Use the form below to filter for articles containing certain key words. Use the calendar on the right for articles published during a certain Month, Year.

{mosimage}Dr. Charles Warnock, center, is welcomed to his new job by Emmit Warnock and Betty Bivins.

January 31--  For the second time in as many weeks, the Montgomery County school board has named an interim school superintendent.

Last week Dr. Larry Danel from Laurens County took the job and changed his mind a day later after receiving threatening telephone calls from supposed malcontents in Montgomery County.

The new selectee, 69-year-old Dr. Charles Warnock of Dublin, says he won't be intimidated.

"That sort of thing doesn't bother me or intimidate me.  I think I know how to be a good school man.  I'm just going to do the best I can and I'm not going to let anyone run me off, I'm just not that kind of person.  If they don't want me here, they can tell me 'there's the door,' but that kind of thing doesn't bother me," he said.

Dr. Warnock was the superintendent in Vidalia in 1989-90 and later was superintendent for the Dublin city schools.

He knows his biggest challenge is helping the school system survive the financial crunch facing all of Georgia's schools.  "School finance in Georgia has been taking a beating lately.  We've got to do as much as we can with what little bit we've got.  That's a concern this school board has and I intend to do the grunt work and crunch the numbers and see what we've got to do.  You've got to do that and still try to maintain quality in the classroom for the kids," Dr. Warnock said.

School board chairperson Deloris James is appealing to county citizens to support the school system.

"It is paramount that everybody support Dr. Warnock.  Working together we can make things happen in Montgomery County.  Some of the decisions that we have to make as a board, and that Dr. Warnock recommends, will not be the easiest decisions, but I think the decisions we make will be in the best interest of the entire county," James said.

January 31--  A late night liaison led to a fatal shooting in Toombs County.

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports 22-year-old Justin Deshun Patterson of Montgomery County was shot by 61-year-old Norman NeeSmith between three and four a.m. Saturday.

According to the Sheriff, NeeSmith caught Patterson and his brother in the bedrooms of NeeSmith's mobile home at 220 Harden Chapel Road with his 18-year-old daughter Danielle Nichole Rozier and a juvenile girl.

"He went to bed that night and left the girls watching TV.  They were waiting on him to go to bed.  When he got to bed and got to sleep, that's when they invited them over, and they came and crossed the hood over there and walked over to the house.

"He woke up during the night.  I don't know if heard a noise or what, but he woke up.  They were split up, one in one bedroom and one in another.  He brought them out of the bedrooms and was threatening to shoot them, he had his gun out at that time.  He walked them up to the living room and they sat down on the couch.  I don't know how long that took place, but then they ran through the kitchen and were trying to get out the back door.  He followed them all the way through the kitchen to the back door and that's when he fired," Sheriff Kight said.

Deputies later found Patterson's 18-year-old brother, Shavon Patterson, at a store in Santa Claus and he led them back to where he had last seen his wounded brother.  Officers found Patterson's body behind the home of a neighbor of NeeSmiths.  Sheriff Kight said had been shot in the side with a .22 caliber pistol.

According to Middle Judicial Circuit District Attorney Hayward Altman, NeeSmith is being charged with felony murder, aggravated assault and false imprisonment and is held at the Charles Durst Detention Center in Lyons.


January 31--  Vidalia police hope two arrests will help them solve a rash of residential burglaries in the city.

The suspected burglars are identified as 24-year-old James Richard Law and 20-year-old Taneka Warren, both of 209 Dexter Street in Vidalia.  Police Chief Frank Waits says he expects more arrests.

Meanwhile, police are looking for leads in the latest breakin at Two Guys Beverage and Tobacco.  Last week's breakin was the third in eight months at the store.

There was a significant increase in burglaries in Vidalia in 2010.  Police records show 199 last year, an increase of 44 over 2009.  Increases were also reflected in rapes, aggravated assaults and DUI's.  

There were some reductions in some categories.  There were 67 fewer cases of family violence and less cases of assault and battery and armed robbery.

January 28--  Brewton-Parker College Board of Trustees voted in its January meeting to reduce tuition by 25 percent, beginning Fall 2011 semester which starts in August. “This reduction will allow students to attend the private, Christian college paying a tuition that is competitive with other colleges throughout the state,” said Board Chairman Dr. Tony Romans.

            Dr. Romans reports this decision is a reflection of the college’s Christian, caring attitude for current and future students in these distressed economic times.

            “At a time when state colleges are discussing a possible increase in their tuitions, this reduction is a way we can reach out to our community and make a liberal arts education at a Christian college more affordable for everyone, especially for those in the area we were built to serve,” said Dr. Romans.

            The decrease in tuition dramatically decreases the amount of out of pocket expenses families will need in order to fund a student’s education at BPC. Federal and state financial aid will likely cover most if not all of the reduced cost of attending Brewton-Parker for many students.

            The Board also announced the creation of the Charles W. “Bill” Brown School of Christian Studies – the first dedicated school in the college’s 107 year history.

Bill Brown of Lyons, a former trustee and supporter of BPC, left the college $5.7 million in his estate last year, the largest gift the college has ever received. This decision allowed the Board of Trustees to establish the Brown School of Christian Studies to house the current Division of Religion and Philosophy. BPC plans to appoint a Dean, school faculty and staff for the new division.

“Mr. Brown was a generous and great man. In his lifetime he paid particular attention to the success of ministerial students and for that we are forever grateful,” said Dr. David R. Smith, BPC President. “Although he did not request any naming opportunity, and though his own personal humility would have prohibited him from ever feeling comfortable with such an honor, it is fitting that any gift of this magnitude be honored with a special naming opportunity.”

The Division of Religion and Philosophy chaired by Dr. Hal Ostrander now offers two degree programs, a B.A. in Christian Studies and a Bachelor of Ministry.  

            Other approved measures by the trustees include the research of the establishment of BPC as a work-grant institution and the acceptance of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) reaffirmation report.

            Eight new Trustees, some new and others returning, also joined the board and were recognized for their commitment to the college. They are Ken Dowling of McRae, Gary Campbell of Vidalia, Allen Canady of Savannah, Russ Pierce of Warner Robins, Tim Redding of Metter, Rev. Bobby Thompson of Vidalia, Rev. Karl Hay of Mount Vernon and Schel Paulk of Guyton. Rev. Tony Romans of Dunwoody was elected Chairman of the board, and Campbell was elected Vice Chairman.


January 28--  A large crowd was on hand late Thursday for the ribbon-cutting of the new Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia.

The project represents a $100-million dollar investment according to Meadows CEO Alan Kent.

"My wonderful wife Wanda reminded me of the wisdom of Walt Disney who said all your dreams can come true if you have the courage to pursue them.  May we be courageous in our pursuit of excellence, in our pursuit of service and in our pursit of faith.  I'm incredibly proud to present to you your communith hospital, the new Meadows Regional Medical Center," Kent told the crowd.

Michael Calhoun,chairman of the Meadows holding company board, echoed Kent's remarks.

"The dream of many became a vision, and now the reality of that vision stands before us.  My prayer is that we will continue to dream and visualize even more and work tirelessly to fulfill the mission and purpose of Meadows Regional Medical Center.

Hospital officials plan to open the new medical center on Highway 280 on Friday, February 4th and close down the old facility on Meadows Lane the same day.

January 28--  The Montgomery County school board met in executive session for an hour-and-a-half Thursday night working on finding a new county school superintendent.

The man they thought they had hired earleir this week, Dr. Larry Daniel of Laurens County, turned down the job after receiving telephone threats.

Board chairperson Deloris James told those at Thursday night's meeting, "We want to assure Montgomery County that we will not be intimidated by those who wish to deter our children's education."

One member of the audience, Frank Brantley, told the board he was there to show his support and to give the board encouragement in the job search.

The board has set Monday night at six for another called meeting at the elementary school in Ailey.

Immigration Reform Bill Offers a Tweak to Existing Laws

 By Sen. Jack Murphy

My colleague, Sen. Bill Heath, possibly said it best. Georgians, he said, are known world wide for our hospitality and common sense. But when we look at the rising rates of illegal aliens and the staggering financial burden it places on our residents, it is time for our common sense to take precedence over our hospitality.

This week, I am submitting legislation intended to make it more difficult for illegal aliens to find work in Georgia. We can no longer allow illegal aliens to skip in line and enter our country when others are working through the system that permits some foreign workers to come here. We can no longer allow illegal aliens to take jobs at construction sites, at restaurants, at manufacturing plants while Georgians sit home wishing they could work.

The first section of my bill is simply an extension of existing Georgia law. Currently, companies who contract with state agencies are required to use the federal E-Verify system to make sure their employees are allowed to work in the United States. Failure to do so results in a fine. The change in law would make subcontractors responsible for their own E-Verify checks. It also would fine state employees who knowingly violate the policy and could remove agency heads who ignore our laws.

The bill takes measures to ensure private companies likewise do not hire illegal aliens. It requires Georgia businesses to run new employees through the E-Verify system. This quick and easy process comes at no cost. The first violation would result in a warning. Subsequent violations could result in fines or the revocation of business licenses. This is not a witch hunt. If a business owner shows the violation was inadvertent, the fine or suspension can be waived.

Georgia’s agricultural industry, which relies on legal foreign workers for seasonal jobs, already must verify the legal status of workers, per federal regulation. My bill, therefore, excludes agricultural businesses from the E-Verify provision.

I also included in my bill measures that allow local and state law enforcement officers to better enforce existing laws.

The federal government requires legal immigrants to carry visas or work papers. My bill allows law officers to ask someone for proof of legal immigration status if that person is stopped with probably cause for a crime. A driver’s license, a state-issued identification card or similar identification would suffice. If an immigrant cannot provide that proof, he or she is guilty of a misdemeanor. But, just as in the case of a driver who does not have proof of insurance, that immigrant can later show proof of legal status and the charge will be dropped. Suspects thought to be in the country illegally will be transported to federal officials. It is their duty to handle immigration violation cases.

As a safeguard against profiling, my bill specifically states that officers cannot use race, color or national origin as indicators that a person is in this country illegally. Likewise, my bill specifically prevents law enforcement from checking the immigration status of crime victims or crime witnesses.

It is important to point out that submitting a bill is the first step in a long process of debate. I hope the law that results from this year’s immigration reform bills will help make Georgia a less hospitable place for illegal aliens. It’s only fair that we do this for the immigrants who come here legally, for the Georgians who are out of work and for the taxpayers.

Sen. Jack Murphy serves as Co-Chairman of the Joint House Senate Immigration Reform Committee. He represents the 27th Senate District, which includes portions of Cherokee and Forsyth counties. 

January 27-- The Georgia Department of Revenue issued the following statement Tuesday about a computer error which may effect your tax refund via direct deposit.  The latest update on the situation is also provided below.

On January 20, 2011, the Georgia Department of Revenue issued 2010 Georgia income tax refunds by direct deposit.  The Department became aware of a computer system error in the calculation of refunds.  To ensure that correct payments were made to taxpayers, the Department issued a “stop payment” on those refunds. Due to the computer error, any funds deposited with a taxpayer were rescinded and returned to the Department.

The Department has corrected the computer programming error and is commencing to reissue the refunds.   The Department is working with various financial institutions concerning any banking charges made against taxpayers’ financial accounts.

The Department will continue to provide updates concerning the Department’s efforts in this matter.

Latest Update Issued Thursday Morning


The Department of Revenue announced today that it has begun reissuing income tax refunds to taxpayers affected by last Thursday’s income tax refund snafu. 


