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

June 30--  We hear all the time about the county's high unemployment rate, yet companies say they have jobs but no qualified people who really want to work.

The CEO of AT&T told a recent conference they had to send 5,000 jobs overseas because they couldn't get the people they needed in the U.S.

Here in Toombs County, one company manager complains about laziness and says some employees are more concerned about time off than earning money to make a living.

Yet, local leaders know a qualified and motivated workforce must be available to attract companies with jobs to our area. This week in Vidalia, manufacturers and businesses met with educators seeking ways to find good employees.

One of the area's newest employers, Chicken of the Sea, is working with Southeastern Tech's Economic Development Center to screen employees before they apply for a job.

Each potential worker is required to take a three-hour test which identifies their strengths and weaknesses.  If they fit the job the tuna company is trying to fill, they get an interview according to Human Resources Director Nancy Palmer.

"The work ready certificate is great for our company because it helps us find employees who can do the jobs we need so we can match employees to the jobs.  We're both successful so it's a win-win situation for both of us," she says.

Hiring people who don't work out is expensive in terms of time and money for companies.  Palmer says the Work-Ready program has reduced the company's turnover by two-thirds.

"We have been using this program for about four months and our turnover rate has gone from about 28 percent to nine percent.  It's a big change and we're very excited about this program," Palmer reports.

Another aspect of the employment picture is encouraging young people to get a high school diploma and be prepared for a job when they graduate.

Dr. Ryan Flowers of the Southeast Early College and Career Academy told the meeting the school is available to offer training programs tailored for local industries.  Students from four area high schools will be taking classes at the new charter school when school starts in August.

June 30--  Click on the link below and place your cursor over the county on which you want census population information.

June 29--  The majority whip of the Georgia Senate owes Georgia Southern more than $52,000 in broadcast revenue.

The University is not renewing its five-year contract with Senator Cecil Staton's Georgia Eagle Media to provide radio coverage of Eagle football and has asked him to pay up on an overdue bill from last year, according to Macon TV station WMAZ.

Staton is chairman of the state senate's higher education sub-committee which provides funding recommendations for colleges and universities including GSU.



June 29-- The Vidalia City Council Wednesday awarded a contract to Copper Construction Company of Vidalia for a new police department headquarters.

City Manager Bill Torrance reports says the city made some changes to the initial building design and saved about $50,000 in the process.  Copper will remodel the former Winn-Dixie building which the city acquired for $500,000.  Cost of construction will be just under $2 million and will include the police department, city courtroom, mayor's office and city council chambers.

Work should start in late July and be completed within nine months.

The council also approved a new map redrawing the lines of city wards. The new map increases the size of Ward Three by about 500 citizens and reduces the size of Ward Four by the same amount.  Ward Three is represented by Raymond Turner and Ward Four by Lisa Chesser.  The map must be approved the U.S. Department of Justice.

If you owe the city property taxes, you have a 30-day extension to pay.  The council granted the extension before the property is put up for public auction.

June 29--  A soldier with ties to Vidalia has been injured in Afghanistan.

Private First Class Ian Edge lost his right leg below the knee and a finger on his left hand when an IED exploded.

The 25-year-old Army medic is the son-in-law of Ann and Jim Clendinen of Vidalia.  Father Clendinen is the rector at the Episcopal Church of the Annunciation on Meadows Lane.

Their daughter, Mary Beth, is with her parents and will travel to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington when her husband arrives from Germany where he was taken for treatment of his wounds.

He has been in Afghanistan since mid-March and is assigned to the Tenth Mountain Division from Fort Drum, New York.

June 28--  Brewton Parker College has been given a warning regarding its accreditation.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges says its Board of Trustees voted June 23rd to give Brewton Parker 12 months to correct ten areas where the school has failed to comply with the core requirements of accreditation. 

SACS issued the following advisory late Tuesday.

At its meeting on June 23, 2011, SACSCOC Board of Trustees took the following actions regarding the accreditation status of instituations reviewed.

The Commission reaffirmed the accreditation of the following institutions:

East Georgia College, Swainsboro, Georgia


The Commission denied reaffirmation, continued accreditation, and placed the following institution on Warning:

Brewton‐Parker College, Mount Vernon, Georgia for twelve months for failure to comply with:

Core Requirement 2.5 (Institutional Effectiveness),

Core Requirement 2.9 (Learning Resources and Services),

Core Requirement 2.11.1 (Financial Resources),

Comprehensive Standard (Institutional Effectiveness: Educational Programs),

Comprehensive Standard (Institutional Effectiveness: Community/Public Service),

Comprehensive Standard 3.3.2 (Quality Enhancement Plan),

Comprehensive Standard 3.5.1 (College‐Level Competencies),

Comprehensive Standard 3.10.1 (Financial Stability),

Comprehensive Standard 3.10.4 (Control of Finances)

Federal Requirement 4.7 (Title IV Program Responsibilities) of the Principles of Accreditation.

Meanwhile, the school says its financial and enrollment status is improving.

Interim President Dr. Mike Simoneaux says a recent infusion of $100,000 from the Montgomery County Development Authority plus other contributions sends a strong signal of community support for the college.

"We are pleased that the community has stepped up to help the college.  We've gotten some assistance from churches, from foundations and the local Development Authority has given us some stimulus money.  More important than the money is that the community and the college are reinstigating the strong bond which has been between the college and the community for 107 years.  I have appreciated that," he says.

The college has done some reorganizing and cost-cutting under Dr. Simoneaux and he says it's in better shape than he found it when he arrived four months ago.

"We're not going to lose the college and we're not going to lose the jobs.  Our enrollment looks pretty good for the Fall and we're on a par or a little bit better than where we were this time last year.  Enrollment is a moving target in colleges like ours and Brewton Parker like other schools is not immune to the economic difficulties the country is experiencing," he reports.

Dr. Simoneaux also reports the college is planning to start a new Agri-Business program and is considering a business course to be offered to area business people on the weekends. 


June 28--This little Dachshund appears to be someone's pet! Wearing a little blue collar with a bell.  Friendly.  Contact Lyons shelter at 912-380-0035 or Holly at 539-9840.

June 28--  The State Board of Education today approved State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge’s recommendation to grant State-Chartered Special School status to nine schools and local Charter status to two schools. These schools make up 11 of the 16 schools originally formed as Commission Charter Schools. The Commission was recently ruled unconstitutional by the Georgia Supreme Court.  

“Today’s action by the State Board ensures that the students affected by the recent Supreme Court decision will still get to go to the school they originally chose,” said Superintendent Barge. “We said from the beginning that we would offer flexibility so the Commission Schools could continue educating students next year and the board’s courageous vote today guarantees that.”

The nine schools approved as State-Chartered Special Schools are Atlanta Heights Charter School, Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts and Technology, Coweta Charter Academy, Fulton Leadership Academy, Pataula Charter Academy, Cherokee Charter Academy, Georgia Connections Academy, Heritage Preparatory Academy, and Provost Academy.  Ivy Preparatory Academy and the Museum School at Avondale Estates were approved as locally charter schools.  

Of the five remaining Commission schools, Georgia Cyber Academy and the Odyssey school were approved as one State-Chartered Special School at the June 9th State Board meeting.  The final three Commission schools - Peachtree Hope Charter School (submitting a new application to DeKalb County Schools for a locally approved charter), Chattahoochee Hills Charter School and Heron Bay Academy (delaying opening until 2012) - will come before the State Board at a later date.

June 28-- Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA) was recently able to visit with Nicole Mosley of Toombs County while on an official trip to Italy as a member of the Defense Sub-Committee.
Congressman Kingston (L) with Nicole and his son, Jim Kingston
Nicole is a graduate of Toombs County High School and now attached to the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Force Base. Her duties there are processing all military personnel coming in and out. Nicole is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Hank Mosley.

June 27--  The Office of Gov. Nathan Deal said today that the state will appeal a federal court’s ruling to enjoin two sections of Georgia’s new immigration law.

“Gov. Deal is disappointed that the court enjoined two sections of Georgia’s immigration law,” said Brian Robinson, the governor’s deputy chief of staff for communications. “Curiously, the court writes ‘all illegal aliens will leave Georgia’ if the law is enforced, as if it is appalled at the thought of people attaining visas before coming to our nation. The federal court’s ruling, however, will crystallize for Georgians and other Americans our underlying problem: Beyond refusing to help with our state’s illegal immigration problem, the federal government is determined to be an obstacle. The state of Georgia narrowly tailored its immigration law to conform with existing federal law and court rulings. Georgians can rest assured that this battle doesn’t end here; we will appeal this decision.”

