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March 31--  Four students from area high schools competed this week for two $1,000 college scholarships being offered by the Vidalia Rotary Club.

(L-R) are Rotarian Sandra Kate Hendrix, Toombs County High School seniors Jacob White Day and Marktavious Dasher and Vidalia High School seniors Kourtnee Williams and Amanda Wonn, and Rotarian Mac Jordan.

The four students are finalists in an essay contest which attracted a field of nineteen entries.  Winners will be announced later by the Rotary Club.


March 31--  The Vidalia Police Department and the City of Vidalia thanked and bade farewell Thursday to Corporal Howard McDaniel as he wraps up a 20-year career with the VPD.  On the left are Chief Frank Waits with City Manager Bill Torrance on the left. (Photo by John Koon)

March 31--  The President Pro Tempore of the Georgia Senate says it may take a few years before the legislature can pass a tax on groceries in Georgia.

The measure is dead for this year in spite of the fact lawmakers are looking at any number of options to make up for a state budget deficit.

However, Senator Tommie Williams of Lyons says it may come up again after the next gubernatorial election.

"The Governor made a campaign promise not to do that, so he's not willing to support that at this point in time even if it meant a reduction in the income tax.  I think he's fine with it as we move forward into his second term," Senator Williams predicted.

March 31--  There is good job news in the area.  Officials in Swainsboro announce the Nordson Corporation is building a new plant in the Swainsboro Industrial Park and will more than double its present workforce of 85 employees. 

Swainsboro Mayor Charles Schwabe estimates as many as 120 employees will ultimately be added to the company's payroll in what he described as "above scale" salaries.

"It's  a good boost in the arm right when things have been in the doldrums, but beyond that, it's just that many new jobs for our local folks," the Mayor said.

Nordson has been operating in Swainsboro for nearly a decade.  Mayor Schwabe is glad they decided to expand and stay in Swainsboro.

"It's a great company and I'm very proud of the fact we were up against other parts of the country as well as Chine and we were able to keep them right here at home," he said.

Nordson plans to build a 135,000 square feet building by the end of the year. "They make all kinds of different instruments and tools and hardware that are used for adhesives in just about every field," Mayor Schwabe said.

March 31--  The Salvation Army store in Vidalia has an urgent need for donated items which it can sell to raise money for the needy.

With unemployment running at ten percent and prices going up, Kelly Tippet says you can help them.

"The demand is overwhelming.  Every organization I'm aware of is out of funds for the light bill assistance program.  Local churches are helping, but we have a very big situation here in Toombs County.  The unemployment rate is high and those who were having a hard time before the economy took a downturn are suffering even more.  We've had inflation in food prices, gas prices are higher, it's just really hit us hard," she says.

The Salvation Army is appealing for you to do some Spring cleaning and donate the things you find in your closet, attic and garage.  They have a real need right now for Spring and Summer clothing.

"The donated items are sorted in our warehouse and transferred to the store where they are sold for discounted prices.  Right now we have a sale on children's clothes for 99 cents.  Each of those sales contribute to the funds we use to assist the needy in the community," Tippet reports.

According to Tippet, some people donate estate items to the Salvation Army including antiques and jewelry, "and that's where you can get some really great buys." 

All donations are tax deductible.

Vidalia® Onions are coming April 18

March 30--  Pull out your favorite recipes and your list of ways to eat them.  They’re coming!  The official “Shipping Date” for the 2011 Vidalia® Onion Marketing Season is April 18, says Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary W. Black.

The shipping date is based on the recommendation of the Vidalia® Onion Advisory Panel under the authority of the law, rules and regulations applicable to Vidalia® onions.

Vidalia® onions may ONLY be shipped prior to April 18 if each and every load being shipped has a Federal-State Inspection Certificate stating the onions have met the established grade requirements and are under “Positive Lot Identification” as approved by the Federal-State Inspection Service.

“The Federal-State Inspection assures the quality of the onions and that they have matured to meet the marketing standards,” Commissioner Black said. “Onions that are harvested and shipped too early and do not meet the grade requirements can damage the reputation of this important crop.”

In 2010, Georgia farmers harvested 227 million pounds of Vidalia® onions from 12,095 acres.

Vidalia® onions are unique to Georgia.  They may only be grown in parts of a 20-county area in the southeastern part of the state.  The onions are prized for their sweetness and lack of heat and are used raw or cooked.



March 29--  The Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce hosted the ribbon cutting for the new home of Two Guys Beverage and Tobacco Warehouse Tuesday morning across from Walmart on Highway 280 East in Vidalia.  The two guys in Two Guys are Jason Palmer (with the scissors) and Michael Kay (behind the bow).

March 28--  State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville provides an update on the General Assembly's efforts to revamp the state's tax structure.




Last week, the Special Joint Committee on Revenue Structure met to discuss possible changes to Georgia's tax laws in response to the report published earlier this year by the Special Council on Tax Reform. Currently, there are four House Bills, HB 385-388, that contain the recommendations of the council, and these have caused some confusion and consternation as of late. The fact of the matter is that these bills and the recommendations in them were required to be introduced by the resolution establishing the council, and may not necessarily reflect the preferences and priorities of the legislature.


Two of the goals discussed at Thursday's meeting were broadening the sales tax base and reducing the income tax burden. In response to feedback from taxpayers, the committee expressed a desire to avoid taxing groceries, prescription medicines, veterinary care, hair care, AAA and other memberships, and Girl Scout cookies. The main feature of the proposal, though, is a reduction in the state personal income tax from the current 6 percent to 4.5 percent or lower. The Senior Income Tax exemption of $35,000 ($70,000 for married couples) will remain intact; as will deductions for college savings plan contributions and social security. However, increases voted in last year might not be included.


The proposal offered by the committee also seeks to boost Georgia's manufacturing sector by eliminating the sales tax on energy used in the manufacturing process. Currently, there are only 14 U.S. states that tax this use of energy, and only one other in the Southeast (North Carolina).


In keeping with the revenue neutral goal of the tax proposal, the committee is contemplating a number of consumption based taxes to make up for revenue lost by reducing the income tax. Among these are taxes on casual (person to person, except for immediate family) sales of automobiles, boats, and planes, sales tax on auto repair service, and standardization of communications services taxes across all mediums (cable, satellite, and telephone-including cell phone service).


The proposal also removes a telecom tax on capital investment- a measure designed to encourage the construction of communications infrastructure and encourage the promulgation of wireless and broadband services to rural areas.


Even with these changes, the legislation is still a work in progress, and will likely continue to evolve over the next few weeks with input from voters and legislators.




·          HB 47: Allows insurers to offer individual accident and sickness insurance policies in Georgia that have been approved for issuance in other states.

·          HB 91: Requires indication of any felony conviction on drivers' licenses.


·          HB 110: Allows local governments to require registration of vacant real property.


·          HB 147: Requires a physician to disclose upon request whether he or she carries medical malpractice insurance.


·          HB 277: Allows hunting deer over bait.


·          HB 292: Delays an automatic increase in the employer contribution rate for the Unemployment Compensation Fund. The rate currently stands at 2.62 percent, and would otherwise increase to 2.7 percent on January 1, 2012.HB 292 also extends the suspension of the Reserve Ratio Surcharge for an extra year, or through December, 2012


·          HB 314: Counts a foster child as present at school while he or she is attending foster care related court proceedings.




·          HB 223: Exempts poultry farm buildings from state minimum building code standards.


If you would like additional information regarding a specific piece of legislation, you may access the Georgia General Assembly website at
{mosimage}March 28--  The pup population of the Lyons Animal Shelter is growing and your help is needed to adopt and save lives.  Call Holly at 912-539-9840 for information on adopting.


March 25--  Many students at Montgomery County High School left the lunchroom at noon Friday and demonstrated against county school board decisions not to rehire principal Luke Smith and and three others.

{mosimage}Sophomore Christy Poole said, "He's really a great principal and everybody else got fired for no reason.  They're all great people, they support us and we don't think they should get fired for no reason."

{mosimage}Student Keyontan Washington told new school superintendent Randy Rodgers she is praying the school board will change its mind, "i pray that the Lord really works miracles on the board because those people really need those jobs."

The board firings prompted the resignation of interim school superintendent Dr. Charles Warnock.  A day later the school board named Montgomery Elementary School Principal Randy Rodgers to the job.  Rodgers was given a contract through June 30, 2012 and will also continue as elementary school principal through the end of this school term with the help of assistant principal Eric McDonald.

Before taking the oath of office Friday, he met with the demonstrating students.

"Rome was not built in a day.  Therefore, we've got to consider what your asking and will consider it with respect.  Certainly we'll try to do what we can to listen to your requests and act on them in the best manner that we can," Rodgers told the students.  After hearing from Rodgers, the students returned to the high school which is adorned inside with student protest signs.

Dr. Warnock told a reporter when he resigned that he refused to be a puppet for school board members whom he claims have a personal and political agenda.

Rodgers knows he faces a challenge in that regard, "The reality is now we have to find a way to move forward.  I don't think its reasonable to expect that everything a superintendent might say would be approved by the board, but at the same time, I have confidence I'm in a position that I can develop the relationship with this board so we can operate without the conflict we've experienced in the past few months." 