“Refunds will be generated daily to taxpayers over the next seven days,” DOR Commissioner Doug MacGinnitie said. “The Department takes this matter seriously and would like to apologize to all affected taxpayers.” 


The Department also announced the reimbursement procedure for affected taxpayers who were assessed overdraft charges by their financial institution.  The DOR is continuing to work with all financial institutions that are involved. 


The reimbursement procedure can be found on the Home Page of the DOR website here:



January 25--  The day after being hired as interim school superintendent in Montgomery County, Dr. Larry Daniel started receiving telephone threats to him and his family.

Tuesday afternoon he informed the school system he no longer wants the job, according to school board chairwoman Deloris James.

"The Montgomery County interim Superintendent Reggie Roberts contacted me shortly after three p.m. today indicating that Dr. Larry Daniel would not accept the interim superintendent position due to multiple threatening phone calls to himself, his wife and his grandchildren.  As more information becomes available, the Montgomery County Board of Education will release the facts as we know them to the public," James said.

Dr. Daniel has held jobs from teacher to school superintendent in Laurens County and said after his appointment Monday night he was looking forward to helping the Montgomery County school system find savings and continue to educate children.

The board chairperson says it's "despicable" that anyone would intimidate someone being hired to help the schools.

"I'm very shocked and disappointed that someone would stoop to these tactics.  We are in the business of educating our children in Montgomery County and we certainly do not need any such detractions.

To threaten a man is one thing, but to threaten his wife and especially his grandchildren.  I can only imagine how I would feel if my grandchildren were threatened and I would imagine that every other grandparent would feel the same way," James said.

The chairwoman says the school board will have a called meeting Thursday night at six at the elementary school in Ailey discuss the situation, and admits it will make finding a qualified superintendent much more difficult.

"That is a great concern to me.  It will be very hard for us to seat a qualified superintendent with these kind of actions going on," she said. 

January 25--  In case you missed it, here's the link to the WTOC-TV coverage of the mass euthanasia at the Lyons Animal Shelter last Thursday.

77 dogs killed in one day

        January 25-- JOHN R. THOMPSON, 67, an attorney from Emanuel Count was sentenced today by Senior United States District Judge B. Avant Edenfield to 66 months in prison and ordered to pay $434,587.54 in restitution for his role in a mortgage fraud scheme that occurred in Swainsboro.

        United States Attorney Edward J. Tarver stated, “We will continue to work with law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute those who engage in financial crimes, especially crimes such as mortgage fraud that affect the heartland of our country.  In this particular case, an attorney was convicted of using his specialized skills and position of trust to defraud others.  Such crimes will not tolerated.”


Evidence presented during Thompson’s three day trial in July 2010 revealed that Thompson, in his role as a closing attorney, assisted his co-defendants, Brian and Natasha Steptoe, in knowingly submitting a falsified HUD-1 Form and other documentation to Bank of America with regard to a $400,000 home loan.  The investigation revealed that Thompson’s scheme was to defraud Bank of America in order to pocket sizeable sums of money for himself and others.  The property went into foreclosure soon after it was sold and remains on the market to this day.

       In addition to the Bank of America loan, further evidence presented during Thompson’s trial revealed that Thompson participated in other fraudulent mortgage loans in and around the Swainsboro, Georgia area.  In his role as closing attorney, Thompson assisted his co-defendants and others in closing these fraudulent transactions.      

January 25--  The AJC's "Political Insider" has some insight into the power struggle between Senator Tommie Williams of Lyons and Georgia Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle.  The outcome may not be good news for South Georgia and redistricting later this year.

Casey Cagle wins an obscure but important tiff over redistricting

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle apparently survived another attempt to circumscribe his authority over the state Senate this morning.

As previously reported, there was an attempt on Monday to insert language into a resolution on the Senate consent agenda that would have given President pro tem Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, control of the Senate committee that holds the chambers purse-strings.

Say-so over the money, means say-so over staff. And that’s important.

But Cagle refused to call the item to a vote, and a days’ worth of backroom strategizing followed. (The exact wording of the Monday proposal remains a mystery. For some reason — no doubt a Senate staffer obsessed with recycling — all copies have disappeared.)

A morning meeting of the Senate Republican caucus stretched into overtime while a compromise was hashed out.

Under the measure that was approved by a 37-16 vote today, Williams indeed wins the chairmanship of the Committee on Administrative Affairs. But Cagle retains a majority of appointments to the panel.

More important was this paragraph:

”By agreement with the appropriate officer or officers of the House of Representatives, the President of the Senate [i.e., Cagle] may authorize the establishment and employment of staff for newly created joint offices of the General Assembly.”

In other words, Cagle retains the power to negotiate, with House Speaker David Ralston, the composition of the House-Senate committee that will oversee redistricting this year.

Williams had sought to make himself the Senate’s arbiter with the House on the most crucial issue of the year – the district boundaries for members of Congress, the state House and Senate, and many offices. All are to be redrawn, based on new census data.

This is where Williams’ motivation for seeking more authority in the Senate becomes understandable for many Georgians. Right now, the three figures who will control redistricting are Gov. Nathan Deal, the House speaker, and Cagle.

All are from north Georgia, which is certain to gain representation because of population growth.

Williams is from Lyons, in south Georgia, a region that is slowly but steadily bleeding people and losing political clout.

Come this fall, when the Legislature is likely to take up redistricting in a special session, residents of south Georgia may wish Williams had won today’s obscure little fight.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider


January 24--  The Montgomery County school board is cutting next year's budget and hiring its second interim school superintendent in less than a month.

At a called meeting Monday night, the board accepted the resignation of Reggie Roberts as interim superintendent at the end of the month and hired a former Laurens County school superintendent as interim superintendent through the end of June.

{mosimage}Dr. Larry Daniel says, "My goal is to come in here, look things over, talk with the board, lead a team effort, talk with the staff about how things are going and make things better.  We can't make things better if we don't try.  

"How can we save money, move ahead and educate these children.  That's the main objective, to educate these children."

The school board voted to eliminate five positions to save $223,133.00 next school year.  Included are a teacher support specialist at the middle school and high school, the graduation coach at the high school, a teacher support specialist and an administrative position at the elementary school, and a job at the district office.

School board chairwoman Deloris James says more cuts may be coming in next year's budget, and the board is looking for ways to solve a cash flow problem anticipated in the Spring.  

"Our financial situation is so bad right now that we're looking at cuts for 2011-12 school year, but we're also asking Dr. Daniel to go ahead and look at things that may be done right away to build our general fund," James said.

Dr. Daniel's resume says he brought the Laurens County school system from  deficit spending to a balanced budget and a $1.5 million dollar surplus before he resigned in 2005 due to cancer from which he is fully recovered.

He's no stranger to Mount Vernon.  Dr. Daniel got his associate degree from Brewton Parker in 1973 and is on the executive board of the college's School of Education.

January 24--  A state inspector says he finds no wrongdoing by the Lyons Animal Shelter in connection with the euthanization of 77 dogs last Thursday.

Prompted by complaints to the Georgia Department of Agriculture's Animal Protection Section, Inspector Tommy Sheffield inspected the Lyons shelter Monday where he talked with shelter manager Michael Caraway.

Sheffield said shelter records show that some of the dogs had been at the shelter since last July.  

Meanwhile, Therisa Ingley of the Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society talked with a Savannah television station Monday and reported SOAPS filed a complaint with the Lyons Police Department alleging that:

*  an unlicensed veterinarian performed the euthanizations in violation of state law.

*  dogs were not held a minimum of three days before being killed as required by a Lyons city ordinance.

*  the shelter is not keeping proper records on the dogs.

*  the remains of the dogs were improperly disposed of.


January 24--  State Representative Greg Morris of Vidalia has been named to chair the Banks and Banking Committee in the Georgia House.  The appointment is included in the list of committee assignments by the House Committee on Assignments.

{mosimage} “I would like to thank Speaker Ralston and the Committee on Assignments for appointing me chairman to lead this important and powerful committee,” said Rep. Morris.  “I know that a healthy banking system is vital to our economy and to the future economic prosperity of our state, particularly through our community banks in rural areas like ours.” 

The banking committee oversees financial institutions, real property finance, and corporate securities law.  Morris is also a member of four other committees including Appropriations, Code Revision, Natural Resources and Environment, and Rules.

A complete list of all House Committee assignments can be found at the following link:


January 24--  State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville examines the state's 2012 budget situation in his "Notes From the Senate" column this week.


The budget year that everyone has worried about is here and maybe the next bright spot is that tax collections are predicted to grow by 6% for FY2012 starting next July.  Agency cuts of 7% on average coming on top of median cuts of 19% over the past two years will force closure of some facilities and reduction of some services.  Higher Education will take reductions totaling over $300 million including zero "growth" funds for institutions showing enrollment growth.  Technical colleges also will not receive growth funds totaling $62 million and $19 million in cuts


K-12 Education formula received net growth funds of $61.5 million but federal stimulus funds were not replaced.  Systems were expected to have banked stimulus jobs funds of over $300 million received this past fall. The 012 budget proposal cuts over $200 million from K-12 considering federal education stimulus funds not replaced, formula reduction and other non-QBE cuts.


Governor Deal's budget acknowledges a $1.53 billion deficit that must be filled.  The main components of the "hole" include replacing most of the loss of federal stimulus funds (including enhanced Medicaid match) of  $1.1 billion and $287 million to replace lost one-time funds in the 011 budget from the sale of part of GEFA's bond portfolio.


The major sources of funds to fill this deficit came from:


·         6% State Tax Revenue projection-$922 million

·         $153 million-Savings from favorable bond sales rates

·         Cuts to Regents totaling $173 million (added to no growth funding)

·         $19 million cuts to Technical Colleges (added to no growth funding)

·         DOE cuts totaling $225 million

·         $9.5 million reduction in Public Health Grant-in-Aid to local governments

·         $5.6 million cut to the Trauma Commission reflecting expected "superspeeder" collections.

·         $5.9 million in cuts to Department of Human Services

·         $20 million in cuts to Dept. of Corrections from the closure of a prison

·         $5.4 million cuts to Department of Natural Resources

·         $132 million in cuts to other state agencies


What little new spending there was focused on supporting job creation, starting to meet water needs with reservoir development and meeting the Behavioral Health agreement

 with the U.S. Dept. of Justice.   


These included:

·         $5 million to support industry recruitment projects or by the Department of Economic Development.

·         $19.3 million in FY011 Amended to replenish the OneGeorgia economic development program

·         $32 million in Bonds to support the harbor deepening project for the port of Savannah

·         $45.7 million for reservoir development      

·         $23 million for water and sewer construction program

·         $59.4 million in new funds for Behavioral Health per the state's agreement with DOJ


BOND PACKAGE           

Governor Deal has proposed the smallest bond package in recent years at only $562 million or 7.7% of prior year treasury receipts. The package is divided up into various departments and needs.


·         $245 in K-12 school construction bonds including $25 million for new buses

·         $81 million for the Board of Regents, mainly equipment and $50 million for maintenance

·         $43 million for Technical Colleges including $10 million for maintenance and $10 to start additional career academies

·         Previously listed reservoir, infrastructure and Savannah harbor deepening totaling $61 million



Governor Deal has proposed appropriating only the amount of lottery dollars expected to be transferred from the Lottery Commission in FY12, a total of $832 million, using no reserves.  This appropriation would leave $283 million in lottery reserves which are needed for cash management purposes.  These realistic appropriations levels will force decisions to be made this Session on reducing expenditures for lottery programs.  The shortfalls include:

·         HOPE Public colleges    -$171.2 million

·         HOPE Private colleges      -21.4 million

·         HOPE Grant                     -74.4 million

·         Pre-K                              -19.8 million


The Revenue Shortfall Reserve or Rainy Day Fund now stands at $116 million or about 2 days of state operations.   

