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March 30--  Spring Break is next week in the Toombs County school system and after that there are less than two months remaining in the school year.  Here's a list of Toombs County school system dates to remember courtesy of Dr. Deanna Stoddard.

Spring Holidays for Toombs County Schools are April 2-9.

Toombs Central Elementary School will conduct Pre-Kindergarten Registration on April 10 and 11 from 8:30-2:30.  For more information please call 565-7781.

Lyons Primary School will conduct Pre-Kindergarten Registration on April 10-20 from 9:00-2:00.  For more information please call Deanna Stoddard at 526-7060.

Toombs County Board of Education meets Thursday, April 12 at 6:30 p.m. in the board room.

The Miss LPS Beauty Pageant will be held on Saturday, April 14 at 3:00 p.m. at the Toombs Auditorium at Southeastern Technical College.  Admission is $5.00 per person.

Toombs County High School prom will be held Saturday, April 14.

Lyons Primary School will conduct Kindergarten Registration Monday, April 16 from 9:00-2:00.  The child will need to be present in order to take a short screening.

Lyons Upper Elementary PTO meets Monday, April 16 at 6:00 p.m. in the cafeteria.

The Parental Advisory Council meets April 17 at 8:30 a.m. at Toombs Central in the computer lab.  All parents of Toombs County students are invited to attend to give input in planning for the 2012-2013 school year.

Toombs County High School Council meets Tuesday, April 17 at 7:00 p.m. in the media center.

Toombs County Band Boosters meet Thursday April 19 at 6:30 p.m. in the TCHS band room.

Georgia Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) will be given April 24-May 2.  Students in grades 3-8 will test Reading on Tuesday, April 24, English/Language Arts on Wednesday, April 25, and Mathematics on Thursday, April 26, Science on Tuesday, May 1 and Social Studies on Wednesday, May 2.   Breakfast will be provided free for all students during testing.  Other reminders include:  remember to come to school on time, bring two #2 pencils for testing, get a good night’s sleep, and try your best on the test.

Progress Reports will be sent home for all students in Toombs County Schools on Thursday, April 26.

Toombs County High School will give End-of-Course Tests the weeks of April 30-May 4 and May 7-May 11.  For more information, please call Cindy Corbitt at 526-6068.

The week of April 30-May 4 is School Nutrition Employee Appreciation Week.  Toombs County salutes all School Nutrition employees.

Lyons Upper Elementary School Council meets Tuesday, May 1 at 4:00 p.m. in the media center.

Lyons Primary School parents of Pre-K students will register their child for Kindergarten on May 1 at 6:00 p.m. in the cafeteria. Pre-K students do not have to be present for registration.

Toombs County Middle School will have a fifth grade orientation, “Preparing for a Successful Transition” on Tuesday, May 1 at 6:00 p.m.  Fifth graders will tour during the day as they have in the past, but this meeting will be for parents and students.

Toombs Central FTA meets Tuesday, May 1 at 7:00 p.m. in the cafeteria.  Second grade students will be performing “Jack and the Beanstalk”.

Lyons Primary School Council meets Thursday, May 3 at 5:00 p.m. in the media center.

Lyons Primary School Field Day will be held May 4.  Parents are invited to stop by the Parental Involvement booth during the day for information about educational activities for the summer.

The Toombs County Bus Drivers will hold their third annual charity auction on Saturday, May 5 at 6:00 p.m. All proceeds will be donated to Community Hospice.  Please join us at the Ag Center for a good cause and a great time.

Lyons Upper Elementary School fifth grade students will take a Transition Field Trip to visit sixth grade at Toombs County Middle School on Monday, May 7 at 8:30 a.m.

Toombs County Middle School Council meets May 7 at 4:00 p.m. in the conference room.

Teacher Appreciation Week is May 7-11.  Toombs County salutes all teachers for a job well done!

Toombs County Middle School Band Concert will be held Tuesday, May 8 at 7:00 p.m. in the gym.

Lyons Primary School second grade students will take a Transition Field Trip to visit third grade at Lyons Upper Elementary on May 9 at 9:00 a.m.

Toombs County Board of Education meets May 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the board room.

Toombs County Middle School Career Day is Thursday, May 10 from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon.

Lyons Upper Elementary School Field Day will be May 11.  Parents are invited to stop by the Parental Involvement booth during the day for information about educational activities for the summer.

Toombs Central Elementary School Field Day will be May 11.  Parents are invited to stop by the Parental Involvement booth during the day for information about educational activities for the summer.

Toombs County High School Band Concert will be held Monday, May 14 at 7:00 p.m. on the outside stage.

The Toombs County High School Honor Graduate Banquet will be held Tuesday, May 15 at 6:00 p.m.  For more information, please call Cindy Corbitt at 526-6068.

Lyons Primary School Honors’ Day will be held on May 17 in the gymnasium:

8:30-9:30 – Pre-K

9:30-10:30 – Kindergarten

10:30-11:30 – First Grade

11:30-12:30 – Second Grade

Toombs County High School Honors and Scholarship Award Night will be held Thursday, May 17 at 6:00 p.m. in the cafeteria.

Toombs Central Elementary School Kindergarten Graduation will be held on May 17 at 7:00 p.m. at the Southeastern Technical College Auditorium.

Lyons Upper Elementary School Honors’ Day will be held on Friday, May 18 in the gymnasium:

8:30 – Fifth Grade

9:30 – Fourth Grade

10:30 – Third Grade

Toombs Central Elementary School Honors’ Day will be held on Friday, May 18:

8:30 – Pre-K Cafeteria

9:30 – Grades 1-3 in the Gym

11:00 – Grades 4 and 5 in the Gym

Toombs County Middle School Honors’ Day will be Friday, May 18:

8:30 – Sixth Grade

9:30 – Eighth Grade

10:30 – Seventh Grade

Toombs County High School Graduation Exercises will be held on Saturday, May 19 at 8:30 a.m. at Booster Stadium.

Toombs Central Elementary School Council meets May 29 at 5:00 p.m. in the media center.

 

 

 

March 30--  After ten weeks of classes, fifth graders from Sally D. Meadows Elementary School in Vidalia graduated from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program Friday morning in ceremonies at Southeastern Technical College.

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Among the graduates were winners of the DARE Essay Contest including (L-R) Haleigh Moses, Jordan Collins, Juventino Martinez, Takira Thomas, Tyler Page, Samantha Bray, overall winner Paige Poole and Ginny Grace Gourley. Also, DARE instructor Corporal Dwayne Carpenter, Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits and DAREN, the Lion.

 

March 29--  An effort to mediate how Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) revenue will be divided in Toombs County failed Thursday at the county courthouse.

The county and the cities of Vidalia, Lyons and Santa Claus have been in discussions since the first of the year with no agreement.  The cities want the formula to remain the same with Vidalia and Toombs County each getting 41.5%, Lyons 16% and Santa Claus 1%.

Vidalia city manager Bill Torrance says the towns' shares should really increase, but they are willing to settle for the status quo.

"We feel like we qualify for more funds than we are getting right now, but are willing to accept the present breakdown and have communicated that pretty consistently," Torrance says.

Commission Chairman Buddy West says the county will not accept the status quo.  "Everyone is entitled to their opinion and based on the numbers and how you look at them, we feel comfortable with our position of not having the status quo.  This is the first time this has been looked at by professionals and we are just going to go with that," West says.

County officials initially wanted to increase the county's share of the sales tax by almost 20% but made some counter-proposals Thursday through mediator Franklin Edenfield of Swainsboro. 

Edenfield shuttled back and forth between two rooms in the courthouse with city officials in one and county officials in the other.  The sessions started about nine and ended about 4:30 p.m. with no agreement.

Chairman West says county commissioners rejected a suggestion from the cities that another public meeting be held to try one more time to resolve the issue.

"You know we've had two of those at the Chamber of Commerce building.  Nothing was settled there in a public forum and after talking to all the commissioners, they decided not to do that," he said.

West says county attorney Howard Kaufold has been instructed to work with city lawyers to take the case to court.

"He and the city attorneys will get together and file a petition and move forward with an impartial judge from outside the circuit here," West reports. 

Whatever formula a judge comes up with will take effect in January and continue for ten years.

March 29-- The Georgia Department of Labor announced today that the preliminary unemployment rate in the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha area declined to 11.5 percent in February, down one-tenth of a percentage point from a revised 11.6 percent in January. The jobless rate in the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha area in February a year ago was 12 percent.

