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July 29--  State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville discusses the status of state retirees in his weekly "Report From the Senate."



In Fiscal Year (FY) 2009, the Employees' Retirement System of Georgia (ERSGA) had approximately 113,000 active members across six retirement plans and paid benefits to nearly 45,000 retirees in Fiscal Year (FY) 2009.  A state audit estimated that of those retirees, 6% or 2,519 were re-employed and working with a state entity during the fiscal year.  It is also estimated that over half of rehired retirees were members of the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS).  PSERS, as you remember from a previous column primarily consists of school support personnel such as bus drivers, administrative support, and cafeteria workers.  During that same fiscal year, the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) had more than 226,000 active members and a little more than 82,000 retirees. A similar state audit estimated that 15% or 11,626 of the 75,555 retirees examined were re-employed by a state or local government entity during FY2009. Last year, prompted by concerns that some state retirees were returning to work for the state and "double dipping" by receiving retirement benefits and active employee compensation.  The Senate Appropriations Committee requested these audits on State Retiree Re-employment to examine the prevalence, incentives and cost of retirees returning to work with the state.



All retirees in Georgia must have at least a one month break in service between their effective date of retirement and returning to work. The retiree may then return to work for a state or local entity with some limitations.  The limitations on returning to work vary across the different retirement systems.  Imposing these limits on re-employment with the state discourages members from seeking a supplemental income at the expense of the state.  Any retiree may elect to work in a different capacity without limitations by suspending or terminating his benefits during re-employment.  Retirees from all retirement systems may return to work for the private industry, federal government or another state without limitation.


Retirees from an ERSGA managed-plan, with the exception of PSERS members, may return also to work for a local school system or for a court as a Senior Judge without limitation.  ERS members who retire before reaching normal retirement age must take a two month break before returning to employment and the employer must certify that no agreement exists to allow the employee to return to service.  Upon returning to work for the state or University System of Georgia, ERSGA retirees may only work a maximum of 1,040 hours per calendar. Retirement benefits will be suspended for the remainder of the calendar year if the employee works more.  Re-employed retirees will not receive credit towards additional retirement benefits nor will their employers contribute to the retirement system on their behalf.


PSERS retirees who have reached the normal retirement age, sixty-five, at or before retirement may return to work for any employer, including the state, with no limitations. If the employee retires and returns to work prior to reaching sixty-five, his retirement benefits will be suspended while re-employed. 



Teachers Retirement System (TRS) retirees may be able to return to work as a paraprofessional or substitute on a part time basis after one month or as a full-time teacher, principal, superintendent, counselor, and media or improvement specialist after one year.  TRS retirees are the only class of retirees who can return to work at full salary and draw full retirement as well.  Starting in 2002, Georgia law was changed and restrictions removed in several revisions of state code until finally in 2008, date restrictions were removed and after a one-year break, teachers can return to work full-time even though drawing full retirement benefits.  This change was made during a period of time several years ago, when there was a teacher shortage.  Administrators like principals and superintendents can retire and return to work similarly, principals can't work with the same school nor superintendents with the same system.    Given the employment picture today, it may be time to review that legislation before the present sunset date of June 30, 2016. 




Full audit findings can be found on the Performance Audit site at the Department of

Audits and Accounts under the following titles:


State Retiree Re-employment: A Review of Incentives, Prevalence and Cost (December 2010)

Teachers Retirement System of Georgia Re-Employed Retirees: A Review of Incentives Prevalence and Cost (March 2011)


July 29--  These Canadian Geese are making themselves at home on the lawn and in the pond at the Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce on Highway 280 East in Vidalia.  They were spotted Wednesday after being "shooed" away from the Vidalia Regional Airport where they are a hazard to aircraft.


July 29--  Lyons Fire Chief Darel Corley says he's been told by the State Fire Marshall that lightning caused a fire early Tuesday that destroyed this old brick home at the corner of Highway 280 and Bulldog Road.  The house was vacant.  The local Red Cross was also on the scene to help Lyons firemen with meals and hydration supplies.  (Photo courtesy Donna Lee)

July 28--  We've received the following letter regarding what constitutes a government entitlement. 

Letter to the Editor:

 The Republicans in Congress keep telling the working-class Americans that their Social Security and Medicare are “entitlements” and must be reduced.  When did social security insurance and Medicare insurance become entitlements? I paid cash for my social security insurance and my Medicare coverage. These benefits are not some kind of charity or handout! 

Now look at the benefits which senators and representatives in Washington get and which are paid for by American taxpayers. First-class federal health care of which 73% of the cost is paid by the taxpayers of America. Sixty-seven paid holidays, three weeks paid vacation, unlimited paid sick days. NOW THAT’S WELFARE AND ENTITLEMENT!  And Republicans have the nerve to call working-class Americans’ social security insurance and Medicare insurance “entitlements”!

John Brewer, Ailey, GA

(Editor's Note:  Mr. Brewer is Chairman of the Democrat Party in Montgomery County.)

Letters to us must include the author's name and address and may be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Reader Response:

Rick Thigpen, Vidalia, GA


Entitlements my behind.  Since I have started working back in the 1960's, I have been paying into Social Security and Medicare,  I have noticed that the "entitlements" has been taken out of my pay check each payday.  I believe I have earned the money. I believe we need to remember come election day.  They need to remember just who pays their salary.  It's bad we have to wait until November of 2012 to clean house.

I love how our elected officials love to scare the elderly and the military with their threats of default.

They should be looking in their own backyard for they are truly the entitled.  If they cut their staffs in half and paid into their pensions, better yet  joined Social Security, we would be on the way to making a dent in the problem.  Take a look at congressional staff salaries and then compare that to the average salary of $38,000 that active military serving in Iraq are earning.
Shame on our elected officials
Nancy Nail
Vidalia Ga


The letters posted here by fellow citizens are exactly correct in my opinion.  I am concerned to hear the term "entitlements" used to describe social security benefits or military pay.  I have been paying premiums since I was 16.  Now I am ready to collect that money which was the way I understood the system worked.  The founding fathers would be horrified to see the perks of elected officials. What kind of role models are public officials?  Where does it state in the constitution that legislators are to be supported financially far above the lifestyles of people they represent?  In the beginning, a candidate did not spend millions of dollars to get elected, then spend the rest of their lives living off the work of constituents. I am proud to be a tea party supporter interested in lowering spending and helping our own United States citizens survive.  And by the way, God Bless America!
Shirl Morris
Vidalia, GA
























Ogeechee Riverkeeper files 60 Day Notice of Violations and Intent to Sue against King America Finishing


July 28--  Ogeechee Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect and preserve the Ogeechee, Canoochee, and coastal rivers.  Ensuring these rivers are free from pollution is Ogeechee Riverkeeper’s top priority.  Today, in keeping with that mission, Ogeechee Riverkeeper filed a 60-Day Notice of Violations and Intent to File Citizen Suit under Section 505 of the Clean Water Act against King America Finishing, which is located in Screven County, Georgia, near Oliver.

King America Finishing, Inc. is in violation of the Clean Water Act as a result of the ongoing unpermitted discharges from its textile facility, which is operating under National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permit number GA0003280


King America Finishing, Inc. is discharging color, ammonia and formaldehyde in violation of its permit and Georgia water quality standards. In addition, the plant’s discharges are in violation of state water quality and numeric permit limits for pH.

Georgia’s state water quality standards require that “[a]ll waters shall be free from material related to municipal, industrial or other discharges which produce turbidity, color, odor or other objectionable conditions which interfere with legitimate water uses.”  King America Finishing, Inc.’s permit specifically states that the permittee “may not discharge toxic pollutants in concentrations or combinations that are harmful to humans, animals, or aquatic life.” 

In the wake of the massive fish kill in May of this year, Ogeechee Riverkeeper stepped up its monitoring and testing of water and sediment in the river.  Those tests revealed elevated levels of multiple pollutants at and downstream from King America Finishing’s discharge pipe.  Ogeechee Riverkeeper, in keeping with its mission, is demanding that the discharges in violation of Georgia water quality standards cease. 

"We’ve received complaints from citizens about this site going back to 2002.  Unfortunately, repeated complaints to state and federal agencies have failed to adequately address the problems with this discharge," states Dianna Wedincamp, Ogeechee Riverkeeper.  “By bringing this litigation, which will be costly and time-consuming for our organization, we hope to prevent King America Finishing Inc. from causing future harm to the Ogeechee River.

July 27--  Vidalia police are looking for two men who broke into a house and shot one of the occupants.

Police Lieutenant Jimmy Sims says 21-year-old Clinton Howard, Jr. was shot during what appears to be a home invastion at 913 Bay Street in Vidalia Tuesday night.

Howard was shot twice with what police believe was a 9mm weapon.  He is reported in stable condition at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta.

July 27--  Vidalia Animal Shelter Manager April Braddy issues the following appeal to help care for animals at the shelter on Airport Road.




by Mallory Thompson

July 27--   Uvalda Mayor Paul Bridges was in Washington Tuesday testifying before a Senate sub-committee on immigration. Bridges has made headlines for joining a class action lawsuit against the state of Georgia and its new immigration law. 

"Many folks have been surprised that a conservative Republican like me is involved in a lawsuit against my beloved state. It is shocking, but it shouldn't be a surprise.  This law is not immigration reform.  This law is government intrusion of the worst kind.  It threatens our economy.  It threatens our way of life," he told the committee chaired by Senator Chuck Schumer of New York.

Bridges told the sub-committee that Uvalda is already feeling the effects of the new law with migrant workers fleeing the state.  "Now that migrant workers are fleeing the state, perfectly healthy crops are left rotting in the fields.  The Georgia Agri-Business Council has already reported that farms have lost over $300 million due to the lack of workers, and this economic toll could reach $1 billion," he testified.

Bridges warned the Senators the new law would strain local law enforcement to enact the law without proper immigration training, and without a jail facility in the county, the city would have to rent jail space in a neighboring town further draining its resources.

"The bottom line is that Uvalda, like so many other towns dealing with anti-immigration laws, would no doubt take a major economic hit and be less safe as a result," he said.

While Bridges does not support amnesty for illegal immigrants, he told me after the hearing he does support a pathway to citizenship.  "What I'm really talking about is an ability to identify workers who have been doing this work for years and to give them the benefit to continue doing this work and to give them the ability to support their children, many of whom are U.S. citizen-children.  The current environment as it exists does not take into account that these people are part of our community," Bridges said.

{mosimage}Bridges joined mayors from Lewiston, Maine and Utica, New York in testifying before the hearing which was titled, "The Economic Imperative of Enacting Immigration Reform."

July 26--  Toombs County officials got a satisfactory report on the county's 2010 audit at a called meeting Tuesday afternoon.

The audit showed the county's $6 million total fund balance is $1.5 million better than last year and, according to County Manager Doug Eaves, means the county will not have to borrow any money to cover expenses through the end of the year.  

The audit also reports the county's landfill and ambulance funds are in the black.

The commissioners also reviewed redistricting recommendations from the state reapportionment office based on the 2010 census.

They are preparing to advertise a new commission district map which will add 700 new citizens to Commissioner Roy Lee Williams District One and 200 new residents to Commissioner Louie Powell's Second District.  Commissioner Skeeter Toole's Third District will lose 900 in population while Commissioner Jeff McCormick's Fourth District will see no changes.

Once approved by the Commission, the new map will require approval by the U.S. Department of Justice and local enabling legislation by the Georgia general assembly.