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


January 24--  A group of area mayors and county commission chairmen are organizing a Regional Transportation Roundtable to implement a new state law on funding of transportation projects, primarily road paving and resurfacing.

In our area, the roundtable includes seventeen counties and 63 towns.  At an organizational meeting last Thursday night in Mount Vernon, the group elected its executive committee including Mayor R. Bayne Stone of Hazlehurst, Mayor Billy Trapnell of Metter, Mayor Joey Fountain of Mount Vernon, Toombs County Commission Chairman Buddy West and Laurens County Commission Chairman Buddy Adams who was elected to chair the group.

"I think we've come together and we'll try to look after each other, each county and each city, to get this thing going.  We need to work together to benefit all citizens of this region," Adams said.

The funding will come from a one percent sales tax for transportation which all the governments will share starting in 2013 if the voters approve the regional tax when they vote in the Primary Elections of 2012.

"I think this will help us keep our ad valorem taxes down, too," Adams says.  "Without a sales tax, we couldn't survive in our county today," he noted.

State officials project the transportation sales tax in this area will raise an estimated $35,267,000 for this region in 2013.

The Director of Planning for the Department of Transporation,Todd Long, has conducted organizational meetings like the one in Mount Vernon all over the state and is optimistic about making the new funding formula work.

"Statewide we're very optimistic.  We've gotten tremendous feedback from a lot of the regions, and this region is OK, too.  We had some discussions about how to change the criteria, but overall, my optimism after finishing off 12 meetings is much higher than it was when I began," he said.

Members of the Roundtable Executive Committee expect to have a list of projects for approval and prioritization by the end of March.  Once the list is set, officials in each jurisdiction will attempt to educate voters on why they should vote for the new sales tax in 2012.  If approved, the sales tax would remain in effect for ten years.

January 21--  The killing of 77 dogs Thursday at the Lyons Animal Shelter is drawing fire from the Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society (SOAPS).

On top of that, Public Works Director Darel Corley says posting of the story on Facebook has resulted in complaints from as far away as Las Vegas.

Corley says the dogs were given lethal injections and buried after he had delayed any euthanizations since last July as he worked with SOAPS to get the dogs adopted.  He reports SOAPS saved 83 dogs from the shelter during that period, but he still had more dogs than the shelter could hold.

"I didn't have anywhere to put any dogs and Toombs County was calling that they didn't have anywhere to put dogs.  The only thing I could do was clear the pound out and start over because I was so overrun with dogs.  I tried to work this thing out and probably got myself in trouble by prolonging it so long. What I'm going to do from now on is at the end of every month, whatever dog they can place, they can place, and we'll go ahead and euthanize whatever's left and we'll go ahead and move to the next month," Corley said.

Therisa Ingley, the head of SOAPS, is shocked.  "Right now SOAPS is heartbroken that so many animals had to be euthanized.  We admit we don't have all the details, but we're concerned that so many were put down when some were scheduled for rescue the very next day.  We want to know the answer to that question.

"We're just here to do whatever we can to provide a better situation for the animals in Lyons.  We want to be here to be supportive to make sure that shelter is run appropriately and to help the city make that happen," Ingley says.

Meanwhile, SOAPS is filing a complaint with the Lyons Police Department regarding possible violations of city and state laws.



January 21--  The City of Lyons would like to buy the vacant National Guard Armory on the south side of town.

At a called meeting, the city council agreed to offer the state up to $189,000 for the property.

City manager Rick Hartley says the city is asking State Representative Greg Morris to help it work with the state Adjutant General's Office on the proposal.

The city could use the site for a number of purposes including public works, according to Hartley.

January 21--  The Headmaster at Robert Toombs Christian Academy in Lyons is tendering his resignation, according to a news release from the school.

"After 7 years of faithfully serving as Robert Toombs Christian Academy's Headmaster, John Sharpe has submitted a letter of resignation effective at the end of his current contract.  Mr. Sharpe will continue as Headmaster until June 2011.

"The RTCA Board of Directors released a statement saying, "We are grateful to Mr. Sharpe for his dedication to RTCA for the past 7 years.  Under his direction, our school has prospered in many ways.  His character and Christian morals have been an example to each of us.  We wish Mr. Sharpe and his family much success in all future endeavors."

"Mr. Sharpe commented, "I have enjoyed my tenure at RTCA and am grateful for the wonderful relationships with the staff, students and parents.  RTCA will continue to be a wonderful place for students to learn and I am excited about the next chapter of my life."

"A search and selection committee has been formed to begin the process of selecting a new headmaster for RTCA.  The committe includes board members along with members of the RTCA staff."


January 21--  Brewton-Parker College’s Board of Trustees accepted the resignation of President Dr. David R. Smith Thursday during the regularly scheduled board meeting held on the Mount Vernon campus.

{mosimage}Brewton-Parker College Board of Trustees Chairman Rev. Tony Romans of Dunwoody thanks BPC President Dr. David R. Smith and his wife, Jackie, for their 13 years of service to the college following the Board’s acceptance of Smith’s resignation Jan. 20 at the regularly scheduled board meeting. (Photo by Kelley Arnold)

            Dr. Smith has served the four-year Christian college affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention for the last 13 years, during which time the college has seen significant growth in campus services, SACS reaffirmation and the restoration of the college’s integrity after a financial aid crisis in the late 1990s.

            “It is a legacy for which anyone can be proud,” said Dr. Smith, as he read his letter of resignation to the board with his wife, Jackie, present in the room.

            “There comes a time when the mantle of leadership needs to be passed on. Brewton-Parker College needs and deserves new presidential leadership,” said Dr. Smith. “I have accepted the chairmanship of a master’s degree program in Christian Studies at Dallas Baptist University to begin April 1.”

The Board of Trustees is formulating plans for a presidential search.

Dr. Smith told the faculty and staff during an afternoon assembly immediately following the board meeting.

            “I believe this school has a great future,” said Smith to the assembly. “Thank you for the last 13 years. We will be in prayer with you, watching to see what good, great things God does.”

Dr. Melton, who saw Smith’s hire 13 years ago, encouraged the staff and faculty to remain positive.

“The best thing we can do is go forward, doing our job,” said Dr. Melton. “The world has in fact not ended. None of us enjoy change; it is one of the most difficult things to deal with. We have been through this before, and we made it through then.”

Many in the gathered forum expressed their gratitude to Dr. Smith for his leadership.

Since Smith took office in 1998, the college celebrated its centennial in 2004, completed the Snooks Student Activities Center, the largest structure of its kind in Montgomery County, and raised more than $55 million in capital, general fund and endowment gifts, including the recent $5.7 million Bill Brown estate gift.

January 20--  The Toombs County Development Authority wants the county commission to give it five more years of guaranteed income to support economic development.

The Authority gets one mil of tax revenue each year which is currently valued at about $550,000.  The current contract expires in 2016, however, it wants the term extended five additonal years to meet long term financing requirements associated with industry recruiting.

The matter is expected to be considered at the February meeting of the Toombs County Commission.

January 20--  Nine counties in southeast Georgia will share a state grant to make their communities "work ready."

David Yarbrough with Southeastern Tech's Economic Development Center reports the $350,000 grant will be used to support the program in Toombs, Montgomery, Treutlen, Tattnall, Emanuel, Candler, Evans, Jenkins and Johnson counties.

Yarbrough told the Toombs County Devlopment Authority Thursday Lisa Adams of Vidalia has been hired to oversee administration of the grant in the region.

Toombs County is still trying to achieve work ready status and needs more people from the private sector and and the GED program to meet its goal.

Work ready status makes the county more competitive in attracting new industry and jobs.

January 20--  A Montgomery County teenager died of injuries in a motorcycle accident.

Montgomery County Sheriff Clarence Sanders reports 18-year-old Brandon Edge of Quail Run Road was killed Sunday afternoon when his motorcycle hit a guard rail over a branch on Highway 221 north of Mount Vernon.

January 20--  The Toombs County Boys and Girls Club in Vidalia may get a new home if the Vidalia City Council has its way.

The council voted Thursday to apply for a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to partially finance a new building for the Boys and Girls Club on city property at the intersection of Wynona and Third Streets.  If the project is successful, the building would belong to the city and be leased to the club for a dollar.  Other funds would come from city sales taxes.  

City officials say construction could start at early as next year if the application is approved later this year by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

In other action at a called meeting, the council agreed to step up enforcement of dilapidated houses, approved a four-way stop at the corner of Ward and Peachtree, and took no action to grant a zoning variance allowing continuation of a personal care home on Pinecrest Drive.

January 20--  Twelfth District Congressman John Barrow voted against repeal of the healthcare bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.  The bill to repeal passed the House Wednesday with all but three Democrat congressmen voting against repeal.

Congressman Barrow voted against the bill last year and we asked him why the change in position.  Here is his answer.

"I didn't think last year's health care bill took care of the most pressing health care issues this country faces, but I don't think this repeal is the answer, either.  We need to fix what's broken with that bill, but we shouldn't throw out the good with the bad. We need to keep the parts that prohibit folks from getting denied coverage based on preexisting conditions, and extend health coverage to kids just out of college. That's what folks are telling me they want, and that's what I plan on doing."


January 20-- State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said today that Georgia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 10.2 percent in December, up two-tenths of a percentage point from a revised 10 percent in November. The preliminary November rate of 10.1 percent reported last month has been revised downward by one-tenth of a percentage point. The rate was 10.3 percent in December 2009. This is the 39th consecutive month Georgia has exceeded the national unemployment rate, which is currently 9.4 percent.

In December, the number of payroll jobs decreased 21,800, or six-tenths of a percentage point, to 3,827,200 from 3,849,000 in November. Most of the decreases came in construction, leisure and hospitality, the public schools, professional and business services, and wholesale trade. And, the number of jobs remains 7,800, or two-tenths of a percentage point, fewer than in December 2009, when there were 3,835,000 payroll jobs.

“The increase in unemployment and job loss in December is continued evidence that Georgia’s job market is fragile,” said Commissioner Butler. “Sustained improvement will come only when employers begin adding jobs and increase hiring. In the coming months, we will work closely with Georgia’s employers, private and public sector economic developers, and the General Assembly to spur existing business expansion and to attract new industry to our state.”  

There were 259,200 long-term unemployed Georgians in December (those who have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer). This represents an increase of 7,000, or 2.8 percent, from 252,200 long-term unemployed in November and an increase of 91,000, or 54.1 percent, from 168,200 in December 2009. The long-term unemployed now account for 54.1 percent of the 478,833 jobless workers in Georgia.

Also, 75,635 laid-off workers filed initial claims for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits in December, an increase of 7,921, or 11.7 percent, from 67,714 in November. However, there was an over-the-year decrease of 25,261 initial claims, or 25 percent, from 100,896 filed in December 2009. Most of the first-time claims were filed in manufacturing, trade, construction, and administrative and support services.

January 20--  Despite the ice and freezing temperatures in South Georgia this winter, the Vidalia Onion crop is weathering well.

Mike Hively with Bland Farms in Tattnall County, the largest Vidalia Onion grower, says their tests are showing no significant damage to this year's crop so far.

"Right now I've not seen any damage to the crop.  We did a plant population study on December 17 and we did one on January 5, and we didn't see any loss that amounted to anyhing," he reports.