The school board had begun a search for a new superintendent before Dr. Warnock's unexpected resignation.  Board member Jackson Posey refused to vote for Rodgers because he said he did not want to be a part of the speeded up process which he said gave the appearance the board wanted a "puppet."

Rodgers said he interpreted the board's decison as a desire to restore continuity and stability to the school system.  He has been the elementary school principal for 12 years.

March 25--  Gov. Nathan Deal today responded to the wildfires in southeast Georgia by declaring a state of emergency for Long, Bacon, Clinch and Coffee counties. The executive order activates the Georgia Emergency Operations Plan and mobilizes all state resources needed to contain and extinguish the fires in these counties. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency has authorized federal funds to reimburse costs to Georgia to fight the Mosley Road Fire in Coffee County and the Elan Church Road Fire in Long County.

“The state and local governments are taking proactive steps to contain and extinguish the fires,” said Deal. “The Georgia Forestry Commission and GEMA are working together and establishing command centers in the affected counties. We’re hopeful for cooperative weather this weekend to aid in extinguishing the blazes, but we’re going to do everything possible to protect lives and property.”

The link to today’s FEMA release is here.

March 24--  In the aftermath of the earthquake in Japan which wrecked some of the country's nuclear power plants, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says  it is "confident, but not complacent" when it comes to the safety of nuclear plants like Plant Hatch south of Vidalia.


Joey Ledford with the NRC regional office in Atlanta says,"The amount of emergency, systems and facilities planning that go into these plants is unsurpassed.  We remain confident in safety.  That does not mean we are complacent.  We will continue to look at upgrading safety and security and once the events in Japan are totally concluded, we will draw lessons learned from those events and those things will be incorporated into our plants around the country."

The NRC has two on-site inspectors at Plant Hatch who are the public's eyes and ears, "and they're there everyday to insure the plant is operated in a way that protects the public safety and the environment," Ledford reports.

"Our industry is run on a concept that is known as defense in depth. That basically means that every system has a backup and every backup has a backup," Ledford says.

"A great amount of planning goes into insuring that all of these systems remain functional.   We get worked up when we find out there's a problem with one of four emergency diesel generators at a plant.  You wouldn't believe the amount of regulatory activity goes into just making sure a diesel generator is ready in the event of loss of offsite power like what happened in Japan.  Basically, not detail is left unaddressed and if you live nearby, you can take some confidence in that," he says. 



March 24--  The latest Toombs-Treutlen Relay for Life Scavenger Hunt Star was found Wednesday at the former Movie Gallery building in Lyons.  Mindie and David Query of Vidalia found it and receive, courtesy of Vidalia Ford, two auto washes and vacuums, a hat and shirt, and five entries for a chance to throw a football through a truck window and win a vehicle during the April 1st Relay for Life at Buck Cravey Field.

Raffle tickets for a chance to throw are a dollar each at Vidalia Communications on Highway 280 West in Vidalia, Sign and Stamp Solutions in downtown Vidalia, Phillips Pharmacy and Serenity Hospice in the Harvey's Shopping Center, and People's Bank locations in Lyons and Vidalia.

Another set of prizes will be awarded next week with Scavenger Hunt clues broadcast starting Monday morning at 7:45 on Your Favorite, 98Q; NewsTalk970, WVOP; and Sweet Onion Country 1017FM.

March 23--  The Montgomery County school system has lost it's fourth school superintendent in as many months.

Dr. Charles Warnock became interim superintendent in February and announced his resignation Wednesday.  He issued the following statement.

{mosimage}"After a review of recent Board meetings, it is clear that the Montgomery County Board of Education does not wish to follow my leadership as Interim Superintendent. The aims and desires of the Board do not align with my vision for the Montgomery County Schools.   Some Board members seems to be personally and politically motivated, whereas the agenda should be based on best practices, fairness to all employees, and fiscal responsibility.

Our contractual agreement allows for termination by choice of either party upon given notice. Today I have given notice to the Board that I no longer wish to be employed by them. By mutual agreement, the termination was accepted effective today.

It is not my wish to have a hand in any further wrong-doings to the employees and students of this school system. My actions and recommendations have been dictated by my professional experience and Christian values. It appears that the Board does not share my beliefs, and a severance of our relationship is appropriate at this time.

Unfortunately, my hopes of assisting the Board in resolving some of the issues facing the school system have not come to fruition. It is my desire that the current problems are appropriately resolved and order restored for the good of the employees, the staff and, most importantly, the students."

School Board Chairwoman Deloris James reacted by saying, "We do appreciate all of the work Dr. Warnock did for us in this county.  He believes he has done everything he can do to help us.  Now we're right back looking for a superintendent."

Mrs. James says Dr. Warnock's references to wrong-doings affecting employees and students cause her concern.  "I can't explain what he meant there.  I can't explain what his rationale was there.  The letter did cause me concern by the way the letter was stated," she said.

Most recently the school board refused to follow Dr. Warnock's recommendations concerning furlough days and staff assignments.

Former school superintendent Dr. Lynn Batten resigned in December following November's school board election.  Central office staff member Reggie Roberts was named acting superintendent until Dr. Larry Daniel was hired in January and resigned the next day due to threats against him and his family.

The school board has called a meeting for one p.m. Thursday at the school board annex in Mount Vernon.




March 22--  Georgia Governor Nathan Deal comments on the anniversary of ObamaCare.

By Gov. Nathan Deal

Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of the president signing Obamacare into law. The majority of the major provisions aren’t set to go into effect until 2014, but the harmful effects are already starting to surface. If something is not done soon to stop Obamacare from full implementation, its negative impact will be even more destructive across the board.

No one is above the law, and we must follow federal law even when we disagree. As a constitutionalist and a conservative, I believe firmly in the rule of law. As such, Georgia will prepare for implementation of this federal law even as we continue to fight against Obamacare all the way to the Supreme Court. Currently, our case is before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals after our great victory in a federal district court in Florida.

My battle with Obamacare didn’t start when I was elected as governor of Georgia. I wear with pride my bruises and scars from the fight against its passage in the U.S. House. In 2009, I was the ranking Republican on the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, and I was the first congressman to say on the floor that the individual mandate was unconstitutional.

With Georgia now facing mandates with crippling price tags for its taxpayers, I’m seeing firsthand the job-destroying effects of the federal government’s overreach. No one would confuse me for an advocate of the law.

It should come as no surprise that I fully support congressional Republicans’ efforts to repeal Obamacare. But with that effort stalled in the Democratic Senate, some of my House GOP friends have discussed simply cutting off the money for its implementation. While I share their concerns about the disastrous effect Obamacare will have on our economy and personal freedoms, Washington cannot simply defund it without rescinding its hurtful mandates. Otherwise, these mandates will be passed on to the states to become the most burdensome, suffocating taxes on the American public in the history of this country. Unlike the federal government, states are unable to print greenbacks or borrow money from the Chinese government to cover deficits. Most states, including ours, require balanced budgets.

The costs associated with implementation are enormous and difficult to gauge. The only way we can calculate the cost is to examine the requirements of the law and then look at how the federal and state governments are expected to divide the costs.

If federal taxes were raised to cover the true costs of new healthcare spending — one estimate has it at more than $82 billion — Georgians’ federal tax obligations would rise $2 billion a year. That’s $200 for every man, woman and child in the state (meaning the bill is actually much higher for the people who actually pay income taxes).

Georgians would see their state tax burdens rise significantly as well. Georgia taxpayers would have to fork over, at a minimum, an additional $465 million per year to pay for a dramatic expansion of our state Medicaid program that is required by the new law. For Georgia families, this translates to an annual increase of approximately $1,000 per household. With so many families struggling to make ends meet, these extra costs would be nothing short of debilitating.

To cover some of the costs of Medicaid expansion and the mandated insurance exchange, Obamacare reduces the rate of reimbursement to doctors and other providers significantly. This reduction in reimbursement may affect the number of doctors who accept Medicaid patients, seriously impacting patient access at a time when demand will skyrocket. In fact, the estimated 1.2 million Georgians who will become covered through Medicaid and insurance exchanges have been projected to generate an additional 1.2 to 2 million physicians visits per year. This translates into a shortfall of 300-400 providers in Georgia.

Not only will costs rise for individuals, families and physicians, but the State Health Benefit Plan will also take a hit. Because the health care law requires employers to cover dependents up to age 26, the state and its employees will share a 12 percent cost increase. Other mandates, such as having to re-insure retirees until they reach Medicare age, will put tens of millions of dollars of new costs on the state as an employer.

With one year of Obamacare under our belts, we can already see mandates crunching our state budget – and the bottom lines of our state’s job creators in the private sector. The worst is yet to come. An anniversary is always a good time to renew our vows, even if we’re vowing to keep up the fight.

March 22--  The Pastor of the Vidalia Church of God died Monday from cancer complications.  His fellow pastor, Steven Toole from the Revelation Church of God in Cedar Crossing, offers the following.

{mosimage} "Pastor Joe Q. Smith has served as Pastor to the Vidalia congregation for over 8 years. He has served on numerous Elected and Appointed Boards for the South Georgia Church Of God(Cleveland TN.). He is currently a member of the South Georgia COG State Council as well as District Overseer.

