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October 31--  A Toombs County man died Saturday in an auto accident.

According to the Toombs County Sheriff's Office, 76-year-old Wilton Cox of the Toombs Central Community was killed when his car ran off Highway 56 about a half mile west of Hardens Chapel.  The car hit a tree and overturned.  

Toombs County EMA was called to the scene to extricate him from the wreckage.  

October 31--  The Vidalia school board plans to hire a construction manager to oversee two construction projects for the school system.

Board members voted to pay an overseer from three to ten percent of the overall project cost for work at J.D. Dickerson Primary School and J.R. Trippe Middle School.

According to School Superintendent Dr. Tim Smith, "At J.D. Dickerson we're planning on a complete renovation of that building except for the pre-K building which is new and the library which is relatively new.  All the classrooms, bathrooms and office spaces and we will take what is the current kitchen and dining room and that will all become dining room and we will build a new kitchen.  At J.R. Trippe we've been needing a field house and we are going to put a conditioner in that gym to try and cool it down some."

The projects are being funded with sales tax collections from a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax which expires in 2014.  Dr. Smith says Vidalia schools and the Toombs County school system plan to seek a five-year extension to the sales tax for education.

"We're looking at the next SPLOST that we are going to try to get passed in March.  The vast majority of that for Vidalia will go into the instructional program itself.  We owe it to our students to prepare them to work in the 21st century.  If you're going to work at just about any job in the next 20 years, you're going to have to be prepared technologically and we need to make a move to prepare our students for just that," Dr. Smith says.

Dr. Smith believes wireless technology will mean the school system can save money on books in the future.

"We'd like to have all of our buildings wireless so we can go to Ebooks and Ipads instead of carrying around textbooks.  In the long run, that will really be a moneysaver for us," he says.

In other actions at its meeting, the school board approved $5,000 as its share of $28,390  startup costs for the new JROTC program at the Southeast Early College and Career Academy in Vidalia. 

Jumpstarting our Economy

By Rep. John Barrow

There’s pretty much universal agreement throughout the country that our government has too many regulations on the books.  It’s never been more difficult or time consuming to try and start a small business or expand an existing company.  According to the Federal Register, the 2009 Code of Federal Regulations contains 163,333 pages in 226 books.  Imagine trying to start a business and having to navigate through all those regulations.  It’s absurd, wasteful, and an enormous obstacle to our economy.

According to OMB, the amount of time businesses and people spend doing paperwork for the government has increased 30% in the last ten years.  And according to the New York Times, that paperwork burden now amounts to more than one day a year for every single American.  That’s an awful lot of time being spent on government paperwork – whether it is doing your taxes, submitting reports, or applying for grants or permits.

Many regulations are necessary.  They protect us against snake-oil salesman, keep our food supply safe, and prevent toxic chemicals from being released in our rivers and streams.  But there are still many more that are ridiculous and overly burdensome.  How many are implemented without fully considering the impact on our economy or on the folks whose livelihoods are affected?  How many are implemented by government bureaucrats justifying (and possibly abusing) their regulatory authority?

Far too many.  We are living in tough times, and our economy needs a boost to get people back to work.  Job creation needs to be Congress’s number priority.  Right now, the so-called Super Committee is considering ways to cut trillions of dollars from the Federal Budget.  There is pressure from all sides to cut spending, raise taxes, or some combination of both.  They have a tough job.  One place I think they ought to look for some savings is among those 163,333 pages of Federal Regulations.  We can really make a difference if we get rid of some of these useless and onerous regulations.

As the Blue Dog Co-Chair for Policy, I've appointed a Task Force on Oversight and Regulatory Review to highlight some of these useless and burdensome regulations.  I plan on putting together a list and eliminating them one by one.  I ask everyone to help me – the Super Committee, the President, Cabinet Secretaries – even Congress. 

I can’t do this alone, though.  The problem is too big for any one Congressman to understand, much less fix, on his own.  I need the help of small business owners and local officials who have been affected by these regulations.  Send an email to my office at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and let me know about regulations that are slowing your business development or holding us back from creating jobs.

You help me find the useless, burdensome regulations, and I’ll help you get rid of them.  Maybe then folks will have a little more time to work on what’s really important – improving our economy and creating jobs.

John Barrow represents Georgia’s 12th District in Congress.

 

October 29--  Here's a preview of Georgia's state budget challenges from State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville.

FY 2013 BUDGET CHALLENGES

Last week we outlined the growth trend that state revenues has been in the last 17 months or so but pointed out that pressing state needs would lay claim on any new funds generated this coming year plus an unknown amount.  We started the list of challenges with the $400 million hole in Medicaid and State Health Insurance funding.