The court upheld 21 of the law’s 23 sections.

June 27--  Brewton-Parker College Board of Trustees Vice Chairman Gary Campbell announced Chairman Dr. Tony Romans’ resignation from the board during the June meeting last week.

Dr. Romans’ and his family are relocating to Texas, where he will pastor Faith Fellowship Church in Athens, Texas. Dr. Romans previously served as the senior pastor of North Peachtree Baptist in Dunwoody.

            “I deeply appreciate the leadership and support of Dr. Tony Romans as chairman of the Board of Trustees,” said Dr. Mike Simoneaux, BPC acting president. “I pray for God’s blessings on his new ministry in Texas.”

            {mosimage}Campbell, of Vidalia, was elected as the Board’s new chairman. Assistant Secretary Lynda Yawn, of Statesboro, who also serves as the chair of the Presidential Search Committee, was elected vice chair. Rev. Terry Braswell, of Lithia Springs, was elected as the new assistant secretary. Rev. Gilbert Westberry of Swainsboro remains as secretary.

            During the meeting, the Board accepted a $100,000 stimulus check from Montgomery County Development Authority Executive Director Joe Filippone on behalf of the MCDA’s nine-member board. The funds are to be used to “prime the pump” generating recurring revenue for the private, Christian college, said Filippone.

            On a motion by Trustee Schel Paulk, chairman of the Trustee Development Committee, and with a unanimous vote, the Board adopted the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as its doctrinal position statement. The Board of Trustees also requested the Presidential Search Committee and the Trustee Development Committee to seek a President and Trustees who ascribe to this statement.

            Thanks to an $80,000 donation from the Georgia Baptist Convention, the College is able to renovate the Thompson Hall bathrooms and install a new air conditioning unit in the Fountain-New Library, which houses college archives and an extensive judicial book collection. Both projects are much-needed repairs and improvements to these buildings, reports Dr. Simoneaux.

June 27--  Two of the smaller public high schools in the area had the best graduation test results this year.

Treutlen High School led the way on math and science tests while Wheeler County High School students did the best on English and Social Studies tests.

In math, 93% of Treutlen students passed followed by Vidalia High School with 81%, Wheeler with 80%, Montgomery County with 78% and Toombs County with 73%.

In science, 96% of Treutlen students passed followed by Vidalia with 92%, Wheeler with 91%, Toombs County with 87% and Montgomery County with 80%.

In English-Language Arts, 89% of Wheeler students passed followed by Vidalia with 87%, Treutlen with 85%, Montgomery County with 84% and Toombs County with 81%.

The lowest overall pass rates were in Social Studies led by Wheeler County with 84%, Toombs County with 78%, Truetlen and Montgomery with 76% and Vidalia with 72%.

Treulen students did better than the state average in math and science while Wheeler students had a better pass rate in Social Studies than the state average. All schools were lower than the state pass rate of 91% in math, and Toombs, Vidalia and Montgomery pass rates were also lower than the state pass rate in English, science and social studies.

High School




Soc Studies

Passed All

Toombs Co












Mont Co






Treutlen Co






Wheeler Co












June 27--  A Toombs County woman was killed in a Saturday night auto accident.

According to Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight, 25-year-old Jessica Marie Jarriel Williamson of Vidalia was killed when her car hit a ditch on a county dirt road and overturned.  The accident happened on the Durham Mosley Road in the Cedar Crossing area.

The sheriff reports she was thrown from the vehicle.  Her husband, Carlos Jacob Williamson, was also in the vehicle but not injured.  He told police she was driving.

Her body was sent to the State Crime Lab as part of an investigation being conducted by the Georgia State Patrol and the Toombs County Sheriff's office.


June 27--  Elaine Simpson has served as President of the Vidalia Rotary Club for the past two years and was thanked by incoming President Dr. Stuart Hamilton as the club's installation banquet at Hawk's Point Conference Center.


Members of the Rotary Board of Directors are (L-R) Zack Fowler, John Underwood, Stuart Hamilton, Beccy Champion, Elaine Simpson, Terry Hall, Terry Reaves and Charles Gillis.


June 27--  Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville provides perspective on the impact reapportionment could have on rural Georgia in general and his 4th Senatorial District specifically in his weekly "Notes from the Senate" report.



The U.S. Census every ten years results in the reapportionment of the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislatures to comply with the one-person, one-vote mandate.  Actually the U.S. Senate does not reflect equality but is based on each state being of equal representation.  Assuming the governor follows his announced plans, he will call a reapportionment session beginning on August 15.  During that special session, the State Senate will draft a new Senate plan and the House a new House plan as well.  Normally each body routinely passes the other body's plan without change.




Congressional reapportionment is different.  To begin with, because of Georgia 's explosive growth over the last ten years, the state will pick up an additional congressional seat giving Georgia 14 seats.  Fast growing "sunshine belt" states have been adding seats over the last 3 reapportionments while "rustbelt" states whose population has been stable or in decline have lost seats in Congress.


Congressional reapportionment is handled in the legislature similarly to any other legislation.  Each body will pass a plan and ultimately a conference committee will be formed to hammer out the differences and produce one plan.  Of course, there are 13 sitting congressmen who have opinions about congressional districts.  And there are numerous individuals, many in the legislature who looked in the mirror one morning and saw a potential U.S. congressman.  Also, communities around the state have opinions about which district they want to belong to and which congressman they want to represent them.


So the development of this plan is the one filled with the most intrigue and likely, if the past is any predictor, to wind up in federal court.  Additionally, because Georgia is one of the states under the federal Voting Rights Act, all plans passed by the legislature are subject to review by the U.S. Justice Department.  And when you consider all of the states are going through the same process and many will wind up in court as well, it is easy to understand why the reapportionment process can actually drag on for years.  One factor to remember is that, unlike state legislators, U.S. Congressmen do not have to live in the district they run for or represent. There is some history in Georgia of the legislature trying to reapportion congressmen out of their seats, but that has rarely, if ever worked.




There are 56 senate seats set by the state constitution.  Georgia 's now official 2010 population is 9,687,653 and divided by the 56 seats makes each district 172,994 people, an increase of 26,807.  So every district that did not grow 26,807, or the 18.3% the state grew, is short population.  Conversely, those districts that grew more than the state average and have more than 172,994 must lose population.  It looks like rural Georgia will lose at least one Senate seat in reapportionment.  The Fourth District is actually over in population by 9803 people and must lose that population to another district.  Most districts around the fourth are short of the target.  Here is a breakdown of the counties in the Fourth District:


               County                                Population          Percent of Growth


               Bulloch                                  70,217                         25.4%


               Candler                                  10,998                        14.8%


               Effingham                              52,250                        39.2%


               Emanuel (pt. 79.2%)             17,856                         3.7%


               Evans                                    11,000                            4.8%


               Tattnall (pt. 53.2%)               13,951                         41.4%


               Treutlen                                  6,885                             0.5%


Total Population 2010 Census 182,797

2011 District Target                 172,994

Over population                           9,803




The House has 180 members and the new districts will consist of 53,820 people. There are six House districts that touch or lie within the Fourth District.  By number, here are the populations for those districts:


               District Number      2010 Population        Number over or under New Target


                              155                       47,362                                 -6,458


                              156                       51,000                                 -2,820    


                              157                       49,943                                 -3,877


                              158                       57,393                                 +3,573


                              159                       88,115                              +34,295  


                              166                       46,202                                 -7,618


As in the Senate, Rural Georgia is expected to lose some seats in the House reapportionment as well.  Reapportionment can be a very tough process and where seats are being eliminated, it can pit member against member.  It is a very personal process because members and the public become attached and understandably, no one likes change.


Reapportionment plans even after voted on and passed by the Legislature, face review by the U.S. Justice Dept.  At some point, opposing parties to whoever drew the plans will most likely file suit in federal court if the past is any guide to the future.  The courts have shifted through the years as to reapportionment policy and what is legal and allowed and what is not.  It seems new ground is ploughed each reapportionment period.


If you would like additional information, you might find these websites useful: and


{mosimage}June 27--  For the second time in three months, the U.S. Marines conducted training exercises at Vidalia Regional Airport.