According to Hively, the onion needs a certain amount of cold weather.  He says the cold temperatures help control disease and weeds and are actually beneficial to the crop.

Industry officials say the Vidalia Onion contributes anywhere from $130 million to $150 million to Georgia's economy each year.  It's generally the state's leading vegetable crop, according to Wendy Brannen with the Vidalia Onion Committee.

"Typically we are the number one vegetable crop.  Not row crops, like corn, cotton and tobacco, but your vegetable crops like watermelons and such, we typically top that list every year," she says.

Brannen says a co-promotion of the Vidalia Onion in conjunction with release of a Shrek movie increased sales by about 30 percent last year.

This year the Onion Committee concludes a four-year project to unveil a Vidalia Onion Museum which is scheduled to open April 29th during the Vidalia Onion Festival.

January 18--  The Montgomery County school board met behind closed doors for more than two-and-a-half hours Tuesday night looking for ways to save money this year and next.

After coming out of executive session, board chairwoman Deloris James told those in attendance the board will be back at next Monday night.

"We appreciate all of your patience waiting on us tonight.  As you might appreciate, this school system is facing serious financial problems.  At this time I'm asking for a motion for a called meeting for Monday night, January 24th to discuss personnel, litigation and any other items which may come before this board," she said.

James says interim school superintendent Reggie Roberts gave the board some options on personnel cuts and salary adjustments for next year, however, she noted "we've got to make some immediate cuts in some places now to build our general fund for the rest of this year."

The chairwoman says she's hopefull some decisions can be made Monday night to help the school system in the short term.  Some of the people in the audience included staff members whose jobs could be affected by the board's decisions.

January 18--  Gov. Nathan Deal will take an active role in helping Atlanta Public Schools prevent loss of its accreditation. Upon the announcement today that the system's high schools are on probation, the governor has reached out to Mayor Kasim Reed and has called a meeting tomorrow with the entire Atlanta legislative delegation.


"I will make every effort to ensure that Atlanta's children are not harmed by the adults who have failed them," Deal said. "I have begun the process of working with Atlanta's leaders, including my friend Mayor Reed, to implement corrective action immediately. The high schools are on probation but they have not lost their accreditation. We must do everything possible to stop an embarrassing situation from snowballing into a destructive situation.


"Children's futures are at stake. My budget showed the priority I place on education. My actions in this situation will demonstrate similar resolve. In addition to working with Atlanta's leaders, I announced today that I've asked the team investigating the APS administration of the CRCT to continue its work. I'm determined to get to the bottom of what happened, so we can guarantee the integrity of testing in Atlanta and throughout Georgia."


The report from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools details a dysfunctional city school board that has failed to serve the students of Atlanta. Current state law allows the governor to remove board members in such a scenario, but the law does not apply in this case because all of the board members were in office before the law took effect.


The probation of Atlanta high schools will have no impact on the HOPE scholarship eligibility of the Class of 2011.

January 18--  After a meeting with Vidalia police Monday, Crimestoppers in Toombs County is offering cash rewards for information leading to arrests in an armed robbery and burglaries.

A $500 reward is offered for the arrest of two black males who held up the Flash Foods convenience store on North Street in Vidalia in the early morning hours of January 5th.  The masked robbers took $350.86 and cigarettes while holding the attendant at gunpoint.

A reward of $300 is being offered to help solve a rash of daytime burglaries in the general area of Center Drive, Church Street and Fifth Street in Vidalia.  In one incident, two televisions and $800 in cash were stolen from a home on Center Drive.  Police say the breakins are being done mostly while people are at work during the day.

If you have information on these cases, you may call the Crimestoppers Hotline at 1-866-439-6313.  You don't have to give your name.  If the information leads to an arrest, you will be given a cash reward by Crimestoppers.

January 17--  State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville discusses proposed amendments to the state's current budget.

"Gov. Deal in his "State of the State " address presented his proposed budget for the FY012 year and the same day released his Amended FY011 budget proposal as well.  We will look at the FY 2011 Amended Budget Request this week.


FY2011 Amended Budget


--Total Revenue--$16.5 billion in State General Fund and Motor Fuel revenues


--8.4% above FY010 actual revenues


--0.17% under original FY011 Revenue Estimate  


--Revenues now have sunk to 2005-2006 levels


--This budget is some 18% under the original FY09 proposed budget just two years ago



-  $83 Million for k-12 pupil growth

-  Reflects $321 million in Federal Education Jobs Funds (Hopefully provide a  cushion in FY2012.

-  Replaces Medicaid Match Funds (FMAP) no longer provided by federal government-$143.5 million

-  Adds $13.4 million for Behavioral Health as part of the settlement with the U.S. Dept. of Justice which includes:

                  $2.8 million for additional services for developmentally disabled adults at                          home

                  $10.6 million for community-based mental health services

-  $7.8 million to assist "deemed" Disproportionate Share hospitals for indigent care

-  $19.8 million in tobacco settlement funds for the OneGeorgia economic development fund

-  $31 million in additional lottery funds for enrollment growth





-  Reduces funds by approximately 4% across K-12 programs (QBE grows 1%)

- Reduces Regents formula by $102 million and does not replace federal stimulus funds of $23 million

-  "B" Budget reductions totaling $4.5 million

-  Reduces Technical College formula by $11.2 million

-  Reduces Public Health Grant in Aid by $2.5 million

-  Reduces Trauma Care Network Commission by $11.7 due to revised revenue estimate

-  Saves Dept. of Corrections $3.2 million by closing Metro State Prison

-  Dept. of Juvenile Justice saves $4.4 million due to cancelled contracts in Community Nonsecure Commitment program

-  $3.1million in savings due to hiring freeze in  DJJ


Overall the Governor reduced the FY2011 Amended Revenue Estimate by some $27.6 million due to a projected drop in fees to the state. This budget proposal includes cuts to state agencies totaling $303.6 million.


The Revenue Shortfall Reserve (rainy day fund) now stands at $116 million or approximately two days of state operations." 


Next week:     FY2012 Budget proposals



January 17--  Four new members of the Toombs County Board of Education took their oaths of office at the board's January meeting.

{mosimage}Toombs County Probate Judge Larry Threlkeld swore in (L-R) Rahn Milligan, Jonathan Holland, Russ Benton and Chairman Daniel Caraway.

The board approved Doug Alexander to be the new principal at Toombs County High School.  He's been serving as Assistant Principal and succeeds Dr. Kendall Brantley who's been wearing two hats as principal and county school superintendent.

The board also agreed to a 170-day school calendar, agreed to allow local churches to provide weekend snacks for underprivileged children, accepted $5,700 from the FFA Alumni Society to help pay for ag courses at the high school, and decided to change the monthly meeting time from six p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month.

The board tabled a motion to elect Duane Tomlin as board vice-chairman after it was unable to gain a majority of four votes.  A motion by Jonathan Holland to elect Russ Benton to the post also failed.

January 17--  Montgomery County Sheriff Clarence Sanders says a Mount Vernon teenager is responsible for the damage and theft at McCords Gun and Bow early Friday morning.

The Sheriff says 19-year-old Lynn Johnson of Mount Vernon used a pickup truck parked at McCords to crash through the front of the store where he is accused of stealing guns and ammunition.  He was later captured in Montgomery County after wrecking the truck.

Johnson is being held at the Irwin County Jail in Ocilla and will face a myriad of charges, according to Sheriff Sanders, who says the boy was under the influence of drugs at the time of the crime.

January 15--  Lyons Mayor John Moore is expected to make a full recovery from this week's brain surgery at the Medical College of Georgia.  His wife, Marcia, notified us Saturday of the good news.

"John wanted me to tell you that he is doing well.  He has began his recovery plan and been advised by this doctors' that he should make a full recovery.  The doctors' state that he will be able to return to work and fullfill his duties as mayor.  He would like to thank all this friends for all their prayers and acts of kindnesses."
The Mayor had a mass in his frontal lobe removed last Tuesday. 


January 14--  Range Fuels in Treutlen County is temporarily closing its ethanol production plant due to finances, according to a report in the Soperton News.

Earlier, company officials at the home office in Broomfield, Colorado told an industry magazine it was laying off employees at both its headquarters and at the Soperton plant, but would not confirm how many.

Plant manager Bud Klepper told the Soperton paper the company had "essentially run out of financial support through the investment community."

He says a small staff will remain at the plant to keep it in working order until production can start up again. Klepper emphasized the stand-down of the plant is not permanent.

{mosimage}January 14--Dr. David R. Smith, Brewton-Parker College president, addressed members of the Toombs-Montgomery Leadership class when they visited the Mount Vernon college Thursday, Jan. 13 for a luncheon presentation and campus tour.

The leadership class’ day-long session on education included visits to Southeastern Technical College, Sally Meadows Elementary School and a half-hour panel discussion with area school superintendents.

January 14--  Sometime before dawn Friday, somebody stole a truck parked at McCords Gun and Bow in Higgston and used it as a battering ram to crash into the front of the store.  Owner Hugh McCord said "some people will do anything to get a gun."


The truck has been recovered and Montgomery County Sheriff Clarence Sanders says one person is in custody.  The GBI is assisting the Montgomery County Sheriff's office with the investigation and Sheriff Sanders reports the name of the subject will be released soon.{mosimage}

The man was arrested after police got a tip on a man seen with two pistols in his pockets with McCord price tags still on the guns. Sheriff Sanders says the man wrecked the truck about two miles from the state prison south of Mount Vernon and was apprehended in nearby woods.


January 13--  Two of the people Georgia Governor Nathan Deal made sure were at his inauguration in Atlanta were his high school teachers from Sandersville.

{mosimage}Teachers Hazel Metts (L) and Isabelle Snyder with their student, and now Governor, Nathan Deal.

"Those were two very special people to me.  Mrs. Metts was my high school English teacher and was very important as I was preparing to go to college.  Mrs. Snyder was my history teacher and also my debate coach.  Our debate team won the state championship in my junior and senior years and she was our coach on both occasions," Governor Deal remembers.

Mrs. Synder, who is now 88, remembers the Governor won the national FFA speech contest in Kansas City when he was in high school and says she always knew he would be successful.

"I'm delighted he's governor of Georgia.  He's very honest.  His opponents tried to smear him, but they can't because he is truly an honest man.  He's also very sincere, you know where you stand with him.  He's upfront," she says.

Like many teachers, Governor Deal says Mrs. Snyder and Mrs. Metts had an impact on his life.

"They have served for many years in our public schools and impacted the lives of many people.  I'm just one of those.  Like any teacher, they don't sometimes recognize the influence they have on the children who pass through their classrooms.

"My father taught vocational agriculture and one of the most moving things I recall is how many people came to his funeral and said he taught them in high school.  To have those connections and fond remembrances I think says a lot about how important teachers are to our society," Governor Deal says.

January 13--  State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville analyzes state revenue trends in his latest "Notes From The Senate" report.



State revenues took a jump in one of the two months normally associated with the Christmas buying season gaining 10.9% over December of 2009 for a total for the month of $1.55 billion or up $152.8 million.  Don't remember a month anywhere near this increase for at least the past two years when virtually every month was under the same month a year before.  Later in the column, we will try to put this six month trend in perspective, but December certainly topped any expectations.  Individual income taxes (includes small businesses) came in at a 7.7% increase or up $60.2 million for a total of $856.7 million.  That amount might just be the best December Income Tax collection month in five years.


