for two general elections and have had no contact with election officials during that time.

“Accurate voter lists limit confusion and delays at polling places on Election Day, and make sure voters get the correct ballot,” said Chris Harvey, Elections Director for the Secretary of State’s Office. “Accurate registration lists also allow county election offices to plan for polling place equipment and staffing needs. Accurate voter lists reduce the opportunities for mistakes or fraud.”

“Keeping accurate lists assures the public that our election system works well and that the results are fair,” notes David Becker, the executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a blog post last year. “…Good list maintenance is good for democracy, not just because it means more efficient elections, but because it confirms to the electorate that the vote isn’t rigged.”

The Georgia law requiring moving registrants who have had “no contact” with election officials to “inactive” status if they fail to return the confirmation card was challenged in court in 2016, but the lawsuit was dismissed. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a similar Ohio law in 2018.

A bipartisan state law enacted in 2019 added an additional notification to people whose registrations are subject to cancellation in addition to the initial notice. That new notification will be mailed out next week.

Raffensperger is initiating an additional feature beyond the notice required by the 2019 law. As a convenience to those on the list, the notice they get in the mail will include a postage-paid postcard that they can simply sign and drop into any mailbox, no stamps required. He also decided to post the list online.

Anyone can search the list of registrations that are subject to cancellation. Only information that is public pursuant to state law is included. If your name is on the list and you are still an eligible Georgia voter, you can simply update your registration at http://registertovote.sos.ga or contact your county elections office. You may also respond to the confirmation card that will be included with the notice, but keep in mind that the notice is mailed to your last known address of your voter registration, which may not be accurate if you have moved and not updated your registration. Any registered voter can check their registration information to confirm it is accurate and up-to-date at https://www.mvp.sos.ga.gov.

The list contains 313,243 records, or about 4 percent of Georgia’s total number of registered voters, which is in line with the number of records cancelled by other states according to the 2018 Election Administration and Voting Survey conducted by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. The number is less than the census estimates of people moving out of Georgia during the two-year period since the state last conducted this routine list maintenance process.

Of the inactive registration list, 108,306, or 34.6 percent, filed a change of address request with the U.S. Postal Service showing they have moved to a different county or state. Another 84,376, or 26.9 percent, had election mail returned as undeliverable.

The remaining 120,561, or 38.5 percent, have had no contact with their county election officials since prior to the 2012 presidential election and failed to respond to a confirmation card sent by their county elections office. Contact is usually is in the form of voting – either in person or absentee, but updating their registration, signing a petition, or requesting an absentee ballot also counts. Renewing or updating their driver’s license will also count as a contact with election officials unless the person opts out.

The list of registrations subject to cancellation can be viewed here: https://sos.ga.gov/admin/uploads/2019_NGE_List.xlsx

How a registration becomes subject to cancellation:

Step 1:

A registered voter files a change of address request with the U.S. Postal Service or

Official election mail is returned undeliverable or

A person has no contact with elections officials for three years. Contact can be in the form of voting in any election or primary, signing a petition, updating voter registration, or renewing or changing a driver’s license.

Step 2:

  Not responding to a confirmation letter mailed by the county voter registrar.

Step 3:

Having no contact with voter registration for two additional general elections, meaning not voting in any election or primary, signing a petition, updating voter registration or renewing or changing a driver’s license.

Step 4:

  Failing to respond within 30 days to the notice which they are being sent by either

a.  returning the attached postage-paid postcard they will receive or

b.  updating their registration

1.  on registertovote.sos.ga.gov

2.  smartphone app, or

3.  visiting their county voter registrar’s office.

October 30--  Election officials say advance voting in Vidalia's city council election has been light.

Voting Registrar Carey Alligood reports about 300 people had voted at close of voting on Tuesday and her office has received about 30 absentee ballots.

Registered voters can vote in advance through Friday at five p.m. at the Vidalia Police Department.

There are two city council races in Tuesday's city election. 

Former Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits and accountant Bob Dixon are running for the at-large city council seat being vacated by Kailey Dees.  The 4th Ward seat being vacated by Lisa Chesser is between corporate executive Loyd Mobley and Logan Lawrence, an Information and Research Services Director for a local law firm.

There is only one place to vote on Tuesday.  All voters will vote at the Vidalia Police Department in the Municipal Annex.  Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

You can hear election results Tuesday night after the polls close on Your Favorite 98Q  (FM 97.7), Sweet Onion Country 1017 FM and NewsTalk WVOP, AM 970 and 105.3 FM and streaming at www.southeastgeorgiatoday.com courtesy of the Peoples Bank.

October 29--  The Georgia Department of Education released its annual report on school performance and it's not good news for Sally D. Meadows Elementary School in Vidalia.

The school's performance is 20 points below the state average of 77 including a school climate rating of three stars compared to five stars for the other Vidalia City schools.

Scott Stephens is the school's fourth principal in six years and he told the Vidalia school board the school experienced a personnel turnover rate of 37% from last year to this year, "We've had a large turnover in personnel and a lack of consistency with our personnel.  I believe those are the factors that have contributed to the lack of climate, and you see that in our climate rating.  With the lack of consistency in instruction, we've lost ground compared to the state.  We recognize those as problems and we're working on addressing those."

After being on the job for only a few months, Stephens informed the school board during a meeting at the school that he has a plan to make changes, "I can't just make massive changes in the middle of the school year.  That would create more chaos than it would serve, but I do have a plan in place to start the school year off next year.  There will be some pretty significant changes to make some improvements across the board as far as the school is concerned and very specifically in 4th grade."

The elementary school in our immediate area with the best rating is Toombs Central with 82.5 followed by Lyons Upper Elementary with 75.1 and Montgomery Elementary with 70.9.  Treutlen Elementary has the worst rating at 54.9, a drop of ten points from last year.

By State Senator Jack Hill, Reidsville

IS UNCLAIMED PROPERTY YOUR TREAT FOR HALLOWEEN?

When I saw the category of "Other Interest, Fees & Sales" on the September State Revenue Report, I thought of a major component-"Unclaimed Property." Every year the state sets aside millions of dollars that cannot be delivered by businesses, governments and other entities and holds it in a trust as "Unclaimed Property."

And it is easy to find out if you have funds being held in Unclaimed Property. 

GENERALLY UNEXPECTED TREATS

The Georgia Department of Revenue (DOR) has a free, government website that allows individuals to search and claim their property that has been lost and then remitted to the state. With very minimal required documentation, you can claim it without any company fees or cost to you. Unclaimed property includes, but is not limited to: wages, savings accounts, customer refunds, accounts payable, insurance payments, shares of stock, escrow funds, royalties and contents from safe deposit boxes. Most property is reported to the program after five years of inactivity.

NO TRICKS INVOLVED FOR UNCLAIMED PROPERTY

Tucked into September's state revenues was an interesting increase in a surprising category. The "Other Interest, Fees & Sales", which rarely gets noticed for its odd and ends, was up $28.5 million dollars, in September 2019 over September 2018. It jumps out as particularly strange since the month was only up $15.7 million overall. So what is this category that contributed to the small increase in monthly revenues?

The Note 2 disclosure on the revenue release carries some explanation. "Other Interest, Fees & Sales" include payments that have been deposited in the bank, but for which returns may not have been processed. These undistributed tax payments are then re-classified (once the return is processed) to the appropriate revenue tax account. "Other" also includes "Unclaimed Property" collections.

So who has unclaimed property you may ask? Turns out it may be you!

SEARCHING AND CLAIMING UNCLAIMED PROPERTY IN GEORGIA

According to the Department of Revenue, property becomes abandoned when an entity has held the property for an apparent owner and has not had any contact with the owner for a specific period of time as set by statute. All private companies (including banks and insurance companies) as well as all Governmental Agencies have a duty to report abandoned property. Once the property is reported to the Unclaimed Property Program, it becomes "unclaimed property".

To search and claim your property or funds that may have been categorized as unclaimed property, it is not necessary for you to contract with asset recovery services or any other business or company asking to assist you. Instead, you make a simple search and then follow directions on the Georgia Department of Revenue website and that is all you need.

A link is on the main https://dor.georgia.gov/ website under "Online Services" with Search capacity located at https://gaclaims.unclaimedproperty.com/en/Property/SearchIndex.

SEARCHING AND CLAIMING YOUR TREATS

If you find that you believe you have unclaimed property you add them to your cart and then follow the prompts to submit the required documentation to the Department of Revenue to claim the item(s). If you have moved, you can also search for unclaimed property of yours in other states where you've lived. Each state has a free government-run website that, free of charge, allows you to search and supply documentation to claim your property. The amounts may be large or small, but sure to bring a smile in any amount.

PERSONAL NOTE

I found an item in my name that was at least 10 years old. So, this is worth the effort to check.

October 29-- Last Wednesday Vidalia High School's one-act play cast and crew won the GHSA Region 2AA One-Act Play Competition with their production of The Death and Life of Larry Benson by Kristin Sergel, adapted from the television show by Reginald Rose.

vhsoneactJariyah Williams won Best Actress for her portrayal of Freda Benson, Keyes Sanders was named to the All-Star Cast for his portrayal of The Boy, and Hannah Conner was named to the All-Star Cast for her portrayal of Jessie Benson.

Community performances will be held Monday, November 4, and Tuesday, November 5, at 7:00 p.m. at the Vidalia High School Theater. Admission is $5.00 and tickets may be purchased at the door.

The cast and crew will advance to state competition at Upson Lee High School in Thomaston Saturday, November 9.  

October 29--  Two Lyons men accused of murdering 26-year-old Brandon Colson of Lyons were in Toombs County Superior Court Monday for their first appearance hearing before Superior Court Judge Kathy Palmer.

bryantcourtphotoJudge Palmer explained the felony murder charges against 24-year-old Hollis Alan Bryant (left) and 19-year-old  Israel Timothy Williams.

Colson had been reporting missing October 4.  His body was found in a makeshift grave last week in a wooded area near Bryant's  residence at 148 Ponderosa Road in Toombs County.

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the two accused were acquaintances of Colson and he thinks the crime was about "money."

Chief Assistant District Attorney Tripp Fitzner expects the case will be presented to a Toombs County Superior Court in late November and more charges may be filed depending on the final report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

By State Representative Greg Morris of Vidalia

Rural Development Council. Speaker David Ralston has appointed me to serve as a member –at-large on the RDC. The RDC is a fifteen member committee tasked with travelling to rural parts of the state, identifying policies and ideas that will enhance economic opportunity outside of the metro areas. My first meeting as a member will be this week in Camden County at the College of Coastal Georgia in Kingsland. The meetings are public with local government officials, health care providers, civic groups, business leaders, and educators, working together to find ways to encourage economic growth.

Georgia is considered the number one state in the nation for business, generating 750,000 new private sector jobs since 2010. But citizens of rural Georgia have not participated in this economic success. The task of the committee is not to identify the problems. The problems are well known. Our task is to drill down into the issues for specific legislation that will help create good jobs for rural Georgians. It really has to be the number one priority. Government doesn’t really fund education, public safety, and healthcare. The taxes paid by Georgia citizens do. The income, corporate, and sales taxes paid by Georgia businesses, and the taxes generated by the paychecks of the people who work in them pay teachers, and state patrolmen, not government. We forget that at our peril.

Paying College Athletes. As I expected, a Democratic legislator has announced plans to introduce legislation to allow college athletes to be paid. The bill presumably, will be modeled after California law that compensates athletes for the use of their name, image or likeness. The idea is as idiotic as it is asinine. Oh I almost forgot. The athlete would also be allowed to hire agents to represent them. Can you imagine trying to recruit athletes in a state that doesn’t allow it against a school in a state that does? I love college football and couldn’t bear to see it turn into the NFL. When I look as those sidelines I see young student athletes on Dooley Field and I feel proud to see them representing my Alma Mater. Turn on the NFL and you’re liable to see some unpatriotic jack$%@ making 50 million dollars kneeling during the National Anthem. But that’s private enterprise. If people want to pay to see that, it’s their right. This bill would enrich others at the expense of the Georgia taxpayer and ruin college athletics and I will oppose it.

October 26--  There have been 84 domestic violence deaths in Georgia during the past 12 months and supporters of the local Refuge Domestic Violence Shelter are trying to get the word out to women living with abusers that help is available in Toombs County.

refugeballoonsThe shelter observed Domestic Violence Awareness Month by releasing 84 purple balloons in the sky above Vidalia and by dropping purple flowers into the pond at Southeastern Tech.

Major Roger Callaway with the Vidalia Police Department is the board chairman for "The Refuge, "What we're seeing a lot of times when you've got these kind of cases, it deals with finances, it deals with substance abuse, but it starts off real subtle.  It starts off where they just argue a little bit, then somebody gets slapped and then next thing you know somebody gets hurt or killed."

Chief Assistant District Attorney Tripp Fitzner has tried two domestic violence murders in Toombs County, "If anything good possibly could come out of the deaths of these two women, let it be to get their message out there and let it inspire other people to leave their abusive spouses and to get help."

Betty Dell Williams is the Executive Director at "The Refuge, "Let's think about those 84, but let's think about the victims and survivors we have in Vidalia that we have alive.  Let's help them, support them and believe them.  That's the one message I want to get out to people.  If someone comes to you and says they're in domestic violence, believe them and see what you can do to help.  Refer them to "The Refuge" and let's see if we can get them a safety plan and a life free of domestic violence."

refugeflowers

If you need help, call 912-538-9935.

October 26--  The Georgia Department of Community Affairs has granted a request from the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners for funds to improve two roads near the Petross Community.

Commission Chairman Leland Adams, Commissioner Chad Kenney and County Manager Brandon Braddy accepted a check for $471,887 to help pay for drainage and paving upgrades on Largo Drive and Ashley Alley.  Total cost of the project is estimated at $518,288 with the county paying a local share of $46,401.  The project is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

Chairman Adams said, “Montgomery County has been very fortunate in the past to have paved several roads in Montgomery County because of this grant program.  Dead River Road, Three Rivers Lane and Southland Drive are three roads in Montgomery County that have been paved with state community development  funds.  The commissioners and I are thankful to receive these grant funds for Largo Drive and Ashley Alley on Montgomery County’s behalf.”

mococdbg.jjpgThe check was presented earlier this month during the Department of Community Affairs Fall Conference in LaGrange.

(L-R):  Executive Director Brett Manning & Director of Economic & Community Development Hugh Darnley of the Heart of Georgia Altamaha Regional Commission; Commissioner Chad Kenney, DCA Commissioner Christopher Nuun, Chairman Leland Adams, DCA Region 9 Representative Lynn Ashcraft and County Manager Brandon Braddy)

BRYANT HOLLIS ALAN IN19 01532

October 25--  Two Lyons men are under arrest in connection with a suspected murder.

According to Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight,  26-year-old Brandon Colson of Lyons was reported missing to Lyons Police on October 6.  Authorities found his remains Thursday in a makeshift grave in a wooded area after initiating a search warrant at 148 Ponderosa Road in Toombs County.

Charged with felony murder in the case are 24-year-old Hollis Alan Bryant (top Photo) and 19-year-old Israel Timothy Williams, both of Lyons.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Tripp Fitzner says a first appearance hearing for the two will be Monday morning at 10:30 in Toombs County Superior Court.

Additional charges and arrests are pending in the case and the investigation is continuing by the GBI, the Toombs County Sheriff's Office and the Lyons Police Department.

If you have information, call the GBI at 478-374-6988, the Toombs County Sheriff's Office, 526-6778 or the Lyons Police Department, 526-3638.

WILLIAMS ISRAEL TIMOTHY IN19 01546

October 25-- The Georgia Department of Education today released the 2019 College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) scores.

Statewide, the scores show an increase at the high school level, and decreases in elementary and middle school.

CCRPI Overall Scores – 2019 vs. 2018

State

2019

2018

Elementary Schools

77.1

77.8

Middle Schools

72.1

76.2

High Schools

77.0

75.3

All Schools

75.9

76.6

CCRPI scores are based on five separate components – Content Mastery, Progress, Closing Gaps, Readiness and, for high schools, Graduation Rate. While the state averages for Content Mastery, Readiness, and Graduation Rate increased for elementary, middle, and high school, there were slight decreases in Progress scores, and larger decreases in the Closing Gaps component – which requires schools to meet elevated achievement targets for all subgroups.

Governor Kemp and Superintendent Woods’ Remarks – Refinements Needed to CCRPI

Together, Governor Brian P. Kemp and State School Superintendent Richard Woods acknowledged that work still needs to be done to support students and improve student achievement, while expressing a need to refine the CCRPI measurement to ensure it is a fair and stable measure that accurately captures school performance.

“I am a strong supporter of holding schools accountable for increased student achievement, but in a year when we’ve seen nearly across-the-board increases in national test scores and graduation rates as well as Georgia Milestones scores, seeing the CCRPI show a decrease instead raises concerns about the measurement used to determine school and district achievement,” Governor Kemp said. “I believe that we need to engage in a thoughtful process to create an accountability system that paints a true picture of what’s happening in a school. With unprecedented alignment between my office, the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, and the Department of Education, I’m confident that we’re finally in the right position to make long-needed refinements to this measurement.”

Superintendent Woods emphasized his commitment to work with state and federal partners to reduce the weight of standardized test scores in the CCRPI and move toward a wider and deeper measurement of performance that reflects the true mission of K-12 public schools: preparing students for life.

“As we aim to lessen the number of high-stakes tests our students take, we need the weight of testing in CCRPI to reflect the same priorities,” Superintendent Woods said. “Georgia’s parents, taxpayers, students, and educators deserve a fair measurement of performance that lifts up, rather than labels, our public schools. Working with Governor Kemp and the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, the time is right to make that shift.”

“Georgia’s public education system continues to receive both national and state-level recognition for its K-12 performance,” said Dr. Curtis Jones, the current National Superintendent of the Year and Superintendent of the Bibb County School District. “Now the State School Superintendent and the Governor’s Office are working hand-in-hand alongside local districts, which finally affords us the opportunity to develop a measurement that fully captures the success we’re seeing across multiple metrics.”

About the CCRPI

Under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – the replacement for No Child Left Behind (NCLB) passed in 2015 – states are required to have a “statewide accountability system” that provides information on how well schools are performing. Similar accountability systems were required under the No Child Left Behind waivers many states operated under before ESSA was passed, but ESSA gives states more authority over the process.

October 24-- On October 18, 2019, the GBI charged two juveniles with False Report of a Crime and Disruption of a Public School. These charges stemmed from a school threat that was reported on October 9, 2019 involving Wheeler County Middle/High School.

On Wednesday, October 9, 2019, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Eastman field office was requested by the Wheeler County Sheriff’s Office to conduct an investigation into the threat of violence at the Wheeler County Middle/High School. Through investigative activities that included information obtained from interviews, the threats were determined to originate from two juvenile offenders.

The investigation is active and ongoing. Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to contact the GBI Eastman office at 478-374-6988.

october student of the month
Left to Right
Top Row: Abram Holmes, Mason Brunson, Aonest McLendon, Cuyler Lightsey, and Marqivis Johnson
Third Row: Annalise Page, Cutter Roper, Jasmine Jones,  and Grant Long
Second Row: Michael Morgan, Noah Solomon, Janie Beck, Chevelle Fowler, and Kirk Harrison
Front Row: Lawson Worth, Weston Ellis, Daziyna Atkins, Abe Mckinnon, and Ramon Zuniga

October 24--  Wednesday Twelfth District Congressman Rick Allen and nearly 50 other Republican Congressmen tried to confront Congressman Adam Schiff in a basement room of the House of Representatives where Schiff is holding secret impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

Congressman Allen released the following statement.

"When we showed up to the House committee to observe testimony from a witness Schiff called, unbelievably he took the witness and left the committee room.  What was he trying to hide?
 
"Schiff has denied Republicans in Congress access to investigation documents, witnesses and the transcripts of their testimony. Why?  Because Nancy Pelosi and her handpicked witch hunt leader do not want the American people to find out what is really going on with their investigation.
 