This week, we will complete the list.

 

  1. Department of Community Health - Medicaid Shortfall -- $345 million and State Health Benefit Plan Shortfall -- $55 million (noted in previous column)
  2. Retirement Systems--$170 million
  3. Behavioral Health-DOJ Agreement -- $66 million
  4. Tax Cuts - Property Tax ¼ mill and Senior Citizen Income Tax Exclusion -- $60 million
  5. K-12 and Higher Education Growth -- $217 million

 

RETIREMENT SYSTEMS

With all the discussion of pension systems, it is important to state from the beginning that Georgia is in good shape with its pension systems.  The Teachers Retirement System (TRS), Employees' Retirement System (ERS) and Public School Employees' Retirement System are funded above 80% - a level that indicates soundness.  Many states are well below this.  But these systems are facing pressures that will require the addition of $170 million between the three.  First, like many of our individual stock portfolios, the pension system was hurt during the stock market downturn of the past few years.  Second, as the state laid off employees who were retirement age and others retired to avoid the budget reductions occurring, the system increased the number of recipients. Third, like the State Health Benefit Plan, there are fewer current employees (with lower salaries) to contribute to the systems.  All of these pressures require the state to add funding in order to meet the important Annual Required Contribution.  Georgia has always met the ARC and I foresee that we will meet it this time as well.

 

BEHAVIORAL HEALTH - DOJ  AGREEMENT

The settlement agreement between the State and the US Department of Justice requires Georgia to expand services in the area of mental health and developmental disabilities.  These include staffing for mental hospitals, mobile crisis teams, supported housing, respite care among other things.  As a result of this agreement, Georgia has obligated itself to additional funding of $66 million in FY13. 

 

 

TAX CUTS FOR SENIORS

The ad valorem tax and senior income tax exemption passed in HB1055 will also reduce revenues by $60 million as the state approaches the final $223 million revenue reduction expected by 2016.  That will completely eliminate the ¼ mill property tax the state receives as well as all state income taxes on senior citizens 65 and above.   In tax year 2012, each spouse will be granted a $65,000 exclusion to state income tax.  This next step in the elimination of the income tax got caught up in the tax reform debate in the 2011 session and could become part of any new proposal as well.

 

K-12 AND HIGHER EDUCATION

FY13 General Need: $217 million

 

K-12 enrollment growth has not been reported yet, but we are assuming approximately $90 million in K-12 funding will be needed for FY12 and FY13. 

 

In FY12, the state did not fund enrollment growth in Regents or Technical Schools.  For FY13, Regents is requesting $104 million to cover a projected 3.1% increase in semester hours and other operational costs.  An additional $7 million is being requested to fund the physician and nursing graduate expansion.  Technical Schools, one of the fastest growing technical school systems in the country has submitted requests for $17 million to cover enrollment growth and other operational needs in FY13.

 

NEXT WEEK:    A Quick Review of Other Issues and Unknowns

 

October 28--  CCA, America's leader in partnership corrections, is proud to announce a new long-term contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP) for the expansion and continued management of the McRae Correctional Center.

The agreement follows a competitive bidding process, resulting in the 1,524 capacity at McRae increasing to house up to 2,275 male inmates. The expansion will generate short-term construction jobs and continued workforce stability for the facility's professional correctional staff.

"CCA is proud to be able to continue serving the FBOP with a cost effective solution at McRae and maintain the careers and livelihoods of our correctional team," said Tony Grande, CCA Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer. "We've been a part of the community for more than ten years and we want to thank the McRae and greater Telfair County community for their strong support throughout this process, which was a valuable component to our successful bid."

The new FBOP four-year management agreement contains three, two-year renewal options, enabling CCA to provide services at McRae through the year 2022.

"CCA McRae has an outstanding track record of operating a secure facility for both the inmates entrusted to our care and for the citizens of McRae," said Ron Thompson, CCA Vice President of Operations. "This renewal is a testament to the dedication and hard work of our team at McRae, who I know look forward to sustaining our track record of outstanding performance and safety at the facility."

As correctional systems across the nation face a number of convergent challenges including rising costs, high recidivism rates and overcrowding, CCA remains a dedicated and dependable partner with governments at all levels, working hard to find practical solutions.

About CCA McRae
Located in McRae, Georgia, CCA McRae Correctional Facility houses an all male minimum-security inmate population for the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP). CCA McRae, which has been company owned and managed since 2000, is independently accredited by the American Correctional Association (ACA) – the national gold standard for professional correctional management.