Overall state sales tax collections were up by the same amount, 7.7% with collections of $26.6 million for a total of $374.1 million.  December in sales tax collections tracked last year similar to other months this fiscal year... up over last year but under more normal years.  Since sales tax collections trail a month behind, these numbers are really November's sales taxes and December's will come in the January report.


Motor Fuel Tax collections were up a total of 13.9% or $8.9 million.  Both categories were up in December.


Corporate Income Taxes were up $48.2 million.  A better gauge will be the six month figure we will review later. 


In other categories, tobacco collections were up 0.2% and alcoholic beverages were up 11.6%.



With six months of the FY2011 in the books, the trend is certainly positive.  Total revenues are $7.8 billion or an increase of $587.7 million over the FY2010 year; however, we must keep in mind the affects of the refunds paid out early a year ago.  So the 8.1% gain is probably on the high side, but even if we deducted the $160 million in refunds from a year ago, the difference is still a growth rate of over 5%.


Individual Income Tax collections are up 7.9% or up $300.8 million for a total of $4.1 billion.  Sales Tax collections are up 6.5% or $151 million for a total of $2.4 billion.  Motor Fuel Taxes are up 17.2% YTD.  Total collections have increased $69.1 million and are on track to reach $940 million for the year.  Corporate Income Taxes are flat for the six months at minus 0.9%.  Tobacco Tax collections are off by -2.7% YTD and alcoholic beverages are up slightly at 0.7%.


Looking back at FY10 months January through June, it appears that it will be difficult to maintain the level of increase the rest of FY11.  The last six months a year ago started the trend that resulted in the positive revenue numbers this past June.



The last three months provide a "clean" quarter unaffected by any issues from one year ago.  The good news is that the second quarter of the FY11 Fiscal Year shows an increase of a little over 8%.  The two largest categories, Individual Income Taxes and Sales Taxes show slightly under 6% for the quarter.  Looking at the last six months of the FY010, we realize that numbers started to creep up a year ago before turning positive in June.  These increases, 5.7% to 5.9%, look realistic even if a good January starts off the second half of the fiscal year.  Don't count chickens before the integrator picks them up, but irregardless, a 5.7% increase would certainly be a good kick-off for the FY12 budget year.

January 12--Three days after the ice storm, the Altamaha EMC reports its crews have restored power to customers in its seven-county service area.  Tammye Vaughn provides the following update.

"We are pleased to report that power has been restored to all Altamaha EMC members in the following areas:  Toombs County, Montgomery County, Treutlen County and East Laurens.  If anyone in these areas is still experiencing outages or other related issues, they should call our office immediately.  We can be reached at 912-526-8181 or toll-free at 1-800-822-4563.

"Outage restoration efforts are still ongoing in some areas of Emanuel County.  We have all Altamaha EMC crew members and contractors working in the Emanuel area.  Projections are to have power restored to the entire area by early afternoon today.

"We appreciate the patience and understanding of all members who experienced power outages due to the ice storm.  Our thanks to all law enforcement agencies, forestry departments,  and city and county departments who worked with us to assist in power restoration efforts." 


January 12--  While many hospitals are struggling to keep their doors open, Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia is opening a new state-of-the-art hospital which represents a $100 million investment, according to CEO Alan Kent.

{mosimage}Kent tells a tour group about the new $1.4 million CT Scanner.

Less than a month from now, on February 4th, Kent says the new medical center on Highway 280 East in Vidalia will be open for business.

"Equipment is being installed now, furniture is going in, all of the patient rooms are being prepared to accept patients. Over the new few weeks, we're doing staff training and orientation on new equipment and procedures and we're getting ready to bring patients over from the old hospital the morning of February 4th.  On that day, our emergency room and operating rooms will be up for service and we'll close the old facility down," he says.

Kent has been at Meadows for eleven years and believes the foresignt of many in the community during the past is making the new medical center a reality.

"We all know that these facilities age and with technology changing over time, what I can say we've done is build on the successes of the past.  The previous physicians, the previous nurses, board members, authority members, city councils, county commissions, all of those people were looking for the same things we're looking for today, and that is improving care and conditions for the community.  We've been in a fortunate situation to build on those things from the past to take it to the next level," Kent notes.

The medical center already is planning to build a cancer treatment center next to the new building and is also opening a wound management center.  It's diagnostic equipment includes the most advanced MRI and CT scan equipment in the state, Kent says.

Meanwhile, back on Meadows Lane, he says no decision has been made on the future of the old hospital building. 

January 11--  The Vidalia City Council started the New Year with appointments to various administrative boards which help run the city.

Donald Estroff will serve out the unexpired term of Charles Rustin on the Downtown Development Authority, Donnie Alderman was reappointed to a five-year term on the Vidalia Development Authority and Archie Branch will serve again on the Revolving Loan Review Committee.

Reappointed to the Vidalia Planning Commission are Dennis Donohue, Phil Barfield and Pam Langston.

New members of the Vidalia-Toombs County Library Board are Martha Shepherd and Anita Estroff.

Reappointed to the Recreation Department Board are Bob Dixon and Wade McLeod.

John Talton was reappointed to the Toombs County Health Department Board while Ann Todd, Patricia Dixon and Bill Bedingfield were renamed to the board of the Vidalia Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Bedingfield is also adding city clerk duties to his job as finanace director at city hall.  He succeeds Mary McIntyre who is semi-retiring and will work part-time as administrative assistant to Mayor Ronnie Dixon and city manager Bill Torrance.

In other actions at its meeting Monday night, a committee was named to recommend a Community Development Block Grant project.  Options include a new building for the Toombs County Boys and Girls Club or expansion of the public works project in the Poe Street-2nd Avenue area.  The application for the $500,000 grant must be submitted by April.

January 11--  Three people are under arrest for allegedly selling stolen scrap metal to Morris Salvage on Highway 292.

Sheriff Junior Kight says theft by taking charges have been field against 21-year-old Bobby Englett, 32-year-old Christopher Rowland and 33-year-old Barbara Corbin, all of Lyons.

January 11--  Lyons Mayor John Moore underwent successful brain surgery Tuesday at the Medical College of Georgia Medical Center in Augusta.

City manager Rick Hartley says surgeons were able to remove most of the mass which had been discovered on Mayor Moore's brain.  He said doctors believe the remaining section of the mass can be removed by radiation.

Family members reported the Mayor was alert and talking after the surgery.

January 11--  Altamaha EMC issued the following report Tuesday morning as crews worked to restore power in the aftermath of Sunday night's ice storm.

"Altamaha EMC crews continued to work through the night to restore power to members in our seven-county service area.  Progress was slow in some areas due to the number of downed trees on power lines.  We have several contract crews working alongside our crews to help clear fallen trees of the lines as quickly as possible.  The areas with the most power outages at this time are Emanuel and Treutlen counties and also in the East Laurens area.  We still have sporadic outages in areas of Toombs and Montgomery counties as well.  Our crews will continue to work to restore power today.  It is our hope to have every Altamaha EMC member’s power restored before dark today.

"We would like to remind motorist to use extreme caution when driving near areas where crews are working to restore power.  Altamaha EMC crews, GA Power crews and many contractors are working all over the local area and their safety is of utmost importance." 

January 11, 2011--  Dr. John D. Barge was sworn into office Monday as Georgia's 21st State School Superintendent.

{mosimage}"It's an honor and privilege to serve as State School Superintendent," said Superintendent Barge. "I am excited about this new challenge and will hit the ground running to build a strong foundation to positively benefit our students, teachers and communities. As a parent with a child in public schools and as one who has served at virtually every level in public education, I am keenly aware of the challenges we face as a state and the challenges our students, teachers and local administrators are facing. I am committed to ensuring that the Georgia Department of Education is a service agency and is communicating directly with educators in our local districts. "
Prior to his becoming State School Superintendent, Dr. Barge served as the Director of Secondary Curriculum & Instruction with the Bartow County School System.

Dr. John Barge was born and raised in Cobb County, Georgia, graduated from Campbell High School in 1984, and attended Berry College in Rome, Georgia on academic and journalism scholarships where he earned his bachelor?s degree in 1988.

Dr. Barge has earned three advanced degrees, a master's degree and a specialist's degree from the State University of West Georgia and his doctorate degree in educational leadership from the University of Georgia.
In his 20 years in education, Dr. Barge has served as a high school English teacher, middle school Spanish teacher, assistant principal, and principal. He also served as the State Director of Career, Technical and Agriculture Education for the Georgia Department of Education. John has been recognized as a STAR teacher in 1996, as Georgia's Assistant Principal of the Year in 2001, and received the Berry College Alumni Association's Distinguished Achievement Award in 2005.

John and his wife Loraine, long-time Floyd County residents, have been married for 19 years. They have a 14 year-old daughter who attends public school in Floyd County.

Deal swears in new Regent

New governor continues state of emergency, ethics rules

January 11--  In his first official actions as the governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal swore in Philip Wilheit Sr. of Gainesville to fill the unexpired term of Regent Felton Jenkins, and he continued Georgia's state of emergency declaration signed this weekend by Gov. Sonny Perdue.

 Wilheit, 66, is the president of Wilheit Packaging and Marketing Images. He served for more than 40 years on the board of the Greater Hall County Chamber of Commerce with one year as chairman and he served more than 20 years on the Georgia Chamber of Commerce with one year as chairman. Gov. Perdue appointed him to the Economic Development Commission and to the water task force. Wilheit served as treasurer for Deal's campaigns for 28 years and chaired the Deal for Governor campaign. Wilheit participated in Leadership Georgia, and he and his wife Mary Hart are members of Grace Episcopal Church. They have two adult children and three grandchildren.

The executive order for the state of emergency allows for state resources to be available for response and recovery activities, and calls for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) / Office of Homeland Security to activate the state's Emergency Operations Plan.

In other action, Deal announced that attorneys Randy Evans and Pete Robinson will chair his Judicial Nominating Commission. Evans, of Atlanta, is a partner at McKenna Long and Aldridge in Atlanta. He's the counsel to House Speaker John Boehner and former Speaker Newt Gingrich, among many others. Robinson, of Columbus, is a partner at Troutman Sanders and he's a former majority leader in the state Senate. (Editor's Note:  Robinson is the new chairman of the board of Montgomery Bank and Trust in Ailey and Vidalia.)

Deal also signed an executive order to continue the current ethics guidelines, including a gift ban, for his staff and for executive agency heads.


WHAT:            Currently, the hardest hit sections of the Metro are on I-285 on the south of Atlanta.  Crews are working the area and additional crews from neighboring districts continue to move into the area to assist, and resources are enroute to assist in clearing the roads.  Travel is extremely difficult in most spots and impossible in many spots.  All available resources are working on the situation, however, GDOT work trucks are being hindered by the icy roads, existing traffic congestion and accident level.

 At least one inch of Ice on interstate roads and sustained temperatures below freezing have caused extremely hazardous driving conditions throughout metro region. Dangerous icing conditions persist.

Tractor trailer trucks continue to have extreme difficulty moving through the icy conditions.

WHERE:           I-285 at I-675 Interchange completely closed

I-285 WB from Flat Shoals to ramp to I-75

I-285/I-75 Interchange

I-285EB from I-75 to I-85

WHEN:            NOW through late Tuesday at least                                                          

The Georgia DOT Maintenance Crews continue to work around the clock to clear roadways across Georgia. Motorists are urged to use extreme caution as travel remains hazardous in many areas.  If you must drive, be especially careful on bridges and overpasses, as ice often forms more quickly in these areas. Motorists should check with media outlets for updates.