Metro Athens had the lowest area rate at 7.0 percent, while metro Dalton had the highest at 12.3 percent. 

Meanwhile, Georgia’s February seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined for the seventh consecutive month to 9.1 percent, the lowest rate since March of 2009, when it was also 9.1 percent. That is a decline of one-tenth of a percentage point from a revised 9.2 percent in January. The jobless rate was 9.9 percent in February a year ago.

Statewide, the rate went down because the number of jobs in February increased by 15,600 to 3,880,400, with 70 percent of the growth coming in the private sector. Also, newly revised numbers show the state gained 41,800 jobs in the past 12 months.

The employment sectors showing growth over the year were: professional and business services, 28,000; retail trade, 12,700; education and health care, 8,300; and manufacturing, 4,200.

March 28--  Southeastern Technical College's outstanding student and teacher talked about their honors at the Wednesday meeting of the Vidalia Rotary Club.

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(L-R) Chelsea Eubanks, a Dental Hygiene student is representing STC in the Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL) competition; STC President Cathy Mitchell, and Lisa Dukes, one of six instructors in the state competing for the annual Rick Perkins Award for outstanding Technical College teachers.

March 28--  The Altamaha EMC in Lyons reports there will be a power outage for some of its customers in the Lyons area Sunday morning from six a.m. till mid-morning due to a power upgrade.

"Due to substation and system upgrades, Altamaha EMC will have a planned power outage on Sunday morning, April 1st affecting approximately 400 members in the following areas:

Hwy 280 East

Hwy #1 South

Ezra Taylor Road

Center Road

Subdivisions near Oxford Distribution Center

Some residential and commercial members on the south side of Hwy 280 within the Lyons city limits

We will make every effort possible to limit the length of these outages. Outages will begin at 6:00am and be intermittent for the next 3 -4 hours. You may experience outages off and on during this time period. There is no need to call our office to report the outage unless your power remains off after 10 am. If someone in your home is oxygen dependent, please make plans now to have a battery backup supply or to move them to another location in the event the outage becomes prolonged.

If you have questions related to this planned outage, please call our office before 5:00 pm on Friday. Our office # is 526-8181. Thank you for your patience and understanding."

 

 

by Laura Diamond, AJC

The House voted down a bill Tuesday that would have allowed logs that sunk to the bottom of Georgia's rivers to be raised and sold.

Lawmakers have long debated "deadhead" logging, with supporters arguing Senate Bill 362 would create jobs and raise money for the state. They said the logs were meant to be sold when they were harvested from forests more than 100 years ago.

Environmentalists and some lawmakers opposed the bill, warning it could have a negative environmental impact. Removing the logs from the Altamaha, Flint, Ocmulgee and Oconee rivers could stir up sediment and harm fish habitats, they said.

The bill was rejected by a vote of 93-67.

Senate President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams sponsored the bill, which passed the Senate.

March 28--  The Georgia General Assembly is wrapping up its session and four bills passed the state Senate yesterday according to the Senate Press Office.

"The Georgia Senate today passed House Bill 1114 by a vote of 48 to 1. Sponsored in the House by Rep. Setzler and carried in the Senate by Sen. William Ligon (R-Waverly), this legislation prohibits assisted suicide, making it a felony punishable by incarceration of up to 10 years. 

“This legislation was crafted to prevent unnecessary deaths as a result of assisted suicide,” said Sen. Ligon. “The passage of HB 1114 was a positive step toward protecting the lives of Georgia’s citizens while also strengthening laws which govern end-of-life care or physician-assisted suicide.”

HB 1114 was drafted in response to the Georgia Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the state’s assisted suicide law, which prohibits the advertisement of assisted suicide services.

According to this bill, it would be considered a felony punishable by law if an individual knows that someone intends to commit suicide and knowingly and willfully assists in that person’s suicide. The offense is punishable by imprisonment of up to 10 years. According to the bill’s provisions, the following individuals are exempt from this law, including:

·       Those dispensing palliative care with the intent to relieve pain but without the intent to cause death;

·       Those withholding treatment with the patient’s consent or other authorized consent;

·       Those dispensing medicine according to a living will or similar document, as long as mercy killing or the deliberate act to end life is not involved;

·       Those withholding treatment pursuant to a living will or similar document; and

·       Those advocating on behalf of a patient in accordance with one of the above exceptions.

Any health care provider convicted of committing this offense must notify the state licensing board and will have their licenses revoked.  

Additionally, the act of assisted suicide is covered under the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act as a racketeering activity.

HB 1114 will now travel to the Governor’s desk for final approval.

**********************

The Georgia Senate today passed House Bill 822 by a vote of 42 to 0. Sponsored in the Senate by Sen. William Ligon (R-Waverly), this legislation aims to combat fraud in government programs and contracts.

“I am pleased by the passage of HB 822 in the Senate today,” said Sen. Ligon. “This legislation is designed to protect the taxpayers from having their money fraudulently stolen by those who are unethical and cheating the system.”

The Georgia Taxpayer Protection False Claims Act establishes civil penalties for any person or legal entity that commits or conspires to engage in certain fraudulent acts, including but not limited to:

  • Knowingly presenting a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval;
  • Possessing property or money to be used by the state or local government and knowingly delivering less than all of that money or property;
  • Knowingly buying or receiving as a pledge of an obligation or debt public property from an officer or employee of a state or local government who lawfully may not sell or pledge the property;
  • Knowingly conceals or improperly avoids an obligation to pay or transmit money or property to the state or a local government.

Individuals or entities found guilty of committing these violations will be liable to the State for a civil penalty of $5,000 to $11,000 for each false or fraudulent claim, plus attorney’s fees and three times the amount of damages which the state or local government sustains because of the violation. An individual who commits these violations will only be held liable for two times the amount of damages if he or she fully cooperates with government investigators and provides all known information about the violation within 30 days.

Under this legislation, the Georgia Attorney General may investigate alleged violations of this Act and impose a civil suit. The Attorney General may also delegate the authority to investigate and bring suit to a local government that has allegedly sustained damages because of the violation.

In addition, an individual may bring suit upon written approval by the Attorney General; however, the suit must be in the name of the State of Georgia or local government.

There are several limitations to civil actions under the Act. Public employers are not allowed to bring a civil action that is based upon allegations of wrong doing that the public employee or official had a duty to report or investigate. This also includes information that the public employee or official had access to as a result of his or her position.

The statute of limitations for civil actions brought under this Act is six years after the date of the violation was committed, or three years after the date when facts material to the right of civil action reasonably should have been known. However, no action may be filed more than 10 years after the date the violation occurred.

Additionally, this legislation also updates various provisions of the State False Medicaid Claims Act. These updates include adding definitions to the current code, redirecting certain proceeds from civil actions under this Act from the Indigent Care Trust Fund to the Department of Community Health and revising the statute of limitations for civil action under the Act.

HB 822 will now travel to the Governor’s desk for final approval.

*******************

The Georgia Senate passed HB 861, the Social Responsibility and Accountability Act, today by a vote of 36 to 15. Sponsored in the House by Rep. Michael Harden and carried in the Senate by Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell), this legislation requires recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to undergo drug screening to receive welfare benefits.

HB 861 is the companion legislation to the Senate’s version of the Social Reasonability and Accountability Act, or SB 292.

“The passage of HB 861 today is the culmination of several months of hard work as members of both the House and Senate worked to pass this historic piece of legislation,” said Sen. Albers. “The reason I worked on SB 292, which is identical legislation to HB 861, was to establish a new precedent for how government welfare programs are run and challenge the status quo as it relates to the overall perception of government entitlement programs. Ultimately, TANF benefits were always intended to provide families with a “hand up” and not a “hand out.” This common sense legislation provides for families in need and ensures that hard earned taxpayer money isn’t being diverted to drug use.”

Under this legislation, which was merged with the original language from SB 292 in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, the drug testing requirement was modeled after the tests required by the Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs or other professionally valid procedures. If enacted into law, this test would require a swab test in lieu of urinalysis.

TANF applicants who are not currently enrolled in Medicaid will be responsible for covering the drug-testing application fee, which could run up to 17 dollars. However, if these individuals test negative for controlled substances, they will be fully reimbursed for all expenses as part of their first benefits check.

In addition, TANF applicants enrolled in Medicaid will be required to pay the $17 drug-testing application fee and will not be eligible for direct TANF reimbursement.

As part of the bill’s provisions, all TANF applicants must be drug tested no later than 48 hours after their application has been approved by the Department of Human Services (DHS).

