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April 29--  After many years of work, the Vidalia Onion Museum is a reality.  Tracing the history of the Sweet Vidalia Onion, the museum is located in the Vidalia Onion Committee building to the rear of the Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce on Highway 280 East in Vidalia.


A group of happy onlookers joins Vidalia Mayor Ronnie Dixon and Onion Committee Director Wendy Brannen at the museum ribbon-cutting Friday.  Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black (next to Brannen) addressed those attending the opening.


April 29--  Brewton-Parker College (BPC) Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. Tony Romans has announced the names of people to serve on the Presidential Search Committee.

Members include trustees Gary Campbell of Vidalia, Rev. Gilbert Westberry of Swainsboro, Linda Yawn of Statesboro, Weyman Perry of Lawrenceville, Dr. Romans of  Dunwoody and Georgia Baptist Convention Executive Director Dr. J. Robert White.

Psychology and counseling professor Vance Rhoades, who has taught at the college for over 25 years, is the faculty representative. Joshua McPhatter, 2010-2011 Student Government Association President, will represent the students.

Local pastors Danny Williams of First Baptist Church of Lyons and Rev. Bucky Kennedy of First Baptist Church of Vidalia round out the committee.

Dr. Romans encourages resumes and recommendations for the position to be emailed to him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Dr. Mike Simoneaux has been serving as BPC’s acting president since March 2. He is on loan to BPC from Truett-McConnell College, a sister Georgia Baptist college in Cleveland, where he is the vice president for college advancement.


April 29--  Toombs County school officials are alerting the public that a woman who calls herself Ann Taylor is misrepresenting herself to local businesses.

Superintendent Dr. Kendall Brantley says Lyons police tell him the woman tells merchants she is working as a project coordinator for Toombs County High School in an effort to sell them promotional materials such as T-Shirts and such.

Dr. Brantley says they have no knowledge of the woman and recommends merchants contact the school principal before making any purchases.

April 29--  Savannah Luggage Works in Vidalia hopes to hire 350 workers in the next few days.

Company President Allen Rice says a new contract to manufacture body armor vests for the Department of Defense has been received.

"For us, the bottom line is that starting this Monday and through the end of the year we expect to run a full complement of people out here for the vests," he says.

The initial order is for 60,000 vests with future orders expected for three times that many, according to Rice.

"Our business is back and we're going to be going full blast.  Those who were working with us we are asking to come back and for those that don't, we'll be hiring new people to take their places," Rice reports.

Although Savannah Luggage Works is heavy into cutting and sewing, the company has many other support jobs available.  Rice says the company pays a competitive wage and provides numerous benefits including health insurance, vacation, retirement and others.

Applicants should visit the company located four miles north of Vidalia on Highway 297.

April 28--  Georgia's First Lady, Sandra Deal, brought her "Read Across Georgia" program to Vidalia Thursday.  She read to third graders at Sally Meadows Elementary School and chose to read from the series of Yumion books by local co-authors Rhonda Petty and Pam Alexander.


Alexander says Mrs. Deal, a former schoolteacher, had inquired about using the books to stress the importance of reading to elementary school students in the state.  That resulted in an invitation to visit Vidalia for a reading which attracted a host of local leaders and Yumion to the media center in the new Sally Meadows School.

April 28--  Gov. Nathan Deal and GEMA Director Charley English will tour storm-damaged areas in northwest Georgia and western Middle Georgia today. 

  The governor has declared a state of emergency in Bartow, Coweta, Greene, Lamar, Meriwether,  Monroe, Morgan, Pickens, Polk, Rabun, Spalding, and Troup counties. This brings the total number of counties under a state of emergency to 16 after he declared emergencies for Walker, Dade, Catoosa and Floyd counties last night.

April 27--  Vidalia businessman Allen Rice is among statewide leaders Governor Nathan Deal has appointed to grow jobs in Georgia.  The Governor's office issued the following news release.

"Gov. Nathan Deal today launched the Georgia Competitiveness Initiative to focus on job creation and statewide economic development strategy. The effort concentrates on strategic issues in attracting and keeping high-paying jobs in Georgia: infrastructure, innovation, education and workforce development, a friendly business climate, global commerce and government efficiency.

“From the start of my campaign, my top priority has been creating jobs for Georgians. However, unlike many government ‘jobs’ programs, we are not looking to the taxpayer to fund new positions,” said Deal. “The growth and stability of our job base must come from private businesses. This Initiative will create an environment that helps Georgia businesses thrive, expand and attract new companies.”

Deal stressed the importance of being competitive globally.

“We understand that to deliver economic development, we must set ourselves apart in a global race for capital and jobs. This initiative is about positioning Georgia as a destination that rewards entrepreneurial spirit and investment,” Deal said.

Because of the broad scope and nature of the initiative, Chris Cummiskey, commissioner for the Georgia Department of Economic Development , and Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, were asked to co-chair it. Twenty-three business leaders from across the state will serve on the steering committee, with a group of government officials assisting as ex-officio members.

The group will work to deliver a plan that enhances Georgia’s competitiveness and economic growth while ensuring that the 12 regions and the diverse industries across the state are recognized. Initiative members will meet with business leaders in each region this summer to better understand local needs and perspectives. A final report, including recommendations, will be delivered to Deal this fall.

The first regional meeting is set for late June. Details will be announced.


April 27--  Georgia Power crews are standing by in case of bad weather tonight in the Toombs County area.

Local manager B.J. Davis says the company held a conference call today regarding stormy weather and potential power outages overnight.  

Georgia Power crews have already responded to outages earlier today in northwest Georgia.

April 26--  The U.S. Marines set up camp at Vidalia Regional Airport Monday night and Tuesday conducted a training exercise with F-18 jets from the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, South Carolina.

The commander of the Marine Wing Support Squardon 273 , Lieutenant Colonel Andy Regan, says his unit is training for deployment to Afghanistan.

"This unit is about two rotations out from deploying to Afghanistan and every Marine Wing Support Squadron which has gone into Afghanistan has installed arresting gear," he says.


Marine pilots have a hook on the rear fuselage of their jets which is snagged by an arresting cable across the runway.  The procedure allows jets to land on short airfields in combat areas by slowing the planes and pulling them to a stop in less than a thousand feet.


Lieutenant Colonel Regan says he chose Vidalia Regional Airport for the training after attending an Onion Festival Air Show several years back.

"I don't mean this as an insult, but there's nothing out here except the air strip.  I came out here four years ago for the air show.  I thought from the atmosphere of the people I met that Vidalia was a very welcoming community with a lot of patriotic people," he said.

The squadron commander also reports the Marine Corps is getting lots of top notch young people these days.

"The faith people can have in this generation is that they want to contribute.  We're talking about the kids who were ten or eleven years old on September 11, 2001.  They remember that and we're getting a lot of kids who want to do their part," the commander says.