I have been blessed to Pastor and minister in this area for over 22 years
and serve with Pastor Smith on the current State Council as well as serving
as his neighboring District Overseer. Pastor Smith was a genuine servant.

This community has been blessed greatly by Pastor Smith and his wife Mae."

Funeral arrangements will be announced by Ronald V. Hall Funeral Home in Vidalia.

March 22--  The Montgomery County school board is apparently planning on eliminating one of its school principal's positions to save money.

At a called meeting Monday night, the board refused to rehire both Montgomery County High School principal Luke Smith and Montgomery County Middle School principal Dr. Marvin Howard for next school term.

School board member Jackson Posey says, "There are less students in those two schools than there are in the elementary school, yet we have two principals and two assistant principals.  I've always felt that could be trimmed and the economy has sort of speeded that process up.  That's where I'm going with this, but I can't speak for the rest of the board."

School board chairwoman Deloris James indicated Monday night that one of the two principals might be offered another job.

Meanwhile, the board voted not to rehire Learning Support Specialists Reggie Roberts and Erica Clarke in the system's central office.  Posey made a motion they be hired for next school term and said he was suprised when the board voted 3-2 against the motions.  "There's probably not any harder working people in the system than Reggie Roberts and Erica Clark.  Both of them wear multiple hats and if anyone in the system is close to being overloaded, it's both of them.  I was really taken aback by that," he said.

A crowd attending the meeting lined the exit hallway and protested some of the cuts to school board members.  A police car was parked for security at the front entrance of the elementary school in Ailey where the meeting was held.

The board did okay the rehiring of Dr. Tosha Middlebrooks, director of the Montgomery County Achievement Center, and agreed to rehire veteran staff member Laverne Mobley as a part-time employee following her retirement at the end of this school year. 

It turned down recommendations from School Superintendent Dr. Charles Warnock that it rescind plans for a furlough day May 26 and an earlier decision to swap two administrative positions between the central office and a school media center.

March 21--  The VNS Corporation in Vidalia is merging some of its product distribution centers.

Company President Gary Campbell says the Vidalia operation on McIntosh Street will be moved and merged with the company's door manufacturing plant in Ailey. The merger will result in the loss of about four jobs, Campbell estimates.

He says the same sales staff will also serve customers with deliveries from distribution stores in Dublin and Rincon. The change takes effect April 1. 

VNS Corporation was founded as Vidalia Naval Stores in 1946 with its roots in the turpentine business.  Today it's a regional building products and construction services company with six divisions.

According to Campbell, "We have experienced profitable growth in our manufacturing, multi-family and construction services sector.  This move will allow us to increase our resources in these areas while continuing to serve our single family markets."

March 21--  A Toombs County grand jury has returned an indictment in a murder case which occurred more than five years ago.

Gregory Lavell Griffin of Lyons has been indicted on six counts including malice murder in the July 5, 2005 shooting death of Lancelot Summersett of Lyons.  According to the GBI, Summersett was shot four times, twice in the back, in a shooting that occurred on Columbia Lane in Lyons about three a.m.

The grand jury also indicted seventeen people in connection with burglaries.  They are George William O'Conner, Octavious Sanders, Donald Waters, William Conner Jr., Kevin Kester, Dustin Cowart, Tabitha Fitch, Andy Johnson, Chad Moore, Justin Hattaway, Haley Johnson, Heather Perkins, Allen Spore, Victor Lira, Eric Lane, Bobby Joe Mincey Jr., and Jeffery Phillips, Jr. 

Three people indicted for child molestation are Darrel Oliver, Markevis Summersett and Victor Campbell.  Andrew Keene was indicted for sodomy and Maurice Eason for failure to register as a sex offender.

Possession of cocaine with intent to distribute indictments were returned against Antone Victoria and Latoria Murphy.

Charlotte Durden and Isaac Cannida were indicted for aggravated assault.

Shoplifting indictments are facing Lula Mae Virgin, Jimel Escalante, Justin Hattaway, Haley Johnson and Kena Ann Lang.

Indicted for theft are Rodolfo Delagarza and Patricia Hebert.

March 21-- Brewton-Parker College has received a $10,000 gift from Central Baptist Church of Wadley. David Gunn, a deacon of the church and BPC trustee, presented BPC Chief Financial Officer Natasha Mason with the check on behalf of the congregation.


BPC Trustee and a deacon of Central Baptist Church of Wadley David Gunn presents Natasha Mason, BPC CFO, with a $10,000 check on behalf of his entire congregation. (Photo by Kelley M. Arnold)

           Gunn explains the church voted to amend its budget to include the $10,000 gift during its regular business meeting. Gunn said he was “burdened for the college” after attending the last Trustees meeting and presented the suggestion of financial support to church members.

            “Brewton-Parker’s importance to our congregation is significant because it is an institution of good, Christian higher education, and because of the college’s historic value and geographic value. It is the only Christian higher education institution in central South Georgia,” said Gunn. “I think we treat Brewton-Parker like we do our salvation. It’s a best kept secret, and sometimes we don’t share it like we ought to.”

            “In the big scope, (this gift) is not an awful lot but the Lord can use it and bless it. If He can feed the multitudes with a few loaves and fishes, He can use this gift at Brewton-Parker,” added Gunn.

CFO Natasha Mason expressed her gratitude on behalf of the college, “I can’t begin to explain the feeling of joy and happiness I had when receiving this check on behalf of Brewton-Parker College.  I continue to be amazed each day at how the Lord is working to keep Brewton-Parker College strong for Christian higher education in South Georgia.  The faculty, staff and students of Brewton-Parker College are very blessed to have a wonderful group of Trustees working so diligently each day for the betterment of the College.”

            Central Baptist Church of Wadley is located in Jefferson County and is a part of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Hephzibah Association. Affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention, Brewton-Parker College is the only accredited four-year Christian college in south Georgia.

March 21-- Ogeechee Riverkeeper is pleased to announce the promotion of Dianna Wedincamp, longtime advocate and community organizer, as the Ogeechee Riverkeeper effective March 28, 2011.

{mosimage}Ms. Wedincamp was a founding board member of Canoochee Riverkeeper in 2001. In 2005, Ms. Wedincamp joined the staff, and her latest position has been as program director for Ogeechee Riverkeeper.  “Dianna’s passion for protecting the rivers, skill in community organizing, knowledge of the issues affecting our rivers and health, and long-standing commitment to the rivers and organization made her a standout among many highly qualified applicants,” said Jim Abbot, Ogeechee Riverkeeper Chairman. 

Dianna is a native of Emanuel County, Georgia. She has a B.S. degree in Recreation with emphasis in Natural and Cultural Resource Management and a minor in Geographic Information Systems from Georgia Southern University.  Dianna and her husband, Dr. Jim Wedincamp, a Biology Professor at East Georgia College in Swainsboro, have two sons and live with their family in Emanuel County.  Their family enjoys fishing, swimming and boating on the Ogeechee and Canoochee Rivers, and Dianna says her favorite activities growing up were swimming and fishing all of the Ogeechee River.

"I am excited to be the new Ogeechee Riverkeeper," said Ms. Wedincamp, "and to continue the great work this organization has done in protecting the Ogeechee, Canoochee and coastal rivers for future generations."
“I am so confident in Dianna’s skills and passion and commitment to our rivers, communities, and organization,” said Chandra Brown, founding Riverkeeper and Executive Director.  “Her experience and enthusiasm helped us more than double our members to nearly 2,000 people.  She has been single-handedly responsible for recruiting and managing over 500 volunteers a year, as well as organizing our extremely popular paddle trips series.   I know that her leadership will take Ogeechee Riverkeeper to new heights in protecting our rivers and coast from pollution.”

March 19--  Georgia Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville provides an update on what happened this week in the state senate.


The 30th Session day has come and gone and "crossover day" passing means that the House will only consider Senate bills for the rest of the session and the Senate will only consider House bills the rest of the way. Of course bills can and will be amended, but basically bills that did not move out of one house or the other on "crossover day" are dead for this session.


Still to be considered is the FY2012 General Budget.




            Bills Passed


·          SB 57: Requires criminal background checks for school bus drivers and prohibits sex offenders from driving buses as well.


·          SB 62: Prohibits selling or giving away property within Georgia to any other state, nation, or territory, wherein Georgia could not exercise jurisdiction (Indian Reservations).


·          SB 10: Allows local referendum on Sunday alcohol sales.


·          SB 80: Requires DNA collection for people convicted of or arrested for a felony or sex offense.


·          SB 93: Requires over the counter medicine containing Pseudoephedrine to be sold in a pharmacy.


·          SB 101: Establishes a program to allow high school students to volunteer as election poll watchers.


·          SB 102: Allows weapon carry permit holders to carry in some government buildings, non-secure parts of an airport, and churches that allow it.


·          SB 109: Moves primary elections following a decennial redistricting from August to the last Tuesday in July.


·          SB 114: Allows liquor distilleries and the distilling of agricultural products other than fruit grown in Georgia.


·          SB 121: Requires the Secretary of State to develop a way to refund Dept. of Natural Resources and corporation fees collected in error.


