July 31--  A Toombs County man was injured in a one-car wreck Monday evening.

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight says 42-year-old Troy Jay Love was flown to a Macon hospital after the accident on the Lyons-Center Road.

July 30 - With the school year quickly approaching, the Georgia Department of Revenue announces that the “back to school” sales tax holiday weekend will be August 10-11. This will be the first holiday of its type since 2009, when it was last instituted by the General Assembly.

 “It is an excellent opportunity for parents to save money on basic necessities when getting their children ready for the coming school year” said Department of Revenue Commissioner Doug MacGinnitie.

Clothing and footwear with a sales price of $100 or less per item will be exempt of sales tax, along with personal computers and computer related accessories with a purchase price of $1, 000 or less. Also general school supplies to be used in the classroom or in classroom-related activities with a sales price of $20 or less per item are free of the sales tax.

More information concerning the sales tax holiday and tax exempt items can be found of the Georgia Department of Revenue website at: https://etax.dor.ga.gov/

 

July 30--  Former Georgia Governor Zell Miller took a lot of heat when he started the Georgia Lottery, but it's paid off big time for college and pre-kindergarten students in the state.

{mosimage}Lottery President Margaret DeFrancisco brought the impact home in a speech to Vidalia Rotarians.

"For Toombs County, the HOPE dollars are $25.6 million dollars and that's for nearly 8,000 students.  For Pre-K, it's $15.7 million dollars and that's for over 3,000 students," she reports.

The Georgia Lottery is coming off a record-breaking year and has raised over $13 billion during it's 19-year history and DeFrancisco says it's a challenge to keep it going.  "I work with a very creative group of colleagues at the Georgia Lottery Corporation and we just keep trying to come up with new things because we know we need to," she says.

The Lottery boss says she thinks "Fantasy Five" gives you the best chance of winning on a regular basis.  She also has advice for winners of the big jackpots.

"We hope they seek advice from a lawyer, accountants, bankers and financial advisers and to make sure they get good advice.  When I talk with them I tell them they need to learn how to say 'No.'  All manner of people come out of the woodwork with expectations that just because of that person's good fortune they should spread it.  We've seen a lot of philanthropy from lottery winners over time, but it should be their decision," she notes.

July 28--  State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville provides a real world look at the state's finances in his "Notes From The Senate."

Even though the headlines led with overall growth for state revenues of 4.8% for the FY012 Fiscal Year, serious issues are coming to light as we review not only June's year-end revenue drop-off but the steady decline of the revenue increase rate over the previous year since December.

 

JUNE WAS A NEGATIVE MONTH FOR ALL PRACTICAL PURPOSES

Even though the June revenues total showed a 2.6% increase, looking closer at the numbers reveals that both Individual Income Taxes and Sales Tax collections were negative for the month.  Most had expected a year end that would produce surplus funds for the Revenue Shortfall Reserve.  Now only lapsed funds hold any promise of additions and the first 1% of the reserve is due the Department of Education for K-12 growth.

 

The June report shows Individual Income Tax revenues were almost flat with a -0.2% decrease or $1.7 million.  The increase in tax payments almost perfectly matched the increase in refunds for the month.  If any refunds were held back for any reason, as they were two years ago, those may pull down July's numbers. Individual Income Tax revenues totaled $780.8 million in June.

 

Sales Tax collections were down for the month by -2.2% or -$19.8 million on total state proceeds of $428.9 million.

 

Motor Fuel Tax collections declined slightly by less than a million but excise taxes were actually up for the month by 2.9%.

 

The big jump in June's revenue picture and the factor that swung the month to positive territory was a $42.9 million gain in Corporate Income Taxes.  Total collections of $154.0 million topped even 2011's June collections of $111.09 million.

 

Tobacco taxes were down 7.9% while alcoholic beverage taxes were up 38.5%.

 

YEAR TO DATE NUMBERS MEET BUDGET BUT SHOW SLIPPAGE AS YEAR ENDS

For the second year in a row, revenues wound up the year ahead of the year before and enough of a gain to meet budget projections, but visions of 6% plus growth for the year fell by the wayside.  Overall, the FY012 Fiscal Year ended with a revenue growth of 4.8%, enough to meet the 4.6% needed for budget projections.  Total tax revenues for the year were $16.052 billion for a gain of $742.1 million.

 

Individual Income Taxes for the year totaled $8.142 billion showing a gain of $483.7 million, a 6.3% increase.  Net Sales Taxes for the year were $5.330 billion, gaining $232.2 million and growing 4.6%.  These are pretty good sounding numbers until you look at the trends over the past 6-7 months which we will do further along.

 

Motor Fuel Tax receipts concluded the strongest year since FY2008 totaling $1.004 billion total for the year.  Excise taxes, by the gallon continued to slide showing a 2.2% decline while Motor Fuel Sales Taxes grew 19.4%, reflecting higher prices even though the tax rate was frozen earlier this year by Gov. Deal.

 

Corporate Tax collections continued a precipitous decline of -$81.2 million for the year or -12.1%.  Corporate tax collections have dropped from $1.01 billion in FY2007 to this year's low mark of $589.9 million or -42%.

 

Tobacco taxes and Alcoholic Beverages were affected by classification adjustments and according to DOR's Notes should have reflected increases of $7.0 million in Tobacco products and $6.25 million in Alcoholic Beverages.

 

TROUBLING TRENDS IN REVENUE NUMBERS FOR LAST SEVEN MONTHS.

The troubling trend is that the majority of growth (with the exception of April) occurred in the first five months of the year.  The first quarter of the year (July, August and September) experienced revenue growth of 7.2%.  The second and third quarters though only saw growth of 3.4%.  As mentioned earlier, 4.6% growth was needed to make budget.  The fourth quarter showed growth of 5.3%, ahead of what is needed to meet budget targets, but that was primarily a result of April revenues.  Without April revenues, the 4th quarter only produced a 2.4% growth rate.  By the end of the fiscal year, the state only collected $40 million more in tax revenue than was needed to make budget. 

 

This is important because of the revenue estimate needed to make the FY2013 budget.  The FY2013 budget passed in March is based on a revenue estimate of 5.75% growth over what was collected in FY2012.  A simpler way to put it is this way:  By this time next year, the state will need to collect approximately $800 million more than was collected in FY2012 to make the FY13 budget as passed.  This does not include adding funds for Medicaid or retirement shortfalls or for education growth.  This also does not assume that we will add any money to revenue shortfall reserve.

 

This set of figures and trends likely drove the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget to call for FY013 and FY014 budget submissions by state agencies to include 3% reductions.  Education funding is exempt and Medicaid and PeachCare are assessed 5% reductions.

 

July 27-- Brewton-Parker College’s Baron Week, August 13-18, is a program that includes fun activities and informational sessions for all new students. Throughout Baron Week, new students will learn the ins and outs of student life at Brewton-Parker College.

Below is a calendar of the week’s activities. This calendar is also available online at www.bpc.edu/orientation.  Students will receive a more detailed schedule upon arrival.

Contact Jennifer Wooten, Director of Student Services, at 912-583-3208 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any questions.

Fall Semester 2012 classes begin Monday, August 20.

Monday, August 13th

9:00 a.m.-Noon - New Student Move-In (Campus Wide)

11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. - Lunch (Residential Dining Hall)

2:00-3:00 p.m. - Family & Friends Welcome Celebration (Saliba Chapel)

3:00-4:00 p.m. - First Lady Bonnie’s Family & Friends Reception (Snooks Student Activity Center)  

5:00-6:00 p.m. - Supper (Residential Dining Hall)

7:30 p.m.-Until - Orientation Kick-Off (Saliba Chapel)

 

Tuesday, August 14th

7:00-8:00 a.m. - Breakfast (Residential Dining Hall)

11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. - Lunch (Residential Dining Hall)

1:00-1:30 p.m. - Introduction to Freshman Seminar and Academic Integrity (Gilder Recital Hall)

1:30-2:00 p.m. - Money Matters Business Office/Financial Aid (Gilder Recital Hall)

2:00-3:00 p.m. - Free Time

3:00-4:00 p.m. - Small Group Activities

5:00-6:00 p.m. - Supper (Residential Dining Hall)

7:00 p.m. - Family Mega-Relay (Lower Athletic Fields/Track)

 

Wednesday, August 15th

 7:00-8:00 a.m. - Breakfast (Residential Dining Hall)

11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. - Lunch (Residential Dining Hall)

12:30 p.m. - Class of 2016 Photo (Saliba Chapel)

1:00-1:30 p.m. - Student Support Services (Gilder Recital Hall)

1:30-2:30 p.m. - Drug & Alcohol Awareness (Gilder Recital Hall)

2:30-3:00 p.m. - Free Time

3:00-4:00 p.m. - Student Behavior (Gilder Recital Hall)

5:00-6:00 p.m. - Supper (Residential Dining Hall)

7:30 p.m. - Night of Worship (Gilder Recital Hall)

 

Thursday, August 16th

7:00-8:00 a.m. - Breakfast (Residential Dining Hall)

11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. - Lunch (Residential Dining Hall)

1:00 p.m.-Until - Family Matinee (Gilder Recital Hall or Gates Auditorium)

4:00-8:00 p.m. - Baron Soccer vs. USC- Salkahatchie (Soccer Field)

5:00-6:00 p.m. - Supper (Residential Dining Hall)

8:30 p.m. - Bonfire & S’Mores (Baron Fire Pit)

 

Friday, August 17th

 7:00-8:00 a.m. - Breakfast (Residential Dining Hall)

11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. - Lunch (Residential Dining Hall)

1:00 p.m.-Until - Tour of the City (Meet in front of Gates Hall)

5:00-6:00 p.m. - Supper (Residential Dining Hall)

9:00 p.m. - Glow-In-The-Dark Dodgeball (Parker Gymnasium)

10:30 p.m. - Late-Night Ice Cream Cravings (Phillips Student Center)

 

Saturday, August 18th

11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. - Lunch (Residential Dining Hall)

2:00-7:00 p.m. - Baron Soccer vs. Middle Georgia College (Soccer Field)

5:00-6:00 p.m. - Supper (Residential Dining Hall)

8:30 p.m. - Welcome Back Block Party/Orientation Closing (Library Plaza)


July 27--  In Tuesday's primary election, voters will have a chance to decide if they want to pay a one penny sales tax for the next ten years to support road projects and paving in the 17-county Heart of Georgia region including Toombs County.

Two of the three candidates running for the chairman's job on the Toombs County commission support the sales tax and the third doesn't want to comment.

Vidalia attorney Blake Tillery says it's not a county issue and fears political fallout if he takes a position.

"First of all, it's not a county issue and I'm running for the county commission.  It's really a state and a region issue.  I've been accused already by my opponent of seeking a higher state or federal office and I don't want to walk into his buzz saw or add fuel to his fire by commenting on that.  I will say that it is a very important issue for our community and however the voters go, we'll work to implement their plans," Tillery says.

Despite his reticence, Tillery recognizes the economic impact the tax would have on Tooombs County.  "We stand to gain roughly $63 million in projects and the citizens of this community and this 17-county region have to decide if they want to vote a tax on themselves.  If they do want to vote a tax on themselves, then they will have those projects.  If they don't, then they have that right as well.  Me, as a candidate for county commission, I get one vote.  I have no say in this and I don't get to administer the projects once they're done.  So again, this is a state issue, not a county issue," he claims.