In April, the Marines installed and tested arrestor systems for F-18's on Vidalia's runways.  Last week, the airfield was one location used as part of a larger military exercise on the East Coast, according to Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kohmuench, commander of the support squadron at the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort.

"The Second Marine Air Wing is executing a Large Force Exercise and we're demonstrating that we can put an expedtionary airfield, which Vidalia is, in the play of the problem to demonstrate we can put a forward operating base where none has existed," he said.

{mosimage}Vidalia Mayor Ronnie Dixon(L) and Airport Manager Kevin Britton (R) welcome Major General Davis to Vidalia. 

The Commanding General of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing out of Cherry Point, NC, Major General Jon Davis, made a stop at Vidalia Regional Thursday to check on his Marines.

"We're going forward to go protect this great nation and you're allowing us to use your facilities like this to train our Marines in a way we can't get trained anywhere else," General Davis said.

Vidalia Mayor Ronnie Dixon and members of the city council welcomed the Marines to Vidalia.

"I think it's great for this community.  They've been here before and it is really a boost to our economy and it's just great to have them here.  We're looking forward to a continued relationship that will keep them coming.

Marine Corps officials say another exercise is in the works and they could be back at Vidalia Regional Airport before the end of the year.

June 23--  A $250 reward is being offered by Crimestoppers for information leading to an arrest in a Vidalia breakin and burglary.

Police are looking for the thief who broke into the Temples Company on Mosley Street in Vidalia the night of June 3.  Numerous items including a digital camera and dictation machine were stolen.

If you have information on the burglary, call Crimestoppers at 1-866-439-6313.  All calls are anonymous.  If your information leads to an arrest in the case, you will receive $250 in cash no questions asked.

June 23--  A Toombs County grand jury has indicted a county resident on seven counts including malice murder for the shooting death of a man who made a late night visit to his daughter's bedroom.

Sixty-one-year old Norman NeeSmith is accused of killing 22-year-old Justin Deshaun Patterson of Montgomery County.  At the time of the shooting in January, Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reported NeeSmith caught Patterson in the early morning hours with his 18-year-old daughter in the bedroom of their mobile home at 220 Harden Chapel Road.

The grand jury indicted five people on drug related charges including Winston Salem, Jr., Simon Guana, Jr., Michael Outler, Alvin Hamilton and Rori Bingaman.

Indicted for burglary are Jeffery Phillips, Jr., Eric Lane, Andrew Harris, Jr., Michael Smith, Justin Hattaway and Christopher Ennis.

Eric Brown was indicted for robbery and Nathan Monds for attempted robbery.

In a family violence case, Michael Yeomans was indicted for assault and battery and cruelty to children.

An aggravated sexual battery indictment was returned against Christopher McKenzie; Terrell Braddy was indicted for aggravated assault; Brandon Adams for making terroristic threats against members of the Lyons Police Department; Jeremy Boyett for theft by taking; Michael Smith for entering an automobile; Toni Corbin, Linda Jackson and Melinda Langston for forgery; Houston Adams, Jr., Tyvone Bacon and Lanorris Lawson for shoplifting; Kenneth Dilas, Sr. for theft by deception and deposit account fraud; and Terrence Woods for transmitting a false public alarm. 

June 23--  A state prosecutor in Florida says he expects a state grand jury will hear the Courtney Wilkes murder case in "the next couple of weeks."

{mosimage}State's Attorney Robert Elmore reports a first degree murder indictment will be sought against 21-year-old Steven Cozzie.  

According to a police report, Cozzie used a stick to beat to death 15-year-old Courtney Wilkes of Lyons.  A friend of Cozzie, Michael Spencer, led police to a wooded area in Santa Rosa Beach where the girl's body was found.  Spencer said Cozzie told him he killed Courtney in the wooded area and took Spencer to the area to view the body. Spencer later led police to the crime scene.

The prosecutor says Cozzie's arraignment is scheduled for August 23 at the Walton County courthouse in Defuniak Springs.  At that time, he expects a public defender will file a written plea on behalf of Cozzie.



June 23--  Laurie Page of Lyons says her ten-year-old son, Tyler, is a "kid with a big heart."

{mosimage}"I was watching the news one night after the tornadoes hit Joplin, Missouri.  I knew we had family friends in Alabama and they had been hit and I wanted to do something for them," he said.

Tyler started a tornado victims' fund drive and set a goal of $200.  He ended up raising over $1,000.

"It started out that people were giving change. Then they just kept giving more and more we've even got a couple of checks," he reports.

Tyler is a member of the Vidalia Church of God and says members of his church were big supporters.

"That's where we've got most of our money, but we've got some from other places, too," he says.

Tyler and his family plan to make a trip to Fort Payne, Alabama and deliver the cash in person to their friends in need.

"They lost everything and this sort of tells me that no matter how big or small you are, you can do anything you set your mind to," Tyler says.

{mosimage}June 22--  Georgia Congressman John Barrow reports he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer.  According to a press release, the cancer was discovered during his annual physical examination.

The congressman says he will begin treatments next month and doesn't expect it to impact his ability to continue to work in Congress.  He says he plans to seek re-election in 2012.

His opponent in the last election, Ray McKinney, issued the following statement:

"I found out news about John's diagnosis today by an email forward. I called John to let him know that we all are praying for him. Many years ago, my own mother prayed and received a healing. As our Representative in Congress during these most uncertain times, John can and must beat this prostate cancer."

McKinney of Oak Park, GA was Barrow's Republican opponent in 2010.


June 21--  The Montgomery County school system issued a statement Tuesday in response to a lawsuit filed earlier this month by DeLoach Architects of Macon.

Deloach wants a judge to order the school system to pay the balance of fees charged for design of a middle/high school.  The project was later cancelled after voters defeated a school bond referendum to finance construction.

School Superintendent Randy Rodgers says DeLoach has already been paid $593,347 and wants another $175,000.

"The board wants to pay what we should pay.  The contract was based on an estimate of the school costing $17 million.  That was to have been perfected when the bid was let.  The actual cost of the architect's fees would have been based on what the actual cost of what the school would have been.  In the absence of having bid the job, Mr. DeLoach says he's going to use the original estimated figures."

According to Rodgers, former School Superintendent Dr. Lynn Batten felt the architect's commission should have been based on a $15 million estimate because that is what comparable schools were costing when the design was done back in 2009.

"Dr. Batten went out and got cost estimates based on what schools were going for per square foot if it had been bid at the time the bond issue referendum was held.  His figures were based on a $15 million figure versus a $17 million figure and that apparently is not satisfactory to Mr. DeLoach," Rodgers says.

The superintendent says the school board is pursuing legal remedies to avoid excessive payments for a set of plans for a school that is not being built.  

"My impression of the feelings expressed by the majority of the Board of Education is that if the costs are legitimate, the board very much wants to meet their obligation.  It the cost projections that the invoice is based on are not accurate, it is their responsibility to be good stewards of the community's money by challenging it.  That's what this process is all about," he stated. 

June 20--  The cash-strapped Montgomery County school board is facing a lawsuit for failing to pay an architect.

DeLoach Architects of  Macon was employed in 2009 to design a new middle/high school for Montgomery County.  Voters later turned down extension of a sales tax to help pay for the construction and the school board was left holding the bag to pay the lion's share of the $1,020,00 design fee.

So far, the school system has paid over $400,000 but has refused to pay the balance of nearly $300,000.

DeLoach filed suit earlier this month in Montgomery County Superior Court seeking a court order for payment.

Meanwhile, the school board has approved plans to borrow $500,000 to pay other operating expenses for the remainder of the year.


June 20--  We should know soon if a lawsuit against Middle Judicial Circuit District Attorney Hayward Altman will go to trial in Toombs County Superior Court.

A hearing on a motion to dismiss the case was held earlier this month before Judge Kathy Palmer.  The state Attorney General's office represented Altman in the hearing and argued that former Toombs County Commission chairman James Thompson has no standing to bring suit.

Last year Altman led a video machine gambling raid in Toombs and Emanuel counties which resulted in seizures and settlements of more than $1.2 million.  Nearly $400,000 of that amount was paid to an Atlanta law firm employed as third-party attorneys by the district attorney.

Thompson claims that's a violation of state law and believes at least half of the third-party fees should have been paid to the Toombs County general fund.

Judge Palmer is expected to rule on the motion to dismiss soon. 