Motorists are urged to slow down and leave, at least, a ten car length distance between their vehicles and the DOT trucks clearing the roadways. They are also advised to treat any traffic signal that is not working as a four-way stop, and be aware of black ice, especially on bridges and overpasses.‪‪

Georgia 511 is a free phone service that provides real-time traffic and travel information statewide, such as traffic conditions, incidents, lane closures, and delays due to inclement weather. Callers also can transfer to operators to request assistance or report incidents 24 hours a day, seven days a week. More information is available at .

January 10--  If you're a customer of the Altamaha EMC, the utility company wants you to know they're crews will be working all night to restore power.

Tammye Vaugh of the EMC says falling pine limbs from ice covered trees have brought down many power lines in the EMC's seven-county service area. Their crews have been working since early Monday.

Vaughn advises customers who are without power to seek shelter with friends and family overnight for access to heat and power.

January 10--  Due to a reorganization of the Georgia Extension Service, Montgomery County Extension Service Agent Shane Curry is moving to the Appling County office, according to the following news release from Curry's office.

{mosimage}"Montgomery County Extension Agent, Shane Curry was offered and has accepted the Appling County Agriculture Extension agent position. He will leave Montgomery County and begin his new assignment February 1st. Curry has been working in Montgomery County since November 2006.

The Montgomery County native says this wasn’t an easy decision to make. “I enjoy the people that I work with. It was great being able to come back home and work with people I’ve known my whole life. I’ll miss that. I’ve been fortunate to have one of the best Secretaries and Program Assistants in the state, and I’ll miss working with them.I appreciate the opportunity Montgomery County has given me. Going to Appling County is a great opportunity for my career and one that I can’t turn down. I’m blessed to have this opportunity. Montgomery County will always be my home and I’ll never be too far away.”

Recently UGA Extension released their reorganization plan. This included ranking counties in “tiers” 1 thru 6 according to farm gate value, population, and local county support. Counties in tiers 1-3 will not have a local Extension Agent. Some tier 2 or 3 counties will have a minimum Extension presence using a shared Extension Agent and will have a local 4-H program. Tier 6 counties will have multiple Agents working in Agriculture, 4-H, and Family and Consumer Sciences. Appling County is one of the few tier 6 counties in the state. Montgomery County is a tier 4 and will have one agent to work in all program areas. The reorganization plan also classified which positions were “high priority” positions in order to move the most experienced people into the best position to serve the public. The Appling County Agriculture Extension Agent was one of the high priority positions. 

Curry has been very productive over the last four years in Montgomery County and the recipient of many awards lately. He was promoted to Public Service Assistant through the UGA Promotion and Tenure System and received the King Cotton award for significant contributions to the cotton industry. He also received the Southeast District Young Professional award and the State Young Professional award. He’ll travel to the National Association of County Agriculture Agents annual meeting in Kansas in August to be recognized for winning the state award.

Appling County is a tremendous agriculture countywith a farm gate value of nearly $140,000,000 compared to Montgomery’s of $30,000,000. The major Appling County crops include 4,800 acres corn, 22,500 acres of cotton, 7,000 acres of hay, 9,511 acres of peanuts, 7,580 acres of soybeans, 950 acres of tobacco, and 2,300 acres of blueberries.

Mr. Curry will be missed in Montgomery County but looks forward to his new position just across the Altamaha. He says he will still attend 4-H Junior/Senior District Project Achievement February 4-6 with Montgomery County before transferring over to Appling County full time."

2010 was a great year for the agent who says he’s been blessed and is most thankful for family, friends, health, and marrying the girl of his dreams. 


January 11--  Here are the latest weather closings for the Toombs County area.


(1)  Treutlen schools are closed Tuesday, but faculty and staff are to report from noon till four p.m.

(2)  Montgomery County school are closed Tuesday for students and staff.

(3)  East Georgia College is re-opening its offices in Swainsboro and Statesboro at noon Tuesday and will have orientation for new students on Wednesday.

(4)  Basketball:  Treutlen at Wheeler Co. (postponed)

(5)  Basketball:  JOCO at MOCO (rescheduled for Feb.8)

(6)  Southeastern Tech--Closed

(7) Wheeler County schools are closed for students and staff

January 10--  Icy conditions around southeast Georgia are causing the Department of Transportation to warn drivers about road conditions and driving habits.  The area was coated in a layer of ice after early morning freezing rain Monday.


{mosimage} {mosimage}


WHEN:           Monday night and Tuesday.                                                               

 WHERE:         South Central Georgia

 WHAT:           Sleet, freezing rain and sustained temperatures below freezing could cause extremely hazardous driving conditions throughout                                    Georgia. Dangerous icing is possible across the entire advisory area.

Georgia DOT has marshaled all available assets from throughout the state and will respond in strength.  

Motorists are urged to slow down and leave, at least, a ten car length distance between their vehicles and the DOT trucks clearing the roadways. They are also advised to treat any traffic signal that is not working as a four-way stop, and be aware of black ice, especially on bridges and overpasses.‪‪

Georgia DOT urges travelers to call 511 for updated information about this or any other construction project on interstates and state routes.

Georgia 511 is a free phone service that provides real-time traffic and travel information statewide, such as traffic conditions, incidents, lane closures, and delays due to inclement weather. Callers also can transfer to operators to request assistance or report incidents 24 hours a day, seven days a week. More information is available at

(Brewton Parker Magnolia "Iced" Photo courtesy Kelly Arnold) ‪‪

January 10--  Spectators at this month's Lyons City Council meeting noticed that Lyons Mayor John Moore seemed out of touch and slow in conducting the meeting. 

Last Thursday they found out why.  An examination revealed the Mayor has a mass in his frontal brain lobe and another smaller mass has been found in the back of his brain.

Lyons city manager Rick Hartley says the Mayor had been scheduled to undergo surgery Monday morning at the Medical College of Georgia Hospital in Augusta.  However, the ice storm prevented surgeons from getting to the hospital.  Hartley says he thinks the surgery will be done Tuesday.

January 10--  The National Transportation Safety Board has approved a final report on the airplane crash that killed David and Ann Lovins of Vidalia nearly 18 months ago.  The two died when their private plane crashed in a wooded area near the end of a runway at the Jackson County Airport in Sylva, North Carolina on August 26, 2009.

According to the NTSB, David Lovins failed to maintain adequate air speed during the landing which cause the plane to stall and crash.  The agency's summary report is provided below.

"Following the 3-hour-and-40-minute, instrument-flight-rules, cross-country flight, the pilot approached the destination airport. The airplane descended from 9,400 feet mean sea level (msl) to 3,100 feet msl and entered the traffic pattern on a right downwind leg for runway 33. The pilot flew a low approach over the runway and then entered a left traffic pattern about 350 feet above the airport elevation. The pilot again approached the runway and slowed the airplane from 91 knots to 60 knots, and a witness observed the airplane touch down on the runway before it proceeded out of his view. The airplane impacted a wooded area beyond the departure end of the runway inverted and in a nose-down attitude. The airplane's recorded groundspeed for the final portion of the flight never exceeded 63 knots, and the calculated stall speed was 61 knots calibrated airspeed. The winds reported at an airport 12 nautical miles southwest were a left quartering tailwind at 3 knots. Postaccident examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of any preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures.

"The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:

"The pilot's failure to maintain an adequate airspeed during an aborted landing, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall."
A full report on the crash is available at


January 10--  A Georgia legislative committee is studying new state immigration laws to handle the influx of illegal immigrants.

State Representative Greg Morris of Vidalia is on the committee which he says is hearing testimony from all sides.

"We've invited everyone who has a seat at the table on this issue.  Employers, agriculture, advocates for Latino people, we've heard them all.  We've also heard from law enforcement and that was the most telling testimoney of all," Morris says.

Morris believes the first responsibility is to take care of public safety.  "That's the first thing we need to do, to make sure the safety of our citizens is not threatened by anyone who is in this country illegally. Once we've done that, we can address the cost that illegal aliens cost the taxpayers in terms of goods and services and how we can move to eliminate that," he said.

Morris acknowledges immigration is a federal issue and would not be a problem if the U.S. government was doing its job of securing the country's borders.

"It is a federal issue, but there are some things we can do as state government in terms of public safety and tax dollars which are spent on people who are in this country illegally," Morris notes.

Representative Morris says the immigration committee is learning from states like Arizona which have had state legislation challenged in court by the federal government.  Because they want to get it right, he says it may take a couple of years to draft legislation that will stand up in court.

January 10--  Here's the latest weather-related news in the area:

The following school systems are closed Monday:

(1) Treutlen County for students and staff.

(2) Montgomery County for students and staff.

(3) Wheeler County Closed for students and staff

(4) Southeastern Technical College

(5)  Emanuel County Schools

(6)  East Georgia College in Swainsboro has re-scheduled Spring Orientation to Wednesday.

(7)  Evening classes at Brewton Parker are cancelled.  Classes will resume at BPC Tuesday.

Other activities effected by the weather:

(1) RTCA at DEA basketball game for Monday is cancelled.

(2)  The Senior Citizens Center in Treutlen County will be closed Tuesday.

January 7-- Governor Sonny Perdue announced today that net revenue collections for the month of December 2010 (FY11) totaled $1,555,058,000 compared to $1,402,181,000 for December 2009 (FY10), an increase of $152,877,000 or 10.9 percent.

The percentage increase for FY11 compared to FY10 is 8.1 percent.


January 7--  Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville provides some insight into the revenue dilemma facing the state's lottery-funded HOPE scholarship program in his weekly "Notes From the Senate" report.



There are three numbers that keep those of us concerned about the future of our lottery programs up at night: 1.12, 883, and 2012.  1.12 is the amount in billions that we project to spend on lottery funded programs this year.  883 is the amount in millions that the Georgia Lottery Corp transferred to the state (known as lottery proceeds) to fund the programs. The gap between the two numbers is being covered through the use of lottery reserves. 2012 is the year the unrestricted lottery reserves will dry up if no program changes are made.


Most of us wish that we would not have to make changes to these successful lottery funded programs, but simple economics has forced lawmakers to the realization that we cannot continue to spend more than we receive.  When lawmakers convene next month, one of the biggest challenges they will face is how to restructure the programs so that they are sustainable not only now, but for many years to come.  In the next few weeks I want to explore the trends of lottery funded programs and possible options for restructures.  I want to state from the beginning that these are not necessarily my recommendations, but options that everyone should be ready to consider.


Increasing Revenue- Two Ideas


●     Increase Lottery Proceeds- Since 2000, lottery ticket sales have grown 58%.  The amount awarded in prizes has jumped 70%.  The amount paid out in salaries and benefits rose 54%.  Lottery proceeds however only grew 28% over this time.  In 2000, for every $1 in ticket sales, 30 cents went to the state.  This return has steadily declined so that in 2010 we are only getting 24 cents for every dollar of sales.  Lottery officials will argue that the market is saturated and bigger prizes are required.  I agree with them to some extent.  But I believe that we are too focused on increasing sales and not enough on the point of the lottery, the amount transferred for education.  In 2009, the state paid out $99 million more in prizes than in 2008 but only received $4.3 million more in lottery proceeds.  This means we received only 4 cents on the dollar in additional lottery proceeds for every extra dollar in prizes.  Any way I slice the data, I cannot find any correlation between the level of prizes (and salary expense for that matter) and the level of lottery proceeds.