{mosimage}July 25--  A 1997 graduate of Vidalia High School is facing murder charges in Colorado, according to the following news report courtesy of the Longmount Times-Call newspaper. The fatal wreck noted in the article happened June 25.

Boulder County prosecutors charge Lisa Norton with first-degree murder
By Pierrette J. Shields | Longmont Times-Call
Longmont Times-Cal
BOULDER — Prosecutors on Thursday filed a first-degree murder charge against a Boulder woman accused of causing a drunken driving wreck Saturday that killed 33-year-old Gabriel Nielsen of Boulder.

Lisa Norton, 32, wept throughout the short hearing, fighting to hold back tears when either her public defenders or Boulder District Judge DD Mallard addressed her directly. She appeared in court wearing jail-issued clothing intended to prevent inmates from harming themselves and has been under suicide watch at the Boulder County Jail, where she is being held on a $1 million bond.

Norton was charged with first-degree murder showing extreme indifference, vehicular homicide, two counts of vehicular assault and leaving the scene of an accident involving injury or death, all felonies. She was also charged with driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol or both; DUI per se; driving under a restrained license because of a previous alcohol conviction; and failure to report or return to the scene of an accident, which are either misdemeanors or traffic offenses.

According to reports, Nielsen was driving his Nissan coupe west on Nelson when Norton lost control of her eastbound Ford pickup and struck the Nissan. Nielsen died at the scene, and his sister Cherish Francis, 35, and 2-year-old daughter, Avery, suffered serious injuries.

Norton fled the scene, jumped into Clover Basin Reservoir and tried to swim away to escape police, according to police reports. Boaters in the reservoir fished her out of the water and turned her over to police.

Norton's actions amounted to “an attitude of universal malice manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life,” according to the court filing.

Court records show that Norton was sentenced to probation on a March DUI arrest just two days before the fatal wreck. Under the deal, she had an earlier deferred sentence for unlawful conduct on public property, a misdemeanor, revoked and was officially found guilty on the charge. She was also found guilty of driving while ability impaired, a common plea agreement for first-time DUI offenses, according to Boulder County District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Catherine Olguin.

“In the 20th Judicial (District) we work every hard to try to find appropriate dispositions to help people with substance abuse problems get the treatment they need,” she said.

Under the terms of her probation, Norton was to submit to substance abuse monitoring, alcohol evaluation and probation supervision, and was ordered to not drink alcohol.

She is scheduled to return to court Sept. 8 for a preliminary hearing in the murder case.


July 26--  The Georgia Board of Education is giving the Coffee County school board a second chance.  At a called meeting today in Atlanta, the state board noted progress made in the Coffee County school system and said it would not recommend to the Governor that the board be removed under a new state law.  The board issued the following statement:

The State Board of Education signed a consent order today with the Coffee County School Board for purposes of a resolution to the Senate Bill 79 hearing.

Below is the statement read by Wanda Barrs, Chair, State Board of Education.

Pursuant to Senate Bill 79 relating to recommendations for potential suspension of local boards of education for governance related issues the Georgia State Board of Education has received, reviewed and approved the Consent Order and Recommendations brought forward by Coffee County supported by a letter from the SACS Council on Accreditation and School Improvement.  The state board does not recommend to the Governor that the Coffee County Board of Education be removed enmasse.  It is agreed by this consent order that the Coffee County Board of Education and the named superintendent will comply with the outlined requirements for accreditation restoration.
 -Wanda Barrs, Chair, Georgia State Board of Education.

At the same meeting, the state school board suspended the hearing scheduled for the Atlanta Public School board and said it would call another meeting for ahearing no later than November 4.  Atlanta Public School officials had asked the board for more time to get its act together following widespread reports of cheating by administrators and teachers on standardized testing.

July 26--  President Barack Obama's standing with voters on his job approval and re-election prospects have both received positive bumps in the latest IBOPE Zogby interactive poll.

The poll also finds that pluralities of 47% support both the House-passed "Cut, Cap and Balance" plan to resolve the debt limit issue, and the "Gang of Six" plan that has been discussed in the Senate. However, when asked to choose between the two, voters prefer the House plan.

These results are from an IBOPE Zogby interactive poll conducted from July 22-25.

Overall, do you approve or disapprove of Barack Obama's job as president?

Obama Job Performance







































Not sure













Totals may not add up to 100% due to rounding

Please click the link below to view the full news release on our website:

July 25--  Most of the schools in the eight-county area around Vidalia failed to make adequate yearly progress in the 2010-11 school term, according to the Georgia Department of Education.  Fifty-nine percent of the schools could not meet the standards set in No Child Left Behind legislation.  Statewide, 37 percent did not meet the mark.

School SystemMade AYP
Did Not Make AYP
 ToombsLyons Primary
 Lyons Upper Elementary
 Toombs Central Elementary
 Toombs Co High School
   Toombs Co Middle School
 Vidalia  Vidalia High School
   J.R.Trippe Middle School
   Sally Meadows Elementary
   J.D. Dickerson Primary
 MontgomeryMont Co Elementary
 Mont Co High School
   Mont Co Middle School
Treutlen Elementary
 Treutlen Middle/High School
 TattnallCollins Elementary
 Collins Middle School
 Glennville Elementary
 Glennville Middle School
 Reidsville Middle School
 Reidsville Elementary
   Tattnall Co High School
Wheeler Co Elementary
 Wheeler Co High School
 Appling Appling Co Elementary
 Appling Co High School
  Altamaha Elementary
 Appling Co Middle School
  Appling Co Primary
  4th Dist Elementary  
 Candler Metter Elementary
Metter High School
  Metter Intermediate 
  Metter Middle School
 Swainsboro Primary
Emanual Co Institute
  Twin City Elementary Swainsboro Elementary
  Swainsboro High School
  Swainsboro Middle School
  Adrian School of Per Arts


July 25--  Vidalia-area Crimestoppers will pay cash rewards for tips leading to an arrest in any crime which occurs in Toombs or Montgomery counties.

The Crimestopper board responded to a request from the Vidalia Police Department for assistance in obtaining information on any felony or misdemeanor crime.  Previously, Crimestoppers only paid rewards for cases where investigators had run out of leads and needed more information.

If you are aware of a crime and can provide information leading to an arrest, call the Crimestoppers Hotline at 1-866-439-6313.  You don't have to give your name or any personal information.  If your call leads to an arrest, you will receive a cash reward no questions asked.

July 25--  A Wheeler County teenager died in a weekend traffic accident in Treutlen County.

The Georgia State Patrol says 19-year-old Olivia Whitley of Glenwood died when her car collided head-on with an 18-wheeler tractor-trailer late Sunday afternoon.

Corporal J.B. Clifton reported the accident happened on Highway 221 near the Treutlen-Montgomery county line.

July 25--  JULIUS PINKSTON, 61, of Metter, Georgia, has pleaded guilty before Judge B. Avant Edenfield in the United States District Court in Statesboro, Georgia to trafficking cocaine.  Pinkston was the lead defendant in a 35 defendant indictment returned by the federal grand jury in 2006.  Pinkston fled before the indictment was returned and remained a fugitive until early April, 2011 when he was arrested by deputies of the United States Marshals Service in Douglas, Georgia.

        United States Attorney Edward Tarver said, "This Defendant hid from federal authorities for years likely hoping to avoid responsibility for his criminal conduct. But for the perseverance and readiness of agents and prosecutors, this significant drug trafficker may have continued to menace the community and place additional lives in jeopardy."       

         The charge against Pinkston resulted from a joint investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Pinkston faces a maximum penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $1,000,000.  Pinkston remains in custody pending sentence, which will be held upon the completion of a pre-sentence investigation and report.


July 25--  What would you do if you had the chance to work on the federal budget?  Cut programs?  Raise taxes?  Some of both?

Congressman John Barrow is giving citizens in the 12th District a chance to experience the choices that he and his colleagues in Congress are studying regarding the federal debt crisis.

Under auspices of the non-partisan Concord Coalition, Southern Regional Director Phil Smith led a federal budget exercise with a group of concerned citizens in Vidalia.

"They learn by doing.  The pretend they are members of Congress trying to make budgetary decisions.  They decide what to keep.  They decide what to cut.  They put together their own federal budget.  What happens is people relearn the meaning of the word sacrifice.  It's a word that's been absent from the political vernacular for a long time now and it's high time we remember what that word means," Smith says.

More than 20 citizens attended the session and were divided into four workgroups.  They came up with cuts ranging from about half-a-trillion to over two trillion dollars.

We asked some of them about their impressions.

"I learned there's a whole lot that goes into it and it's not as cut and dry as we often think.  We may think we know, but when we read the wording we may not choose what we thought we would," one woman reported.

A male participant said echoed Smith's remarks about sacrifice. "I believe it's going to have to start at home.  Probably more than we want to make, but for the betterment of our economy and our country overall we're all going to have to make those sacrifices," he said.

Another woman said, "They had a lot of information on Social Security and Medicare that we need to consider.  I think this is great and the public needs to interact more."

Congressman Barrow has sponsored other budget exercises in Savannah, Augusta and Statesboro.

After the session in Vidalia, Smith believes "I think what it shows is that in some cases the citizens are actually ahead of some of the politicians up there.  Once they learn what the true drivers are, they are much more willing to take the tough medicine that we need to take," he said.

July 22--  Brewton-Parker College’s Board of Trustees named longtime Georgia Baptist Educator Dr. Mike Simoneaux as the college’s new president Thursday by a unanimous vote.


Dr. Simoneaux and his wife, Bonnie, at BPC's alumni weekend.

Dr. Simoneaux was recommended to the Board by Trustee Lynda Yawn of Statesboro, chair of the Presidential Search Committee. Dr. Simoneaux has served as BPC’s interim president since March 2011.

            Yawn reported the committee felt like Dr. Simoneaux’s leadership over the past several months of transition and the decision to offer the position to him was “an act of God”.

            “We prayerfully approached this process and had a dozen capable and experienced applicants,” said Yawn, “however, we felt strongly that Dr. Simoneaux was our president and that we were led to ask him. So we did. It took him a while and he said he really needed to pray about it, but in the end, he accepted.”

            BPC Board of Trustees Chairman Gary Campbell praises the decision and welcomes Dr. Simoneaux and his wife, Bonnie, into their new permanent role with the college.

“Dr. Simoneaux came to Brewton-Parker as our Interim President at a critical time in the history of the college,” said Gary Campbell, chair of the Board of Trustees. “His background and experience, particularly at Truett-McConnell College where he served as Acting President, then as Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness, prepared him well for his mission at Brewton-Parker.  The college and our community are fortunate that Dr. Simoneaux and his wife Bonnie have decided to join us in a permanent role. 

“There is much to be thankful for at Brewton-Parker College,” Campbell continued. “We are thankful for Dr. Simoneaux’s very capable leadership through this difficult time. We are thankful to Truett-McConnell College who was so gracious and generous to allow Dr. Simoneaux to serve as Interim President at Brewton-Parker. We are thankful to our community who has stepped up in a tremendous way to support the college, and we are thankful to our Lord who continues to bless Brewton-Parker College.” 

Dr. Simoneaux, who had been on loan to BPC from Truett-McConnell, where he served as Vice President for College Advancement, is “honored” to be selected as the president of Brewton-Parker College.