Earlier both she and Judge Robert Reeves refused to recuse themselves in the case.  Thompson had requested recusal due to the daily working relationships between the judges and the district attorney.

{mosimage}June 20--  Funeral services are scheduled Wednesday for the Toombs County teenager murdered last week while on a family vacation in Florida.  The obituary for Courtney Ann Wilkes is on our obituary page.  Ronald V. Hall Funeral Home of Vidalia is in charge of the funeral.
The Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce issued the following statement at the request of Ann Owens who would like the Wilkes family to see the support of local people as the family says farewell to Courtney:

"In love and support of the Wilkes family and in memory of Courtney, area businesses are displaying white ribbons. Businesses with signs are also posting messages in memory of Courtney. Please join us as we show the Wilkes family how much we care."
Courtney's father, Cordy, is an alumnus of the 2000-2001 Leadership Toombs-Montgomery class.

June 20--  Fifty years ago, Paul Anderson made a bike ride to Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska, and to commemorate that historic event in 1961, 6 boys from the Paul Anderson Youth Home plus staff members will make that same 1,500 mile bike trip in July. 


One of the guys making the trip is Cody, and he talks about why this bike ride is so special.  “Really it’s just to celebrate Paul and all the things that he did in my life and all the other lives of boys.  Also to get out there and talk to other families of boys and show them what we’re all about,” said Cody.


He goes on to explain its not all just about riding bikes.  “There is going to be a lot of events going on.  We’ll be stopping at different churches and functions and giving our testimony and God’s word and whatever he wants us to give out to reach people.”


This is a much longer ride than the guys usually do each summer and Dustin, who is one of the riders, explains how they have been training for the event.  “Well we’re just trying to get in as much time and as many miles in as we can.  We are riding anywhere from 15 up to 50 miles per day.  Soon we will be doing 80 mile days.”


Another rider, Mac, says it takes a lot of determination to take on a ride of this length.  “It’s a lot of determination and discipline.  It is going to be something that will really boost me up and it will be one of the first things that I have really accomplished.”

 Rebecca Timberlake says the kickoff for the bike ride will be Sunday, July 10th.  “On Sunday, July 10th we will be meeting at the First Baptist Church and doing a kickoff with the guys.  When Paul did the original ride, that’s where he left from so we’re going to do the same thing in honor of Paul and the 50th anniversary.”  Timberlake stated, “We wanted to celebrate that with friends and family so we will be holding that at the First Baptist Church.”  


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2011-06-16 19:32:23

The Walton County Sheriff's Office has identified the 15-year-old girl who was killed yesterday in Seagrove Beach as Courtney Wilkes. 

She was from Lyons, Ga. and was staying at Beachcrest Condominium complex on County Road 30A with her family.

"We have the person we believe is responsible for this crime," said Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson during a 3 p.m. press conference. "The threat to the community has been removed."

He described the slaying of Wilkes as an "extremely violent encounter."

Adkinson said when Steven Anthony Cozzie, 21, of Santa Rosa Beach, was arrested and charged with an open count of murder he showed no remorse.

"This is nothing more than pure evil," Adkinson said.

June 17-- Toombs County Commission Chairman Buddy West has issued an official statement supporting the ban on burn permits that is currently in effect for Toombs County.  The Georgia Forestry Commission has advised the local office not to issue burn permits due to the dry weather.

Chairman West is encouraging all citizens to comply with the ban and he anticipates the permit restrictions to last no more than thirty days.  "We request that all citizens not burn any material at this time for the protection of the lives and property of all Toombs County citizens," said West.

June17-- Governor Nathan Deal has asked the federal government to declare 22 counties in Central and South Georgia disaster areas due to on-going drought conditions.  Governor Deal stated that the USDA Emergency Board reviewed and confirmed the loss adjustment reports that were prepared by the affected counties.  Governor Deal made the disaster area request in a letter sent to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. 


While neighboring counties Appling, Wheeler, and Jeff Davis were included in the 22 county request, Toombs County was not.  Toombs County Extension Agent Jason Edenfield stated that even though Toombs County was not included, conditions are extremely dry and most areas have not had significant rainfall. 


“Of course things that really need a whole lot of water such as our dry land corn has been severely affected.  A lot of our cattle producers are looking at not really having the hay that we typically would have due to the drought,” said Edenfield.  “If we don’t have water we really can’t make grass, we can’t make crops.  This is also affecting a lot of our cotton and soybean producers.  We do have several irrigated acres in the county but these guys also have to conserve water because they don’t want to be pumping their ponds dry”


Edenfield also said that other than irrigation there is really only one other thing we can do.  “Pray for rain.  That’s the biggest thing.  A long, slow, soaking day of rain would be perfect.”




This Memorial has been started at the Toombs County High School for Courtney Wilkes.

June 17—Steven Anthony Cozzie, 21, of Santa Rosa Beach, Florida has been charged with an open count of murder in the death of Courtney Wilkes of Toombs County according to the Walton County Sheriff’s Department.  He is currently booked into the Walton County Jail.

The Walton County Sheriff’s Department received a call at 4:06 p.m. yesterday from the victim’s mother.  She was reported missing after not returning from a walk with an acquaintance that she met while on vacation.  The girl had been missing for around 3 hours when the Sheriff’s Office was contacted. 

The Walton County Sheriff’s Office obtained a description of the acquaintance and issued a “be on the lookout” warning to area law enforcement.  The case then turned into a homicide investigation after the teen’s body was found in a wooded area near Cypress Grove Lane.

The victim and her family were staying at 1 SeaGrove Place condominiums on County Road 30A in Seagrove Beach, sources said.


June 16-- Ribbon cutting for the new Horizon Health Career Training Center was held Thursday afternoon.  Located at 305B Slayton Street in Vidalia, the center will provide individuals in the community an opportunity to get training in the health care field through a variety of programs. 

Some of the courses offered included Certified Nursing Assistant, CPR Training and Recertification, EKG Technician, Advanced Cardiac Life Support Certification, and Foster Parent Training.  Training can be done at their facility or on-site.

June 16-- The Vidalia City Board of Education adopted their budget for the 2011-2012 school year in their monthly meeting Tuesday night.  With state revenues continuing to decline, Superintendent Dr. Tim Smith stated the budget is almost $600,000 over the revenue that they will receive and tapping into reserves will once again be necessary. 


“We’re going back into our reserves,” says Smith.  “I anticipate that this will be the last year that we can completely cover our deficit with reserves, but that’s why you have reserves.  We will maintain enough reserves to have one monthly payroll and that’s good for a school system.  A lot of school systems don’t have reserves and haven’t had reserves for several years.”


Smith went on to say, “We are hoping that there aren’t any further cuts.  If you’ve been keeping up with the state revenue, it’s beginning to go up and that’s a very good sign but we’re also aware that there are a lot of departments that have been cut other than education.”


Superintendent Smith stated, “We have been losing funding since 2001 in this school system and we have been accommodating that loss of funding through a number of ways.  One way is that we have furlough days; another way is that we have all lost our local teaching supplement and we have not been replacing people when they left if it was not absolutely necessary.  We’ve lost 20 or 25 teachers in the last 6 or 7 years here.”


June 15-- The Georgia Department of Labor held an Information Seminar on Tuesday at STC to provide information to area employers about the recently passed Immigration Law and the E-Verify system that employers are going to be required to use to verify the status of all new hires.  Deputy Commissioner of Legal and Policy at the Georgia Department of Labor, Melanie Stockwell explained the E-verify system has been in use since 2006 for state, county, and municipal employers but it is a new requirement for private employers. 


“They are now going to have to use E-verify to verify the new information that they are already collecting on the I-9 form.  E-verify is easy to use, it provides almost instantaneously feedback.  It really is not so burdensome that employers will have to hire new employees to use it,” says Stockwell.


All businesses with 10 or more full-time employees on January 1st of each year must use the e-verify system.  Stockwell stated, “All employers will have to sign an affidavit when they get their business or occupation license every year that they use E-verify.”


Stockwell says that there is no cost to employers to use E-verify and the employers are not held liable for fraudulent information that may be given to them by prospective employees.  Stockwell also stated, “If you do what you’re supposed to do as an employer, collect the documents, use the system and get the verification page, that’s all that’s required of you.  It’s really a shield for you from anyone that gets caught using fraudulent documents.”


For more information on the E-verify program, visit their website at


June 14--  City of Vidalia Delays Action on New Municipal Annex.