"Yesterday, my colleagues and I took a stand against these secret impeachment hearings.  It was the right thing to do. I am glad we did it."

Tuesday night Congressman Allen spoke on the House floor in strong opposition to Speaker Pelosi and House Democrat leadership’s impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Congressman Allen’s remarks can be found below.


I rise today to strongly oppose the lack of transparency by Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, our duly elected president.

Instead of following precedent and putting the Judiciary Committee in charge of this process, Speaker Pelosi has empowered House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff to run this effort behind closed doors, with no accountability and in secret – and he is hand-picking what information to leak.

So what happened to Chairman Nadler in Judiciary Committee?

If Democrats truly believe that this is the right thing to do, why won’t they hold a vote?

The Democrats’ complete disregard for following a fair process is alarming and quite frankly, un-American.

They are misleading the American people while ignoring action on the pressing issues at hand.

The truth is they only have one goal, and that is to undermine President Trump and ensure he cannot do what he was elected to do, like passing USMCA, immigration reform, modernizing healthcare and securing our border.

Let’s end this nonsense and get to work on the issues that matter to the American people.

October 24--  Vidalia Police Chief Brian Scott reports the following arrests.

Cuyler, Precious Alondria- B/F- 602A Jordan St. East Dublin, GA- Warrant Served (Houston Co SO)

Harrell, Shellie Lynn- W/F- 33 YOA- 208 Jody Lane Kathleen, GA- Criminal Trespass, Simple Assault, Willfully Obstruction of Police Officer Simple/Verbal

Gonzalez, Marcus Tejon- B/M- 21 YOA- 1908 N. Maple Dr. Vidalia, GA- Disorderly Conduct

Waring, Cynthia Gale- B/F- 53 YOA- 907 Fifth Ave Vidalia, GA- Theft by Conversion

Brewer, Ben Kevin- B/M- 24 YOA- 2104 W. Smalley Dr. Vidalia, GA- Criminal Trespass, Disorderly Conduct

Carswell, Brittney Chante- B/F- 33 YOA- 1208 Easter Dr. Apt. 13 Vidalia, GA- Endangering Security Interest

Poole, Tonya Ann- W/F- 28 YOA- 204 E. First St #32, Vidalia, Ga- Theft by Taking

Simon, JaQuan Coytez- B/M- 20 YOA- 509 Lydia St. Vidalia, GA- Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (First)

Jones, Ronald Dawson- W/M- 25 YOA- 1221 Petross Rd. Ailey, Ga.- Possession of Marijuana, No Proof of Insurance

Wicker, Sabrina Charmaine- B/F- 35 YOA- 211 Smith St. Mt.Vernon, GA- Speeding, Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (Second)

Hayes, Coty Chance- W/M- 34 YOA- 14 N. Hope St. Hampton, VA- Disorderly Conduct

Hall, Nina- B/F- 49 YOA- 1208 Easter Dr. Apt. # 7 Vidalia, GA- Failure to Maintain Lane, DUI- 2nd Offense

Mobley, Qiana Cherie- B/F- 30 YOA- 300 Kenworth St. Apt. A Vidalia, GA- Open Container, DUI- 1st Offense

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Edgar Hugo, Vidalia, Underage possession, purchase and consumption of alcohol

Richard Curry, Lyons, warrant served

Dominique Hall, Vidalia, shoplifting

Nykwan Coleman, Lyons, DUI, headlights

Susan Diaz, Lyons, Under the influence, cruelty to animals

Johnny Clemons, Lyons, DUI

Darius Johnson, Vidalia, DUI, 3rd offense

Leon Losolla, Lyons, driving without license on person

Carlos Vargas, Vidalia, DUI, underage possession of alcohol, traffic violations

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Shane Stuckey, Vidalia, registration of sex offender

Terrence White, Soperton, failure to appear

Joshua Wilkes, Lyons, burglary, theft by deception, crossing guard lines, possession of weapon during certain crimes, controlled substance

Tucker Williford, Lyons, possession of weapon during certain crimes, possession of marijuana and methamphetamine  (purchase, possession, manufacture, distribution and sale)

Erika Barrow, Vidalia, theft by receiving stolen property

Tommy Bryson, Vidalia, Methamphetamine purchase, possession, manufacture, distribution, sale; possession of weapon during certain crimes

Kendra Cook, Vidalia, conceal/destroy/removal/transfer property for security interests

Zackary Davis, Lyons,Methamphetamine purchase, possession, manufacture, distribution, sale; possession of marijuana

Samantha Deen, Lyons, theft by receiving stolen property

Justin Estrada, child support pickup order

Christy Hairr, Lyons, criminal damage to property

Matthew Knight, Soperton, probation violation

Mariano Martinez-Garcia, Lyons, public drunkeness

Gregory Mosley, Vidalia,Methamphetamine purchase, possession, manufacture, distribution, theft by receiving stolen property, battery

Robert Presgraves, Lyons, theft by receiving stolen property, interference with custody, cruelty to children, fleeing police officer, terroristic threats, possession of firearm by convicted felong

Florencio Rodriguez, Reidsvile, driving unlicensed, traffic violation

Miguel Rodriguez, Baxley, cruelty to children, battery

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

10/14-Judson Dennis Brantley, Mount Vernon, Possession of Controlled Substance, Possession of Drug Related Objects, Possession of Firearm During Commission of Crime

10/16-Kevin Wayne McRae, Mount Vernon, Possession of Drug Related Objects, Cruelty to Children-

10/16-Wanda Ann Campbell, Vidalia, Possession of Drug Related Objects, Cruelty to Children-2nd

10/16-Miranda Leigh Maskevich, Richmond Hill, Warrant Served for Chatham County

10/18-Nicholas Scott Diaz, Lyons, Misdemeanor Probation Violation

10/19-Jordan Christopher Dailey, Columbus, Failure to Maintain Lane, Driving w/Suspended License, No Insurance, Uninsured Vehicle, Defective Equipment

10/19-Luther Jerome Hunt, Soperton, Failure to Maintain Lane, Too Fast for Conditions, Driving w/Suspended License, DUI, Parole Violation

Brandon Powell, Lyons,

October 24-- Wednesday morning Sally D. Meadows Elementary School held their DARE Parade in conjunction with Red Ribbon Week to bring about awareness to drug abuse and how to teach children about making good decisions.

dare19

Sally D. Meadows Principal Scott Stephens talked about the importance of the parade and what it means. “This is very important, not only for the children but for the community. I’ve gotten the pleasure to see these children grow up from kindergarten to fourth and fifth graders. We need to send a message not only to our children but our community that we don’t want to do drugs. We want to make these children independent successful adults,” said Stephens.

Stephens added, “We have kids now that are exposed to social media like no generation before them. The most important thing we can do is develop relationships with these children. Social media is going to have an influence, good, bad, or indifferent, but if they have positive relationships with adults, that’s the best insurance we have in making them successful adults.”

joyFifth grade teacher Joy Sharpton has been teaching for 15 years and says she sees the positive results and how important the role models are to making the program successful. “It is just amazing to see some of the students that we had in fifth grade that come back as DARE role models. They come back and they support our students and they help them. A high school senior is a really big deal. They really look up to them, especially when our athletes come back. It’s that positive figure in their life that they see out in their community. They know that they’ve faced some of those things and it makes a huge difference,” said Sharpton.

DARE role model Felicity Day, a senior at Vidalia High School, wants to become a teacher and talked about why she chose to be a DARE role model. “I wanted to be a good representation of my school. Younger kids tend to look up to high schoolers because that’s what they want to be when they grow up. They look at us as the cooler kids, that’s at least how I saw it,” said Day.

October 23--  The Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society has $1,500 more to help save the lives of animals in our area.

soapsmooseMembers of the Vidalia-Lyons Moose Lodge held a Bingo Night to benefit SOAPS which will use the money to find homes and save lives of helpless animals. 

SOAPS President Therisa Ingley accepts the donation from Moose members.

(L-R) Thyra Burakowski, Ken Crain, Jamie Stewart, Therisa Ingley, Steve Chambers, Riley Brantley and Everand Arnsdorff

October 22--  Twelve eighth grade students from the Toombs and Vidalia school systems have a better chance of going to college after being selected for REACH Georgia, the state's needs-based mentorship and college scholarship program.

Six students each from Vidalia's J.R. Trippe Middle School and Toombs County Middle School were inducted Tuesday during ceremonies presided over by Toombs County School Superintendent Barry Waller. "This scholarship for when they graduate high school, if they maintain certain parameters. will give them the opportunity to further their education whether it be to a technical college or a four-year university."

The $10,000 scholarships are sometimes matched by participating schools, multiplying the value for the students, "Some universities will do that.  I think the University of Georgia is up to $30,000," Waller said.

This is the third year the program has been underway in the two school systems and Vidalia School Superintendent Dr. Garrett Wilcox believes it motivates students to maintain good grades, behavior and attendance, "I think as they move through the educational process you'll find the first group we had who are now sophomores find it a big motivator," as well as their parents, "I'm not sure who was the most excited today,t he parents who were there or the students."

reach2019The six students from Toombs County Middle School are Martasia Burton, Raymond Florez, IV., Tami Gonzalez, Lola Hall, Cloey Sanders and Breanna Vallejo. 

The "REACH" students from J.R. Trippe MIddle School are Antonio Aguilar, J'Da Bacon, Desarae Lumley, Kynzyerra McGee, Adelyn Williams and Paradyse Jacobs.

October 22-- The Southeastern Technical College (STC) Board of Directors welcomed new board member Chris Hopkins at its October meeting. Toombs County Associate Probate Court Judge Tina Lindsey swore in Hopkins, who will represent Toombs County.

chrishopkinsstc“I am excited to be joining the board at STC. It’s an honor to be able to serve our community in a role that fosters further education. As an employer in the agricultural field, I see firsthand the need for skilled labor. What better place to invest in fostering that talent than partnering with STC. The ability to attract, and most especially retain, skilled employees in our community is of utmost importance to the continued success of our industry,” said Hopkins.

Hopkins graduated from University of Georgia with a master’s degree in Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. He is the store manager for Lasseter Implement Co in Lyons and owner and operator of Hopkins Farms.

(L-R) Associate Probate Judge Tina Lindsey, Chris Hopkins, STC President Larry Calhoun.

Photo (L-R): Associate Probate Court Judge Tina Lindsey, STC Board Member Chris Hopkins, STC President Larry Calhoun

###

October 21--  The Toombs County Board of Commissioners is honoring a judge who sat on the bench in Toombs County for nearly a quarter of a century.

The Commission is naming the large courtroom in the Toombs County Courthouse "The Judge Marvin B. Hartley, Jr. Courtroom" in memory of the late judge who is the only Superior Court judge from Toombs County ever elected to serve in the Middle Judicial Circuit.

Commission Chairman David Sikes recalls an incident exemplifying Judge Hartley's character, "Pastor Danny Williams made a statement that really solidified my thoughts with the process.  He said it was in the early 1970's and Judge Hartley was a member of one of our local Baptist churches and they had in their by-lays that blacks could not be a part of their congregation.  Judge Hartley got up and said if these by-laws aren't changed, I will find another church because we are all God's children and we are all a part of this.  With a man with that integrity, at a time when that was not a popular stance to take, it tells you his character of loving people."

hartleycourtroom

Judge Hartley's three daughters and his widow, Betty, were on hand to witness passage of the resolution, "We had prayed about that since his death, that there would be some kind of memorial.  He loved his profession so much and his work and the courthouse was his second home. It was very touching to us.  I can't tell you just how touched we were and are just thankful to the people who came through and wanted to honor him.  More than anything else, we're just thankful he will be remembered in that way," Mrs. Hartley said.

(L-R) County Manager John Jones, Commissioners Darriel Nobles and Tommy Rollins, daughter Terri Eisenberg, Betty Hartley, Chairman David Sikes, daughters Joni Callihan and Lori Collins-Crawley, Commissioners Wendell Dixon and Alfred Cason.

Chairman Sikes says not only will the courtroom in the current courthouse be named for Judge Hartley, but if and when a new courthouse is built, a courtroom there will also bear his name.

"I've lost my father, too, and I see what it means whenever you lose a love one and then they are memorialized for great character and what they've done for their community.  You can't ask for a higher honor that that," the chairman said.

bpcgolfcheckOctober 18--  Brewton-Parker College hosted the 3rd Annual Southern Classic Golf Tournament at the Willow Lake Golf Club in Metter.

Through the generous support of business sponsors and local teams, the event successfully raised over $20,000 to further the mission of South Georgia’s Christian College and see the lives of students transformed.

Presenting Sponsor, Tim Redding of Metter Ford (L), presents $10,000 check to BPC President, Dr. Steve Echols during annual golf tournament.

The winners of the tournament included Team Handy Andy (first place), Team Nathan Perkins (second place), and Team City of Mount Vernon (third place).

October 18--  An Emanuel County has grand jury has indicted a truck driver in connection with a fatal wreck a year ago.

bookingconnerWilliam Johnathan Conner was driving a Dot Foods truck which collided with a car driven by 25-year-old Soperton native Doreona Figueroa on the Swainsboro bypass at the intersection of Highways One and 221.

According to the indictment, Conner was indicted on three counts including vehicular homicide, driving under the influence of drugs and running a red light.

Conner has entered a not guilty plea and is scheduled to stand trial in January in Emanuel County Superior Court.

October 18--  The Vidalia Police Department's fleet of patrol cars is getting a new look.  The latest additions to the fleet are sporting a new look appropriate to the Sweet Onion City.

vpdpolicecarBecause the patrol cars rack up lots of miles each year, city officials say three new cars are generally purchased each year to replace the cars with the highest mileage in the 12-car fleet.

So far two new cars have the new look.

October 18-- State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said today that Georgia set a record again in September for total employed residents.

 The record came as Georgia continued to show improvement in other key measures like initial unemployment claims, labor force and the unemployment rate, according to preliminary numbers.  

“September was another strong month,” Butler said. “Setting another record for employed residents is especially important because it proves we are not only producing jobs but residents are getting them.”

Nationally, the unemployment rate dropped 0.2 percentage points in September to 3.5 percent. The nation also grew its labor force, increased the number of employed residents and added more 130,000 jobs.

Georgia’s unemployment rate also fell 0.1 percentage points in September to reach 3.5 percent.  A year ago, Georgia’s unemployment rate sat at 3.7 percent. The state’s all-time low of 3.4 percent was set in December 2000.

 “We continue to approach the record low unemployment rate,” the commissioner said. “That shows just how strong our economy has been.”

Georgia lost 2,100 jobs in September, against a total of more than 4.64 million jobs. Still,that number is up nearly 80,000 from the same time last year.

Georgia had six job sectors that added at least 5,000 jobs since last September:

  • Education/health services, 20,400
  • Leisure/hospitality, 15,900
  • Professional/business services, 14,500
  • Construction, 9,700
  • Government, 8,600
  • Trade/transportation/utilities, 6,000.

“Georgia continues to produce great numbers,” Butler said.

In September, the number of employed residents went up with a gain of 9,172 that pushed Georgia’s number of employed to 4.93 million – a new record for the state.  

 Georgia’s labor force grew in September by 4,355, bringing the total work force to more than 5.1 million. That number was up by 3,615 from the same month a year ago.

 At the same time, new claims for unemployment decreased in September. The total number of claims filed in September fell by 2 percent. They were up by about 2 percent compared with September 2018.

 In September, EmployGeorgia.com noted more than 95,000 job postings.

October 17--  Four candidates for the Vidalia City Council were on stage Thursday night for a forum sponsored by the Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce.

frankandbobRunning for the at-large seat, accountant Bob Dixon (right) and former police chief Frank Waits who called for an united city government, "To bring business to the city of Vidalia and economic growth, the mayor, the council and all city employees have to have a working relationship with the citizens who wish to work with the mayor and council.  You have to have a cohesive mayor and council working together," Waits said.

Dixon said he wants to continue the process which has made Vidalia a business hub, "My agenda is to serve and help the city of Vidalia.  I want to make decisions that I believe are best for all the citizens of Vidalia.  Vidalia has been blessed over the years by a lot of people working very hard to make some tough decisions to continue to grow Vidalia and make it progressive.  I want to continue that process," he said.

loydandloganThe Ward Four seat is between businessman Loyd Mobley (left) and Logan Lawrence, a recent UGA grad working at a local law firm, whose vision is to attract more young people back to their hometown, "We have so much to offer people here.  I want millennials to want to come back to Toombs and Montgomery counties. I want to make policy changes in our community that are going to make college students homesick to return home and make people who currently live here eager to boast about our community and the things we're doing here," Lawrence said.

Growth was also on the mind of Loyd Mobley, "We need to keep Vidalia growing. Partnerships with the Chamber and the Development Authority are extremely important to this.  We need to attract new business and help current businesses continue to prosper.  We must keep crime in check.  I am very excited about what our new police chief is doing and we want to make sure our police have the things they need to do the job they need to do," Mobley said.

Higgston mayoral candidate Jesse Ledford was also included in the forum and discussed his vision for improving the town.

Advance in-person voting started this week for the November 5th election.

October 18--  Vidalia Police Chief Brian Scott reports the following arrests.

Hardy, Gregg- B/M 26 YOA- 802 Brantley Rd.Vidalia, GATheftby Conversion- X3

Douglas, Steven Alexander-B/M- 41 YOA- 2100 W Smalley Dr. Vidalia, GA-Theft by Receiving Stolen Property

Quintero, Selestino- H/M- 47 YOA- 206 Stuart St. Lyons, GAWarrant Service (Soperton PD- Probation), Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (First)

Smith, Shaquon Marques- B/M- 25 YOA- 2099 Deerwood Rd. Soperton, GA- Obstruct, Hinder Law Enforcement Officer/ Give False Name, Address, Birthdate to LE Officer

Paul, Stephen James- W/M- 47 YOA- 141 Oak Grove Ct. Lyons, GA- DUI- 1st Offense/ Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (Second)

Walker, Clent- B/M- 51 YOA- 509 South Jefferson St. Dublin, GA- Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense (Bench Warrant)

Dubberly, Marissa Sherea- W/F- 26 YOA- 236 Doris St. Baxley, GA- Possession of Marijuana Less Than Ounce

Salter, Brandon Levon - W/M- 40 YOA- 150-2 Cleveland Ave W. Lyons, GA- DUI- 1st Offense

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Albert Goodman, Lyons, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

William Carter, Lyons, unlawful possession of a firearm or weapon by a convicted felon

Bobbie Barwick, Lyons, DUI, possession of drug related objects, failure to maintain lane

Erin Shelton, Vidalia, Disorderly conduct

Benjamin Peloquin, Ridge Manor, FL., DUI

Daniel Jimenez, Lyons, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon

Galen Salem, Lyons, theft by taking; sale, manufacture, distribution of marijuana, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of firearm/knife during commission or attempt to commit a crime

Shaquinton Scott, Lyons, sale, manufacture, distribution of marijuana, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of firearm/knife during commission or attempt to commit a crime

Watson Brown, Lyons, sale, manufacture, distribution of marijuana, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of firearm/knife during commission or attempt to commit a crime

Kiara Brewton, Lyons, criminal trespass

Dominique Hawkins, Lyons, criminal trespass

Tommie Lee Doyle, Jonesboro, DUI, possession of marijuana, obstruction of police, driving while license suspended/revoked, open container, headlight/tail light/tag light, crossing guard line with weapons, intoxicants or drugs; sale, manufacture/delivery of ecstasy.

Chinetha Chaney, Stockbridge, possession of marijuana, sale/manufacture/delivery of ecstasy.

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Jacob Brannon, Vidalia, cruelty to animals

Clara Brooks, Savannah, DUI

James Childs, Lyons, probation violation

Clinton Clark, Lyons, criminal trespass

Kenneth Clay, Vidalia, court production order

Charlie Cobb, Vidalia, purchase, possession, manufacture, distribution and sale of methamphetamine

Franklin Coleman, Adrian, probation violation

Michael Coleman, Mount Vernon, possession of marijuana

Sydney Coleman, Lyons, cruelty to animals, 14 counts

William Corley, Lyons, DUI

Jose Espitia, Metter, driving while license suspended/revoked, wireless telecommunications device use prohibited.