“I look forward to continuing the rich heritage of Brewton-Parker,” said Dr. Simoneaux. “Please pray for the college, Bonnie and me. We believe that the college’s brightest days are ahead of us, as we strive to honor Jesus Christ in everything we do.”

An induction ceremony will be held at a later date but Dr. Simoneaux’s status as president is effective immediately. Campbell appointed Yawn as chair of the Induction Ceremony committee, which also includes community, faculty and staff members, including Dr. Bucky Kennedy, pastor of First Baptist Church of Vidalia, and Dannie Williams, pastor of First Baptist Church of Lyons.

“We want everyone to feel that this is ‘their’ president and ‘their’ college and be a part of the future of Brewton-Parker College under Dr. Simoneaux’s leadership,” said Yawn.

BPC staff and faculty interim Provost Chris Jones, Lynn Addison and Jennifer Blaylock, join Trustee Gilbert Westberry round out the group.

            Randy Minton, chief operations officer and business professor, echoed the sentiment of many employees and students when the decision was announced at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in a campus-wide email.

This decision is one that many of us have long prayed for, and we hope you will all take a moment to congratulate Dr. Simoneaux as we welcome in not just our new President, but a member of the Brewton-Parker family in whom we have great faith and trust.”

Dr. Susan White, Education Division Chair, adds, “I am so thankful to hear that Dr. Simoneaux will be our President now.  Our campus has been through some tough times; however, with God's help, we have weathered the storm.  Thank you, Dr. Simoneaux, for assuming these awesome responsibilities. You will be in our prayers.”

Josh McPhatter, former Student Government President and the student representative on the Presidential Search Committee, reacted by saying he’s “delighted” that Dr. Simoneaux is the new President. “He is student friendly, a humble servant-leader, and right for the job.”

            Dr. Ron Melton, BPC History Professor and NAIA representative, calls Dr. Simoneaux’s leadership at BPC an answer to prayer.         

“This is truly an answer to prayer. I am thankful to Dr. Simoneaux and to the Board of Trustees. I recall sitting with Dr. Simoneaux at a student forum in March. A student asked why we needed to search for a new President, clearly implying that Dr. Simoneaux was the man for the job. Many of us have thought that to be the case. I am convinced that the future for BPC is bright.”



July 21--  The State Board of Education will be meeting Tuesday, July 26th at 9am, pursuant to Senate Bill 79 relating to recommendations for potential suspension of local boards of education for governance related issues.  The hearings will be held in the State Board room, 2070 Twin Towers East.

The two boards that met the stipulations in the legislation are Atlanta Public Schools (APS) board and Coffee County Schools board.  The state board is set to hear the APS board July 26 and the Coffee County Schools board thereafter unless otherwise noted.

July 21--  For the first time in its history, East Georgia College in Swainsboro has an on-campus residence hall.


Ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the "Bobcat Villas" student apartments were held Thursday and there's already a waiting list for the 200-student complex.

The new Chancellor for the University System of Georgia, Hank Huckaby, cut the ribbon.  "It's a great day for what we are trying to do all over the state.  We talked a lot about what it means to Swainsboro and southeast Georgia, but we all gain by what we are doing here," he said.

The new dorm brings a whole new dimension to the school according to college President Dr. John Black, "It's a complete culture change.  We have to do things we didn't used to have to do when the students came and took classes and left.  They are here 24/7 now and it's a sea-change for East Georgia College coupled with the fact we now have some four-year programs.

State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville is happy to see the college's growth in facilities and academics.  "They've just been given an ability to grant their first four-year degree in Biology so this 24-hour housing will give them the ability to grow as well," he said.

And the Mayor of Swainsboro, Charles Schwabe, is thankful for the contributions the college makes to the city and the area.  "Just like every other little town, we're counting the pennies and revenue is important.  More importantly, the progress of this school is what we're looking for long term.  It is a boon to the community, no doubt about it," the mayor says.

July 21--  A four-year-old girl drowned Wednesday afternoon in a new family pool at her home in Claxton. 

Evans County Coronor Mellie NeeSmith identifies her as Addison Yarborough, the granddaughter of David Yarborough, Vice President of Economic Development at Southeastern Tech in Vidalia.

According to the coroner, the pool had only recently been installed in the little girl's backyard.

July 21--  Twelfth District Democrat Congressman John Barrow voted against the "Cut, Cap and Balance" bill which passed the House of Representatives Tuesday night. 

The bill is a Republican proposal to cut spending and to seek a constitutional amendment requiring the federal government to balance the budget each year similiar to most states including Georgia.  Democrats in the Senate plan to block the bill and President Obama has said he would veto it if it made it through the Senate.

We asked Congressman Barrow why he opposed the bill in the House.  

“Every American knows that we have to rein in wasteful spending and cannot default on the national debt.  What the American people deserve at this moment are serious proposals to tackle this challenge. This bill sounds great on the surface, but it would cause irreparable harm to our nation’s seniors and our country’s economic health.  I can't support that.  Instead of voting on bills that won't solve any of our problems, I encourage my colleagues to get back to work on crafting a bipartisan solution that will both protect our seniors and our country’s economic footing," he said.

July 21--  Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation has awarded a $98,652 grant to Lyons Primary School for renovations and improvements to the existing building and grounds.


(L-R) John Futch, Flooring Departmant Manager, Kim Sikes, Human Resources Manager, Richie Carter, Store Manager, Kim Corley, LPS Principal, Marcella Alexander, LPS Instructional Coach 

Lyons Primary School will use the grant to make needed improvements to the building which was constructed in 1954. In addition to providing new flooring and paint in the main buildings, the grant will enable the school to create an outdoor seating area to be used during special family and community events. Students and teachers will also benefit from new storage cabinets and educational tools.

July 21--  If you've got a few minutes Friday morning, you might want to meet an 18-year-old author who is visiting Vidalia with a message of personal freedom.   Savannah Liston hails from northern Illinois and first visited the Sweet Onion City last year to give an economics seminar to local Tea Party patriots.

"Long term, I just want to live my life.  I just want to have the freedom to home school my children as my parents had the freedom to home school me.  I want the freedom to teach them what I believe is right and to live my life as I believe God has called me to do," she says.

Savannah's first novel is called "Paths of Grass" and is set in World War II.  "This started as as series of short stories several years ago.  I'm very interested in history and I started them as a way of showing that when government intervenes it only harms people," according to Savannah.

The book and her speeches are designed to help people realize government doesn't have the answers.  "I would like to make people aware of what's going on and the possibility of a society where we don't have government intervention.  We've had this government ruling over us for so long that people have a hard time imagining a society without a government.  My goal is to open up minds to ideas of how things like roads and infrastructure can be provided by free market instead of the government monopoly," she says.

You can meet Savannah Friday morning from ten to eleven-thirty in downtown Vidalia at Tummy Treasures on the corner of Church and Meadows Street.

July 20--  Thursday Congressman John Barrow (GA-12) will sponsor a unique, interactive event to demonstrate the importance of balancing the federal budget and getting our nation’s fiscal house in order.

The event, called Principles & Priorities, is operated by a non-profit group called the Concord Coalition.  The program is an interactive exercise in which participants learn about balancing the federal budget by weighing and making the same policy decisions that lawmakers face. 

Participants will be able to review current spending priorities, suggest principles for the future, and then apply these principles by selecting from several dozen priorities being discussed in Washington.  By considering issues such as federal spending, taxes, and social programs, participants will gain firsthand experience in the complex issues of today's fiscal environment. They will then recommend a package of policies to put America on a sound budgetary foundation for the next several years.

The workshop concludes with a wrap-up discussion of the budget results and the lessons learned from the exercise.  More information about the event can be found online at:


Congressman Barrow’s Fiscal Responsibility Wake-Up Event in Vidalia


Thursday, July 21, 2011

1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.


Vidalia Community Center

107 Old Airport Road


July 20--  The federal civil trial of former Montgomery County High School teacher Christopher Bowman against the county school board is scheduled for October.

At a pre-trial conference Wednesday afternoon, lawyers for the school board and Bowman met with U.S. Federal Judge Dudley Bowen, Jr. at the federal courthouse in Dublin.

Both sides have agreed not to seek a jury trial in the case which they estimate will take at least two days.  Judge Bowen says he will hear the case starting Tuesday, October 4.

Bowman sued the school system in 2008 alleging he was fired in retaliation for reporting an alleged sexual affair between a female high school counselor and a 16-year-old male student.

A lawyer for the school board told the court former Montgomery County school superintendent Dale Clark will be a key defense witness in the case.  It was her daughter, Carrie O'Connor, whom Bowman reported to law enforcement.  O'Connor was acquitted of state criminal charges in the case.

July 20--  A former loan assistant at Montgomery Bank and Trust pled guilty to embezzlement Wednesday morning in U.S. District Court in Dublin.

Forty-six-year old Janice Knowles of Uvalda admitted to stealing money from the Commerce Drive branch of the bank during a three-year period from 2005 to 2008. 

An FBI agent testified the thefts came to light in 2008 when a bank customer questioned his account balance which prompted an internal bank investigation.  The government claims Knowles pilfered 37 accounts for an estimated $160,000. 

Knowles will be sentenced at a later date by U.S. District Judge Dudley Bowen, Jr.  The maximum sentence is 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, however, the U.S. Attorney is recommending a reduced sentence due to Knowle's cooperation with investigators.

U.S. Attorney David Stewart says sentencing should occur within the next 90 days.

July 19--  An Uvalda woman indicted for embezzlement of the Montgomery Bank and Trust Company has a change of plea hearing in U.S. District Court in Dublin Wednesday.

According to court records, Janice Knowles was indicted in March for using bank funds for her personal use during the period July, 2005 through October, 2008. The U.S. Attorney accuses Knowles of preparing cashiers checks in bank customers' names, charging the checks to those customers' loans and then using the checks for her personal benefit.  The government contends she stole about $160,000 during the three-year period.  Knowles was a loan assistant at the Commerce Drive branch of the bank at the time of the alleged embezzlement.

She entered a not guilty plea on May 12th but was granted a change of plea hearing last Thursday.  Her trial had been scheduled to start Tuesday, July 26th.

Maximum penalties for bank embezzlement are 30 years in prison, a $1,000,000 fine and five years of supervised release.

July 19--  The man accused of killing 15-year-old Courtney Wilkes of Lyons is pleading not guilty.

The public defender for 22-year-old Steven Cozzie entered a written plea of not guilty in Walton County Superior Court July 7.

Cozzie was indicted July 1st on charges of felony murder, sexual battery with a weapon, kidnapping and child abuse.  He was arrested hours after Courtney's body was found in a wooded area about a half mile from where she and her family were staying in a condo in Seagrove Beach, Florida.

State prosecutor Bobby Elmore says he expects officials will decide in the next few weeks if they will seek the death penalty in the case.

Cozzie has a pre-trial hearing scheduled for September 22 before circuit court Judge Kelvin Wells in DeFuniak Springs, Florida.  Elmore says he expects it will be at least a year before the case goes to trial.

{mosimage}July 19--  Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Bishop J. Kevin Boland from the pastoral governance of the Catholic Diocese of Savannah and he has appointed Franciscan Father Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM of the Archdiocese of Atlanta to succeed him.

July 19--  The Toombs County school system's fund balance is better this year than last and that will help cushion what officials expect will be a lean year in 2012.

Strong local tax collections in fiscal year 2010 combined with cutbacks on expenses and the infusion of federal funds have allowed the system to end this fiscal year with an estimated $1.4 million reserve fund.