Plans for the City of Vidalia’s new Municipal Annex which includes the Police Department, Municipal Courtroom and Council Chambers have been put on hold. The council voted on Monday to have their construction manager Premiere Construction to enter into negotiations to see if they can work to get the bid lower which came in $185,000.00 over budget. According to City Manger Bill Torrence the negotiations will hopefully find ways to lower the cost of the project without making large revisions to the original plans. Torrence went on to explain that in the event the negotiations don’t produce the results the Council hopes for, they will have several options which include re-bidding the project with the changes or even waiting until the council comes up with more money for the project.

In other action the council heard that $154,000.00 remain in unpaid taxes for the 2010 tax year, and over $200,000.00 remain for the past three years. Council was also advised that the names of those who owe unpaid taxes will have their names placed in the Advance on June 22nd.

And finally the Council voted unanimously to implement a cost of living raise for city employees which will begin in July .

June 13—Today the Georgia Supreme Court made the decision not to reconsider their recent decision to declare the state’s charter school law unconstitutional, thus leaving approximately 16,500 students unsure where they will receive an education next school year.   

The court determined back in May that the 2007 law that created the Charter Schools Commission unlawfully granted the state authority to approve and fund charter schools over the objection of local school boards.   

Majority Leader Sen. Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) released the following statement regarding the choice of the Georgia Supreme Court not to reconsider their recent decision concerning many of Georgia’s Charter Schools.  “Today’s decision by the Georgia Supreme Court not to reconsider their ruling on many of Georgia’s Charter Schools is very disappointing.  The justices have made a mistake that will negatively impact the lives of thousands of Georgia children.  They had an opportunity to correct that mistake and did not do so.  It is a sad day for Georgia education.  The Senate remains committed to finding a solution so that every student enrolled in these 16 charter schools will receive a great education this fall.”


June13-- On Friday evening June 10th, weeks of investigating paid off for the Vidalia Police Department as they arrested 2 adults and 1 juvenile during the execution of a search warrant at 405 Symonds Street in Vidalia.  The search warrant was a result of an investigation based off complaints of illegal drug sales occurring from the residence.    

“Officers and investigators of the Vidalia Police Department along with assistance from the Georgia Department of Corrections K-9 Unit and officers from the State of Georgia’s Probation Office assisted us in executing a search warrant” stated Sgt. Aaron Rollins of the Vidalia Police Department.  “We had been getting information of illegal drug sales occurring at the residence,” he said. 

Seized during the bust were an estimated $1,500.00 worth of marijuana, ecstasy pills, cocaine, and $553 of suspected drug money along with a stolen semi-automatic handgun, 16 assault rifle magazines and several hundred rounds of ammunition.  Sgt. Rollins explained that the investigation is still on-going and that additional arrests in the case are possible.   

Arrested in the execution of the search warrant were 2 adult males.  Deante Ericka Canty, age 20 of 801 West Street in Vidalia was charged with possession of marijuana less than one ounce and Maurice Marcel Thomas, age 30 of Miami, FL was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of MDMA (Ecstasy) with intent to distribute, theft by receiving stolen property and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.  A juvenile was also arrested in the case.  Sgt. Rollins also stated that several other agencies assisted in the case as well.    

Chief Frank Waits would like to express his appreciation to the State of Georgia Probations Office, Georgia Department of Corrections K-9 Unit, and the District Attorney’s Office of the Middle Georgia Judicial Circuit for all their assistance with the investigation.   

June 13--  They're doing some celebrating at Montgomery County Elementary School.

Results of annual testing are out and every fifth grader passed the math test this year and all but one passed the reading test.

Mae Mills teaches math to fifth graders.  Last year she taught reading and all of her students passed that, too. 

"The teacher needs to be very organized.  I need to know from the beginning of the year what I need to accomplish by the end of the year and then set benchmarks to be sure it all gets done.  I take everything they need to learn and put it in some kind of game so they get to learn, practice and play with what they learn.  This means they are constantly applying throughout the year and all of the games review what we've done so they don't get a chance to forget anything and they love it," she says.

Mrs. Mills has been teaching for 15 years and says she has found a home at Montgomery Elementary after teaching elementary students in Long County and Vidalia.

"My philosophy is there is no failure in children.  Whenever I teach a standard and test them to see if they got it, if I have students , even if it's only two, who don't do well, I look at it as if I did something wrong.  So I pull them aside, redo it somehow differently and reassess.  So there's no failure in my classroom," Mills says.

Brittany Deen was the school's instructional coordinator this year and is the new incoming principal next year. She credits Mills and other faculty members with this year's success including Tamra Rodgers, Karon Poole, Susie Howard, Tim Suttles, Lisa Bishop and Jennifer McNeal.

June 11--  State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville provides his perspective on state revenue trends in his weekly "Notes From the Senate."



It feels good when things are finally going well after so many months of negative reports.  But the May revenue numbers remind us of the reality of what we see around us-the economy is only slowly recovering and we cannot expect state revenues to reflect anything much better than that.


Total state revenues for May were a respectable $1.2 billion but increased only $29.1 million or 2.5%.  We will look at income tax refunds, but suffice it to say that we are still in that season and to show a positive overall figure for all of the high refund months so far is encouraging.  But, for the month, Individual Income Tax collections were down almost $4 million or -0.6%.  Remember, small businesses filing as Subchapter S corporations and LLC's also file as individuals and are counted in those totals.  State Sales Tax collections were up 4.4% or $18.1 million.  So our two top categories were up only a net $15 million dollars on collections of $1.2 billion.  High gasoline prices continued to drive down consumption as both the excise tax (-8.9%) and the fuel sales tax (-2.2%) decreased in May for a total decrease of -5.6%.  Corporate taxes tend to vary widely monthly and should be considered at least quarterly, but for the month were down -32.7%.




So, even though the Year to Date numbers are very encouraging, there are reasons the gains seem higher than they really are.  The pushing forward of refunds year before last made the figures a year ago unrealistically low, causing an increase in this year larger than it should have been, at least for the first three months or so.  We will look at the trends closer later in the column.  Year to Date, though, revenues total $13.8 billion on an increase of $1.02 billion or 8.0%.  Individual Income Taxes show an increase of $582.3 million or 9.3% and Sales Taxes an increase of $274.4 million or 6.3%.   Sales Tax categories are pretty strong.  YTD, Food is up 6.3%, Accommodations up 11.8%, Automotive up 11.9% and Construction up 12.2%.  Weaker categories include General Merchandise up 1.7% and Home Furnishings down -1.3%.  Fuel Taxes are up $72.2 million or 9.5% with Corporate Income Taxes up $29.7 million or 5.6%. 




Year to Date, Individual Refunds are down -$184 million or -7.8%.  Withholding payments, a sign of increased employment action, are up $309 million or 4.2% and Individual Tax Returns and other payments are up $89 million.  Apparently the Revenue Department is caught up on refunds and due to electronic filing; virtually all refunds have been paid out.




So with only one month to go, FY2011 will be remembered as the year the recovery caught hold.  But as related earlier, you cannot take the overall numbers for this fiscal year without some caution, and attention should be paid to recent trends for some prediction of the direction of state revenues.  In other words, the 8% year to date growth rate is not indicative of the total year or recent trends.


Lest we forget the budget struggles of FY2011 and FY2012, remember that decreasing and disappearing federal stimulus funds left holes in both of those budgets and ambitious growth rate predictions helped balance the two budgets.  So the growth in state revenues was not only anticipated, but expected and included in the two budgets.  FY 2011 counted on $797 million in new tax revenues so the steady growth in revenues was included.  The state met and passed the amount needed in February.  Now, at the end of May, the state shows a surplus of approximately $228.7 million.  Another good month in June could put the surplus at $300 million or so when other sources are considered as well.


It gets tricky to project ahead because of the reliance of future figures on as yet unknown final previous year revenues and growth; but best guess would be 6% real growth needed for the FY12 budget.  Recent slowing growth rates reflect the improvement last year and each month, of course, is measured against the same month a year ago.    That growth rate is probably doable but not a certainty given the slow pace of job growth in the state.  


Yogi Berra, "making predictions is tough----especially when they're about the future."

June 10--  Here's a scam alert we've been informed about by Vidalia Federal Savings Bank.  They are warning consumers not to give any information or follow any instructions from anyone you don't know, per below.