·          SB 155:  Allows death or disability indemnification payments to be made to surviving parents or siblings of peace officers and emergency workers who are caregivers.


·          SB 157:Removes reporting requirement for local governments' solid waste management plan.


·          SB 163: Requires groups sending out or broadcasting campaign material to clearly identify themselves and state whether the material is authorized by a campaign or not.


·          SB 166: Creates a new category of "limited continuing care."


·          SB 172: Requires a home study evaluation prior to third-party adoptions.


·          SB 183: Allows school nurses to consult with offsite healthcare professionals.


·          SB 184: Prohibits school districts fromusing length of employment as the primary determining factor in reducing their work force (RIF).


·          SB 206:Prohibits releasing a feral hog onto unfenced land.


·          SB 210: Allows a civil action to be brought by a woman upon whom an abortion was performed illegally.


·          SB 214: Makes it a misdemeanor for a prisoner to possess a cell phone or for anyone to provide a prisoner with a cell phone.


·          SB 218:Allows companies to purchase and remove deadhead logs from riverbeds.


·          SB 236:Provides for court-ordered installation of ignition interlock devices.


·          SB 240: Adds golf carts as a class of motor vehicles as "personal transportation vehicles."


·          SB 185: Provides for the emergency closure of a daycare facility following the death of a child in some instances.


If you would like additional information regarding a specific piece of legislation, you may access the Georgia General Assembly website at


March 18--  A federal judge has granted a former Montgomery County school teacher a jury trial in his case against the Montgomery County school board.

Judge Dudley Bowen partially refused the school board's motion for a summary judgement in a decision handed down Thursday.  The judge ruled Christopher Bowman has a right to trial on his claim that the school system retaliated against him for his report of sexual misconduct by a high school counselor with a male student at Montgomery County High School.

Judge Bowen threw out Bowman's claim that his freedom of speech had been violated.

Former Montgomery County School Superintendent Dale Clark was also being sued in the case by Bowman, however, Judge Bowen dismissed Bowman's allegations against Clark.

Lawyers say the case will be heard at the federal courthouse in Dublin on a date to be announced.  

The case has been working its way through the court system since it was filed in December, 2008. 

March 18--  In 2001, leaders in Toombs, Montgomery and Tattnall counties set a goal to reduce the adult illiteracy rate which was then running at about 40 percent.

This week a review team from the state's Certified Literate Community Program visited and annouced it will recommend the counties be certified as Adult Literate Communities, according to state director Billie Izard.


A delegation from the Certified Literate Community Program attended Wednesday's meeting of the Vidalia Rotary Club which is where the initiative was originally announced in 2001.  (Front row, l-r are Sandy Cross, Kim Taylor, Kathy Moses, Sherry Perry, Dr. Cathy Mitchell, Randy Houser; back row, l-r Larry Cowart, Vidalia Mayor Protem Raymond Turner, State CLCP board member Mary Flanders, State CLCP Director Billie Izard and David Yarbrough.

"It means how successful you've been.  You've served over 7,600 individuals who've improved their education and over 2,200 received their GED diplomas.  That's economic development for the community, it means healthier, better families who are able to provide for themselves, and it's something to be very proud of," Izard says.

Kathy Moses of Montgomery County was the first chairperson of the three-county literacy board, "This is just great, it's so exciting.  It's been a long road, but I think we're here," she says, and notes the difference education has made in so many lives, "The stories will just bring you to your knees.  David Yarbrough was talking to me and said he wanted to tell a story, but he would have cried, had he tried, and there are stories like that everywhere."

One of those stories belongs to Maureen Copeland of Toombs County who is this year's outstanding adult literacy student in the local area.  "It's opened a lot of doors.  I'm already enrolled in Southeastern Tech and I'm on my way to getting a better job and being more productive for my community," she says.

Officials estimate the illiteracy rate is now about 28 percent.  Kathy Moses says work will continue to reduce it even more.  "That was what we pretty well had to come up with some plans for, how to perpetuate what we have going.  I think the charter school is going to be one big thing that will help our efforts," she said.

The board of the Georgia Department of Technical and Adult Education is expected to approve the review panel's recommendation at its meeting in April and formal presentation of the certification would come in May, according to Izard.

March 17--  U.S. Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA-09), member of the House Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement after voting for H.R. 1076, which prohibits taxpayer funding of National Public Radio [NPR]:

 “With our nation’s debt exceeding $14 trillion, it’s blatantly irresponsible to spend taxpayer dollars on a self sufficient organization like NPR.  In fact, NPR’s website explains in detail how federal funding is of little consequence, saying a ‘small number of competitive grants’ amount to ‘approximately 2% of overall revenues.’  Indeed, NPR will be free to use its public donations, corporate sponsorships, and $225 million private endowment to compete in the media marketplace without draining tax dollars.

“So, the family-style belt tightening continues with the passage of H.R. 1076, and the Republican House Majority again leads the way in making government more efficient and responsible with tax dollars.  Sacred cows are an endangered species these days, and it’s a hopeful sign for hardworking taxpayers that future prosperity is winning out over the wasteful projects of the past.”

Even though the House has passed the cuts, the White House issued a statement this afternoon opposing any cuts to NPR.


March 17--  Katie's owners suspect she was stolen late Monday afternoon from their home in the Ponderosa Community. 

Candice Sikes says a $1,000 reward is being offered for any information leading to her return home.  The number to call if you have information is 843-356-2138.


March 16--  A small but passionate group of animal rights advocates demonstrated in front of the Toombs County courthouse in Lyons late Wednesday.


The group, led by Scott Bennett of Glenwood, wants a Toombs County woman prosecuted for allegedly mistreating a Pit Bull named "Lil Mama."  Bennett calls the dog "Alice" and uses this photo as evidence of her mistreatment. They claim Delois Hayward of Lyons kept the dog in a filthy box six years at her father's home near Five Points in rural north Toombs County.  Pit Bulls are prohibited from being kept in the city of Lyons by city ordinance.


Since Bennett and a deputy sheriff visited the property in February, Hayward has built a new metal pen with a doghouse, had the dog vaccinated for rabies and this week started her on heartworm treatment at the Altamaha Animal Clinic in Vidalia where a vet said the dog is "fat as a pig" and demonstrates no traits of having been mistreated.

Bennett claims that's not enough.  "Well just because you're speeding down the road and you slow down when you see a cop, doesn't mean that you weren't speeding.  A crime was committed so let's enforce the law," he says.

Hayward says she has no intention of giving up the dog.  "The dog is doing fine and I don't know why he calls it a box.  It's a pen my father had built and Lil Mama hasn't been living in a pen for six years.  The fact is this man went on our property and saw that Lil Mama had no food or water.  Lil Mama had been fed and she turned over her water, so he can't say she had not been fed.  The dog is fine."

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight says he took no action on Bennett's complaint because, "There's not enough evidence there to prove animal cruelty.  I think she has complied with everything they have asked her to do and some things she didn't have to do."

The less than 20 demonstrators included visitors from as far away as Illinois who became aware of the allegations on the Internet.  Hayward contends many of the Internet versions are false including claims that the dog was being used for breeding and fighting.  "There's a lot of lies out there, I'll put it that way," she says. 

March 15--  Fearing an increase in high school dropouts because of too tough math classes, the Georgia Board of Education has voted to give high schools in the state some flexibility in what courses will count for graduation.

Under the new policy, students who plan to attend a four-year university will still need to take the tougher math courses, however, others will have the opportunity to take math support classes in order to graduate from high school.

At Vidalia High School, Assistant Superintendent Lucy Claroni says students will have a choice.  "I would tell parents that the rigor is still there.  However, if the student is struggling in math, we offer them support classes in math that will now count as core curriculum," she said.

While universities like Georgia Tech, UGA, Georgia Southern and Georgia State won't accept the support courses, Claroni says the state's technical colleges and some others are expected to accept them.

March 15--  Five students at Vidalia High School have been arrested in connection with vandalism at the school Sunday night which shut down the school for clean-up Monday.

Vidalia Police Lieutenant Jimmy Sims says the students entered the building through an open window and stayed in the building for about an hour.  During that period, they smeared the hallways with flour, eggs, ketchup and oil.  Asked about their motivation, Lieutenant Sims described it as "a high school prank gone bad."

The five were booked at the Toombs County Detention Center on a felony charge of criminal interference with government property and an aggravated misdemeanor charge of disruption or interference with a public school.

Police identify those arrested as males Nikilas Fussell and Jamontay Patrick, both age 17; and 18-year-olds Daquan Dupree and Joshua Denzel Brown; and the lone female, 18-year-old Venkencia Johnson.

March 14--  Construction is on track to open a new 200-student housing complex on the campus of East Georgia College in Swainsboro this Fall.


The college is showcasing a display unit of one of the 50 furnished four-bedroom apartments which includes a full kitchen, cable TV and wireless internet.

For information, go to


March 14--  The Vidalia City Council is refusing to re-issue a beer and wine license to the Phoenix Club on Highway 292 West.

At a called meeting Monday morning, the council agreed to re-visit the issue if requested following a hearing the club has scheduled with the Georgia Department of Revenue in May.  The DOR has cited the club for selling non-tax paid beer and wine, according to Vidalia City Manager Bill Torrance.