Ryan Gordy, Vidalia, purchase, possession, manufacture, distribution and sale of methamphetamine

Jeffery Hayes, Vidalia, bad checks, probation violation

James Luke, Lyons, battery

William Prescott, Vidalia, diving while license suspended/revoked

Brian Shinholster, Baxley, DUI, possession of marijuana, no seat belt

Tony Swain, Lyons, probation violation

Wanda Toler, Soperton, probation violation

Chase Wilds, Lyons, driving unlicensed

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

10/02-Clinton Michael Conway, Vidalia, Dog at Large

10/07-Cornelia Janae Stokes, Vidalia, Warrant Served for Clayton County

10/07-Arondii Ali Wadley, McRae, Possession of a Controlled Substance

10/09-Christopher Whorley, Soperton, Warrant Served for Candler County

10/09-William Kyle Stephens, Ailey, Felony Probation Violation

10/09-Jawanda King, Dublin, Speeding, Driving w/Suspended License

10/12-Luis Perez, Uvalda, DUI, Driving While Unlicensed, Leaving Scene of Accident

10/13-Daron Vernard Berry, Hazlehurst, Battery (Family Violence), Criminal Trespass, Obstruction of Officer

October 15-- Resurfacing of 13 streets in Vidalia will be starting soon following award of a contract at the October meeting of the Vidalia City Council.

The city council approved a contract of $570,870.30 to East Coast Asphalt of Douglas to resurface portions of Commerce Loop, Ardella Court, Moses Drive, Mitchell Drive, Meadows Lane, Lightfoot Court, Manor Drive, North Maple Drive, Morris Street, Northeast Pine Street, Manning Drive, Aimwell Road and West Third Street.

Ten percent of the project is being paid for with city funds with the remainder funded by the state Department of Transportation.

Other expenditures approved include $107,952 for a truck and trailer equipped to clear sewer lines and $28,200 for work on the ball fields at the Ed Smith Recreation Complex.

The council also:

*Accepted an $1,100 grant from the Atlanta Hawks Foundation for the Recreation Department.

*Was informed the water and sewer project in the Bay Street area should be finished before Christmas.

*Learned that city employees have completed surveys regarding the city's ongoing pay scale review by the University of Georgia which will hold personal interviews with 44 employees Thursday.

*Approved a ten-year comprehensive plan for the future in conjunction with Toombs County, Lyons and Santa Claus.

*Was informed by Finance Director Bill Bedingfield that the city's general fund is in excellent shape.

October 15--  Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin is seeking information regarding an incident which occurred Friday night when the Montgomery County Eagles hosted the Wheeler County Bulldogs at Brogdon Field in Mount Vernon.

According to a news release, a Montgomery County Deputy Sheriff suffered minor injuries while he was assisting a Wheeler County coach who was escorting a Bulldog football player from the stadium after the player was ejected from the game.

Sheriff Maybin is not releasing any further information while the incident is being investigated, however, he is asking anyone who may have information including cellphone pictures or video to contact Chief Deputy Ronnie Bivins at 912-583-2521.

Deputy Bivins said Tuesday he has yet to receive any evidence in the case.

October 11--  A Millen man died in a weekend accident in Toombs County.

According to Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight, 25-year-old Nikkloas Dylan Wright was found in his pickup truck early Saturday morning after it apparently ran off a bridge over Little Rocky Creek on U.S. Highway One south of Santa Claus.

The sheriff said Wright had last been seen in Millen Friday afternoon when he told his grandfather he was going to "the store."

October 12—A big crowd was at Partin Park in Lyons Saturday for the 10th Annual Real Squeal BBQ and Music Festival. Twenty-eight professional teams competed in four categories for $20,000 in prize money at the KCBS & Georgia BBQ Championship Event. Each team was required to cook ribs, pork, chicken, and brisket. The 2019 Grand Champion was “Que’n, Stew’n & Brew’n BBQ”, a family team of Scott Smith, wife Lynn and son Christopher from Acworth, Ga.10 12 19 Pro Winner Real Squeal 2019

The 2019 Backyard or Amateur Grand Champion was “Bad Habits BBQ”, Justin Aaron and Michael Vaughn a hometown team from Lyons. 10 12 19 Backyard Winner Real Squeal

By State Senator Jack Hill, Reidsville

YTD REVENUES BARELY POSITIVE

It was hard to find good news in the state's September Revenue Report as the total revenue of $2.2 billion only showed a $15.7 million gain, just 0.7%. September completes the first quarter of the 2020 Fiscal Year and the revenue results so far are dismal.

Presently, Year-To- Date totals are up only $21.1 million. So far this fiscal year, the state is under budget by about $145 million. This alarming trend is behind Governor Kemp's announced budget cuts of 4% in FY 2020 and 6% in FY 2021.

STATE'S LARGEST REVENUE SOURCE IS NEGATIVE

Individual Income Taxes were negative for September, down -2.4%. Year- to date Individual Income Taxes are also negative at -0.5%. Withholding refunds were up $36.1 million for the month while Individual Withholding payments increased $1.9 million. Individual Income Tax Return payments were up $8.6 million for the month.

SALES TAXES SLIDE

For the first noticeable time, Net Sales Taxes, about 28% of state revenues, have slipped in the first quarter, negative -1.0% for September. Importantly, Net Sales Taxes are only up 1.5% for the first quarter.

The other component of Sales Taxes are Title Ad Valorem Taxes, which includes the one- time fee paid on automobiles. These collections declined -$20.3 million in September. For the quarter, Ad Valorem Taxes are down -7.3% or -$16.4 million.

So the total Sales Tax/ Car Fees category, about a third of state revenues, has only grown $7 million on revenues of about $1.7 billion for the quarter.

85% OF REVENUES CATEGORIES SHOWING ANEMIC GROWTH

To sum it up, the two top categories, Individual Income Taxes and Sales Taxes/ Auto Fees, have grown little so far this fiscal year, up only about $7.6 million. That in and of itself explains why the state is under budget $145 million.

OTHER CATEGORIES MIXED

The balance of the revenue categories are trending downward as well. Corporate Income Taxes were up $46.2 million in September but after one quarter, are only positive by 0.8%.

Tobacco Taxes were negative in September -10.8% and negative for the quarter -6.7%. Alcohol beverages were up slightly in September, 0.4% and up 1.1% YTD.

MOTOR FUEL COLLECTIONS SLIP

One of the steady increases in revenue is usually Motor Fuel Taxes and Fees. But in September, net Fuel Taxes/ Fees were down -1.9%. Year-to-date Motor Fuel Taxes/ Fees are flat, decreasing -$1.9 million on $519.0 million in taxes and fees.

So for the first time, this category has slowed and appears to have stopped growing. Maybe it is going to be difficult to see trends in this era of national tax policies having direct effects in states revenue streams, but it is very confusing and mystifying to hear anecdotally that taxpayers are paying more in Georgia income taxes on their returns and not to see any windfall showing up in the revenue returns.

Regardless, Georgia remains at the lower end of states in revenue growth for the fiscal year as well as the past 12 months.

GEORGIA CONTINUES TO TRAIL SOUTHEAST

Whether you are tracking the current fiscal year after three months or looking back a year, Georgia continues to trail other southeastern states in revenue growth. Below are the states we have been able to get current revenue growth figures:

YEAR TO DATE JULY-SEPTEMBER

Texas

23.1% (Oil revenues causing swing)

Louisiana

8.0 % (Also volatile due to oil revenues)

Alabama

5.1% (Has traditionally trailed Georgia)

Arkansas

2.9%

Kentucky

1.1%

Georgia

0.4%

West Virginia

-1.8% (Had extraordinary gains in FY 19-fantasy sports betting, coal)

            12 MONTH TRAILING AVERAGE THROUGH SEPTEMBER

Texas

19.3%

West Virginia

7.3%

Alabama

6.2%

Arkansas

6.7%

Louisiana

4.4%

Kentucky

4.1

Georgia

3.4%

October was a good month for Georgia's revenues last year and may be this year or it may be hard to beat. While three months is just three months, still it is worrisome that state revenues are so anemic. Additionally, net sales taxes are trending downward as are the fuel tax collections. It is just hard to find any good news in these revenue numbers so far this fiscal year.

October 11-- Robert Toombs Christian Academy hosted a blood drive with the American Red Cross on Wednesday, October 2nd.

RTCA family, friends, faculty, and students were invited to participate in our first annual Battle of the Schools Blood Drive against Bulloch Academy. The school with the most units donated would win the Battle of the Schools trophy.

rtcabloodRTCA students, including Junior Hayden Wiggins (left), donated 29 units of blood, which could save up to 90 lives, and also recruited 13 first-time donors.

RTCA won against Bulloch Academy and would like to thank everyone who came out and donated for a great cause.

We are happy to help increase our community blood supply to ensure hospital patients have the lifesaving blood they need.

October 11--  The Toombs County Board of Education recognized the outstanding performance of two employees at its October meeting.

tcextraoct19The "Extra Mile Award" was presented to English as a Second Language teacher Melanie Hart (center) by Lyons Upper Elementary School Principal Tabatha Nobles (left) and School Superintendent Barry Waller.

tcwowoct19The "WOW Award" was presented to bus driver Elaine Wright (center) by Transportation Director Belinda Denmark and Mr. Waller.

October 11--  Vidalia police arrested a mother who caused a disturbance on a Vidalia school bus.

bookingthompsonAccording to Police Chief Brian Scott, Quintetta Thompson of Vidalia boarded a bus at a stop on Brantley Road and confronted the driver regarding a complaint about her child. Police say she was loud and used profanity while threatening the driver in front of 17 children and the bus monitor.  She was ordered off the bus but refused.  The driver continued his route with the woman on board until she demanded to be let off the bus at which time the driver stopped and she left the bus with her child.

The incident occurred about 6:50 a.m. on Friday, October 4 and about an hour later Thompson asked Vidalia police to investigate.

On Wednesday, October 9, police completed their investigation and arrested Thompson on a felony charge of making Terroristic Threats and a misdemeanor charge of Disruption of a Public School Bus.

Thompson was released from the Toombs County Detention Center Thursday on a $7,500 bond.

October 11--  A former Assistant City Clerk with the City of Soperton has been charged by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for non-payment of her water utility bills.

bookingtaylorAccording to the GBI, 27-year-old Shaquoiya Taylor allegedly did not pay her water bill over a period of several months.  One official estimated an amount of about $800 which means the the theft had been going on for at least a year.  The GBI says she's charged with felony theft of services due to being in a fiduciary position.

Soperton Mayor Royce Fowler says the city asked the GBI to investigate after he became suspicious following an internal audit.  The Mayor says Taylor has been terminated from city employment.

The investigation remains active and anyone with information is asked to call the GBI at 478-374-6988.

October 11--  They don't call it "The Sweetest Little Expo Around" for nothing. 

expoThe annual Business Expo hosted by the Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce attracted a large group of local businesses and visitors Thursday evening at the Vidalia Community Center. 

The event gives chamber members an opportunity to showcase their goods and services and provides a venue for business networking. 

Chamber officials say about 400 people attended the Expo which featured exhibits hosted by 60 area businesses and organizations.

October 7--  Vidalia Police Chief Brian Scott reports the following arrests.

Greene, Shonciera Marquisha-B/F-21 YOA- 41 Longleaf Dr.- Swainsboro, GA- Driving while License Suspended- Operating Vehicle With Suspended Registration

Thompson, Quinetta – B/F – 29 YOA -502 Brantley Rd, Vidalia/Terroristic Threats or Acts / Disruption or Interferance with Public School

Joseph, Ji-yone Kair – B/M – 17 YOA – 301 E Jenkins St., Vidalia/ Driving while Unlicensed

Jackson, Ricky Deneil Jr. - B/M- 25 YOA- 301 Jane Drive Vidalia, GA- Fleeing or Attempting to Elude Arrest-1st Offense, Willfully Obstruction of Police Officer Simple/Verbal, Reckless Driving, Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (Second)

Hunt, Kayla- B/F- 26 YOA- 1905 Seminole Drive Apt C Vidalia, Ga- Battery (FVA)

Outlaw, Trenton Andrew- B/M- 19 YOA- 504 Ferncliff Dr. Vidalia, Ga- Criminal Trespass/ Exploitation and Intimidation of the Disabled Adults, Elder Persons and Residents Obstruction (FVA)

Clark, Brandi Nicole- W/F- 32 YOA- 304 Victory Cir Lyons, Ga- Theft by Shoplifting 2nd Offense

Foskey, Joey Nicklous- W/M- 26 YOA- 304 Victory Cir. Lyons, GA- Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Zoe Beverly, Lyons, Disorderly Conduct

James Darden, Lyons, public drunkeness, possession of a controlled substance

Erin Shelton, Vidalia, disorderly conduct

Christy Hairr, Lyons, damage to private property, disorderly conduct

Raymond Matthews, Uvalda, Stalking

Johnnie Christian, Royston, criminal trespass

Dean Furr, Lyons, DUI, failure to dim headlights

Quentin Jordan, Lyons, driving unlicensed, no tag

Arnold Wright, Lyons, disorderly conduct

Albert Goodman, Lyons, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon

William Carter, Lyons, unlawful possession of firearm or weapon

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Christopher Allen, Baxley, no insurance, acquiring license plate to conceal identity of vehicle, no vehicle registration, required signals

Chasity Carter, Vidalia, failure to appear

Darnell Collins, Vidalia, theft by receiving stolen property, forgery

Shaun Cowart, Lyons, criminal damage to property

John Hayes, Lyons, battery, disorderly conduct

Printress Holland, McDonough, hold without bond for previous Toombs County case

Matthew Holley,  Vidalia, probation violation

George Lewis, Lyons, failure to appear

Christopher McKenzie, Soperton, probation  violation

Cesar Rivas, Lyons, driving with license suspended/revoked, operating vehicle without registration

Michael Scott, Jr., Vidalia, unsigned bond, previous case

Melanie Taylor, Vidalia, probation violation, failure to appear

Jamie Warren, Lyons, battery, disorderly conduct

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

09/29-Carlos Martez Brown, Alamo, Driving w/Suspended License, Possession of Firearm by Convicted Felon

09/29-Regina Holmes, Ailey, Simple Battery (FVA)

09/30-Jhir Michael Williams, Duluth, Felony Probation Violation

09/30-Andrew T. Grimes, Lyons, Misdemeanor Probation Violation

10/01-Joshua William Raper, Uvalda, Improper Stopping in Roadway, Fleeing/Attempting to Elude, Reckless Driving

10/02-Marcus Eugene Warren, Glenwood, Felony Theft by Receiving Stolen Property

10/02-Ronald Lee Kight, Glenwood, Felony Theft by Receiving Stolen Property

10/02-John Herbert Mincey, Reidsville, Printing/Executing/Negotiating Fictitious Checks

10/02-Tony Deron Anderson, Vidalia, Forgery-1st, Possession of Firearm by Convicted Felon

10/05-Clifford Dale Scott, Macon, Speeding, Driving w/Suspended License

October 7--  A teenager shot during an attempted armed robbery has died.

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, 16-year-old Santana Joyner of Lumber City was wounded during an armed robbery October 3 at a residence at 7 Morse Street in Lumber City.

The GBI reports the homeowner confronted Joyner and two other teenagers during the robbery and fired a shot which hit Joyner.  His alleged accomplices, Ulysses McMillan and LaKyle Harris, both 19, were arrested and charged with aggravated assault and attempted armed robbery.

The investigation is continuing and anyone with information is asked to call the GBI at 478-374-6988.

October 7--  The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is charging a former Bleckley County High School teacher with sexual assault by persons with supervisory or disciplinary authority.

Twenty-five-year old Brantley Aaron Collins was charged with one felony count after the GBI investigated a complaint filed by Bleckley County School Superintendent Steve Smith alleging an inappropriate relationship between Collins and a student at the high school.  Collins resigned September 30.

If anyone has any information regarding this investigation, please contact the GBI Eastman office at 478-374-6988 or the Bleckley County Sheriff’s Office at 478-934-4545.

October 7--  The Lions Club of Lyons named DeVante Willis from Toombs County High School as its September "Student of the Month" for his dedication, commitment and service to others.  The monthly award is sponsored by the Peoples Bank.

LionsStudentSep19(L-R) Lion Mitch Johnson from the Peoples Bank, Student of the Month DeVante Willis and Lions Club President Jason Hall.

jasonedenfield 2October 7--  Jason Edenfield received the Achievement Award from the National Association of County Agriculture Agents during the 2019 Annual Meeting and Professional Improvement Conference held in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Jason Edenfield was one of several honorees who represent the top one percent of the membership selected by their peers and the Director of Extension. 

Jason Edenfield is the County Extension Agent for Toombs County Georgia.  During his career, his main research priority is the world famous Vidalia Onion. Jason has contributed to these trials a chief investigator. The results of these trials have been shared with producers through presentations, posters, journal articles, and extension publications.  These projects have shown producers that UGA Extension is the best source of non-biased research based information on Vidalia Onion production.

TCMSchoolTeachers RonClarkAcademyOct 7--On Friday, September 27th, seven educators from Toombs County Middle School had the opportunity to attend a professional learning experience at the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia.  The Ron Clark Academy is a " private, non-profit middle school and educator training program in Southeast Atlanta that promotes innovation and inspires its students and educators through energetic teaching balanced by a strict code of discipline."  Educators attended training seminars, observed classrooms, interacted with students and finished the day by sliding down "Big Blue" right out the door and back to Toombs County inspired and ready to incorporate some fresh ideas and strategies into their school and classrooms.  This learning opportunity was sponsored by BB&T, and we are grateful for their support.

By State Representative Greg Morris, Vidalia

With Fall arriving, it is time to resume the People’s House Report. What was a relatively uneventful Summer, turned into very eventful early Fall. Disturbing trends for Georgias economy, the very scary health crisis surrounding vaping, and a disappointing court ruling.

The Georgia Economy. As a member of the House budget writing committee, I attended a hearing in which we were told by the state’s fiscal economist that there was a 50/50 chance of a mild recession next year. We were told to expect a decline in tax collections for the first quarter of this year’s budget. Because of these predictions, Gov. Kemp has ordered state agencies to cut 4% from their budgets for this fiscal year (July ’19 through July’20) and 6% from next year’s budget(July’20 through July’21). The Governors plan would exempt k-12 schools, Medicaid, and transportation. The cuts would trim 200 million this year, and 300 million next year. The severity of the cuts are to adjust to what appears to be a possible economic downturn, but also to reallocate recourses to fund his priorities such as completing the teacher pay raise.

The first two months of fiscal 2020 saw revenue collections fall short of projections by 97 million. Those are serious scary numbers. One of the advantages from being around for a while is that you know a little more about what to expect. The mild recession of 2003 and the Great Recession of 2008 proved there are no easy answers or magic bullets in cutting budgets . The new projected cuts could go deep among the non-exempted agencies, such as the DNR, GBI, Georgia State Patrol and Behavioral Health. And that’s not acceptable either. I applaud Gov. Kemp for taking decisive action on behalf of the taxpayers of Georgia as a precaution. I also applaud Speaker Ralston and Lt. Gov. Duncan for calling House and Senate budget writers to the Capitol early to begin work on the budget early. I just hope the economist and the projections prove wrong

Heartbeat Bill/H.B.481. Federal Judge Steve C. Jones issued a ruling last week that blocks H.B.481 from taking effect Jan. 1 2020. The American Civil Liberties Union, the miserable curs they are, sued Georgia saying the law that bans abortions once a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat is unconstitutional. The ruling was not a surprise to me but a disappointment nevertheless, and another example of judicial activism overriding the will of the people expressed through their elected representatives. I don’t believe we will prevail in any court other than the Supreme Court, with Justice Kavanaugh hopefully being the deciding vote in favor of life. Gov. Kemp has pledged to keep Georgia in the fight for the unborn, appealing every unfavorable ruling against H.B. 481.