Vidalia Regional Airport also benefitted from the exercise.  Manager Kevin Britton says the Marines removed some foliage from the airport and did some improvements to the runway.


April 26--  There's a glimmer of good news in unemployment rates, however, our area has the highest unemployment rate in Georgia and remains higher than it was a year ago. 

State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said today that the preliminary unadjusted unemployment rate in the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha area decreased to 11.7 percent in March, down four-tenths of a percentage point from a revised 12.1 percent in February. The jobless rate in the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha area in March a year ago was 11.3 percent.

“The unemployment rate decreased in the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha area, as well as in all of the state’s other 24 local areas,” said Butler. “This is encouraging, and hopefully indicates that a modest recovery may be building throughout the state.”

The lowest rate, at 7.3 percent was in metro Athens, while the highest rate, at 11.7 percent, was in the Heart of Georgia – Altamaha region around Dublin.

Georgia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for March was 10.0 percent, down two-tenths of a percentage point, from a revised 10.2 percent in February. The state’s jobless rate was also 10.2 percent in March 2010.

March marked the 42nd consecutive month that Georgia has exceeded the national unemployment rate, which is currently 8.8 percent.

Local area unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted. Georgia labor market data are available at


April 26--  The long-awaited refurbished Vidalia Onion Museum is opening Friday in the Vidalia Onion Committee building behind the Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce on Highway 280 West in the Sweet Onion City.

The official opening at noon will be preceded by a live statewide broadcast from the museum of "The Martha Zoeller Show" on the Georgia News Network (GNN) and locally on NewsTalk 970, WVOP.  Martha Zoeller is ranked among the top 100 "Top Talkers" in the country and broadcast each weekday on GNN.

The following posting from "With a Southern Touch" highlights some of the activities planned for the museum's opening.  Click on the link below for the full story.

"Vidalia onion enthusiasts around the country will be able to explore the history of Georgia's beloved state vegetable and the growing region that has made it so famous with the official opening of the Vidalia Onion Museum on Friday, April 29, 2011. On hand to celebrate the opening is "Top Chef" fan favorite Kevin Gillespie of Woodfire Grill, award-winning chef Gerry Klaskala of Aria, "Top Chef" contestant Tracey Bloom of Ray's at Killer Creek, James Beard award winner Jeffrey Buben of Vidalia restaurant, cookbook author Gena Knox and others for a sneak peak into what's special about our state's Vidalia onion [...] See full story on @"  

April 25--  State Representative Greg Morris of Vidalia sat on the House committee which studied illegal immigration in Georgia for a year before the reform measure passed the state legislature earlier this month.

Even though he represents a rural farming district which depends primarily on alien workers for labor, Representative Morris says he was never pressured to vote against the bill.

"All the farmers in my area have asked is, 'help us do the right thing to comply with the law.'  I was not encouraged in any way by anybody in the agricultural industry in our area to go light on illegal immigration.  Theu jsut want a workable program so they can bring workers in to harvest the crop and then go back from whence they came."

The new law will require employers with more than ten employees to use the government's online system to verify the immigration status of workers.

Morris believes it will withstand the inevitable court challenge, "A bill is no good if the courts are going to strike it down.  I really believe other states were watching our process and I think more states want to adopt laws closer to ours to bring gradual phase-in of some of the requirements for employers.  I think it's going to wind up being a model," he says.

"It's an issue the federal government doesn't have the guts to deal with, but the people I represent are tired of paying for people who are in this country illegally," Morris noted.

"Most people are not opposed to people coming to this country to work.  They're opposed to somebody coming here to work and then wind up on social programs that cost taxpayers money and trap the person into this welfare dependency that so many people in this country  are in, that's what people are opposed to," Morris believes.

The new Georgia immigration law will take effect once signed by Governor Nathan Deal.

April 25--  Brewton-Parker College Board of Trustees adopted a bridging mission and vision statement for the College as presented by BPC Acting President Dr. Mike Simoneaux April 21 at the regular board meeting.

            The purpose of the statements is to refocus the College to its Biblically-based Christian mission anchored in the Georgia Baptist Convention.

            The Bridging Mission Statement reads, “The mission of Brewton-Parker College, a Georgia Baptist college, is to develop the whole student through the application of Biblically-centered truth to a liberal arts curriculum in a community of shared Christian values.”

            The Bridging Vision Statement states, “Brewton-Parker College strives to honor Jesus Christ in every area of the academy.”

            Dr. Simoneaux stresses these statements will serve the College through the period of transition during his acting presidency. He has been actively visiting area business and community groups since his arrival at BPC two months ago and is currently scheduled to speak with the Kiwanis Club of Vidalia.

            If you would like to schedule a time to introduce Brewton-Parker’s acting president to your community organization and learn more about the College, please contact Lynn Jackson at 912-583-3239.

April 22--  Help Needed for God's Storehouse 

God's Storehouse in Vidalia is in dire need of financial assistance according to Director Tina Houser.

She says the charity's checking account is down to $5,000 and she's afraid she'll soon have to start turning away needy people who frequent the storehouse for food.

God's Storehouse is located on McIntosh Street in Vidalia and regularly provides food for about 250 families.  Houser also runs "The Jesus Inn" adjacent to the Storehouse which provides beds for 20 homeless people.

Houser says contributions are down due to the economy while the need is even greater for the same reason.

If you can help, call Tina at 538-1730.

Vidalia OK's Economic Development Grant

The Vidalia city council has approved a $90,000 loan to Dr. Wayne Williams to start an aviation company in Vidalia.  Precision Flight Training, LLC will be located at the Vidalia Regional Airport and offer pilot training and aircraft rentals.  The 3% loan is from economic development funds provided by the state of Georgia.  Another $150,000 is available from the loan fund to business people who need assistance creating or retaining jobs, according to Vidalia City Manager Bill Torrance.

Governor Signs Local Legislation for Montgomery County

Governor Nathan Deal has signed House Bill 375 to stagger the terms of office of county commissioners in Montgomery County.

In November 2012, the commissioners from Districts 1, 2 and 3 will be elected to four year terms while those from Districts 4 and 5 will be elected to two year terms.  Future elections would be for four year terms for all commissioners.


April 22--  The Toombs County 4-H shotgun team competed in the 2011 Southeast District 4-H Shotgun Match and State Qualification Event at Hanging Rocks Plantation in Jenkins County. The team from Toombs County competed against almost 300 shotgun shooters at the match.


To advance to the state match on May 7, 2011 at Rock Eagle 4-H Center, Junior 4-H members had to break at least 16 of 25 targets and Senior 4-H member must break 20 of 25 targets. Team members Will Brown, Tyler Chancey, Katie Earls, Matt Hadley, Seth Moser, Dalton Ridgdill, Seth Todd and Mitch Williamson advanced to the state competition.      