They'll need the money to make it through 2012, according to Chief Financial Officer Crystal Cody.  She reports only about 80 percent of local property taxes for the school system had been collected as of the end of May compared to more than 107 percent the end of May last year.  The system is short more than three-quarters of a million dollars in property tax revenue so far this year. 

At their July meeting, Toombs County school board members discussed the role of board members prompted by school board member Duane Tomlin's admonition against micro-managing the school system.  Discussions centered around following the chain of command in carrying out board policy and discouraging individual board members from interfering in school system administration.

July 19--  Georgia Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle will speak at the ribbon cutting for the Southeastern Early College and Career Academy in Vidalia.

The ceremony is Monday, August 1st at ten a.m. at 413 Pete Phillips Drive on the southside of the Southeastern Technical College campus.  

The school is the first regional career academy in Georgia and is a cooperative effort of the school boards in Vidalia, Toombs, Treutlen and Montgomery counties and STC.  It's goal is to train students for real world jobs and increase the high school graduation rate in the area.

According to STC, Georgia Senators Tommie Williams of Lyons and Jack Hill of Reidsville along with Ron Jackson, Commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia, will also attend.

July 19-- The House Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Committee will meet Wednesday, July 20th, 2011 at 2:00 PM.  The meeting will be held in Room 606 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building across from the State Capitol.

To watch a live video stream of the meeting, log onto, then click on the link to the Joint Webpage for the House and Senate Reapportionment Committees.  Meeting video will be available in the Video Archives section of the webpage by noon the following day.

Graves Previews Cut, Cap, Balance Vote on Fox Business
The American people have the opportunity to witness whether or not their congressman is serious about getting this debt crisis under control.” – Rep. Graves

July 18--  Today, U.S. Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA-09) appeared on Fox Business Network to preview tomorrow’s House vote on the Cut, Cap and Balance Act (H.R. 2560) and discuss gaining passage in the House and Senate as well as why GOP leaders have endorsed the plan.


Graves On Getting House GOP Leadership On Board With Cut, Cap, and Balance:

We've been working long and hard on the proposal for many weeks. We hear a lot of frameworks and deals out there, but this is only plan that’s been out there for the American people to see, to be engaged in.  The grassroots are behind it. I think it has just taken weeks for that grassroots movement to develop and to see the president, number one, has no plan, the senate has no plan. The democrats have no plan whatsoever. This is only plan out there. It’s a historic vote tomorrow, and this is going to be an opportunity, right now, tomorrow as we see the American people have the opportunity to witness whether or not their congressman is serious about getting this debt crisis under control or not.

Graves On If Cut, Cap, Balance will Pass The House and Senate:

This is a very serious proposal. Like I said, it’s the only plan out there. We're very confident it’s going to move through the House. We’re going to encourage everyone to engage with their senators across the nation and let them know how important it is. It’s common sense. You're cutting the deficit now. You're capping the federal government and saying it can only grow so big and has to be tied to the gross domestic product. And then a balanced budget amendment.It’s going to be a great day for America tomorrow as we debate this and we expose those who are truly are about rhetoric and their political posturing and those who are serious about getting this nation back on track.


July 18--  The Georgia Department of Revenue reminds the public that voting in the Georgia License Plate Design Contest will begin today at 3:00 p.m., Monday, July 18.  Voting will last for three weeks and end Monday, August 8 at 3:00 p.m.

All eight license plate designs can be accessed here for purposes of voting online:

As provided for in the Georgia Code, the Department encourages the public to vote for the license plate design that will “advertise, popularize and otherwise promote Georgia as the Peach State.”  All standard issue Georgia motor vehicle license plates must have the County Label (name) affixed to them, unless exempted by Code.  See O.C.G.A. §§ 40-2-9 and 40-2-31.

 Taxpayers may go to their county tag office and pay $1.00 to obtain an “In God We Trust” Label which may be placed over the County Label.  This option will still be in effect upon the production of the new license plates.

Upon the conclusion of online voting on Monday, August 8, the three license plate designs garnering the most votes will comprise the Finalists to be presented to Governor Nathan Deal. Governor Deal will subsequently announce the winning design.  Also participating in the announcement ceremony will be the winning artist along with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and State Revenue Commissioner Doug MacGinnitie.

Later this year, the Department will begin manufacturing digital (flat) license plates including the new license plate design.  This new production process will result in a cost savings to the State and give customers the option of having their license plate delivered to them instead of having to go to the county offices.

Georgia taxpayers will not incur any added expense for production of the new license plates. The Department will be replacing existing license plates only when the plate exceeds the minimum five year life as set forth by the Georgia Code.

July 18--  Five days after allegedly leaving a body in Vidalia, two Soperton men gave themselves up Sunday to Treutlen County Sheriff Tommy Corbin.

Sheriff Corbin says 18-year-old Sylvester Davis, Jr. and 24-year-old Jonathan Alan Wright are being charged with the murder and armed robbery of 25-year-old Marquis Wadley last Tuesday night.  Wadley's body was found in the trunk of his car parked on the side of Orange Street in Vidalia last Wednesday morning.

{mosimage}      {mosimage}

     Davis                        Wright

"The actual homicide occurred at 1800 Second Street in Soperton, the home of their grandmother.  Marqis Wadley was shot in the head at that residence and they then took the car and drove it to Vidalia where the body was found," Sheriff Corbin reports.

Sheriff Corbin says, "They took money from him and there were some drugs involved in it."

Davis has previously been charged in a cocaine case and Wright has spent time in the Treutlen County jail for theft, according to the sheriff.

They were picked up in Dublin after their sister notified Sheriff Corbin the two were ready to give themselves up.  "There was a lot of pressure on these boys and they decided to turn themselves in and go from there," he said.

The boys' grandmother was out of town attending a funeral in Detroit the night of the shooting.  Sheriff Corbin says the two took a cab back to Soperton after parking the car containing the body in Vidalia.

He thanked the GBI and police officers in Vidalia and Soperton for helping him with the investigation.

July 18--  None of the schools in the Vidalia City School System made the federally-mandated "Adequate Yearly Progress" standards this year.  However, the Vidalia school board says it's not the teachers' fault and it is proud of the progress that was made compared to last year.

School Superintendent Dr. Tim Smith says the continually increasing benchmarks in the No Child Left Behind law are unrealistic.

"They're raising the bar every year or every other year.  By 2014, everybody is going to graduate and everybody is going to be on grade level, according to the feds.  That's not realistic.  Back in 2001, in order for the state of Georgia to meet the No Child Left Behind mandate of having every child be on grade level by 2014, they set rates that increased all along the way.  In order for it to be 100 percent by 2014, it's pushing 80 percent right now," he says.

At the same time, Dr. Smith says academic progress is being made in all student body sub-groups.

"The good news is that even with our population shift and with all of the raising of the bar for the last few years, overall our kids are doing well and I'm proud of them and proud of the teachers who are teaching them.  We saw overall and individual sub-groups improve from last year to this year.  This in spite of the fact we're teaching less days and we're teaching a lot of students who are very difficult to teach and our achievement is increasing from year to year.  That tells me our teachers are doing a fabulous job," Smith said.

This is the second year in a row Vidalia High School has not made AYP.  It's the first time in seven years that J.R. Trippe Middle has not made it and it's the first time in three years that Sally Meadows Elementary didn't make it.


July 15--  The state of Georgia was supposed to announce the winner of a statewide contest Friday afternoon which allowed citizens to vote on a new car tag design.  However, three of the four final designs in the contest were pictured on the web with the motto, "In God We Trust."  Those words could have been purchased for an extra dollar on a sticker that could have been affixed to the tag in the space normally reserved for the vehicle owner's county of residence.

Some people, including an Atlanta atheist group, thought the words were part of the plates' integral design and said it might have swayed the vote.  As a result, the state is doing a revote starting Monday.  Here's a release from the Deal administration on the about-face.


"The Department of Revenue announced today it will reopen its online 2011 Georgia License Plate Design Contest for a revote by the public beginning at 3:00 p.m. on Monday, July 18.  Voting will be for three weeks and end on Monday, August 8 at 3:00 p.m.

All eight license plate designs that reached the semifinal round will again be displayed on the Department’s website Home Page.  The eight individual images (artwork) will contain a blank “placeholder” at the bottom of the plate which represents the location where the applicable label will be affixed.

All eight license plate designs will be accessible on the Department’s website on Monday, July 18 for voting at

 As provided for in the Georgia Code, the Department encourages the public to vote for the license plate design that will “advertise, popularize and otherwise promote Georgia as the Peach State.” 

Upon the conclusion of online voting on Monday, August 8, the three license plate designs garnering the most votes will comprise the Finalists to be presented to Governor Nathan Deal, who will announce the winning design.  Also participating in the announcement ceremony will be the winning artist along with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and State Revenue Commissioner Doug MacGinnitie."



July 14--  In response to a letter sent by Gov. Nathan Deal, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack determined that, due to damage and losses caused by excessive rain, high winds and hail, Tattnall County suffered production losses great enough to warrant a Secretarial natural disaster designation. The severe storm occurred from March 26 to March 28 this year.

“Secretary Vilsack responded to our request in a timely manner, and for that I am grateful,” said Gov. Deal. “This designation will allow farmers to access emergency loans to help relieve some of the burden the storm caused.”

In accordance with the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act, Vilsack also designated Appling, Candler, Emanuel, Evans, Liberty, Long, Toombs and Wayne as contiguous disaster counties.

Like Tattnall County, a primary natural disaster area, the contiguous disaster counties makes farm operators there eligible for assistance from the Farm Service Agency (FSA). FSA assistance includes emergency loans and the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments program. Eligible farmers have eight months from the Secretarial disaster declaration to apply for emergency loan assistance. Farmers may contact their local FSA office for more information.

July 14--  The city of Vidalia needs to make some changes in its city ward lines to equalize the population based on the 2010 census, however, there may not be enough time to get it done in time for qualifying in September and the voting in November.

"There's a long process you have to go through in order to change your charter to address the new wards.  We have to give three weeks notice in the paper and have two regular city council meetings to give the public a chance to see what's going on.  Then we have to send it to the Justice Department with a 60-day review time there.  With our qualifying time in early September, we may very well end up using the wards we have now this year because we simply don't have time to make the change," reports Vidalia city manager Bill Torrance.

Based on the new census, Ward Three represented by Councilman Raymond Turner was under-populated by more than 600 people and required a transfer of citizens to get it on a more even keel with the other three wards.  

Councilwoman Lisa Chesser's Ward Four was more than 400 people overstrength which led to a transfer of people to the Third Ward along with some smaller numbers from the First and Second Wards.

The redistricting would also place current Third Ward school board member Doug Roper in the First Ward and move the First Ward member Bruce Asberry to the Third Ward.  If the city is unable to make the ward changes in time for the November election, both Asberry and Roper will have to run for election in their current wards.

Torrance says he's been advised by the Georgia Municipal Association that many towns and cities in the state are facing the same problem with the time it takes to redistrict.  Officials says receiving the census data in May did not give them time enough to meet the legal deadlines regarding redistricting. 


July 13--  A Vidalia man has been arrested in Wheeler County on drug charges.

The Georgia State Patrol says Chris Catsteel was arrested Tuesday morning about nine o'clock on State Route 130 near the Oconee River boat ramp.  The arresting officer found cocaine in Catsteel's vehicle and turned the case over to the Oconee Drug Task Force which charged him with possession.

