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November 30--  A South Carolina woman was killed in a Toombs County traffic accident Thursday night.

According to Sheriff Alvie Lee Kight, Jr., on November 29, 2012, at approximately ten-forty-five P.M., Toombs County Deputies along with Georgia State Patrol, responded to a one vehicle accident that occurred on Highway 1, just south of Dorsey Jordan Road.  

The driver, 40-year-old Malana Carroll Chisholm of Charleston, appeared to have lost control of the vehicle and it overturned several times. She was ejected from the vehicle and was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident by Toombs County Coroner Ron Hall. 

 

 

 

The accident is under investigation by the Toombs County Sheriff’s Office and Georgia State Patrol.

November 30--  Area businesses may be missing out on thousands of dollars in state and federal tax credits for things they do everyday.

The Vidalia Employer Committee sponsored a seminar with a company that specializes in helping business owners take advantage of such opportunities.

"There's a federal tax credit where if you hire a veteran, you can get up to $9,600 just for hiring a veteran.  If you're a business and you buy new software or new equipment, you can get up to $1,250 just for training your employees to use the new technology in your business," says David McMillan.

McMillan reports large companies often take advantage of the tax credits, but they are available for small companies, too.

"Anytime you hear about big companies moving into the state like Kia or Caterpillar, they move here for tax credits and those same tax credits are available to small businesses.  If you're a business with ten employees or 50 or 100 employees that's a great opportunity for tax credits.  If your a doctor's office or a manufacturer, those are two great areas which are constantly buying new equipment and there's a tax credit on training your employees on the stuff you already bought," McMillan notes.

"There's a lot of money out there and all these programs get pre-approved by the State of Georgia or by the federal government," according to McMillan.

For more information, you can contact Heather Davis, chairperson of the Vidalia Employer Committee at 565-9700.

November 28--  Attorneys for Lyons businessman Michael Grimes are asking that a RICO suit against their client be dismissed.

Three former employees of Thriftway Foods in Lyons filed suit last month alleging Grimes engaged in inappropriate conduct and unconsented physical contact while he was their boss.

In a reply filed November 25 in Toombs County Superior Court, Grimes' lawyers denied the accusations and asked Judge Kathy Palmer to dismiss the case and require the three women to pay all costs.

November 28--  Property owners in Montgomery County are being warned about thieves representing themselves as county tax assessors.

The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office says an elderly woman in a rural part of the county was approached by a man who said he was working for the county tax assessor's office.  While she accompanied him out to confirm the location of a property line, his partner went into the woman's home and stole about $300 in cash.

A contractor working for Montgomery County is currently conducting a county-wife property revaluation; however, Sheriff Clarence Sanders says they will have a badge identifying themselves and that their trucks are marked.

Meanwhile, deputies are on the lookout for a white male, about six feet tall, driving a brown or gold Toyota truck.

Sheriff Sanders advises residents to deal only with personnel possessing an identification badge and asks that any suspicious situations be reported to his office.

November 27--  The Toombs County commission is expected to hire an accounting and financial manager from the private sector to be the new Toombs County manager.

The Commission announced Tuesday it would vote at its December 11th meeting on the hiring of 55-year-old John Jones from Eastman to succeed Doug Eaves who resigned earlier this year.

Commissioner Jeff McCormick and outgoing Commisisoner Louie Powell along with incoming Commission Chairman Blake Tillery and newly elected commissioners Wendell Dixon and Darriel Nobles were on the search committee.

McCormick says 45 people applied for the job and the committee narrowed it down to eight for interviews.

{mosimage}Jones has been the Controller for Bearden Oil Company in Eastman since 1993.  He graduated with a business degree in accounting from Valdosta State in 1980 and passed the CPA exam in 1987.  He's also held jobs in banking, business services and international business.

He's a former Deacon at the Eastman First Baptist and a past President of the Eastman Kiwanis Club.  He and his wife Holly have been married 29 years and have three grown children.

 

November 27--  Gov. Nathan Deal, Porsche President and Chief Executive Officer Detlev von Platen and numerous dignitaries broke ground today for Porsche North America’s new headquarters at Aerotropolis Atlanta. The 26.4-acre complex will employ 400 workers and create 100 jobs.

“Porsche’s new headquarters is a terrific asset to Georgia’s economy and moves us closer to becoming the No. 1 state in the nation in which to do business,” said Deal. “I’m confident One Porsche Drive will become a renowned address that stands for vision, innovation and success – as well as one of the greatest driving experiences in the world for the millions of travelers who arrive in our great state each year.”

Porsche’s expansion and new location, announced in May 2011, will consolidate U.S.-based Porsche employees from Porsche Cars North America as well as the company’s financial, business and consulting arms. The site will encompass not only the company’s U.S. headquarters, but the Porsche Technical Training Center as well as the Porsche Customer and Driving Experience Center, featuring a 1.6-mile test track and handling circuit. The company anticipates beginning operations in the first quarter of 2014.

“This world-class facility underscores our commitment to customers and dealers in the United States, which remains the single largest market for Porsche vehicles,” said president and chief executive officer of Porsche Cars North America Detlev von Platen. “Today’s ceremony symbolized Porsche putting down permanent roots here in Atlanta, a city we have proudly called home since 1998.”

The company chose Aerotropolis Atlanta after a global search for the best location to grow and showcase its brand. Proximity to the customer base represented by Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was a key factor in Porsche’s selection of the Aerotropolis site, the location of a former Ford Motor Company plant. Aerotropolis is owned and developed by Jacoby Development.

Partnering to assist the company with its expansion were the Georgia Department of Economic Development, City of Atlanta, City of Hapeville, InvestAtlanta, Fulton County and Clayton County. Blair Lewis, director of the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Corporate Solutions team, led the project team that assisted Porsche with its location.

“Effective collaborations help attract and keep company headquarters in Georgia,” said Chris Cummiskey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “Besides factors like workforce and logistics capabilities, the ability of community and state partners to team up and meet our companies’ needs is a large part of why Georgia, and Atlanta in particular, have proven a mecca for corporate headquarters.”

 

{mosimage}November 27--  The Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society (SOAPS) has rescued three male kittens in Lyons and needs a home as soon as possible since all local shelters and foster homes are full.  The kitties are currently at Four Rivers Veterinary Center on Highway 292 West in Vidalia.  SOAPS will provide a $100 voucher for neutering and there is no adoption fee.  Call Tiffany Moore, 912-535-8165, for info.

Meanwhile, two local pups will have a Merry Christmas after being tranported to Atlanta Pet Rescue where they found new homes in the metro area.

{mosimage}  Ceasar with his new Mom and Dad                                    

{mosimage}

 A little girl hugs her Miranda.

SOAPS is also trying to find a foster home to help a very pregnant little Daschund currently at the Vidalia Animal Shelter have a proper place to birth her puppies.  Call the Shelter for info.

 

November 27--  Sara Rich from Montgomery County Elementary School reports students there have been voting.  Here's the story.

"Montgomery County Elementary School recently gave its students two opportunities to learn what it means to participate in a democracy by exercising the right to vote.  First elections were held for fifth grade student council officers and fourth grade representatives.  Later first through fifth graders joined millions of other elementary students across the country in participating in a mock Presidential election. 

Student Council  -  Students from grades four and five voted for Student Council officers.  The results are:  President – Emily Walker; Vice President – Macie Pittman; Secretary – Trey Ricks; Treasurer – Sarah Ortiz; Fourth Grade Representatives – Ryan Holton and Jamiya Bryant. 

The four officers came from a field of twenty-four students who campaigned by making posters and giving speeches on the GMME Show (the school’s daily video broadcast).  Their speeches explained to the other students why they would be the best choice for the office and included their campaign slogan.

The officers have been charged with these responsibilities:  (1) Be a role model and demonstrate leadership in the school and community; (2) Conduct themselves with academic integrity and exemplary conduct; (3) Talk and listen to classmates and bring their ideas and concerns to the Student Council and to the principal; (4) Help plan and carry out school fundraisers and service projects; (5) Work well with the administration and other officers; (6) Promote school spirit and pride in the school.

The student council has already completed one service project this year—collecting and boxing cat and dog food for the Vidalia Animal Shelter.  Their next project will be the school’s Christmas store on December 12th-14th. Proceeds will be donated to the Montgomery County Emergency Food Pantry.

{mosimage}Presidential Election  - Students in front of presidential campaign posters are (l-r) Kevin DeLeon, Haylie Introcaso, A'Niree Russell, Clabe O'Connor, Justin Hanner and Caleb Horne. 

In the days before the mock Presidential election, teachers and students had access to internet resources instructing students about the importance of elections in America.  After casting their votes for Obama or Romney online in the school computer lab, students were given “I Voted” stickers just like adults received when they voted in the real election on November 6th.

{mosimage}Students voting in the school computer lab are (l-r) A'niree Russell, Trey Ricks, Macie Pittman and Kevin Deleon.