Local 4-H'ers who competed were: Ethan Brown, Will Brown, Tyler Chancey, Ryan Copeland, Emily Earls, Katie Earls, Matt Hadley, Dylan Harden, Matt Hadley, Meghan Hadley, Landon James, Lili Hester,  Nick Hester, Seth Moser, Dalton Ridgdill, Kassie Rivers, Trenton Stephens, Seth Todd, Christopher Warren, Kimberly Warren, Chase Williams  and Mitch Williamson.

The team practiced weekly since February to prepare for the competition.  Each team member was also required to successfully complete the Georgia Hunter Safety Program.  

The Georgia 4-H Shooting Awareness, Fun and Education Program (S.A.F.E.) is sponsored by The Georgia 4-H Foundation.  The Toombs County program is in its fifth year.  Local sponsors of this year's team included Brown Implement and Milling, Chatters, Dykes Concrete, Friends of the NRA, Lasseter Implement Company, Liberty Baptist Church, McLain Farms, Spivey Orthopedic Clinic, Southern Steel Detailing, Inc., Toombs County Farm Bureau, Vidalia Federal Savings Bank, Georgia Small Business Council and Vidalia Medical Associates.

The team is coached by Project S.A.F.E. Certified Coach David Garrett, John Hadley, Wendell Harvey, Jamason Odom and Dover Williamson.  The Toombs County 4-H Program is under the coordination of Cheryl Poppell, Extension Coordinator and Lesli Garrett 4-H Program Assistant.

4-H is the Youth Development Program of the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.  For more information about this or any other 4-H activity, call the Toombs County Extension Office at 526-3101 or visit Toombs County Extension online at


April 22--  The newest industry to locate in Toombs County is in the final stages of plant preparation at the Toombs Corporte Center on Highway One north of Lyons.

U.S. Pet is co-locating in the same building with Chicken of the Sea, its sister company under the corporate umbrella of Thai Union.  The corporation already operates four pet food plants in Asia, but this is its first pet food plant in the U.S.

Among other inducements from the Toombs County Development Authority, the company is applying for a $500,000 economic development grant from the state of Georgia in return for a $25 million capital investment and a promise of 150 jobs within four years.

{mosimage}General manager John Phelps told the Vidalia Rotary Club the company is beginning to recruit locally. "Our main way of looking for good people is to have recommendations from good people.  If somebody knows somebody they can really recommend in terms of intelligence, motivation and working well on a team, that's our primary way we're going to recruit.  In terms of the scope of the jobs, we expect to have about 100 people when the plant is fully operational.  That may take a couple of years or three or four years as we build up the business, but from 100 to 150 is our goal."

Phelps says many of the U.S. Pet products will be prepared for other pet food companies and others who are looking for high quality speciality pet food.

"U.S. Pet is not trying to be the cheapest, but to be the best.  Most of our customers will be ranging from a veterinarian who wants to deal with food allergies or somebody who has an elderly dog who has a digestive issue, those are all the things we specialize in.  We have built our factory around quality and animals who have difficulties," Phelps says.

Another spinoff benefit from U.S. Pet  is the plant's intention to buy many of its raw materals locally including meats and vegetables. 

April 21--  Thirteen students from all grade levels were honored at the April meeting of the Toombs County school board.  They are all winners in the school system's Young Georgia Authors' Writing Competion for this year and will now compete with other winners in the RESA District.


The winners are Jason McVea, Kineshy Sanchez, Gladys Reyes, Bethany Cannon, Angel Summerville, Courtney Campbell, Jose Yanez, Baylor Rigdon, Tanner Higgs, Demi Stoddard, Megan Toole, Robert George and Kevin Horne.

 April 21--  The Vidalia school board has approved the school system's calendar for next school term. Classes will start August 12, 2011 and will end May 18, 2012.

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April 20--  A complaint to the Georgia Department of Agriculture about the Lyons Animal Shelter has been traced to the Laurens Humane Society in Dublin. 

The March 17 email from Laurens Director Irene Sumner prompted a state inspection of the Lyons Shelter March 28 which found no evidence of the claims made in the complaint.

However, the complaint rubbed city officials in Lyons the wrong way and was partially responsible for a change in city direction regarding the Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society, according to city council member Wayne Hartley.

Hartley and councilman Willis NeeSmith drafted new city operating procedures for the Lyons shelter after the mass killing of 77 dogs at the shelter in January. A second draft of the proposal is now pending city council approval and contains a prohibition against SOAPS vounteers doing any work at the shelter without city supervision.  Previously, SOAPS personnel were allowed to clean the shelter and care for the animals on weekends.

Sumner says she sent the email to notify state officials that their inspector Tommy Sheffield was being taken to task for his work in the aftermath of the Lyons killings.  Her email included numerous allegations posted on the Internet by Southern Comfort Rescue in Glenwood.

"I run a shelter and I know how delicate the situations can be between a county, a city and non-profit organizations, but when I see all this crap, excuse my French, being put out there on websites slandering people, it gets pretty frustrating for me.  When that email came across slandering state officials, I thought they needed to know what the heck was going on," Sumner said.

Sumner she's sorry for any impact her email had on relations between Lyons and SOAPS.

Meanwhile, SOAPS CEO Therisa Ingley is hopeful a good working relationship with Lyons can be restored, "I want them to know we did not send the email and are sorry Lyons is getting so much negative publicity over events down there.  We were pleased with the efforts that were being made to work out the situation and we hope that can be restored."

Councilman Hartley says he thinks the city council will standby the most recent changes to the draft operating procedure regardless of who send the email complaint to state officials.

Meanwhile, Southern Comfort Rescue has been inspected in the aftermath of a fire early this month.  The Department of Agriculture says no more animals may be brought into the facility until further notice and the facility is not to be used without permission from the state.

State officials say the "Stop Order (stop movement/stop use)" order was issued April 13 and will remain in effect until released by the Department of Agriculture.  The license for the facility allows for the care of up to 80 animals and expires July 31.


April 19--  The Downtown Vidalia Association awarded a $500 grant Tuesday for downtown improvement to Lady K's to help with the installation of new awnings.


(L-R) DVA Executive Director Paula Toole, owners John and Sandra Kea, Design Committee Chairperson B.J. Davis, John Underwood of the Economic Development Committee and DVA President Ross Kelly.

According to Davis, "Sandra and John Kea have been loyal DVA members for many years.  Their pride in this community shows through their constant involvement with the DVA and we are proud they continue to operate their business in the downtown area."

This is the first DVA grant awarded in 2011, Davis reports.

April 19--  Georgia's First Lady, Sandra Deal, is coming to Vidalia early on during the Vidalia Onion Festival.