Under this legislation, individuals who test positive for controlled substances will be ineligible for TANF benefits under the following restrictions:

  • If an applicant tests positive, the individual will be ineligible to reapply for benefits for one month.
  • If a second positive result is produced, the applicant will be ineligible to receive benefits for three months.
  • For a third and subsequent positive result, the applicant will be ineligible for benefits for one year.

If an applicant is found ineligible after subsequent drug tests, the individual may reapply after six months if they successfully complete a substance abuse program.

Recent studies have shown that individuals who engage in drug abuse are less likely to maintain employment and, as a result, remain on welfare-related programs for longer periods of time. In a study surveying New Jersey TANF recipients, individuals who abused drugs stayed on welfare for an average of 12 years, versus 5.8 years for those who did not.

For two parent families, only one parent must comply with drug screening requirements. However, teen parents who do not currently live with a parent or adult caretaker will be responsible to comply with all drug testing requirements. In addition, dependent children under the age of 18 are exempt from these requirements.

If a parent fails the state mandated drug-testing and is deemed ineligible to receive TANF benefits, the eligibility of a dependent child will not be affected. For these instances, another individual can be designated to receive benefits on behalf of the child.

According to this legislation, if an applicant fails a drug test, the DHS must provide them with a list of substance abuse providers, although the state will not be responsible for providing or paying for treatment.

Exemptions for mandatory drug testing will be made for individuals who are considered by the Department of Human Services to be significantly impaired due to a physical, mental or developmental disability. In addition, persons enrolled in a Medicaid enhanced primary care case management program will also be exempt from this requirement.

In an effort to protect the privacy of welfare applicants, all screening results will remain confidential and exempt from public records law.

HB 861 will now travel to the Governor’s desk for final approval.

*********************

In a great show of bipartisan support today, the Georgia Senate passed HB 1176 by a vote of 51 to 0. The comprehensive sentencing and corrections reform bill promises to save Georgia taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, move low-level offenders permanently out of the system, and improve overall public safety. Sen. Bill Hamrick (R-Carrollton), a long-time supporter of criminal justice reform in Georgia, carried the bill.

“The common-sense solutions found in this bill are the result of months of work analyzing our state’s corrections system and consulting a wide range of stakeholders,” said Sen. Hamrick. “HB 1176 outlines much-needed reforms that will improve public safety, lower recidivism rates and bring real costs savings to Georgia taxpayers. Without action, taxpayers would have paid $264 million over the next five years to accommodate a rising prison population. I am pleased to see the Senate overwhelmingly support this bill.”

The overall intention of HB 1176 is to strengthen penalties for violent and career criminals, while providing more effective punishments for low-level drug users and property offenders. The creation of a rehabilitation-based system for low-level offenders will free up prison space in order to keep the most dangerous offenders behind bars.

 

Specific initiatives of HB 1176 include creating a tougher process for probation and parole supervision; expanding proven community-based sentencing options to reduce recidivism, such as accountability courts and substance abuse and mental health programs; and holding agencies accountable for better results by implementing systematic data collection and performance measurement systems.

If signed into law, the legislation will place Georgia in the company of more than a dozen states—including Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina, Arkansas and Kentucky—that are currently implementing criminal justice policies designed to improve public safety, hold offenders accountable, and control corrections costs.

This legislation is the product of more than six months of work by the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians.  This bipartisan, inter-branch Council conducted an in-depth analysis of the state’s sentencing and corrections data and met with a wide range of stakeholders including victim advocates, sheriffs, prosecutors and county officials.  Members of a special joint legislative committee approved this bill before sending it to the Georgia House of Representatives where the bill passed unanimously. 

The next step will be final agreement by the Georgia House of Representatives and Governor Deal to sign the legislation into law.

 

 

 

 

 

March 27--  Georgia's First Lady and the State School Superintendent visited 12 schools in south Georgia Monday and Tuesday.

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One of the classes visited Tuesday was Wally Salter's 11th grade government class at Treutlen High School.  Mr. Salter (left) with Mrs. Deal and Superintendent Dr. John Barge.

Near the end of the visits Tuesday afternoon at Treutlen Middle/High School, Superintendent Dr. John Barge says schools in metro areas could learn something about getting the most from their dollars from the rural schools they visited.

"We've seen some really strong schools.  There are a lot of schools in the rural part of our state that are getting really good results with a whole lot less in the resource area.  There's probably a lot of stuff in other parts of the state that we can learn from these folks," Dr. Barge said.

Georgia is one of the state's which has received a waiver to the federal No School Left Behind program and Dr. Barge expects the state's new accountability standards will have a positive impact in the classroom.

"What we're hoping is that teachers will be able to go back and focus on teaching and not on the test.  When you've got an accountability system where everything rides on a single test score given on a single day, a lot of attention gets focused on that.  We're hoping that teachers will have that passion restored to teaching and students on learning," he said.

First Lady Sandra Deal is continuing her focus on the importance of learning to read in the early grades.

"If we can just get them ready to read by the third grade, then they will improve and our discipline and everything will improve because then they are energized and interested with what's going on in the classroom," she believes.

Other schools visited included Lyons Upper Elementary School Tuesday morning and Montgomery County High School Monday.

March 27--  The Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society (SOAPS) is organizing another transfer of adoptable animals from this area to the Atlanta Humane Society. Earlier this month SOAPS shipped 113 dogs and cats to Atlanta and is planning another shipment on April 12.

Pennie Rowe says they are seeking dogs of 20 pounds or less, kittens from age four weeks to six months and adult cats which may be in foster care.

If you have an animal in any of these categories that you can no longer care for, email Pennie at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Happy Tail

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This is Barley with his new family.  Barley was removed from the Lyons Animal Shelter by SOAPS and sent to a Labrador rescue group which found his forever home.

March 27--  For several weeks McLendon Enterprises in Vidalia has been demolishing the hospital building in Vidalia which was home to Meadows Regional Medical Center before construction of its new facility on Highway 280. The building is now history.

GOING....

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GONE...

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May 27--  Vidalia attorney Blake Tillery is running for Chairman of the Toombs County Commission.

{mosimage}"Basically, I feel the people of Toombs County are looking for someone to head the county government whom they feel they can talk to and also for someone with a vision for the future.  I think our campaign provides both," he said.

Tillery announced his decision Monday to run in the Republican primary election scheduled for July 31.

Two other possible candidates for the seat are incumbent Buddy West and former Toombs County chairman James Thompson.  West says he's "still debating" whether to seek re-election and Thompson says there's "a strong possibility" he will run for the office again.

Tillery, who is 28, believes he can handle the job.  "I think Chess Fountain was 28 when he first ran for county clerk and Greg Morris was 28 when he ran for the county commission the first time as well.  I do think I provide a different perspective.  I grew up here, went to Vidalia High School, played ball here, went to the University of Georgia and got a law degree and came home.  I can look at our community and remember people who make decisions ten and twenty years ago and before that, forty and fifty years ago, who are the reasons we are where we are today.  There's a reason why our community continued to grow where others didn't and if we don't continue to make those forward-looking decisons, we, too, could fall by the wayside," Tillery says.

Tillery promises more cooperation between the county and its three cities if he is elected.

"We need to make sure we're working together to promote economic development for job creation.  That's the biggest thing in our community. Our citizens aren't worried about street lights being turned off, they're worried about putting food on the table.  What can we as a county government do to support them.   That and providing an accessible, user-friendly county government.  The people want someone heading our county government who they feel they can talk to," he said.

Tillery's campaign finance chairman is Dr. Wayne Williams and the candidate says they're off to a strong start with fund raising.

Qualifying for the July primary opens May 23rd and closes May 25th. 

March 26--  The 2012 Leadership Toombs-Montgomery Class completed its training Friday with a two-day session on personal leadership development and team building.  The class adopted a plan to help Habitat for Humanity provide housing in the coming year in this area.

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Front row: Rachel Crumpler, Jodi Conner, Tiffany Underwood

2nd row: Grey Meredith, Chris Vinson, Kathryn Smith, Ginger Morris

3rd row: Shannon Brantley, Haley Fountain, Anna Bullard, Jon Dorminey

4th row: Wayne Williams, M.D. (program co-chair), Amanda White, Tracey Leaver-Williams, M.D., Brian Noonan, Warren Sowell (program co-chair).

(Photo:  Debbie Evans)

 

 

 

March 24--  State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville provides an update on this past week in the Georgia legislature.