Thanks go to all of the boys and girls who worked hard composing speeches and making posters before the student council elections.  It is hoped that by holding the student council elections and a mock election for United States President, all students at Montgomery County Elementary School are learning what it means to take part in a democracy."

November 27-- Instructors at Southeastern Technical College have nominated eight of their students for the Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL) competition, according to Cindy Phillips, coordinator for the college’s GOAL program. 

GOAL, a statewide program of the Technical College System of Georgia, honors excellence in academics and leadership among the state’s technical college students.  GOAL winners are selected at each of the state’s 25 technical colleges as well as one Board of Regents college with a technical education division. 

Chosen for recognition by their instructors are Johnny Barfield of Lyons in Electrical Systems, Marsha Brooks of Reidsville, Eureka Bryant of Vidalia, and Lacey Phillips of Soperton in Medical Assisting, and Madison Brantley of Vidalia, LaShanda Rountree of Vidalia, Christopher Waters of Swainsboro, and Sharon Wyche of Lyons in Radiologic Technology.

"The purpose of the GOAL program is to spotlight the outstanding achievement by students in Georgia's technical colleges and to emphasize the importance of technical education in today’s global workforce," said Phillips.

A screening committee of administrators at Southeastern Tech will review each of the instructors’ nominations then conduct personal interviews with the students.  After the nominees have been ranked, four finalists will then be chosen to compete to be the STC’s GOAL winner for 2013.

The four finalists will then take part in another round of interviews and evaluations by a selection committee of representatives from local business and industry. That panel will consider the students’ qualities like academic achievement, personal character, leadership abilities, and enthusiasm for technical education. 

The student judged most outstanding will be designated as the college’s GOAL winner and move on to the regional competition.  Then, three from each of the three regions will make up the nine regional finalists, who will be named in April at the state GOAL conference in Atlanta.  The nine regional finalists will then move to the state level and compete for the title of state GOAL winner.

The student who earns the state GOAL winner title is also awarded the important responsibility of traveling the state as the ambassador for the entire technical college system.  To make that travel easier, the winner also receives a new car from Chevrolet, the statewide corporate sponsor of Georgia’s GOAL program.

November 27--  Environmentalists in southeast Georgia are seeking a court order to force the state of Georgia to enforce existing law regarding clean water.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Divison is allowing King Finishing in Screven County to discharge chemicals into the Ogeechee River even though the state withdrew the company's permit while a study is being done on damage to the river.

In the interim, Emily Markesteyn with the Ogeechee RiverKeeper wants a Superior Court judge in Screven County to stop the discharges.

"We have an obligation to the river basin and its people to stop any illegal and harmful discharge and that includes the filing of this latest Petition for Mandemus against the State of Georgia because they are allowing King Finishing to discharge without a permit and that's a violation of the Clean Water Act," she claims.

"They know what's going on and they know what they can do to stop it.  The Ogeechee River is number one on the Georgia Water Coalition's "Dirty Dozen" list.  In that report they talk about EPD's budget cuts and political cronyism in the Governor's Office and I think it all plays a part when it comes to protecting our natural resources," Markesteyn says.

Meanwhile, she reports citizens are calling and reporting troubling observations along the river.

"Most of the calls we receive from citizens are actually about not seeing wildlife.  Not seeing fish, birds and the animals and that, more than anything, is troubling to me," she reports. 

November 26--  A house fire in Toombs County was apparently started by a meth lab and led to the arrest of three people.

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight says the house on Turner Bridge Road caught fire just after midnight on Thanksgiving.  He believes a meth lab in woods near the house started the blaze.

{mosimage} {mosimage}{mosimage}

A man and two women are being charged with manufacturing of a controlled substance.  Thirty-year-old James Lee Partin suffered burns on his left arm and was taken to Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia.  The others are identified as 23-year-old Mallory Allen Partin (center) and 26-year-old Marilyn Tabitha Aeger.

November 26--  The editorial staff of The Augusta Chronicle alerts us of a federal tax increase coming up in January.

"America is about to do something to families that not even Russia or China do: pillage their inheritances.

The so-called estate tax – more pejoratively referred to as the “death tax” – is set to skyrocket Jan. 1 – from 35 percent to 55. And on a whole lot more families, as well: Currently, the tax applies to estates of $5 million or more; next year, it will extend to estates of $1 million or more.

The American Farm Bureau reports that means the tax will cover 97 percent of family farms.

The estate tax is a relic of class envy that not even Russia or China hold onto anymore.

It punishes families who have risked their capital and plied their sweat and tears to build businesses and work the land. And it is just another disincentive – albeit a huge one – for people to invest and grow businesses.

The estate tax often forces families to liquidate businesses and farms, robbing generations of families from carrying on
beloved enterprises they’ve grown up working for and nurturing.

It’s quite simply un-American at any level, and should rightfully be completely done away with. Yet this country is actually looking at increasing it.

How discouraging, when you can point to communist countries that have more family-friendly policies."

 

November 25--  There was an accidental death and a suspected murder-suicide over Thanksgiving weekend in the Vidalia area.

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports an elderly Toombs County man died of burns when his clothing caught fire Friday afternoon.  Seventy-eight-year old David Howell was using an acetelyne torch to weld a tractor part at his farm home near the Providence community.

Meanwhile, Saturday afternoon a shooting occurred in the 900 block of North Circle Drive in Vidalia.  A 28-year-old woman identified as Maranda Marie Nichols was killed in the shooting which occurred at the curb in front of her mother's residence where she had been talking to 28-year-old Samuel Tellu of Savannah.  She suffered a fatal headwound and fell in the street.  Vidalia police launched a search for Tellu who left the scene in a 2005 Mercury Mountaineer.

The vehicle was found early Sunday morning in the parking lot of Calvary Grace Baptist Church on Highway 280 in Ailey.  Inside police found Tellu dead of a suspected self-inflicted gunshot wound.  Montgomery County Coroner Joe Strickland says he understands Tellu is a soldier stationed at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah. 

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is assisting Vidalia police and Montgomery County authorities with the investigation. 

November 22-- Missing Male Steel Blue Weimaraner.  Last seen near Country Estates Blvd. His name is Blue.  

{mosimage}If found, call Ross or Jade Kelly at 912-293-4111 or 912-293-0717.  

November 22-- The Georgia Department of Labor announced today that the preliminary unemployment rate in the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha region rose to 11 percent in October, up one-tenth of a percentage point from 10.9 percent in September. The rate was 11.9 percent in October 2011.

The rate increased because there were 1,744 more layoffs in manufacturing, construction, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, administrative and support services, healthcare and social assistance, and accommodations and food services.         

Metro Athens continued to have the lowest area jobless rate at 6.2 percent, while metro Dalton had the highest at 11.2 percent. 

Meanwhile, Georgia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined to 8.7 percent in October, down three-tenths of a percentage point from 9.0 percent in September. The jobless rate was 9.7 percent in October a year ago.

Statewide, there were 3,971,700 jobs in October, up 36,000, or nine-tenths of a percentage point, from 3,935,700 in September. Over the year, Georgia gained 68,000 jobs, or 1.7 percent, from 3,903,700 in October 2011.

November 21-  The Boys and Girls Club of Toombs County has a lot to be thankful for this year. 

Over the weekend it moved from its original location in Vidalia to its brand new building at the corner of Winona and Third Streets.

{mosimage}Executive Director Tonjai Gaffney in the new computer lab which volunteers from Dot Foods helped install Tuesday said "We are so thankful.  The community has supported us and the children will be so excited when they come to see our new facility."

The new 8,000 square foot building was built in part with a $500,000 grant secured by the City of Vidalia and contains classrooms, a computer lab, a kitchen, game rooms and a gymnasium.  It also has room to expand and serve more boys and girls.

"We'll be able to serve more children and more parts of Toombs County.  I just think we'll be able to touch more lives with this new facility," Gaffney believes.

A ribbon-cutting and grand opening is being planned for January and word is that former heavyweight champion Evander Holifield is being booked by the National Boys and Girls Club to spotlight the event.

November 20--  A Lyons businessman accused in a civil suit of sexually-oriented inappropriate conduct with three former female employees refused to answer questions at a court hearing November 9 at the Toombs County courthouse.

Michael Grimes exercised his constitutional rights against self-incrimination under the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when questioned by the plantiffs' attorney Keith Pollette.

Pollette is representing Jessica Beasley, Skylar Moore and Chelsea White.  The trio is suing Grimes under provisions of Georgia's racketeering act and is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

Pollette says three witnesses backed up the allegations against Grimes at the hearing before Superior Court Judge Kathy Palmer.  In response to media questions last month, Grimes claimed the allegations are not true.