At its regular meeting Monday night, the council approved a resolution seeking a $500,000 state grant to help build a new Boys and Girls Club building in Vidalia. The city is agreeing to provide $25,000 toward the project plus property valued at about $60,000.  Officials says the club hopes to help with a contribution of at least $150,000.  The grant application has to be submitted by April 1st.

The council also applauded two promotions in the Vidalia Fire Department.  Brian Sikes is the new Assistant Fire Chief succeeding Dale Dykes.  Ben Allen has been promoted to Captain.

Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits informed the council two teenagers will be charged in connection with the vandalism that resulted in the cancellation of school at Vidalia High School Monday.  The chief said more information will be released Tuesday.

Meanwhile, school superintendent Dr. Tim Smith says the building's floors which were smeared with flour, eggs, ketchup and oil have been cleaned and school resumes Tuesday.

March 14--  The Lyons Animal Shelter is quickly filling up.  Holly Reynolds from the Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society is appealing to the public to adopt and help save these animals.


Here are a few pics of some of the dogs at Lyons shelter waiting for homes. There are many dogs there waiting for loving homes. There is quite a variety of pups & dogs there. 

Please keep in mind that SOAPS' volunteers try desperately to improve the conditions of these animals as well as find them homes/rescues. However, SOAPS does not have the ability to foster or adopt every animal at this shelter or any shelter. It is financially, physically and mentally impossible. The public's help is very much needed to save the lives of these animals.  If you would like to help by adopting, please call me at 912-539-9840.


March 14--  The State Board of Education today approved the recommendation by State School Superintendent Dr. John D. Barge to allow four discrete math courses to be taught to students who may be struggling with the integrated math curriculum.  The four new courses – GPS Algebra, GPS Geometry, GPS Advanced Algebra, and GPS Pre-Calculus – are taught with a more traditional delivery. The board’s actions also allowed Math I-III Support classes to count as core credit rather than just elective credit.
"We have many students who are currently struggling with the integrated approach to the math curriculum,” said Superintendent Barge. “I applaud the State Board’s action to approve my recommendation to give students more options to master our rigorous math standards. We are seeing that a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t in the best interest of all of our students. Our systems need the flexibility to teach in the manner that best meets the needs of their students and local system leaders are best positioned to make those decisions. However, I want to be clear that this is not a retreat from the rigor of our Georgia Performance Standards (GPS). This is simply a restructuring of the GPS in a discrete fashion.”
Under the new rule, students struggling with the integrated curriculum will now earn core credit for support classes.  Students must receive four units of math in order to graduate.  Many struggling students are taking multiple math courses and, thus, not able to take other elective courses. Mathematics Support I, Mathematics Support II, and Mathematics Support III will now be counted as a core credit, giving students the opportunity to get the necessary credits needed to earn their high school diploma.

“We have approximately 17% of our current juniors that have one or no math credits, putting them at risk of not graduating,” said Superintendent Barge.  “I see no harm in giving these students the opportunity to learn the math curriculum in a more traditional delivery, without compromising the rigor of the standards.”

Georgia, along with 43 other states, has adopted the Common Core State Standards in math and English language arts. This transition will allow the education community and the public to evaluate the delivery method of our math curriculum for the long-term.

March 14--  Vidalia High School closed for the day Monday for clean-up.

City School Superintendent Dr. Tim Smith says vandals broke into the high school sometime Sunday and spread flour, eggs and some type of oil all over the hallways.

Arriving students were held outside and returned home just after nine a.m.

Dr. Smith said it would take several hours to clean the building and officials did not want to risk a student falling on the slick floors.

He apoligized for the lost day of school as students prepare to take graduation tests next week, but that's better "than a student falling and hitting their head on these concrete floors," he said.

School is scheduled to reopen Tuesday. 

March 14--  Vidalia native John Ellington is the Chief Judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals.  Back home at the Vidalia Rotary Club last week, he talked about the impact of the economy on the state's judicial system, the need to relook at who goes to jail for what , and the importance of early education in keeping people out of jail.

"We are the busiest Appellate Court in the United States right now.  We are fortunate we have great technology and a good staff, but we are overworked and underfunded," he said.

"The first order of government is the safety and protection of our people.  The court system is part of our public safety and we need to keep the courthouses open so we can have access to justice around this state," Judge Ellington noted.

With prison populations growing in the state, Judge Ellington says we not only need to be tough on crime, but also be smart on crime. "I think now we are starting to see some alternative courts that are going to be coming to the forefront.  We need to lock up those folks who need to be locked up, but I think there's an opportunity for some rehab and alternatives other than hard beds in prisons," he stated.

The judge also says effective early education pays off down the road.  "Some of the things which manifest themselves early in school often show up later in the judicial system.  "You can tell today by how many children are reading on grade level in the third grade how many beds you'll need in the prison system 15 to 20 years later.  If they don't learn to read, they fall behind and over time they tend to have more problems which involve our judicial system," the Chief Judge reports. 

March 11--  State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville provides an update on legislative activity this week in the Georgia Senate and his take on increased state revenues in February.



With an increase of $148 million (26.1 percent) over February of last year, February's revenue numbers would seem to indicate a sharp increase reflective of recovery and job growth. But while these numbers are encouraging, they may be more attributable to an accounting change wherein the filing deadline for federal itemized individual returns was pushed back two weeks. This means that March revenues may show less than expected, since more returns will likely be issued this month. Sales and use taxes were up $32.7 million (9.6 percent) over last year, motor fuel taxes showed an increase of $2.3 million (3.4 percent), and corporate income taxes jumped $8.9 million over February of last year.



Bills Passed- Now In The House

·          SB 326: Governor Deal's package of changes to the HOPE passed the Senate this week after undergoing changes by the Higher Education Committee and a number of floor amendments. Among the changes was an amendment to extend the Zell Miller Scholarship (100% tuition) to the valedictorian and salutatorian from an eligible high school, regardless of SAT score or GPA. Another amendment installed a provision for a 1% loan to cover the difference between HOPE award and tuition amount based on need. A third amendment requires students graduating in May 2015 to take at least two credits in either advanced math, science, or foreign language, advanced placement classes, international baccalaureate, or core classes at a USG university. This requirement will increase by one credit each year thereafter to three in 2016 and four in 2017. Provisions remaining unchanged include the 90% revenue based award for students with a 3.0 GPA and the 3.7 GPA/ 1200 SAT score requirement for 100% tuition coverage.


·          HB 179: Allows permitting outdoor advertisers to clear vegetation obstructing a billboard. HB 179 sets limits on how much vegetation can be cleared, requires the outdoor advertisers to replace trees that are cut down and places height restrictions on billboards where vegetation is cleared. The bill also strengthens obscenity standards for all billboards. The House accepted the Senate amendment so the Senate vote was final passage.


·          SB 86: Removes the requirement that local governments and regional commissions file a comprehensive plan with the Dept. of Community Affairs (DCA). Also ends requirement that local governments submit to regional impact reviews conducted by DCA.


·          SB 110: Repeals prohibition on permit issuance to landfills accepting waste from outside the county or region, in the case of regional landfills. This is to update the code following a court decision striking it down.


·          SB 113: Adjusts how local government and municipal corporations go about entering into contracts for public works projects.


Bills Introduced

·          SB 206: Prohibits releasing a feral hog onto unfenced land.


·          SB 214: Makes it a misdemeanor for a prisoner to possess a cell phone or for anyone to provide a prisoner with a cell phone.


·          SB 218: Allows companies to purchase and remove deadhead logs from riverbeds.


·          SB 223: Creates the joint Legislative Sunset Advisory Committee to review and if necessary, abolish state agencies.


·          SB 234: Prohibits issuing an execution for nonpayment of property taxes while an appeal is pending.


·          SB 236: Provides for court-ordered installation of ignition interlock devices.


·          SB 246: Increases employee contribution to the Public School Employees Retirement System and increases benefit amount.


Passed House-Now in Senate

·          HB 175: Creates a clearinghouse of online courses offered by local school systems for students in other districts.


·          HB 214: Creates the Department of Public Health


If you would like additional information regarding a specific piece of legislation, you may access the Georgia General Assembly website at




March 11--  A big crowd turned out Thursday night for the annual Robert Toombs Christian Academy auction fund-raiser.  This year's event was held at the new Hawks Point Golf Course Banquet Hall in Vidalia.

March 11--  The Vidalia Onion Committee has taken top awards for its efforts to promote Georgia's official vegetable in 2010.  

America’s favorite sweet onion, the Vidalia® onion, continues to “bring home the hardware,” earning both MAX and ADDY Awards in the last two weeks. These marketing and advertising awards are in recognition of last year’s industry-shaking Shrek “Ogres & Onions” promotion.

The MAX Awards (Marketing Awards for Excellence), given each year to only three Georgia-based companies, are based on innovation, marketing and successful results. These awards, which have been in existence since 1992, have recognized companies such as Coca-Cola, Georgia-Pacific and Web MD in the past.

{mosimage}Wendy Brannen, executive director of the Vidalia Onion Committee (VOC), and Steve Langston, president of Langston Communications, Inc., received the MAX Award for the “Ogres & Onions” campaign at a ceremony held Feb. 25 at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, attended by 500 marketing professionals.