July 13-  The state of Georgia’s net revenue in June rose $87.5 million or 6.2 percent as compared to net revenues in June 2010, Gov. Nathan Deal reported today. The strong finish to FY 2011 punctuates a year of improvement in which all 12 months showed positive growth in monthly net collections relative to FY 2010.

“We saw numbers that were above trend for 12 consecutive months in FY 2011,” Deal said. “The upward movement in Georgia’s revenue numbers is a clear indication that our state can and will advance as long as we continue the practice of maintaining 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 June 2011 reported an increase of $55 million or 7.5  percent, up from $728 million in June 2010 to $783 million in June 2011.

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

·         Individual estimated payments are up $14.5 million or 13.5 percent.

·         Individual withholding payments are up $12 million or 1.8 percent.

·         Individual refunds issued (net of voided checks) are down $(22.5) million or -27.7 percent.

·         All other Individual Income Tax categories are up $6 million.

Sales and Use Tax: Sales and Use Tax reported an increase in net collections of $45 million or 11.4 percent, up from $394 million in June 2010 to $439 million in June 2011. Gross collections reported an increase of $46 million or 6.0 percent, up from $763 million in June 2010 to $809 million in June 2011. Net Refunds were up to $2 million or 88 percent when compared to the same month last year. The Local Sales Tax Distribution for June 2011 declined by $(1) million when compared to the sales tax distribution total of $367 million in June 2010.

July 13--  The body of a man was found in the trunk of a car Wednesday morning in Vidalia.


According to police, the body of a man described in his mid-twenties and believed to be Marquis Wadley of Soperton was found in the trunk of a car parked on Orange Street near the intersection with Cadillac Drive.

Treutlen County Sheriff Tommy Corbin was called to the scene and said the car was found by Wadley's father.  Wadley hasn't been seen since Tuesday and was reported missing by his mother early Wednesday, according to the sheriff.

Chief Waits says he believes whatever happened to the body occurred elsewhere and the car was driven to Vidalia and parked on the side of the road. A Vidalia police patrol saw the parked car about seven p.m. Tuesday night and ran a tag check to see if it was stolen, but the report came back negative.  Chief Waits says the car is registered to Wadley.

GBI agent Kendra Lynn is leading the investigation.  The cause of death has yet to be determined and the GBI says the body will be taken to the state crime lab for an autopsy and positive identification.  Sheriff Corbin says he's 99 percent sure it's Wadley.

July 12--  The state of Georgia is considering how it can start its own guest worker program.

Elected and state officials met in Vidalia Tuesday afternoon with onion growers and State Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black.

"We've got to have a guest worker program that works for all Georgia farmers.  Whether that's at the federal level or a state-run guest worker program, that's what we're giving serious consideration.  What are some reform measures that need to come in place quickly, that's what we're getting our heads together about," he said.

Black and State Attorney General Sam Olens were at the meeting at the Vidalia Onion Committee headquarters.  Others included lawmakers from the Atlanta metro area, representatives of Governor Nathan Deal and Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, Senators Tommie Williams of Lyons and Jack Hill of Reidsville and Representative Delvis Dutton of Glennville.

Vidalia Onion farmer R.T. Stanley, Jr. says the new state immigration law makes it even more important that a workable guest worker program is enacted.

Commissioner Black agrees, "We have a broken program.  We also have some opportunities to work with the federal government to perhaps delegate that to Georgia and let us do it.  We have several negotiations going on right now and it's a little early to speculate how that's going to come out, but the universal agreement is that we have a broken guest worker program and we've got to fix it." 

July 12- - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has a four-point lead in a hypothetical Presidential race against Barack Obama, while Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann are in statistical ties with Obama, a new IBOPE Zogby survey finds.

The percentage of all voters who believe Obama deserves re-election continues to slide, and is now 36%, yet his job approval rating remains at 42%.

In the Republican race for the Presidential nomination, Bachmann continues to lead among announced candidates; but in an expanded field that includes Rick Perry, Christie and Sarah Palin, Perry vaults to the lead.

Perry had a three-point lead over Bachmann on June 30, but now leads her by six. Among only announced candidates, Bachmann has dropped six points since June 30, but still leads with 28%, followed by Cain, Romney and Paul.

The IBOPE Zogby interactive poll was conducted from July 8-11.

Match-Ups With Barack Obama

If the election for President were held today and the candidates were Democrat Barack Obama and each of the following Republicans, for whom would you vote?

GOP Candidate



Someone else 

Not Sure

Chris Christie





Mitt Romney





Rick Perry





Tim Pawlenty





Herman Cain





Ron Paul





Michele Bachmann 





Rick Santorum





Jon Huntsman Jr. 





Sarah Palin





Newt Gingrich





Do you think President Obama deserves to be re-elected or do you think it is time for someone new?











Obama deserves
to be re-elected










Time for someone new 










Not sure










Totals may not add up to 100% due to rounding 

Overall, do you approve or disapprove of Barack Obama's job as president?

Obama Job Performance

July 12

July  5 

June  21

June  9 

June  6 

May  31

May  23

May  9 

May  5 

April  25

April  15

April 7



























Not sure













Totals may not add up to 100% due to rounding

July 12--  A story about America's Wounded Warriors.  Click on the link below.


Lauren Sage Reinle, Florida Freedom Newspapers


For more photos from the service, click here.

SEAGROVE BEACH — For some Walton County sheriff’s deputies, the day 15-year-old Courtney Wilkes was killed was a day like no other they have experienced.

“Every day you have missing kids on the beach,” said Deputy Nick McMillian, who was patrolling the beach that day Wilkes disappeared. “You just usually find them within the hour.”

On June 16, while vacationing with her family from Lyons, Ga., Wilkes went for a walk on the beach and never returned. Less than five hours after her parents last saw her, deputies found her body in some woods less than half a mile away.

On Saturday morning, the day Wilkes would have turned 16, about 30 law officers and residents gathered on the beach near where Wilkes was last seen by her parents to remember her disappearance and pay their respects to a life cut short.

“We feel like we knew her,” said Julie Hurst, director of the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center, which organized the ceremony.

The Sheriff’s Office asked Hurst’s organization to set up the ceremony to help law enforcement officers deal with grief from a situation they may have never faced before in a county that has relatively few violent deaths.

“The death of a child is so tragic,” Hurst said. “It’s something we can’t deal with alone. We have to do it collectively.”

During the ceremony, Baptist minister Clint Akins spoke about Wilkes’ strong faith in God.

He read a message from a friend in Lyons about Wilkes’ 16th birthday: “We can only imagine the party you are having with Jesus. Who needs a car? You now have your wings.”

Visitors released pink balloons into the breeze as lightening struck sporadically in the distance. After the ceremony they tossed white carnations into the Gulf of Mexico.

McMillian helped search for Wilkes the day she disappeared. When her body was discovered, she had been strangled and sexually assaulted.

“It was a result you never thought could have happened down here,” McMillian said. “We never expected to have that ending.”

McMillan took 21-year-old suspect Steven Cozzie, into custody. Cozzie, of Seagrove Beach, has since been indicted for Wilkes’ murder and sexual assault.

McMillian said the tragedy has changed him. Now, every time a child is reported lost on the beach he worries that something terrible might have happened.

 “The hardest thing was you’re there with the family the whole time and then having to give them the news at the end, having to tell them that their daughter is not coming back,” McMillian said.

Walton County Beach Patrol Deputy Jeff McIntosh said it was the loss of innocence that wore heavily on his heart.

“She’s never going to get a chance to grow up,” he said with tears welling in his eyes.

McIntosh has a 3-year-old daughter.

“It tears me up to think that something like that could happen to her,” he said. “With our job you try not to bring home your work, but with something this tragic you just go home and hug your kids.”

July 11--  The Montgomery County school board approved a preliminary budget of nearly $11.2 million Monday night, about $300,000 less than this year's budget.  It has a called meeting July 28 to set the county's school tax which is expected to remain at 12.1 mils, the same as this year.

School Superintendent Randy Rodgers informed the board that two schools, the middle school and high school, will not meet adequate yearly progress this year.  The elementary school, however, is meeting AYP for its tenth consecutive year.

The board was also chastised by Kids First Montgomery organizer Adrian Bell of Uvalda on issues relating to the scope of renovation work going on at the middle/high school, hiring practices and board legal fees.  He objected to board member Jim Paul Poole contacting the board attorney. Bell said Poole discouraged such practices by board members when he was the school superintendent.

He also suggested the school board is planning to spend money to relocate the system's central office to a portion of the old 1929 building on the middle/high school campus.  

Board chairwoman Deloris James said the board would take Bell's comments under consideration and later told us that sometime in the future such a relocation might be considered to cut down on upkeep of the current central office building and annex.

Meanwhile, the report of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools on its visit last month to the school system is expected soon, according to Superintendent Rodgers.


July 11--  The Leadership Toombs Montgomery Class of 2011 is hosting a mid-summer concert, featuring the Caribbean Chillers, Florida’s premier Jimmy Buffet tribute band. The concert will be Friday, August 19, 2011, at Hawk’s Point Golf Club; the doors will open at 7:30 pm. The tickets are $20.00 and the proceeds will benefit The United Way.

Ingrid Varn, of the LTM 2011 class said “Our class wanted a fun event for the community, before the summer was over and everyone was back in school.” The class thought a Jimmy Buffet tribute was just the ticket. What better way to beat the ‘dog days of summer’ than a trip to Margaritaville or to find that Cheeseburger in Paradise.

Tickets can be purchased at the Vidalia Onion Museum, Goin’ Postal, Brown-Eyed Susan’s, Vidalia Ford, or from any LTM 2011 class member.
Class members include the following: Robbie Akins, Susan Beard, Randy Clark, Lee Evans, Anthony Miller, Matt Mobley, Johnny Payne, Chester Proctor, Blake Tillery, Ingrid Varn, Stewart Hamilton, Garrett Wilcox, Richard Williams and Marcie Williamson.


Cycling Challenge 2011

by Glenda Anderson

It's hard to believe that 50 years ago this summer Paul and I left on a bike trip to Omaha, Nebraska. Now, 50 years later, on this hot summer morning, six of our young men, one alumni, two staff members, and one volunteer; started cycling from Vidalia, Georgia, the same place from which Paul and I started.  You can track them live right now and follow their progress for the next three weeks as they bike through 9 states and almost 1,500 miles together in the Paul Anderson Cycling Challenge.  Stay connected with them through our videos, blog updates, and pictures.  Join me in watching and encouraging them by posting comments on the blog.  I am sure that you will quickly grow to love these young men who need a touch and someone to give them hope


Paul rode a one speed bike (which we still have) on this same trek in 1961 while I followed behind him in a van as he biked to Boy's Town in Omaha, Nebraska, all to raise awareness for this dream we shared of starting a youth home.  For the two of us, it was the beginning of an adventure.  Along the way, we made new friendships and partnerships that have spanned the life of this ministry. 

After all these years and over 1,200 young men and their families, I have seen personally that a changed life is priceless.  Take some time to meet the riders by visiting the Cycling Challenge website!  Also, please pray for the safety of our young men, staff, and volunteers as they ride through Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska!


July 11--  The federal civil case of Christopher Bowman versus the Montgomery County school board is getting closer to a trial date.

A pre-trial conference for the case will be held Wednesday, July 20 at 3 p.m. before Judge Dudley Bowen, Jr. at the federal courthouse in Dublin.