The judge continued an injunction she had earlier granted against Grimes which prevents him from transferring assets of his grocery company to other parties.  In so doing, she relaxed a provision of the injunction which had prevented Grimes from communicating with present and former employees regarding the lawsuit, however, he was cautioned against engaging in  threats or intimidation.

Attorneys for Grimes are expected to file an answer to the complaint by November 26.

November 19--  Toombs County employees will get a four percent raise next year if the County Commission approves a proposed budget of $9,272,576, an increase of $248,926 over this year.

A public hearing on the budget is set for December 11 at five p.m. before the regularly scheduled monthly commission meeting.

The commission agreed to pay off outstanding debts of $749,308.48 for county equipment and said the payoff will save the county $164,610.53 in interest payments

In other actions, two appointments were made to the Toombs County Development Authority.  Tommy Rollins will succeed Al Darley and Robert Greene will take the place of Pollyann Martin.

Nine members appointed to the county Recreation Board are Anthony Cowart, Tim Burkett, John Herndon, Joseph Hutchinson, Kim Stephens, George Garbutt, Angie Braddock, Amy Claxton and Keith Mosley.

November 18--  The Montgomery County Commission is considering a county budget for next year that is slightly less than its current budget.

County manager David Curry told commissioners at their November meeting the $3.3 million budget is $38,734 less primarily because the county is saving an estimated $157,000 by housing prisoners at the Coffee County jail.

He said the budget would be even less were it not for a planned county-wide property revaluation expected to cost about $78,000, a ten percent increase in health insurance premiums and a five percent longevity raise for the Clerk of Court, Probate Judge and Tax Commissioner. 

Curry also said the proposed budget may need to be amended by the new board of commissioners next year to accomodate any changes requested by newly elected county Sheriff Ladson O'Connor.

The commission also agreed to set up a meeting with the Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society to discuss an animal control and protection ordinance for the county.  SOAPS President Therisa Ingley said the organization gets phone calls about dogs being neglected and abused in the county.

The commission appointed John C. Davis, Jr. to succeed the late Don McArthur on the county Board of Health.

November 19--  Governor Nathan Deal attended the Georgia Ports Authority Board meeting today in Savannah and announced that as part of his FY2014 budget proposal, he will seek an additional $50 million in funding for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.

“I am committed to allocating funds and time to this pivotal link in our logistics network,”said Deal. “Expanding the Savannah Harbor is vital to our renewed economic growth and plays an integral role in helping make our state the No. 1 place in the nation in which to do business.”

If approved, the proposal will increase state funding for the deepening project to $231.1 million.

“Studies indicate that the port deepening will reduce shipping costs by at least $213 million a year,” said Georgia Ports Authority Board Chairman Robert Jepson. “The 5.5-to-1 benefit-to-cost ratio demonstrates that the expenditure would be a wise investment of federal dollars.”

Overall, the cost of the project is anticipated to be $652 million. The Record of Decision, signifying final federal approval for the project, was issued in October, allowing for construction to begin in 2013.

“The milestone decision made thus far by our federal agencies along with strong support from the state signifies great confidence in the surety and soundness of our deepening plan,” said Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Curtis Foltz. “We are and will continue to work diligently with our leaders in Washington to cultivate further funding for a successful port deepening.”

About the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project

Georgia’s deepwater ports and inland barge terminals support more than 352,000 jobs throughout the state annually and contribute $18.5 billion in income, $66.9 billion in revenue and $2.5 billion in state and local taxes to Georgia’s economy. The Port of Savannah was the second busiest U.S. container port for the export of American goods by tonnage in FY2011. The port also handled 8.7 percent of the U.S. containerized cargo volume and 12.5 percent of all U.S. containerized exports in FY2011.

For more information about the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project please visit www.gaports.com.

November 18--  Nine years ago Matt Jones graduated from Toombs County High School.  This year he is the school system's teacher of the year and says two Toombs County teachers, both of whom are deceased, are the reason he chose teaching as a career.

"I had Susan McIntyre in fifth grade and David Edenfield in seventh grade.  Mrs. McIntyre really cared about her students and their emotional needs and their personalities and how they were going through life.  Mr. Edenfield really instilled a love of learning in me.  He really lit a fire for history and I love world history and I can really trace that back to him," Jones said.

At the school board presentation of the award, Jones said his big disappointment was that his two mentors could not be there to see him receive the award.

His principal, Doug Alexander, says Jones has renewed the school's engineering and technology program.

"He's really revived our program.  It started out with just one class and it has blossomed from there.  He actually goes to the middle school a couple of periods a day because we're expanding our program to the eighth grade," Alexander points out.

{mosimage}Other teachers of the year at their schools (L-R) with School Superintendent Dr. Kim Corley are Deborah Brown, Lyons Primary School; Mandy Beasley, Toombs Central Elementary School; Matt Jones, Toombs County High School; Melanie Hart, Lyons Upper Elementary School and Marsha Pierce, Toombs County Middle School.

 

November 16-- Gov. Nathan Deal today informed the Obama administration that Georgia will not set up its own health care exchange, citing Obamacare’s one-size fits all approach and the high cost that the law places on states.

“I remain committed to common sense health care solutions that empower consumers to take responsibility for their own health, motivate the private sector and drive efficiencies for consumers, employers and governments alike,” Deal said. “I continue to hope that we might finally engage in a serious conversation about restoring meaningful flexibility to states around health care programs.”

Deal said the federal government needs to loosen regulations that restrict states’ options.

“We have no interest in spending our tax dollars on an exchange that is state-based in name only,” Deal said. “I would support a free market-based approach that could serve as a useful tool for Georgia’s small businesses, but federal guidelines forbid that. Instead, restrictions on what the exchanges can and can’t offer render meaningless the suggestion that Georgia could tailor an exchange that best fits the unique needs of its population.

“I have joined numerous other governors seeking guidance from the federal government on establishing exchanges. We’ve yet to receive serious answers to our questions. I will not commit Georgia taxpayers to a project with so many unknowns.”

November 16-- Rev. Franklin Graham tells Newsmax TV that America has “turned our backs on God.” America is in a deep economic quagmire — and it may take a complete economic collapse to change things, says the son of renowned evangelist Billy Graham.
Read the Full Story and See the Video — Go Here Now

November 16--  Churches in the area are coming together to hold a community-wide Thanksgiving Service Sunday night at Southeastern Technical College in Vidalia.

The service starts at six p.m. sponsored by the Toombs Area Ministerial Association and will be broadcast for those who cannot attend on Your Favorite, 98Q at 97.7 on your FM radio dial.

November 15--  The United Way Campaign in Toombs-Montgomery and Wheeler Counties exceeded all expectations.

{mosimage}

At the campaign Victory Luncheon Thursday, campaign officials reported collections had exceeded the $465,000 goal by $46,000 with money still being turned in.  By late Thursday, the total had risen to more than $518,000 and a final figure of at least $525,000 is predicted.

The total suprises campaign director Amy Sowell, "I had no idea it was going to go that high.  We set our goal this year three-and-a-third percent higher than last and I'm just thrilled at what this community can come together and do.  I was extremely surprised."

About half of the money pledged this year is coming from area industries and their employees.  The Industrial Division drive was led by Sherry Keene from Trane.  "I just think that people see the need and want to give back to the community and know there are people out there who need it," she said.

United Way Executive Director Patricia Dixon says, "It was the community doing it and they just blew our socks off.  We just praise the Lord for everybody.  We had a lady on our video that said bring a meal everyday to her was 'some kind of touch' and that's what we want to be, 'some kind of touch' and reach out to people in their time of need."

Here's a breakdown of various division results in the campaign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Division

 

Goal

 

Actual

 

% of Goal

Agri-Business

 

5,000

 

0.00

 

0.00%

Building/Trades/Utilities

 

45,500

 

54,378.37

 

119.51%

Education/Public Service

 

40,000

 

44,722.06

 

111.81%

Finance

 

20,000

 

18,626.10

 

93.13%

Industrial

 

220,000

 

262,060.24

 

119.12%

Professional/Medical

 

52,500

 

63,633.70

 

121.21%

Retail

 

25,000

 

17,757.20

 

71.03%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Special Events

 

32,000

 

30,208.98

 

94.40%

Special Gifts

 

25,000

 

26,836.00

 

107.34%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TOTAL

 

465,000

 

518,223

 

111.45%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 15--  This year's renovation project at J.D. Dickerson Primary School in Vidalia included a new kitchen and cafeteria which opened for business earlier this month.

{mosimage}Before that, Cafeteria Manager Cherry Hughes said food was being brought in from Sally Meadows Elementary.

"We started off the school year bringing food in from Sally Meadows to serve and now that's over, thank goodness," she reports.

Part of the $4.1 million dollar school remodelling project went to replacing kitchen equipment and enlarging the size of the kitchen for the 500 students in the school.  Hughes says they serve about 850 meals a day including 350 breakfasts and 500 lunches.