Ginger Morris, principal at Sally Meadows Elementary School, says Mrs. Deal will be reading to third graders Thursday, April 28th.  She'll be reading a book by local author Rhonda Frost Petty about the Onion Festival and Yumion.

Meanwhile, the Vidalia Onion Festival has made the NBC Today Show's favorite five Spring festivals.  You can see the write-up at this link.


April 19--  The new chairman of the Toombs County school board wants more transparency when it comes to awarding contracts to vendors.

Chairman Daniel Caraway objected at this month's board meeting when he learned a contract to repaint the roof at Toombs County High School had not been publicly advertised.  The board ended up tabling a $69,000 quote until the work can be advertised.

According to Caraway, the board is supposed to advertise requests for  bids for any amount over $5,000.  He said the public needs to know how tax dollars are spent and have an opportunity to bid on work for the school system.

On another project, the board approved a $681,000 contract to McLendon Construction Company to widen Bulldog Road and install turn lanes in front of Toombs County High School.  The work is expected to start after school ends in May.

It also okayed next year's school calendar with the first student day set for August 22.

April 18--  The video game gambling raids conducted last year in Toombs and Emanuel counties collected over $1.2 million dollars from asset seizures and settlements with 29 convenience stores hit by the operation. 

In response to a Freedom of Information request, District Attorney Hayward Altman reports his office received nearly $735,000.  An Atlanta law firm got over $390,000 in settlement commissions and a court-appointed receiver has collected more than $103,000 in settlement money.  The Macon law firm also received an undisclosed amount of money from store owners for overseeing property seized in the raid.

The district attorney is being sued in Toombs County Superior Court to have some of the money collected by Atlanta attorney Ekonomou Atkinson and the Lambros Law Firm returned to the Toombs County general fund.

Former Toombs County Commission Chairman James Thompson brought the suit claiming Georgia law requires forfeitures made as a result of illegal activity in Toombs County should go to the county.

The District Attorney says Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens has assured him the actions he took last year to employ outside lawyers on a contingency fee basis were legal under Georgia law at the time.  However, neither he nor other prosecutors will be able to do it again.  The Georgia legislature has passed a new law effective July 1 prohibiting the practice.

The raids in Toombs County generated nearly $440,000 to the district attorney's office, almost $210,000 to the Atlanta law group and over $92,000 for the court receiver lawyers in Macon.

Altman says the $440,000 will be divided among his office, the East Central Georgia Drug Task Force, the Toombs County Sheriff's Office, and police departments in Vidalia and Lyons.

Other funds have already been distributed to law enforcement agenices in Emanuel County, he reports.

The District Attorney is planning to file a motion in the next two weeks requesting Thompson's law suit be dismissed. 

April 18--  The state official responsible for overseeing elections in Georgia is on the road visiting voting officials at the grass roots level and Friday made a stop at the Toombs County Board of Elections office in Lyons.


Front Row, L-R Toombs Commissioner Skeeter Toole, Voting Registrar Assistant Hazel Williams, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Voting Registrar Carey Alligood, and Toombs Elections Board member Cathy Milligan. Back Row, L-R Elections Board Member Donnie Mann, Toombs County Manager Doug Eaves and Elections Board Chairman Summie Pittman. 

Secretary of State Brian Kemp says he is pleased that the Department of Justice has finally give the green light to Georgia's requirements for voter identification.

"I think it was another great victory for having secure elections.  We don't want non-citizens voting in our elections and cancelling citizens' votes in our elections," he said.

Kemp also says another area ripe for voter fraud is absentee ballots.

"That's one of our biggest challenges.  Most of our fraud happens with absentee ballots.  That's one reason we implemented our triple signature check which checks the application for the absentee ballot with the signature when the ballot is returned versus the voter registration card.  That gives us a good level of security, but I'm continuing to look at ways to strengthen the process to make sure its secure," he said.

Secretary Kemp also hopes the cost of elections to counties will be reduced somewhat by changing the period allowed for advance voting from 45 days to 21 days before an election.

April 17--  Over 100 girls competed in six categories for crowns in this year's Vidalia Onion Festival pageant sponsored by the Vidalia Charter Chapter of the American Business Women's Association.


(L-R) Junior Miss Vidalia Onion Angela Robertson, Miss Onion Seed Nora Grace Mercer, Miss Vidalia Onion Amanda Lawler and Miss Spring Onion Calista Brogdon.

Miss Vidalia Onion for 2011 is 19-year-old Amanda Lawler who also won "The People's Choice Award."  She receives the $1,000 Sandra Way Scholarship from ABWA.  A $500 scholarship goes to first runner-up Macey McIntyre and a $250 scholarship to second runner-up Heather Stille.  Maggie Krulic came in third and Devin Jones was fourth runner-up.

The Junior Miss Vidalia Onion is 14-year-old Angel Robertson of Metter, a student at J.R. Trippe Middle School in Vidalia.  First runner-up is MacKenzie Wilkerson, second Hunterpaige McDaniel, third Lindsey Hattaway and fourth Madison Hart.

Little Miss Onion Toddler is Lexy Reynolds, Miss Onion Seed is Nora Grace Mercer, Miss Onion Sprout is Kylei McCoy and Miss Spring Onion is Calista Brogdon.

Leah Farrow served as the ABWA chairwoman for this year's pageant, one of the largest in recent history.

April 15-- The Culinary Extravaganza for the 2011 Vidalia Onion Festival will be held on Thursday, April 28, 2011 at 6:00 at the Southeastern Technical College. 


The event will feature Mark Ballard, Georgia television personality, cookbook author, artist and designer.  This will be Mark’s ninth appearance at the cooking school. He has made this event a “must” for locals and visitors alike.  Mark combines his love and knowledge of cooking with humor and entertainment.  He keeps the audience in stitches while preparing several great dishes featuring Vidalia onions.  Those in attendance leave with their stomachs full and their spirits lifted. 

Tickets are $10.00 at the door.  Tickets may also be purchased in advance at Merle Norman Cosmetics Studio in the BB&T Shopping Center or by calling Jan at 912-537-1223 or Lindi at 912-537-9973.


April 15--  Junior Marla Hollis of Patterson was crowned Miss BPC during the 2011 Miss Brewton-Parker College Pageant in the Gilder Recital Hall.

            {mosimage}Hollis was also the winner of the Interview portion. Hollis is the daughter of Melvin and Ramona Hollis of Patterson. A Spanish major and psychology minor, Hollis plans to become a translator for the government, specifically in foreign language, after graduation. She is a the secretary of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, member of Baptist Collegiate Ministries and women’s cross country team, resident assistant of Friendship Hall, women’s varsity basketball manager and on the International Standing Committee of Student Government Association. Her hobbies are “running, eating, reading, helping others and sleeping”.