Bowman filed suit against the school board claiming he was fired in retaliation for reporting alleged sexual contact between a Montgomery County high school counselor and a 16-year-old male student.

Observers say the case could come to court in early August.

July 11--  Vidalia police report three drug-related arrests last Friday.

According to police reports, 29-year-old Billy Rex Lomaneck of 903 East Sixth Street is charged with possession of marijuana; 25-year-old Sherod Rodon of 201 Wells Drive is charged with possession of a controlled substance; and 18-year-old Brett Anthony Hutcheson of 135 Arrow Trail Road is charged with possession of a controlled substance.

Medicare Secret Police Target Doctors

Author/Contributor: Tamzin A. Rosenwasser, M.D.,

A recent report stated that the Federal government was planning to conduct a stealth program of calling doctors, posing as patients, to see how long it takes to get an appointment, and whether it matters what type of payment system the fake patients say they have — Medicare, Medicaid, insurance or self pay. Then some doctors would be called back to see whether someone calling “on behalf of the US Department of Health and Human Services” (HHS) would get the same answer on whether the doctor accepts Medicare, Medicaid, insurance or “self pay” patients.

Doctors were outraged, and HHS withdrew the proposal, saying that “now is not the time to move forward with this research project.” But this may just be another changeup pitch, to get the batter to strike too soon at what looks like a fast ball. The very next phrase says they “will pursue other initiatives that build on our efforts to increase access to health care providers nationwide.” How would a mere survey help with that?

Physicians and their staffs need to be aware of potential government booby traps — set by lying government contractors who call their offices. If an unknown caller seeks information about office policies on appointments, and caller ID is blocked, the staff might offer to call the person back. And now that the Administration has signaled its propensity for stealth tactics, doctors might decline to take a swing at a government telephone survey.

In the June 26 New York Times, Robert Pear writes that Obama administration officials are alarmed by a shortage of “primary care doctors.” That shortage is termed a “critical public policy problem.” They want to know whether doctors prefer to see patients who are not in Medicare or Medicaid. In an article in the June 27 issue of the American Thinker Thomas Lifson notes that Obama’s medical bill, “Having expanded demand without addressing the supply of doctors, and paying less for that expanded demand than market prices,” means that “the Obama administration needs a fall guy, and doctors fit the bill.”

People should remember Aesop’s fable about the goose who laid a golden egg each morning. Not content with his riches, the owner wanted to get all the eggs at once — but he found not one single egg inside her dead body.

Attacks like this one expose rapacious people who think physicians are full of golden eggs that can be taken from them. Physicians are human beings. We spend our young years studying biochemistry, mathematics, physiology, anatomy, pathology, pharmacology, and so on. We spend our days — and nights! — in hospitals, learning to take care of people with heart attacks, cancer, diabetes, emphysema, alcoholic liver disease, etc. We deal with people who have been stabbed and raped, children who have been beaten, homeless victims of assault, drug addicts. It is not a peaceful environment. People are screaming, bleeding, having seizures. We witness horror during our young years, from medical school onward, for which no fee can ever compensate us. We suffer emotional pain and loss with each patient and family afflicted with some dread disease. We’re going into debt while other people are making a living.

Physicians do not grow on trees. It takes college, four years of medical school, and a minimum of three years of residency to produce a physician, and people will not take this rigorous course unless they love their work. A physician can be destroyed by the government overnight. Government is good at destruction, not good at creation.

I worked in a hospital emergency room in St. Louis, dealing almost exclusively with people on Medicaid and Medicare. The pay was less than what a plumber or electrician makes. The “reimbursement” from the federal government for the medical care we gave the patients was so low that the hospital went bankrupt and closed. So much for love and good intentions.

As physicians face these attacks, often from the very people they work so hard to help, more and more will decide to quit Medicare and Medicaid. Then the government will attempt to force participation, and then physicians will quit for good. Those who made it possible for you to have a joint replacement, who saved you from death from a heart attack, diabetic ketoacidosis, ectopic pregnancy, lymphoma, ruptured spleen, or a car crash — will be no more. Good luck with your nurse practitioner.


Dr Tamzin Rosenwasser earned her MD from Washington University in St Louis.  She is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Dermatology and has practiced Emergency Medicine and Dermatology.  Dr. Rosenwasser served as President of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) in 2007-2008 and is currently on the Board of Directors.  She also serves as the chair of the Research Advisory Committee of the Newfoundland Club of America.  As a life-long dog lover and trainer, she realizes that her dogs have better access to medical care and more medical privacy than she has, and her veterinarians are paid more than physicians in the United States for exactly the same types of surgery. 
Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 765-538-2058

July 11--  Last week we posted the following opinion piece and erroneously included the picture of actor Robert H. Hall.  We apoligize for the error.  The article has been floating around the Internet for some time and was forwarded by one of our readers.  It is being shared as food for thought.  Please note is is labelled "Opinion" as we do articles of an editorial nature.  Comments you wish to share may be forwarded to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and must include your name and hometown.

“I’m 63 and I’m Tired”
By Robert A. Hall

I’m 63 Except for one semester in college when jobs were scarce and a six-month period when I was between jobs, but job-hunting every day, I’ve worked, hard, since I was 18. Despite some health challenges, I still put in 50-hour weeks, and haven’t called in sick in seven or eight years. I make a good salary, but I didn’t inherit my job or my income, and I worked to get where I am. Given the economy, there’s no retirement in sight, and I’m tired. Very tired.

I’m tired of being told that I have to “spread the wealth” to people who don’t have my work ethic. I’m tired of being told the government will take the money I earned, by force if necessary, and give it to people too lazy to earn it.

I’m tired of being told that I have to pay more taxes to “keep people in their homes.”  Sure, if they lost their jobs or got sick, I’m willing to help. But if they bought McMansions at three times the price of our paid-off, $250,000 condo, on one-third of my salary, then let the left-wing Congress-critters who passed Fannie and Freddie and the Community Reinvestment Act that created the bubble help them with their own money.

I’m tired of being told how bad America /Canada is by left-wing millionaires like Michael Moore, George Soros and Hollywood Entertainers who live in luxury because of the opportunities America offers. In thirty years, if they get their way, the United States and Canada will have the economy of Zimbabwe , the freedom of the press of China , the crime and violence of Mexico , the tolerance for Christian people of Iran , and the freedom of speech of Venezuela .

I’m tired of being told that Islam is a “Religion of Peace,” when every day I can read dozens of stories of Muslim men killing their sisters, wives and daughters for their family “honour”; of Muslims rioting over some slight offence; of Muslims murdering Christian and Jews because they aren’t “believers”; of Muslims burning schools for girls; of Muslims stoning teenage rape victims to death for “adultery”; of Muslims mutilating the genitals of little girls; all in the name of Allah, because the Qur’an and Shari’a law tells them to.

I’m tired of being told that “race doesn’t matter” in the post-racial world of Obama, when it’s all that matters in affirmative action jobs, lower college admission and graduation standards for minorities (harming them the most), government contract set-asides, tolerance for the ghetto culture of violence and fatherless children that hurts minorities more than anyone, and in the appointment of U.S. Senators from Illinois.

I think it’s very cool that we have a black president and that a black child is doing her homework at the desk where Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation. I just wish the black president was Condi Rice, or someone who believes more in freedom and the individual and less arrogantly of an all-knowing government.

I’m tired of being told that out of “tolerance for other cultures” we must let Saudi Arabia use our oil money to fund mosques and mandrassa Islamic schools to preach hate in America and Canada  , while no American nor Canadian group is allowed to fund a church, synagogue or religious school in Saudi Arabia to teach love and tolerance.

I’m tired of being told I must lower my living standard to fight global warming, which no one is allowed to debate. My wife and I live in a two-bedroom apartment and carpool together five miles to our jobs. We also own a  three-bedroom condo where our daughter and granddaughter live. Our carbon footprint is about 5% of Al Gore’s, and if you’re greener than Gore, you’re green enough.

I’m tired of being told that drug addicts have a disease, and I must help support and treat them, and pay for the damage they do. Did a giant germ rush out of a dark alley, grab them, and stuff white powder up their noses while they tried to fight it off? I damn sure think druggies chose to take drugs. And I’m tired of harassment from cool people treating me like a freak when I tell them I never tried marijuana.

I’m tired of illegal aliens being called “undocumented workers,” especially the ones who aren’t working, but are living on welfare or crime. What’s next?  Calling drug dealers, “Undocumented Pharmacists”?  And, no,  I’m not against Hispanics. Most of them are Catholic, and it’s been a few hundred years since Catholics wanted to kill me for my religion.  I’m willing to fast track for citizenship any Hispanic person, who can speak English, doesn’t have a criminal record and who is self-supporting without family on welfare, or who serves honourably for three years in our military…. Those are the citizens we need.

I’m tired of latte liberals and journalists, who would never wear the uniform of the Republic themselves, or let their entitlement-handicapped kids near a recruiting station, trashing our military. They and their kids can sit at home, never having to make split-second decisions under life and death circumstances, and bad mouth better people than themselves. Do bad things happen in war?  You bet. Do our troops sometimes misbehave?  Sure. Does this compare with the atrocities that were the policy of our enemies for the last fifty years and still are?  Not even close.  So here’s the deal. I’ll let myself be subjected to all the humiliation and abuse that was heaped on terrorists at Abu Ghraib or Gitmo, and the critics can let themselves be subject to captivity by the Muslims, who tortured and beheaded Daniel Pearl in Pakistan, or the Muslims who tortured and murdered Marine Lt. Col. William Higgins in Lebanon, or the Muslims who ran the blood-spattered Al Qaeda torture rooms our troops found in Iraq, or the Muslims who cut off the heads of schoolgirls in Indonesia, because the girls were Christian. Then we’ll compare notes. British, Canadian and American soldiers are the only troops in history that civilians came to for help and handouts, instead of hiding from in fear.

I’m tired of people telling me that their party has a corner on virtue and the other party has a corner on corruption. Read the papers; bums are bipartisan. And I’m tired of people telling me we need bipartisanship. I live in Illinois , where the “Illinois Combine” of Democrats has worked to loot the public for years. Not to mention the tax cheats in Obama’s cabinet.

I’m tired of hearing wealthy athletes, entertainers and politicians of both parties talking about innocent mistakes, stupid mistakes or youthful mistakes, when we all know they think their only mistake was getting caught. I’m tired of people with a sense of entitlement, rich or poor.

Speaking of poor, I’m tired of hearing people with air-conditioned homes, colour TVs and two cars called poor. The majority of Americans didn’t have that in 1970, but we didn’t know we were “poor.” The poverty pimps have to keep changing the definition of poor to keep the dollars flowing.

I’m real tired of people who don’t take responsibility for their lives and actions. I’m tired of hearing them blame the government, or discrimination or big-whatever for their problems.

Yes, I’m damn tired. But I’m also glad to be 63. Because, mostly, I’m not going to have to see the world these people are making. I’m just sorry for my granddaughter.

Robert A. Hall is a Marine Vietnam veteran who served five terms in the Massachusetts State Senate.


July 11--  Students at Robert Toombs Christian Academy in Lyons will have a chance to enroll in a Bible study class when school starts this year.

New Headmaster Jon Dorminey has recruited the youth minister at Lyons First Baptist Church to coordinate the class which will be offered to students in the sixth through 12th grades.  George Holcomb says he's excited about the opportunity.