Vaping. Georgia has confirmed at least one death in Georgia that is being blamed on vaping. The Georgia Poison Center has received 19 reports people at emergency rooms suffering from lung illnesses due to vaping. About 25% reported vaping liquid THC. The Center said most of the patients are in their 20s and 30s , but some were teenagers and one was 13 years old. According to a Georgia State study, vaping is not effective stopping tobacco smoking as most smoker wind up using both. It also appears only 20% of THC products on the market are legally produced. Rep. Gerald Greene of Cuthbert plans to introduce legislation banning the sale of flavored vaping products and restricting advertising targeted toward kids which I plan to support.

Oct 4-- Toombs County Middle School announces September Students of the Month. These students are recognized for academic progress, attendance and citizenship. 

September students of the month are: (From the Top) - 1st Row: Gabriel Davis, Melanie Aguilar, and Yovanny Zamorano-Gonzalez | 2nd Row: Jackson Jenkins, Breanna Rodgriguez, and Ethan Story |3rd Row: Maritza Zamorano, LIam Pittman, and Samantha Carter |4th Row: Jeronimo Landa-Sanchez, Layasia Johnson, and Clay Conner |5th Row: Randi Rollins and Aleah Carroll | Not pictured: Marlee Allen
Front Row: Mary Frances Stanley (Junior Miss), Tucker Absher (Little Mister), Kyler Riner (Little Miss), Kennedy McIntire (Tiny Miss)
Back Row: Rob Moore (Mr. RTCA), Samantha Threlkeld (Miss RTCA), and Rachel Threlkeld (Teen Miss)

Oct 4--Robert Toombs Christian Academy held its annual Mr. and Miss RTCA pageant Monday, September 30th at Southeastern Technical College in Vidalia. This year’s theme was “Wild West” and was sponsored by the Junior class. There were 21 contestants who competed in seven categories ranging from Little Mister to Mr. and Miss RTCA. The Mr. RTCA winner was chosen by the people’s votes during the pageant. There was also a $1,000 scholarship awarded to the Miss RTCA winner. The evening's emcee was alumnae Amanda Moore, former Miss RTCA 2009, and entertainment for the evening was provided by Vidalia Ballet. Congratulations to all of the contestants.

Oct 4-- Thank you to Andy’s Home Center for their generous donation to Lyons Upper Elementary School. They donated a picnic table and trash cans for the playground.

Andy’s Home Center
Deven Tennant and Jesse Flowers of Andy’s Home Center, and Joy Weaver of LUES
Trevor Sconyers, FCCLA State Secretary leaving critical information for our Senators and State Representatives advocating for the government to double the investment in CTE.

Oct 4-- The U.S. Capitol was filled with youth from around the country as Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) and Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) professionals united in Washington, D.C. for FCCLA’s Capitol Leadership to advocate for additional funding for Career and Technical Education (CTE) September 30—October 2.
Trevor Sconyers, Toombs County High School senior and Georgia FCCLA State Officer, was the only student from Georgia who attended FCCLA’s Capitol Leadership where he used his voice and passion to join together with youth leaders from across the nation in meetings with congressional leaders promoting the need to double the funding for CTE. Trevor had the opportunity to personally meet with the staffers of Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue along with a staffer from the office of Representative Rick Allen to seek support for making Family and Consumer Sciences education available for every student in every state within every school. In addition to Trevor's scheduled meetings, he also had the opportunity to leave materials with our other 13 representatives from Georgia.
“It was an amazing experience to be able to advocate for the organization I am passionate about, FCCLA. FCCLA has helped me grow in so many different ways, and I am proud to be apart of a movement that can help continue our program for as long as possible!” said Trevor Sconyers, Georgia FCCLA State Secretary from Toombs County High School
Capitol Leadership was the first national FCCLA gathering held this school year. FCCLA members and other FCS leaders will continue to strengthen leadership skills, learn important real world skills, and explore Career Pathways through FCCLA’s upcoming conferences and events including: National Fall Conference in Dallas, TX, Industry Immersion in Chicago, IL, and the 2020 National Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.

October 3--  A couple of weeks ago, Vidalia High School led schools in our eleven-county area with the highest graduation rate and now the school's students have the highest Scholastic Aptitude Scores.

School Principal John Sharpe observes, "It says that those students who are serious about education are being prepared for college.  Colleges are using the SAT as an indicator as to whether a student can be successful.  There's a great deal of pressure being put on students, but they're getting prepared with their classes and are scoring real well."

Vidalia High School's composite mean score of 1,029 points is 21 points higher than its nearest competitor, but Principal Sharpe says the SAT is only part of the equation to get into college, "Not only is it an SAT score and good grades, one of the things a lot of schools are looking for is what is that one thing a child does that distinguishes them from everyone else and that could be school involvement in extracurricular activities, community involvement through volunteering. those are all the things we encourage students to do to make that resume more impressive.

The other area schools in the top five are Appling County High School, Metter High School, Tattnall County High School and Montgomery County High School.

Rounding out the eleven schools in order of precedence are Jeff Davis High School, Emanuel County Institute, Toombs County High School, Swainsboro High School,Treutlen High School and Wheeler County High School.

All of the schools in the area had scores below the state and national mean scores.

2019 Scholastic Aptitude Results in Area High Schools

School

English-Reading-Writing

Math

Total Mean Score

Vidalia High School

528

501

1029

Appling Co HS

513

495

1008

Metter HS

506

495

1001

Tattnall Co HS

504

492

994

Montgomery Co HS

514

479

993

Jeff Davis Co HS

498

488

986

ECI

503

472

975

Toombs Co HS

501

473

974

Swainsboro HS

498

471

969

Treutlen HS

507

458

965

Wheeler Co HS

485

451

936

State of Georgia

533

515

1048

United States

524

515

1039

October 3-- Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said Thursday that the Heart of Georgia region made gains across the board in August.  

Preliminary results showed the 17-county area saw unemployment rates and unemployment claims fall while it made gains in employed residents and labor force.

“Georgia had another strong month in August,” said Butler. “The state set several records. Our local communities saw fewer unemployment claims filed as well as a drop in unemployment rates.”

Nationally, the unemployment rate was unchanged in August at 3.7 percent. The nation also grew its labor force, increased the number of employed residents and added more 130,000 jobs.

Georgia’s unemployment rate also held constant in August, staying at 3.6 percent.  A year ago, Georgia’s unemployment rate sat at 3.8 percent. The state’s all-time low of 3.4 percent was set in December 2000.

Rates fell or held steady across 10 of Georgia’s 12 planning regions.

In the region, the unemployment rate fell in August by 0.7 percentage points, settling at 5.1 percent. A year ago, the rate was 5.1 percent.

The labor force increased in August by 432. The August total was 117,495. That number is up by 985 from the total from August 2018. 

The Heart of Georgia region ended August with 111,465 employed residents.  The number increased by 1,217 in August and rose by 901 as compared to last August.

The number of unemployment claims fell in August by about 60 percent. When compared to last August, claims were down by 21 percent.

The Heart of Georgia region includes Appling, Bleckley, Candler, Dodge, Emanuel, Evans, Jeff Davis, Johnson, Laurens, Montgomery, Tattnall, Telfair, Toombs, Treutlen, Wayne, Wheeler, and Wilcox counties.

Employ Georgia, the GDOL’s online job listing service at employgeorgia.com showed 733 active job postings in Heart of Georgia  region for August.

9 30 19 JROTC 2October 3-- On Saturday, September 28th, the local Thunderbolt regiment held an area Raider competition on the campus of the Southeastern Early College and Career Academy. Nine teams from eight different area schools competed in the competition.

The participants were Bryan County, Jenkins County, Metter, Southeast Bulloch, Statesboro, two teams from Ware County and the local Thunderbolts. Statesboro won the overall competition and following closely behind were the local Thunderbolt regiment. Metter finished third, Bryan County fourth and the Ware County A Team fifth.

JROTC Lead Instructor Captain DeCarlos Ware was pleased with the competition. “We had a great day today. I want to thank the administrators for providing us with the necessary resources. We had eight teams come out. A lot of good competition today, the teams fought hard. It was all about teamwork,” said Ware.

While winning is the ultimate goal during any competition, understanding the discipline and teamwork needed to do well in these competitions is what Captain Ware wants his cadets to get from the competition. Ware said, “We want to win each week but bottom line we want the kids to understand it’s all about teamwork, reaching down inside and finding out something about yourself you didn’t know you had.”

Captain Ware wants the cadets to remember these competitions later in life and remember the struggles they went through to succeed so that they can use that motivation in their everyday lives. 9 30 19 JROTC 3

October 2--  Ariel Hart of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on the expected purchase of Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia by the Hospital Corporation of America.

"A private hospital company has signed a contract to work toward taking over the public hospital in Vidalia.

"The company, HCA, or Hospital Corporation of America, already owns the major hospital in Savannah and one in Waycross. Adding the hospital in Vidalia would give HCA dominance in several counties near coastal Georgia.
"The agreement between HCA and the Vidalia hospital’s nonprofit parent, Meadows Health, would include the hospital, its cancer center and outpatient facilities, and, importantly, its network of physician practices.

“The Meadows Health Board is comprised of community members who are passionate about ensuring that our health system remains stable, strong and growing despite the increasingly challenging dynamics in healthcare,” Meadows Health Board Chairman Mike Calhoun said in a statement announcing the agreement.

"The statement does not specify whether HCA will buy the hospital or work out some other arrangement but says they are working toward alignment.

"The current contract is a letter of intent. HCA and Meadows will now begin a period of due diligence and negotiate a “definitive” agreement, the two organizations said in a joint statement. When they have a deal, they will file it with the state Attorney General’s Office and hold a public hearing about it in Vidalia.

"Having a public hospital means having public input and more transparency in what the hospital does, but it also carries risks for taxpayers. Meadows Health and its affiliates were hit in 2017 with a $12.9 million settlement by the U.S. Department of Justice and the state over allegations they were illegally paying doctors to refer patients to them.

"Running a hospital also isn’t cheap. Health costs are rising much faster than overall inflation. Meadows CEO James Alan Kent was paid $929,000 in reportable compensation in 2017, according to tax forms, the latest year public forms are available. That is less than the top doctor was paid. (The hospital notes the CEO’s pay was usually half that amount but that year he received a one-time payout.)

"About the time HCA bought Memorial University Medical Center, by far the largest of three hospitals in Savannah, Memorial had run staggering losses, up to $44 million one year.

"The biggest concern analysts often have for an area when hospital consolidation occurs is that prices will rise as competition decreases. A dominant hospital system can use its leverage as the only game in the region to raise prices substantially. But a spokeswoman for Meadows wrote in an email that “we would expect that cost to our patients would remain largely unchanged.”

"The spokeswoman, Elizabeth Harvill, said patients with private insurance generally have out-of-pocket costs set by the insurance plan, and rates with Medicare and Medicaid are set by government. For uninsured patients, she said, HCA’s charitable care policies are “more generous than many hospitals in Georgia.”

"She did not address costs to insurance companies, which filter down to patients in premium prices."

Nick Overstreet Town Hall PicOctober 2-- Last week the City of Vidalia held a town hall meeting at St. Paul AME Church to get the input from the public about issues they may be having in the city. A large crowd was on hand and listened to each department head discuss their individual departments plus a question and answer session afterwards.

Vidalia City Manager Nick Overstreet shared his thoughts on the meeting. “The reason for the town hall meeting was to allow the public to come out and hear from our department heads, hear what they had to say and what they’re working on and educate them about the everyday happenings of the city. Secondly, it was to give them an opportunity to have a question and answer session with all of us and I think both of those goals were accomplished tonight,” said Overstreet.

Overstreet added, “I think tonight went very well and overall I think everyone was happy with what they were told about and informed and that’s half our battle. We want our citizens to be educated and know what’s going on in the city because he or she may see something and not know what’s going on and this provides us with an opportunity to do that. And yes, we’re going to continue this.”

Christian, a citizen of Vidalia thought the meeting went well. “It was very informative and was much needed. It was a chance for the citizens of Vidalia to come out and meet the people that they may not have known about and hear about the issues that are going on,” said Christian.

He had an issue that he brought to their attention also and was pleased with their response. “I spoke with both the department heads that the issue was regarding and I believe they will analyze it and make the changes that need to be made and to be more receptive to the problems in the community,” added Christian.

Sept 25-- Vidalia High School participated in Active Schools' third Annual 'Take Your Parent to PE Week' on 9/24/2019, where parents were welcomed to join their child in physical education class.
Take Your Parent to PE Week is a fun, immersive way to introduce parents to the physical education program and teachers at their child's school. The weeklong, national campaign encourages parents to engage with PE throughout the year and encourages families to be physically active together at home and in the community.
“At Vidalia High School we know that physical learning plays a vital role in the overall development of our students," said Principal John Sharpe. "Daily activity is crucial for students' healthy physical, social and emotional, and academic development. We are proud to give it the attention it deserves in our curriculum."
Vidalia High School's Parents to PE is led by Coach Missy Owens, who was excited to welcome her students' parents to class and demonstrate the day-to-day physical learning she provides.
"Our school is very engaged with parents, but generally it's the classroom teachers and counselors who get all the facetime when it comes time for conferences and open house," said Coach Missy Owens, "I'm excited to show off my curriculum! A lot has changed for the better since many parents have been to PE class, and I thoroughly enjoyed showing that."
Participating parents attended class and participated in activities such as warm-up activities (running and stretching/Yoga). Parents then lifted weights with their child. Everyone finished up the activity with a fun game "Alphonso Ball" and had a BLAST! Sponsors Spivey Orthopedics and SMILE orthodontics provided sample items that parents could take home with them.

SOM Sept 19October 1--  Toombs Central Elementary Students of the Month.

Back Row (Left to Right)  Antonio Garcia (Fourth Grade), Catie Jane Campbell (Second Grade), Jakob Page (Fifth Grade).  Middle Row (Left to Right) Om Patel (Kindergarten), Harper Underwood (Third Grade). Front Row:  Oakley Mays (Pre-K).  Not pictured:  Angelina Tinoco (First Grade) 

October 1-- Dr. Charles Howell, Pediatric Surgeon at the Children’s Hospital of Georgia in Augusta was in town recently to speak to the local Kiwanis club about the hospital’s work. Though based in Augusta, they do work all over Georgia.

“The Children’s Hospital of Georgia is the pediatric hospital for the Medical College of Georgia. We take care of kids from all over the state of Georgia, all 159 counties that might have a complex or straight forward pediatric medical problem or a complex or straight forward pediatric surgical problem. We are available 24/7 with our 154 bed hospital. We have the highest level of intensive of the neo-natal ICU or pediatric ICU,” said Howell.

When it comes to caring for kids from all over Georgia, funding can sometimes be an issue. “We all know what an unfunded mandate is, when we’re asked to do something but aren’t given the resources to make it happen. Taking care of children is like an unfunded mandate. Most kids across Georgia are covered with Georgia Medicaid,” stated Howell.

“The remainders of children in Georgia are covered by a third party insurance or they don’t have any coverage at all. Our unfunded mandate is to take care of the kids of Georgia,” said Howell.

In addition to covering kids all over the state of Georgia. He added, “You know we’re fortunate that we’ve taken care of kids all over Georgia and we did over 200 procedures on kids from Toombs and Montgomery Counties just this past year. Someone’s doctor down here sent them to us and for that we appreciate it.”

Mosley Tire Contribution PhotoL to R: Jason Mosley, Barron Mosley, Nancy McDonald (co-founder), Pennie Cook Sterling (President and co-founderSeptember 30--  In an effort to give back to the community, Mosley Tire Company has made a $500 donation to Diamonds in the Ruff, a non-profit animal rescue that serves Toombs and surrounding counties.

Area Police Blotter Reports

September 30--  Vidalia Police Chief Brian Scott reports the following arrests.

Powell, Jason Jacob- W/M- 19 YOA- 200 Reedy Creek Circle Lyons, GA- Possession of Marijuana Less Than Ounce

Smith, Tyreece Anthony- B/M- 19 YOA- 706 Loop Rd. Apt. 606 Vidalia, GA- Forgery-1st Degree, Possession of Marijuana Less Than Ounce, Carrying Concealed Weapon, Possession of a Controlled Substance, Theft by Receiving Stolen Property

Poole, Jerry Paul- W/M- 28 YOA- 508 W. North St. Vidalia, GA- Warrant Served (Toombs County SO- Probation)  

Moody, Robert James- B/M- 53 YOA- 1003 W. Church St. Vidalia, GA- Simple Battery (FVA)

Corley, Kenyaata- B/F- 26 YOA- 706 Church St. Apt. C Vidalia, GA- DUI- 1st Degree

Davis, Mary Cristal- B/F-32 YOA- 1208 Easter Dr. Apt. 1 Vidalia, GA- Disorderly Conduct

Copeland, Carlton Earl-B/M- 55 YOA- 202 Patrick St. Vidalia, GA- False Report of a Crime

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Singleton, Tyron Gerald, Lyons, Obstruct, Hinder, Law Enforcement Officer

Yeomans, Michael Ladon, Lyons, Driving While License Suspended/Revoked (Third)

Earles, Regina Calhoun, Locust Grove, GA Obstruct, Hinder, Law Enforcement Officer

Moore, Phillip M., Lyons, Dui, Open Container, Accident, Failure to Maintain Lane

Higgs, Michael, Lyons, Driving While License Suspended/Revoked (First), Georgia Hands Free Law

Reyes, Abraham, Lyons, Failure to Maintain Lane, Georgia Hands Free Law, Driving While Unlicensed, DUI

Moore, Tyler Carl Jason, Vidalia, Pointing a Gun or Aiming a Pistol at Another, Pedestrian Under the Influence

Ortiz, Jesus A, Lyons, Possession of Marijuana Less Than Ounce, Following Too Closely

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Boyd, Jarvis, Albany, Probation Violation Felony

Brown, Mary, Lyons, Driving While License Suspended, Probation Violation-Misdemeanor

Coleman, Britany, Vidalia, Battery, Misdemeanor Arrest Warrant

Conner, Jaymie, Vidalia, DUI, Endangering Child Under 14 While Under DUI, Probation Violation Felony, Failure to Maintain Lane, Turning Movements and Required Signals

Edenfield, John, Vidalia, Driving While License Suspended/Revoked, Removing or Affixing License Plate for Purpose of Concealing Identity of Vehicle, Wireless Telecommunications Device Use Prohibited, No Seat Belt

Green, Brandon, Lyons, Grand Jury Bench Warrant-Burglary 1st Degree

Ramirez, Sebastian, Lyons, Probation Violation Misdemeanor, Driving While Unlicensed, Operating Motor Vehicle with Registration or Valid License Plate

Thrower, Sedrick, Lyons, Probation Violation Felony, Theft by Taking, Theft By Taking 7 counts, Deposit Account Fraud/Bad Checks

Tyson, Alex, Lyons, Child Support Pick Up Order

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

09/23-Tiffany Letreece Hayes, Dallas, Ga., Items Prohibited for Possession by Inmates

09/24-Maureen Meredith Metcalfe, Hazlehurst, Possession of Controlled Substance (2 counts), Possession of Drug Related Objects, Drugs Not in Original Container

09/26-Dawson Everett Hale, Mount Vernon, Conspiracy to Commit a Crime, Use of Communication Facility in Committing or Facilitating a Drug Transaction

09/27-Rodney Dewayne Hall, Baxley, Possession of Marijuana <1oz., Possession of Drug Related Objects

09/27-Tina Marie Perry, Baxley, Stop Sign Violation, Possession of Marijuana <1oz., Possession of Drug Related Objects

Gabby PicSeptember 30-- Vidalia Communications Corporation was recognized Saturday night at the 57th Annual Georgia Association of Broadcasters “Gabby” Awards ceremony at the Grand Hyatt in Buckhead by bringing home 5 awards.