Marla chose to enter the Miss BPC pageant because “it would be an honor of the highest quality to represent such a fine institution and be a testimony to where hard work, determination, and most importantly the love of Christ can take you.” During her year reign, Miss BPC is expected to represent the college in community service and outreach events.           

{mosimage}Miss BPC 2010 Crystal Adams crowns Marla Hollis Miss BPC 2011  as the runners-up respond with excitement. Standing (l-r), are Third Runner-up Bethany Beecher of Mount Vernon, First Runner-up Lisa Taylor of Lyons, Hollis, Second Runner-up Chelsea Moore of Alamo. (Photos by Ray Minks)




April 14--  Brewton Parker College is restructuring its academic programs, bringing back its music major which was abandoned two years ago and abolishing seven faculty positions, all moves designed to help the college weather challenging economic conditions.  The school issued the following press release Thursday.

"Brewton-Parker College announces today it is restructuring its academic programs into four main divisions: Arts & Sciences, Christian Studies, Business and Education, said Dr. Mike Simoneaux, acting president. No academic majors will be reduced as a result of this restructuring.

            “These decisions will streamline our institution and put us in a better position to move forward,” said Dr. Simoneaux.

            The former divisions of Arts & Letters, Social & Behavioral Sciences and Mathematics & Natural Sciences will combine to form the Division of Arts & Sciences.

            The Division of Christian Studies will house majors in Religion & Philosophy as well as the music program, which returns to BPC during the 2011-2012 academic year with the addition of the church music major. Education and Business divisions will remain unchanged.

            Dr. Simoneaux announced the music program’s return at the 2011 Alumni Weekend’s Tribute and Award Service Saturday, April 9 in Saliba Chapel. More than 500 alumni and friends responded to this news with a jubilant standing ovation. A BPC Reunion Alumni Choir of 273 voices under the direction of former music professor Hildegard Stanley highlighted the day’s events.

“There is a time for all things under Heaven, as that song says, and there is a time to get the music program restarted,” said Dr. Simoneaux, “but we will need two things. We need you to give some money and we need new students. We need your help... We need the involvement of the alumni. I will work with all the strength I have. I am your president during this transition.”

A special offering was taken up during the performance totaling $4,906.03, and 236 people committed to be prayer partners for Brewton-Parker.

“Dr. Simoneaux has taken additional steps to curtail spending and create a realistic budget for 2011-2012,” said Dr. Ron Melton, provost. “Unfortunately, it was necessary to reduce our faculty by seven full-time positions. Staff positions are not affected.”

            Brewton-Parker has offered those who will not be given contracts assistance in finding new positions and a modest severance package.

            Other programs developed for Fall 2011 include the Health and Wellness Management concentration in the Division of Business, a specialized business degree for those wishing to work in the health care industry after graduation.  


April 14--  The body of a man was found floating in a pond near Santa Claus Thursday morning.

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight said he spotted the body in the middle of the pond when he went to check his onion field which is next to the 12-acre pond.  His sister, Joyce McNair, owns the pond.

Sheriff Kight says the man is 56-year-old John Lee Hunt and that he lived in a trailer near the pond at 196 Simpson Road.  According to the sheriff, Hunt was last seen going to fish at the pond Saturday and was reported missing by his family Monday.

The GBI is investigating the circumstances of the death and the body is being sent to the state crime lab, the sheriff says.  He reported no signs of foul play.

April 13--  The Robert Toombs Christian Academy Board of Directors announced today that Jon Dorminey has been hired as the headmaster for RTCA. 

{mosimage}Mr. Dorminey has many years experience with GISA schools.  He is a 1992 graduate of Crisp Academy.  He graduated from Georgia Southern University in 1996 and received his masters degree from Georgia Southwestern University in 1999. He has served as the assistant boys and girls varsity basketball coach at Crisp Academy.  He also spent 4 seasons as the head boys and girls basketball coach at David Emanuel Academy.  At DEA, he also filled the role of football offensive coordinator.  Pinewood Christian Academy hired Mr. Dorminey in 2002 as assistant headmaster.  He was promoted to headmaster in 2006 and served in that role until 2010. 

Mr. Dorminey is married to the former Amy Willis of Vidalia.  Amy is the daughter of Bo & Sally Willis.

He will succeed Headmaster John Sharpe at the end of this school term.

April 13, 2011 -- The State Board of Education today approved State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge's plan to phase out the Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT).  Students who enter high school in fall 2011 will no longer take the GHSGT in English, math, social studies and science, in order to graduate.  This new plan will require students to pass all required courses, and the End-of-Course Tests (EOCT) would now count 20% of a student's final grade, rather than the current 15% weight.

"Georgia has been trying to eliminate the Georgia High School Graduation Test for over a decade," said Superintendent Barge. "I appreciate the State Board's vote that finally allows us to move away from the GHSGT. I don't believe the GHSGT is nearly as good an indicator of how much a student has learned as our End-of-Course Tests. The EOCTs are much more rigorous, and they test a student immediately following a course, rather than waiting until a student's Junior year to determine whether or not he or she has mastered the content of our curriculum."

Today's vote by the State Board of Education formally changed two rules:  Rule 160-3-1-.07 TESTING PROGRAMS and Rule 160-4-2-.13 STATEWIDE PASSING SCORE.  With these rule amendments, students entering ninth grade on or after July 1, 2011 no longer must take or pass the GHSGT to receive a high school diploma.  The rule amendments also reflect the change in the EOCT accounting for 20% of a student's final course grade.  Students must pass all required courses, including those courses with EOCT.  

These rule amendments also allow flexibility for students who entered ninth grade between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2011 to meet graduation requirements by either passing the GHSGT or at least one of the two equivalent end of course tests in each corresponding content area.  

Every student must continue to complete all applicable course requirements as well as taking and passing the Georgia High School Writing Test.  

April 12--  The Vidalia Animal Shelter is "bustin' at the seams" according to shelter manager April Braddy.

"We need some adopters to come out and adopt some babies.  We've got plenty of puppies, dogs, cats and kittens.  We've got nearly 100 dogs and about 60 cats," she reports.

The adoption fee is $45 dollars and includes shots and a free vet examination.  Also, a $100 voucher is provided by the Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society for spaying and neutering of adopted pets.

The Vidalia Animal Shelter only euthanizes animals as a last resort and has been threatened by the state in the past because of overcrowding as a result of that policy.  

April 12--  The Montgomery County commission is looking at options to improve fire protection in the Tarrytown-Kibbee area.

At its monthly meeting Monday, the commissioners heard from Tarrytown Mayor Lynette Coleman who asked for help building a fire station.  Residents from the Kibbee area say they need a sub-station in the northeast part of the county to improve response time and reduce their fire insurance rates.