Former Toombs County Commission Chairman James Thompson says nobody likes taxes.

"I'm going to hold my nose and vote for it because we need the infrastructure here in Toombs County.  The two main revenue-producing counties are Laurens County and Toombs County and I was apprehensive that we might not get our fair share, but if we don't vote for it, we're going to get even less.  It's either pay now or pay later, and if we don't do it now, it's going to cost more in the long run," Thompson believes.

The third candidate in the race, Mac Jordan of Vidalia, says the sales tax is needed for economic development in our area.

"I see it as an investment.  We're part of a 17-county region and within that region we have some of the highest unemployment in the state.  If we don't pass this, I'm concerned we'll fall further behind.  Most business interests in the state are promoting this as an investment in our own future and it gives us local control of our own taxes where they are spent," Jordan says.

 

July 26--  The Montgomery County school system is off probation according to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

County School Superintendent Randy Rodgers was notified Thursday by AdvancEd that it's review team which visited in June made the recommendation.

"When I arrived in March of last year there were a lot of things going on.  My job as the new superintendent was to try and find ways to put things back together.  Part of the process was to try to lead the Board of Education in such a way that we made good business decisions and good personnel decisions and, of course, that does not always please everyone," Rodgers said.

The school system was placed on probation last year for school board governance issues and the review team says work is still needed to bring the community together in support of the schools.

It also noted the makeup of the school board will be changed in the upcoming election and recommended steps be taken regarding board training for any newly elected members.

The review team also recommended the school board examine the dropping enrollment in the school system which it said has been going on for the last four years.

Superintendent Rodgers says the students who remain are meeting or exceeding academic standards and have better test scores than many others in the area.

"Our achievement continues to be very good throughout this. The men and women of Montgomery County come to work everyday and do the things they're supposed to do in order to make sure our children receive the kind of education they desire and deserve," he said.

The school system is now in a status called "Accredited on Advisement" and must provide a progress report by next Spring and host another review team visit before the middle of next May.

 

 

July 26--  Cyclists from the Paul Anderson Youth Home in Vidalia hit the road this weekend for what has become the annual Paul Anderson Cycling Challenge.

The trip this year is a 600-mile trek through South Georgia and North Florida with lots of opportunites to meet and greet, according to staff member Matthew Henley.

"The guys share at night whevever we stay.  If we stay in a church, we'll have a gathering or may have a local community event with a civic club. They're sharing their stories along the way and the work of the youth home.  It's also a good funding event for us and we hope to raise about $75,000 during the week," he says.

{mosimage}Among the riders, 18-year-old David from Birhminham (center) reports they've been training hard.

"We did 52 miles Saturday and tried to stay hydrated and get our miles in.  It's a mental thing as well.  You've got to stay focused beyond the point where you think you're going to stop and just push on through," he says.

Paris (left) is an 18-year-old from Savannah who's proud to be riding for the youth home.  "You know it's changed my way of thinking completely.  I used to think in a totally different manner than I do now.  My priorities have changed a lot and I really have gotten my life together since I got here.  This place means a lot to me," he reports.

Another rider is Taylor, a 17-year-old from Conyers, who's been at the home for ten months.

"It's very important because it's helped me so much.  Everything has kind of changed and it's a good change.  Everything went from going south to looking up and it's awesome," he says.

This year's cycling contingent includes four youth home residents, two alumni, three staff members and several volunteers.  They're scheduled to return to the Sweet Onion City Friday, August 3.

July 25--  Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society (SOAPS) volunteer Holly Reynolds reports a long-suffering local pup has a chance at a new lease on life.

{mosimage}"This picture was taken on last October of a dog I named Zap. Poor Zap has been at the Lyons Shelter for many months in the cold and is now enduring the heat! I have sent him out over and over again on email and to my rescue contacts & NOTHING came through for him!  He was one of my favs and even though he had been under such stress and conditons, he remained such a sweet boy!
 
WELL, finally today someone has seen him up North and wants to save his life! This poor boy is well deserving of this. He has waited and waited far longer than he should have and could have been put to sleep at any time. However, he was spared and will now have a chance to have a happy home instead of a small pen with a concrete floor and minimal interaction.
 
Zap will need to be completely vetted which includes exam, vaccinated, HW test, neuter & treatment as needed. PLUS transport to NY. For his vet care and transport cost, Zap needs your help to sponsor his medical care and transport to NY.
 
If you can help ANY at all, please do so by donating via paypal at www.sweetonionaps.org OR mailing to SOAPS, PO BOX 210, VIDALIA, GA 30475.
 

 

July 25-- Vidalia's Chief of Police, Frank Waits has been named President of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police (GACP).  The GACP is an association that has served police chiefs and command staff law enforcement personnel for over 50 years and currently represents over 500 Chiefs of Police and Law Enforcement Agency Heads across the State of Georgia.  Chief Waits assumed his role as President of the GACP on the evening of Tuesday, July 24, 2012.  Part of his new duties includes chairing the Association’s Executive Board, and appointing all committee chairs.

{mosimage}Chief Waits has served the State of Georgia as a law enforcement professional for over 32 years.  His career began in 1980 after attending the North Central Georgia Law Enforcement Academy in Kennesaw, Georgia.  After gaining experience in the Atlanta area, he established his foundational roots in Griffin where he excelled through the ranks of the Griffin Police Department retiring to become the Police Chief of the City of Kingsland.  His credentials as a practitioner are many but he is extremely proud of being one of only a few Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Senior Law Enforcement Instructors and by being a team leader and assessor for the State of Georgia State Certification Program which is administered by the GACP.

Chief Waits attended Mercer University (1991-1997) receiving his Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice and Master’s Degree in Service Management.   Additionally, he served his Alma Mater for a short period of time as an adjunct professor until his duties as a police chief became his single professional priority.  GACP’s new President has been married to his wife, Pam for over 25 years and enjoys life caring for rescued animals.

July 25-- The Montgomery County Commission is holding the line on expenses in 2013 and Monday approved a county budget and property tax rate which are essentially the same as this year.

County manager David Curry says the 12.5 mil rate will remain the same to finance a $3,457,000 budget.

The county will pay an estimated $78,000 next year for a property revaluation and is cutting corners elsewhere to make up the difference.  The new budget contains no money for county recreation and the commission turned down a $40,000 request from Sheriff Clarence Sanders to pay for a Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program in the schools.

Commission Chairman Franklin Brantley says the commissioners are doing all they can to hold down expenses.

"With a lot of management from our county manager and from commissioners working together to maintain our county budget, we did what we had to do and I think that's a plus for everybody in Montgomery County.  It's going to be tight for 2013 with the economy like it is and I hope it gets better, but we feel like we can operate it again without having to raise taxes," he said.

Meanwhile, the commission and county municipalities have signed an agreement on the division of local option sales tax revenue for the next ten years starting in January.

The county collects an estimated $300,000 a year in the sales tax and it's being divided on a pro rata share based on population figures in the 2010 census.

Only Mount Vernon and Uvalda are receiving a larger percentage than in the past, and for the first time the city of Vidalia is getting a percentage from Montgomery County based on the number of Vidalia citizens who live within the county.

Government          % Under Current Agrement      % Under New Agreement

Mt. Vernon                              23.57                              26.86

Uvalda                                      6.40                                6.55

Ailey                                         6.37                                4.73

Higgston                                   3.82                                3.54

Alston                                      1.92                                 1.74

Tarrytown                                 1.21                                   .98

Vidalia                                           0                                  1.42

Montgomery Co                        56.78                                54.18

July 24-- The Ogeechee Riverkeeper, represented by GreenLaw and Stack and Associates, has filed a lawsuit in federal court against King America Finishing, Inc. for violations of the Clean Water Act.  The lawsuit alleges that King America Finishing continues illegally to discharge pollution to the Ogeechee River.

“King America had over a year to address serious pollution violations following the state’s largest fish kill,” said Dianna Wedincamp, Ogeechee Riverkeeper, “but they didn’t. The government had years to stop the pollution, and they didn’t.  We are asking the courts to do what the environmental law enforcers have failed to do, to stop the pollution of the Ogeechee River from King America Finishing.”

The lawsuit alleges that King America knowingly violated the clean water laws for over 6 years and that this illegal discharge caused the largest fish kill in Georgia history.  Under the Clean Water Act, when the government does not adequately punish a polluter involved in an ongoing illegal discharge, private citizens and citizen groups can file a lawsuit seeking to have a court do what the State did not.  Ogeechee Riverkeeper’s case seeks to have a court fine King America Finishing for its pollution of the river and to issue an order stopping the illegal discharge.

King America Finishing, owned by Chicago-based Westex, produces fabric for a number of purposes.  Around 2006, the company added two flame retardant process lines to its wastewater discharge but failed to get a permit to discharge the pollution from these additional process lines into the Ogeechee River.  In May of 2011, the largest fish kill in Georgia history occurred below King America Finishing affecting nearly 85 miles of the river and killing over 35,000 fish.  There were no dead fish found upstream of the King America facility, and attention quickly turned to the company’s discharge site as the culprit.  EPD belatedly concluded that the company’s discharge was harmful to aquatic life and the director of EPD pinpointed King America as the source of the fish kill.  Testing revealed that excessive levels of ammonia, one of the unpermitted pollutants King America was discharging, was the primary contaminant.

In what was termed a “backroom deal” by watchdog groups, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division entered into an agreement with King America following the fish kill.  The agreement purported to allow the King Finishing to continue to discharge unpermitted pollutants from the flame retardant lines. The company also agreed to pay $1 million for an undefined “environmental project” instead of paying $91 million in potential fines.

“The government has repeatedly failed to stop the pollution from King America,” said Hutton Brown, attorney at GreenLaw.  “By filing this Clean Water Act case, we seek to correct the damage that has been done to the river and right the government’s failure to protect us from pollution.”

In May of this year, a smaller fish kill occurred downstream of the pollution discharge.  Many of the public landings were closed to fishing and swimming for Memorial Day weekend.  Another round of river warnings were issued by Emergency Management Agencies by counties down river from King America Finishing after discolored water and dead fish were reported over the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

“The unchecked pollution leaving King America is a poster-child for poor law enforcement,” said Don Stack, Stack and Associates.  “When the government fails to do its job, the law allows concerned citizens to hold polluters accountable.  Today, Ogeechee Riverkeeper is stepping into the shoes of government, because the regulators have failed to do their job.” 

The filing and background information are available at HERE.

July 24--  On July 19, 2012 Bulloch County Superior Court Judge John Turner overturned an earlier ruling by Judge Lois Oakley stating that Ogeechee Riverkeeper and its members did not have a right to bring suit against Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD). The new ruling is a step in the right direction, according to Ogeechee Riverkeeper, who is bringing suit against the EPD for a consent order reached with 

gavelKing America Finishing (KAF) in September 2011 for an extensive list of wastewater discharge and operational violations at their Screven County textile plant. The violations were found after the worst fish kill in Georgia’s history occurred last summer below KAF’s discharge pipe.