TAX REFORM HB 386

This week the Georgia Legislature passed a bill that reforms part of Georgia's tax revenue structure. The purpose was to simplify and reduce the tax burden on Georgia citizens and spur economic growth.

The Reforms included:

  • Motor Vehicle ad valorem property tax will be eliminated after March 1, 2013 and will be replaced with a one time 7% title fee at the time of purchase of your vehicle.
  • Increases Income tax exemptions for Married filings and Married Separate filing Status from $5400 per couple to $7400 per couple.
  • Capping of the Retirement Income exclusion for filers and spouse 65 and older at $65,000 each totaling $130,000 a couple.
  • Conservation Easements credit are limited to $500,000 from $1 million which are given to those making qualified donations of these easements and allows only one transfer.
  • Elimination of the sales tax exemption for film producers and companies that purchased items while producing a film in Georgia.
  • Creation of Energy tax exemptions which help manufacturers making Georgia more competitive with other states in our region. It would allow local counties and municipalities to re-impose local tax.
  • Broadens Agricultural sales tax exemptions on agricultural machinery, agricultural equipment and energy used in agricultural production.
  • Sales tax exemptions on purchases made for construction that have a "regional impact" for enterprises whose cost of electricity exceeds 50% of the cost of all materials.
  • Airline Jet Fuel will be exempt from 1% of the 4% state sales and use tax for all qualifying airlines at qualifying airports starting July 1, 2012.
  • Closes the tax loophole on online sales which includes those out of state vendors who have regional affiliates in Georgia.

 

GENERAL BUDGET FY 2013 PASSES IN THE SENATE

The FY 2013 Budget is 19.233 billion in State funds and is based on a growth rate of 5.3% Tax Revenue growth over the FY 2012 Amended. The budget contains $720 million in new funds over the Amended FY2012 and $933 million over the General FY2012. As the state grows so does its budget.

 

BILLS PASSED IN THE SENATE

 

For a more complete list see http://www.senate.ga.gov/spo/en-US/UpperChamberReport.aspx

 

HB 39 - Allows attendance records of home school students to be submitted to the Department of Education by electronic means.

 

HB 900 - Trailers must be titled if they are being scrapped. If the trailer is older than 12 years it is exempt from this requirement.

 

HR 1162 - Constitutional Amendment which allows the State to set up special charter school's Proposal will be on the ballot in November.

 

HB 514 - Authorizes licensed distillers to sample their distilleries through an application process with the Department of Revenue Commissioner.

 

HB 832 - Allows the royalties and license fees for Vidalia Onions in prepared foods.

 

HB 208 - Ends legislation passed in 2008 allowing some retirees to teach fulltime. Currently this would have ended June 30, 2016. This bill changes the repeal date to June 30, 2013.

 

HB 711 - Provides confidential communication between victims and their advocates at domestic violence and sexual assault centers. It exempts domestic abuse cases from the spousal evidence privilege in criminal proceedings.

 

HB 845 - Requires early care and education programs provide information on the flu vaccine to parents of enrolled children.

 

HB 181 - Requires local resident school systems to notify parents of students with disabilities that they may be eligible for a Georgia Special Needs Scholarship and of the website where more information can be found.

 

HB 835 - Allows for a $500 annual permit to allow commercial wreckers to exceed the maximum weight and dimension limits when the wrecker is conducting an emergency tow. This permit can be obtained through the Department of Transportation.

 

HB 879 - Requires the Department of Education to develop guidelines in the training of   school employees for students with diabetes.

 

SR 1239 - Recognizes and commends Mr. Bruce Oliver on the occasion of his retirement for his superlative service in the Department of Corrections.

 

If you would like additional information regarding a specific piece of legislation, you may access the Georgia General Assembly website at http://www.legis.ga.gov/

 

March 24--  Georgia's First Lady and State School Superintendent are making a tour of South Georgia schools Monday and Tuesday.

First Lady Sandra Deal and Superintendent John Barge will visit 12 schools starting in Cordele Monday morning and ending in Dublin Tuesday afternoon.  Among the schools on the schedule are Montgomery County High School Monday at 2:30 p.m., Lyons Upper Elementary School Tuesday at 8:15 a.m. and Treutlen Middle/High School Tuesday at 1:15 p.m.

Here is the itinerary.

March 26, 2012

8:15 AM            Arrive Crisp County High School         

 

9:30 AM            Arrive Wilcox Elementary School       

 

11:15 AM          Arrive North Dodge Elementary School                        

12:30 PM          Arrive Telfair County Middle School 

 

1:30 PM            Arrive Wheeler County High School 

 

2:30 PM            Arrive Montgomery County High School       

 

March 27, 2012

8:15 AM            Arrive Lyons Upper Elementary School          

9:30 AM            Arrive Collins Elementary School       

 

 

10:45 AM          Arrive Metter Middle School               

 

12:00 PM          Arrive Swainsboro High School           

 

1:15 PM            Arrive Treutlen Middle/High School                

 

2:30 PM            Arrive Dublin High School                     

 

 

March 23-- VNS Corporation announces it is opening a new Choo Choo Build-It Mart location on the Southside of Jacksonville, FL, and re-opening their Richmond Hill, GA location as a roofing distribution center.  The Jacksonville location will distribute a full line of building materials.

VNS Corporation, a regional building products and construction services company headquartered in Vidalia, GA., is the largest privately owned building products company in Georgia and is ranked in the top 50 in the nation by Pro Sales magazine.  VNS is the parent Company of Choo Choo Build-It Mart, Wholesale Building Products, Bestline Sash & Door, and Charlie’s Discount Building Materials.  In addition, ProCon Construction Services, LLC and TrussMart Building Products, LLC are wholly owned subsidiaries of VNS Corporation. 

Joe Inman, Vice President and General Manager of the Kingsland, and Richmond Hill, GA locations, will also oversee the Jacksonville store.   

Gary Campbell, President & CEO of VNS, states “We are excited to announce the opening of a new location in Jacksonville and the re-opening of our Richmond Hill, GA location.  Both of these locations give us easy access onto I-95 to distribute products north and south.   VNS Corporation takes great pride in selling and serving the professional contractor and also homeowners building or re-modeling their own home.  Choo Choo Build-It Mart started selling building materials in 1961, building our company on first class service and integrity.   We truly serve as partners to our customers.  Our mission is to help our customers be successful.”

March 23-- U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today made the following statement on the two-year anniversary of President Obama’s terribly flawed health care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Isakson, who serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, voted against the health care bill in December 2009, and he has voted to repeal the law.

“On the two-year anniversary of President Obama’s health care law, we continue to find more and more major flaws in the law that will impact the lives of millions of Americans.

“President Obama promised Americans that if you like your plan, you can keep it. Beginning in 2014, the health care law will require small business to provide health insurance to employees, or else pay a fine per employee. As a former small business owner, I know that small businesses will see this fine as significantly less expensive than providing health benefits. I predict many small businesses are going to get rid of their benefit plans and send their employees to the government exchange. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that as many as 20 million Americans will lose their employer-sponsored health insurance plans as a result of the law. Even worse, the mandates in the law could cause as many as 800,000 Americans to become unemployed.

“In addition to decreasing patient choice, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is anything but affordable. The law itself will cost as much as $1.75 trillion, which is almost double than what President Obama initially claimed. On top of that, premiums are expected to go up by as much as $2,100 per family per year in the individual market as a result of the mandates in the law.

“Finally, I am gravely concerned with the effects this law is going to have on our seniors. When I saw that the president’s law takes $500 billion out of the Medicare trust fund, which at the time was predicted to go broke in 2017, and moves it to the other side of the balance sheet to underwrite the cost of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, I knew that we were in trouble. We’re robbing Peter to pay Paul for a new program. It is robbing taxpayers of the money they’ve paid for a benefit that the law is going to diminish and move to fund beneficiaries who haven’t paid a dime for it. This law is wrong for seniors. It’s wrong for Medicare, and it’s wrong for America.

“This terrible law is full of broken promises, and I will continue to work to repeal the law and replace it with solutions to contain the costs of health care and increase patient choice through competition in the private-sector.”

March 23--  The Toombs County Commission has approved changes to the county's commission district lines.

The state reapportionment office recommended the changes to a previously approved map in order to increase minority representation in District One which is represented by Commissioner Roy Lee Williams.  The adjustment added population from Lyons to District One and removed it from District Three represented by Commission Skeeter Toole.

The map requires approval by the U.S. Department of Justice and local legislation in the Georgia General Assembly before it can be finalized.