Commission chairman Brandon Braddy said the county is in no financial shape to take on new debt at this time.  However, he appointed a committee to investigate options and provide cost estimates for future county budgets.  The commission will hold a workshop in May to consider the committee's recommendations.

County manager David Curry informed the commission that Montgomery County's list of proposed road projects has been submitted for consideration by the 17-county transportation roundtable and the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Eight projects costing an estimated $4.3 million were submitted including $1.5 million to rework Thompson Pond Road.  Other resurfacing projects are proposed for Taylor Springs Road, Old River Road, Bear Creek Road and Connell Lane.  Also, money for transit sysem operations and vehicles.

Projects which make the regional list would be funded by a one percent transportation sales tax if approved by voters in 2012.

April 12--  Republican efforts to change the state's tax code is apparently dead for this session of the Georgia legislature. 

House Speaker David Ralston told reporters at the state Capitol on Monday that he pulled the bill after losing confidence in data provided by Georgia State University economists showing who would benefit from the revamped plan. It would have lowered the personal income tax rate and slapped a sales tax on some new goods and services.

Ralston said the work on tax reform will continue, and the legislature could take up the issue during a special session this summer that will tackle redistricting or during next year's session.

"Tax reform is not dead; tax reform is delayed," Ralston said.

Sen. Tommie Williams of Lyons released the following statement regarding the Tax Reform Council which had been formed last year to recommend changes to the state's tax code.


"We believe strongly in the policy and the direction that the Tax Reform Council has laid out. This issue is not over and the Tax Reform Council will remain active.  This is a difficult issue and should not be rushed.  The Speaker’s leadership on this issue and insistence that we get this right before moving forward is commendable. We will spend our time out of session continuing to look into ways to improve our tax system and put money back into the pockets of our hard working citizens. However, it will not happen until we are confident that the package we have crafted will be a tax cut for Georgians- not an increase. A fair, flatter tax structure is a key component to true tax reform. We are not interested in a political quick fix.  What we want is true tax reform that is based on sound and verifiable public policy. Until we are confident of that we will continue to work to get it right.”


April 11--  The cost of taking a GED test in Georgia is going up as of July 1st.

The Technical College System of Georgia says the price is increasing from $95 to as high as $250.

The national administrator of the GED tests announced the increase in March and it was approved by the state board at its meeting Thursday.  "We were asked to vote on it, but it didn't matter.  It was either do that or not have a GED program.  The test is a national test and you have to go by what their rules are," according to Dr. Cathy Mitchell, president of Southestern Technical College.

The state is advising current GED students to take their tests before the end of June to avoid the rate increase.  

"It's going to be very difficult for our students to come up with that kind of money.  Our Foundation has been very good about raising money for adult education and I'm sure it will continue to do so.  I remember a few years ago it was $45, then it went to $55 and then $95.   Now it will be about two-and-a-half times what it is currently and that's a large increase," she said.

Toombs, Montgomery and Tattnall counties have been working for more than ten years to increase the number of people taking the GED because it's important to the area's economic growth.

"It's very difficult to bring an industry into a community which has a large number of people without high school diplomas.  That's one of the things a business looks at right off the bat. I'd much rather pay $250 for someone to take a test and get their GED and become a taxpayer than the other way around," Dr. Meehan notes.

April 11--  Counties and municipalitiies comprising the 17-county Heart of Georgia Regional Development Commission have submitted transportation projects they would like to see funded over the next ten years by a one percent transportation sales tax.

Projects which meet state criteria will be considered for placement on a ballot which voters in the 17 counties will get a chance to vote on in August, 2012.

Toombs County Commission Chairman Buddy West is on the Executive Board of the Regional Transportation Roundtable which includes mayors and county commissioners in the region.

"We as the Executive Committee will go through that list and present it to the Roundtable for final approval in conjunction with the Department of Transportation," he says.

According to Toombs County manager Doug Eaves, "If approved (by voters), the tax is expected to generate over $320 million for regional transportation projects over a ten-year period."

The projects submitted by Toombs County total $14.4 million and are:

1.             US 1 Widening from Appling County to SR 130

2.             Resurfacing four miles of Lyons Center Rd from Montgomery County line to SR 15

3.             Two 1.5 mile Passing Lanes on SR 152

4.             Accel-Decel and turn lanes at SR 130 for industrial Park

5.             Grade, Drain Base and Surface Ezra Taylor Rd. from Lyons Center Rd.

6.      Reclaim/Resurface New Normantown Rd.

7.             Resurface Old Donald Anderson Road.

8.             Resurface Providence Church Road

9.             Resurface Marvin Church Rd.

10.     Toombs County Pavement Marking Improvement Program

11.     Resurface Mt. Moriah Church Rd.

12.     Resurface Five Points Rd. to the Emanuel County line

The city of Vidalia's submission totals almost $7.4 million and includes:

Toombs County

Adams Street                                                                          1,642,051.70Drainage, water, resurfacing

Extension of Michael Collins Dr.                                                                       361,370.32

Extension of Mose Coleman Road to Ezra Taylor Road                                1,146,566.61

Pete Phillips Road                                                                        192,574.00

Guardrails and Resurfacing

Airport Road from Pete Phillips to Terminal                                      891,445.00

Brinson Road                                                                                 209,933.00

Guard Rails, Resurface and Drainage

Lowery Place                                                                                  48,090.00


Curry Street                                                                                  51,800.00

Curb, gutter and resurfacing

Truman Street                                                                                61,570.00

Curb, gutter, drainage and resurface

Rudell Road                                                                                104,563.00

Curb, gutter, drainage and resurfacing

Semco Road                                                                                   88,761.00

Curb, gutter, drainage and resurfacing

Ezra Taylor Road from Hwy 280 to Sports Complex                   939,127.68

8 Rail Road Crossings (Concrete Panels)                                      400,000

Off Ramp highway 280w at highway 130                                       1,040,397.00

Total                                                                                        7,160,249.41

Montgomery County

Commerce Loop                                                                      190,072.00

Curb, gutter and resurfacing

Miracle Lane                                                                            43,475.00


Total                                                                                        233,547.00

In Lyons, city administrator Rick Hartley says six projects totaling $2 million have been submitted including four road resurfacing projects and two stop lights.


April 8--  The Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday morning at the rebuilt McDonalds on the strip in Vidalia.


Front row (l-r) Chris Zorn, Jr., McDonald's area supervisor Jennifer McCord, owner Kevin Griner, Bill Mitchell, Lee Evans; back row (l-r) Alan Thigpen, Wendell Dixon, Mac Jordan, Debbie Evans and Mike Gay.

April 7--  The working relationship between the city of Lyons and the Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society appears to have been damaged.

Lyons councilman Wayne Hartley says the Lyons animal shelter was visited by inspectors from the Georgia Department of Agriculture March 31 after an unidentified person emailed a complaint to the Department.  Neither Hartley nor SOAPS President Therisa Ingley know who sent the email.