“It was a shock to win! But the campaign was a huge success in terms of sales, publicity and brand-building, so we did earn our place. To be recognized alongside outstanding Georgia companies whose brands I’ve respected my entire life is quite an honor,” said Brannen.

The Vidalia Onion Committee was also honored March 5 in Savannah, Ga., with three ADDY® (American Advertising Federation) Awards, including two gold ADDYs and one silver ADDY.  Brannen explained the awards saying, “The ADDY Awards are based solely on advertising materials and not program results, so these awards make me so proud to work with our Vidalia creative and graphics team.”  In addition to the VOC, Heidi McIntyre of McIntyre Marketing, Steve Langston of Langston Communications, Rick Kilby of Kilby Creative, and Anthony Wilkes of Giro Pack were recognized in the ADDY Awards.

The Vidalia Onion Committee won Gold ADDY Awards for two categories, “Sales Promotion (Overall Campaign)” and “Online Games,” while it won a Silver ADDY Award for “Consumer Materials (Overall Campaign),”the highest award given in that category.  In the two Gold ADDY Award categories, the Vidalia Onion Committee will now move on to a regional U.S. ADDY competition.

The Vidalia Onion/Shrek campaign generated incredible publicity last year, including features in the Wall Street Journal, ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, and Fox Business, among other media outlets. The campaign was especially cited for how it generated excitement among kids about Vidalia onions. Previously, the Vidalia onion/Shrek campaign received Produce Business magazine’s Marketing Excellence Award and was a finalist for the Produce Marketing Association’s Impact Award for packaging.

The Vidalia Onion Committee is following last year’s DreamWorks Animation partnership with a country music promotional tie-in with Universal Music, the world’s largest music company. Recognizable country music artists such as Vince Gill and Billy Currington will be featured on upcoming Vidalia onion promotional materials. “Country Music and Vidalia onions are both proud products of the South that are enjoyed by folks from all over the country, so it was a natural fit,” said Tom Lord, vice president of marketing for Universal Music Group Nashville. This program will kick off in May 2011.

March 10--  Members of this year's Toombs-Montgomery Youth Leadership Class graduated in ceremonies Tuesday afternoon at Element's in Lyons.  This is the third class to graduate under the auspices of the Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce.  Co-chairs for the six-month program were Jose Caraballo and Ashley Sasser.


Front Row L-R: Megan Campbell, Ambar Johnson, Susannah Brewton, Jordie Thompson, Macy Ethredge, Moriah Dees, Kayla Oglesby.

Back Row L-R: Amanda Wonn, Jose Caraballo – Co-chair, Blaine Spivey, Christopher Watkins, Christopher Hartley, Ben DeVore, Derek Hammock, Jamichael Snead, Jamaar Snead.

Graduates Not Pictured: Evan Adams, Jacob Jay, Annika Sinha, Abby Stanley (photo courtesy Becky Moon)


March 10--  Three of Toombs County's six volunteer fire departments are consolidating.

The new North Toombs County Fire Department includes the departments from East Toombs, Normantown and South Thompson.  

"Like everything else, consolidation is a good thing if it's done for the right reason," according to Toombs County Commission Chairman Buddy West.

The chairman says East Toombs Chief Johnny Moser made the proposal to the county commission.  "They are combining forces and manpower.  They've recruited about 17 new members at South Thompson.  It's for efficiency to be able to better cover the unincorporated areas of the county," West says.

The other three departments in the county are Cedar Crossing, Marvin Yancy and New Branch.

The County Commission agreed to buy the departments just over $8,000 worth of pagers and radioes at its meeting Tuesday.

It also approved contracts with the cities of Vidalia, Lyons and Santa Claus for the Toombs County Board of Elections to conduct elections for those municipalities.  County manager Doug Eaves says each town will pay a base rate of $8,000 for each election plus labor costs at each voting precinct.


March 8--  Atlanta TV station WSB is reporting tax dollars are being used to renovate mosques and to provide internet access to mullahs overseas.  Use the link below to view the report.

What's your reaction to this story?  Send your comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we'll share them with our readers and forward them to our congressman, John Barrow.  Comments must include your name and town of residence.

Reader Comments:

Representative Barrow,
Our country is bankrupt due to the liberal spending policies of you politicians, our debt equals 100% of the GNP, and we’re sending money to repair mosques?!!!  What a travesty!  Just as one of the ladies said, trying to buy Middle Eastern countries’ friendship makes the U.S. appear weak,  and those to whom we send taxpayers’  hard-earned money are laughing all the way to the bank!   If our government would stop sending tax dollars overseas to rescue and help countries who hate us and would delight in slitting our throats, we could use it to accomplish some of the things we need here:  pay on the interest of the national debt (which we’re unable to pay at the present time), put money back into Social Security to replace what’s been reapportioned (stolen), repair and upgrade our infrastructure, etc., etc.  I say bring the money home!  It’s a matter of life or death!
We’re on the brink of financial disaster, yet you members of Congress continue to spend on such nonsense as this. Kruschev once said America would be destroyed without firing a single shot.  Government officials are setting the stage for this to happen by destroying our financial system.  The vultures who’ve planned the demise of the United States for decades are ready to swoop in and take over.  
Are you too blind to see what’s happening or do you really care?
Jackie Castleman, Ed.D
Vidalia, GA
Attention! John Barrow! Attention! John Barrow!  The asylum called.  You and our other 535 elected officials are to return immediately. It is time for cupcakes and watercolors. 
Sincerely, Bruce Frost, Vidalia
We are already sending billions to these middle eastern countries through these outrageous gas prices and now we are going to send them money we don't even HAVE to support the Muslim religion.  I don't believe we do that for Christian churches here....."separation of church and state" they tell us here.  When election time comes around again we will remember the traitors that supported this decision. Becky Porter     Lyons, Ga.


I think the Us Politicians have lost there D--- MINDS . I have not heard of any traditional Churches in America getting help. I would think this would be a conflict/ Church & State. Larry Geiger, Lyons


FA and I were very upset when we heard this on this site a few minutes ago.

We are senior citizens living off Social Security that we worked and paid into for years but yet we cannot get a raise last year nor this year.

There are people who have no jobs through no fault of their own and the children also suffer as some of these families have lost their homes.

Why should we be helping these people who actually HATE us enough to destroy our country???

Where to start to stop this?  It is all of our United States and then we are helping these people in Egypt.  We are having to pay these higher gasoline prices, too, because of what is going on in that part of the country.  Not Right!

F.Odom, Alston, Ga

Can't the government find enough reason to waste our tax dollars here at home?  We borrow money for the craziest spending spree in history and this is a prime example of why we can't get out of debt.
Nancy Nail
Why should our tax dollars pay to renovate mosques and to provide internet access to mullahs overseas ?
This is not right.  The last thing we need to do is give money to a people that hate us and killing our troops.  We have people without jobs because of the economy and they want us to use our tax dollars to help them.  I say let them spend their money not ours.
Rick Thigpen
I just saw where the US Govt is sending millions to save mosques in other countries...I heard you had survey going on about this...  This absolutely disgusts me... So however we vote... You got my humble opinion.
Thanks, Paul Bone, Vidalia
It's because we have a muslim in the White House and he wants to help all his brothers, to hell with the USA.
Walter Payton
Uvalda Ga


March 8--  Today, the Georgia State Senate passed House Bill 326, Governor Nathan Deal’s HOPE bill 35-20. The bill was amended to allow all valedictorians and salutatorians from all Georgia schools to be eligible for the Zell Miller Scholarship and establishes a low interest loan program that will help students presently covered under HOPE  bridge the gap between actual tuition cost and costs covered by HOPE once the bill is enacted. 


Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) issued the following statement:


“Today, we took a monumental step in preserving HOPE for future generations of Georgia students. We must continue to support freedom in educational choice for our youth by refusing to let the high cost of education keep them from the school of their choice. The economy of our state, the future of Georgia businesses, communities and families depend on our ability to keep our best and brightest students in our state by offering them a great education and a way to pay for it,” said Sen. Rogers “I applaud Governor Deal, as well as members of the House and Senate, for working diligently to make saving HOPE a priority this session. Working together, we will ensure the legacy of HOPE benefits all future generations.”


Governor Nathan Deal issued the following statement regarding the passage of HB 326:


“I have worked closely with members of the Senate to find common ground on how best to save this important program. Any reforms to the HOPE scholarship require careful consideration because Georgians care deeply about this issue, and we are proud that our HOPE program holds national prominence. Senators understand our choice on lottery-funded programs is not between reform and the status quo; our state’s choice is between reform and bankruptcy. Senators have played an important role from Day 1 on negotiating the best plan, and today they courageously did the right thing for our state.”


“Sen. Rogers, along with other leaders in the Senate, has played an important role not only in crafting this legislation but also in working to build a broad consensus to get it passed. This team effort has allowed us to educate Georgians all across the state on the crisis we face in our lottery-funded programs. With the leadership of Sen. Rogers and others, the Senate has passed a responsible bill that will maintain the most generous state education benefits in the nation for the next generation of Georgians.”