"The kids are all excited about it because it's all bright and shiny and all the girls are excited about it because we are able to do the work in a much larger area.  We have all new equipment which is top of the line and we're all learning to operate it with all the bells and whistles," she said.

{mosimage} Students from Mrs. Ann Harper's Pre-K Class enjoy lunch in the new lunchroom at J.D. Dickerson Primary School.

All public school cafeterias are serving new menues this year which comply with federal guidelines on nutrition.  That means less fried foods and more fruits and vegetables.  Hughes says it's gradually catching on with her patrons.

"We have to pay a lot more attention to what we serve and how we prepare it. We're giving them a lot more fruits and vegetables and the kids seem to be responding well to it.  A lot of them are just getting accustomed to some of the things they haven't seen in the past, but they're starting to try it now and taste it," she observes.

Vidalia school officials are also considering adding a new licensed practical nurse to the staff at J.D. Dickerson to monitor student health, particulary juvenile diabetes.

 

 

November 15--  The Ogeechee RiverKeeper issued the following news release this morning.

For the second year in a row, the Ogeechee River is # 1....but on a bad, bad list. 

Yesterday Georgia's leading water protection group named its "Dirty Dozen" for 2012, exposing the worst offenses to Georgia's water. The sites range from an unnecessary reservoir in northeast Georgia to a tire dump in southwest Georgia.The Georgia Water Coalition is a consortium of 175 conservation and environmental organizations, hunting and fishing groups, businesses, and faith-based organizations that have been working to protect Georgia's water since 2002. Collectively, these organizations represent more than 300,000 Georgians.

"This list not only highlights some of the most egregious water pollution problems in our state, but also calls attention to state policies that harm our rivers and waste our tax dollars," said April Ingle, executive director at Georgia River Network. "The sites on this list are examples of Georgia’s failures to protect our water, our fish and wildlife and our communities."

Topping the list for the second year in a row is the Ogeechee River where King America Finishing has been illegally discharging toxic pollution, highlighted by the devastating fish kill last year. A hazardous waste site adjacent to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Glades Reservoir proposed near Gainesville, a Flint River groundwater injection experiment near Albany, Richland Creek Reservoir proposed in Paulding County and Rayonier's pulp mill in Jesup round out the top six.

Minimum flow requirements on the Chattahoochee in Atlanta ranked seventh on the list, followed by a century-old navigational cut through the Satilla River salt marsh, a landfill with ties to Gov. Nathan Deal in Gainesville, Tired Creek Reservoir proposed near Cairo, the expansion of the Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant on the Savannah River and a tire dump in Cuthbert.

The Coalition's full report details the history of each site and provides solutions to correct these ongoing pollution problems and eliminate the listed threats. It is available online at: http://www.garivers.org/gawater/dirtydozen.htm.

The Coalition faults continuing funding cuts to Georgia's Environmental Protection Division (EPD), political cronyism at the highest levels of state government and the wasteful use of state tax dollars as the primary causes of these ongoing threats to our state's streams, rivers, lakes and coastal areas.

EPD has seen its funding cut by 44 percent and staff cut by 23 percent (250 positions) since 2008, seriously jeopardizing its ability to enforce the state's environmental laws.

Even more problematic, said the Coalition, is the cronyism that puts campaign contributors and their business interests on the Governor-appointed Department of Natural Resources Board, which oversees EPD—the agency that regulates those same businesses.

Board members who have spoken up for the protection of waterways have been systematically removed from the board and replaced with political cronies. Of the 16 members currently serving, 11 have ties to entities that EPD regulates. Even the current Director of EPD, a political-appointee of Gov. Nathan Deal, previously served as a lobbyist for a firm that represents industry and business groups.

"The Deal Administration's appointments and actions suggest that enforcing environmental laws are not a priority," said Joe Cook, Executive Director & Riverkeeper with the Rome-based Coosa River Basin Initiative. "Track the money divvied out in Gov. Deal's new water supply program and you get further clarity about this administration's priorities and allegiances." 

In August, the Deal administration directed $102 million in state dollars to reservoirs and water supply projects of dubious need, including some $9 million in state "investments" that directly benefited businesses and individuals that were major donors to his gubernatorial campaign, according to the Coalition.

At the same time, state funding for lower cost projects to maximize existing water supplies has languished.

"The $102 million that Gov. Deal directed to questionable and environmentally destructive water supply projects this year is more than three times the $30 million in state dollars invested by the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority in water conservation and efficiency projects from 2006-2010," said Sally Bethea, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper

The Dirty Dozen list was compiled by the Coalition after taking nominations from member groups across the state. This is the second such list. While four issues from the 2011 Dirty Dozen made return appearances this year, other issues did not return to the list this year because they were resolved; still others continue to threaten our water. Updates of the 2011 Dirty Dozen are included in the full report which can be viewed at: http://www.garivers.org/gawater/dirtydozen.htm.

What's Ogeechee Riverkeeper Doing?

 "We have an obligation and responsibility to the river basin and its people to stop illegal and harmful discharge through all available means," states Emily Markesteyn, Executive Director.

On Tuesday, Ogeechee Riverkeeper filed a petition for mandamus in the Superior Court of Screven County. Petitioning for mandamus asks the court to require a public official to perform a non-discretionary duty; in this case the Petition for Mandamus asks the Court to stop Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD) from allowing King America Finishing (KAF) to discharge pollutants without a permit.

"We have tried to work cooperatively with the State to force King America to follow the law, which is very clear that unpermitted discharges are illegal," says Don Stack of Stack & Associates. "To date, however, the State has continued to allow this illegal discharge no matter the environmental harm. We therefore are going to ask the Court to require EPD to do what it has been unable to do on its own."

EPD pulled KAF's discharge permit in October, stating an anti-degradation analysis was required. Ogeechee Riverkeeper agrees that this analysis needs to be done. 

November 15-- The Georgia Department of Labor announced today that Georgia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined to 8.7 percent in October, down three-tenths of a percentage point from 9.0 percent in September. The jobless rate was 9.7 percent in October a year ago.

“The unemployment rate dropped because we had an increase of 36,000 new jobs, which is the largest September to October job increase ever,” said State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. “That job growth pushed the number of jobs in October to the highest level in any month since December of 2008.”

There were 3,971,700 jobs in October, up nine-tenths of a percentage point, from 3,935,700 in September. The growth came in retail trade, up 8,000; education and health care, up 7,000; professional and business services, up 6,000; state and local public schools, up 5,000; leisure and hospitality, up 3,000; technology, up 2,400; construction, up 1,700; financial services, up 900; and manufacturing, up 700.

“While manufacturing gained 700 jobs during the month, it’s more important to note that the industry has gained 10,500 jobs in the last year,” Butler added.

Georgia gained 68,000 jobs, or 1.7 percent, from 3,903,700 in October 2011. Additional growth sectors over the year include: professional and business services, up 25,500; retail trade, up 14,000; education and health care, up 13,000; food services and drinking establishments, up 9,400; and technology, up 3,600. 

Georgia’s labor force continued to increase, climbing to 4,793,540 in October, up by 17,438, or four-tenths of a percentage point, from 4,776,102 in September.  The state’s workforce totaled 4,734,487 in October 2011.  

“Our labor force has grown consistently over the past year, indicating that Georgians are more optimistic about finding a job, and fortunately, we’ve had the job growth necessary to put these people to work,” said Butler.

The number of initial claims rose 11,931 to 51,495 in October; however, the number of claims is down by 4,370, or 7.8 percent, from 55,865 in October 2011. Most of the October increase came in manufacturing, trade, administrative and support services, and construction.

The number of long-term unemployed workers declined for the sixth consecutive month, dropping 2,100 from September to 206,700 in October. The long-term unemployed—those out of work for more than 26 weeks—make up 49.4 percent of those unemployed in Georgia, the lowest percent in slightly more than two years. 

 

November 14--  The Citizens of Georgia Power donated $2,500 to the Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society Wednesday morning. 

{mosimage}(L-R) SOAPS members Marla Jernigan and Thyra Burakowski, Cynthia Hall and Kareem Owens from Georgia Power, and Holly Reynolds and Dennis Ingley of SOAPS.   The money will be used to help homeless animals in our area and to promote spaying and neutering of dogs and cats.

November 14--  If you live within a ten-mile radius of Plant Hatch, don't be alarmed when you hear sirens Thursday morning.

The nuclear power plant is cooperating with local and state emergency management officials to test a network of 80 emergency sirens which have been installed in Toombs, Appling, Tattnall and Jeff Davis Counties in the past two years.

The sirens are scheduled to be set off between eleven and eleven-thirty a.m. Thursday morning, according to Southern Nuclear which operates Plant Hatch. 

November 14--  God's Storehouse in Vidalia may have to close it doors unless it gets money to buy food.

Director Tina Houser says the economy is the worse she's seen in the 12 years the Storehouse and the adjacent Jesus Inn shelter have been in operation on McIntosh Street in Vidalia.