The following awards were received in the Radio Class AA division:

Best Team Weather Coverage – Hurricane Coverage Team at WVOP

Best Team Political Coverage – Team at WVOP

Best Community Service Project – United Way Service Project Team at WTCQ

Best Reporter – Zack Fowler WTCQ

2019 Best of the Gabby’s Award – WVOP

John Koon and Jeff Raiford of Vidalia Communications accepted the awards on behalf of the stations.

Court of Appeals 2September 30-- A few times each year the Court of Appeals of Georgia travels around the state holding oral arguments on cases so that citizens can get to see firsthand what they do without traveling to Atlanta. Last week 3 judges on the court held their meeting at Vidalia High School. They were Judge Amanda Mercier, Judge Carla Wong McMillan, and Chief Judge Christopher McFadden.

Judge McFadden explained, “We are a single intermediate appellate court for the entire state of Georgia and we are all elected statewide and are responsible to all the voters in the state of Georgia and our cases come from all over Georgia. We only have one court room for the Court of Appeals and that is in Atlanta next to the Capitol. This sort of thing allows us to travel around the state and let the whole state see what we do,” said McFadden.

He added, “The advice we give to aspiring students is to read, write, and study hard. The law is a demanding profession. Ability and diligence are clearly rewarded. It’s really a great career for those who have the aptitude and for those who that type of work suits them.”

McFadden explained the real purpose of the Court of Appeals. “To explain it in kind of crude terms is imagine you’re in court in front of that single judge and it’s a bad judge. We don’t have many bad judges in Georgia but they are occasionally found. And the judge says I don’t really care about what the law says I’m just going to do whatever I want and what are you going to do about it. Most of the time, the answer to what you’re going to do about it is our court.”

September 27--  Notes from Senator Jack Hill.

"RAINY DAY" FUNDS VARY IN STATES

We wrote in last week's column about the state Revenue Report and touched on the calculation of the RSR or rainy day fund. Turns out that Georgia is doing very well in saving up over 11% of previous year's revenues for the latest RSR, $2.9 Billion.

Nationally, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), rainy day funds are growing as a percentage of state budgets due in part to the longest economic recovery period in history following the recession 11 years ago.

Although some states have recovered better than others according to research by the Pew Charitable Trusts. NASBO says that the biggest change in states' financial position has been the increase in rainy day funds which has risen to 7.5% of general funds, up 2.7% from before the recession.

RAINY DAY FUNDS VARY IN SIZE

There's a wide difference in the level of rainy day funds around the country. California has put aside $17.8 billion while 3 states, Illinois, Kansas and New Jersey have no reserves at all. You may remember Georgia's RSR stands at $2.9 Billion before the midyear adjustment for Education.

Some states have a process to automatically set aside revenues for their rainy day funds. Two years ago, North Carolina set up a process of setting aside part of their forecasted revenues to build up their rainy day fund.

Some states with oil and gas deposits set aside part of those severance tax revenues for reserves.   Georgia has no set process beyond the requirement that lapsed agency funds go into the RSR at the end of the Fiscal year.

SOME STATES IN BETTER SHAPE THAN OTHERS

We reported a while back about Moody Analytics study that found 23 states had reserves sufficient to survive a moderate recession and 10 more were close to that total. Georgia was one of those states with a satisfactory reserve to get through a moderate recession.

A follow up report later this year will bring those figures up to date.

States' tax profiles can be a factor in their ability to withstand a recession. California's dependence on high income taxpayers would take a hit during a recession as they did during the Great Recession.

Florida's dependence solely on sales taxes makes it very dependent on tourism and subject to the whims of the economy and peoples' travel plans.

STATES ARE VULNERABLE IN A RECESSION

State services like Medicaid go up during a recession along with education costs as many return to school when jobs are lost. State constitutions like Georgia's require a balanced budget so there is pain involved when states have to cut budgets due to falling revenues.

August of 2019 brought the highest level of concern for a recession sparked by fears of the US/China trade war, global business slowdown and the inverted short term and long term interest rates. A Fed rate cut and that inverted yield curve that returned to normal has eased fears somewhat.

The former head of the Congressional Budget Office recently said "The household sector remains nearly ¾ of the U.S. Economy and displays a healthy mix of low unemployment and rising wages. As long as that continues, we will avoid a recession."

Another factor forestalling a recession is the fact that technology has a positive effect on the recession model.

BUT BACK TO RAINY DAY FUNDS

As a percentage of total state expenditures, Wyoming has the largest FY 2019 Rainy Day Fund balance at 109% according to the Spring 2019 Survey of the National Association of State Budget Officers Fiscal Survey of States.

California, while having the largest total rainy day fund at $17.8 billion only shows this as 12.4% of the states total expenditures for the year. Georgia's RSR is 11.6% of state general fund receipts but is 9.3% of the state's budget.

REPAYMENT OF EXHAUSTED RAINY DAY FUNDS

States vary in how rainy day funds are replenished after being appropriated. Alabama, for example must pay back its General Fund rainy day fund within 10 years of withdrawal.

North Carolina has a more involved process where the Fiscal Research Division and the Office of State Budget & Management jointly develop an annual evaluation of the adequacy of the fund and then estimate the target for the Savings Reserve Balance sufficient to cover two years of 9 of 10 scenarios involving a decline in general fund operating budget appropriations excluding dept. receipts.

In South Carolina, the General Reserve Fund must be restored within three fiscal years based on a rate of not less than 1% of general fund revenue until the fund reaches 5%. The Capital Reserve Fund is raised 0.5% until it reaches 5% of general fund appropriations for the prior fiscal year.   At the end of the fiscal year, lapsed funds in the Capital Reserve Fund are credited to the general fund.

In Georgia, the lapsed funds at the end of the fiscal year are automatically sent to the RSR. So, the Revenue Estimate is vitally important in that it remain a fiscally conservative estimate when used to base a proposed budget. Setting a moderate, conservative revenue estimate keeps the state from spending at a dangerous level if revenues were to drop during the year and this conservative spending allows more accumulation of revenues by the end of the year to lapse into the RSR.

John EllingtonSeptember 27-- This week the Vidalia-Toombs County Library was excited to have Vidalia native and Treutlen County resident Justice John Ellington of the Georgia Supreme Court come and speak to the Friends of the Library meeting.

Ellington was elected to the position in 2018 and has enjoyed his first year on Georgia’s highest court. “I’ve really enjoyed it. I work with great people. I was fortunate to work for 20 years on the Court of Appeals and serve with good folks. There are 9 of us on the Supreme Court and I enjoy the work,” said Ellington.

Becoming a judge on the Georgia Supreme Court was not what he had planned while in high school. Ellington said, “I wanted to play safety for the Miami Dolphins but that didn’t work out for me so I think the law was a good backup plan for me.” He added, “I’m very fortunate to have had the background and the training that I have had and as I go to Atlanta I try to take those values and experiences with me.”

Local influences helped shape his career. “I was very fortunate of Judge Marvin Hartley here in Vidalia and Toombs County. I worked with him for a great number of years and he had a great influence on me. And Judge Carlton Warnock in Soperton was the State Court Judge that I followed had a great influence on my life, both as a lawyer and also in the community,” said Ellington.

Ellington really enjoys his travels throughout Georgia. Ellington stated, “You know we have a great state with wonderful people. We’re a diverse state in geography and people and background and it’s really one of the fun parts of my job to travel around and see people from all walks of life.”

JD Dickerson Students of the MonthSeptember 26-- J. D. Dickerson Primary School would like to celebrate the Students of the Month for September.

First Row (left to right) I’ryanna Nichols, Sawyer Faircloth, Payton Reynolds, Mia Treichel; Second Row (left to right) Journey Coggins, Teagan Allen, Eli Morris, Trinity Tompkins, Mattix Holley; Third Row (left to right) La’Miah White, Riley Roundtree, Jy’mere McKinney, Addie Parrish, Stella Brimeyer; Back Row (left to right) E’niyah Ockletree, Nyla Williams, Trinity Crumbley, Annisten Smith, Zumoria Butler, and Annalise Hodge (not pictured)

September 26--  The Georgia Forestry has announced a burn restrictions for Toombs and Montgomery Counties due to the dry weather we are experiencing. There will not be any burn permits issued until this burn restriction has been lifted. This means outside burning is prohibited; therefore a fine can and will be incurred if you burn anything during this burn restriction.

September 26-- The Lyons City Council met in a called meeting on Thursday, September 19th to vote on a property tax increase of 1 mil which it passed. The increase along with budget cuts were needed to offset a recent reduction in revenue coming into the city.

Lyons Mayor Willis Nesmith said, “Going over our budget for next week we realized we were going to be having a shortfall. Revenue’s are down. It’s not expenses, expenses are actually very much in line it’s our revenues that are way down.” He added, “We’ve had to do some cutting in places and for a last ditch effort we had to look at going up 1 mil on our millage rate.”

Mayor Nesmith added that the funds will go directly into the general fund to address the revenue shortfall. “It’s a problem that most small towns like us have is that you don’t really have enough revenue streams for your general fund. City Hall and the police department come out of the general fund. Those two in itself can drain a general fund and the only revenue coming into the general fund is property taxes,” added Nesmith.

“We’ve actually already made the cuts. We’re consolidating a little bit. We haven’t laid anyone off and haven’t fired anyone. Jobs of people who have left for whatever reason are just not being filled right now. With what we’ve done with the budget and cuts, it’s looking good for next year,” said Nesmith.

20190925 ChickFilA SECCA POM

Back Row - L to R Britt McDade, Owner/Operator; Ethan Wright, Carson Smith, Walker Wheeler, and Reagan McDonald, WBL Students/Employees

Front Row - L to R: Marissa Brown, Senior Director; Hannah Sikes, WBL Student/Employee; Mindy Morrison, Senior Director

Sept 25-- Southeastern Early College and Career Academy (SECCA)  is proud to recognize Chick-fil-A as the October 2019 Business Partner of the Month. 

Students from area schools have the opportunity to learn valuable work ethics in an environment they love.  Mrs. Donna Collins, SECCA WBL Coordinator, states, "It is easy to recognize WBL students working at Chick-fil-A.  From 'It's my pleasure' to 'How may I serve you?' students are learning valuable customer service skills needed in the workplace." 

SECCA is thankful to Chick-fil-A for their dedication to train a strong, productive workforce in our community!

September 25-- A woman awaiting trial for murder was found dead in a church cemetery on Tuesday according to the Emanuel County Sheriff’s Office. Priscilla Riner Hooks’ body was found in a church cemetery off Highway 56 in Emanuel County. The investigation is ongoing by the Emanuel County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and officials have not ruled out suicide or foul play at this time.

Sheriff J. Tyson Stevens says investigators believe the 46-year-old woman was killed somewhere else and then brought to that location where many of her relatives are buried.  Riner Hooks was on bond awaiting trial in connection with the shooting death of her estranged boyfriend Dustin Wilson. Orders from the judge in that case had her barred from Emanuel County except for court appearances. Her temporary residence had been in Bulloch County, where her vehicle and ankle monitor where found. Authorities do not believe she came to the cemetery on her own, no vehicles were found at the scene and as yet no weapons either.

Riner Hooks is accused of killing her ex-boyfriend in June of 2018. A grand jury indicted Riner Hooks of multiple charges including malice murder, aggravated assault, felony murder, voluntary manslaughter and four counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. Riner Hooks was granted a bond of $65,000 in July of 2018.

Greg RiekhofSeptember 25-- This week marks the 10th anniversary of the Chicken of the Sea facility in Lyons, GA. The plant opened in 2009 after operations at their American Samoa plant was closed to make the move to Lyons. On Monday they had a celebration to commemorate the event.

Lyons General Manager Greg Riekhof is excited about how far the facility has come. “This facility was placed in Lyons, Georgia largely due to the port of Savannah and Brunswick being such a good source for the frozen tuna loins that we receive in and then we can that tuna. We only produce canned tuna in this facility and we have seen large growth over time,” said Riekhof.

Riekhof added, “For the next ten years, I think that people want a healthy protein in their diet. Tuna provides that at a reasonable cost and packs a lot of protein in. It tastes good. It’s good for you. I think people are becoming more aware that canned tuna is not just the everyday chunk light water that you may make chicken salad out of but we also make a while albacore product that goes good with salad and pasta.”

Chicken of Sea MercyL to R: Thiraphong Chansiri, Global President & CEO, Thai Union Group PCL: Greg Riekhof, Lyons General Manager: Clint Hutcheson, Mercy Ministries: Valentin Ramirez, President & CEO Chicken of the Sea International“Technology does play a big part of it. If you consumer wants a pouch or a plastic cup, consumers like that convenience,” he added.  During the ceremony Chicken of the Sea made a donation of $10,000 to Mercy Ministries who just celebrated their 10th anniversary last week.                    

September 24--  The nation's largest publicly held hospital group is buying Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia.

Meadows Chief Executive Officer Alan Kent says Meadows Health has signed a letter of intent with the Hospital Corporation of America for the sale which could become final next Spring.  The exact purchase price will be determined after a period of due diligence and will cover the $65 million outstanding loan which Meadows currently has with the federal government for construction of the new hospital several years ago.

Even though Meadows is making money, Kent says the financial woes plaguing rural hospitals made it imperative to plan for the future, "There's a sense of relief knowing we have a company we're joining that's very secure, that employees are going to have jobs, we're not going to have massive layoffs and we're not going to close services.  As they've come to us, they've said we would like to keep employees and I'm planning on staying as well."

HCA has committed to guarantee jobs for one year after the deal is completed, and, according to Kent, the company brings a lot to the table, "They now operate 185 hospitals, they have many urgent care centers, they employ almost 5,000 physicians, they employ over 250,000 people and operate hospitals in 21 states and Great Britain."

HCA has nine hospitals in Georgia and, as a for-profit hospital, will contribute to the local tax base.

Meadows issued the following press release regarding the sale.

mrmc1

mrmc2

September 23--  Vidalia Police Chief Brian Scott reports the following arrests.

Southerland, Robert Jamar- B/M- 23 YOA- 309 Arlington Dr. Vidalia, GA- Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (First)

Smith, Jacqueline Mae- W/F- 30 YOA- 1026 Turner Bridge Rd, Uvalda GA- Theft by Shoplifting 2nd Offense

Mills, Malacia Shazaria- B/F- 18 YOA- 402 Rigsbee Dr. Vidalia, GA- Reckless Driving

Hooks, Takeisha Lovanda- B/F- 36 YOA- 186 McLendon Rd. Vidalia, GA- Improper, Illegal Parking/Driving While License Suspended or Revoked

Corouthers, Justin Allen- B/M- 25 YOA- 907 Scott Dr. Vidalia, GA- Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense

Gonzalez, Marcus T. - B/M- 21 YOA- 303 Poe St. Vidalia, GAObstruct, Hinder Law Enforcement Officer/Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense

Jackson, Cavarus Damatress- B/M- 40 YOA- 800 Estell Dr. Apt. A Vidalia, GA- Murder

Gardner, Henry- B/M- 27 YOA- 725 Bostwick Dr Vidalia, GATheft by Taking (Motor Vehicle)

Jones, Salquan Tybee- B/M- 33 YOA- 344 East Grady Apt 1  Lyons, GA- Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (First)

Higgs, Michael L. - W/M- 49 YOA- 1102 Orange St. Vidalia, GA- Speeding, Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (First)

Ballard, Michelle Lynn- W/F- 44 YOA- 321 Jerriel St. Vidalia, Ga- Driving While License Suspended Or Revoked

Smart, Jerry Jerome- B/M- 21 YOA- 1208 Easter Drive Apt. 13 Vidalia Ga- Possession of Marijuana Less Than Ounce

Wright, Tabitha Ann- W/F- 43 YOA- 221 Comanchee Rd. Lyons, Ga- Theft by Taking

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Renita Harris, Lyons, DUI, child endangerment, possession of marijuana

Anthony Miller, Lyons, driving while license suspended/revoked

Shredrick Brown, Vidalia, speeding, warrant served

Billy Courson, Lyons, aggravated assault

Timothy Leggett, Lyons, DUI,  traffic violations

Shontavia White, Lyons, theft by taking

Joshua Carlo, Vidalia, warrant served

Dempsey Wheeler, Lyons, cruelty and abandonment of animals

Regina Earles, Locust Gove, obstruction of a law enforcement officer

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Hollis Bryant, Lyons, battery, cruelty to children

Isauro Castro, Lyons, battery, cruelty to children

Marcus David, Vidalia, probation viiolation

Aaron Easter, East Dublin, probation violation

Kyle Foreman, Vidalia, driving while license suspended/revoked, brake lights and turn signals

Allen Herrington, Lyons, DUI, failure to maintain lane, wireless device use prohibited

Jason Johnson, Vidalia, Meth purchase, possession, manufacture, distribution and sale; theft by receiving stolen property

Terry McCoy, Vidalia, battery, terroristic threats, probation and parole violation

Michael Prevatt, Dublin, DUI, speed restrictions, tires

Derrell Ruth, McDonough, probation violation

Kendell Stern, Metter, DUI, failure to maintain lane

Robert Taylor, Jr., Ailey, theft by receiving stolen property

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

09/19-Jack Ryan Bass, Fairfax, VA., Possession of Marijuana <1oz., Open Container

09/19-Esco Mark Walker, Charlotte, NC, DUI, Underage Consumption

09/20-Triston Miranda Braswell, Mount Vernon, Felony Probation Violation

 09/22-Katishma Michelle Eason, Alamo, Speeding, Driving w/Suspended License

September 23--  Residents on Emanuel Circle east of Lyons and Victoria Circle north of Vidalia may get their roads paved in 2021 if an initiative by the Toombs County Board of Commissioners is successful.

At its September meeting, the Commission voted to seek a $750,000 community development block grant from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs to pave the two dirt roads.  The county will find out next year if the request is approved.

In other actions, the Commission named two new members to the Toombs County Development Authority.  Tim Truxel will succeed Donnie Alderman of Vidalia and Andy Kimbell of Lyons will succeed Trent Williams when their terms expire the end of the year.

It also appointed county clerk Helen Harris and Sheriff's Department employees Marilyn Heard and Heather Bell to serve as open records officers for the county.

A $250,000 economic development loan was approved for L.G. Herndon, Jr. Farms, Inc. to increase the company's produce processing production by an estimated 40%.  The low interest loan will help the company buy new equipment.  The funds come from the county's revolving loan fund provided by the state to spur local economic development.

September 21--  Toombs County State Court Judge Tommy J. Smith is running for Superior Court Judge of the Middle Judicial Circuit.

Incumbent Judge Kathy Palmer is not running again for the position she has held since 2000.

tommyjsmithIn a campaign statement, Judge Smith said, “With years of experience serving as a State Court Judge, this is a natural next step. I have spent my career focused on treating everyone fairly, using common-sense in judicial decisions, and delivering justice for all in my courtroom.”

Toombs County State Court Solicitor Justin Franklin said, “Judge Smith has been tough on crime but makes sure everyone is treated the same in his courtroom. He has the experience, values, and fairness we need in a Judge.”

Judge Smith earned his law degree from the University of Georgia School of Law and was admitted to the State Bar of Georgia in 1997. He has served twelve years as State Court Judge and eighteen years as Municipal Court Judge. In addition, Judge Smith has served Brewton Parker College as a Professor of Business Law.

The Middle Judicial Circuit includes Candler, Emanuel, Jefferson, Toombs and Washington Counties.

The race is non-partisan and will be decided in the election May 19, 2020.

September 21-- A Toombs County senior citizen died in a Friday night wreck.

According to Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight, 74-year-old Walter Thomas Copeland of Normantown was killed in a head-on collision between eight and nine p.m. on the Old Normantown Road.

The sheriff says it appears the vehicle driven by Copeland crossed the center line and collided with the vehicle driven by 19-year old Shane Hadaway, also of Normantown.  He was injured and taken to Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia.

September 21--  A Vidalia man is being charged with murder in a fatal shooting Friday morning.

cavarusjacksonVidalia Police Chief Brian Scott reports 40-year-old Cavarus Jackson (left) is charged with felony murder for the killing of 20-year-old Charveil McNeal of Claxton.