In other actions at a called meeting Wednesday, the commission approved a $150,000 economic development loan to Tommie and Clint Williams of Lyons to do some renovation work on the old Capitol Bolt Building on Highway 292 in Lyons.  Williams Development. LLP will lease the building to U.S. Pet to use as a packaging and distribution center.  It's a four-year loan at three percent interest.

March 21--  There's a Cornhole Tournament going on at the Vidalia Community Center this weekend that's attracting players from all over the country, according to Frank Geers with the American Cornhole Organization.

"The furthest group traveling is coming in from California and we've got groups from Connecticut, Illinois, Tennessee and Ohio.  So they're coming in from all over the country and it's going to be a good party there in Vidalia, that's for sure," he says.

There's almost $20,000 in prize money in games that start Friday night and continue all day Saturday and Sunday at the Vidalia Community Center.  Anyone can enter the contests which are similar to horseshoes.

"It's the top tailgating game in the United States.  It's a game where you have two platforms or boards that have a six-inch hole cut in them placed 27 feet apart.  You have one pound bags and each team or each player competing has four bags and the object is to put your bag in the hole from 27 feet.  That's a cornhole when you throw a bag through the hole.  The traditional name of cornhole came from the fact that you were throwing bags filled with corn through a hole," he says.  Today the bags are filled with beans.

The Vidalia Area Convention and Visitors Bureau invited tournament organizers to town for the event under the corporate sponsorship of Cintas.

Spectators are welcome and if you want to play, you can enter singles, doubles and four-person crew competition.  

"f you're not aware of what the game is, on our website, there's a lot of video footage where you can see some competitors playing at the highest level and also see the social levels out there playing.  It's a wonderful game that sort of originated with tailgating and that's what we'll be doing in Vidalia this weekend," Geers says.

The ACO website is www.americancornhole.org.

March 21--  The Ogeechee Riverkeeper issued a news release today objecting to a judge's ruling against the group in last year's Ogeechee fish kill.

"On March 20, 2012, a judge in Atlanta ruled that citizens have no right to challenge the State's handling of the largest fish kill in Georgia's history.  Ogeechee Riverkeeper, represented by the public interest law firm, GreenLaw, and the environmental law firm, Stack & Associates, had filed a legal challenge to the state environmental agency's handling of the largest fish kill in state history. While Judge Lois Oakley, who issued the decision, found that Ogeechee Riverkeeper members were injured by the fish kill, she nevertheless rejected their case finding that Ogeechee Riverkeeper could not show that its members had been harmed by the agency's decision. 

In May 2011, the biggest fish kill in the history of the State was caused by an illegal discharge into the Ogeechee River by a textile company based in Chicago, King America Finishing. Shortly thereafter, King America Finishing ("KAF") and the State Environmental Protection Division ("EPD") entered into secret negotiations where KAF agreed to a Consent Order, which allowed them to continue discharging illegally and without a proper permit. The Consent Order also imposed the requirement of an environmental project. Citizens, including Ogeechee Riverkeeper and its members, had no input into this process.

In challenging the Consent Order, Riverkeeper brought numerous witnesses to testify about how they have been directly affected by the illegal discharge and how they fear it may happen again. A prominent biologist at Auburn University, Dr. Alan Wilson, testified that these fears are well founded and that the fish kill could happen again. Nevertheless, the Judge ruled that the members of the public most affected by the fish kill and overall health of the river have no standing to challenge the State's inadequate penalty. 

"Georgia's citizens who live in the Ogeechee Basin have borne too many insults," states Dianna Wedincamp, Ogeechee Riverkeeper. "First, we had to endure a massive fish kill, then EPD shuts us out of the process, and then a judge says we have no right to complain. We have a right to protect our rivers."

"We believe that the court erred because we showed that the Ogeechee Riverkeeper and its members were not only shut out of the process but also that they had been injured by the Consent Order which allows the facility to keep polluting illegally," stated Hutton Brown, water quality attorney for GreenLaw who is handling the case for Ogeechee Riverkeeper in partnership with Don Stack of Stack & Associates. "We intend to appeal the decision."

To see the Judge's ruling, go to www.greenlaw.org/OgeecheeFishKill

March 20--  The State Board of Education today voted unanimously to recommend to the Governor suspension with pay of the Miller County Board of Education. The State Board conducted a hearing pursuant to O.C.G.A. 20-2-73, relating to recommendations for potential suspension of local boards of education for governance related issues. 

The following statement was read by the Chair of the State Board of Education, Barbara Hampton at the conclusion of the hearing:

Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 20-2-73(a)(1), Suspension and removal of local school board members under certain circumstances, the Georgia State Board of Education has received and reviewed all reports requested since the initial hearing date of November 28, 2011 in addition to the testimony heard and evidence presented today.  In accordance with the official vote, the State Board of Education hereby recommends to the Governor to suspend with pay all members of the Miller County Board of Education this day of March 20, 2012.

Meanwhile, the Montgomery County school board is currently on probation and will have a hearing this summer before the state Board of Education.  The board is working on correcting governance issues raised by an inspection team from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

March 20--  The Toombs-Montgomery Youth Leadership Class of 2011-12 graduated in ceremonies Monday at the Dixon Community Center in Vidalia.  The students represented Vidalia High School, Toombs County High School, Montgomery County High School and Robert Toombs Christian Academy.  The program was led by Ashley Sasser and Jose Caraballo on behalf of the Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce.

{mosimage} 

Front Row (L-R): Lauren McDonald, Anna Rosenwald, Robert George, Mark Madison, Gray Humphrey, Carson Bacon, Joey Pope

Second Row (L-R): Kaitlin Dotson, Lindsey Murry, Ashlee Darsey, Jessica Johnson, Jasmine Cheeves, Audrey Thompson, Darby Oliver, Kimberly Warren, Lindsey Lothridge, Ashley Sasser, Program Co-chair

Third Row (L-R): Jose Caraballo, Program Co-chair, Lee McCloud, Jake Stuckless, Stephen McCall, Chris Warren, Kyle Fabacher

 

March 20--  The faculty advisor to the Vidalia High School DECA Club, Bobby Stanley, provides the following regarding a scholarship in memory of Courtney Wilkes.

"Applications are now being accepted from high school Seniors wishing to apply for the 1st Annual Career, Technical and Agricultural Education Scholarship – In Honor of Courtney Wilkes, sponsored by Vidalia Comprehensive High School DECA Club.  A scholarship in the amount of $750 will be awarded to one recipient from either Vidalia Comprehensive High School or Toombs County High School, based on the following criteria:

·       Vidalia Comprehensive High School or Toombs County High School Senior, planning on attending a two or four year college and choosing a Career, Technical or Agricultural Education (CTAE )field of study (16 Pathways; List Attached)

·       Strong GPA and Class Ranking

·       Excellent Moral Character

·       Scholastic Achievement

·       Extracurricular / Community Involvement

·       Financial Need

All applicants will be required to complete and attach to their application, a one page essay (typed, 12 point, Times New Roman Font, 1 ½ spacing).

Courtney Wilkes was a rising junior at Toombs County High School (and academically number one in her class) when she was brutally murdered in June of 2011, while vacationing with her family in Florida.  The DECA Club of Vidalia Comprehensive High School sought a way to honor this exceptional young lady by creating an annual scholarship in her name.   Courtney was a friend to all, had a contagious, bubbly personality and exhibited a love of learning.  She had a bright outlook on life and planned to be a veterinarian.  She held an officer position in FFA and excelled on her soccer team.  Most importantly, Courtney upheld her principles by demonstrating a strong moral character and deep Christian faith.  

Deadline for submission is April 16, 2012.  To receive an application or should you have any questions, please contact Bobby Stanley, DECA Advisor, VCHS at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 537-7931.  Recipient will be announced during Senior Night for recipient’s school in May 2012.

Recipient will be chosen by a Scholarship Committee appointed by DECA Club advisor.  All funds for the scholarship are raised by the members of the Vidalia High School DECA Club.

March 20-- Vidalia onions will be hitting the road April 12, nearly a week earlier than last year, Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary W. Black said today.

Any onions shipped earlier must undergo inspection and bear a Federal-State Inspection Certificate stating the onions have met grade and other requirements. Baby onions, with their green spears attached, may also be shipped earlier.

“The federal-state inspection assures the quality of the onions and that they have matured to meet the marketing standards,” Commissioner Black said. “Onions that are harvested and shipped too early and do not meet the grade requirements can damage the reputation of this important crop.”

The 2011 crop was worth about $92 million, Black's office said.