 

Ogeechee Riverkeeper filed suit against EPD through the Office of State Administrative Hearings, as required by Georgia law. Both EPD and KAF challenged Ogeechee Riverkeeper’s standing, or right to bring suit. Despite impassioned testimony on the part of members of Ogeechee Riverkeeper about decreased use of the river, inability to eat the fish they have caught and fear of decreased property values, the administrative law judge, Oakley, ruled that Ogeechee Riverkeeper did not have the right to bring the suit against the Georgia EPD.

“We are bringing suit against EPD because the consent order was not put out for public comment and it also allows King America Finishing to continue discharging wastewater from their facility without a proper permit,” stated Dianna Wedincamp, Ogeechee Riverkeeper. “The consent order pales in comparison to the damage incurred by the Ogeechee River and the citizens who live, work and play along it,” Wedincamp continues.

The Consent Order does not require KAF to halt their operations, nor does it require the company to pay a fine, which under Clean Water Act violations could have totaled $91 million dollars. Instead, the Order asks for a corrective action plan to 

KAF discharge pipeaddress smaller violations within the plant (such as lack of pH alarms) and a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP), designed by KAF and of undetermined specifics, totaling a mere $1 million dollars.  In addition, KAF must apply for a new discharge permit, since their former permit expired over six years ago.

 

Judge Turner’s ruling stated “[t]he Consent Order referenced not only a laundry list of violations, but also found that KAF’s discharge from their facility produced objectionable conditions which interfered with legitimate water use in violation of Georgia law’ and “[r]ather than make an affirmative finding and/or take enforcement action against KAF for its violations, the EPD entered into a Consent Order which has not corrected the harmful actions of KAF.”

 “We are pleased Judge Turner realized the importance of Ogeechee Riverkeeper member testimony and how we as citizens have a right to bring suit against EPD for their poor decision in signing the consent order with KAF,” Wedincamp stated.

The ruling states that the Consent Order is invalid for a lack of public hearing and that ORK has standing to bring this action. The case will now be heard on its merits by the Office of State Administrative Hearings in Atlanta, GA.

 

July 24--  Unless you want to make two trips when it comes time to get your driver's license renewed, you need to be prepared when you make the first trip to your area Department of Drivers Services (DDS) office in Georgia.

As of July 1, requirements of a new federal law kicked in, according to Susan Sports with DDS.

"These are new federal requirements which are recommendations from the 911 Commission to improve security of the issuance of driver's license in each state," she says.

You're going to need to prove who you are.

"For most of our customers it's the original birth certificate or a valid passport.  In the event of a legal name change, like a female who has marrired, they will need to bring their marriage certificate in addition to their birth certificate." she notes.

And you have to have proof of residency.

"It can be an utility bill, bank statement, voter registration card.  We have many choices for proof of residency but we do have to see two, not one as it was in the past. We also have to see proof of your social security number like your original social security card, a W-2 or an income tax statement," Sports says.

With the changes it's taking longer to renew your license and Sports recommends you avoid Tuesdays and Saturdays which are the busiest day.  Right now the statewide average to renew is about an hour.

Before you make the trip, Sports recommends you visit their website for complete information.  It's www.dds.ga.gov .

July 23-- A federal indictment, unsealed today in federal court in Dublin, charges seven defendants with a conspiracy to illegally traffic firearms.  The indictment follows a 7-month federal and state undercover investigation in the Johnson County area dubbed “Operation Gunrunner.” 

The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) initiated Operation Gunrunner in September of 2011, targeting individuals allegedly involved in the sale of firearms stolen during residential burglaries in the Johnson County area.  During the operation, law enforcement purchased 23 firearms, many of which had been stolen.

The seven defendants indicted on federal charges include:

Terryon J. Norris, 24, Wrightsville, Georgia;

Lakendon S. Brown, 23, Wrightsville, Georgia;

Frank L. Wesley, 57, Wrightsville, Georgia;

William T. Walker, 28, Wrightsville, Georgia;

Kendrick L. Dixon, 30, Wrightsville, Georgia;

Whitney T. Wittmer, 23, Wrightsville, Georgia;

Mercedes D. Jenkins, 21, East Dublin, Georgia.

Several of the defendants have been arrested today.  The JCSO, Wrightsville Police Department, Georgia State Patrol, East Dublin Police Department and ATF participated in the arrests.  Initial appearances are scheduled to be held on tomorrow, Tuesday, July 24, at the federal courthouse in Dublin. 

 

July 23--  The former police chief of the Lyons Police Department has been indicted.

{mosimage}A Toombs County grand jury indicted Ricky Newsome on two counts of distribution of marjuana, one count of theft by conversion and two counts of violating an oath by a public officer.

Newsome was arrested last September for allegedly selling a confiscated car and using the proceeds for his personal use in addition to taking other police department funds. It's also alleged he distributed an estimated ten pounds of confiscated marijuana and violated his oath of office by committing illegal acts.

He joined Lyons police in 1996 and was the police chief at the time of his arrest.  He's currently out of jail on a $100,000 bond.

The grand jury also returned seven other indictments.

Al Lester Miller of Vidalia was indicted for allegedly molesting four boys under the age of 16.

Earlene Jackson faces indictments of financial identity fraud and four counts of defrauding the People's Bank of Lyons on a residential mortgage.

Brandon Salter was indicted on four counts of theft by conversion and one count of residential mortgage fraud.

Jerri Ann Newsome of Vidalia was indicted for theft by taking and on 12 counts of forging checks in the name of Nancy Nelms of Vidalia.

Three people were indicted for burglarizing the home of Randy Rollins in Toombs County.  They are Orlando Brooker, Jaquan Wells and Chad Cummings.  In related indictments, Lorenzo Taylor and Yolanda McKinney were indicted for receiving property stolen from Rollins' home.

 

 

 

July 20--  A reward is being offered in the unsolved murder case of Shannon Sharpe of Toombs County.

{mosimage}Sharpe suffered head injuries and serious burns July 4th.  He was found outside his burned out mobile home near Santa Claus and died five days later at Doctors Hospital in Augusta.

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight says the State Fire Marshall is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the crime's perpertrator.

Call the Toombs County Sheriff's Office at 912-526-6778 if you have information.

July 20--Two sisters are dead following a single car accident Friday morning in Toombs County.

The Georgia State Patrol says the 86-year-old driver of the car, Joyce Lord of Macon, was killed when it ran off a curve and overturned on Resmondo Road north of Lyons. 

The passenger in the car, 83-year-old Jean Fulghum of Metter, was airlifted to a Savannah hospital and died Friday afternoon, according to Toombs County coroner Ron Hall.

 

July 20--  A hearing to determine how local option sales tax (LOST) proceeds will be divided among governments in Toombs County is delayed.  The hearing before Dublin Circuit Superior Court Judge H. Gibbs Flanders, Jr. had been scheduled to take place today in Toombs County Superior Court but had to be changed due to scheduling conflicts with attorneys.

The lawyers will hold a pre-hearing conference with Judge Flanders July 30th in Dublin and are expected to decide on a new hearing date at that time.

After hearing arguments from the Toombs County Commission and the cities of Vidalia, Lyons and Santa Claus, Judge Flanders will decide how the tax revenue will be shared for the next ten years starting in January.

Negotiation and mediation among the governments have failed to get an agreement.  

Toombs County wants to increase it's share by nearly 20 percent while the cities want to keep their shares the same as now.  The sales tax collects about $4.5 million a year and currently divided with Toombs County and Vidalia getting 42.17% each, Lyons 14.65% and Santa Claus one percent.

City officials claim an increase in the county's share will result in a net increase of property taxes to city residents. 

Meanwhile, a recent opinion from the State Attorney General's office seems to give the county a leg-up in the upcoming argument before Judge Flanders.

Toombs County has based it's calculation of an increase on claims it serves all citizens of the county, not just those in unincorporated areas.  The cities dispute this claim and argue their taxpayers are subsidizing various county services provided outside their city limits.

However, the Attorney General, in a recent letter to Lowndes County, says state and case law support the argument that a county's share should take the county's entire population into account.  That is the reasoning Toombs County used when it attempted to increase its share to 61.4%.

July 19--  A Republican congressional candidate says she's concerned that the chairman of the Toombs County Republican Party is a paid consultant for one of her opponents.

{mosimage}Maria Sheffield of Dublin says she learned through campaign disclosure reports that Jim Collins of Vidalia was paid $1500 in May and June as a consultant to Wright McLeod of Augusta.

"I don't know if he's done it to other candidates, but he certainly sent out an email to other people in the party and to the chairman of the district about me which was an unpleasant email. At the time we didn't realize he was actually on the payroll of the McLeod campaign and that makes all the difference in the world.  I think it makes a difference for our state party and is something that wil be looked into after July 31. You would not generally find a county chairman on the payroll of a particular campaign and if you did, they would let the other candidates know what was going on," she said.

Collins says he hasn't crossed over the line by working for McLeod and says his consultant work is permissible under party rules as long as he doesn't use his title as county chairman to endorse any particular Republican candidate.

Sheffield is the only candidate in the race not from the Augusta area and she's way behind in fund raising.  According to the Federal Elections Commission, she only raised $19,115 in individual contributions as of June 30. it also shows a loan from herself to her campaign of $105,250.

Her Republican opponents have donations from individuals of more than $300,000 each and the Democratic incumbent John Barrow has a war chest of more than $700,000 in individual contributions and in excess of $1.1 million from political action committees.

Sheffield made a strong showing in the counties of the 12th District when she ran unsuccessfully for state Insurance Commission in 2010 and she believes that will help in her congressional race, despite her lack of money.

"When you factor out salaries and consultants and that kind of thing, I'm still going to be in a great position to get my message out to voters.  I'm excited about that and about the grass roots and Tea Party support I have throughout the district," she said. 

July 19--  The 12th Congressional District's incumbent Democrat Congressman John Barrow is facing a big challenge in his re-election bid.

The National Journal evaluated 75 congressional races nationwide and ranked Congressman Barrow 14th in terms of being rejected by voters.  Here's why, according to the publication.

"GA-12 (D, Rep. John Barrow): Republican state legislators targeted Barrow via redistricting earlier in his career, and he survived. The latest attempt planted the Blue Dog Democrat in a solidly conservative seat, though, and he’ll have a major challenge on his hands against whoever emerges from a bruising, contested Republican primary. Centrist Democratic groups are already on TV in Savannah praising Barrow’s moderate record, but Republicans will counter in the fall with clips of Barrow claiming to have worked “hand in hand” with Obama during a tough Democratic primary in 2010. That could be enough to unseat Barrow in a district where Obama might struggle to top 40 percent of the vote."

July 18--  A candidate running for the Montgomery County Commission wonders why a candidate running for a Superior Court judgeship in North Georgia has been disqualified because he owes back taxes when her opponent in Montgomery County also owes back taxes but is getting a pass to run.

An administrative law judge disqualified Danielsville lawyer Chris Smith because he has $110,000 in tax liens against him.

Montgomery County Commission candidate Sharon Strickland says the same standard should apply to her opponent, incumbent County Commissioner John Carpenter who has state and federal tax liens of more than $330,000.

"In my case, the person was 12 years behind on taxes and has served four years as a public official and made no effort to clear up his tax problems.  In the Athens case, the person was only two years behind.  In the Athens case, I think the interpretation of the Constitution was correct and I wish the citizens of Montgomery County were afforded the same decision as the citizens of Athens," Stickland says.