Inspector Tommy Sheffield investigated the complaint and recommended it be closed.  His report found no evidence supporting allegations in the complaint including unaccounted for dogs, euthanasia of puppies and inadequate record-keeping.

However, as a consequence of the investigation, Councilman Hartley says some members of the city council had concerns about certain aspects of a draft animal shelter policy being developed by the city.  The new draft deletes any reference to the city taking financial assistance from SOAPS.  Hartley also says the city no longer wants SOAPS volunteers cleaning the shelter and the dogs on weekends because of potential liability.  

The city has yet to approve the new draft policy and Hartley says they still have to coordinate a memorandum of agreement with Toombs County.  Lyons currently holds dogs picked up in the county but only gets $15 per animal, a figure which Hartley says does not cover expenses.

County manger Doug Eaves says the county will address the overall question of animal control once it gets something in writing from the city of Lyons.

Meanwhile, SOAP's Ingley says the group will continue to work with Lyons officials to find homes for animals in the shelter.  The city caused an uproar when it killed 77 dogs in one day earlier this year.

The state inspector's report says the shelter is "on the verge of becoming overcrowded."  At the city council meeting this week, councilman Willis NeeSmith reported the shelter had 31 dogs.  He said over 50 dogs had been adopted in the past few weeks.  Forty-three of those were rescued by SOAPS, he said.



April 7--  Advertising for America’s Favorite Sweet Onion has hit the biggest of U.S. cities as Vidalia onions are now being advertised on a video board in the heart of New York’s Times Square.

Vidalia ads will run every 20 minutes for 3 months, or about 5,000 times, leading up to and during season on the CBS “Super Screen.” The giant video screen is 26 feet tall and 20 feet across and is strategically positioned at 42nd St. between 7th and 8th Ave.  

“Mark this off my marketing bucket list,” said Wendy Brannen, Vidalia® Onion Committee Executive Director. “It is a dream to advertise in Times Square to New Yorkers and to the millions of vacationers who visit the Square each summer.”  It is estimated that 1.6 million people pass through Times Square each day, with 276,000 of them actually working there.

The “teaser” ad will run in April.  It features a child holding up and looking through sliced onion rings with the text:  “Vidalia® Season Starts in Days!  You Can Almost See the Sweetness.”  The May/June ad will promote Vidalia’s “American Favorites: Sweet Vidalias and Country Music” campaign.  It will encourage consumers to enter the Vidalia Onion Jingle Contest at starting May 1.

The Vidalia Onion Committee (VOC) was established in 1989 as Federal Marketing Order No. 955.  The order authorizes production research, marketing research and development, and marketing promotion programs.  The VOC administers the order locally and consists of eight producer members and their alternates and one public member and an alternate. More information about the Vidalia onion industry may be obtained at 

April 6--  The District Attorney in the Middle Judicial Circuit is being sued by a former chairman of the Toombs County Commission.

James Thompson filed a suit in Toombs County Superior Court seeking to force District Attorney Hayward Altman to account for and pay all proceeds from a gambling raid last year in the county to the Toombs County general fund.

"We needed to have a raid on those machines.  I don't condone the people who had those machines, but the seizures and the money should have gone to Toombs County," Thompson says.

Altman employed two Atlanta lawyers, Michael Lambros and Andy Ekenomow, to help his office with the racketeering charges stemming from the raid of more than 20 establishments in Toombs and Emanuel counties.  He says their firm is working on a 33 percent commission basis which Thompson says violates Georgia law.

"You just read the official code of Georgia and it says it's illegal for him to do that.  All fines, forfeitures and seizures should go to the county," Thompson claims.

The District Attorney says, "I have nothing to hide because it was all done legal."

Altman says he's already distributed over $100,000 to the Emanuel County Sheriff's Office, the East Georgia Drug Task Force, and the Swainsboro Police Department and used some of the money to buy vehicles for his office.

He plans to do the same thing in Toombs County.  "We have been discussing with the various law enforcement agencies that were involved in the actual RICO action as concerning the appropriate split between all of the parties involved and that will be subject to approval by the court," he says.

Thompson informed the court he may add others to the lawsuit once an accounting reveals how much settlement money has been paid to other parties in the case.

He's also asking that a judge from outside the Middle Judicial Circit hear the case due to the daily workling relationship Judges Bobby Reeves and Kathy Palmer have with the District Attorney.

Vidalia attorney Mackey Bryant is reprsenting Thompson.

{mosimage} April 6--  Vidalia High School Senior, Ben DeVore, has been accepted to Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts where he plans to begin his freshmen year in late August 2011.  Ben was one of two students in the Coastal Empire to gain acceptance into the Ivy League School. Only 6.2% of the applicants were accepted into the University.  Ben is planning to pursue a degree in International Relations and aspires to pursue a degree in Law following graduation.

Ben is the son Lisa and Jeff McCormick of Vidalia.

April 6--  The Navy's Blue Angels won't be at this year's Vidalia Onion Festival Air Show, BUT...there are plenty of other aerial performers scheduled and Marsha Temples, the air show's veteran organizer, says this will be "one of the best shows we've had in a while."  We asked Marsha for a rundown of who's coming to the Sweet Onion City.  Here's the line-up.

Randy Ball (214-676-0233) flying a Mig 17 Fighter Jet.  This is the only Mig with its guns restored for display. 

Tim Weber Airshows, Inc.  flying the Geico Extra 300S.  Tim started taking flying lessons at the age of 14 and has flown everything from a glider, a WWII Stearman, A Russian YAK to a F-16 jet.  He gives a high powered aerobatic act.

Gary Ward flying his (MX2) a high performance plane which is the absolute latest in aerobatic aircraft giving a (almost scary) exciting performance.  He loves to take risks and he is from right up the road in Lincolnton Georgia and graduated from Georgia Tech.  He has been flying since he was 16 and served in the USAF

Greg Connell flying his Pitts S-2B.  the S-2B is the “Hot-Rod” of the Pitts.  Greg is from North Augusta and lettered in football and golf.

Wounded Warriors Flight Team flying a L-39 and a P-51(the Cadallic of the Skies).  This group of guys pledge to create opportunities for wounded warriors and their families and will be on the static line after their performance to talk with anyone who knows of a wounded soilder.

One of our ground acts will be “World Stunts” Freestyle Motorcross with 2 motorcycles jumping from ramp to ramp and even over a plane.

The other ground act will be Smoke-N-Thunder Jet Car going 300 miles per hour.

Tiger Airshows – flying a YAK 55m .  Mike Sorenson has painted this plane to look like a tiger and he will take the plane thru large smoke rings.  A really unique act and lots of fun for the kids.