The official shipping date is based on the recommendation of the Vidalia Onion Advisory Panel and the many rules and regulations that apply to the onions. The onions may be grown only in a 20-county area of southeast Georgia.

It is the second time in as many years that the shipping date has been moved up. In 2010, the official shipping date was April 27.

Onions aren't the only things moving earlier. Agriculture officials said many fruit crops bloomed earlier because of the unusually mild winter.




March 19--  Toombs County is paying severance money to the recently resigned county manager.

In response to a Freedom of Information request, the county reported it is paying Doug Eaves $47,538.48 for six months salary and six weeks of accrued vacation time.  

Eaves resigned March 13 and said in his resignation letter part of the reason was because of "circumstances beyond my control."

County attorney Howard Kaufold says Eaves' contract contained a provision that he would receive a severance package "if he resigned following a suggestion to resign whether formal or informal."

In an interview, Eaves said he could not comment on circumstances surrounding his decision to resign. However, he noted his contract was similar to many endorsed by the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) due to the political nature of jobs occupied by county managers. 

Eaves started work as Toombs County's first county manager in October, 2008.  His contract was renewed by the county in October, 2010.

Eaves letter of resignation says:

"It is with regret that I tender my resignation effective March 13, 2012 from Toombs County.  I have enjoyed my employment with Toombs and feel that we have made a great contribution towards the future of the county.

"Due to circumstances beyond my control and the opportunity to pursue other business interests at this time that is important to me and in the best interest of my family, I tender this resignation.  I leave knowing that Toombs County is in a better financial and managerial situation than when I started.  I leave with a sense of satisfaction knowing the improvements we have made.

"I wish you and the county well in your future endeavors." 

 

March 19-- With final legislative passage of the charter school amendment today, Gov. Nathan Deal encouraged Georgians to vote for it this November.

                                                                                                            “The General Assembly has acted wisely and courageously to give Georgians the choice to implement true local control: parental choice. We must encourage innovation and the pursuit of excellence in our schools.

"Starting a state-chartered school is not done easily or without lots of hard work, but we need a system that allows for this option. State-chartered schools help students trapped in underperforming schools and aid communities that want to invest in new and imaginative ways of learning for their children.

"Approving this amendment will simply restore the process for creating state-charted schools that existed before the state Supreme Court struck down the state’s system for granting charters, and I hope Georgians will cast their vote for protecting and promoting schools that have a strong record of student achievement.”

March 19--  You can expect some mail delays if the U.S. Postal Service proceeds with consolidation of some processing centers.

It has announced plans to move the processing center in Swainsboro to Macon and relocate two centers in Savannah to Charleston, Jacksonville and Macon.

Vidalia Postmaster Bill Warnock says consolidation won't impact Express Mail, however, he believes delivery of First Class Mail could take two days if and when the changes take effect.  The Postmaster says delivery of mail in this zip code zone currently should only take one day if the letter is at the post office before five p.m.

Final decisions on consolidation proposal are expected in mid-May.

March 19--  A Vidalia city school has received a clean bill of health from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

A state inspector visited J.D. Dickerson Primary School to check on the school's asbestos monitoring program.  Officials say both records and the school were checked and the inspector reported both are in compliance with environmental regulations.

Vidalia school superintendent Dr. Tim Smith has assured concerned parents that upcoming renovation at the school will not expose students to airborne asbestos.

 

March 19--  The city of Vidalia is planning to make some repairs on Adams Street while it waits on major renovation by the Georgia Department of Transportation.  The street makes up a portion of State Highway 130.

The Vidalia city council has okayed spending $25,000 to fix some of the worst portions of the street.

The city also reports there are no plans to replace speed bumps on Forest Lakes Drive due to complaints of speeding, however, officials say they plan to increase police patrols to slow down the traffic.

March 19--  The 67th Annual Pine Tree Festival and Southeast Timber EXPO focuses on an old-fashioned hometown celebration for Emanuel County with this year's slogan, “200 Years of the Amazing Pine Have Made Emanuel County Fine!” 

After hearing the voice of the community, the Pine Tree Festival Committee has decided to host the majority of festival events scheduled for Saturday, May 5 in downtown Swainsboro in order to make it more centralized and inviting. Other events will be held from Saturday, April 28 through Wednesday, May 9.

The Festival Committee is proud to announce the debut appearance of Swamp People on May 5. Swamp People, a popular History Channel television show that has seen record-breaking reviews and ratings with over 3.9 million viewers, follows swampers through a time of year that is crucial to their survival: the 30-day alligator hunting season

   {mosimage}Swamp People celebrities R.J. and Jay Paul, Jr. Molinere will be guest celebrities on-site at the 67th Pine Tree Festival & Timber EXPO, May 5 from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., to sign autographs and take pictures. A Houma Native American, R.J. Molinere was born and raised in a small Native American village and has lived most of his life off of the land's resources by trapping, shrimping, crabbing, and alligator hunting. R.J. is a four-time World Champion arm wrestler, eleven-time National Champion, two-time Arnold Classic Arm Wrestling Champion, and two-time GNC Champion. Jay Paul, Jr. is a two-time Golden Gloves Boxing champion, regional boxing champion and undefeated MMA fighter. The pair began their stardom on Swamp People this past April. For more information regarding the show or the Molineres, visit www.history.com/shows/swamp-people, or find them on Facebook.

To find out more about these and other events, please visit the Pine Tree Festival & Timber EXPO website at www.pinetreefestival.org or visit the Chamber’s Pine Tree Festival site at www.emanuelchamber.org. Information may also be found on the Pine Tree Festival & Southeast Timber EXPO's page on Facebook.

 

March 19--  The Vidalia Onion Committee held its annual recognition ceremony at the Vidalia Community Center and named its Grower of the Year and inducted its latest member into the Vidalia Onion Growers Hall of Fame.

{mosimage}The Grower of the Year is Alan Sikes of Sikes Farms in Collins (pictured here with his wife, Tracy, and family, friends and co-workers.  "We are so proud to partner with Alan Sikes and his family," said John Shuman, president of Shuman Produce, Reidsville, Ga. Shuman says he believes that Sikes is among the best in quality and reputation in the Vidalia industry and has earned this distinction through his continued dedication to growing the highest quality and sweetest onions available in the Vidalia industry.

Sikes’ wife, Tracy, works alongside her husband in the business and can often be seen meticulously laboring on the Sikes Farms packing line.  She says her husband grew up in a farming family, and as many farmers have done, worked more than his share of long hours for his dad.  She explains, “Instead of playing sports after school, he got to pick corn or tobacco or peanuts.  And sometimes he got to get out of school early to do it!” 

After graduating from Reidsville High School, Sikes went to the University of Georgia, Athens, Ga., where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and then his Master of Education.  He then took a position with UGA extension services and ran the 4-H Camp at Jekyll Island for 2 years.   On a hunting trip out West, he befriended some people who had family in Alaska.  Sikes decided to visit and wound up staying five years.  Sikes became a hunting and fishing guide for a mountain lodge there in Alaska and then earned his pilot’s license and flew for a charter service out of Anchorage.  He returned to Collins in the mid 90s to farm, married Tracy, and they now have three active sons.  He has a love of farming, learning about the crops, and trying to improve each year.  Tracy adds, “Farming is tough but Alan is proof that hard work will not kill you and neither will running free and barefoot behind the tractor holding your breath in the spray!”

{mosimage}L.G. “Bo” Herndon, Jr.,(shown with his mother and Carolyn Wilkes) of Herndon Farms in Lyons is the newest member of the Hall of Fame.  In addition to his commitment to and success with growing and packing Vidalia onions, Herndon has long been devoted to the Vidalia Onion Committee and has served as a champion of the organization to see it through some rocky times.  Herndon’s nephew Jason said he believes the Hall of Fame award is special because, “It is not about what you have done for yourself, instead what you have done for the industry.”  Jason Herndon, who works with his uncle, said becoming a “Hall of Famer” is a long process completed by building a reputation through honor, respect and integrity.  He said Bo’s belief that everyone wakes up and puts his pants on one leg at a time is what gives him the ability to approach people the same way, no matter their status.  “If it’s important to the industry it’s important to him, and I think we all know he is going to shoot you straight and tell it like it is.”