Commissioner Carpenter notes Mrs. Strickland had ten days to appeal the decision of Probate Judge Ruby Nell Sanders and chose not to do so.

"I went to the hearing up there for Judge Sanders to make a ruling on it.  And I made a decision going up there that whatever decision she made I would live with it whether I could run or could not," Carpenter said.

Strickland contends Carpenter was elected four years ago because he had no opposition.  This time she says people have a choice.

"He slid into the office because he was unopposed.  I think people want better representation than that.  If other people are paying their taxes and doing right to keep our county and country afloat, they expect everybody to do their part," she said.

Carpenter says he doesn't want to comment on his tax status, but thinks he's done a good job.

"I've tried to do what's right for the voters of the whole county.  I have stood up for what I thought was right and I have tried to represent everybody equally and fair.  It's been a joy to serve and I think I've done a pretty good job and I'd just like to continue on if the people see fit to let me serve," he said.

July 17--  The following releases are from various candidate's campaigns leading up to the July 31 election.

AUGUSTA, GA – Wright McLeod, Republican candidate for Congress in Georgia’s 12th Congressional District, today blasted the Obama Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for issuing a new policy directive undermining the welfare reform law passed in 1996.

The new HHS policy eviscerates the federal work requirements that were the foundation of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 by allowing states to waive or override the work requirements by a legal device called the section 1115 waiver authority under the Social Security law (42 U.S.C. 1315).

“Leave it to the Obama Administration to find one of the federal programs that the Contract with America helped to transform and turn those successes into more failures. It’s heartbreaking,” said McLeod.

“We have to put this country back to work. The government insisting that people need its smothering instead of getting out of our way has been the theme of the Obama Administration and his liberal allies, like John Barrow. It’s time to return President Obama to Chicago and Mr. Barrow to Savannah, Athens, or Augusta – if he plans to stay put this time,” said McLeod.

The core principle of welfare reform was that able-bodied adults should be required to work or prepare for work as a condition of receiving welfare aid. These reforms implemented in 1996 have often been touted as one of the greatest successes of the Clinton Administration and the Republican House under Speaker Newt Gingrich. In an op-ed for the New York Times in 2006, President Bill Clinton said welfare roles dropped from 12.2 million in 1996 to 4.5 million a decade later.

Sheffield hopes to surprise in 12th District race

By Susan McCord, Staff Writer - The Augusta Chronicle

Sunday, July 15, 2012 7:31 PM

Sheffield, the only one of the four Republicans running in the 12th Congressional District race from outside the Augusta area, almost became Georgia’s insurance commissioner in 2010, finishing second in the nine-way Republican primary before losing a statewide runoff to Ralph Hudgens.

In the 2010 primary, Sheffield carried Columbia, Richmond, Laurens and Bulloch counties, now the most populous in the redrawn 12th.

Sheffield, who was raised in rural Wilkinson County, doesn’t often mention her unsuccessful insurance commissioner bid, focusing instead on her conservative values, her middle-Georgia roots and her accomplishments.

Sheffield’s mother was killed by a driver on drugs when Sheffield was a teen, and her father died 10 years later of brain cancer. Sheffield then cared for her only surviving grandparent, a grandmother who suffered from dementia, for the last nine years of her life.

The setbacks may have kept her in Georgia but didn’t stop the ambitious attorney from completing college, getting master’s degrees in public administration and business and a law degree by the time she was 25.

“I basically knew there wasn’t a safety net, and I was going to have to make it on my own,” Sheffield said.

“Even though I didn’t have them in my life as long as most people, I still give them credit,” she said of her parents. “They instilled certain values in me and certain things that were expected at a very young age.”

Sheffield pursued the insurance commissioner bid from Mableton, a metro Atlanta community where she lives with her husband of eight years, computer programmer Scott Dunphy, but she located to a new address in Dexter, in Laurens County, for her 12th District bid.

Candidates are not required by law to live in the district, but they often choose to. Rep. John Barrow, a Democrat who will face the Republican nominee from the July 31 primary, bought a house on Wheeler Road in Augusta in March after the redrawn district excluded his Savannah residence.

With candidates Wright McLeod, Rick Allen and Lee Anderson hailing from metro Augusta, Sheffield is the only non-Augustan and only female seeking the post, two factors that may be to her advantage, University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock said.

When Republicans engage in “friends and neighbors politics,” relying on voters’ tendency to vote for people from their area, the Augusta votes could split among the three local candidates and propel Sheffield into a likely August runoff, he said.

Being a woman also could benefit her campaign among less-attentive voters, who might not be able to distinguish among the three Republican men seeking the post but remember Sheffield because she’s female, Bullock said.

Sheffield said she’s eager to become Georgia’s first conservative congresswoman and considers former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn as role models.

And while her campaign lacked the funds of Barrow, McLeod, Anderson and Allen in first quarter disclosures and relied heavily on a personal loan to herself, Sheffield runs a social media campaign of tweets, videos, e-mail blasts and Facebook posts. Once she wins the nomination, money “won’t be an issue,” she said.

Her Thursday statement at a Statesboro debate against the new transportation sales tax referendum, posted on Facebook Friday, prompted a barrage of discussion that Sheffield said is always a good thing.

While the tax referendum is definitely a state matter on which Sheffield said she is “not an expert,” the candidate said the 10-year tax going before voters July 31 will not fix Georgia’s transportation issues.

Metro Atlanta rail projects, for example, likely won’t relieve traffic congestion there if funded, and no future funding source for maintenance of complete, or incomplete, projects exists, prompting a likely gas tax increase, she said.

“I just don’t feel this is going to get us where we need to be,” Sheffield said.

Zero is the Right Number for Lobbyists’s Contributions Republican Candidate for PSC, Matt Reid, Stands Against Influence-Peddling

Decatur, Ga. — How can we ensure that Georgia Public Service Commissioners are not influenced by contributions from the utilities they regulate? Republican candidate Matt Reid believes it’s simple. Do not accept any gifts or contributions from them: “Zero gifts for zero dollars,” Reid says.

Matt Reid supports the campaign by Tea Party Georgia and Common Cause asking Georgia lawmakers to pledge not to accept any lobbyist gift valued over $100. Some lawmakers have suggested that there should be a limit but maybe $100 is not the right number.

What is the right number?  According to Matt Reid, it is Zero.  To remove all doubt about the possibility of undue influence Reid believes we should remove all the money, all the gifts.

An analysis of the June 30, 2012 filing of contributions to his Republican opponent reveals that more than 80% percent came from lobbyists, various utility company executives, and several companies directly associated with the industries regulated by the Georgia Public Service Commission. “I pledge that I will not accept any gifts of any value and challenge every other candidate to join me in rejecting gifts from lobbyists and all related party contributors who might benefit from influencing the decisions of the Public Service Commission."

                                        * * *

Matt Reid is a Republican candidate for Public Service Commission - District 3, Statewide.  He is a family man, a husband of 34 years, father of two grown daughters, and a Methodist. He lives by his father’s motto: Deeds not words, and believes that actions speak louder than words. He will fight for the ratepayer, make PSC decisions transparent and will not accept gifts from Lobbyists. Visit www.mattforpsc.com or contact Matt at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Pam Davidson, Candidate, Georgia Public Service Commission

Incumbent Stan Wise: the Facts

Below are reports about Stan’s 18 years on the PSC, a look at what is in store for ratepayers and citizens for the next six years if Wise is re-elected. Having first been elected during Clinton’s first term, Wise will rack up almost 25 years of cozy relationships with utilities, exchanging gifts, favors and sweetheart deals, paid for by Georgia consumers.

                        Campaign YouTube Videos:
                                                Pam Davidson 2012
                                                Stan Wise - "The Regulator"

The Georgia Public Service Commission

The PSC was created to protect citizens and businesses against the tremendous power of utility monopolies. In a just world, the five Commissioners elected statewide would regulate energy, natural gas and telecommunications as citizens’ last defense against monopoly power in maximizing profit and protecting turf.

That system cannot work when it is overtaken by money and favors and an incumbent Commissioner  bought by the utilities.

Campaign Funds

According to the Politifact “Truth-O-Meter” as reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, no less than 91 percent of Wises campaign money originates from representatives of the utilities he is charged with regulating.  These businesses are not spending their money foolishly.

Gifts and Favors

Stan unashamedly accepts gifts from utility lobbyists and CEOs. This well-known behavior earned him Creative Loafing’s Golden Sleaze award in 2009.These perks totaled a whopping $14,000 since 2006. No wonder the Georgia Report’s Tom Crawford calls him well-fed.”

According to disclosures, Cobb EMC ratepayers paid $1200 for Stan and his wife to attend a September 15, 2007 Gala at the new Cobb Energy Center, courtesy of Dwight Brown, former CEO of Cobb EMC, now indicted on 35 counts of fraud and racketeering. Stan and Dwight are known to be good friends.

It is no wonder that Wise was Brown’s hand-picked successor for the CEO position he was forced to vacate by court order. In a Marietta Daily Journal interview, Stan gushed, “if I am being given serious consideration, I’m flattered and intrigued.”

Regulated monopolies “take care” of Stan. They work for his re-election by providing him with not only funds but also campaign operatives. They also provide clandestine ways reward him for turning a blind eye or going to bat for them such as giving jobs to his family members, like his son, employed by the GA Power law firm, Troutman Sanders.

Stan Has Forgotten Who He Represents, If he ever knew

Because Wise has chosen to accept utility money and gifts, he has compromised his integrity and won’t defend the ratepayer who elect him. Rationalizing this mafia-style “family” relationship, Stans allegiance is stunningly predictable. He has become a utility advocate and lobbyist, often visiting the Capitol to push their legislative agenda, such as was the case when he lobbied in favor of SB 31 Energy Rate Increases to Finance Nuclear Plant Construction.

That bill allows GA Power to collect over $1.7 billion (most of that share holder profit) for a power plant that is not providing any power.  Worse yet, Wise always looks the other way as construction delays and cost overruns continue at the power plant.  As recently as June 21,2012 Wise voted to approve costs an independent monitor deemed imprudent for Plant Vogtle III and IV.

Significant Rate Increases

Stan has never seen a rate increase he didn’t like. That’s in part why between 2003 and 2017 the average monthly electric residential bill will have risen by $45.49, provided there are no more increases. But you can count on future increases!

Staying out of the Light, to Charge More for It

Keeping ratepayers in the dark (literally and figuratively) requires abolishing checks and balances, intimidation and secrecy.

In 2006, Stan led a fight to get rid of the PSC’s Public Interest Advocacy staff. The staff’s role is to investigate and provide feedback on utility proposals. An AJC editorial noted that, “All too often, Wise … has voted in favor of utility companies on major issues, leaving hapless consumers to take the hindmost. The adversary staff provides an urgently important bulwark that serves to protect Georgians who expect their elected officials to act as their watchdogs, not lapdogs for the industries they regulate.” Due to the courage and tenacity of then-Commissioners Speir and Baker, Wise was unsuccessful.

Bullish on Bullying

Stan has fought to protect his “good ol’ boys” in an atmosphere of intimidation. Any interest group with a message other than the “company line” is quickly punished, either during Commission hearings or publicly. Wise calls everyone who disagrees with him a “liberal.” 