Police responded to a call at Raymonia Apartments on Easter Drive Friday morning about 10:50 a.m. and found McNeal dead in the parking lot.  He died of multiple gunshot wounds.

Chief Scott says detectives and the GBI worked throughout the day but have yet to determine a motive for the killing.

The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information is asked to call Vidalia police at 537-4123 or the GBI at 478-374-6988.

United Way Kickoff 2019September 20-- The local United Way held their annual campaign kickoff on Thursday at the First Baptist Church in Vidalia. Executive Director Patricia Dixon is excited about this year’s campaign and the new goal.

“I’m very excited. We’ve got a great campaign team again this year just like in the past. Good leadership and we’re going to have a fantastic year changing the game,” said Dixon. She added, “Our goal is $550,000 this year. We had a general training at the beginning of the campaign and each division sets their own goal, that way their invested in making sure they hit their goal. Add that all up and it’s our grand total.”

While the goal is the same as last year, the hope is to exceed that and they’re off to a great start. “We feel like we’ll hit it. We’re off to a great start but we’ve still got a lot to raise,” Said Dixon. Approximately 65% of the goal has been raised through events and large donors called “Pacesetters.” The golf tournament raised $16,000, Dancing for the Stars - $16,000, Vidalia City Schools - $25,000, Meadows Health - $30,000, Chicken of the Sea - $20,000, DOT Foods - $44,000, Trane - $181,681.

Jackson Pittman from the Paul Anderson Youth Home thanked everyone for their support of the United Way and how it affected his life. “I was blessed with the opportunity to come to the youth home because without it I would not be half the man I am today. I would still be in jail, I would still be an addict, a criminal, a liar, angry at the world, I wouldn’t have a family to support me and above all I wouldn’t know Jesus Christ,” said Pittman.

He added, “Without the help of the United Way and everything you do for us, the Paul Anderson Youth Home wouldn’t have the resources they need to help guys just like me. So on behalf of myself and everyone else who have and will be helped by the home, thank you for your continued support.”

September 19--Young women, from across the state, came to compete for the prestigious titles of Miss Georgia Jr. High, High School, and Collegiate America 2020. In addition to these titles, thirteen Elementary titles were awarded during the fifth annual pageant for girls in Preschool through 5th grade. The state pageant was held this September 13-15 at the Henry County Performing Arts Center in McDonough, GA. One hundred and ten contestants participated in a 3-day event that included rehearsals, a disco party, and competition areas of interview, fashion runway, school wear, and formal wear. The national pageant organization and Julie and Anna Barnes, producers of the state pageant, make it a goal to provide outstanding elementary high school, junior high and collegiate girls the opportunity to compete in a pageant system that has the highest of moral values. The competition exists for the purpose of providing personal and professional opportunities for young women.

Crowning the new titleholders were last year’s winners, Shayla Jackson – Miss Georgia High School 2018 and the Miss High School America 2019 (Valdosta, GA) and Callie Rice – Miss Collegiate America 2020 (Fortson, GA). Siara Caspari (Cartersville, GA) was crowned Miss Georgia Junior High. Emma Grace Kelley (Buford, GA) was crowned Miss Georgia High School and Sarah Weeks (Canton, GA) was crowned Miss Georgia Collegiate.

Local Elementary Titles include:

Ashtyn
Little Miss Georgia Preschool: Ashtyn Hartley (Tarrytown, GA)
Ava
Little Miss Georgia Kindergarten: Ava Carpenter (Uvalda, GA)
Dani Lyn
Little Miss Georgia PreK-2nd Grade Mini-Supreme: Dani-Lynn Williams (Vidalia, GA)
Anberlin
Little Miss Georgia PreK-2nd Grade Grand Supreme: Anberlin Carpenter (Uvalda, GA)

Other Elementary Titles include:

Little Miss Georgia First Grade: Adelyn Hollifield (Tiger, GA)
Little Miss Georgia Second Grade: Emma Charles Townsend (Statesboro, GA)
Little Miss Georgia Third Grade: Kenley McKinnon (Denton, GA)
Little Miss Georgia Fourth Grade: Blair Summerlin (Moultrie,GA)
Little Miss Georgia Fifth Grade: Brailyn Bailey (Thomasville, GA)
Little Miss Georgia PreK-2nd Grade Supreme: Tanala Rahmaad (Tucker, GA)
Little Miss Georgia 3rd-5th Grade Mini-Supreme: Ella Katherine Kennedy (Homerville, GA)
Little Miss Georgia 3rd-5th Grade Supreme: Addison Wells (Kennesaw, GA)
Little Miss Georgia 3rd-5th Grade Grand Supreme: Amelia Jeffery (Alma, GA)

The newly crowned titleholders will be traveling throughout the state of Georgia, making appearances and speaking on behalf of the national platform B.R.A.V.E. (Building Respect and Values for Everyone), an anti-bullying campaign. The winners will go on to represent Georgia and compete for the National titles of Miss Jr. High School America, Miss High School America, and Miss Collegiate America to be held in Little Rock, AR in June 2020.The national pageant awards the new queens with a $95,000 prize package including a $10,000 cash scholarship.  Our Elementary winners are eligible to join them during the week for the Crown Academy and the Miss Elementary America Pageant where winners will receive a $5,000 cash prize, a modeling contract with MMG, a cruise and much more. This is a mentorship/sister experience to show young girls the positive impact of pageantry, community service, and the pageant sisterhood!

For further information about Miss Georgia Elementary, Jr. High, High School, and Collegiate America Pageants, please visit www.MissGeorgiaHighSchool.com or the national website www.americashighschoolpageant.com.

Superintendent Student Advisory Council 2
Left to Right: Zoey Alvarez; Andrew Norfleet

September 19--  Two J.R. Trippe Middle School students have been selected to the 2019-2020 GaDOE State Superintendent Student Advisory Council according to Principal Sandy Reid.  Zoey Alvarez and Andrew Norfleet were selected from more than 1,000 students who applied for the Student Advisory Council this year. "It is an honor to have been selected and these two are perfect candidates to represent the Vidalia City School System and community," said Reid.

The State Superintendent of Schools Student Advisory Council is a group of students in grades 7-12 who discuss how decisions made at the state level are affecting students throughout Georgia. Members meet three times throughout the school year with State Superintendent Woods and are advisors who act as liaisons between the Department of Education and the students of Georgia. Members were chosen by a committee of Georgia Department of Education representatives based on the applicant's response to questions. 

September 18--  All but two area high schools exceeded the state's average graduation rate in 2019 and six area schools are among 71 high schools with a graduation rate of more than 90%.

Vidalia High School is ranked ninth in the state with a graduation rate of 96.3% and has a goal of 100%, according to School Principal John Sharpe, who believes graduating every student is the most important thing a school can do, "We know a diploma doesn't guarantee success, but it does open doors and we want every student to be successful in what they choose to do.  I think everyone realizes now that it's the door that opens a pathway and I'm excited to see our other area schools having their graduation rates go up and if we're all focusing on that then maybe it will make families tell students the importance of getting that degree."

The second highest graduation rate in the area is at Montgomery County High School with a 94.6% rate, five points higher than last year.  School Principal Dr. Scott Barrow says it's due in large part to the personal attention which can be applied in a smaller school, "At a small school, we have a chance to build a lot of relationships and to get to know our students and their career goals.  For example, I met with every senior this past year and went over their transcripts and what we call their Individualized Graduation Plan.  We had a plan for graduation and then we monitored that throughout the year with our teachers and advisers, so it was a real team effort across the board."

Four area schools with graduation rates about 90% are Toombs County High School, Appling County High School, Emanuel County Institute and Metter High School.

Two other schools exceeded the state average, Jeff Davis High School and Tattnall County High School, while two schools graduated less than the state average, Swainsboro High School and Treutlen High School.

2019 Area High School Graduation Rates

SCHOOL

CLASS OF 2019 GRAD RATE

CLASS OF 2018 GRAD RATE

Vidalia High School

96.3

94.0

Montgomery Co HS

94.6

89.3

Metter High School

93.6

91.2

ECI

90.7

93.1

Appling Co HS

90.2

88.8

Toombs Co HS

90.1

87.3

Jeff Davis Co HS

89.1

90.4

Tattnall Co HS

88.7

84.3

Treutlen HS

81.7

84.8

Swainsboro HS

79.2

80.3

State Average

82.0

81.6

September 18--  A former Bulloch County sheriff’s deputy has been indicted by a federal grand jury with possession of child pornography.

Travis Tuenge, 43, of Statesboro, had explicit images of children on his phone and is charged with one count of Possession of Child Pornography, said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. The charge carries a penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison, and there is no parole in the federal system.

“Exploitation of children through child pornography is a despicable crime that will not be tolerated in the Southern District of Georgia,” said U.S. Attorney Christine. “In cooperation with our law enforcement partners, we will find and prosecute these cases no matter the status of those engaging in this exploitation.”

Criminal indictments contain only charges; defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The case was investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force, and is being prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joshua S. Bearden and Marcela C. Mateo.

September 21--  Vidalia Police Chief Brian Scott reports the following arrests.

Forrest, Patrick- B/M- 39 YOA- 408 Dickerson Dr. Vidalia, GA- Warrant Served (Probation)

Whorley, Christopher Scott-B/M-47 YOA- 3647 E Louisiana Dr. Soperton , GA- Warrant Served( Bench)

Harvey, Sonia Marie- W/F- 30 YOA- 704 Mike St. Vidalia, GA- Warrant Served (Toombs County SO- State)

Edwards, Michael Anthony- B/M- 22 YOA- 659 Paul St. Macon, GA- Warrant Served (Toombs County SO- State)

Harden, Bernard Jr. - B/M- 24 YOA- 509 Bay St. Vidalia, GA Possession of Marijuana Less Than Ounce

Brown, Keaundre Deshawn- B/M- 18 YOA- 136 N. 10th Street Apt. 709 Lyons, GA- Give False Name, Address, Birthdate to

LE Officer (State Warrant)/Give False Name, Address, Birthdate to LE Officer

Mcleod, Octavia Nicole-B/F- 36 YOA- 611 Largo Dr. Vidalia, GA- Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (Second)/ Tail Light and Tag Light Requirements

Cronan, Brian Wayne- W/M- 46 YOA- 508 W. North St. Vidalia, GA- State Warrant (Lyons PD)

Phillips, Jaron Quanell- B/M- 37 YOA- 920 Allen Dr. Vidalia, GA- Tail Light and Tag Light Requirements (Bench Warrant)

Smith, Earl Mathew- B/M- 28 YOA- 248 GA Hwy 19 North Glenwood, GA- Seatbelt Violation, Possession of Marijuana Less Than Ounce, Possession of Firearms by Convicted Felon

Jospeh, Ji-Yonekair-B/M-17 YOA- 301 E Jenkins St. Vidalia, GA- Prowler

Bluitt, Dave Mack- B/M- 32 YOA- 405 Twelfth Ave. Vidalia, GA- Warrant Service (Washington County SO- State)

Artis, Jomarion- B/M- 18 YOA- 705 E. First St. Vidalia, GA Loitering or Prowling, Criminal Attempt to Commit Burglary

Holmes, Michael Leonard- B/M- 18 YOA- 705 E. First St. Vidalia, GA- Loitering or Prowling, Criminal Attempt to Commit Burglary

Thompson, Bernard- B/M- 31 YOA- 708 Mike St. Vidalia, GABattery, Interference With 911 Call, Cruelty to Children 3rd Degree- FVA (State Warrant); Willfully Obstruction of Police
Officer Simple/Verbal

O’Neal, Dorian Chase- W/M- 28 YOA- 1670 Bud Jordan Road Uvalda, GA- Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Curtis Matthews, Lyons, DUI, traffic violations

Albert Goodman, Lyons, DUI, driving unlicensed

Martin Lupercio, Lyons, DUI, open container, driving unlicensed, failure to maintain lane

Nathan Anthony, Jr., Augusta, seat belt, driving while license suspended/revoked

Eric Lane, Vidalia, DUI, possession of firearms by a convicted felon, controlled substance and drug related objects, warrant served

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Jamie Allen, Uvalda, theft by receiving stolen property, probation violation

Maryls Clark, Ailey, probation violation

Markevious Johnson, Lyons, burglary

Kenneth Jones, Soperton, possession of marijuana and drug related objects

Antoine Miller, failure to appear

Marcos Rodriguez, Reidsville, DUI, driving unlicensed

Keith Williford, Vidalia, probation violation

Charles Willis, Jr., theft by conversion, failure to appear, probation violation

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

09/09-Orbey L. Gibbons, Vidalia, Misdemeanor Probation Violation

09/10-Nolan Marshall Hutchinson, Vidalia, DUI

09/12-Christopher Scott Whorley, Soperton, Driving w/Suspended License, Expired Tag

09/13-Rebecca Denise James, Kibbee, Criminal Trespass

09/14-Daron Vernard Berry, Mount Vernon, Battery (Family Violence)

September 17--  The Montgomery County School System is one of 90 school systems in Georgia to win a "Farm to School" Golden Radish Award this year.

The awards program was started four years ago by Georgia Organics to raise awareness for Georgia's "Farm to School" programs. The awards ceremony was held Tuesday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

radishaward(L-R) Dr. Beverly Faircloth, Regina Harris and Ursula Spence

Regina Harris, Nutrition Director for Montgomery County schools, says School Superintendent Hugh Kight recommended using a courtyard space at the elementary school to help students learn how to garden, "They learn how to prepare the ground, they plant the produce and then harvest it.  We're trying to build better nutrition habits in our kids so they don't think the best way to eat is at fast food restaurants. We want them to experience a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.  It tastes better and it's better for you."

In addition to the garden, School Principal Dr. Beverly Faircloth says some chickens, rabbits and goats also share the farmyard, "The children actually look outside and hear the rooster crowing each morning and it's not unusual to see either Dixie or Lilly, one of our goats, sticking their heads up to the window to see what the children are doing inside.  They know the hard work pays off for taking responsibility for what we eat and what we grow.  They've fallen in love with the animals and they love to help take care of them."

Ursula Spence of Vidalia works with Community Health Works and collaborated with Georgia Organics to include the Montgomery County School System in the statewide recognition program which is also supported by the Georgia Departments of Agriculture, Education and Public Health, the UGA Cooperative Extension Service and the Department of Early Care and Learning.

September 16-- Conservationists with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources are tracking Argentine Tegu Lizards which can grow up to four feet long.

teguThe Tegus love to eat eggs and are a threat to other species according to Matt Elliott, Assistant Chief of Wildlife Conservation, "They are a real generalist predator with a particular like for eggs. Any kind of ground nesting bird, turtles, gopher tortoises or things like that are prey for Tegus so we don't want them to become established. They eat almost anything, from fruit to small animals, but they love eggs."

Elliott says they've trapped eight of the lizards in the Toombs-Tattnall County area, "The Argentinian black and white Tegu has become quite popular as a pet and for a few years now have established themselves in Florida and recently we have a small population that may be established in southeast Georgia in the Vidalia area.

According to Elliott, the lizards are not aggressive to humans and he's seeking the public's help in mapping their locations.

If you see a Tegu, call the DNR at 478-994-1438 or send a picture to www.georgiawildlife.com/tegus

September 16--  The Toombs County Board of Education recognized faculty and staff at its September meeting.

tcboemilesep19Meredith Broadnax (center) was presented the "Extra Mile Award" for certified staff by Toombs County High School Principal Marissa Morris and School Superintendent Barry Waller.

tcboewowsep19jpg

The "WOW Award" for classified staff was presented to para-professional Teresa McDonald (center) by Lyons Primary School Principal Chris Bell (left) and Superintendent Barry Waller.

By Senator Jack Hill, Reidsville

SO, WHAT'S WRONG WITH STATE REVENUES?

State revenues came in at a negative -2.8% for August, taking in $50.3 million less in August this year than last. Total revenues were $1.753 billion for the month.

Individual Income Taxes were down $59.3 million or -6.3% for the month. Inside those numbers, Individual withholding payments were down $90.9 million and Individual Income Tax Refunds were down $26.4 million. Individual Tax Return payments were up $4 million.

SALES TAXES STILL POSITIVE

Sales Taxes account for a little less than one third of state revenues when including the auto fees. In August, net Sales Tax Revenues continued pretty strong, increasing 3.4% or $17.3 million.

OTHER REVENUE SOURCES MOSTLY NEGATIVE

Corporate Income Taxes, which finished strong at the end of FY 19, finished negative for the second month down -$12.7 million. Title Ad Valorem Fees and Tag, Title and Fees were both negative at -1.3% and -0.5% respectively.

Tobacco Tax revenues were negative at -5.5% and alcoholic beverages were positive at 9.2%.

FUEL TAXES/FEES UP SLIGHTLY

Motor Fuel Taxes, Impact Fees and Hotel/Motel fees were up only $3.1 million altogether or 1.8% for the month.

TWO MONTH TOTALS ARE ANEMIC

Two months is not necessarily a trend, but it is hard to be enthusiastic with the Year to date (YTD) totals after July and August. Here's a list of categories:

Total Revenues

Up $5.3 million

Total Revenues by percent

Up 0.2%

Individual Income Taxes

Up $13.1 million

Individual Income Taxes by percent

Up 0.7%

Corporate Income Taxes

Down $44.09 million

Net Sales Taxes

Up 2.7%

Tag, Title and Fees

Up 6.2%

Title Ad Valorem Tax

Up 2.7%

Tobacco Taxes

Down -4.5%

Alcoholic Beverages

Up 1.5%

UNDER BUDGET-AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SOUTHEAST

It's just the beginning of the Fiscal Year, but you can readily see why Gov. Kemp is being cautious about proceeding to spend the budget passed last session and is calling for 4% cuts in the current fiscal year and 6% cuts in the FY 21 year.

After two months, the state is under budget by some $97 million. The current budget is only showing an increase of a little over 3%, but the state needs about $50 million in new revenue monthly to meet this budget.

Just looking at current revenue numbers from adjoining states that we can access, we can see that not every state is sharing Georgia's lethargic revenue activity.

HOW GEORGIA RANKS IN REVENUE GROWTH

Year to Date Revenue Growth (From states that we could get data from at this time.)

Texas

7.50%

Virginia

7.30%

Alabama

3.60%

Kentucky

2.30%

Arkansas

0. 9%

Georgia

0.2%

12 Month Trailing Average through August

Texas

15.60%

Virginia

7.90%

Alabama

7.20%

Arkansas

7.10%

Kentucky

4.60%

Georgia

4.00%

Whether it is the Income Tax Cut passed last year that started in January or some other factor adversely affecting Georgia's revenue growth, there is little doubt at this point that Georgia has something amiss in its revenue collections.

September 16--  Toombs County Middle School students for the month of August have worked hard by having good grades, attendance and citizenship.

tcmsstudentsAugust19First row from the top: Evan Adams, Sidney Smith, and Megan Clements, 

Second row from the top:Josue Lara, Memphis Soles, Aidan Barton: 

Third row from the top: Mahalia Hutcheson, Aubrey Gay: 

Fourth row: Mason Curl, Jamari Thomas, Citali Zamorano; 

Fifth row: Ella Kate Adams and Keegan Pittman. 

Not pictured: Ethan Heath.    

September 16--  The  J.R. Trippe Middle School chess team in Vidalia took first place in its first chess tournament of the year.

The Chiefs beat six other teams in the Ogeechee River Scholastic Chess Association tournament Saturday in Statesboro led by first place finisher Alexander Muzafarov, Connor Higgs in second place and Sukamar Paidi in fourth place. 

The Chiefs have won first place in the middle school division division for the past two years.

chiefschessPictured Left to Right: 

Back Row: Sukumar Paidi, Ryan Hadden, Ethan Hart, Om Patel, Olivia Taylor, Annika Haynes, Landry Wheeler

Middle Row: Gracie Green, Solan Swanson, Cullen Jackson, Kingston Ryals, Aiden Harvill

Front Row: Alexander Muzafarov, Spencer Mosley, Jude Collins, Nathan Britton, Aidan Ellis

Not Pictured: Connor Higgs

Carly BentonSeptember 16-- The Mercy Ministries is tens year old and they held a big celebration last week at their clinic in Lyons. Executive Director Carly Benton is excited about now far the clinic has come in ten years.