Herndon has served the committee for most of the past 25 years and has been at the forefront of tackling industry obstacles.  During that span, he has confronted issues ranging from the implementation of CA in the early 1990s, stopping growers outside the region from producing and mislabeling varieties, changing sales units from 50 to 40 pound cartons, and other pivotal issues.  Herndon has often been noted among his peers as putting aside Herndon Farms business to attend to the needs of the Vidalia Onion Committee.  He currently sits on the Advisory Panel for the Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture and recently finished his second term as President of Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Committee.

Among those attending were the new 2011 VOC executive committee members:  Aries Haygood, M&T Farms, Lyons, GA, remains Chairman; Kevin Hendrix, Hendrix Produce, Metter, GA, is the new Vice-Chairman; and public member Myrtle Jones of Toombs County Ag South Farm Credit remains Secretary-Treasurer.  Other members of the 2012 Committee are Barbara Braddy, Braddy Farms, Mt. Vernon, GA; Brett McLain, McLain Farms, Lyons, GA; Charlie Robison, Robison Farms, Ailey, GA; Brian Stanley, Stanley Farms, Vidalia, GA; Ty Powell, Smith Farms, Cobbtown, GA; Jason Herndon, Herndon Farms, Lyons, GA.  Alternates are Troy Bland, Bland Farms, Glennville, GA; Blake Dasher, G&R Farms, Glennville, GA; Mike Collins, Mike & Travis Farms, Collins, GA; Jamie Beasley, B&B Farms, Uvalda, GA; Brett Williams, Williams Farms, Uvalda; Ashley Day, Cobbtown; Ronnie McLeod, McLeod Farms, Reidsville; and Jerome Parker, Public Member Alternate.

March 19--  J.D. Dickerson Kindergarten students traveled to the Toombs County Agricenter for a “Day on the Farm.”

{mosimage}During their visit to the “farm”, students learned about seeds that feed, the World Famous Vidalia Sweet Onion and took a stroll through Old McDonald’s Farm.   Kay Usher of R & K Greenhouses talked with students about growing plants from seeds.  The Toombs County Extension staff and special guest Yumion visited with students about growing Vidalia Onions.  Finally, local 4-H members showcased their 4-H livestock projects and talked with students about goats, pigs, chickens and cows.  Students were able to get close to the animals and even feed the cows. 

The program was developed by a committee consisting of Mr. Biram Chapman, Principal Cheryl Welch, J.D. Dickerson teachers and the Toombs County Extension

March 17--  The Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) is asking its members to contact legislators regarding a House Bill on the use of state fees for other than their intended purposes. 

Pressure Builds as Final Days of the 2012 Legislative Session Draw Near

The General Assembly is on track to wrap up the 2012 legislative session before the end of March. Next week, legislators return for four official days (Days 34 – 37).  Now is the time when ACCG and county officials must keep a watchful eye on all legislation to ensure that bills are not amended in ways that could negatively impact county operations.

ACCG has updated the legislative tracking database and is only tracking legislation at this time that has passed in either the House or the Senate (or both) and is still alive. Remember that you can track legislation by issue, policy committee, or policy staff member to get a quick snapshot of issues that interest you. The ACCG legislative database is available by clicking here.

Watch for updates from ACCG next week on major issues including criminal justice reform, juvenile justice reform and tax reform. Below are updates on other legislation representing county priorities that saw action this week.

Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Watered Down Version of HB 811

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed, but made major modifications to, HB 811 this week which will allow state budget writers to continue diverting dedicated fees for other purposes. The Committee amended the bill to allow for the unabated diversion of dedicated fees without any fee reduction until state reserves reach at least 7% percent of the previous year’s fiscal budget, or about $1.1 billion.  The current total held in state reserves is $328 million, and the reserves have topped the billion dollar mark only once in the past 23 years.  Also, indigent defense fees were removed from the bill.  The bill now awaits action by the Senate Rules Committee. 

The media has closely followed HB 811 and asked Senators tough questions this week regarding the need for transparency in the state’s budget making process.  Some of the media coverage includes:

HB 811 is one of ACCG’s top priorities this legislative session.  Please contact your Senators and ask that they support HB 811 and encourage an amendment to reduce the 7 percent reserve threshold to 3 percent. Without this change, the redirection of fees will continue with little, if any constraint. ACCG fully supports building up the state’s shortfall reserve, but not at the expense of fees dedicated to services local governments must carry out. 

 

March 17--  State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville provides his weekly update from the Georgia General Assembly.

MOSTLY POSITIVE TRENDS IN FEBRUARY'S REVENUE TOTALS

 

Looking inside February's numbers give us reason to be optimistic as well as understanding that recovery continues to be slow. The largest category, Individual Income Taxes also contains small businesses filing as individuals and so is a barometer of activity.  Of course this time of year, refunds are in season and that is a category to pay special attention to.  Year to Date, the number of refunds is down some 99,000 or about 7%. The amount of refunds is also down YTD, about $128,000 or about 12%.

 

The other important set of numbers in this category is the number and amount of tax payments.  So far, the number of tax payments are up, by 40,000 or about

2 ½% and the amount of payments are up $251,000 or about 4%.

 

The other large category, Sales Taxes, about 1/3 of revenues, is up 5.6% for the year.  Inside the categories, Food leads the way, up 15.4%, General Merchandise, up 13.9%, Retail Trade, up 12.1%, Utilities, up 10.7%, followed by Automotive up 9.7% and Misc. Services, up 9.1%, Wholesale Trade, up 9.0%, Home Furnishings , up 6.9% and even Manufacturing, up 5.4%.  None were negative.

 

Corporate Tax Collections continue to be of concern, down for the year -$117.5 million basically because refunds are up $100 million or 70.4% and payments are down -$25.5 million.

 

AMENDED BUDGET PASSED AND SIGNED

 

The Georgia Senate passed the Amended FY 2012 Budget this week.  It totals $18.50 Billion which is a slight increase from the original FY 2012.

Highlights:

  • $10 million in new funds for rural economic development through the One Georgia program.
  • Fully funds the growth in the K-12 formula with $85.9 million.
  • Funds Charter System Grants growth of $2.8 million.
  • Restores ½ of 1% provider cut to Medicaid and Peachcare.
  • In the Department of Health, $1.2 Million to hold harmless counties losing funding under the new grant in the aid formula.
  • Transfers funds totaling $1.2 million for newborn screening for children at risk for developmental disabilities.
  • $250,000 to the Marcus Autism Center.

These are some of the increases found in the Amended budget FY 2012 which included some $207 million in new funds.  

 

BILLS PASSED IN THE SENATE

 

For a more complete list see http://www.senate.ga.gov/spo/en-US/UpperChamberReport.aspx

 

HB 110 - Authorizes counties and municipalities to create a registry for vacant and foreclosed properties.It will not preempt any county or municipal ordinances or resolutions that require registration of foreclosed properties for violations that remain for at least 60 days.

 

HB 175 - Allows a local and charter school to share computer-based courses with students in other districts and charter schools. It is known as the "Online Clearinghouse Act."

 

HB 642 - This ends the State Personnel Administration and transfers certain functions to the Department of Administrative Services and the Commissioner of Administrative Services.

 

HB 895 - Expands GBI duties and responsibilities to include the Sexual Offender Registration Review Board and its employees on July 1, 2012.

 

HB 713 - Delays implementation requiring students to choose a career path by ninth grade. It includes reading, writing, and math requirements for those applying for technical colleges for high school students until 2013.

 

HB 760 - Capitol Outlay - Ends the exceptional growth program, which distributed funds to elementary and secondary schools based on exceptional growth. The program had 50 systems in 2002 and this year there are only 18. Instead the program will be replaced by a maximum entitlement level for regular capital outlay.

 

If you would like additional information regarding a specific piece of legislation, you may access the Georgia General Assembly website at http://www.legis.ga.gov/.

 

 

 

 

March 16--  A Toombs County grand jury has returned 28 indictments according to Toombs County Clerk of Court Chess Fountain.

Indicted on 19 counts of financial identity fraud are Sharline Craven and Robert Medders, Jr. for defrauding TAR Land and Timber Company.  Others indicted in fraud cases are Anthony Cook and Sierra Wright with Larry Cauley indicted for credit card theft.

Burglary indictments were returned against Matthew Guenther, Deriek Lawler, James Law, Taneka Warren, Terry Walton, David Anderson, Elizabeth Carr, Sonia Hartman and Sierra Oglesby.

Indicted for Theft by Taking are Billy Gupton, Charlie Clemons, Spencer Musgrove and Jesus Almazan.

The grand jury indicted Shelley Thompson for cruelty to children and Bobby Durden for cruelty to animals in the shooting and cutting of a horse.