The revised bill now goes back to the House for approval.

March 8--  It took the Montgomery County school board two tries Monday night to decide how the school system would make-up two bad weather days experienced in January.

Superintendent Dr. Charles Warnock proposed the days be made-up on March 17th and 18th.  Montgomery County High School principal Luke Smith said those days would also help students prepare for graduation testing scheduled for the following week.  However, the measure died for lack of a second.

After a more than two hour executive session called to discuss personnel and litigation, the board reconvened and entertained a second motion regarding the make-up days.  In a 3-2 vote, the board voted to make-up the days on March 17th and 18th as originally proposed, but it also voted to eliminate a teacher post-planning day on May 26th to save money.  Board members Lendle Hamilton and Jackson Posey voted against the proposal.  Posey said he voted no because he didn't want to save money on the "backs of teachers."  Dr. Warnock estimates each day of school costs the system about $45,000 in salaries.

Meanwhile, the board approved some personnel changes which Warnock estimates will save about $30,000 in payroll.

The board approved reducing a payroll clerk's salary in the central office to $18,000 and transfer of the position to a school media center.  At the same time, a para-professional position in the media center was moved to the central office to serve as payroll clerk.

The board also reduced the pay of two book-keepers by 20 percent.

A proposal to offer retirement incentives to senior employees was also approved by the board even though Dr. Warnock said it may not be used.  He told the board the school system's financial position is "not as dire" as he originally thought.

The board has a called meeting set for Monday, March 21st at seven p.m.

Deadline Passes in Slander Suit 

The deadline for refiling of a slander suit against Montgomery County High School principal Luke Smith has passed.  Former high school teacher Christopher Bowman filed suit against Smith in 2008 claiming Smith gave slanderous information to school officials in Chattooga and Spalding counties where Bowman was seeking employment.

Bowman voluntarily dropped the suit last June without prejudice which meant it could be refiled within six months.

Bowman still has an active suit pending in federal court against the county school board and former school superintendent Dale Clark.  Attorneys say they are waiting for a decision on a motion for summary judgement in the case.

March 8--  Gov. Nathan Deal reported today that the Georgia Department of Revenue saw a $148 million increase (26.1 percent) in monthly net revenue collections compared to February 2010.

“Signs continue to suggest that our state economy is rebounding strongly, and we’ll continue to work at the state level to see that this growth translates into new job opportunities for all Georgians,” Deal said.

Individual income tax collections for February 2011 reported an increase of $95 million (105.5 percent), up from $90 million in February 2010 to $185 million in February 2011.

The spike shows significant growth, but a hefty portion of the increase results from an accounting change. The federal filing date for submitting an itemized individual return was pushed back two weeks from Feb. 1 to Feb. 15, 2011.  This has contributed to a two-week shift in refunds issued to taxpayers, thus more individual refunds are expected to be issued in March 2011 than in March 2010.

Sales and Use Tax reported an increase in net collections of $33 million (9.6 percent), up from $342 million in February 2010 to $375 million in February 2011.

Motor Fuel Taxes combined reported an increase of $2 million or 3.4 percent in collections, increasing from $69 million in February 2010 to $71 million in February 2011.

Corporate Income Tax increased $9 million or 190.5 percent in February 2011 compared to February 2010.


March 7--  As several federal and state courts have ruled before, the Georgia Supreme Court today issued a ruling that upholds the voter ID law sponsored by Sen. Cecil Staton (R-Macon) in 2005 and in 2006.

The law simply requires that voters show a valid photo ID, such as a driver’s license or state-issued ID card to prevent voter fraud. Several Democratic groups challenged the law in federal court, then in state court. This state Supreme Court ruling, with only one dissenting vote, marks the end of the legal challenges.

“It has been interesting and educating to watch our judicial system in action,” Sen. Staton said. “I am grateful for the justices’ ruling and grateful that the legal challenges are over for this common sense legislation. We can now move forward knowing that voting in Georgia is safer than before, simply because voters must prove who they are with common identification.”

In the Supreme Court’s ruling, justices wrote that the voter ID law was a “minimal” requirement that is “reasonable” and “non-discriminatory.” The justices found no conflicts between this law and the Constitution of the State of Georgia.


March 7--  After hearing concerns on plans to cut lottery-funded pre-kindergarten classes from 6.5 hours to four hours per day in Georgia's public schools, Governor Nathan Deal reversed his position Monday.

The Governor's press office issued the following statement.

"Following bipartisan negotiations, Gov. Nathan Deal today announced his updated plan to preserve Georgia’s full-day prekindergarten program while still implementing the reforms necessary to prevent insolvency.

“From day one we have worked tirelessly to make sure Georgia’s youngest scholars continue to benefit from the Pre-K program,” said Deal. “It is so important that we keep Georgia Pre-K a priority in order to ensure that students are school ready and on pace to read on grade level by third grade. I appreciate the cooperative, can-do spirit of the Georgia Pre-K community. They have provided invaluable feedback over the last few weeks to help us improve our original proposal.

“Teachers, providers and parents understand the importance of reforms to maintain our excellent prekindergarten program for the next generation, but they emphasized a desire to keep the program full day. These discussions have yielded an improved product. Most important, this plan will serve our 4-year-olds well.”

The following programmatic adjustments will be made: 

  • The school year will be shortened from 180 to 160 days.
  • Class size will be increased to 22 students from 20. Since all Georgia Pre-K classes have a paraprofessional in the room, the student to teacher ratio will max out at 11 to 1.
  • An additional 2,000 Pre-K slots will be added, bringing Georgia Pre-K enrollment to 86,000. 
  • Providers will receive 94 percent of the operating funds they currently receive.
  • Pre-K teachers will receive 90 percent of their current salaries. (The original half-day proposal included a 30 percent reduction.)

Georgia remains a leader in early childhood education and is one of only four states in the nation to provide a high-quality, universal Pre-K program. The governor’s new proposal saves the necessary $54 million and was developed after listening to the concerns of the Pre-K providers, Pre-K teachers, parents, early childhood advocacy organizations and local school systems across the state. 



March 6--  House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) announced today the appointment of the following members of the Georgia House of Representatives to the Georgia Rail Passenger Authority Overview Committee:

·        Representative David Knight, chairman (R-Griffin)

·        Representative Mark Hatfield (R-Waycross)

·        Representative Tommy Smith (R-Nicholls)

·        Representative Michael Harden (R-Toccoa)

·        Representative Greg Morris (R-Vidalia)

The Georgia Rail Passenger Authority Overview Committee is a committee composed of state representatives and state senators established under O.C.G.A. 28-10-1.  The overview committee is charged with reviewing the operations, contracts, safety, financing, organization, and structure of the Georgia Rail Passenger Authority.  It also periodically reviews and evaluates the authority to ensure its legislatively created purposes are accomplished successfully.

The overview committee is composed of five members of the House of Representatives and five members of the Senate.  The Speaker of the House makes appointments for the House and the Lieutenant Governor makes appointments for the Senate.  The members of the overview committee serve terms concurrent with their terms as members of the General Assembly.  Additionally, the Speaker of the House appoints a chairman from the members appointed from the House and the Lieutenant Governor appoints the vice-chairman of the committee from the members appointed from the Senate. 

March 6--  The interim president at Brewton Parker College has arrived on campus.

Dr. Michael Simoneaux arrived on campus last week for orientation on loan from Treutt-McConnel College in North Georgia.  He's holding the job while the search is on for a successor to Dr. David Smith who resigned to take a job in Texas.

"I'm not some guy on loan from Truett-McConnel College.  I'm not here to put Truett-McConnel College down here.  I'm here for Brewton Parker College.  I may be the acting president, but I am the president and I'm going to attack whatever challenges we have just like I was going to be here 20 years," he said.

Dr. Simoneaux says Brewton Parker, like other colleges, is facing problems associated with the economy.

"Not only is Brewton Parking facing that, but other colleges are also.  There's a chance financial aid might be lessened, but that's something we have no control over.  We just have to deal with that and make the best out of a changing situation.  It's challenging for everybody," he notes.

Dr. Simoneaux is hopeful BPC's recent reductions in tuition will help increase enrollment.  Meanwhile, he's thankful the school has the support of churches which make up the Georgia Baptist Convention.

"Brewton Park, Treutt-McConnel and Shorter have the backing of 3,600 Georgia Baptist churches and all those folks.  They expect their colleges to represent them and we hope to make that even more of a reality during this time," he said. 

March 3--  Working parents and educators are concerned about proposed cuts in state lottery funds which would reduce the length of the school day for pre-kindergarten children in Georgia.

State Senator Tommie Williams of Lyons says leaders at the capitol have heard the concerns and are giving local school systems flexibiity if they want to keep the Pre-K school day six-and-a-half hours vice cutting it to four hours.

"It's really up to the local systems.  We're not dictating you can only do a half-day.  You can continue with your six-and-a-half hours, but you'll have to make some programatic cuts.  We're going to put more money in after-school care which could cover part of those costs.  We'll put more money in transportation if you decide to transport the kids earlier.  The local systems will make the decision on how they run the program.  They came to us after we talked about a shorter day and said make the cuts in the money, but give us the flexibility in how long we keep our day," the Senator said.