Wise also attacked former Commissioner Bobby Baker, a lifetime Republican and consumer advocate famous for courageous scrutiny of utility rate hikes. Stan challenged Baker’s residency to delay the vote on limiting secret meetings. Stan’s challenge of Baker’s residency was unsuccessful and Stan was the the  one vote in a 4-1 decision to limit secret meetings.

A more recent example of Wise’s bullying was his 2011-12 "typo" that would have conveniently forced his latest nemesis, Commissioner Tim Echols, into an early election. Wise, as PSC Chair in 2011, drew up new maps per Georgia redistricting law.  The bills languished in legislative counsel until 2012.  However, a change in the lengthy bill would require Tim Echols to run again in 2012 instead of 2016.  Wise said it was just an accident when he got caught.  Andre Walker of the Georgia Politics Unfiltered Blog caught the mistake and Echols was able to remove the “error.”  

Later in the session, Wise took off the gloves and made a clear power grab to regain his PSC chairmanship (a position that, according to statute, rotates among Commissioners).  Wise lobbied the General Assembly and was able to get the law changed. 

Secrecy

In 2006, Stan employed bullying tactics against Angela Speir (now Senior Director at Georgia Watch) to preserve clandestine deal making between Commissioners and utility lobbyists. Unsuccessful, the Commission passed an ex-parte provision to prevent utility lobbyists from privately influencing Commissioners.

A No-Show with Arrogance

When an AJC article revealed that Wise won the no-show to work contest among Commissioners, he contended that he was out with voters. While as many as 10 percent of Georgians have been painfully and fearfully out of work, and the majority of those remaining live “paycheck to paycheck,” Stan could hardly bring himself to arrive at work before noon, if at all. He lives in Cobb County, only minutes from his Capitol Hill office!

No Friend of Free Enterprise

Stan’s allegiance to two regulated monopolies, Atlanta Gas Light and Georgia Power requires that he throw every other Georgia business under the bus. This includes industrial and commercial rate payers as well as all those who might like to participate in Georgia’s energy future by providing renewable energy. Wise helps crush businesses trying to compete with power monopolies. His protection of the monopolies has also kept prices inflated for all consumers.

Wise says he’s OK with renewable energy but consistently says he doesnt believe solar works.

Killing the Nuclear Renaissance

Pam Davidson is fond of saying, “Environmentalists can’t kill the nuclear renaissance, the only thing that can do that is cost overruns and a Commission that allows and rewards them.”  While Stan supports GA Power’s nuclear construction, his efforts to pre-charge rate payers and put them on the hook for utility failures, while routinely rubber stamping imprudent expenditures, will hurt Georgia’s consumers and jeopardize the future of nuclear power.

No Friend of Consumers

Stan failed to protect ratepayers from by failing to adopt a RSM (risk sharing mechanism) which would have at least obligated the company to absorb some of the cost of overruns so that it wouldn’t all be borne by ratepayers.  By failing to adopt the RSM that staff originally recommended, he placed the entire burden for cost overruns – which may total billions – squarely on the backs of ratepayers.    

During the worst recession since the Great Depression, Stan Wise followed utility marching orders allowing pre-financing for the $14 billion project.  The pre-payments will total $1.6 billion (over $1 million in profits to Southern Company shareholders) and a will rise to a $9 per month charge for the average residential bill. Worse yet, Mr. Wise has continued to turn his head while imminent signs of production delays and cost overruns abound. As recent as June 21, Wise voted to approve costs an independent monitor deemed imprudent

 

 

 

 

July 17--  Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia is trying to build a community network that will promote healthy lifestyle choices.

"How can we keep people out of the emergency room.  How can we get people to make healthy choices so they're not sick in the first place.  The emergency room is not the place for chronic disease," says Dr. Nancy Stanley, Director of the local Mercy Medical Clinic and a hospital employee.

"One weekend I worked as a physical therapist at the hospital and there were two 40-year-old men in there who had had strokes.  The reason they had strokes was they didn't have blood pressure medicine that cost four dollars.  They were thinking I can't afford the doctor and I can't afford the medicine, so they didn't get it.  Now, guess who's paying for their medicine for the rest of their lives, we are," Dr. Stanley notes.

She says the Mercy Medical Clinic, which cares for low income and unemployed people, treats people everyday who have made poor choices about their health.

"People who come to the Mercy Medical Clinic are in their 40's and 50's.  We see people who have made poor lifestyle choices whether it's food, cigarettes or mental health.  It's never an encouraging thing to have to seek healthcare." she says.

Dr. Stanley is leading an effort to form a network of caregivers which will apply for federal grants promoting better lifestyle choices and making sure the community supports healthier living.

"They way you do that is you increase the opportunities and you decrease the barriers.  Barriers in this community are we don't have bike routes, we don't have adult activities for exercise and we don't have healthy food choices like farmers' markets and we also have too much dollar menu and not enough affordable, healthy food," she believes.

Last month Dr. Stanley hosted a meeting of local stakeholders as the first step in forming a community network.   

 

July 16-- Pinning ceremonies were held for Southeastern Tech’s newest Practical Nursing class in Tattnall Auditorium on the college’s campus.

{mosimage}Nine students met their instructors on stage: Amanda Connelly and Jamie Heckel of Collins, Bethany Odum of Glennville, Jennifer Darden and Kelly Hinson of Lyons, Trellis Ivey and Melody Truett of Mount Vernon, and Rebekah Barr and Ashley Phillips of Vidalia.

Though the focus was on the graduating students, they were quick to credit their friends and families.

“This celebration is not only the result of the hard work of the students on the stage, but your hard work as well,” said Barr. “You’ve provided us with the support, love, and dedication that we have all needed as we have walked through this journey.”

The graduates recounted moments the group shared and joked with their instructors in a speech before the pinning and a slide show after.

“I don’t know how you managed to survive us, but we’re so glad you did,” said Darden. “You have listened to our whining, put up with our arguing, set us straight when we were sure that we knew more than you did, and yet through all that and more, none of you ever laid a hand on us.”

Though the mood was gracious and light-hearted, in the end, it was about celebrating the students and their work. From varied backgrounds and ambitions, they put in the hours to earn their ceremony.

“The truth is that maybe not all of us on the stage tonight grew up wanting to become a nurse or knew that’s what we wanted to be,” said Darden. “But over the last year and a half that’s what’s happened. We have developed hands that move to heal, hearts that care for the broken, ears that listen to what is unspoken, and eyes that see what may be hidden. We have become nurses.”

 

July 16--  School is starting next month and the Toombs County school board is still looking for a new school superintendent. 

According to school board chairman Daniel Caraway, 42 people have applied for the job.

Outgoing Superintendent Dr. Kendall Brantley says the board will narrow the field to its top three choices.

"They've got to narrow that list, then they've got to go through the interview process and then narrow the list to at least three and make the public aware of who those three folks are," Dr. Brantley says.

Dr. Brantley submited his resignation in March and said he was hopeful the board would have had a new superintendent on board by July 1.

The school board approved the school system's tentative fiscal year 2013 budget at its meeting Thursday night.  The general fund budget amounts to $22.7 million dollars.  That's $600,000 more than this year primarily due to increased health care cost and salary increases for teachers.

"The additional coverage pushed up the budget and it was about $600,000 with the classified employees insurance plus the salary increase for training and experience in our system," he explained.

Meanwhile, the school board is wrestling with how to reduce the cost of building a new Toombs County High School.  Dr. Brantley says the estimated $24 million needs to come down by at least $2 million and the board is looking at reducing the size of the proposed 210,000 square foot school by at least 25,000 square feet.

At the same time, the proposed location for a new Toombs Central Elementary School adjacent to the current school has a problem.

"You can't build a new school within 750 feet of a highway right-of-way according to a change in state law.  That puts us at odds of whether we can build a new school at the Toombs Central site because U.S. One runs in front and the proposed new bypass runs behind it," Dr. Brantley reports.

Dr. Brantley says a Department of Transportation waiver may be possible. He notes the timeline to build the new school is three years out and that gives some time to resolve the issue.

July 13-- Gov. Nathan Deal reported today that the State of Georgia’s net tax collections for the month of June totaled $1.54 billion, an increase of $39 million, or 2.6 percent, compared to June 2011. For fiscal year 2012, which ended June 30, net revenue collections totaled $16.1 billion, which is an increase of $742 million, or 4.8 percent, compared to the previous fiscal year.

Despite softer than expected revenue collections at the end of the fiscal year, positive year-over-year growth continued for the eighth consecutive quarter; net revenues topped out at $4.3 billion for the fourth quarter compared to $4.1 billion last year.

The following changes within the various tax categories led to the overall net revenue increase in June:
 
Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections for June 2012 totaled $780.75 million, down from $782.5 million in June 2011— a decrease of ($1.75 million) or -0.2 percent.

The following notable components within Individual Income Tax account for the decrease:
 
•      Individual Tax Return payments were up $14 million, or 77.5 percent

•      Individual Income Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) were down ($9.5 million), or -16.4 percent
•      All other Individual categories including Withholding payments were down a combined ($25.3 million)

Sales and Use Tax: Net Sales and Use Tax collections for June 2012 totaled $429 million, down from $439 million in June 2011— a decrease of nearly ($10 million), or -2.2 percent. The monthly Sales Tax Distribution to local governments totaled $401.5 million, which was an increase of $35 million, or 9.6 percent, compared to last year.

Corporate Income Tax:  Corporate Income Tax collections for June 2012 rose by $43 million, or 38.7 percent, up from $111 million in June 2011 to $154 million in FY2012. 

The following notable components within Corporate Income Tax make up the increase:
 
•      Corporate Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) were down ($31.5 million), or -70.5 percent

•      Corporate Tax Return payments were up $10.75 million, or 26.2 percent

•      All other Corporate Tax categories combined for an increase of $0.75 million, or 0.75 percent

 

July 13-- Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA-09) released the following statement on the heels of the Obama Administration’s announcement that it would violate the 1996 welfare reform law by waiving the law’s work requirements. 

The 1996 law mandated that able-bodied adults should be required to work or prepare for work as a condition of receiving welfare aid.  The bi-partisan welfare reform law  substantially decreased overall poverty and child poverty in America.  The Obama Administration has decided that the Department of Health and Human Services can waive or override the work requirements in this law. 

“Once again, President Obama is showing the American people that his vision for the United States is one of debt and dependency, instead of opportunity and prosperity.  Instead of empowering the American people, it is clear the President wants more citizens on the public dole, making it harder for them to escape poverty.  We already know that, since President Obama took office, the amount of taxpayer dollars paying for food stamps doubled.  Gutting the welfare reform law is one more tactic by the President to expand the welfare state, rather than equipping those who need assistance to be successful on their own.”

“The degree to which the Obama Administration will ignore the law of the land or circumvent the legislative process, as outlined in our Constitution, is truly frightening.  If the President doesn’t like a law, he ignores it.  If he can’t get what he wants through the legislative process, President Obama rules by decree.  The Obama Administration is an imperial Presidency at its worst.”

Background:
The work requirements in the 1996 welfare reform law are part of a program called “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families” (TANF).  The Obama Administration issued a new directive stating that TANF work requirements could be avoided through a legal device called a “section 1115 waiver authority” under the Social Security law.  Section 1115 lets the Department of Health and Human Services waive only parts of the law listed in section 1115 itself.  However, the TANF work provisions are not listed in section 1115, and are not able to be waived under the section 1115 waiver authority.