“We are celebrating a decade of serving patients in Toombs and surrounding counties that are uninsured, low income adults with chronic disease and just celebrating all that the Lord has done here in the last decade. We started out as a walk in clinic in the bathroom of the Jesus Inn and we are now what I call a full-service, holistic medical ministry where we offer medical care, dental care, and Mercy University classes where we offer to help people with their finances and work life,” Benton said.

Benton added, “Another thing we are celebrating is opening our second clinic site in Graham, Georgia to serve Appling, Jeff Davis, and Bacon counties. “

“One of the things going forward is to increase our capacity here in Lyons. We’ve been staying about a 500 active patients and our goal next year is go increase to about 600 active patients at a time and we want to deepen our impact,” said Benton.

Benton said, “We could not be here without all of our community partners. We have a great partnership with Meadows Health. We also rely on over 30 volunteers to help keep the doors open.”                                                 

September 12--  The Vidalia Police Department issued the following press release regarding a recent armed robbery at Dollar General.

On Tuesday, September 10, 2019, at about 9:30 p.m. officers with the Vidalia Police Department responded to a report of an armed robbery at Dollar General, 109 McIntosh Street. Two black males, wearing masks over their faces and armed with handguns, entered the store, confronted employees, and stole a cash drawer and bank bag. The two males fled the scene on foot. A K-9 Team from the Georgia Department of Corrections responded to conduct a track, but was unsuccessful in locating the offenders. Several customers were in the store and parking lot just prior to and while the robbery was occurring, but left before police arrived.   

If you were at or near the Dollar General at the time of the robbery or have information about this incident, please call the Vidalia Police Department – Criminal Investigations Division at 912-537-4123.  

911 Speaker photoSeptember 11-- The Downtown Vidalia Association held it’s 9/11 Memorial “Lest We Forget” Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. at Meadows Street Park in Vidalia. The guest speaker for the well attended event was Baxley native and retired Army Sergeant Leo Peeples.

Sergeant Peeples recalled that fateful day. “September 11th, 2001, the single deadliest attack in human history as well as the single deadliest incident for firefighters and law enforcement officers. 343 firefighters died that day. 72 law enforcement officers died that day. 2,996 innocent people perished.   As a result over 3,000 children lost their parents and over 6,000 people were injured,” said Peeples.

Peeples added, “Today there have been numerous 9/11 related deaths due to respiratory disease and cancer. Forty two minutes, two thousand five hundred and twenty seconds changed our lives forever. Our infrastructure was reshaped; a toll was taken on the economy. Strict travel regulations were implemented and domestic relations were drastically affected. But the United States of America is the greatest country in the world.”

Sergeant Peeples talked about the unity within the country after the attack. “We the people did not break in light of this tragedy. We banned together. Every sex, every race, every creed. And like a phoenix from the ashes and the unity of the citizens of the United States of America began to restore and rebuild,” said Peeples.

In closing Peeples stated, “Today we are grateful of all those who rendered aid and professional and private citizens. Today we thank our armed forces for their diligence in crisis. Today we pray for the survivors of every man, woman, and child effected that day. It has been echoed time and time again; all gave some, some gave all. Today we honor the memories of the victims of 9/11.”

September 11-- On this week’s Vidalia Today radio program Vidalia City Manager Nick Overstreet discussed the upcoming census and its importance to the City of Vidalia and its citizens.

“The census really means money for our community. The impact that the census can have on our funding, grants, things of that nature that we apply for are tremendous and it’s all because you took the time to complete it and it may not even be five minutes,” said Overstreet.

“We are partnering with the Chamber of Commerce and I’m looking forward to that and the business relationships that they have. We just want to make a tremendous impact and we are planning and strategizing now to be ready April 1st,” added Overstreet.

Unlike years past, the census is not all about going door to door. Now it’s online and there are options for people without internet access. Overstreet said, “You fill it out online, but if you don’t they will come around door to door. A lot of businesses, the chamber, the library have partnered together so there will be plenty of opportunities to get online for free and fill it out.”

The magic number for the county is thirty thousand and that can be reached if everyone in the county is counted. That’s the magic number to get big businesses to start coming.

September 10--  Vidalia City Council Ward 4 Candidate Loyd Mobley filed the response below in regards to the Ethics Complaint filed against him.

9/10/2019

Mr. Robert Lane

200 Piedmont Ave SE

Suite, 1416 – West Tower

Atlanta, GA 30334

RE: Case #2014-0045

Mr. Lane,

My name is Loyd Mobley and I am running for the 4th Ward on Vidalia City Council. Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the allegations brought by Mr. Lawrence on August 28th, 2019. I believe the facts will clear up this issue and resolve these accusations.

On June 19th, 2019, Lisa Chesser announced that she was not running for reelection to city council. Around August 10th, I began to have some discussions with my friends, family, and coworkers about possibly running for this city council seat. One of the people I spoke with is Margie Beasley who does some of the graphics work for our office. She was excited about my running for this seat and on August 17th, without any prompting from me and without my knowledge, worked up a couple of logos that she thought I may want to use. She printed them out on some left-over paper from a previous job and brought them to me to consider. I took them home that night and put them on my kitchen counter. My granddaughter came over the same night and, being excited that I was running for city council, snapped a picture of one of the cards and posted it on her Facebook page without my knowledge or permission. On August 19th, I qualified to run for the city council seat and filled out all required paperwork.

As I hope you can tell from these events, there was never any purchase of any campaign materials. This was simply a friend excited about me running for city council and a proud granddaughter. Also, as you can see from my letterhead and any other campaign materials, we are not even using this original logo idea in my campaign.

The statute states, “Neither a candidate who is not a public officer nor his or her campaign committee may lawfully accept a campaign contribution until the candidate has filed with the commission a declaration of intention.” I never accepted a campaign contribution and I believe that my opponent knows this since he has multiple posts on Facebook announcing his candidacy, press releases, and news stories about his candidacy before he filed his DOI (see attached). This is just an attempt to create chaos and distract the voters from real issues.

I hope that this clarifies what happened and will put this issue to rest. It was not my intent to break any rule and I do not believe that I have. I would ask that this Commission close out this complaint as soon as possible. Again, thank you for the opportunity to respond to these allegations.

Respectfully,

Loyd Mobley

September 10--  Vidalia Police Chief Brian Scott reports the following arrests.

Kight, Ronald Lee- W/M- 54 YOA- 714 Racket Town Road Lyons, GA- Obstruction, Hinder Law Enforcement/Warrant Served (Probation)

Jordan, April Denise- B/F- 36 YOA- 901 Fifth Ave Vidalia, GA- Simple Battery, Cruelty to Children (FVA)

Giles, Amanda D.- W/F- 38 YOA- 5111 Ga Hwy 178 Lyons, GA- Criminal Trespass, Simple Battery (State Warrant)

McCall, Eric Sheron- B/M- 27 YOA- 2208 Clifford Rogers Rd. Lyons, GA- Warrant Served (Toombs County SO- Probation)

Moye, Felton Leon- B/M- 52 YOA- 213 Fifth Ave Vidalia, GA- Simple Assault (State Warrant)

Pittman, Jeremy Brandon- W/M- 23 YOA- 3765 Old Normantown Rd. Vidalia, GA- Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense 

Richardson, Christopher S. - W/M- 25 YOA- 118 Falcon Trl. Swainsboro GA- Warrant Served (Emanuel County SOBench)  

Wert,Todd Alan-W/M -(56) YOA-321 Jerriel Str. 10 Vidalia,Ga-Theft By Taking. 

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Joshua Stallings, Lyons, DUI-Less Safe Drugs, Headlight requirements, driving without license on person, windshield violation, improper display of license plate

Eddie King, Lyons, Driving while license suspended or revoked (first), No tag

Darin L. Hollis, Lyons, Theft by taking

Tameka Mesha Travis, Lyons, Georgia Hands Free Law, driving while unlicensed

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Janeth, Aguilar-Garcia, Lyons, Citation Arrest Warrant-Driving while unlicensed

Franklin Boone, Lyons, Bench Warrant-Cruelty to children (1st degree)

Mark Bryant, Lyons, Citation Arrest Warrant-Driving while license suspended or revoked(2nd or 3rd)

Tommy Bryson, Vidalia, Misdemeanor Arrest Warrant-Theft by Receiving Stolen Property

Samantha Deen, Lyons, Misdemeanor Arrest Warrant-Interference with custody, reckless conduct, cruelty to children (2nd degree)

Justin Jarriel, Reidsville, Probation-Misdemeanor Probation violation

Quanvonte Kent, Lyons, Citation Arrest Warrant-Driving while unlicensed, fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer, stop signs and yield signs

Lanoriss Lawson, Gainesville, GA Probation-Felony Warrant Probation Violation Felony

Daniel Roundtree Jr., Vidalia, Bench Warrant Failure to appear

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

09/04-Justin Paul Jerriel, Dahlonega, Aggravated Assault, Burglary

09/05-Kenneth Bradley Clifton, Anderson, SC, Bench Warrant Served

09/07-Steve Galbreath, Ailey, Aggravated Assault, Aggravated Battery, Possession of Firearm/Knife During Commission of Crime

September 9--  Medical employers from all across Southeastern Technical College’s (STC) service area will be present for a Medical Job Fair on the Vidalia campus September 18, 2019 from 9 am -12 pm.

This event is open to the public. Students and graduates are strongly encouraged to attend this great opportunity to network. Attendees will be given the opportunity to be face-to-face with employers in their desired profession and company representatives will have a chance to meet STC’s talent.

Director of Career Services Lance Helms said, “This is the opportunity to meet with a company in a way candidates might otherwise not get by traditionally completing an application at a place of business. Many of these employers have positions that need to be filled.”

Helms says attendees should approach the event as an interview opportunity. Job seekers should dress professionally and bring resumes in the event that a company ask for a copy.

STC is committed to supporting local businesses and maintaining alliance with community partners. Planning to attend this year are: Affinis Hospice, Azalea Health & Rehabilitation, Bacon County Hospital and Health System, BB&T Bank, Coastal Home Care, CORE Credit Union, CoreCivic-Wheeler Correctional Facility, Eagle Health & Rehabilitation, East Georgia Healthcare Center, East Georgia Regional Medical Center, East Georgia State College Department of Nursing, Federal Correctional Institution-Jesup, Hazlehurst Court Care and Rehabilitation Center, HCA Healthcare, Meadows Health, Meadows Park Health & Rehabilitation, Oxley Park Health & Rehabilitation, ResCare HomeCare, Right from the Start Medical Assistance Group, Rogers State Prison, Telamon Corporation, The Oaks-Bethany, The Sunshine House, Toombs County Health Department, TRACE Staffing Solutions, Troy University.

Medical employers who would like to participate may email Lance Helms at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For more information on Southeastern Technical College, call 912-538-3100 or 478-289-2200, or visit www.southeasterntech.edu.

September 7--  The first ever "Rotaract Club"in Vidalia was introduced at a community-wide meeting hosted by the Vidalia Rotary Club.

roteract(L-R) Treasurer Anna Humphrey, Rotary President Steven McComas, Rotaract Liaison Chad Richey, Rotaract President Marissa Brown, Secretary Dana Brown, Outreach Leader Evan Riekhof, Vice-President Irene Alamilla-Castro and Rotary Assistant District Governor Greg Hudgins. Not pictured, Rotaract President-elect Matt Helms and Membership Director Anna Helms.

Rotaract focuses on developing new leaders according to Chad Ritche who acts as the liaison between Vidalia Rotarians and the new club, "This is going to be a great opportunity for young professionals who don't necessarily know where they belong as they start their careers to find a place where they can network together, get leadership development and find ways to serve our community."

Marissa Brown is with Chic-fil-A and is the Vidalia Rotaract Club's first president, "We're looking for a lot of young professionals who are going to be part of helping transform this community and be able to follow in the footsteps of really great leaders who have built this community but also be able to bring in some new ideas to help serve this community well."

Vidalia Rotary Club President Steven McComas sees initiatives like Rotaract as vital to the future of rural Georgia, "Looking at the statistics being published by the Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce and state and local analysis, if we don't invest in our young people, we're not going to have a future.

"Our forefathers thought way ahead with our airport, our infrastructure and growth and the diversification of our industries.  We need to do the same now.  Now it's our turn to step up and be part of the solution, as Marissa was saying, and grow this community.

"Without our young professionals this is not going to happen.  We need to grow in our agri-business area, we need to grow in manufacturing, we need to grow in our schools and we need to grow in our faith. 

"Without these young people getting the support of our leadership and the mentoring we can offer, not only through the Vidalia Rotary Club, but frankly through the leaders in this region, it's not going to happen.  That's what makes this place a beautiful place to live, our willingness to step up and help these young professionals succeed," McComas said.

Roteract was founded more than 50 years ago by a Rotary Club in Charlotte, North Carolina and now has nearly 11,000 clubs in 184 countries.

Pre-K
Pre k August
L to R: Cade Biddle, Eli Calhoun, Adriana Ibarra, Natalie Limon Confessor, and Bryson Sunshine.
Kindergarten
kindergarten August
Back row L to R: Gavin Martinez, Isabelle Johnson, Allie Lawson, Jakaylee Mincey, Danny Zamorano, Charles Johnson, Easton Altman.
Front row L to R: Emma Dyess and Melissa Quintana
1st Grade
1st grade august
Back row L to R: Elijah Clark, Lamar Palle, Jaylin Cardwell, Nelson Ramirez Lopez, Cole Schuchman.
Front row L to R: Jaiden McCullough, Macenzie Burton, Isabel Zamorano.
2nd Grade
2nd grade August
Back row L to R: Brycen Landrum, Cason Bell, LeNiya Bobbit, Alexis Brunson, Ava Paul.
Front row L to R: Kaylee Dingle, Serenity McClendon, Leo Martinez.

September 6--  The August term of the Toombs County grand jury returned 23 indictments.

Drug-Related Indictments

Zacheriah Wright for possession of methamphetamine.

Paul Harden for possession of methamphetamine.

Dayvell Spikes for possession of cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana with intent to distribute.

Chad Clark for possession of cocaine.

Alonzo Kirkland for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

Brett Youmans for possession of methamphetamine.

Indicted for other alleged crimes are:

Charles Carter for aggravated assault for choking John Sheppard and for threatening him with murder.

Nyque Price for the aggravated battery of Danny Lee Webb.

Danny Lee Knight, Jr. for aggravated assault of his wife.

Michael Scott, Jr. for theft by receiving stolen property, a Honda 4-wheeler.

Kenneth Clay, Sr.and Robert Beckworth for failure to register as a sex offender.

Andrew Carroll for aggravated sodomy.

Lonnie Davis for aggravated assault of Moses Holloway, attempted aggravated assault against Vidalia Police Officer Matthew Bell and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Markuise Powell for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Rasheeda Fowler and Andre Govan for the aggravated battery of Michael Roche.

Steven Sanchez for threatening to kill Toombs County Deputy Sheriff Derrick Powell.

Lisa Nesbitt and Cardell Sweat for theft by receiving stolen property, a 2015 Polaris Sportsman 570 stolen from Jay Orres.

Brandon Green, Markevious Johnson and Waylon Waters for burglary at the home of Tommy Kirkley in Vidalia.

Gregory Hester for aggravated assault and battery of his daughter.

Lorrey Lynn for burglary, battery of Carolyn Harden, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of methamphetamine.

Justin Wyant and Darius Kee for computer pornography.

By Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville

WHAT ARE THE CHANCES FOR A RECESSION?

Everything today seems to have two sides. The question of whether there is a recession ahead has been floating around for the past year. In fact, a year ago, I was ready to write about the reasons I thought a recession was eminent. So that didn't happen.

Today, there are signs that point towards a slowdown of some kind in the near future. But there are also positives that detract from that conclusion.

So, here are my takes on the signs of a coming recession and the positive signs that may delay or keep one from occurring.

THE SIGNS OF A SLOWDOWN

1. This is the longest length of positive economic growth on record. So, just that fact alone leads one to the conclusion that a recession must be around the corner.

2. The U.S. is not an island....As good as the U.S. economy is chugging along, America is not immune to the faltering world economy and sooner rather than later, its effects will bring down our economy as well.

3. The tariffs war is damaging to the U.S. economy. As noble as the aims of bringing China to some sort of honest trade policy, the current tariff war is crippling agriculture and hurting many manufacturing businesses. Many believe that pressure will lead our economy into recession.

4. Factory production is basic to every economy. A report in the Wall Street Journal recently noted that U.S. manufacturing shrank last month for the first time in 3 years citing the U.S. economy and increasing trade issues with China.

5. GDP of course is the ultimate measuring stick of the economy. The U.S. Commerce Dept. recently reported that GDP rose at a seasonally adjusted rate of 2.0% in the second quarter, less that the 3.1% in the first quarter.

6. The Institute for Supply Management reported slippage in the manufacturing index. Then they referred to the Inverted Yield Curve as a can't miss predictor of recessions citing the yield on the 10 year Treasury bonds dipping below that of the two-year bonds....a reliable predictor, they say, to the last three recessions.

There is a counter argument (isn't there always today?) that Europe's and Japan's banks' negative bond rates and purposeful bond buying are indirectly depressing the U.S. long-term rates.

7. Explaining the rise and fall of the dollar and the whole world-wide currency market is somewhat like explaining what pass interference is...although the NFL will take additional time this year to get it wrong... according to which team you are for. Maybe the simplest way to explain it is that the rise in the value of the dollar follows the uncertainty of the world economy, the unrest over tariff wars imports/exports and other nations' currency instability.

8. There's consumer buying, which is strong and then there's the measurement of consumer sentiment, maybe a better predictor of times to come. The University of Michigan publishes a widely known and regarded index of Consumer Sentiment. In August this Consumer Sentiment Index posted its largest monthly decline since December of 2012, almost 7 years ago. The index reflected fears of rising taxes and decreasing government spending and included negative references to the tariffs war, a problem noted by one third of respondents.

BRIGHT SPOTS COULD PREVENT/DELAY A SLOWDOWN

1. Consumer confidence means everything. That is why it is measured and reported regularly. One of the high spots of the U.S. economy has been the continuing strong showing in consumer spending and the shows of confidence by consumers. Reports from the Commerce Department for July show a seasonally adjusted increase of 0.6% in household spending from June, an increased rate from April and May.

2. It's hard to argue with the historically low unemployment rate both nationally (3.7 %) and in Georgia (3.6%) and with the solid continued job growth. While some many argue about how many are still not in the job market, the fact remains that there are plenty of jobs.

3. The August Non-Manufacturing ISM Report on Business showed economic activity growing for the 115th straight month in the U.S. The Growth in the non-manufacturing sector registered 2.7% higher than the July reading. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index jumped 8.4 percentage points from July increasing for the 121st month.

4. On Sept. 3, Boston Federal Reserve head Eric Rosengren turned a deaf ear to the sounds of a coming recession. He doesn't buy the bond-market palpitations predicting a downturn, preferring to focus on how policies should continue to support and "achieve the Fed's congressionally mandated goals of maximum employment and stable prices." While he sees risks, he still does not see the level mandating aggressive action by the Fed.

5. The Bureau of Labor Statistics report for July showed an increase in non- farm payroll employment of 164,000 jobs with rises in professional and technical services, health care, social assistance and financial activities.

6. The same report showed that hourly earnings have increased 3.2% over the year.

7. Today, September 6, the U.S. Labor Department reported 130,000 non-farm jobs were added in August, that's good but not great, but the unemployment rate stayed at 3.7%.

SUMMING IT UP

There is just a swirl of activity and countermanding statistics flowing back and forth concerning the state of the economy. There are certainly signs of a slowing economy, but even so, there continue to be plenty of positive factors at play. And too, what will be the effect of an expected additional cut in the Fed rate? The glass is half full but gurgling!