"The average income down here is barely $600 a month.  It's either pay the light bill, and the light bill has gone up, or pay the rent, and the rent has gone up, and they don't have enough money for food," she reports.

"I'm feeding over 150 people in the soup kitchen each month and in the shelter I'm feeding over 560 breakfasts and dinners and lunches run about 100 people.  The brown bags I give out food in on the second and third Wednesdays are going to close to 200 families," Houser says.

She says churches in Vidalia and Lyons and businesses like Dot Foods help with the food supply, but she needs $3,000 a month to meet demand.

"I know we have people in Vidalia who have a heart for the needy and I'm just asking them to give what they can give.  I know times are hard but I know God is still on the throne and I know he can help us," she believes.

God's Storehouse is also planning to have its annual Thanksgiving meal and this year Tina expects more people than ever.

"I'm making food for 1,400 people.  I'll start serving on November 21, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and my serving line will open at 10:30 a.m.  Last year we served 1,298, but this year I'm cooking for more," she reports.

If you can help in the kitchen for the Thanksgiving meal or if you can donate money in any amount, Tina's number is 538-1730.

November 13--  The Georgia Department of Transportation is alerting motorists in Vidalia to roadwork starting Wednesday, November 14 through Tuesday, November 20 at the intersection of U.S. 280 and State Route 30 between West Avenue and Rudell Road.

Georgia DOT crews will be rehabilitating concrete slabs on the roadway at the intersections on U.S. 280/S.R. 30 between West Avenue and Rudell Road in the City of Vidalia  This work begins daily from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.

A single lane closure will be utilized for this work with message signs, barrels and/or cones will be utilized to alert the public of the upcoming changes. This maintenance operation and the lane closures it necessitates are weather permitting and subject to change.

This is a WORK ZONE and extreme caution is necessary.  Motorists are advised to reduce speeds as they travel through this construction work zone. Drivers should be aware that personnel and equipment will be operating in close proximity to travel lanes.

November 13--  The Augusta Chronicle reports three men remain at large   after six escaped from the Emanuel County Jail on Saturday night, including one accused of murder and another who had previously escaped the same facility.  The FBI is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to their capture.

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The men escaped about 11 p.m. through a door into a plumbing mechanical area in the jail. The jail had plumbing work done Friday night and one of the workers neglected to lock a door, Emanuel County Sheriff Tyson Stephens said.

The room has a stairwell that leads to the roof, where the group broke through a second door by breaking the lock. Once on the roof, the men were able to climb down to freedom, Stephens said.

Three escapees, John Stephen Powell, 27, Dante Jamial Latimore, 27, and Eric Lashawn Barney, 32, were back in custody by 6 p.m. Sunday.

Barney had escaped from the Emanuel County jail before, in 2002, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections Web site. He was sentenced to five years for escape, on top of the five he had received for entering a vehicle. After he was released from that sentence, he was convicted of two burglaries that occurred in May of 2010, which got him 10 and 20 years, respectively.

“I have been chasing him around since he was 8 or 10,” Stephens said. “I’m glad to have him back.”

Matthew Shepherd Findley, 24, was being held on murder and felony murder charges stemming from the slaying of Payton E. Collins, who was stabbed on Dec. 11. Findley was described as white, 5 feet, 7 inches tall and 140 pounds.

Cecil Dewitt Nelson, 33, was part of a three-man kidnapping ring busted by the FBI in January. Nelson pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit kidnapping in August. He and two associates were accused of two kidnappings in the Bryan County area in late 2011 and early 2012, according to a statement by the FBI. In both kidnappings, the victims were abducted at gunpoint and later released after a ransom was paid, the statement said.

Stephens said officials think Nelson has already made it back to the Savannah area. He was described as black, 5 feet, 11 inches tall and 245 pounds

The last escapee, Jeffery Rashawn Webb, is black, 6 feet, 3 inches tall and 195 pounds. His charges had not been released late Sunday.

The three were being sought by the Emanuel County Sheriff’s Office, the Swainsboro Police Department, the Georgia State Patrol and the U.S. Marshals’ Fugitive Task Force.

Anyone with information can call the sheriff’s office at (478) 237-7526. Callers’ identities will remain confidential.

November 12--  A Toombs County grand jury has returned 19 indictments including one for malice murder.

Rochelle Hurst of Augusta was indicted in the killing of Benjamin Herman Kelly in his house at 628 Fifth Avenue in Vidalia last May.  Hurst allegedly hit Kelly in the head with a hammer and stabbed him in the chest with a knife.

Police believe the indictment of Davlares Latimore solves a rash of automobile breakins in Vidalia last Spring.  Latimore was indicted for breaking into 17 vehicles last April.  Another person indicted on one count of entering an automobile is Amanda Elizabeth Roberson Page.

In an arson case, a member of the Oasis Church of God on the Ponderosa Road near Lyons was indicted.  Forty-four-year old Timothy Harden is accused of stealing musical equipment from the church and then setting the fire to cover up the theft in August of last year.

A domestic violence case resulted in the indictment of Casey Lee Bruns.  He's accused of victimizing Stephanie Denmark of Lyons by false imprisonment, battery, stalking and obstructing her from making 911 calls for help.

Four people were indicted for armed robbery and aggravated assault against migrant workers at Herndon Farms south of Lyons last March.  They're identified as Lorenzo Bennett, Jeffrey Branch, Arreon Jackson and Krista Sagaon.

Deremmus Williams was indicted for using an AK-47 in a case of aggravated assault and burglary at two apartments on Easter Drive in Vidalia last June.

Eight people indicted in theft cases are Brianna Martin, John Tomason, Christopher McCoy, Eugene Sibert, Jr., Darwin Foskey, James Lee Lewis, Jr., Antwon King and Arturo Villegas, Jr. who was also indicted on seven counts of forgery.

In two drug cases, Jason Beasley was indicted for possession of Oxycodone and Hydrocodone whle Christol Morris and Earl Cooper were indicted for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

And a Toombs County prisoner, Bennie Hayward, Jr. was indicted for possession of contraband by an inmate.

 

 

 

November 12-- Gov. Nathan Deal announced today that Georgia’s net tax collections for October totaled $1.38 billion for an increase of $83.5 million, or 6.4 percent, compared to October 2011. Through four months, net revenue collections totaled $5.6 billion — an increase of $258.5 million, or 4.8 percent, compared to last year.

The following changes within the various tax categories led to the overall net revenue increases in October:
 
Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections for October totaled $757 million — up from nearly $700 million in October 2011—for an increase of $57.25 million, or 8.2 percent.

The following notable components within Individual Income Tax account for the increase:
•      Individual Withholding payments were up $53.25 million, or 7.6 percent
•      Individual Estimated payments were up $1.25 million, or 10.6 percent
•      Individual Income Tax refunds (net of voided checks) were up $4.25 million, or 4.4 percent
•      All other Individual Income Tax categories combined for an increase of $7 million

Sales and Use Tax: Net Sales and Use Tax collections for October totaled $439.25 million — up from $437.25 million in October 2011 — for an increase of $2 million, or 0.5 percent. The monthly distribution to local governments totaled $380.5 million, which was a decrease of $7.5 million, or -1.9 percent, compared to last year’s distribution. The total distribution included a pro rata distribution of $1.2 million pursuant to state law.

Corporate Income Tax: Corporate Income Tax collections for October increased $5.75 million, or 58.7 percent, from $9.75 million in October 2011 to $4 million this year (refunds outstripped revenues).

The following notable components within Corporate Income Tax make up the increase:
•      Corporate Tax Return payments were up $3.75 million, or 56.1 percent

•      Corporate Tax refunds (net of voided checks) were down $3.25 million, or -8.6 percent

•      All other Corporate Tax categories (including S-Corp) combined for a decrease of $1.25 million

 

November 13--  UPDATE - Claudia Rodriguez reports Scoop has been found and is safely home.

November 12--  Claudia Rodriguez reports her little dog is missing.  Have you seen him?

{mosimage}"It's been 24 hours since I have last seen my dog Scoop. He went missing and I've tried everything to find him. He is a one-year-old, white and black shih tzu. My number is (912)585-3736, and I'm offering a $150 reward."
 

November 12--  The Downtown Vidalia Association held its annual salute to veterans last Friday and heard from retired U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major David Draughn, the Senior Army ROTC Instructor of the Thunderbold Regiment at Vidalia High School.

"I don't believe our veterans receive the recognition to which they are entitled. It's very good for the younger generation to see and hear these people and understand they are in school today and our country exists because of the valor and gallantry of these veterans," he said.

{mosimage}Command Sergeant Major Draughn (on the left with veteran First Sergeant Marvin Aldridge) spent more than 28 years in the U.S. Army Infantry.

"It was too short and went by too quickly and I can't think of any job I could have held that would have been as rewarding," he observed.