According to the Heritage Foundation, 2.9 million fewer children lived in poverty in America in 2003, after the welfare reform law was implemented, compared to 1995.  Welfare caseloads had also been cut in half.

Examples of The Obama Administration ignoring the laws enacted by Congress or circumventing the legislative process:

    • The Department of Justice announced it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act.

    • The Obama Administration said it would not enforce the deportation of young illegal immigrants, as outlined by the federal immigration law.

    • After Congress rejected President Obama’s cap-and-trade energy tax plan, President Obama’s EPA classified carbon dioxide as a pollutant so it could regulate it under the Clean Air Act.

July 13--  Two Republican candidates in the 12th Congressional Republican Prmary July 31 are criticizing Congressman John Barrow for voting against repeal of Obamacare this week. 

Both Wright McLeod of Augusta and Maria Sheffield of Dublin released statements calling Barrow to task for his vote.

Wright McLeod, Republican candidate for Georgia’s 12th Congressional District, today blasted John Barrow for his vote against repealing ObamaCare.

“Congressman Barrow continues to ignore the wishes of 12th District voters by voting against repeal of ObamaCare. He’s not interested in representing us, and that is everything that is wrong with Washington, D.C. today,” said McLeod.

“I still believe it is unconstitutional for the government to force Americans to purchase health insurance, and I will do everything in my power once elected to repeal ObamaCare and inject more capitalism into the American health industry,” said McLeod.

Congressional Roll Call Votes show that Barrow voted against final passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – better known as ObamaCare – on March 21, 2010; voted against repeal on January 19, 2011; and again voted against repeal on July 11, 2012.

McLeod has signed the Independent Women’s Voice Repeal Pledge and released a commercial promising to introduce legislation to repeal ObamaCare once elected. He is endorsed by FreedomWorks, Combat Veterans for Congress, and Georgia Right to Life.

The Sheffield campaign released the following.

Congressman John Barrow on ObamaCare: Flip. Flop. Fail.

John Barrow Supports Largest Tax Increase in History

Trying to be all things to all people, John Barrow has proven to be nothing to everyone

Congressman Barrow voted against Obamacare when it first passed the House and later voted against its repeal.

First, Congressman John Barrow promised President Obama he was working “hand-in-hand” with him. Then, he was against ObamaCare. FLIP.

Today John Barrow is for ObamaCare. FLOP.

Congressman John Barrow has voted for the largest tax increase in history while demonstrating the only thing he cares about is his personal, political career. FAIL.

Congressman John Barrow can’t be trusted to take a consistent position – or a position of integrity – on important issues. Except, when comes to supporting the largest tax increase in history and attacking healthcare freedom in America.

This is the most egregious example of the John Barrow Washington Double-Talk Two Step.

In trying to be all things to all people, John Barrow has proven to be nothing to everyone.

Instead of standing with honor and telling Georgia what he stands for – John Barrow has shown Georgia we simply cannot trust him.

Honest Americans can be for or against ObamaCare – but only a self-absorbed, career politician can vote no and yes – on the exact same issue.

The people of GA 12 – Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or Independent cannot trust John Barrow.


 

 

 

July 12--  There's a chance Toombs County will land a new industry involved in converting wood products into energy.

Toombs County Development Authority Director Bill Mitchell told Toombs County Commissioners Tuesday a proposal is being developed for an unnamed company which uses new technology to convert wood into a charcoal type product for export overseas.  He says the company is looking at land north of Highway 130 and would build an $8 million plant and employ up to 70 people in five years.

In actions at its July meeting, the commissioners approved a variety of contracts to be paid for with over $190,000 in sales tax revenue.

One of the projects could provide a high return on investment if approved by the state's Environmental Protection Division.  The commission okayed spending nearly $35,000 with an Arizona company to supply a huge canvas tarp to cover working cells at the county landfill.  They claim it will save the county nearly $700,000 annually by saving space at the landfill, reducing the amount of cover dirt and the amount of labor needed to maintain the cells.

Other contracts awarded are:

* $77,842 to Sikes Brothers to build a new county convenience center near Normantown.

* $27,400 to various vendors for new EMA radios.

* $7,695 to Hub Communications for upgrades to EMS radios.

* $9,569 to Secure Georgia, Inc of Glenwood for courthouse security.

* $7,995 to Southeast Business Machines of Baxley for a copier for the Clerk of Court's office as part of a Digital Plat project.

* $26,700 to Harton Automotive for a new vehicle for the EMS Director.

Commission chairman Buddy West also announced that both courtrooms in the courthouse will be renovated in the next few weeks using funds from the court system.

The board also reappointed members of the Board of Tax Assessors to staggered terms .  They are George Powell, Gary Tapley, Sonny Odum, Carl Sharpe and Randy Usher.

 

July 11--  A Democrat from South Georgia and a Republican from North Georgia voted on opposite sides of the effort to repeal Obamacare today in the U.S. Congress.

The office of 12th District Congressman John Barrow issued the following statement after the Congressman voted against repealing the law.

"U.S. Congressman John Barrow (GA-12) today announced that he would vote against the full repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordability Care Act (PPACA).  After voting against the bill in the House Energy and Commerce Committee and twice on the House floor, Congressman Barrow has led the effort to change the law to remove burdensome regulations and mandates on businesses, while fighting to lower insurance costs on Georgia’s families.

“When it comes to the health care law, Democrats and Republicans have it all wrong,” said Congressman Barrow.  “I stood up to both parties and voted against a bill that costs too much and does nothing to lower health care costs.  I voted against repeal, and will do it again, because we need to end things like insurance companies denying coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions, denying preventive care like mammograms, and making women pay more for coverage.  Only in Washington is all or nothing an acceptable solution.  In Georgia, we have more common sense than that.  This vote isn’t about helping families, it’s about scoring political points -- and the folks in the 12th District expect more from us.”

Since it was signed into law, Congressman Barrow has worked tirelessly to repeal the mandates, taxes, and burdensome regulations contained in the PPACA.   In 2010, he was successful in his efforts to repeal the overly burdensome 1099 reporting requirement. In 2011, Congressman Barrow was the lead co-sponsor of legislation to repeal the employer mandate in the health care law. And in March 2011, Congressman Barrow introduced bipartisan legislation that would preserve consumer access to licensed insurance agents and brokers by excluding their commissions from the so-called Medical Loss Ratio, which has caused insurers to dramatically cut the commissions to agents and brokers that they depend on in order to serve their customers."

Ninth District Republican Congressman Tom Graves voted to repeal Obamacare and issued this statement.

"Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA-09) voted in favor of H.R. 6079, the Repeal of Obamacare Act.  The bill would fully repeal the President’s health care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which is commonly known as Obamacare.  Rep. Graves is also a co-sponsor of the repeal legislation.

“The House took a positive and essential step today towards getting rid of Obamacare.  Besides trampling on the Constitution and personal responsibility, the law is ungainly, intrusive into the families of America, and a drag on the American economy.  It raises taxes, increases health care costs, and destroys jobs.  At a time when the Congressional Budget Office is telling Americans the national debt will approach $20 trillion by the end of the decade, we simply can’t afford to pay for the President’s health care experiment. It's now time for the Senate to take up this bill so the American people can know where their Senators stand on Obamacare.”

“Once we’ve woken up from the Obamacare nightmare, Republicans are committed to a thoughtful, common-sense approach to reforming the health care system in America.  Any new reforms must let families make their own health choices, visit the doctors they want, and receive the care they and their doctor feel is best.  It’s time for a patient-centered, patient-driven, free market-focused solution for health care.”

Background:
Today’s vote was the 33rd time the Republican-led House has voted to dismantle part or all of Obamacare.  The first bill Rep. Graves introduced when he became a member of Congress, H.R. 127, would defund Obamacare.


 

 

 

July 11--  It takes a special kind of low life to steal from a cemetery and the Toombs County Sheriff's Office is asking the public for help.

{mosimage}Sheriff Junior Kight reports about a hundred bronze flower vases like the one shown here were discovered stolen from graves at Lakeview Memorial Gardens Wednesday.

If you have any information on the case, contact the Sheriff's Office at 526-6778.

July 11-- AUBREY LEE PRICE, 46, originally from Lyons, Georgia, was indicted today by a federal grand jury sitting in the Southern District of Georgia on a charge that he defrauded the Montgomery Bank & Trust, Ailey, Georgia, of over $21 million.  On July 6, 2012, Georgia regulators closed the Montgomery Bank & Trust and appointed the FDIC as receiver.

            {mosimage}According to the allegations in the Indictment, in 2010, an investment group controlled by PRICE invested approximately $10 million in the failing Montgomery Bank & Trust (“MB&T”).  PRICE was then made a director of MB&T and put in charge of investing the bank’s capital.  Over the next eighteen months, PRICE stole, misappropriated and embezzled over $21 million from MB&T.  To cover up his fraud, PRICE provided MB&T officials with bogus account statements which falsely indicated the bank’s capital was safely held in an account at a financial services firm.  As a result of PRICE’s alleged fraud upon MB&T, the bank’s cash assets and reserves were depleted.

            U.S. Attorney Edward J. Tarver said, “Montgomery Bank & Trust is the 32nd FDIC-insured bank to fail in the nation this year, and the 6th in Georgia.  When bank failures are caused by the greed and criminal conduct of others, those responsible will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law by our team of federal agents and prosecutors.”

            PRICE has been missing for over three weeks.  Anyone with information on PRICE’s whereabouts is urged to contact the FBI.  A reward of up to $20,000 is being offered.                                            

            PRICE is charged with one count of bank fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000.  Tarver emphasized that an indictment is only an accusation and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the Government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

            The indictment of PRICE arises out of an ongoing and joint investigation by FDIC-OIG Special Agent John Crawford; Federal Reserve Board OIG Special Agent Amy Whitcomb; and, FBI Special Agent Ed Sutcliff.  First Assistant United States Attorney James Durham is prosecuting the case for the United States.

July 11--  For the first time in its history, members of the Vidalia Board of Education have earned the honor of being a "Board of Distinction" by the Georgdia School Boards Association.  Only about half of the school boards in Georgia have achieved this level.

{mosimage}

Left to right: David Johnson, GSBA President; school board members Bruce Asberry and Doug Roper and Jeannie (Sis) Henry, GSBA Executive Director

The award was given at the association's annual summer conference last month in Savannah. To earn the designation, the school board had to meet GSBA criteria.

*Compliance with GSBA Standards for Local Boards of Education Have implemented the GSBA Board/Leadership Team Self Assessment Checklist

* Formalize the superintendent's evaluation incorporating district goals.

*Provide a web link to the local district's policy manual posted to the Internet.

*Provide a copy of, or a web link to, the board's goal-setting model and a listing of the district's goals.

*Provide a web link to postings of monthly board meeting agenda.

*Provide a stated plan to integrate technology at the governance level of the local district.

*Good standing with state accrediting agencies.

*Participate in the GSBA Standards for Local Boards of Education.

GSBA is a voluntary association of Georgia's 180 locally elected boards of education. It provides programs, training and services to assist boards in governing local school systems.