"I was excited about hearing they want to be Christian-based and Christ-centered and want to have students have Bible study as part of their curriculum on an elective basis.  I'm just excited about the direction the school is going right now," he says.

Georgia law allows public schools to teach the history of the Bible as an elective, however, Holcomb believes today's teenagers need lessons from the Bible to offset today's secular-based media onslaught.

"As young people approach friendships and authorities in their lives, if they begin to look at it not from the eyes of the media and what Hollywood is trying to do but from God who created the world wants them to do, they will have a better future," he believes.

Holcomb says he is enlisting the aid of other youth ministers in the area to help with the course and the weekly chapel services at the school.

Headmaster Dorminey also announces a successor to Ann Wilkes who has retired after years at RTCA as both headmistress and guidance counselor.  She is being succeeded by Mable Williamson, a former teacher of the year at Pinewood Academy.

July 10--  An update on teacher and state retirement systems from State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville.


The Teachers' Retirement System (TRS), which is not administered by Employees' Retirement System (ERS) but as a separate state entity, is the largest of the state's retirement systems.  TRS, whose members are largely employed by local school systems as teachers, has more than 222,000 active members and more than 87,000 retirees. Like the Old and New Plans under ERS, TRS is a defined benefit system that allows a retiree to draw a monthly benefit upon retirement in an amount determined by his or her salary and years of service.  Benefits are determined with a calculation similar to the one used by ERS. In FY2010, TRS paid out $2.8 billion in benefits with an average benefit of $2,967 a month or $35,604 yearly.  As of April 30, 2011, TRS's assets totaled $55.2 billion.



Some confusion exists when discussing retirement plans in Georgia.  Teachers and members of TRS make a considerably higher contribution to their retirement plans and a COLA is supposedly built into the calculation.  This is an issue that was highlighted a couple of years ago when the TRS Board was encouraged to forego the annual COLA as ERS had done.  Under state law, teachers contribute up to 6 percent of salary and in the FY2012 budget are scheduled to pay 5.53%.  The local system will contribute 10.28% in FY2012 which is part of the QBE formula.  Under TRS, COLAs are based on increases or decreases in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).  On January and July 1, the average CPI will be determined. For those retiring during the six-month period, this will be their base index.  Each January and July 1 after retirement, a new average CPI is determined and becomes the current index. A TRS retiree will be granted a COLA of 1.5% if the ratio of the current index to base index is 1.000 or more. TRS members who retire under the age of 60 with less than 30 years of service will be eligible to receive their first COLA after reaching the age of 60 or when they would have reached 30 years of service, whichever occurs first.


The ERS plan that most state employees are under (changed in 2009) requires employees to pay in 2% of salary for retirement and the state portion was based on a contribution needed to maintain the funds solvency.  Under ERS, semi-annual COLAs are authorized by the Board of Trustees only if sufficient funds are available.  If authorized, COLAs will be granted to retirees who are either 45 years old or older and have been receiving retirement benefits for at least seven months or retirees under the age of 60 with between 25 and 30 years of service. The latter will begin receiving COLAs at the age of 60 or when they would have reached 30 years of service had they continued to work. ERS members who first or again became members on or after July 1, 2009 are not entitled to any COLA after retirement.



Earlier this year, many states caused alarm when press reports appeared of low funding levels of their pension plans.  The nationally accepted funding ratio for a healthy retirement system is generally seen to be 80%. A system is perceived to be better funded the higher this funding ratio is. 


Based on Fiscal Year 2009 data from the PEW Center on the States, Georgia ranked in the top ten of all states for retirement system funding percentages. During this same fiscal year, 62%, or thirty-one states, had funding ratios below 80%. Only twenty-two states, including Georgia, paid their annual pension bill in full. The most recent ERS data shows a funding level of 80.1% in FY2010, down from 85.7% in FY2009. In FY2009, TRS was at an 87.2% funding level.  This number is expected to be updated in August 2011 to reflect FY2010 levels.  The lower levels are mainly a result of losses in the stock market and will require contributions in the FY2013 budget.  


If you would like additional information here are some available informational websites:


PEW Center report on the growing gap in state pension funding


National Conference of State Legislatures Article on State Reform Efforts


Employees' Retirement System


Public School Employees' Retirement System


Teachers' Retirement System



July 8-- U.S. Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA-09) issued the following statement in response to the Department of Labor’s June jobs report, which said unemployment in America rose to 9.2% last month, with 14.1 million Americans looking for work:

“One year after Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner welcomed Americans to ‘Recovery Summer,’ the Department of Labor announced today that the unemployment rate has increased again, and hiring by companies last month was the weakest since May 2010.  Despite assurances that millions of jobs were to come from the greatest expansion of government in American history, the unemployment rate has been near or above nine percent for over two years. 

“President Obama’s economic policy of spending, regulation, and debt has failed America, and we are now in an era of record-setting joblessness.  How much more evidence does President Obama need to understand that businesses can’t expand and grow under these conditions? It’s time for a new vision that focuses on private sector growth and limited government. 

“This year, House Republicans introduced a major plan and passed multiple bills to create jobs.  Our focus is on preventing tax increases, eliminating existing and emerging regulations, expanding American energy production, and ending the debt crisis.  We need the President to get on board with this new vision so we can stabilize this economy and set the stage for the private sector’s long-term economic expansion.  There are 14.1 million unemployed Americans who can’t wait for President Obama any longer.”

July 7 (8pm)--  Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports Harley McCoy was found late Thursday sitting on the side of a road near Lyons.  He was spotted by a Toombs County Deputy Sheriff and returned home safely.  He told the officer he had gone for a walk and got tired.

July 7--  The Toombs County Sheriff's Office is asking the public for help in finding a missing man.

Sheriff Junior Kight says 67-year-old Harley Jackson McCoy walked away from his home in the woods across from the old Thomas & Betts factory on Highway 292 between Lyons and Vidalia at about 10:30 Thursday morning and hasn't been seen since.

McCoy may be disoriented due to medication and was last seen wearing black pants, a gray plaid shirt and a camoflage hat.  He wears glasses and is a five foot eight, 240 pound white male.

If you have seen Mr. McCoy, call 911 and report it.

July 7--  The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) has removed the Appling County school system from probation.

The system was placed on probation last August after an investigation showed some school personnel had been arbitrarily transferred or demoted for expressing opinions contrary to those of the school superintendent and some school board members.

Since then Appling has a new school superintendent and three new school board members which SACS says have taken necessary steps to correct previous issues.

SACS will continue to monitor the school system this school term and return it to full accreditation if warranted by the evaluation.


July 7--  Toombs County officials are meeting Monday with the state reapportionment office in Atlanta.

County manager Doug Eaves says the 2010 census shows that Commission Districts 1 and 2 are below the target population of 6,805 citizens while Districts 3 and 4 are over the target.  

At the Monday meeting, officials hope they can redraw the district lines to add nearly 800 citizens to Commissioner Roy Lee Williams District 1 and about 200 to Commissioner Louie Powell's District 2.  

Once the new lines are drawn up and approved by the commission, the new districts must be okayed by the U.S. Department of Justice and enacted by the Georgia General Assembly.

July 7--  Two Vidalia men were hospitalized after being shot July 4th weekend at a Metter nightclub.

Metter police say 19-year-old Xavian Sharp and 25-year-old Robert Robinson were injured in shootings which happened about two a.m. Sunday morning at Club 46 located east of Metter on Highway 46.  Both men were airlifted to Savannah.

Officers say the club was filled with over 500 people when they were called to break-up fights.  They believe the shootings may be gang-related.

One man who was caught fleeing the club, 20-year-old Timothy Hunter of Metter and a Florida address, is being charged in case.  Officers say at least two other suspects are being sought.

If you have information about the case, call Metter police investigator Timothy Platt, 912-685-5437.

July 7--  Politicians in Washington are looking at ways to save money and reduce federal debt.  One action being considered is cuts to Pell Grants which help some students attend college.

That's the wrong place to cut, according to Dr. Cathy Mitchell, President of Southeastern Technical College in Vidalia.

"The student right now gets a maximum of $5,500 and that's supposed to be for living expenses while they are taking courses.  Congress is looking at cutting that amount.  There's never a good time for that to happen, but now with the HOPE Scholarship changes on top of that, they are going to have use part of their Pell Grant to pay for the difference in what HOPE doesn't pay.  Sixty-eight percent of our students get the Pell Grant and it's for economically disadvantaged students.  With everything going on in the economy right now, this would be a terrible time to have a cut there," she says.

Dr. Mitchell is encouraging folks to write their elected representatives and remind them that technical colleges are important to job growth.

"I wrote all of our Senators and Congressman last week encouraging them not to cut the Pell Grant and not trying to balance the budget there.  What we are doing is trying to give people the skills they need to get out and get a good job.  There are jobs out there, but many of them require skills that our people don'e have.  I really feel what we are doing is getting people out there with the skills they need.  The thing that's going to get the economy going is jobs," Dr. Mitchell says.

Dr. Mitchell reports Southeastern Tech is considering offering federal student loans to help students get the skills they need to find a job.

July 6--  The state of Georgia is giving you the opportunity to vote for how you want the next edition of state vehicle tags to look.  There are eight choices and some contain the phrase, "In God We Trust."  Vote for your choice by clicking on the link below.  The deadline to vote is this Friday, July 8.  The winning design will be announced July 15th. Thanks to Barbara Daniell for the link.

July 6--  The mayor of Uvalda is party to the federal law suit challenging Georgia's new immigration law.

Mayor Paul Bridges says he was "outraged" when he read House Bill 87 which passed the legislature and took effect July 1st.

He believes U.S. borders should be secured and the millions of people who have entered the country illegally should be given amnesty.

"I do believe we should close our borders, but I believe also that the people who have incorporated our culture and become a part of our society have a method to stay here and remain a part of our society with their children and with their other relatives who may have or may not have papers," he says.

Mayor Bridges and various immigration groups, labor unions and individuals are part of a class action law suit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama. A federal judge has already issued an injunction against enforcement of two parts of the law. 

Mayor Bridges would likes to see a federal answer to the country's immigration dilemma. "I believe the federal government should create a workable immigration reform policy and enforce it.  It should be enforced by agents who are trained to deal with the issues which are so complex and surround this entire immigration idea," he says.

As mayor of a small town in rural Georgia, Mayor Bridges thinks the bill will hurt the region's economy.

"There are several farmers who've been on the news lately talking about they simply don't have the labor force needed to continue their businesses.  I've been doing some research and I find documentation that the Latino community provides a good bit of economic growth and their contribution is tremendous looking at the state as a whole," Mayor Bridges says.

July 5--  An Appling County man drowned in the Altamaha River late Saturday afternoon.

Toombs County EMA Director Lynn Moore says rescue units from Toombs and Appling counties spent Saturday night looking for the body of 45-year-old Johnny Adams.

His body surfaced about 6:30 a.m. Sunday.  Moore says Adams was camping on the Toombs County side of the river and swam to the Appling County side where he went under.

July 5--  According to local forestry representatives the Georgia Forestry Commission has advised their local office that they have lifted the restrictions on the issuance of burn permits for this area.

Toombs Chairman Buddy West has accordingly lifted the ban on the issuance of burn permits in Toombs County. According to West, “We acted in the best interest of the County in following the professional advice of the Forestry Commission. Since they have determined that the current conditions are safe again we will follow their advice.”

The Forestry Commission banned outdoor fires in June due to the state's drought conditions.