His advice to citizens, "Begin with shaking a veteran's hand and thanking him and let every day be Veterans Day.  If there's a veteran who is a shut-in or in a nursing home, go by and see them because they are inspiring.  They inspire me, even today," he noted.

Amont those attending the Veterans Day ceremony, retired Army First Sergeant Marvin Aldridge who first entered the Army in 1939, got out after two years, and came back after Pearl Harbor and made it a career.

"It meant that someone had to be there for us to remain a free country," he said.

November 9--  A couple of U.S.Navy Blue Angel pilots jetted into Vidalia Regional Airport Thursday afternoon for a planning meeting with organizers of next year's Vidalia Onion Festival Airshow.

Thier last visit to Vidalia was the 2010 Onion Festival and Navy Lieutenant Ryan Chamberlain says they're looking forward to the return visit.

{mosimage}"I'm very excited to come to a smaller town and really get to know the people and really show what the Navy and Marine Corps are doing," he said.

Lieutenant Chamberlain only recently joined the Blue Angels after flying combat missions in the Mideast.

"I'm coming from VFA-!4 at Lamore, California, "The Top-Hatters," and they're actually out doing good work on the USS John C. Stennis with the 5th Fleet in the North Arabian Sea right now.  They're doing missions in Afghanistan and it's an honor to have left them and represent them to the people of Georgia," Chamberlain said.

He says the Blue Angels will use many of the skills they learned in combat to fly the show in Vidalia.

"Training is number one.  We practice a lot to do what we do and to be the best at what we do.  With the current war that's going on, there are a lot of dynamic situations and we want to make sure if they need our help, we provide it in the best possible manner we can," he noted.

Meanwhile, representatives of other air show acts will gather in Las Vegas early next month to book next year's show and Marsha Temples from the Vidalia Air Show Committee will be there to recruit a supporting cast for the Blue Angels.

{mosimage}November 8--  Funeral services will be held Saturday in Soperton for Frank Radford, Jr. who served on the city council and as Mayor for a total of 28 years.  He died Wednesday at the age of 91.  Higgs Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangments and complete details are listed in the Obituary Section below.

November 8--  The Athens Banner-Herald reports the following Associated Press story analyzing why John Barrow got re-elected to Congress in the 12th Congressional District.

"Democratic Rep. John Barrow can thank Mitt Romney voters willing to cross party lines for re-electing him to Congress in a campaign he was supposed to lose.

Barrow of Augusta defied the odds Tuesday when he defeated Republican Lee Anderson in east Georgia’s 12th District, which lawmakers redrew last year to give the GOP a big advantage. Regardless, unofficial returns showed Barrow winning a fifth term with 54 percent of the vote.

An analysis of the vote shows Barrow prevailed by reaching beyond voters supportive of President Barack Obama to win over many independents and Republican voters. Barrow got 138,965 votes — giving him more than 19,000 votes than Obama received in the district. Those weren’t all necessarily Romney voters. Libertarian Gary Johnson received fewer than 6,500 presidential votes in the district.

Still, Republicans acknowledged Wednesday they were stunned by the bipartisan support for Barrow.

“We took a drubbing. It was a beating,” said Wright McLeod, an attorney from Augusta who ran unsuccessfully in the Republican primary for the seat and threw his support behind Anderson. “I look at Congressman Barrow and, though I’ve never met him, his ability to withstand this district makes him even more formidable in two years.”

During the campaign, Anderson and the National Republican Congressional Committee sought to tie Barrow to Obama as if they were running mates. Anderson rarely said Barrow’s name without also mentioning the president.

But Barrow, as the seasoned incumbent, had far more money to spend — $2.6 million compared to just over $1 million raised by his Republican opponent. Barrow spent it on TV ads that talked up his vote against Obama’s health-care overhaul, touted his endorsement by conservative business groups and that showed him cocking a rifle to remind voters of his support for the National Rifle Association.

“For every ad that was run against him, I think he ran two,” said Rick Allen, the Augusta businessman who also sought the GOP nomination to challenge Barrow. “You’d see a negative ad against Barrow from someone, either the NRCC or an outside group. But every time you saw one of those, John came back with an ad like he’s saving taxpayers money.”

When Republican lawmakers retooled Barrow’s district last year to cut out Savannah, the congressman’s home and his Democratic base, it was the second time he’d been rendered politically homeless by redistricting. The same thing had happened years earlier when his hometown of Athens was cut from the 12th District. For the 2012 race, Barrow moved to Augusta — his third zip code after eight years in office.

Anderson, a state lawmaker and hay farmer from Grovetown, emerged the winner from a bruising four-way primary for the GOP nomination. His blunt, unpolished style and stumbles in primary debates didn’t sit well with some GOP voters. Gwen Fulcher Young, a Republican and wife of former Augusta Mayor Bob Young, unflatteringly compared Anderson to 7-year-old reality TV star Honey Boo Boo. She became one of Barrow’s most high-profile GOP supporters.

Anderson’s refusal to debate Barrow proved part of his undoing.

“I’ve run into people who said they’re not happy with the fact Lee didn’t debate,” said Robert Finnegan, Republican Party chairman for Richmond County. “Some people were telling me they’d rather stick with the known than the unknown. They felt that they didn’t know Lee that well because they had never seen him debate.”

While he openly wooed Republican votes, Barrow also managed to maintain support among Democrats. He hasn’t always had an easy relationship in his own party. Barrow outraged many Democrats in the district in 2009 when he voted against Obama’s Affordable Care Act. This year, the congressman refused to say outright if he would vote for Obama — though he made it clear he didn’t support Romney.

Lowell Greenbaum, chairman of the Richmond County Democratic Party, said he’s learned to accept that Barrow’s political survival requires “playing Republican in certain places and playing Democrat in others.” He cited Barrow’s pro-gun ad, which showed him brandishing a revolver and a rifle, as one example.

“He told me before he won that it was extraordinarily popular with the voters and he got a lot of compliments on that,” Greenbaum said. “Some of us liberal Democrats ducked when we saw that ad.”

Unofficial returns showed Barrow carried just nine of the 19 counties in his district. But he dominated Augusta and surrounding Richmond County, now the district’s population center and its Democratic base, where Barrow received a whopping 72 percent of the vote.

Both Allen and McLeod said they may make another attempt at Barrow’s seat in two years. Allen is betting the congressman will be more vulnerable in the 2014 midterm elections, but he’s not predicting an easy race.

“We’ve got to have a candidate that can debate, that can do grassroots, that can raise money and articulate a point of view on the issues,” Allen said. “If you’re going to beat John Barrow, you’d better be good at everything.”

November 8-- The state of Georgia is dropping an investigation of charges by a Twin City man that Vidalia is a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants.

Last year Michael Dale Smith filed a complaint with the newly created Immigration Enforcement Review Board based on concerns that the city is allowing local employers to take jobs away from U.S. citizens and give them to illegals.

"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," Smith said.

The chairman of the state board, Ben Vinson, says a decision to drop the case was made at a board meeting in September.

"I appointed a sub-committee of three of our board members to explore that case a little bit and also to explore the general allegations that Vidalia was a sanctuary city.  The sub-committee reported back and said it did not appear there was enough evidence that would lead anybody to believe Vidalia is a sanctuary city.  That being the case, we decided not to advance into a full blown investigation," Vinson reports.

Meanwhile, Vidalia city manager Bill Torrance says the whole situation has been a mystery to him.  The city was notifed of Smith's allegations in a letter from the Enforcement Board last April and denied his claims in a letter of reply in June.

"It's just been bizarre to me.  I don't understand it.  I've never seen anybody nor talked to anybody from the Immigration Enforcement Board.  Yet, all this has happened with the media and that Mr. Smith over in Twin City, it's just bizarre," he said.

 

{mosimage}November 7--  Terry Yates of the Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society (SOAPS) reports, "This is a photo of some of the National Honor Society students at Vidalia High School  with “goodies” they collected for SOAPS and the animals. 

The bags of food, litter and other items filled the back of my SUV. Be sure to let any of the kids you know who are members of NHS that SOAPS is very appreciative of all their help!"

November 7-- Frank Radford, Jr., former longtime Mayor of Soperton, died Wednesday afternoon in Soperton. Funeral arrangements are incomplete and will be announced later by Higgs Funeral Home of Soperton.

November 7--  Here are the results of the 2012 General Election regarding area races and issues.