July 11--  Vidalia's new school superintendent will wear two hats for up to a year to save money.

Tuesday night the Vidalia school board approved Superintendent Dr. Garrett Wilcox's recommendation that he also remain the principal at Vidalia High School this coming school term because of rising costs facing the school system.{mosimage}

"At this present time, I think for at least six to a 12 months period I could continue to serve as principal.  I'm not getting a raise to continue to serve as principal, but I think we have enough leadership over there to get through a year.  What that year means to me is possibly saving a teaching job and it does a second thing because I think it will create an opportunity to have more leadership type people viewed in that building," Wilcox told the board.

Dr. Wilcox promised to give the school board monthly updates on how it's working and said he'd be the first to admit if it's not.  

In other actions, the school board agreed to award a $48,500 contract for the installation of 57 security cameras on the campus of Vidalia High School.  Secure Georgia, Inc of Glenwood is expected to start work on the project next week.

It also approved a school system budget of $26.2 million for fiscal year 2013.

July 10--  Three small towns in Montgomery County may lose out on collecting sale tax proceeds for the next ten years starting in January.

State law requires that towns must provide at least three of six basic services in order to collect local option sales tax revenue. Those servces are water, sewer, garbage collection, police and fire protection and library services.

The towns of Tarrytown, Alston and Higgston are in the process of making sure they can qualify and will be required to certify their eligibility. 

The Montgomery County Commission has called a meeting July 23rd to finalize plans on sharing the sales tax.   

July 10--  Twelfth District Congressman John Barrow voted against a resolution Tuesday which allows the House of Representatives to vote on the repeal of Obamacare Wednesday.

The resolution to vote on repeal passed the House 240 to 182.  Four Democrats joined 236 Republicans to bring the vote to the floor. 

Congressman Barrow voted against Obamacare when it first passed the House and later voted against its repeal.

July 10--  Over two years ago local District Attorney Hayward Altman shut down 29 convenience stores in Toombs and Emanuel counties for video gambling.  Last month he did it again and closed down four stores in Candler County and six in Emanuel.

Many of the stores hit in the original raid are out of business today and Altman says those apprehended in the latest raids are facing criminal prosecution.

"They didn't seem to get the message and this time the punishment is going to be a little bit more severe.  Warrants were taken and we'll go to the grand jury once we get all the reports in from the law enforcment agencies and they'll be subject to criminal prosecution and we're also filing civil cases, too," the DA reports. 

Altman says he's had no further reports he can confirm of video gambling violations in Toombs County but promises to prosecute if he finds evidence.

He says many of the stores hit last month were making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year off the games and one store had made more than a million dollars.

July 10--  Middle Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Kathy Palmer has some additonal responsibities in the next two years.

{mosimage}She's been elected to be the Administrative Judge in the 8th Judicial Administrative District which includes five of the judicial circuits in South Georgia.

The election by other judges in the five circuits makes Judge Palmer the top judicial officer in the area and places her on the statewide Judical Council of Georgia.

The appointment took effect July 1st and includes the job of appointing judges to hear cases outside their judicial circuits.

July 9--  The Altamaha EMC in Lyons is alerting the public to a scam according to a press release issued today.

"Altamaha EMC reports that electric customers nationwide are falling victim to a scam that uses President Barack Obama's name in an effort to obtain personal information.  Scammers claim the government will help pay utility bills for residential customers through a special federal program. It's a ruse to obtain personal information such as Social Security numbers and banking information that they use to steal victims' identities.  Scammers are conning victims by going door to door, posting fliers or contacting them by phone, email, text-message and other social media.

After the crooks obtain the victims' personal information, scammers give them a phony bank routing number to pay their bills. Of course, no government funds are applied to their accounts and the full balance of their bills remains due.

Altamaha EMC warns customers not to allow people claiming to be utility employees into their homes without checking for proper identification.   All Altamaha EMC employees always carry photo identification and drive vehicles with the Altamaha EMC logo marked on the doors.  It also wants customers to know that Altamaha EMC employees don't ask for sensitive information such as social security numbers, bank account numbers, etc.

Tammye Vaughn, Manager of Marketing and Communications for Altamaha EMC, says, “Our employees typically visit a home only in response to a service call.  If you did not call us to request a service call, don’t allow anyone claiming to be an EMC employee into your home.  To verify the authenticity of anyone claiming to be an Altamaha EMC employee, call our office at 912-526-8181.”

Altamaha EMC encourages its customers to be vigilant at all times and to notify local police if they believe they are a victim of this fraudulent scheme.  Please warn family members or friends who may be susceptible to such schemes."

 

July 9--  A Toombs County man who was beaten and burned July 4th died Monday morning at Doctors Hospital in Augusta.

Toombs County Coroner Ron Hall says an autopsy will be performed on Shannon Sharpe to determine the exact cause of death.

Sharpe was found behind his burned out mobile home on the Dorsey Jordan Road south of Santa Claus.  Sheriff Junior Kight said he had head injuries and had been badly burned before escaping from the fire.

At the time, Sheriff Kight said robbery may have been the motive.  No arrests have been reported.

July 7-- Toombs County’s most well-known products are decidedly agricultural in nature, but over the past two summers, a number of industrious Toombs students decided to go in a slightly different direction—they built robots.

{mosimage}Vidalia played host to five robotics summer camps last month organized by Vidalia Comprehensive High School (VHS) science teacher Jeff Ikner (center, with students and their robots.)

“As a physics teacher I look for careers that are opening up for my students,” said Ikner. “Robotics, nuclear engineering, biomedical engineering, and biophysics are areas that are expanding in America, and we should start to prepare our students at an early age for these positions.”

This year’s camps, organized by grade level, were held at J.R. Trippe Middle School and Southeastern Technical College’s Economic Development Center. All the camps had students build and program, but the materials and events were slightly different between the high school students and the younger camps.

While the younger campers competed against one another, the high schoolers programmed their machines, at first, to perform much like the automated vacuum, iROBOT Roomba—the machines moved, sensed obstacles, and changed direction according to programming.

 

After this, students were asked to make their machines perform one of several more practical tasks. One challenge asked campers to design a system that would detect a pollinator and get an arm to move in order to take a picture of the pollinator.

“For instance, if one wanted continuous 24-hour monitoring of a plant to determine what pollinates the plant, one wouldn't want to do this oneself,” said Ikner. “A robot with an ultrasonic sensor and a servo activating a camera could perform the task without needing sleep.

The robotics camps began with Lisa Adams, project leader for the Southeast Georgia Advanced Manufacturing and Distribution Work Ready Region and former chair of the Southeastern Tech Board of Directors. After writing a grant for STC that focused on encouraging students into industrial engineering and manufacturing, she ordered the industry-standard equipment that would be used in the camps and approached 11 school systems with the plans for the camps.

She gained the interest of Vidalia’s schools, and the first camp was held last year in VHS’s physics lab.

“I think that once this is out there and more people talk about it, interest will increase at other high schools as it increased in the Vidalia system,” said Ikner.

Interest is certainly up around the camps. Last year’s only needed one session to accommodate 27 students. This year, the campers numbered closer to 70: a surge that caught Ikner by surprise and didn’t end even when the camps were under way.

“We had 28 students signed up for one camp, and we had to shift eight of them to other weeks,” said Ikner. “We had around 20 other students call a week after camps were over to sign up, and a few called during.”

 

July 6-- Montgomery Bank & Trust, Ailey, Georgia, was closed today by the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance, which appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as receiver.  To protect the depositors, the FDIC entered into a purchase and assumption agreement with Ameris Bank, Moultrie, Georgia, to assume all of the deposits of Montgomery Bank & Trust.

The two branches of Montgomery Bank & Trust will reopen on Monday as branches of Ameris Bank.  Depositors of Montgomery Bank & Trust will automatically become depositors of Ameris Bank.  Deposits will continue to be insured by the FDIC, so there is no need for customers to change their banking relationship in order to retain their deposit insurance coverage up to applicable limits. 

Customers of Montgomery Bank & Trust should continue to use their existing branch until they receive notice from Ameris Bank that it has completed systems changes to allow other Ameris Bank branches to process their accounts as well.

This evening and over the weekend, depositors of Montgomery Bank & Trust can access their money by writing checks or using ATM or debit cards.  Checks drawn on the bank will continue to be processed.  Loan customers should continue to make their payments as usual.

As of March 31, 2012, Montgomery Bank & Trust had approximately $173.6 million in total assets and $164.4 million in total deposits.  In addition to assuming all of the deposits of the failed bank, Ameris Bank agreed to purchase approximately $12.4 million in assets, comprised mainly of cash and cash equivalents.  The FDIC will retain the remaining assets for later disposition.

Customers with questions about today's transaction should call the FDIC toll-free at 1-800-640-2693.   The phone number will be operational this evening until 9:00 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time (EDT); on Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., EDT; on Sunday from noon to 6:00 p.m., EDT; on Monday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., EDT; and thereafter from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., EDT.  Interested parties also can visit the FDIC's Web site at http://www.fdic.gov/bank/individual/failed/montgomery.html.

The FDIC estimates that the cost to the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) will be $75.2 million.  Compared to other alternatives, Ameris Bank’s acquisition was the least costly resolution for the FDIC's DIF.  Montgomery Bank & Trust is the 32nd FDIC-insured institution to fail in the nation this year, and the sixth in Georgia.  The last FDIC-insured institution closed in the state was Security Exchange Bank, Marietta, on June 15, 2012.

 

July 6--  The city of Vidalia denies charges that it gives illegal immigrants safe harbor by allowing them to live, travel and work in the city.

A Twin City resident with a history of filing complaints about illegal immigrants filed the charges with the state's new Immigration Enforcement Review Board.

Michael Dale Smith accuses Vidalia Mayor Ronnie Dixon and Lark Builder's owner Bob Moore of having an unwritten policy that allows Lark's immigrant employees who are arrested to be released and allowed to return to work.

"I tell you what.  Have Mr. Moore show you that identification and see how many social security numbers come up fraudulent and he's not the only one, there's others in Vidalia.  You've had illegal aliens in that city for a long time and others around here, too.  It's cheap labor and the businessmen and the farmers have been doing the game and it's time for punishment.  People going to be punished," Smith says.

Smith has been unemployed for 11 months and wants illegal aliens who are working to be fired and sent home and replaced with U.S. citizens.  He has written at least eight letters to employers and organizations since 2010 as part of his campaign.

Lark Builders says it has no agreement with Vidalia regarding its employees and Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits says all suspected illegal immigrants are treated the same.

"First we're going to run them on the computer and if we get nothing back, we notify ICE and they let us know something or tell us to hold the person until they can find out something," Waits says.

Georgia's new immigration law created a state board to police enforcement and a sub-committee of the board will further investigate Smith's claims and determine if a hearing is required.

Vidalia city manager Bill Torrance says the city will cooperate fully with any investigation.

"We've done absolutely nothing wrong.  There is no policy creating a sanctuary city in Vidalia. We're going to cooperate fully with any investigation because we have nothing to hide," Torrance said.

The state law provides punishment to include the loss of state funding for government agencies and fines of up to $5,000 for officials who "knowingly" violate the immigration law.

July 5-- In the case of missing Montgomery Bank director Lee Price, there's a correction.

Initial law enforcement reports on his disappearance said he left a suicide note on a ferryboat he allegedly boarded at Key West, Florida.  