According to data gathered by the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, the national average is 30 cents for every dollar of sales.  Georgia ranks number 6 in the country in terms of sales but 38th in the percent transferred to the state.  Texas has a similar $3.7 billion in sales compared to Georgia's $3.6 billion but transfers a whopping $1.1 billion or 29% for state uses.  A discussion needs to be had about maximizing the amount transferred to the state, not just ticket sales.  Salaries and bonus for lottery executives should also be reoriented toward this pursuit.  We will not cover our deficit solely through transferring more, but it isn't unreasonable to expect transfers to increase by $50 to $100 million.     


Even if the Lottery Commission started increasing transfers by 1% per year pointing towards 30% in 5 or 6 years, this would be a huge contribution to meeting the growth of HOPE and other programs.


●    Remove the Sales Tax Exemption- Currently lottery tickets are exempt from state and local sales taxes.  Eliminating the exemption would bring in an estimated $130 million to the state general fund.  Critics will argue that sales will decline, but lottery falls in the category of goods that do not have significant price sensitivity. If lottery sales are topping out anyway, then isn't it worth a reduction in sales to increase the amount education will receive?




Pre-K - 31% of Lottery Expenditures

Georgia's Pre-K program has seen manageable growth primarily because the legislature only expands the number of slots available when the state can afford it.  Currently the state has 84,000 slots open and pays around $4,200 per slot (In 1994, the state paid out a comparable $4,253 per slot).  Options for this program are limited. 

●     Place Public Pre-K in the QBE formula- According to the Fiscal Research Center at Georgia State University, 11 states used their state funding system to fund their Pre-K program.  37 of the 40 states with a Pre-K program rely on their general fund to some extent to pay for their program.  Each of these scenarios would require a law change but the bigger question is whether we can afford to take on this program with the budget being so tight.  The role of private providers in this scenario would also have to be considered but separating the two programs would be a possible short-term solution. 


●     Private Pre-K Program -Establish Sliding Scale Fee- In anticipation of changes being made, the Senate requested the Department of Audits to break down the income demographics of families participating in the Pre-K program.  Please note that confidentiality laws only allowed us to see the results in aggregate.  The analysis covered 2 fiscal years and revealed that 36% of households with Pre-K students had an Adjusted Gross Income (Salary minus deductions like mortgage interest, 401k, etc) of less than $20,000.  67% of the households have an AGI of less than $40,000.   80% are under $60,000.  According to the Department of Early Care and Learning, approximately half of the recipients in the program receive some sort of assistance from the state (Medicaid, Food Stamps, TANF, etc).  I mention this because any sliding scale that excludes low income families will not return more than $10 to $20 million at the most.  This isn't pocket change and not the only solution, but it seems to me, if families can afford to pay a fee, they should.


Technical College HOPE Grant - 18% of Lottery Expenditures - The HOPE Grant has exploded in the past 10 years.  In FY2000, 146,477 HOPE Grants were awarded.  By FY2010 this amount has nearly doubled to 299,502.  Over this time period, HOPE grant expenditures have jumped 352% reflecting not only the population increase but the 117.4% rise in tuition.  This trend is only expected to increase.  According to Community College Week Magazine, half of Georgia's technical colleges were ranked among the nation's fastest growing two year colleges.  This program is regarded as a workforce development initiative and we should not detract from that.  But means testing and moving to a more structured merit based system (currently participants only have to have satisfactory progress, not the 3.0 GPA that HOPE Scholarship recipients must retain) might be the only way to save this program while keeping job creation as its focus.  Under the present structure, a college graduate can attend a technical school tuition free.


NEXT WEEK:  Ideas on retaining the Tuition-free HOPE Scholarship


January 7--  It’s a new year, and there’s a new look at 100 Vidalia Sweet Onion Drive in Vidalia, Georgia.  The address, which houses the Vidalia® Onion Committee, Vidalia Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Vidalia® Onion Business Council, bears a much sweeter style of landscaping than it did a week ago.  The grass and shrubs flanking the front walk have been uprooted, and thousands of Vidalia seedlings have been set out in their place.

{mosimage}The idea was the brainchild of Richard Williams, events coordinator for the Vidalia Area Convention & Visitors Bureau and Wendy Brannen, executive director of the Vidalia Onion Committee and museum chairperson.  As volunteer curator, Brannen has been in charge of fundraising, research, artifact collection, and exhibit planning during the four-year project, which culminates in a grand opening event April 29th in conjunction with the annual Vidalia Onion Festival. 

The onion representative says she and her tourism pal thought onions on the front lawn would not only be a draw for potential event media but also the perfect way for tourists to actually see the crop.  “People come through town expecting to see onions lining the streets, and that’s obviously not a realistic picture.  Rich and I thought having them line our building front would be the next best thing—certainly better than sending them on a 30 minute hunt for a field.”  Williams reported the only possible glitch was getting the City of Vidalia, which owns the property, to approve the project.  Says Williams, “We enlisted the local extension staff to plant wildflowers once the bulbs are harvested, and Wendy told the City Council I would weed them while they’re growing.”

{mosimage}Farmer R.T. Stanley was all for the idea and is the true behind-the-scenes workhorse. The beloved patriarch of the Vidalia industry tackled the small plot as he would any other, taking meticulous soil samples, measuring the Ph, and prepping the sandy ground typical of Vidalia fields with fertilizer and lime.  “We’re planting a century seed variety, which is a late variety that won’t be ready by the festival, but it should make for pretty plants during the museum opening, and when they’re ready, these will be good and sweet.”

January 6--  A leader in the Georgia Senate wants a law to fingerprint Medicaid patients to cut down on fraud.

Senate President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams of Lyons estimates the state could save up to $100 million.

"One of the things that's happening is card-swapping.  We issue Medicaid cards and those folks who get those cards give those cards to their friends and family members and they go use those cards like they're on Medicaid.  There's really no way to check it.  So, we're going to require a fingerprint, and we're going to require a fingerprint by assuring that the provider actually sees that patient.  By fingerprinting when they come in to the doctor's office and when they leave, we know some time has been spent there.  We think this could save as much as $100 million," Senator Williams says.

The state legislature convenes next week and will consider state tax reform recommendations which are expected to reduce state income tax rates while imposing a sales tax on groceries, something Senator Williams supports.

"I like a consumption tax over an income tax.  We have a lot of people who travel through Georgia who pay no tax on food, illegals are not paying tax and people who are not paying any tax on the property or income side.  It's fair, it's flatter and I think people will be happier with it," Williams predicts.

He also expects the General Assembly to give tax breaks to companies which bring jobs to Georgia.  "A lot of the companies which warehouse look closely at whether a state has an inventory tax.  If they have an inventory that's going to be taxed at the end of the year and another state doesn't charge that, they're going to locate there.  We want to get rid of that tax because we think it will create jobs and bring some big box companies into Georgia," he said.

Senator Williams and State Representative Greg Morris of Vidalia were featured at the annual chamber of commerce pre-legislative forum in Vidalia Thursday.  Comments from Representative Morris will be featured in an upcoming story.

January 6--  Twelfth District Congressman John Barrow surprised some with his vote for Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.  Here's the story from the AJC.

Georgians throw surprise into House speaker vote

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

6:02 p.m. Wednesday, January 5, 2011


WASHINGTON -- As Republicans officially took control of the U.S. House on Wednesday, three Georgia Democrats provided the biggest surprises of the day.

As a clerk called the roll for each House member to announce his or her vote for the speaker of the House for the 112th Congress, most Republicans stood and ceremoniously voted for Rep. John Boehner and most Democrats stood to vote for Rep. Nancy Pelosi, as expected.

Then came the turn of Democratic Rep. John Barrow of Savannah. When his name was called, Barrow proclaimed he would vote for Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta, setting off a low murmur across the House floor.

A few minutes later, the clerk called the name of Democratic Rep. Sanford Bishop of Albany. Bishop answered simply "present" -- the only representative to do so.

One other representative, Democrat Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, cast a surprising second vote for Lewis -- officially making him the very distant fourth-place vote-getter in the election for House speaker.

Boehner got 241 votes, Pelosi got 173 and Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina, who had publicly challenged Pelosi, got 11 votes. Five other representatives got one vote each.

That Barrow and Bishop didn't support Pelosi in the largely symbolic vote wasn't a huge shock. Both of the relatively conservative Democrats shunned any connection to Pelosi, a liberal Democrat from San Francisco, during their recent hotly contested congressional races back in Georgia.

With a large contingent of Republicans in both of their districts, and the Republican-led state Legislature about to begin the redistricting process, both Barrow and Bishop realize that conservative voters could hold against them any support they gave to Pelosi, who became a symbol of Republican angst during the last elections. By nominating Lewis, Barrow also can avoid criticism from liberal Democrats.

Lewis said later that Barrow had called him late Tuesday and told him about his plans.

"I said, ‘I cannot tell you not to, but I will not encourage you to do it because it will be embarrassing because I'm not running for anything,' " Lewis said.

Giffords' vote, Lewis said, came as a complete surprise.

"She had never said a word to me about it," he said.

In a statement, Barrow suggested his vote for Lewis was about more than just politics.

"There is no person who can bring people together better than John Lewis," Barrow said. "That's what he's been doing his whole life."

A spokesman for Giffords, meanwhile, said she voted for Lewis because of his "courageousness."

"The congresswoman’s vote for Rep. John Lewis signaled her desire for courageous leadership and high moral standards at a critical time in our nation’s history," Giffords spokesman C.J. Karamargin said. "He is one of our nation’s most prominent civil rights leaders and a hero to all Americans."

Bishop said after the vote: "I had heard from my constituents -- both supporters and opponents -- in this last election that Nancy Pelosi was not the face of our party. I'm listening to the voice of my constituents."



January 6--  Last year the Montgomery County commissioners had to raise property taxes by one mil just to maintain the status quo in 2011.  That's because the county tax digest dropped by $7.3 million.

"We're hoping that we'll have no surprises in our budget in 2011 and that nothing will come up to cause us to borrow money at the end of the year," says Commission Chairman Brandon Braddy.

Braddy says the county ended the year with a surplus of about $180,000 and a capital improvement debt of $367,000 for a new courthouse roof.  The 2011 county budget of $3.3 million is the same as last year, and Braddy credits county department heads for helping to hold expenses down.

"All of our county departments have been really faithful about staying within their budgets and tightening their belts and I'm really thankful for that," he said.

The chairman hopes 2011 will be the year a decision is finally made regarding the building of a privately owned and operated jail in Mount Vernon for use by the county.  Until then, it's costing the county about $350,000 a year to house prisoners elsewhere.

"We want to give it every opportunity for it to happen, but at some point we've got to say is it going to happen or not. I think 2011 will be a pivotal year to make that determination," Braddy believes.

Because the county is strapped for money, Braddy hopes a new state law allowing voters in a region to pass a sales tax for transportation will help fund road resurfacing in Montgomery County.

"We don't really need a lot of new roads to pave, we need money to maintain the roads we already have.  If the voters approve, I hope we can take that money and resurface existing roads," he says.

If a regional planning group can agree on road priorities, voters will have a chance to vote on a sales tax for roads in November, 2012. 


January 5-- BERNARD WALKER, 44, of Augusta, Georgia pleaded guilty today before United States District Court Judge Dudley H. Bowen, Jr. to fraudulently obtaining checks worth tens of thousands of dollars from a federally-funded, not-for-profit organization located in Augusta, Georgia and then laundering that money through businesses located in Waynesboro, Georgia.  Evidence presented at today’s guilty plea hearing showed that WALKER committed these crimes over a span of two and a half years while he was a nutrition specialist for the Central Savannah River Area Economic Opportunity Authority and was responsible for providing meals for the low-income children who were enrolled in Head Start programs in approximately eleven counties in the Augusta, Georgia area.  In addition to pleading guilty today, WALKER also agreed to forfeit two automobiles, a BMW 528I and an Audi A6 Quattro that he purchased with the proceeds of his thefts.