July 5--Gov. Nathan Deal today released an outline of findings from the state’s investigation into the 2009 administration of the Atlanta Public Schools CRCT exams.

“Nothing is more important to the future of our state than ensuring that today’s students receive a first-class education and integrity in testing is a necessary piece of the equation,” said Deal. “When test results are falsified and students who have not mastered the necessary material are promoted, our students are harmed, parents lose sight of their child’s true progress, and taxpayers are cheated. The report’s findings are troubling, but I am encouraged that this investigation will bring closure to the problems that existed in APS and restore the focus on students and the classroom. As we begin to turn the page on this dark chapter in Atlanta Public Schools, I am confident brighter days lie ahead.”

An outline of the findings of the investigation follows:

·         Thousands of children were harmed by the 2009 CRCT cheating by being denied remedial education because of their inflated CRCT scores. 

o   We found cheating in 44 of the 56 schools we examined (78.6%). There were 38 principals of those 56 schools (67.9%) found to be responsible for, or directly involved in, cheating.

o   We determined that 178 teachers and principals in the Atlanta Public Schools System cheated. Of the 178, 82 confessed to this misconduct. Six principals refused to answer our questions, and pled the Fifth Amendment, which, under civil law is an implied admission of wrongdoing. These principals, and 32 more, either were involved with, or should have known that, there was test cheating in their schools.

o   We empathize with those educators who felt they were pressured to cheat and commend those who were willing to tell us the truth regarding their misconduct. However, this report is not meant to excuse their ethical failings, or exonerate them from their wrongdoings.

·         The 2009 CRCT statistics are overwhelming and allow for no conclusion other than widespread cheating in APS. The BRC expert, Dr. John Fremer, wrote an op-ed article for the AJC in which he said there was widespread, organized cheating in APS.

·         The drop in 2010 CRCT erasures confirm the conclusion above.

·         Cheating occurred as early as 2001.

·         There were warnings of cheating on CRCT as early as December 2005/January 2006. The warnings were significant and clear and were ignored.

·         Cheating was caused by a number of factors but primarily by the pressure to meet targets in the data-driven environment.

·         There was a major failure of leadership throughout APS with regard to the ethical administration of the 2009 CRCT.

·         A culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation existed in APS, which created a conspiracy of silence and deniability with respect to standardized test misconduct.

·         In addition to the 2009 CRCT cheating, we found other improper conduct: several open record act violations; instances of false statements; and instances of document destruction.


July 5--  The Paul Anderson Youth Home in Vidalia is using its 50th anniversary to spark what it hopes will be a new era of parental interaction with their kids in the United States.

When a team of cyclists leaves the youth home in Vidalia to retrace the bike trip of founder Paul Anderson to Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska, it takes a message that says, "Make Parent a Verb."

"What we hope is that we begin the start of something where parents begin to take action just like the "Just Say No" movement.  We hope that parents begin to say enough is enough.  I've seen enough issues going on at school, I've seen enough drugs, I've seen enough sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.  I've seen enough of these things to say, for me and my house, we're going to do something different and we're going to start with one thing," says Drew Read, Chief Operating Officer of the Youth Home.

Read notes that parents today spend less than 20 minutes a day with their kids.  On thing they can do is make more time to find out what's going on in their children's lives.

"It's not like I've got to my number up to 30 minutes a day.  It's like are you actually investing in your child where it is real and genuine.  Maybe you only have fifteen minutes, but are you engaging during those fifteen minutes so you really know what's going on in your daughter's or son's life so you can help them manuever through the culture we live in now," he suggests.

According to Read, there's never been a time when children need parents more than today.

"The message is that parents are not engaged and that they have to engage.  The issues youth are facing today are just far different from what their parents faced when they were growing up.  It's a different society with different issues and it's a minefield out there," Read believes. 

July 1--  Two weeks after being arrested for the killing of a Toombs County girl, 22-year-old Steven Cozzie was indicted Friday by a Walton County, Florida grand jury.

States Attorney Bill Eddins announced Cozzie's indictment in the death of 16-year-old Courtney Wilkes of Lyons. 

The grand jury returned a four-count indictment for First Degree Premeditated Murder, sexual battery, aggravted child abuse and armed kidknapping with a weapon.

Officials say the investigation is continuing and they have yet to decide if the death penalty will be sought.

A public defender is expected to enter a plea July 19 on behalf of Cozzie.

Courtney was killed June 16 while vacationing with her family in Florida.

The following account is from the Northwest Florida Daily News.

DeFUNIAK SPRINGS — A Walton County grand jury has indicted Steven Cozzie for first-degree premeditated murder in the death of a 15-year girl last month.

The grand jury on Friday also indicted Cozzie for aggravated child abuse, armed kidnapping and sexual battery, according to a news release from the state attorney’s office.

View a slideshow of the murder scene »


The indictment was handed down for the strangulation and beating death of Courtney Wilkes of Lyons, Ga., on June 16 in Seagrove Beach.

State Attorney Bill Eddins said the sexual battery charge “stems from activities that occurred at or around the time of the murder.”

Cozzie, 22, of Seagrove Beach, was arrested June 17 after Wilkes’ body was found in a wooded area off the Cassine Nature Trail. Wilkes was vacationing with her family at a nearby condominium.

According to Cozzie’s arrest report, he hit her in the head with a stick and later took a friend to see the body.

According to Eddins, Wilkes’ autopsy is complete and most of the results have been obtained. However, he said some tests are pending and until they are completed no specific information will be released.

“It’s not appropriate to talk about the results because it is a pending case,” Eddins said.

The next step for prosecutors will be to decide whether to seek the death penalty for Cozzie. They were continuing to gather information Friday to determine what sentence they will seek.

Cozzie is being held without bond at the Walton County Jail. His plea day is scheduled for July 19.

Eddins said it could take a year or two for the case to come to trial. He said Cozzie’s attorney can obtain the list of witnesses and any other information collected by the prosecution for the discovery process.

Assistant State Attorney Bobby Elmore will represent the state and public defender Lenny Platterborze will represent Cozzie. Circuit Judge Kelvin Wells will preside at the trial.



July 1--  Antique lovers and flea market shoppers can get out of the weather at the new indoor "Little Red Wagon" on Highway 280 in Lyons.  The Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce hosted the ribbon-cutting for friends and well-wishers Thursday afternoon.  Owners are Telena NeeSmith and Bonnie Brantley.

July 1--  Vidalia police report the arrests of two teenagers for possession of marijuana.

They're identified as 17-year-old Ronald Dawson Jones of 1221 Petross Road in Ailey and 18-year-old Devan Lee Carter of 130 Meadows Lark Lane in Vidalia.

July 1--  Brewton-Parker College (BPC) Annual Fund Director and Interim Vice President for College Advancement Jessica James is overwhelmed and encouraged by the community’s response as she reports the final tally of monies raised during the 2011 Annual Fund Campaign.

This year, the Annual Fund Committee, along with an additional effort by an Ad Hoc Board of Trustees Fundraising Committee, raised a whopping $910,296.05 for the Annual Fund.

The nearly $1 million total is more than four times the amount normally raised and is 223 percent of this year’s $410,000 goal.

The four-month campaign culminated June 30.

There are no words to express God’s love and compassion for Brewton-Parker College! Thank you for all your thoughts, prayers, and monetary gifts this year and every year,” said James. “This year’s fundraising success is due to the Trustees, our new president and our new Chairman all working together with our Committee to help Brewton-Parker College.”

The Annual Fund supports the college’s operational fund, which includes standard upgrades to college technology, maintenance of campus facilities and faculty and staff salaries, among other needs. Of every dollar needed to educate a student at Brewton-Parker, 56 percent must come from fundraising efforts like the Annual Fund.

To emphasize how much the community has stepped in to support Brewton-Parker in the last year, James compares the 2010 total gifts and pledges to 2011’s. According to her records, Brewton-Parker raised $1.061 million during Fiscal Year 2010. This amount included $592,000 in capital campaign funds for the renovation of McAllister Hall.

“In FY 2011, BPC raised $1.059 million, and we didn’t even have a capital campaign!” said James. “Of that money raised, only $13,000 is designated to last year’s capital campaign. The rest is unrestricted monies given to us by friends, alumni, businesses, foundations, Trustees, churches, the GBC and our college family.”

Former Annual Fund Director and originator of the local committee concept, Claire Johnson said this amount is something she’s never seen raised before through Annual Fund. Johnson is now retired and lives in Long Pond with her husband, former BPC Vice President for College Advancement and beloved history professor Sid Johnson.

“This is fantastic!” said Claire Johnson. “It is a reflection of how the community feels about Brewton-Parker, which is great. It shows Brewton-Parker how much they mean to the community and that they want Brewton-Parker to be a success.”

BPC Acting President Dr. Mike Simoneaux calls the success of this year’s Annual Fund Campaign a sign of greater things to come.

“The amount raised by this college is not something that happens every year, or even every ten years,” said Dr. Simoneaux. “In fact, to raise this amount in such a short period of time is almost unheard of. We are deeply appreciative of the community’s support and for stepping in to rally for the College. We believe the college is poised for its best days. We praise God for His continued hand on Brewton-Parker College.”

Jeff McCormick, headmaster of Vidalia Heritage Christian Academy, chaired this year’s Annual Fund Committee. Committee members are from Toombs, Montgomery and Treutlen counties. They included John Koon of Vidalia Communications, Wendell Dixon of Montgomery Bank & Trust, Arlene Davis of ERA, Bob Davis, Lynn Addison of BPC, Bob Sanford of BPC, Loyd Mobley of VNS Corporation, Steve Brown of Brown Insurance Group, Malinda Brown of Brown Insurance Group. Colon Sammons of Altamaha Bank & Trust and Gary Campbell of VNS Corporation and BPC Board of Trustees Chairman serve as board liaisons.

The 12-person Ad Hoc Fundraising Committee is comprised of BPC Trustee members, James, Dr. Mike Simoneaux and Mount Vernon Mayor Joey Fountain.

            To learn more about Brewton-Parker College, visit  

Brewton-Parker College is the only accredited four-year Christian college in south Georgia.

July 1--  Sixteen years ago, 49-year-old Manuel Hrneith escaped from a North Carolina prison where he was serving an 18-year sentence for second degree murder.

Early Thursday morning he was arrested at his home in Cobbtown where he has been living since at least 2004 under the alias Alfredo Urieta.  A woman in the mobile home told Tattnall County deputy sheriffs she was his wife and that three children in the home were their's.  He made a living selling pine straw.

Police say he offered no resistance and they found four rifles and handguns in the home.  

He's being charged in Tattnall County with possession of guns by a convicted felon and is awaiting extradition to North Carolina.

July 1--  A Vidalia man is in the Treutlen County jail a day after his wife's funeral.

Carlos Jacob Williamson was picked up Thursday following the funeral of Jessica Marie Williamson who was killed in a Saturday night wreck in Toombs County.

Treutlen County Sheriff Tommy Corbin says Williamson was on probation for possession of cocaine.  The Sheriff reports he has failed to report to his probation officer since March and has not paid any fines since October, 2009.

This is the second time Williamson has been arrested for violating his probation, according to Sheriff Corbin.

Williamson was uninjured in the accident which killed his wife and told invesigators she was driving when the car hit a ditch and overturned.

Her body was sent to the state crime lab as part of the accident investigation being conducted by the Georgia State Patrol and the Toombs County Sheriff's Office.