"Freddie Thompson from the IT department at Vidalia Federal  reports that 10 or more customers have notified them they were being called on their cell phones and told  their debit card had been suspended until you press 1.  After pressing 1 the computer generated voice asks that you key in you debit card number to get it activated again.  Do NOT  be fooled by these calls and do NOT enter any debit card information."


June 10--  Former Appling County Sheriff’s Deputy Richard W. Crosby, 35, pleaded guilty yesterday in United States District Court to the offense of being an accessory after the fact to a drug crime. 

          Appearing before Chief Judge Lisa Godbey Wood in Brunswick, Crosby admitted that he had warned a drug suspect that a search warrant was to be executed at the suspect’s Appling County  residence on January 20, 2011.  Crosby learned of the search warrant during a briefing given by a drug task force agent at the Sheriff’s Office on January 19, 2011.  Crosby then relayed this information to a third party with instructions to warn the resident about the pending execution of the warrant.  This disclosure was  made in order to hinder the apprehension of the drug suspect. 

        United States Attorney Edward J. Tarver said, “The behavior of Mr. Crosby in this incident is inexcusable.  Actions that jeopardize ongoing investigations and potentially endanger law enforcement personnel will not be tolerated and offenders will be prosecuted.”     

        The charge against Crosby resulted from a joint investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.  The maximum penalty for the offense is 30 months in prison and a fine of up to $125,000.  Crosby remains on bond pending sentence, which will be held upon the completion of a pre-sentence investigation and report.

June 10--  The Toombs County school board is scheduling a called meeting for June 30th to approve the school system's budget for 2012.

At its meeting Thursday night, School Superintendent Dr. Kendall Brantley presented a budget of $26.4 million, nearly $3 million less than 2011.  He says most of the reduction is being made up by deferring capital improvement projects.  No further job cuts are projected, according to Dr. Brantley.

June 9--  A new Advanced Wound Care Center is open at the Meadows Wellness Center in Vidalia.


Ribbon-cutting for the new center was held Thursday afternoon.  Officials say the center is a joint venture of Meadows Regional Medical Center and Diversified Health Services of Jacksonville.  Nearly half of the $750,000 investment is for a Hyperbaric Chamber which is being located in Vidalia for the first time.

June 9--  The Montgomery County Commission is renewing the county's health insurance with Blue Cross/Blue Shield under an umbrella policy with the Georgia Association of County Commissioners.

County manager David Curry says the premium is going up $48 per month per employee. It will cost the county $463 each month for each of 28 employees for an annual cost of $155,568.

The commission also approved a final design for a new county sheriff's office in a county-owned building on the square in Mount Vernon.  Curry says the county will advertise for bids within seven days. 

June 9--  The Vidalia city council is tabling a $1.6 million bid to build a new city police headquarters.

At a called meeting Thursday, the council deferred any decision on the apparent low bid by Copper Construction Company of Vidalia to its regular monthly meeting Monday night.

The bid is a hundred thousand dollars more than the city had budgeted for the renovation of the former Winn-Dixie building.  City manager Bill Torrance wants the council's okay to negotiate some changes to construction plans in an effort to lower the price. 

June 9--  Brewton-Parker College welcomed a substantial and timely donation Wednesday, June 8.

BPC Acting President Dr. Mike Simoneaux received a $100,000 donation from the Holland-Underwood Foundation of Dublin, a longtime supporter of the College.

These funds were received at a critical time for the College, which has faced overwhelming financial challenges in the last year. Dr. Simoneaux expects a smoother fiscal future.

“God answers our prayers, always on time,” said Simoneaux.

BPC was founded in 1904 to serve south Georgians in Christian higher education, and 107 years later it continues to reach the world for Christ in the heart of Georgia’s Sweet Onion Country. Donations, like the one received this week, solidify the significance of the College in the community, explains Dr. Simoneaux.

“This generous gift underscores the confidence that God will continue to bless the Christ-centered and Biblically-based educational ministry of Brewton-Parker College in partnership with the Georgia Baptist Convention,” said Dr. Simoneaux.

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. BPC offers 17 majors and 27 minors and serves students on its main campus in Mount Vernon and at an external learning center in Newnan.

            To learn more about how you can assist Brewton-Parker College with its mission, contact Jessica James, interim vice president for college advancement at 912-583-3265 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

June 9--  A professional rodeo to benefit activities at Toombs County High School is Friday and Saturday nights at the Toombs Agri-Center Arena on Quint Shrine Road behind the high school.

Lifetime cowboy Jerry Olson from Auburn, Nebraska is with the rodeo and promises two-hours of excitement.  "They'll see fast-paced barrell racing, bull riding, bareback and bronc riding, calf roping and bulldogging.  The clown for the kids and they'll have entertainment for the women like the little horse and trick roping.  There'll be about everything there is in rodeo there to see," he promises.

Olsen has had both knees replaced after a life of steer wrestling and admits rodeo is no place for the faint-hearted.

"Anytime you deal with animals, whether on a ranch or in the rodeo, there's always a chance of getting hurt because they weigh a lot and they've got a lot of power," he says.

Olsen now leaves the rough events to the younger cowboys, but brings a miniature horse named Scout and a golden Palamino named "JB" to the arena.  He says the yellow horse is unique. 

"He works on voice and hand commands.  I talk to him and he does what I tell him to do.  I tell him to walk and he walks, canter and he canters, switches directions.  He has nothing on him while I'm working him loose and I also ride him without a bridle.  At the end of the act, I take and jump him in the back of the truck while it's sitting still and then he jumps in the back with it moving, so he's unique and different," Olsen says.

Gates open at six and the rodeo starts at eight both nights.  Proceeds go to the Toombs County High School volleyball team and the school's yearbook staff.

June 9--  A Lyons city councilman wants the city to pass a law against wearing your pants too low.

Councilman Tracy Johnson says he's getting complaints about young people walking around neighborhoods with their underpants showing.  He calls it indecent and disrespectful.

"I'm just concerned about the indecency of how some of our citizens are looking.  It's out of control.  A lot of the elderly residents and citizens travelling through Lyons are seeing what we got coming in from the Collins and Cobbtown areas and it's just a disgrace of what they've having to see.  We're already having to deal with loitering and a lot of drug dealing and this is just an add-on to what we've got going on down there.  When you see a man walking around with his boxer shorts showing, it's just disrespectful," Johnson says.

Johnson reports Hawkinsville has already enacted an indecency ordinance and he'd like to see Lyons do the same.  "We need something we can put on the books and make people look a little more decent about how they carry themselves in the streets of Lyons," he says.

Johnson brought the issue up at Tuesday night's meeting of the Lyons city council.

The council reversed a previous city policy and voted to allow representatives of the Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society to return to Saturday morning volunteer work at the city's animal shelter.  

It also heard the city will have to relocate about 500 feet of water line due to the four-laning of U.S. Highway 1 north of town.

The city is planning to publish the names of delinquent property taxpayers in the local newspaper.  Officials say the backlog has been reduced from $33,000 to about $16,000.

Upcoming meetings of the council include a zoning hearing Tuesday, June 14 at six p.m., a workshop meeting Thursday, June 30 at six p.m. and the regular meeting in July has been rescheduled to Tuesday, July 12 at seven p.m. because of the July 4th holiday. 


June 8--  The state of Georgia’s net revenue in May rose $29 million or 2.5 percent as compared to net revenues in May 2010, Gov. Nathan Deal reported today. This marks the 11th consecutive month in FY 2011 that there was an increase in net monthly collections.
“Our revenue numbers continue to be above trend this month, and we are still well over where we were last year,” Deal said. “We’re encouraged by the positive trends, but we’ll continue to watch our numbers closely to ensure we maintain a fiscally conservative state budget.”

The following changes within the various tax categories led to the overall revenue increase:

Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections for May 2011 reported an decrease of $4 million or -0.6 percent, down from $623 million in May 2010 to $619 million in May 2011.

 The following notable components within Individual Income Tax make up the overall increase:

·         Individual Tax Return payments are down $31 million or 42.9 percent.

·         Individual Withholding payments are up $49 million or 7.8 percent.

·         Individual refunds issued (net of voided checks) are up $33 million or 32.2 percent.

·         All other Individual Income Tax categories are up $11 million.