In Vidalia, School Superintendent Dr. Tim Smith said they've yet to get any details from the Department of Education on what "flexible" means in real world terms.

"Senator Williams and a lot of other people use the word flexibility very loosely.  We need flexibility and that's a wonderful thing, but the devil is in the details of where that flexibility comes.  If the flexibility we get is that we can continue the program as is if we're willing to pay for it, then that's no flexibility at all," Smith notes.

"If we shorten the program, what about the parents who are working?  They depend on us to have those kids under regular supervision from one hour to another.  It's going to create a lot of problems for a lot of people in this state," the superintendent believes.

Dr. Smith says a reduction in the number of lottery-funded HOPE scholarships is a better alternative that reducing the effectiveness of the Pre-K program.

"You've got to start 'em young.  If we don't do that right, we'll pay a price ten or 12 years down the road when they won't be able to pass state-mandated high school graduation tests," Dr. Smith said.

Senator Williams says he expects some final decisions will be made on Governor Deal's proposed changes to lottery funding of education next week.


March 1--  The Lyons city council is shifting control of its dog pound from the Public Works Department to the Police Department.

The move is part of a plan the council is considering to clean up its act after the mass killing of 77 dogs at the pound January 20.

Councilman Willis NeeSmith gave the council a progress report on actions being recommended by an animal shelter committee appointed in February.

"I feel very good about it.  With the four meetings, it's taken a good bit of time but it's all hashing out and it's going to work out real well.  We look forward to putting the shelter under the police department and I'll know they'll do a good job with that," he said.

Therisa Ingley has represented the Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society on the city committee and feels things are going in the right direction.

"I do think we're making progress.  A lot of our concerns have been addressed and we have a lot of things that still need to be worked out, but time will take care of that.  The city is giving us an opportunity to form a partnership and that's what we really want for the welfare of the dogs," she said.

In an unrelated animal treatment issue, the city council okayed a demonstration permit for Kara Blackburn who's protesting refusal by Toombs County Magistrate Chip Matheson to hear a case of alleged animal cruelty.

She says a pit bull was kept in an excrement covered pen with no clean water in rural Toombs County near Five Points for six years.  The case has been dubbed the "Dog in the Box" and has gone viral on the Internet and even led to calls of boycotting Vidalia Onions.  The dog has since been placed in a new pen with shelter and clean water, but Blackburn says the case should be prosecuted.

"Hopefully it (the demonstration) will make Judge Matheson and the other officials aware there are a lot of people who are worried about this and at least bring the case to court where evidence from both sides can be presented," Blackburn said.

The animal rights demonstration will be held March 16th from four till five-thirty in front of the Toombs County courthouse in Lyons.

March 1--  Fifty-seven-year-old Danny New of Evans died Sunday in Trinity Hospice of Augusta.

{mosimage}  In 1974, he and his brother, David, founded New Brothers Produce in Vidalia and were leaders in marketing of the Sweet Vidalia Onion.  Stricken with Multiple Sclerosis, he later authored "Body Under Seige," a book detailing his fight against the disease and his simultaneous experiences in the onion industry.  He was inducted into the Vidalia Onion Growers' Hall of Fame in 2010.

March 1- Govenor Nathan Deal's press office issued the following advisory.

"In an overwhelming and bipartisan 152-22 vote, the Georgia House today passed Gov. Nathan Deal’s HOPE bill after including the governor’s amendment that would make it easier for Zell Miller Scholars to keep their full benefit package.

“Members of the House have worked with me in a bipartisan way to strengthen this bill even further,” Deal said. “The legislative process is working effectively. We’ve put together the right piece of legislation that keeps our programs among the most generous in the nation while placing them on firm financial footing. Today, we are one step closer to ensuring that HOPE endures for Georgia’s best and brightest and pre-k continues to prepare 4-year-old Georgians for educational excellence.”

Deal credited Speaker David Ralston’s leadership for building a broad coalition of support for the legislation. Nearly every Republican in the House and two-thirds of Democrats voted yes.

“This is a realistic and sensible approach to preserve HOPE for today and tomorrow’s young Georgians,” said House Speaker David Ralston. “I applaud Governor Deal for taking action and leading on one of the most important issues the General Assembly will address this year because doing nothing was not an option.”

The House worked with the governor to lower the GPA minimum that Zell Miller Scholars must maintain while in college to maintain the full benefit package. Under the House-passed legislation, Zell Miller Scholars must keep at least a 3.3 grade point average, as opposed to the 3.5 requirement in the original bill. Deal wanted to bring the standards more closely in line with the honors program requirements at our state’s major research institutions.

“We want to do everything we can to keep Georgia’s best and brightest in school with the full benefit package, while still creating incentives for students to work hard and go above and beyond.”

March 1--  If your kids go to schools in the Toombs County school system, here are some dates you may find useful in March.

Lyons Primary and Toombs Central Elementary will conduct Kindergarten Registration on March 1 from 9:00 am-2:00 pm.  The child will need to be present in order to take a short screening.

Students in 5th grade at Lyons Upper and Toombs Central Elementary will take the state writing assessment for fifth grade students on Wednesday, March 2.  Please make sure your student is present.

Wednesday, March 2 is Dr. Seuss’ birthday and Read Across America Day!

Toombs County Middle School will take Spring Pictures on Thursday, March 10.

Toombs County Board of Education meets Thursday, March 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the boardroom.

Lyons Primary School will have a Book Fair the week of March 14-18.  Parents are invited to shop after hours from 3:30-5:45 p.m. on Monday, March 14.

Lyons Primary School PTO meets on Monday, March 14 at 6:00 p.m. in the gym.  After the PTO meeting, parents are invited to the LPS art show.

Georgia High School Graduation Test will be given the week of March 14-18.  For more information, contact Doug Alexander at 526-6068.

Toombs County band Boosters meet on Thursday, March 17 at 6:30 p.m. in the band room at TCHS.

Spring Holidays for Toombs County Schools are March 21-25.

Lyons Upper Elementary PTO meets Monday, March 28 at 6:00 in the cafeteria.

Title I Spring Surveys will be sent home for parents of students in grades K-8 on Monday, March 28.  Parents are encouraged to complete the surveys and return them to the school as soon as possible.

The after school programs end for all students on Thursday, March 31.

Report cards will be sent home for all students in Toombs County Schools on Friday, April 1.





Increased Taxes, Unfunded Mandates and Economy Destroying Legislation

By Charles H. Kuck

From the perspective of a lifelong Republican, I am always troubled when the State Legislature starts looking at ways to “fix” a problem by getting the government more involved in the lives of its citizens, rather than less involved.  That is absolutely the case with the currently pending legislation on immigration.   A detailed review of HB 87 and SB 40 reveals that these bills do not reform illegal immigration nor do they enforce laws related to illegal immigration.  What they do is increase taxes on every citizen of Georgia by increasing government regulation, create unfunded mandates for every county, city, town, and village in Georgia, and create new private rights of action against every Georgia polity that will result in hundreds of lawsuits that will drain taxpayer coffers and result in little, if any real change on the issue of illegal immigration. 

This type of legislation is popular because it gives the perception that the state is doing something, which the federal government is purportedly not doing—enforcing federal laws on illegal immigration.  The problem with this notion is two-fold.  First, the federal government is doing more than it has EVER done in enforcing the laws on undocumented immigration.  The Obama Administration is spending literally billions of taxpayer dollars building fences, hiring border patrol agents, detaining undocumented immigrants and actually deported 400,000 people last year—a record.   Second, these proposals do not create any greater degree of enforcement than already exists under current state and federal law.

By September 30, 2013, everyone arrested in Georgia is going to be run through the Secure Communities program, and if they are unlawfully present in the United States they are being held for ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to pick up within 48 hours. 

Without discussing the deleterious details of this program (DWH—Driving While Hispanic), it has resulted in a record number of cases filling our Immigration Court dockets. 

So, if these bills do NOT reform immigration, do NOT effectively increase enforcement, and do NOT make Georgia safer, what will they do? They will increase taxes on Georgians, force cities and municipalities to hire previously unnecessary personnel, and make litigation lawyers smile.

These proposals have as their main thrust a desire to make Georgia like Arizona.  The bill is designed to make it so hard to live as an undocumented immigrant in Georgia, that such immigrants will leave the state.  If this bill accomplishes its purpose it could result in the departure of more than to one million people from the state, along with their tax dollars, investments, talent, and businesses.

There are also at least two provisions which will never be enforced, and which will be struck down as unconstitutional or preempted before they even go into effect, for the same reasons that similar provisions in the Arizona bill were struck down.  Provisions dealing with unconstitutional police stops and non-definitions of reasonable cause beg for a judge to overturn this law. The authorizing of private lawsuits against government agencies looks like a lawyer’s full employment act, and business destroying mandates and penalties best dealt with under federal law will simply shut down businesses and cause greater unemployment. 

These proposals are bad public policy and bad for Georgia.  If our legislators really want to fix the immigration problem they should all take a day and go to Washington, D.C. and demand that Congress fix our immigration system, rather than trying to put a band-aid on a gaping shotgun wound. 


Charles H. Kuck is an adjunct professor of Law at the University of Georgia, and a past national president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.