U S Army Special Operations Command (Black Daggers) Parachute Team will be jumping this year, opening the Air Show with their jump and later jumping as planes circle their act.

Team MS760 flying 2 MS760 Jets.  A creative exciting and dynamic precision military style aerobatic act.

Team RV flying Paris Jets.  The world’s largest air show team giving a unique formation and aerobatic act with 12 planes.

United States Air Force A-10’s are coming back and we are really excited to have them here.  A great group of guys who love to talk with the crowds and especially young people.  Their act is one of the best and they will also do a heritage flight with the P-51.

Be sure to stop by and visit with the Tiger Flight Foundation who love to talk with children and encourage aviation.  Lots of other statics like the Geico Nascar, and the Pink fire Truck (The Guardian of the Ribbon).  The Air Show is great family entertainment and lots of fun for all ages.  There will be lots of great food to choose from and many static planes along with kiddie rides and Huey Helicopter rides available.  Children 12 and under are free.

The Onion Festival Air Show at Vidalia Regional Airport is Saturday and Sunday, April 29-30.  For more info on the 2011 festival, go to





A full house attended the school board meeting.  Most were objecting to recent personnel decisons by the school board.

April 5--  Critics of personnel decisions made by the Montgomery County school board addressed the board at Monday night's school board meeting.

After leading an outdoor demonstration before the meeting, Adrian Bell, pastor of the Uvalda First Baptist Church and founder of a group called "Kids First Montgomery," asked the board to do better or resign.  Others to address the board included former Special Education Director D.B. Baker and defeated school board candidate Evelyn Carpenter of Uvalda.

"You swore to lead this system to the best of your ability.  If this is your best, and if you cannot do better, I and Kids First Montgomery publicly ask you to resign your office," Bell said after noting he was speaking as a parent.

The preacher said the board could start by repealing its actions since January 1, 2011.  The board voted last month not to rehire two school principals and two central office employees to their current positions.

After an executive session, the board ignored Bell's recommendation, but did agree to rescind a decison which would have cost teachers an extra day of pay.  On the recommendation of School Superintendent Randy Rodgers, the board voted to reinstate May 26 as a teacher planning day.

Rodgers estimates the day will cost the school system about $33,000 in salaries and leaves it with a projected surplus of only $10,000 at the end of the fiscal year June 30.  However, he said the teachers are already giving up ten days of pay this school term and he didn't feel an eleventh day was fair.

The superintendent reports he is looking at new ways to save money including the possibility of shared services with Treutlen County schools.  Rodgers also wants to educate folks about the complexities of school finance and is planning an April 30th presentation by a consultant who specializes in public school funding.

Meanwhile, the school board has yet to receive notice from the state Department of Education regarding future funding allotments and is facing the possibility of borrowing money to pay expenses through the end of the year.

April 4--  Registration for Georgia Virtual School, the online grades 6-12 program offered by the Georgia Department of Education, is now open to all public school students for the Summer 2011, Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 semesters. A waitlisted registration process is also available now for Private and Home School students.

"My vision is to Make Education Work for All Georgians," said State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge. "A major component to making it work for our students is to offer more relevant courses. The Georgia Virtual School is a perfect way for students to take courses that may not currently be offered in their school. I encourage parents and students to look into all of the courses available and enroll today."

Georgia Virtual School courses are fully accredited and aligned to state standards.  Courses are taught by highly qualified, Georgia certified teachers.  The program offers a complete high school curriculum with Advanced Placement and college prep level courses. This spring, over 8,000 students will have successfully completed courses this school year, enabling students to graduate on schedule and to access challenging courses. The twenty-two Advanced Placement offerings give all Georgia students options and opportunities often not available at their local school. Six world languages including Latin, Spanish, French, German, Japanese and Chinese are some of the most popular offerings.

The middle school program is offered during the summer and includes the 6th, 7th and 8th Grade Language Arts, Science and Mathematics courses.  These courses have been optimized for our middle school students in the state who face possible retention or who need remediation. For districts considering eliminating or reducing summer school programs, Georgia Virtual School provides a cost-effective option.

Georgia Virtual School can help local schools solve unique scheduling issues confronting students. This includes accommodating students who have transferred as well as those in hospital homebound or alternative school environments. Additionally, districts can save money by using Georgia Virtual School classes for courses with a low enrollment. Some schools even devote a computer lab to a variety of Georgia Virtual classes during one period of the day enabling them to dramatically increase their course offerings.

Georgia Virtual Learning is committed to the education of all Georgia students. By providing resources linked to the Georgia Performance Standards (GPS), teachers, parents, and students will have access to course material that can be used in the classroom or at home. For more information about Georgia Virtual Learning, their programs and free shared resources, visit their website at

April 1--  The population in the unincorporated areas of Toombs County continued to grow in the last ten years while two of the three towns in the county lost population.

Toombs County manager Doug Eaves says it's a trend that's been going on for twenty years.

"The county had an overall growth of four percent.  The trend continues that we've seen over the last 20 years that people are moving out of the municipalities into the unincorporated area.  We had a three percent increase from 42 percent to over 45 percent living in the county.  Lyons had a slight increase, but Santa Claus and Vidalia had a negative downturn," he notes.

Vidalia's population dropped about a third of a percent to 10,337, Santa Claus had a 30 percent drop to 165 and Lyons grew just under one percent to 4,367.  Toombs total population grew by 1,156 to 27,223 according to the 2010 census.

Growth in the 17-county Heart of Georgia region grew about eleven percent, but Eaves attributes some of that to increased prison populations in counties like Wheeler, Tattnall and Telfair.

"As the state is closing prisons and moving prisoners around, the prison population in some of these counties is going up considerably, and what happens is those prisoners get counted in the populations of those counties and the ones showing 18 to 20 percent growth are from the prison population," Eaves believes.

Montgomery County's population increased over ten percent to 9,123 and Treutlen's increased only slightly to 6,885.

Overall Georgia's population increased about 20 percent with most of the growth in the Atlanta metropolitan area.  Eaves says that means rural areas will lose representation in the state legislature when redistricting is done later this year.

"We're going to lose some House seats in the General Assembly and some of our Senate seats are going to get spread out a bit more.  It's going to hurt us in this part of the state as opposed to the more metro regions," he says.

 Active ImageApril 1--  The last week of the Toombs-Treutlen Relay for Life Scavenger Hunt Star was found late Tuesday Afternoon at the old Rec. Department tennis courts behind an old wooden wall. Kevin Hart of Vidalia found it and received, a meal for two, each month, for the next 12 months from Steeplechase, two wrist bands to see Kellie Pickler Show, and five entries for a chance to throw a football through a truck window and win a vehicle during the Opening of Relay for Life in front of the Vidalia High School, tonight, April 1st, stating at 6:00 PM with coverage on our Sweet Onion County Station (101.7 FM).