Sales and Use Tax:  Sales and Use Tax reported an increase in net collections of $18 million or 4.4 percent, up from $414 million in May 2010 to $432 million in May 2011. Gross collections reported an increase of $25 million or 3.2 percent, up from $782 million in May 2010 to $807 million in May 2011. Net Refunds remained flat at $7 million when compared to the same month last year. The Local Sales Tax Distribution for May 2011 increased by $7 million when compared to the sales tax distribution total of $361 million in May 2010.

June 9--  Good news this morning from the Roberts family.

"Great news Zack!!!  Our maltese has been found as of about one hour ago in great condition and certainly we have you to thank for posting help for us.  May God Bless You and thanks a million!!! 

Thanks again for your help and we again are so thankful,
Carmen and Reggie Roberts



June 8--  A reward is being offered for anyone who can help find this little white Maltese who was lost in the Higgston area off Highway 292 Tuesday.  If have any information on "Buttercup," please call 538-7003 or 293-5463.  Owners Reggie and Carmen Roberts say they are "devastated" about the loss.

Snake Update...

One of our readers reports this huge rattler was actually killed last year in Screven County and reported in Georgia Outdoors.  We appreciate the update and here's that story:

Huge snake could have been 20 years old.
By Nick Carter
Posted Wednesday August 18 2010, 4:12 PM

In late July, Conrad Greene, of Savannah,was working food plots with a couple buddies on their Screven County hunt club near Cooperville. They were checking some fruit trees when Travis Timms, of Savannah, almost stepped on this enormous eastern diamondback rattlesnake.

Conrad said the snake didn’t even rattle. It merely lifted its head up above the grass, surveyed the scene and tried to slither away. But it didn’t make it far. Conrad popped it with the .44 mag he carries for such occasions.

Nick Kearns, of Savannah, picked the snake up on a stick for this photo. Since then the photo has gone viral online and through text messages. It has been reported by different sources on the Internet rumor mill to have come from several different Georgia counties and from as far away as Missouri. Ridiculous measurements of up to 14 feet and more than 100 pounds have surfaced.

Actually, the snake is not nearly that big, but it is still enormous. Conrad said the rattler measured 6-feet, 6-inches, had 12 rattles and 2-inch fangs.

“The thing that got me about this snake is how big its head and girth were. He was easily as big around as my calf, and I’m a pretty big boy,” said Conrad. “This thing probably could have eaten baby pigs. A rabbit would have been just an appetizer for this snake.

“That snake was probably big enough that it would have broken your leg if it hit you.”
Snake expert Steve Scruggs said the snake was probably 20 years old.

“It’s an incredible specimen,” said Steve. “It’s very rare that we get one that old because what do people usually do? They kill them.”


June 8--  A reader forwarded this picture of a huge rattler killed near the Ohoopee River southeast of Lyons.  The first-person account is from the unnamed man holding the snake. 

{mosimage}"We have killed 57 rattlesnakes on two separate Ohoopee River trips this year since mid-May. Not one has buzzed! We provoked one fair sized boy with a stick and he coiled and struck at the stick a couple of times before he buzzed up and rattled.

The purpose of this explanation is that I have been hearing the same from fellow farmers and hunters in regards to the lack of warning with rattlesnakes.

I had lunch with a friend today and he offered a theory about the fact that these buggers aren't rattling anymore. He raised pigs for years and reported that when he would hear a rattlesnake buzzing in the sow pen, the sows would bee line to it and fight over the snake. For the uninformed, pigs love to eat rattlesnakes.. Therefore, the theory is they are ceasing to rattle to avoid detection, since there are plenty of pigs roaming the countryside.

I have a neighbor farmer wife who was bitten 3 weeks ago 2 times by the same snake without any warning. She spent 5 days in ICU in Savannah. After 22 vials of anti-venom, she is back at the farm and still may lose her foot, or worse yet, her lower leg.

The days of perceived warning are over. Keep your boots on and use a light when out and about. As you all know, one can pop up just about anywhere!"

June 8--  With recent changes to the HOPE Scholarship Program that go into effect Fall 2011, the East Georgia College Foundation has made funds available to incoming freshmen for the 2011-2012 Award Year. This funding will be used to help defray costs as a Supplemental Scholarship for HOPE Scholars graduating from High School on or after 12/01/2010. Funds will be awarded on a first come, first served basis to qualified applicants at $125 for Fall Semester 2011 and, based on maintaining continuing eligibility, $125 for Spring Semester 2012.


EGC Foundation President, Bill Rogers, Jr., states, “This program fits the purpose of the foundation as an advocate for EGC students by making college affordable.  Although it is not possible to make this award to every student affected by the new HOPE rules, we are excited to be able to do this for our incoming freshmen.  Being able to recruit and retain our best and brightest students is good for the college and the community.”

 The current shortfall of $244 million in the lottery funded HOPE Scholarship program has forced the state legislature to approve a plan by Governor Nathan Deal to cut award levels for most HOPE recipients.  Under the new plan, there will be a two tier system for awards.  Students at public institutions that have GPA’s and standardized test scores in the top 10th percentile will still qualify for full tuition but others will have their award cut back to a level of 90% of last year’s tuition.  With tuition and fee increases for the upcoming year, this amounts to HOPE covering about 80% for most students. 

EGC President John Black said, “East Georgia College has always offered a first–class education at an affordable price.  This allocation by our Foundation is even further proof of our commitment to student success.  EGC offers the student the full college experience with unlimited opportunities.”

To find out more about the HOPE Supplemental Scholarship available only at EAST GEORGIA COLLEGE, call the Admissions office at 289-2017 or go to the website at

June 7--  The apparent low bid to rennovate the former Winn-Dixie building for a new Vidalia police headquarters is higher than officials expected.

Bids from eight contractors were opened Tuesday afternoon at Vidalia city hall.

City manager Bill Torrance says the $1.6 million bid by Copper Construction Company of Vidalia is about a hundred thousand dollars more than the city had budgeted.  The project is being funded by sales tax collections.

The city council has a called meeting Thursday morning at eleven o'clock to consider project cutbacks or to authorize additonal funding.

Copper also submitted a low bid of $367,000 to build offices for the Mayor and council and council chambers in the complex.  It also priced a small mall area in the building at nearly $35,000.

If everything works out, the project would be completed in about nine months.

June 6--  An increase in GED testing fees in Georgia which was to have taken effect in July has been delayed for almost a year.

According to Southeastern Technical College President Dr. Cathy Mitchell, "The fees for the test were going to go up from $95 to $250.  The testing group had partnered with another group to manage the dissemination and grading of the tests by computer.  They were supposed to start that this Summer, however, they were unable to meet the deadline, so for our students, that's a good thing.  It gives them another year to finish the tests and pay only $95 versus $250."

Graduates of the GED test in the STC service area make up what amounts to the largest high school graduating class in the area each year.

"We usually have about 500 GED graduates in the eight-county area we serve.  That's a large number of graduates and I don't think any single high school graduates that many," she says.

STC operates a GED center in seven counties and has two in Tattnall County.


June 6--  State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville comments on recent vetoes by Governor Nathan Deal in his weekly "Notes From the Senate" report.




Last week this column looked at the Governor's vetoes of legislation.  This week, we will examine the wide-reaching vetoes of various bond projects.  Unlike the federal government, in Georgia, the governor has line-item veto power which is generally a positive because the chief executive of the state has the final responsibility for decisions involving state expenditures.  However, according to the Constitution, the Legislature writes and passes the appropriations bill and is the sole authority for the state to expend funds.


There were two areas of the bond package where the Governor exercised vetoes:  There were seven "Design" projects, one for Regents institutions and six design projects in the technical college system that were vetoed by the Governor.  Additionally,  there were three Regents construction projects that were funded at half of total estimated construction cost that were vetoed and one renovation project that was funded at an amount less than the estimated cost.


The Governor's veto message on the design projects stated that 5 year bonds should be used for planning versus the 20 year bonds proposed by the Legislature.  Five year bonds have traditionally been the length that the Legislature and the Governor have used when funding planning and design separately from construction.  Pressure because of severe cash shortages in the 012 budget caused the change this year.  And, of course, there is precedent for 20 year planning bonds. For example, the Southern Crescent Technical College classroom project is a "design and construct" project utilizing 20 year bonds of $5.4 million proposed in the budget by the Governor.  Additionally the Twiggs County Library project of $1.15 million was a "design and construct" project where 20 year bonds were proposed in the Governor's budget as well.