Sept 9--Altamaha EMC’s Operation Round Up program provides assistance to charitable organizations and agencies in the seven counties served by Altamaha EMC.

All Operation Round Up donations are administered through the Altamaha EMC Foundation, an independent organization governed by a board of directors made up of community leaders. Each quarter, this board evaluates all applications for funding and determines how the funds will be distributed. The Altamaha EMC Foundation Board recently awarded grants to benefit six local agencies.

WINGSWINGS of Dublin, GA received a $2,500 grant to purchase supplies needed for their prevention program which is offered to middle-school, high-school and college students. WINGS supports families of domestic violence by providing safe shelter for victims and their children. (Pictured L-R: Heather Mullis, WINGS Executive Director and Tammye Vaughn, Altamaha EMC Foundation Coordinator)

SECCASoutheastern Early College and Career Academy (SECCA) is an educational partnership among four local school systems and Southeastern Technical College where high school students participate in courses directly relevant to their career choices. SECCA received a $5,000 grant to help create an Energy Industry Pathway to prepare students for careers in the energy industry. (Pictured L-R: George McLendon, Altamaha EMC Assistant Manager; Romanous Dotson, Altamaha EMC General Manager; Mack Griffin, Altamaha EMC Foundation Board Chairman; Kip Hart, SECCA Energy Pathways Instructor; David Avery, SECCA Director of High School Programs; and Tammye Vaughn, Altamaha EMC Foundation Coordinator)

Vidalia City SchoolsVidalia City Schools received a grant for $2,500 to help sustain the 21st Century after school program for the upcoming school year. (Ginger Morris, Vidalia City Schools Assistant Superintendent; Jared Sharpe, Vidalia Learning Center Site Coordinator; Paige Williamson, Vidalia Learning Center Program Manager; Mack Griffin, Altamaha EMC Foundation Board Chairman; and Romanous Dotson, Altamaha EMC General Manager)

Toombs County Family Intervention CenterThe Toombs County Family Intervention Center was formed in 1980 to provide after school programming to Toombs County youth ages 12 – 17. Their goal is to help youth develop life skills and build strong character. The Center received a $5,000 grant to help purchase a van to transport their students. (Pictured L-R: Mack Griffin, Altamaha EMC Foundation Board Chairman; Maude Anderson, Family Intervention Center Executive Director; Wesley Walker, Lyons Police Chief; Tracy Johnson, Family Intervention Center; and Romanous Dotson, Altamaha EMC General Manager)

Toombs County Boys & Girls ClubA $2,000 grant was awarded to the Toombs County Boys & Girls Club to establish and reading and STEAM curriculum to enhance learning for the 250 plus children and teens who attend the club. (Pictured L-R: Mack Griffin, Altamaha EMC Foundation Board Chairman; Wes Chapman, Boys & Girls Club of Toombs County Board Chairman; Ralph Goethe, Boys and Girls Club of Toombs County CEO; and Romanous Dotson, Altamaha EMC General Manager)

Muscular Dystrophy AssociationA $1,500 grant awarded to the Muscular Dystrophy Association will help fund the costs for two local children with muscular dystrophy to attend the MDA summer camp at Camp Twin Lakes. (Pictured L-R: Vivian Stewart, MDA Development Coordinator; George McLendon, Altamaha EMC Assistant Manager; and Bridgett Monroe, MDA Executive Director)

Interested charitable organizations and agencies can apply for funding by completing the required application which can be found on Altamaha EMC’s website at www.altamahaemc.com. For more information, contact Tammye Vaughn at 912-526-2120.

September 6-- This morning, prior to his Georgia Children’s Cabinet meeting in Macon, the Council of Probate Court Judges of Georgia honored Georgia State Senator Blake Tillery of Vidalia as one of three recipients of the 2019 Legislative Recognition Award.

For the first time since its inception, the Council awarded the honor to three recipients: Senator Tillery, Georgia State Representative Chuck Efstration and Jones County Probate Court Judge Mike Greene.

tilleryprobateTreutlen County Probate Judge T. J. Hudson (right), the Council’s current president, and Dooly County Probate Judge Rooney Bowen, III (left) presented the award to Senator Tillery on the Council’s behalf.

“Senator Tillery has always been a friend to our Council and on matters of importance to our class of court, he has always made sure we had a seat at the table,” said Judge Hudson. “Senator Tillery is respected among our judges and we thank him for his tireless work on behalf of the citizens of our state.”

The Legislative Recognition Award is an honor awarded on an annual basis, as selected by the Council’s Executive Committee and leadership.

Last year’s recipients of the award were Georgia State Senator Jeff Mullis and Georgia State Representative Barry Fleming.

September 6--  The City of Vidalia has some 5,500 water customers and about 50 of them were shocked when their water bills arrived this month to see they had bills in the thousands of dollars.

City Finance Director Bill Bedingfield says it was a perfect storm that caused the bad billing, "We're up against some bad reads from the handhelds which came in and our ability to handle the edits.  Some of the edits slipped through the system and for that we apologize.  Usually we get it done before we send the bills out and for that we are very sorry."

Bedingfield says the city has some new meter readers who made mistakes reading meters.  In one case, a local bank got a bill for $400,000, "It was huge number and when you get some bad numbers put in the system and they come through, that's what it looks like and that's what got billed out."

Compounding the erroneous meter readings was the distraction of more than 800 meters which are turned off and have to be checked to insure no one is stealing water. Bedingfield reports the focus on checking those idle meters allowed the bad meter readings to get through the system, "We had idle meter reads that came in without a reading on any of them and we had to manually go in and try to put a read in there before we could even process bills."

Bedingfield urges customers who haven't already called to call City Hall to get their water bills corrected and also says those who pay online should have already had their online bills adjusted.

September 6--  The Lyons City Council has approved a tentative raise of one mil to the city's property tax rate and is looking at ways to cut expenses to dig its way out of what City Councilman Larry Griggers has called a fiscal crisis.

Lyons City Manager Jason Hall says, "Kudos to our council.  They took almost two months in evaluating this budget and they did not look at just one thing. They looked at expenditure cuts, they looked at revenues and they looked at ways to make our processes quicker and more efficient.  They did a really good job and spent a lot of time on this process.  We are making good use of not only the tax dollars but the revenue dollars we receive."

The city manager says both employee levels and services are being evaluated, "All of our departments have evaluated their personnel and are making adjustments as we speak.  They're not massive cuts and most citizens will not see a difference in what employees are out on the street," and regarding services, "We're still going to do the same jobs for the services, we're just becoming more efficient and leaner."

Public hearings on the property tax rate increase will be held Thursday, September 12 at noon and six p.m. at City Hall and again on Thursday, September 19th at six p.m.  A called council meeting will be held immediately thereafter at 6:30 p.m. to vote on the increase.

In other actions at its September meeting, the city council:

* Approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the Toombs County Board of Education allowing city use of school athletic fields for $15,000 annually.

* Hired attorney Jess Clifton to be the part-time city court prosecutor for $400 a month.

* Approved a zoning variance allowing Mona Jones to build mini-warehouses for storage and a residence on three-and-a-quarter acres at 721 South State Street.

* Hired the engineering consulting firm of Carter & Sloope to apply for grants extending city water and sewer to a site north of Highway 130 and another for infrastructure improvements at a site to be determined.

September 5--  The Higgston dog breeder who made national headlines in January for animal cruelty has had a new indictment returned against her by a Candler County grand jury.

angelapowellmcshoAngela Powell was indicted on three additional charges of aggravated cruelty to animals after veterinarians at the University of Georgia examined dog bones found on her property. She now faces a total of 35 counts in the case.

Powell was arrested in January after more than 160 dogs were recovered from her property in Candler County. 

She's also facing animal cruelty charges in Montgomery County where 91 dogs were found living in mud, feces and urine at her kennel in Higgston.

September 5--  Vidalia Police Chief Brian Scott reports the following arrests.

Holder, Anthony Dewayne – 41 YOA – W/M – 1055 Goodhope Rd NE Dalton Ga. / DUI

Smith,Tayniesha Chivon- 36 YOA-B/F -704 Stuart St Vidalia- Driving While License Suspended

Brown, Angelia Denise – B/F- 54 YOA – 611 Washington St Vidalia / Financial Transaction Card Fraud/ Financial Transaction Card Theft

Hagan, Davion Antojun- B/M- 17 YOA- 2317 Cadillac Dr. Vidalia, GA- Controlled Substance not in Original Container

Stephens, William Kyle- W/M- 27 YOA- 1222 Orange St. Vidalia, GA- Warrant Served (Montgomery County SOProbation)/Possession of a Controlled Substance

Collier, Krista M. - W/F- 21 YOA- 128 Collins St. Reidsville, GA- Theft by Shoplifting 1st (Probation Warrant)

Harden, Bernard Jr. - B/M- 24 YOA- 509 Bay St. Vidalia, GAPossession of Marijuana Less Than Ounce (Bench Warrant)

Smith, James Dean- W/M-54 YOA- Homeless, Vidalia, Ga- Criminal Trespass/ Theft of Services/ Possession of Controlled Substance

Wooden, Sheena L. - B/F- 27 YOA- 207 B Locke St. Vidalia, GA- Probation Warrant

Burley, Andrae Devon- B/M- 37 YOA- 504 Madison St. Vidalia, GA- Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (Second)

Collins, Quintarius- B/M- 22 YOA- 1139 Temple St. Mt. Vernon, GA- Warrant Served (Montgomery County SOProbation)

Wright, Brittany Mercedes- B/F- 24 YOA- 264-1 E. Liberty Ave. Lyons, GA- Criminal Trespass, Willfully Obstruction of Police Officer Simple/Verbal

Ogrodoski, Anthony Paul – W/M – 55 YOA – 303 Jerriel St Apt F8 Vidalia – Theft by Shoplifting / Disorderly Conduct

Scott, Brandon Antron- B/M- 31 YOA- 618 Old Dairy Rd Ailey, GA- Give False Name and Birthdate to LEO

Smith, Tyreeca A.- B/M – 19 YOA- 706 Loop Rd Apt 606 Vidalia – Theft by Shoplifting

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Donnie Martin, Vidalia, warrant served

Scott Dailey, Lyons, warrant served, giving false info to officer

Jackson Graham, Lyons, DUI, traffic violations

Pamela Cook, Uvalda, warrant served

Thomas Martin, Claxton, DUI, traffic violations

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Sonya Clifton, Lyons, driving while license suspended/revoked, stop and yield signs

Christian Conley, Uvalda, possession of marijuana; purchase, possession, manufacture, distribution and sale of controlled substance

Steven Copeland, Lyons, probation violation

Joseph Harden, Lyons, probation violation

Connor McCoy, Vidalia, possession of marijuana; purchase, possession, manufacture, distribution and sale of controlled substance, possession of firearm or knife during certain crimes

James Odom, Lyons, requesting ambulance service when no need exists

Sherrie Wilkerson, Vidalia, probation violation

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

08/27-Cameron Sloan Sapp, Claxton, Theft by Deception

08/27-Sonny Moore, Uvalda, Possession of Methamphetamine, Possession of Drug Related Objects, Expired Tag

08/27-Steven Dewayne Tanner, Soperton, Criminal Damage to Property-1st

08/28-Peyton Ray Page, Mount Vernon, Theft by Taking

09/01-Quintarius Jaquan Collins, Mount Vernon, Felony Probation Violation (x3)

September 4--  A teacher at Sally Meadows Elementary School in Vidalia has been on pins and needles all week at Hurricane Dorian moved ever so slowly through the Bahamas and brought devastation to the island where her family lives.

Ashley Driggers of Tarrytown got a message relayed from her Dad,  "When I got the call on Monday morning, my Dad got word to someone to get a message to us that they were all safe.  It was the biggest relief because we had absolutely no idea whether they made it or not.  We'd just seen the decimation everywhere else and we're definitely thankful to hear that," she said.

greencay1Ashley learned today that her Mom and Dad's home suffered roof and water damage, but is still livable.  However, the same is not true about her brother's home, "His house is totally gone.  It's looks like possibly a tornado hit his house. They were finally able to fly over today and take some aerial shots and his house is totally flattened and he lives probably a quarter of a mile down the road from my parents.  So, it was probably a tornado because their house was left standing but his is totally gone," she said.

Ashley grew up on a small island in the Bahamas before attending  Valdosta State where she met her husband, Matt, "Our island is called Green Turtle Cay.  Approximately 500 people live there.  It's three miles long by one mile wide at its widest point, so it's a very, very small community.  If anybody goes on Facebook, they can friend me and see some of the pictures I have shared showing just how they have banded together since Monday to clean it up.  They definitely need a lot of help in rebuilding because so many people have lost their homes.

"There is a 'Go Fund Me' to just benefit this community itself with building needs, generators, tarps to start off with and as time goes on just help building their homes back." she reported.

Two ways to help-

Go fund me specially for Ashley's brother and his wife.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/hurricane-relief-for-adam-and-crystal-cash&rcid=r01-156763922271-3e4cbcd6c67e44fb&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_m

Go fund me for Green Turtle Cay -

https://www.gofundme.com/f/green-turtle-cay-hurricane-dorian-relief-fund?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet

September 4--  A Lyons City Councilman says the city is facing a fiscal crisis after the city council voted to raise the city's property tax rate by one mil at its September meeting.

Ward One Councilman Larry Griggers talks about the evolution of the situation in a blog posted below.

I Hate To Say I Told You So

Screenshot 2019-09-04 16.54.49At the regular meeting of the Lyons City Council held on September 3, 2019, I, along with all the other members, voted to amend the budget and increase the millage rate in Lyons from last year’s 2.89 to 3.89 mills. While still significantly below the statewide average city millage rate of 5.0 mills, it is nonetheless disappointing to have to raise taxes, but I saw it coming.

Those of you who follow this blog will remember the city’s struggle to repair our aging water and sewer (W&S) system. The two 30-year old sewage treatment plants were in bad need of repair or replacement. Those city elected officials that preceded me had been working on the problem for years. Adding urgency to the problem was the Toombs County Development Authority (TCDA) urging Lyons to increase the size of the north sewage treatment plant to provide additional capacity to the Industrial Park located on US # 1 North.

The TCDA had told Lyons that they had several prospects of industrial food processors that were interested in locating in the park, but they were worried about the sufficiency of the excess capacity of our existing north plant to meet their needs. If we built a bigger plant this time on the north side, they argued, industrial clients would beat a path to our door and the W&S revenue from these new industries would more than pay for the system. Everyone would be happy.

I was skeptical. The industrial park has only managed to attract and keep only one industry in its 20 years of existence … Chicken of the Sea (COTS), and it has only been there 9 years. One other industry, a dog food processing plant, did not last long enough to begin paying property taxes (the TCDA normally exempts new industries from paying any property taxes for their first 10 years as an incentive to get them to locate here). There was no guarantee that new industries would come or that COTS would remain.

The engineer had designed a new sewage treatment plant for the north site and a refurbishment of the east plant and the city had put it out for bids. The low bid was an eye-popping $17,538,000! On my second city council meeting, on February 6, 2018, I moved to reject all bids and start over. That motion passed. After a long search for a better way, I suggested we just refurbish the two existing systems and connect them together. That way, we could give the industrial park access to both treatment plants and increase the available capacity without expanding the size beyond what Lyons could afford. On March 5, 2019, I seconded Councilman Rick Hartley’s motion to award a bid to McLendon Enterprises, Inc. to do just that, for $6,706,948.36. Almost an $11 million dollar savings from the original plan!

But more trouble was unfolding.

Screenshot 2019-09-04 17.00.46When we were in the process of preparing the 2019 budget, I discovered that we had another growing funding problem. Four years ago, presumably when the city was preparing to replace its aging sewage treatment facilities and its W&S infrastructure, the city council voted for a rate increase for W&S customers. It was designed to be greater than the current needs for maintenance and operations, I understand, to build in a surplus to pay down the debt the city would incur when it borrowed the money for the new system and to replace the aging pipes throughout the city, which were bursting at an ever increasing rate as they got older. (I should note that I was not there for these discussions and am just basing this on what I have been told.)

The new rate structure indeed generated about $200,000 to $300,000 more than was needed to cover ongoing maintenance and operation of the W&S system, but rather than put the excess funds in a sinking fund for future use as originally planned, the city started transferring the surplus to the general fund to pay for expansion of the other departments (primary the police department, but also the recreation department, street maintenance department and administration department).

I questioned the legality of these transfers and the Mayor agreed to have the city attorney look at it. He opined that it was legal. I then asked the city auditor whether the practice was consistent with generally accepted accounting practices. He opined that it was not only consistent, but common among cities.

I was disappointed. But while it may be legal and common, I argued at our workshops that it wasn’t prudent for the city of Lyons’ financial circumstances. I told the Mayor and Council that the practice was going to come back to bite us.

And it did.

Our largest water user, Chicken of the Sea, put in new equipment and procedures not too long ago and started recycling their water. Their water bill dropped in half and the city lost more than $30,000 a month in water revenue. With that, coupled with the loss of the dog food processer, the surplus in the W&S fund changed to a deficit that was growing at a rate of about $484,000 a year.

By the end of this calendar year, the W&S fund deficit was projected by the City Manager to be about $231,000. The city had lost the surplus from the W&S fund and was now facing having to supplement the fund from the General Fund. Overall, we were facing a $330,000 deficit over and above what we budgeted in 2018. While there were other contributing factors (for example, there was a 33% decrease of $49,272 in fines and forfeitures collected by the police department), that one industry alone changing its water usage pattern was the major factor that had thrown us into a fiscal crisis.

I had seen this when I was heading up the Property Tax Division of the Georgia Department of Revenue before I retired. Counties and cities would take on huge debt to lure supposed job-producing industries to their communities, only to have those industries adopt new technologies that reduced the promised jobs significantly. Additionally, since NAFTA and free trade has driven most of our industrial production to China, India and other countries, it was not uncommon for industries to leave the country before the community where they were formerly located could collect enough revenue from them to offset the cost of building out the infrastructure necessary to serve them. Adding to the woes, modern industries were offering fewer jobs compared to the industries of old. Most are now automated, and when you figure in the property tax exemption incentives they get, it is not uncommon for a city or county to find, after all the smoke has cleared, that it costs more to attract industry than they get out of the industry in the form of jobs and taxes. Local taxpayers are effectively supplementing the industry’s bottom line.

So, here we are. The city has expand its other services using revenue from the W&S fund that turned out to be temporary and the TCDA turned out to have no tenants waiting in the wings after all (at least not yet). We are now in the throws of a fiscal crisis. Just like I predicted.

Screenshot 2019-09-04 16.55.04The Finance Committee (I don’t serve on that one) met to figure out what to do. One mill only produces about $98,000 in our city, so they were looking at a 3.41 mill tax increase to balance this year’s budget at the current level of spending. After weeks of struggling with the problem, that committee decided the best course of action was to increase the millage rate by 1 mill, draw some funds from the city’s reserves, and make dramatic cuts in budgets of the city departments.

The Council voted to approve this recommendation of the Finance Committee. It is not going to be easy. Virtually all of the part-time employees and some of the full-time employees are going to have to be let go, which is not going to help employment opportunities in our community. Repairs are going to be delayed, services are going to be cut back and purchases are going to be postponed.

These are temporary fixes to get us through the end of 2019. Later this year, the Mayor and Council will need to sit down and figure out a more permanent solution as we prepare the 2020 budget. We will need to look again at further spending cuts and for new sources of revenue, along with a new look at the level of services we provide the citizens, and whether these align with the needs and wishes of the community we serve.

Rest assured I will be advocating for a W&S rate schedule that provides what we need to maintain and operate the system, have a reasonable reserve for the replacement of our aging infrastructure, and to pay down the debt for the refurbishment of our sewage treatment facilities. I will strongly oppose any effort to use any accumulated surplus funds for anything other than being maintaining in a contingency fund to replace our infrastructure as it wears out. I will certain resist any move to transfer surplus funds, if we have any, to the general fund to support the other departments which should be funded by sales taxes, fees, fines, forfeitures and property taxes.