            United States Attorney Edward J. Tarver said, “Disadvantaged children who participate in Head Start programs in the Augusta, Georgia area are the beneficiaries of millions of dollars in federal funding.  Taxpayers expect that their tax dollars will be used to buy meals for hungry children and not stolen to finance this defendant’s flamboyant lifestyle.  Today’s convictions demonstrate that the U.S. Attorney’s Office will use every available resource to not only put those who engage in such fraudulent behavior in Time-Out, but also take away their toys.” 

            The theft count to which WALKER pleaded guilty carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, while the money laundering count to which WALKER also pleaded guilty carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.  The date for WALKER’s sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.

            WALKER’s convictions arise out of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Offices of Inspector General for the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.  Assistant United States Attorney David M. Stewart is prosecuting the case.
January 5--  Here's a traffic alert for Vidalia drivers.  North Street (Highway 292) between J.D. Dickerson Primary School and Sea Island Cotton Gin Company will be closed for five days starting Monday, January 10.  McLendon Enterprises will be laying pipe across the road during that period.

January 4-- Meadows Regional Medical Center celebrates the first baby born at the hospital in the new year.

{mosimage}She's Ca'Niya Leighlianna Williams-Day, the first child for Crystal Williams and Christopher DeSean Day. Ca'Niya arrived at 9:07 a.m. on New Year's Day.  Ca'Niya Leighlianna Williams-Day, weighed 6 pounds, eight ounces and was 19 1/2 inches long.

Ca'Niya's maternal grandparents are Diane Williams and the late Rufus Williams. Her paternal grandparents are James & Serenity Day. Her great grandmothers are Betty Jo Smith and Carolyn Malaika Foster-Brooks.

Both Mother and baby are doing well.


January 4--  The Montgomery County school board has a new chairperson, a new interim school superintendent and is planning to cut jobs and adjust pay due to anticipated funding problems.

At its first meeting of the new year Monday night, the board elected Deloris James of Alston chairperson and Lendle Hamilton of Kibbee as vice chairman.

{mosimage}The board also appointed Reggie Roberts as interim school superintendent to succeed Dr. Lynn Batten.  Batten announced his resignation in December but said he would work on a part-time basis until June while the board conducted a job search.  However, he later changed his mind and made his resignation final as of December 31, 2010.

Roberts has been with the school system nine years and is currently the federal program coordinator and curriculum director.  He will continue those duties and receive an extra $1,000 a month as interim superintendent.

"It's difficult times we're in, especially to be a superintendent with the lack of educational funding, but with everyone's help, the staff and community members and through prayer and trust and faith in Lord Jesus, we'll meet these challenges and continue to move forward," Roberts said.

One of Roberts' first jobs is to make recommendations to the school board on personnel cuts, according to chairperson Deloris James.

"We do have a lot of challenges before us and we're excited about working with the new interim superintendent, Reggie Roberts.  We think he's very capable.  We understand that we are going to have to eliminate positions and there are going to be changes in our pay schedules, but we will have to wait at least a couple of weeks until Mr. Roberts and the principals have a chance to look at their rosters and begin to form opinions about where we can make cuts," James said.

Officials were told the school system ended November $184,000 in the hole, but rebounded in December with the payment of about $500,000 in property taxes. It ended the calendar year with between $100,000 and $200,000 in its general fund.  

The board has called a meeting for January 17th to discuss personnel cuts.

January 3--  A newly created bank holding company is investing more than $10 million and taking a controlling interest in Montgomery Bank and Trust.

Combined with over $4 million from local investors, Montgomery Bank President Trae Dorough says the merger with PFGBI, LLC of McDonough provides the bank with capital needed to better serve the community.

"This puts some energy back into what we can do for the bank and the community and hopefully the salvation of the jobs and the devastation it would have done to the community is behind us," Dorough said.

{mosimage}Trae Dorough with PFGBI investors Mike Gunter and Dan McSwain.

Native Vidalian Dan McSwain is among the leaders of the new holding company.

"I'm sold on this area.  I like the bank, the people here and the response of the people who were willing to put money in the bank.  It was because of that we were willing to make this investment here. 

This bank deals with the same problems that other banks do where real estate values shot way up and all.  I think we're going to see things pick back up again and I think it will be a great future for the bank," McSwain observed on a visit to Vidalia Monday.

The infusion of new money helps Montgomery Bank avoid the fate of Vidalia's Darby Bank which was closed and reopened under new ownership last year by the Federal Deposition Insurance Corporation.

Joe Brannen with the Georgia Bankers Association says this is a first for troubled Georgia banks.

"This is a very positive move by the investors to invest in Montgomery County Bank.  We were delighted to see it.  It's the first we understand of any bank like Montgomery Bank which has been troubled by the residential real estate market.  We think it's a sign of the times and we hope it's a new move by investors to invest in other community banks," he said.

The new board of directors of Montgomery Bank and Trust includes Chairman Pete Robinson, head of the lobbying arm of the Atlanta law firm Troutman Sanders and among the leaders of the transition team for Governoir Nathan Deal.  State Representative Greg Morris of Vidalia is vice-chairman.  Other members are:

Dorough, Trae                   Director (President/CEO)

Coleman, Larry                  Director

Moses, Lloyd                     Director

Peterson III, Tom             Director

Robison, John                    Director

Peterson, Thomas A.      Director

Fulmer, Mary Jeanne     Director

Peterson, William            Director

Price, Aubrey Lee            Director

Gunter, Mike                     Director

Champion, Beccy             Director

The news release from Montgomery Bank says:

Montgomery County Bankshares, Inc. and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Montgomery Bank & Trust, today announced the completion of a successful capital raise on December 31, 2010. Montgomery County Bankshares, Inc. raised approximately $14.1 million through the combination of a sale of common stock to PFGBI, LLC, a newly-created bank holding company comprised of individual investors, and a private placement to other investors in the local community. As a result of the transaction, PFGBI acquired a controlling interest in Montgomery County Bankshares, Inc. PFGBI also received a warrant to purchase additional shares of common stock as part of its investment. Substantially all of the proceeds of this transaction will be injected into the Bank and will significantly increase the Bank's capital. The transaction was completed after the receipt of shareholder and regulatory approval.

Trae Dorough, President and Chief Executive Officer of Montgomery Bank &. Trust stated that "we are very pleased by the successful capital raise, and we are happy for our customers, as well as the communities of Ailey and Vidalia, Georgia. We welcome our new investors into our banking family arid are very appreciative of the support demonstrated by the investors in our local community." Pete Robinson, Chairman of the Board of Directors, stated that "this transaction brings to a close a difficult year for the Company and Bank, I want to thank our long-time shareholders and customers for sticking with us, and we look forward to serving you in the future." Lee Price, general partner of PFGBI stated "We are excited about the opportunity this investment presents us. We are grateful to our investors and advisors for their commitment during what has been a. complex regulatory process. We look forward to working with the Bank to manage its non-performing assets and return to profitability as soon as possible."

Troutman Sanders LLP represented Montgomery Comity Bankshares, Inc. and Montgomery Bank & Trust in connection with the transaction. Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP served as counsel to PFGBI. 

About Montgomery County Biankshares, Inc.

Montgomery County Bankshares, Inc. is the bank holding company for Montgomery Bank & Trust, a Georgia state-chartered bank with approximately $230 million in assets as of December 31, 2010. Montgomery Bank & Trust operates through three branches located in Vidalia and Ailey, Georgia. 



Teddy Pendergrass, 59, R&B singer
Erich Segal, 72, author of best-selling novel Love Story
Jean Simmons, 80, actress
Pernell Roberts, 81, actor
J.D. Salinger, 91, legendary author
Kathryn Grayson, 88, actress
Corey Haim, 38, actor
Merlin Olsen, 69, football player turned actor
Peter Graves, 83, actor
Solomon Burke, age unknown, singer
Fess Parker, 85, an actor
Robert Culp , 79, actor
Corin Redgrave, 70, actor
Dixie Carter, 70, actress
Lynn Redgrave, 67, actress
Lena Horne, 92, jazz singer
Art Linkletter, 97, TV interviewer
Gary Coleman, 42, child TV star
Dennis Hopper, 74, actor
Ali-Ollie Woodson, 58, led the Motown quintet the Temptations
Rue McClanahan, 76, Emmy-winning actress
Jimmy Dean, 81, country music singer
Mitch Miller, 99, musician and record producer
Patricia Neal, 84, actress
Edwin Newman, 91, NBC News correspondent
Kevin McCarthy, 96, actor
Eddie Fisher, 82, pop singer
Gloria Stuart, 100, 1930s Hollywood actress
Tony Curtis, 85, actor
Barbara Billingsley, 94, actress
Tom Bosley, 83, actor
Bob Guccione, 79, publisher
Jill Clayburgh, 66, actress
Leslie Nielsen, 84, actor
Don Meredith, 72, sports star

James Moody , 85, jazz saxophonist
Blake Edwards, 88, director and writer
Steve Landesberg, 74, actor and comedian
Teena Marie, 54, R&B singer

January 1--  As we start a New Year, a story to warm your heart as the tireless volunteers with the Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society save another life and find a forever home for Barnaby.  He was removed from the Lyons Animal Shelter and moved to a rescue facility in Atlanta.  As you can see, he now has a forever home with his new friend, Zeus, in the rural community of Hoschton, Georgia not far from Athens.  Here's a personal account of how this came to be from his new Mom, Sharon Plunkett.

{mosimage}"Words can’t express what a heart feels when the life of one of God’s creatures can be saved and thanks to you all and others…Barnaby’s life continues!  Barnaby now lives in Hoschton, Georgia with his new bro’ Zeus!  

"Retiring in 2009 and raising Zeus (from 8 weeks old..who just turned 1 yr old on 12/27) to hopefully become a Therapy Dog with me;  I wanted Zeus to have a brother or sister to grow up with so I visited  Adopt A Golden Atlanta Adoption Day in the fall, met BJ Foster, Lou and other AGA volunteers and began the process with AGA to become approved to adopt an orphan dog.

"The past three months I went to AGA’s Adoption Days as well as visiting the website…nearly every day.  When Barnaby’s picture came up on the website…his eyes/face looking sad but full of love…really touched me and went straight to my heart!   Because he was Heartworm positive, he was with Andrea (his most awesome foster Mom) who was caring/loving him while he was being treated/recovering from HW.

"We really wanted to meet Barnaby to see if he’d be a match for Zeus…so by the Grace of God….my application rep (BJ Foster…who is also the very  best!) made some calls and then I received a call from Andrea…and she welcomed a visit to her home to meet Barnaby (humans only..not Zeus, yet).  That was on December 5th.  Bonding/connections with Barnaby…was instant for him as well as us (smile).

"The following week, Barnaby’s vet visit/exam brought great news…that the HW treatment/recovery time had been successful and so one month from the day he began his treatment…Barnaby and Zeus met….and on Saturday, December 11th…Barnaby was now in his new and forever home and Zeus finally had a new big bro’ (smile).

"In just two and ½  months:  From Metter, to Vidalia, to Macon, to Lawrenceville to Clarkston, to Hoschton….Barnaby’s journey ( as we know it) has truly been guided by God’s hands and his angels at work!   You all and others who touched Barnaby’s life in some way…to give him a chance at a new life…God Bless you all as he has Barnaby and us!"