The design projects vetoed were:  University of Georgia Science Learning Center, $3.2 million, Altamaha Technical College, Camden County, $1.2 million, Lanier Technical College, Hall County, combined classroom/economic development building, $2.2 million, Southeastern Technical College, Emanuel County, Health Services/Library for $590,000, Gwinnett Technical College, North Fulton Campus, $3.0 million, Ogeechee Technical College, Natural Resources classroom building, $730,000, and Middle Georgia Technical College, Health Services Center, $1.0 million.     




The Governor vetoed three Regents construction projects because "funding is insufficient, providing only a partial amount needed to complete the construction".  The three projects vetoed were Valdosta State University Health Science building, $5 million for Phase I of a $32 million project, Clayton State University, science building, $9.9 million of a $19 million project, Dalton College, Whitfield County, Academic building, $8,075,000 of a $16,150,000 project.  Interestingly, the Valdosta State project was proposed in the original Governor's budget and all three, including Dalton College and Clayton State were on the Regents' top priority list.


Of course the only reason partial funding was proposed in the two projects added by the Legislature was the low bond ceiling imposed by the Governor, originally at some $296 million in bonds lower than the FY2011 budget.  Eventually the Governor agreed to a bond ceiling increase of $115 million from his original budget proposal but the final FY012 bond package of $675 million still was some $183 million less than the FY2011 total of $858 million.   


The number and amount of proposed bond projects added by the legislature was even less than in the past indicating that was not the problem, just the artificial limit imposed by the executive branch.    


Additionally, the Governor vetoed the Georgia College and State University's Ennis Hall renovation which was partially funded at $4.89 million of a total project cost of $9.1 million.  Left in the budget and not vetoed was another renovation projection at Armstrong Atlantic and State University, partially funded at $2.75 million, half of the $5.5 million needed for the project.  


The priority list developed by the Board of Regents is based on a 5 year revolving Capital Outlay Plan depending on an expected yearly total of $250 million which has not been fulfilled as budget totals have fallen. The Governor's Regents Bond proposal for FY2012 of $81 million was less than half of last year's Regent's bond package.  In FY 2011, after legislative adds, Regents received Capital Outlay bonds totaling $173 million and the just completed budget only contained $148.9 in bond funding after vetoes. 


The Technical College System Board proposed a priority list of projects this year and the top projects were among those vetoed by the Governor including the Camden County Campus of Altamaha Tech and projects at Southeastern Tech and Middle Georgia Tech.  All projects in the House, Senate and Conference Committee versions of the 2012 budget were based on priority lists of the Regents and Technical School Boards.


The Board of Regents and the Board of the Technical College System have a role to play in the establishing of capital outlay priorities for their institutions.  But more importantly, the Legislature, as the appropriating body, has a responsibility through its membership to write the state's budget including the bond portion and should be an equal partner to the executive branch.  If the past four years of recession and shrinking revenues have proven anything, it is that the Legislature is a responsible budgeting body and will do its part in making difficult decisions for the future of Georgia.

June 6--  About 16,000 charter school students in Georgia may be able to return to their schools this Fall after all.  Their future has been in limbo since the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in favor of local school boards which objected to the state directing local school funding to charter schools without approval of local boards.

Senator Tommie Williams of Lyons attended a meeting Friday of a special state senate sub-committee formed to help save the charter schools.

"The Department of Education has found a way for these schools to either go back before their local boards and get approved, or apply to the state as a special state school like the School for the Blind so they can operate this year.  Schools are doing their best to qualify under those parameters and hopefully we can get it done," he says,

Senator Williams says the legislature may consider other options when it reconvenes for a special session in August or during its next regular session in January.

"It's really all about academic performance and if the public charter schools are performing well, we ought to be rewarding them and encouraging them rather than shutting them down," Senator Williams says.

The state Supreme Court decision also negated funding for the state's on-line Virtual Academy.  Senator Williams says lawmakers also have to find a way to keep that going.

"Kids learn digitally now.  It's now just about the traditional classroom.  You can't take what was going to be 8,500 kids this Fall in the Virtual Academy and say we're not going to fund you.  The Supreme Court ruling defunded them in part and we've got to find a way to bridge that," he says.

June 3--  Georgia's new immigration law takes effect July 1st and Vidalia Onion farmers are concerned about the impact it may have on harvesting the multi-million dollar crop next year.


Toombs County farmer R.T. Stanley hires about 300 people each onion season. Virtually all of them are migrant farm workers.  Stanley says they're essential because, unlike previous generations, most Americans won't work in the fields.

"I picked cotton by hand and things like that and it was just as hard back then as it is now, but our country has got to the point that nobody wants to do hard manual labor. I can understand it if they can do something else, but if you don't have a job and want to work, you have to do what you can to make a living.  That's what these migrant workers are doing.  They're trying to put groceries on the table any way they can so they get out there and do the work even though it is hard," he says.

Stanley says he shares the general public's concern about illegal immigrants, but "I'm between a rock and a hard place on this.  All I would like to do is get to where I could have a legal workforce without having a lot of problems.  I don't mind paying whatever it takes to get my crop harvested on a timely basis."

The best answer according to Stanley is to make the current federal guest-worker program user friendly.  Right now it's too bureaucratic, he says. "There's just too much red tape involved and it's more expensive than getting local people.  We'd love to have local people to do it, but there's no way to get local people to do that kind of work," Stanley reports.

This year's Vidalia onion crop is good, Stanley says, but prices are down and production costs are up.  Last year was a better year in terms of profit, he says.

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union has announced it intends to challenge Georgia's new immigration law in court.

June 1--  The federal case of Christopher Bowman versus the Montgomery County Board of Education is moving closer to trial.

The case was filed in 2008 by former Montgomery County teacher Christopher Bowman who claims he was fired in retaliation for reporting alleged sexual misconduct between a faculty member and a male student at Montgomery County High School.

Federal Judge Dudley Bowen, Jr. has approved a motion from both attorneys extending the deadline to file pre-trial motions to June 17th.  

Bowman is represented by Newnan attorney Robert Trammell while the school board's attorney in the case is Christian Steinmetz of Savannah.

Observers say the case could go to trial this summer at the federal courthouse in Dublin.

June 1--  City officials in Vidalia are planning to appeal results of the 2010 census.

The city showed a loss of population, however, city manager Bill Torrance believes there may have been an undercount by census takers whom he thinks failed to take into account annexations which have taken place in the city since 2000.

Award of a contract to build the new Vidalia police headquarters and admin complex is getting closer.  Officials say 15 contractors, including three local builders, came to a pre-bid conference. Bids will be opened Tuesday, June 7 at 2 p.m. at Vidalia city hall. The project will reconfigure the former Winn-Dixie building located east of city hall.

Vidalia also has some property for sale including a home on Julie Drive and the old fire station on Truman Street.    

June 1--  Toombs County officials are considering options regarding health insurance for county employees.

At a called meeting Wednesday morning, the county commissioners asked county manager Doug Eaves to give them more cost information before a decision is made.

One proposal increases the county's annual premium for 158 employees by about 23 percent to just over a million dollars.  

A second option would cost the county about $165,000 less but would increase the out-of-pocket expenses for employees.

The commissioners say they want to see the financial impact on all employees before they vote.

May 31--  The South Georgia lawmaker who chairs the Banking Committee in the Georgia House of Representatives and who is a director of a local bank has paid a $5,000 fine to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for a bad check.

{mosimage}State Representative Greg Morris of Vidalia says one of his accounts at Montgomery Bank and Trust, where he is a director, had insufficient funds to cover a $26,000 property tax check he wrote back in 2006.  He later transferred money into the account, but the overdraft caught the attention of federal regulators when Montgomery Bank was being audited as part of a deal with new investors to keep the bank from failing late last year.

"This occurred in 2006.  I wrote a couple of checks before I went out of a town on a hunting trip, I didn't cover the amount of money in the account and before somebody from the bank could get to me before the banking day was over to put the money in the account, the account was overdrawn.  I thought the fine was excessive, but it is the rule," he says.

Morris says he didn't challenge the fine because it came up in December while the bank was in the midst of recapitalization negotiations with federal regulators.

"They did approve our plan and I think one of the reasons not much as been made of it by the FDIC is because we were one of the few banks under consent order that didn't fail and hasn't cost the taxpayers one single dime," he says.

According to federal banking rules, certain overdrafts by bank directors are prohibited because they could be considered an improper insider loan.  Morris told an Atlanta reporter he has been cited by bank regulators for overdrafts before, but not fined.