About CCA
CCA is the nation’s largest provider of partnership corrections to federal, state and local government, operating more than 60 facilities, including more than 40 company-owned facilities, with approximately 90,000 beds, in 20 states and the District of Columbia. In addition to providing the residential services for inmates, CCA facilities offer rehabilitation and educational programs, including education, vocation, religious services, life skills and employment training and substance abuse treatment. For more information, visit
www.correctionscorp.com and www.ccacommunities.com.

October 28--  Georgia's new immigration law is causing more paperwork for local governments and companies.

Starting in January, cities and counties which hire new employees will have to check and document the immigration status of all new employees.  The same holds true for companies which do public works projects for state and local governments.

{mosimage} City and county administrators learned details of the new law at a seminar at East Georgia College in Swainsboro.  Todd Edwards from the Association County Commissioners of Georgia moderated the two-hour session.

"Like many laws which are passed by the General Assembly, this one falls on city and county governments to enforce and we want to make sure they are ready to comply with the law come January 1," he said.

The city clerk in Lyons, Lynn Rowland, attended the session and said, "I have gotten some issues out of it that I didn't even know existed.  The city of Lyons has been following it (E-Verify) except for the new law which is coming into effect and it's a lot of paperwork for just one new employee," she observed.

Edwards adds, "The will of the General Assembly was to get tougher on illegal immigration.  If it is their will to increase local taxpayer dollars to create a larger administrative process at the local level, then so be it.   We're just trying to educate our officials so they can do it in the most efficient manner at the local level." 

October 27--  It will be a special Christmas this year for two Toombs County sisters.  Twelve-year-old Jocelyn Walker and 14-year-old Breanna Walker will welcome their Dad home from Afghanistan where he's working as a government contractor.

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At the courthouse in Lyons are (L-R) Courtney Joiner, Breanna and Jocelyn Walker, Judge Palmer and Shannon Walker.

Up until last week, Anthony Walker was the girls' step-father.  Then his attorney Courtney Joiner had the idea of a long distance adoption via the Internet and Superior Court Judge Kathy Palmer agreed.

"On the day of the hearing we all met in a private room here in the courthouse and we had the Skype set up.  The petitioner, the stepdad, was online and I could look at him and I gave him his oath looking at the computer monitor and he was all smiles ear-to-ear. We went through all parts of the hearing and everybody was crying and smiling and after all the testimony was received, I granted the adoption," Judge Palmer recounted.

{mosimage}Walker served as a soldier in Iran with the Army's 82nd Airborne Division before working in Afghanistan for a civilian contractor.  Via the internet, he said
"It's very excited and I'm very happy.  It's a first all the way around and I really enjoyed it.  I'll be home Christmas eve," he said.

The girls' mother, Shannon, says it's great to be "officially" a family.  "It's extraordinary.  I'm so grateful we were able to accomplish this without him having to come home," she said.

As for the girls, Breanna says, "It feels good, I'm so excited," and her younger sister says it means "now he can really be called Dad."

Judge Palmer says this is the first-ever use of the Internet for an adoption in the Middle Judicial Circuit and after this experience, she thinks there will be other opportunities to use the technology to save the court and its clients time and money.

October 26--  Thankfully there are people in our community who go "above and beyond" in their love and care of animals.  Such a couple are Therisa and Dennis Ingley who founded the Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society and work everyday to protect homeless animals.  Not only do they provide a foster home to dogs and cats, they visit dumpster sites to feed animals who scavage the sites for food.  Some of the animals they feed at the dumpsters finally trust Therisa and Dennis enough to allow themselves to be picked up, fostered and perhaps placed in a forever home.  However, some are not so lucky, as Therisa reports below.

"A dog died today.  Not just any dog--a little, white American bulldog that had stolen

Dennis and my heart.  She was tossed out at the dumpster with another puppy when

they were barely old enough to be weaned.  Both emaciated and mangy.  The other

pup lasted only a couple of weeks before the road claimed him.  But Casper was

different.  She was street smart; wise beyond her age.  The only problem--she was

very wary of humans.  Over theh past 3 months, she would bound out of the woods,

tail wagging, body wiggling with joy when she heard the truck.  She would come

close enough to take treats from my hand.  But the minute you reached for her, she

cowered away.  Too much pain from humans to trust.  She wanted to though.  Many

evenings she would follow our truck out of the dumpster lot and sit at the edge of the

road watching us until we were out of sight. We kept hoping that before winter really

got here we would be able to catch her.  She was covered in sores and nearly hairless,

but she was well fed and I believe she knew she was loved.  A kind soul called to let

us know we would find her dead when we went to do our evening feedings of the stray

cats and dogs.  It is so hard to loose something you never really got a chance to love.