President

Barack Obama

Mitt Romney

Toombs Co

2,740 (29%)

6,519 (70%)

Montgomery Co

1,135 (30%)

2,662 (69%)

Treutlen Co

1,068 (39%)

1,646 (60%)

Statewide

1,759,801 (45%)

2,057,876 (53%)

Congress 12th District

John Barrow

Lee Anderson

Toombs Co

3,878 (43%)

5,167 (57%)

Montgomery Co

1,537 (41%)

2,184 (59%)

Treutlen Co

1,447 (56%)

1,136 (44%)

District-Wide

138,841 (54%)

119,671 (46%)

Amendment One

            YES

          NO

Toombs Co

3,498 (41%)

5,093 (59%)

Montgomery Co

1,442 (40%)

2,155 (60%)

Treutlen Co

949 (37%)

1,588 (63%)

Statewide

2,152,087 (59%)

1,526,957 (41%)

Amendment Two

            YES

          NO

Toombs Co

4,503 (56%)

3,538 (46%)

Montgomery Co

1,747 (52%)

1,637 (48%)

Treutlen Co

1,150 (49%)

1,213 (51%)

Statewide

2,241,617 (64%)

1,275,807 (36%)

Toombs Co Tax Comm

Julie Hart Newsome

Brenda O’Neal Williams

 

4,208 (47%)

4,813 (53%)

Montgomery Co Sheriff

Calvin Burns

Ladson O’Connor

 

1,834 (48%)

1,960 (52%)

Mont Co Tax Comm

Loretta Lane

Toby O’Neal

 

2,438 (65%)

1,322 (35%)

Mont Co Commission

 

 

Post One, District Three

Frank Brantley

Dorothy Days

 

706 (53%)

618 (47%)

Post Two, District Three

Clarence Thomas

Tommy Byrd

 

681 (51%)

648 (49%)

Treutlen Co SPLOST

             YES

             NO

 

1,474 (59%)

1,044 (41%)

State House, Dist 150

Matt Hatchett

Sheikh Rahman

Treutlen Co

1,629 (66%)

854 (34%)

Johnson Co

1,361

296

Laurens Co

10,803

5,541

 

 

 

November 6--  Voters turned out in large numbers in Tuesday's general election in Toombs, Montgomery and Treutlen counties.

In Toombs County, voters elected a former employee in the tax commissioner's office to be the new county Tax Commissioner.  Brenda O'Neal Williams defeated incumbet Julie Hart Newsome by 605 votes.

"I'd like to say a big thank you to all the voters and supporters and I appreciate all the help they gave me.  I'm there for the taxpayers and the citizens of Toombs County," Williams said.

In Montgomery County, Ladson O'Connor beat Mount Vernon Police Chief Calvin Burns with nearly 52 percent of the vote.  He will succeed retiring Montgomery County Sheriff Clarence Sanders in January.

The incumbent Montgomery Tax Commissioner Loretta Lane won convincingly over challenger Toby O'Neal by more than a thousand votes.

In the District Three Montgomery County Commission race, Post One went to Frank Brantley over Dorothy Days by 188 votes.  The Post Two seat goes to incumbent Clarence Thomas who won a tight race with challenger Tommy Byrd by 41 votes.

In Treutlen County, voters approved a one percent special purpose local option sales tax which is expected to raise $3.5 million over six years for capital improvement projects for the county and the City of Soperton.

Treutlen voters also cast their votes with others in Laurens and Johnson counties to re-elect State Representative Matt Hatchett to the 150th District House Seat.  Hatchett got 67 percent of the vote over challenger Sheikh Rahman.

Voters in Toombs and Montgomery counties gave the nod to State Representative Lee Anderson over incumbent John Barrow for the 12th Congressional District while Treutlen voters went for Barrow by 311 votes. Anderson's margin of victory in Toombs County was 1,289 votes and 647 votes in Montgomery County.  Barrow won re-election to his fifth term in office primarily due to a margin of victory in Richmond County of nearly 24,000 votes.

The much discussed Amendent One to the Georgia Constitution won statewide by some 500,000 votes to allow creation of state charter schools.  Voters in Toombs, Treutlen and Montgomery Counties voted against the amendment.

November 6--  Turnout in today's general election is expected to be strong if advance voting is any indicator.

Advance voting ended Friday and area voting registrars report a high level of advance voting.

Just over 30% of Toombs County's registered voters voted in advance or absentee.  The figures in Montgomery County are 26% and are 30% in Treutlen County.

The polls close tonight at seven p.m. and you can hear national, state and local results on Your Favorite, 98Q; NewsTalk970, WVOP and Sweet Onion Country 1017FM.

November 6--  This little pup is missing.  Her owner Angie O'Conner reports:

{mosimage} 

Missing Black and White Shih-Tzu female dog.  She is 17 years old and is almost blind and deaf.  She was last seen on East Oxley Blvd. behind Vidalia High School Area on Sunday afternoon 11-4-12.  Please call 293-3300 or 293-2999 if you have any information on her.

 

 

November 6--  A Florida circuit court judge has set a trial date of the man accused in the killing of a Toombs County teenager.

Twenty-three-year old Steven Cozzie will be tried on capital murder charges in the death of Courtney Wilkes whom he allegedly beat to death while her family was vacationing in Seagrove Beach, Florida on June 16, 2011.  

The trial is set to begin June 10, 2013 in Walton County Circuit Court in Defuniak Springs, almost two years after the crime occurred.

Assistant State's Attorney Bobby Elmore says Courtney's parents attended the November 1st hearing conducted by Judge Kelvin Wells and that the judge consulted with them on the trial date.

Pre-trial motions in the case will be heard April 30, 2013 according to Elmore.

November 5--  A reward is being offered in a rape that occurred in Lyons.

The area CrimeStoppers board approved a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest of a man who allegedly raped a woman living in a Lyons Housing Authority apartment on North Lanier Street during the early morning hours of Friday, October 28.

"We're looking for a slender built black make, approximately six feet tall.  He was wearing a white zip-up hoodie and some type of surgical or dust mask.  The victim described him as having a low, raspy voice," says Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker.

The victim told police the rapist reminded her of a man who had approached her a few weeks before and asked if he could pickup pecans in her yard.

Chief Walker is warning residents to be alert when approached by anyone wanting to do maintenance or yard work.

"They should be very alert.  Be observant, get a description and call 911 so that we can follow up," he advises. 

If you have any information in this case, call the Lyons Police Department and tell them you have a CrimeStoppers tip.  You do not have to give your name.  The number to call is 526-3638.

November 5--  State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville discusses the state's health insurance benefit program in his "Notes From the Senate" column.

STATE HEALTH BENEFIT PLAN
Georgia's State Health Benefit Plan (SHBP) is the health insurance plan for public school teachers, school personnel, state employees, all State and TRS retirees, and dependents. This plan is managed by the Department of Community Health (DCH) and covers over 663,000 people.  SHBP is currently in Open Enrollment for eligible individuals so this week seemed an appropriate time to examine the fiscal issues of the plan and what is in store for the future.

THE FACTORS IN THE SHBP SHORTFALL
As we begin to analyze SHBP, please remember that SHBP assumes all the risk of the plan.  The State is self-insured.  When I explain the plan, I usually say "last year's claims, become this year's premiums."  Though companies like United HealthCare, Cigna and other groups coordinate care and interact with members, SHBP is responsible for paying the bills.  Some insurance plans charge a flat fee and cover any unforeseen costs internally.  SHBP is like many large company plans and assumes all the risk of insuring its members.

 

This time last year, SHBP had a projected 2-year shortfall of almost $815 million. There were several factors that led to this projected shortfall. The first involves non-certificated school personnel.  Non-certificated school personnel is the category for school employees who are not certificated teachers. This group includes school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, school administrative staff, custodial staff, etc. and had grown rapidly as new schools were built and staffed.  On a monthly basis, the average cost to the employer (in this case, State and local school systems) is around $900 per employee per month. School systems though were only contributing around $200 per employee per month for this group of local employees.  When expenses were analyzed, this group was costing approximately $500 million more than the amount employee and employer revenues brought in. This gap was being covered by the premiums and employer contributions of the other SHBP covered groups: state employees and teachers. This phenomenon had been occurring for many years, but the amount being subsidized by other groups finally hit a tipping point.  DCH proposed, and the Governor and Legislature agreed, to raise the amount charged to local school systems (not the actual employee) to cover the costs of providing coverage to this group.  The amount charged will be phased in $150 per member per month annual increments over the next 3 years.  This will still not fully cover the costs of providing coverage, but will bring it much closer.

The second factor in the shortfall was a decline in payroll contributions. For teachers and state employees, the State contributes a percent of the employee's salary to cover the employer share of health insurance. During the early parts of the recession, furloughs and employee reductions were a necessity in balancing the state budget.  Retirements of state employees and teachers increased during this time as a result.  A consequence of these events was that SHBP received less income because there were fewer active state employees to contribute to the plan.