Thursday Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight said there was no note left on the boat, but that the Coast Guard did receive a suicide note from Price's family when he was reported missing.

"The family had sent the Coast Guard a copy of what appeared to be a suicide note saying that he was going to Key West and that he was going to jump off the boat," Sheriff Kight reports.

Authorities don't know if Price committed suicide or has fled.  A federal warrant has been issued claiming he embezzled $17 million from investors.  Price wrote a confession saying he had not taken any money and claiming he had committed fraud in the process of losing milliions of dollars which he managed for investors.

The FBI has issued the following news release in connection with Price.

"A director of a bank in southern Georgia who has been missing for two weeks has been charged in the Eastern District of New York with embezzling approximately $17 million in bank funds, which he had been entrusted to invest on the bank’s behalf. According to the complaint charging him with wire fraud, defendant Aubrey Lee Price, 46, disappeared after telling acquaintances that he had lost a large amount of money through trading activities and that he planned to kill himself. Anyone with information regarding Price’s whereabouts or the alleged crime is urged to contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation office in New York at (212) 384-1000 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Price was last sighted boarding a ferry boat in Key West, Florida, bound for Fort Myers, Florida, and has been missing since at least June 16, 2012.

The charge was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Janice K. Fedarcyk, Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office.

According to the complaint, Price became a director of the southern Georgia bank after PFG LLC, a company he controlled, bought a controlling portion of the bank’s stock in December 2010. In early 2011, Price took on the responsibility of investing the bank’s capital. Price opened brokerage accounts that cleared through a securities clearing and custodial firm in New York and told the bank’s management that he would invest the bank’s capital in treasury securities. The complaint alleges that, instead of investing the money as promised, Price fraudulently wired the bank’s funds to accounts that he personally controlled at other financial institutions and provided bank management with altered documents to make it appear as if he had invested the bank’s money in treasury securities.

According to the complaint, Price has told acquaintances that he owns real estate in Venezuela and Guatemala. Price recently traveled to Venezuela and returned to the United States from that trip on June 2, 2012.

The charge in the complaint is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted of wire fraud, the defendant faces a maximum sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment. The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys David C. Woll, Jr. and Brian Morris."

 

July 5--  Toombs County authorities are looking for the person who beat and set fire to the home of a county resident early Wednesday morning.

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight says Shannon Sharpe, described as a white man in his 40's, was severely beaten.  His mobile home on the Dorsey Jordan Road south of Santa Claus was allegedly set on fire.

"He was at his house and a guy came by and saw the trailer smoking about eight o'clock yesterday morning and called 911. They found Sharpe in the back yard. He had got out of the trailer but he had been burned bad. He had some trauma to his head and it appeared he had been beat up," the sheriff said.

The motive may have been robbery, according to the sheriff,  "That's the only thing we can come up with right now.  We don't of any enemies and everybody we've talked to said he got along with everybody."

Sharpe was taken to a Savannah hospital in critical condition.

        July 4 - - Thirteen students from the Toombs County FFA chapter were part of more than 2000 students who attended FFA-FCCLA Summer Leadership Camp 2012 at the Georgia FFA-FCCLA Center in Covington.

        Summer Leadership Camp is a week full of activities and leadership opportunities.  Camp activities include swimming, shooting sports, fishing, ropes course, talent show, and much more.  Students also enjoyed a hypnotist show and experienced riding horses, sliding down a giant slip and slide, riding a zip line, and playing on the new Blob.  On the last night of camp students participated in a muddy obstacle course.

        {mosimage}The students from the Toombs County FFA chapter attending camp included:

Clay Callahan, Mariella Villa, Breanna Mitchum, Matt Wilkins, Emma Owens, Jared Morris, Katelyn Collins, Vance Davis, Lance Joyner, Jacob Stallings, Wesley Ricks, Tiffany Renolds, and Mathew Manning.

        "Summer Leadership Camp provides a chance for FFA and FCCLA students from around thee state to grow and learn critical life skills while having exciting experiences that only happen art camp.  We have many great activities, but the ultimate goal is to change lives," says Russel Towns, Camp Manager.

        The Georgia FFA-FCCLA Center is located near Covington, on the banks of Lake Jackson.

 

July 3-- The missing bank director from Montgomery Bank and Trust left a 22-page confession which reflects his depression and despair following multi-million dollar losses which he says bankrupted his investment company and the holding company which was the majority stockholder in the bank.  

Below is the cover letter to Lee Price's confession written sometime before he disappeared June 16.  A suicide note from Price was later found on a Key West, Florida ferryboat.  Investigators don't know if he jumped from boat and drowned or used the note as a diversion for his escape.

{mosimage}  In his confession, Price claims he took no money from the bank, but accepts personal responsibility for fraudulently covering up the losses. Meanwhile, the U.S. Attorney in New York has filed criminal embezzlement charges against Price estimating he defrauded investors out of $17 million and may have fled on his boat to Venezuela.

Date: June 2012

Confidential Confession For Regulators

PFG, LLC and PFGBI, LLC Summary

I apologize in advance for the lack of structure, grammar and harmony of thought.

PFG, LLC and PFGBI, LLC (Montgomery Bank and Trust Investment) are the two investment vehicles that are essentially bankrupt.   I realize that time is up, and that there is no way that I can work my way out of the mess that I have created.   I have done all I can do to salvage the situation. 

I truly have worked day and night to try to make things work out.  It is difficult   to be productive and think correctly when stress and anxiety are so great.  My worst fear has come upon me.    I have not been successful at working  my way out of my horrendous financial mistakes.  The ability to macro manage, much less micro manage such a scenario has become impossible for me. The nightmares and anxiety seem to never stop. My rnind is completely gone. The steps that have led to this point are complicated.

I am 100% responsible for the losses I created.   I blame no one but myself.   Relating to PFG, LLC Investments, I falsified statements with false returns.  I created false financial statements and defrauded investors, regulators, other   work associates and bank employees.   I lost money through trading and various investments including the Montgomery Bank and Trust securities portfolio.

 I hid many things fraudulently and deceptively, to try and give myself more time to pull some positive returns together. I had hoped that positive equity trading returns could offset the losses incurred by the bank and losses incurred in bad real estate. But things got worse and worse. The compounded losses overcame me with shock.  I lost all focus and ability to trade under such extreme pressure to perform. It was only me and me alone. No one else had any knowledge of any fraudulent activity. 

 I estimate it is about 20-23 million dollars in losses excluding the Montgomery  Bank and Trust co-mingled Goldman Sachs securities account (about 15 million) introduced by Northpoint Trading Partners in Alpharetta, Georgia.  I also deceived Northpoint Trading partners and none of the employees there had any knowledge or understanding of what happened.  The Bank securities account was basically opened by accident.   I had hoped that we could set up a bond account with Goldman Sachs but the minimums were too   high to avoid higher commission and get better prices. This was discovered after the fact in February 2011.

My delay in confession was only to try and make things better than they are...to try and improve the situation even if by a little. To my even greater sadness, I have only made things worse.  I worked even to the end to try and improve the situation even if it was by a small amount.   My anxiety, the great pressure and lack of confidence only made my decisions more irrational, foolish    and hasty.   My spirit became broken even though I tried to persevere until the end to improve the situation for investors.  

 It really turned south when I got involved in the bank deal.  I was in way over my head even though I was told my other professionals that I need to trust those with the experience in banking to handling the banking business.  Honestly, I had no idea how to handle the complexity of problems at the bank.  The bank literally began absorbing my mental capital from the very beginning of the investment into the bank on December 31, 2010. It never quit to the very end as every financial reports got worse and each time my stress level move to higher and higher levels. The losses embedded in the bank's portfolio were much greater than anyone knew or understood.    No one was really able to clearly identify the amount of losses.  

There were many attempts by management and others, but no one ever got it right on appraisals on collateral or the cash flow of the borrowers. We were told over and over again that we would get good prices for the collateral even if we had to take the properties back-unfortunately, this was not true with any piece    of property.   Every month was more and more disappointing and deflating as the bank was just too deep in a hole. I did not understand the how bad things really were. 

When purchasing the bank, the current and former management believed that    we could make it and turn things around. I would have never done the deal if I had any idea of how bad things were. Each problem loan and problem issue at the bank compounded to the very end.  The problems were so immense, and I was too embarrassed to admit defeat and mistakes. Hiding problems cause mestasization. Pride is a terrible enemy in the investment world and in life. It was my pride that kept me from admitting failure. I kept trying to find solutions and work things out when it was an impossible task.   Of course.., the only solution was to bring more capital or increase capital to absorb the problem loans.

Those looking for answers need to understand that I tried to always believe    there is a miracle solution..that things can be cleaned up and made whole.  I held to this hope to the very end and compounded mistakes with fraud and deceit for which I am totally ashamed.  No need to talk about "should of or could of." There is no one else to blame as it rest totally on myself.

To be clear, nothing has been taken...only lost through stressful periods of    trading and bad investments.    My depression and discouragement have driven me to deep anxiety, fear and shame.  I am emotionally overwhelmed and incapable of continuing in this life. There is sadness of leaving this world, but most painfully, it is leaving with a life full of regrets and not being able to make restitution to all my clients.

I want to say that I am deeply, deeply sorrowful for the pain which I have    caused to my clients, regulators, my family and associates.   Not to undermine  any other investors or clients and the wrong that I have committed against them, I need to emphasize with all my heart, all sincerity, that l apologize to Mike Gunter, Steve Fletcher, Justin Zegalla and Kathryn Giardina.  Each of these worked tirelessly and completely innocently to help me build various parts of the business with no knowledge of any deceit or fraudulent activity. 

Other people that I involved and kept at a distance were Beccy Champion, Trae Dorough and the accountants of Montgomery Bank and Trust. These people had no idea of the fraud and are very good people who were deceived by me. The management or directors of Montgomery Bank and Trust had no idea what was going on either They trusted me, and I have let them down worse than ever;  None of these people had any knowledge of the fraud.  They had full confidence in me and for this I am most ashamed and heartbroken.  

I have broken the laws of our land and for this I am deeply remorseful and regretful.   It is the pain which I have caused that makes life too difficult to exist. Waking up in my world has no appeal whatsoever.   I did work to the end trying to find a solution and at the same time, carrying the heaviest of guilt, sorrow and shame.  The difficulty of this time is too hard to explain. I don't deserve any forgiveness or mercy and do not expect it.   I leave this world in shame, a ruined name and deep humiliation.   I am very, very sorry and regretful.   I cannot emphasize enough how very sorry I am for hurting clients and investors.   I am completely distraught and depressed over the hardship and pain I have caused clients.  I really gave all my best efforts to try and make things better or completely right for each investor. My time has just run out. I die and will be buried in shame and regret as I should. I have spent all my energy and I have lost all my will to continue to fight or live. There has been no hope and no beauty In this horrible valley...there has been no peace in this pain.

At this point, it would be better for me to exit this world and not cost the tax payers of our great country anything extra.  I have lost my name...my integrity. It is now over.   To my great shame and sorrow, I leave my family and loved ones with nothing but bad memories of a maximum stressed out husband and father.                                                                                                                                        

With Deepest Regrets, Sorrow and Sadness,

Aubrey Lee Price