Some day, I'm just going to quit going to those damn dumpsters.  Too much heartache,

too much pain.  But not today.  There's a little beagle with a hurt leg and a mama pit

waiting for their food.  And who knows, maybe tomorrow they will let us catch them.

Good night sweet Casper.  Sleep well in doggy heaven."

 

 

 

 

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October 25--  The use of illegal and prescription drugs is a scourge on the community and continues to destroy lives and families.  However, a bright spot in the ongoing resistance to drug use is the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program conducted by the Vidalia Police Department with students at the Sally D. Meadows Elementary School.

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Tuesday morning students at the school hit the streets in the annual Red Ribbon Week parade.  Jack Dennis, a senior right tackle on the  Vidalia High School football team is a DARE role model.  He says the DARE program helped him when he was a student at Sally Meadows.

"I just try to steer them away from all the negativity that drugs can bring to their lives.  If we can save just one child, it's worth it," he says.

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The principal at Sally Meadows, Ginger Morris, agrees.  "The DARE program is so important to us.  It's one of the first opportunities our students have to understand that drugs aren't good for you and that you can have a choice.  We're able to afford that opportunity for children to have a choice and we want our children to understand we support their efforts to make the right choices," Morris said.

 

October 25-- Mount Vernon Police Chief Calvin Burns attended the Chief Executive Training Class for newly appointed chiefs of police and heads of law enforcement agencies at the Dr. Curtis McClung Training Center in Duluth, GA., from October 3rd through October 12th, 2011.

{mosimage} The 60-hour course, administered and provided by the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police (GACP), is required by state law for all newly appointed heads of law enforcement agencies.  Chief Burns, who was appointed to his position on January 1, 2011, will also be required to attend 20 hours of management/executive level training each year.

 The curriculum is designed to give newly appointed law enforcement administrators training on police management, as well as inform them of laws and policies affecting their departments.  Topics covered in the course include: Managerial Liability and EEOC, Police Manpower Allocation, Budget Administration, Political & Practical Realities, Office & Role of the Police Chief, Evolution of Ethics, Media Relations, Departmental Organization, Employee Selection Process, Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training, Promotional Systems, Pursuit Policy Workshop, Developing Policies, Leadership/Management Role of the Chief, Employee Performance & Employee Discipline, Legislative Process along with other timely topics.

 "It is our mission to offer exceptional training that provides professional executive and leadership development which will prepare the newly appointed agency head for the difficult, but rewarding position they have accepted," said GACP President Stan York of the Sandersville Police Department. 

Chief Burns was among 50 law enforcement administrators attending the course.  The GACP provides the executive training for newly appointed heads of law enforcement agencies twice a year, along with several other training programs throughout the state.  It is the largest professional association for law enforcement administrators in Georgia, and one of the largest in the country.  The membership of over 1,700 includes executives representing municipal and county law enforcement agencies, college and university police departments, corporate and private security firms and numerous state and federal agencies.

 

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October 25--  The Episcopal Church of the Annuncation in Vidalia held its annual "Blessing of the Animals" service Sunday afternoon in cooperation with the Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society.  Father Jim Clendinen is shown here blessing a Dachshund who was among many pets brought to the church by their owners.

October 24--  A man fell to his death Monday while working on a warehouse roof between Lyons and Vidalia.

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports 37-year-old Ricardo Lunas Livas suffered fatal head injuries when he fell about 20 feet and hit the concrete floor just inside the door of the tobacco warehouse located at 146 H.D. Wright Road.

A witness said Livas and three others were on the roof of the building and removed a sheet of metal to make repairs.  Witness Ronnie Jones said he saw Livas step into the hole where the metal had been located.

 

October 24-- Paul Bennett, Chairman and President of Alma Exchange Bank (left) welcomes Al Ross as the new head of the Peoples Bank of Lyons and Vidalia.  Ross's first day at the bank was Monday. (Photo courtesy Kathy Bradford)

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Earlier Bennett announced the appointment to bank employees and said "I am pleased to announce that AI Ross has been elected Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer as well as Director for Peoples Bank. Al has a strong work ethic and is a very well respected banker. I think each of you will like him and appreciate the knowledge that he has gained and brings to our bank. He comes to us from Colony Bankcorp in Fitzgerald, Ga. where he served as CEO. Please join me in welcoming Al as well as his wife, Sonya and children Abby who is a student at Valdosta State University and Austin is an 11th grade student at Coffee High."