A third factor revolves around federal government mandates and funding.  Provisions of the Affordable Care Act mandate more preventative health, coverage for dependents under 26, etc.  Without delving into the politics of these issues, there was a cost to cover these services that contributed to the deficit projection. In fiscal year 2012 (FY2012), the Plan saw increased utilization as more members took advantage of preventive care such as colon and breast cancer screenings. On the revenue side, the federal government's Early Retiree Reinsurance Program (ERRP) fund was supposed to cover some of the costs of retirees on the plan who were not yet Medicare eligible. This program, created under the Affordable Care Act, had been projected to bring about $120 million to the Plan over two years.  Higher usage than expected nationwide depleted this fund so that only half the projected amount was received. By December 2011, the full $5 billion in the national ERRP fund had been depleted.  So Georgia only received about $60 million, half of what was expected.

SHBP COSTS UNDER CONTROL
It is important to note that State Health Benefit Plan expenses are lower when compared with the national average. SHBP has maintained an average annual per capita expense trend of around 5% growth over a five-year period, while the national trend is about 8%.

 

THE FORECAST -FY013 and FY014
As mentioned in the previous section, SHBP faced a shortfall of $815 million over FY2012 and FY2013.  Fortunately, the Plan ended fiscal year 2012 on a relatively good note, with a $16 million dollar cash balance.  In comparison, the plan spends an average of $10 million a day to cover claims. Still, in order to cover its expenses for the remainder of FY2013, DCH must locate over $89 million. For FY2014, DCH projects that it will need about $418 million in additional revenue to cover the entire year's claims.   

NEXT WEEK: Plan Year 2013 Changes 

 

 

November 5--  Georgia Governor Nathan Deal recognized eight public safety professionals for their contributions to their profession today in ceremonies at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth.

{mosimage}Among those honored is Courtney Terwilliger of Emanuel County EMS (L), shown here accepting congratulations from Tim Bearden, Executive Director of the training center..  His commendation reads:

"Courtney L. Terwilliger has devoted his entire career to the emergency medical services (EMS) community, and no one has dedicated more time and effort advocating for the advancement of the EMS profession.

Courtney was first licensed as an EMT in 1977 and has worked with Emanuel County Emergency Medical Service as a medic, educator and director to help his rural community since that time.

As an educator, Courtney taught first responder courses, EMT and paramedic courses, as well as vehicle extrication and a number of the life support courses.

During his distinguished career, he has served as an EMS director for 30 years, overseeing one of the oldest ambulance services in Georgia. In that time, he also served his community as Emanuel County Emergency Management Agency director and as aintegral member of the local hospital’s management team.

In addition to his exceptional contributions to the local emergency response system, Courtney has demonstrated impressive leadership on the regional level, having been an active member of the regional EMS Council for virtually his entire career and is past chair of that organization.

While his accomplishments at the local and regional levels are indeed exemplary and worthy of this award, Courtney is most often recognized for his contributions on the state level. He has served as a member of the state EMS Advisory Council (EMSAC) for almost 25 years and currently is in his eighth year as the chair of EMSAC.

In addition, Courtney serves as chair of the Georgia Association of EMS and vice-president of the director’s division.  In 2008, Courtney was instrumental in establishing the East Georgia EMS Educational Consortium, which is a partnership focused on enhancing EMS education and improving patient outcomes in rural communities.

He was also one of the driving forces for the Enhancement of Patient Care Reporting Project, an initiative that is distributing 800 laptop computers to Georgia’s EMS providers.

When not working to better the EMS profession, Courtney is an active member of the Nunez Baptist Church, serving as the church’s Sunday school director, and is assistant scout master for Boy Scout Troop 75. In 2010, Courtney received the prestigious Dr. Zeb L. Burrell, Jr. Distinguished Service Award for his contribution to the development and enhancement of the delivery of pre-hospital emergency care.

Courtney demonstrates high ideals, irreproachable character and selfless dedication to EMS, which makes him one of Georgia’s most outstanding EMS pioneers and leaders."

November 5--  After years of study, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved a plan to deepen the port of Savannah.

"The Corps of Engineers issued their final record of decision approving the project and now we can move forward with getting funding and moving forward with construction of the harbor deepening," reports Leo Beckmann of the Georgia Ports Authority.

The project will deepen the harbor by five feet and allow it to accomodate the much larger ships which will soon be coming to the U.S. through a bigger Panama Canal.

The Savannah port exports more U.S. products than any other U.S. port except Los Angeles.

"We're the fourth largest port in the nation, the fastest growing as well, and we're number two in terms of exports so all those Georgia products are coming out through our facility and creating opportunities for all those agri-businesses throughout the state," Beckmann says.

"Georgia is the largest poultry producing state in the nation and we export more poultry than any other port in the nation.  We export a lot of kaolin clay, a lot of pine products, peanuts, cotton, pecans and we also export Vidalia Onions and we also import onions to Vidalia as well which are grown in South America," he points out.

According to Beckmann, the habor deepening will cost about $650 million and take at least four years to complete once it gets started.

November 2-- In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today, U.S. Senators Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, continued to press the State Department for disclosure of all communications regarding security in Benghazi, Libya leading up to the deadly September 11 attacks on the U.S. mission.

“Over the past several weeks, cables, emails and other communications regarding the security situation in Benghazi prior to and since the attack on our consulate have been leaked to some Congressional offices and media outlets, resulting in conflicting reports in the press.  We have also called for the official transmittal of these documents and are still awaiting your response,” Corker and Isakson wrote in their letter.  “On September 25, 2012 and again on October 3, 2012, we sent you letters requesting that all communications between the diplomatic mission in Libya and the State Department related to the security situation be transmitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee without delay.  We respectfully ask for an update on the status of our requests for these documents.”

A complete copy of the senators’ letter to Secretary Clinton today is attached below and available online here.  Their previous letters of September 25 and October 3 are available here.

 

by Tiffany Moore

November 2-- The Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society (SOAPS) has reached a crisis in its efforts to deal with the growing number of stray and abandoned cats in our area.

{mosimage}With approximately 70 cats and kittens at Vidalia Animal Control, the shelter has reached capacity and is no longer accepting any strays. Moreover, the Lyons shelter is not currently equipped to care for stray or unwanted cats. As a result, some 60 cats and kittens are currently being fostered by only a few SOAPS volunteers, leaving them at critical mass as well. In short, there simply is not enough space at local shelters or in foster homes to accommodate the number of incoming stray and owner surrendered cats.

Our organization prides itself on being a homeless animal’s best bet for a second chance, and we believe that pride is shared by the members of our community. Finding homes for healthy, adoptable animals is one that can only be accomplished through the joint efforts and shared responsibility of our organization, the cities of Vidalia and Lyons and our community.

{mosimage}When the last cage or kennel is filled and there is nowhere left for stray or unwanted animals to go, we are left with limited choices if members of our community do not adopt themor if we are unable to find foster homes to provide them with temporary care. Our volunteers have done and continue to do everything possible to save these animals, but we simply cannot do it alone.

We need you. The animals need you.

If you have room for a cat or kitten in your home, we hope that you will consider adopting one from a local shelter or through the SOAPS foster program.

{mosimage}There are many healthy, loving kittens and adult cats from which to choose, and SOAPS will gladly provide a voucher of up to $100 to be applied toward the cost of spaying/neutering at participating veterinary facilities. Additionally, all cats in the foster program have been spayed or neutered (if of age) or will be spayed/neutered at six months old.This service is included in the adoption fee and is an important first step in reducing the number of stray animals in our area as well as preventing another overpopulation crisis in the future.

You can also help by joining SOAPS in their volunteer efforts or by making a donation to go towards the cost of providing general and medical care to the many unwanted animals depending on us. For more information, check out SOAPS online at www.sweetonionaps.org.

Now is the time to step forward and make a difference in the life of an animal that has fallen victim to the economy, to indifference, to intolerance or to neglect.  We ask that you please share this with your friends, family and colleagues so that they too will be aware of the many animals currently waiting for someone to change their world and maybe even save their lives.


November 2--  There are 157 schools in Georgia which have made the biggest academic gains in the past three years and Vidalia High School is one of them.

The Georgia Department of Education is designating VHS as a "High Progress School" because its among the ten percent of schools in the state making the most progress in improving the academic performance of all student groups.

"This is one of those lists you really want to be on because it shows a lot of improvement and it shows a lot of progress," says Matt Cardoza, a spokesman for the DOE.

Lucy Claroni, the curriculum director for Vidalia City Schools, believes the designation is due in large part to improved math scores by VHS students.

"I think it's because of our end of course tests, especially in mathematics.  We have provided those extra support classes for our math curriculum and it seems to give the kids an extra dose of math and it seems to be working," she observes.

Claroni thinks VHS math teachers are making a big difference with their students.

"I was doing mock interviews with members of Donna Collins class who were working on skills they need to have in the workplace.  Out of the ten kids whom I asked what is their favorite course, nine out of ten said it was math.  I was shocked.  The fact that nine out of ten students would tell me that math was their favorite course says a lot about math teachers at the high school," she said.

Other schools in our area designated as High Progress Schools are Appling County Elementary, Metter High School and Claxton High School.