Aggravated assault indictments were filed against Juan Mendoza, Samuel Raiford, Amanda Mobley and Tomie Davis.

Indicted for drug-related charges are Cecil Wilson, Robert Powell, John Bell and Stephen Corouthers.

Others indicted are Jennifer Roy for theft by conversion, Justin Jones for interference with government property, Willie Robinson III for shoplifting and robbery and Tracy McDaniel for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. 

March 16--  It took a decade, but the long arm of the law finally took a child molestor off the street.

District Attorney Hayward Altman reports Victor Tyrone Campbell of Lyons will spend 25 years in jail without parole for sodomizing a little girl in 2002. Toombs Superior Court Judge Kathy Palmer also placed Campbell on lifetime probation and he will be registered as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Officials say the delay occurred because there was a delay in reporting the crime and because Campbell fled the state when it was reported.

March 16--The Georgia Department of Labor announced today that the preliminary unemployment rate in the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha area rose to 11.6 percent in January, up four-tenths of a percentage point from a revised 11.2 percent in December. The jobless rate in the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha area in January a year ago was 12.2 percent.

Metro Athens had the lowest area rate at 7.1 percent, while metro Dalton had the highest at 12.7 percent. 

Meanwhile, Georgia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined for the sixth month in a row to 9.2 percent in January, the lowest rate since March of 2009 when it was 9.1 percent. That is a decline of two-tenths of a percentage point from a revised 9.4 percent in December. The jobless rate was 10.1 percent in January a year ago.

Statewide, the rate went down because about 13,000 more Georgians were employed in January than in December. Also, newly revised numbers show that Georgia gained 83,700 jobs in the last 12 months. This is the largest January to January job growth since 2006.

Among the sectors showing growth over the year, professional and businesses services gained 37,000 jobs, retail trade gained 15,100, health care and social assistance grew by 11,100, and manufacturing gained 7,300.

In the nine-county Vidalia trade area, January unemployment rose over December but was improved over January, 2011.  The area rate continues to be higher than the state rate of 9.4%.  The U.S. unemployment rate is 8.2%.

County

January 2012

December 2011

January 2011

Appling

10.7%

10.1%

10.8%

Candler

10.2%

9.7%

10.7%

Emanuel

11%

11.2%

11.7%

Jeff Davis

14%

13.4%

14.6%

Montgomery

10.9%

10.7%

11%

Tattnall

10.3%

9.3%

10.4%

Toombs

11.1%

10.4%

11.3%

Treutlen

14.5%

10.4%

13.5%

Wheeler

9.9%

9.5%

10.5%

Georgia

9.4%

9.2%

10.4%

 

March 15--  A man who has worked and served Lyons his entire life is the town's 2012 Citizen of the Year.

{mosimage}Darriel Nobles (right) accepts a plaque bearing his name from last year's honoree Nan Price with Johnny Jones, President of the Lyons Merchant's Association, assisting with the presentation.

Nobles said he is humbled by the award and says he cannot conceive of living anywhere else but Lyons.  Nan Price told those attending Thursday night's ceremony about Noble's community leadership in business, civic and church life and described him as a man who worked behind the scenes to improve the quality of life in Lyons.

March 15--  The longtime Sheriff of Montgomery County has decided not to run for re-election. 

{mosimage}Sheriff Clarence Sanders made the announcement at a Thursday morning news conference and said he'd been thinking about it for six months.  After a family meeting earlier this week, Sheriff Sanders said he thought and prayed about the decision and got no sleep the night before he decided what to do.

"I fixed me a cup of coffee, got me a breakfast bar, went out and fed our horses and rode down to the branch and looked at our cows, went back to the house.  When I got back to the house, I went in. I told Ruby Nell, I've made the decision. She said hold on just a minute, I want to tell you something before you say anything else.  No matter which decision you've made, the family is going to stick behind you.  So I said, I'm going to retire.  She grabbed me and hugged my neck, and if I'd known I was going to get a neck-hugging, I'd retired a long time ago," Sheriff Sanders related.

Sheriff Sanders started as a Deputy Sheriff in 1983 and was elected to office in 1996.  He says when he was a deputy, he got to spend too little time with his daughter and doesn't want to make the same mistake with his grandchildren.

He thanked his staff and people in Montgomery County for their support during his career and promised to be around to help anyone he can in the future.

March 15-- Gov. Nathan Deal today announced that the Denmark-based Dinex Group plans to open a manufacturing plant in Dublin-Laurens County. The automotive emissions control and exhaust manufacturer will create 250 jobs and invest $15 million in this operation.  

“Automotive suppliers are leading the way for the manufacturing rebound in Georgia and we have companies such as Dinex to credit for that,” said Deal. “Our state is uniquely equipped to help manufacturers compete globally, so I am especially glad to welcome this company to Georgia.”

 The Dinex Group is a leading global manufacturer and distributor of innovatively engineered exhaust and emission control products and solutions for the heavy-duty diesel engine and vehicle industry. The company’s Dublin facility will be its first in the United States and will produce exhaust and emission systems for the off- and on-road markets for diesel engines in North America. Dinex’s customers include Caterpillar, Carrier, John Deere, Case New Holland and Volvo among several others. Dinex will also develop a full range of products for the truck and bus aftermarket (AEM) in North America.

Following an extensive multi-state search for the right U.S. business location, including more than 50 site visits, Dinex decided on Dublin for a number of reasons. “Georgia’s pro-business community met our requirements with respect to logistics, access for our suppliers, operating costs, workforce and quality of life,” said Dinex Vice President and CFO Kim Toft Jensen.

 “By the end of September 2012, we will have capabilities to supply quality products ‘Made in the USA’ to our customers across the U.S.,” said President and CEO Torben Dinesen. “We are anxious to grow our customer base in the U.S. and we are confident in the continued support from the state of Georgia and Laurens County.”

Dinex will collaborate with Quick Start, Georgia’s nationally recognized workforce training program, to train the company’s workforce on a range of advanced manufacturing applications. Quick Start provides tailored and industry-specific training resources free of charge to qualified new, expanding and existing companies creating new jobs in Georgia. The Dinex manufacturing plant will be located in a 60,000-square-foot facility in Dublin and expects to expand by more than double within the next five years.

“Our community is thrilled to have another proven European company to locate in Dublin and Laurens County,” said chairman of the Dublin-Laurens County Development Authority Jimmy Allgood. “We are fortunate to have the quality workforce in this area which Dinex needs to operate successfully in the U.S.”

The Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) collaborated with the Dublin-Laurens County Development Authority to secure this project. GDEcD director of advanced manufacturing, Bill Dobbs, and senior project manager, Andrew Neumann, coordinated this project on behalf of the state.

“Georgia’s resources for advanced manufacturers are significant and we consider this decision by Dinex as a proof point of our abilities to help global companies compete here and abroad,” said Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Chris Cummiskey. “From our highly skilled workforce to advanced logistics network, Dinex will find in Georgia an infrastructure capable of helping it meet current and future customer needs.”

Dinex was also assisted by Binswanger Real Estate Solutions, the Trade Council of Denmark and the Royal Danish Consulate under the advisement of the Honorary Consul General Christopher N. Smith in Macon.

“Through our partnership with the Trade Council of Denmark, we are actively working to attract Danish companies to Georgia,” Smith said. “Dinex is a fabulous addition to the growing list of Danish companies who have chosen Georgia as their home in North America.”

As positions become available at Dinex, interested applicants may apply and get additional information at the Laurens County Department of Labor.

About Dinex Group

Established in 1982, Dinex has experienced massive growth from a small exhaust system manufacturer to the leading supplier in Europe of complete exhaust systems and emission technologies. Dinex’s vision is to become the heavy duty market leader in modern emission technology worldwide. Dinex supplies complete exhaust systems – from turbo to tailpipe – for trucks, buses, vans and industrial machines. In addition, Dinex offers a variety of emission technology products for this range of applications. Dinex operates within the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), Original Equipment Spare Parts Supply (OES) and Aftermarket segments (AEM). To serve the European aftermarket, Dinex subsidiaries functioning as regional sales companies and distribution centers are located in Germany, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Latvia, Russia, and Turkey. The company operates in a total of 14 countries.

The Dinex Group is located in all major European countries and is headquartered with Group Management and production located centrally in Denmark. Further production facilities are situated in Latvia, United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, Turkey and China. www.dinex.dk  

 

March 15--  A new chapter in the history of the Boys & Girls Club of Toombs County began Thursday morning with groundbreaking for a new club home at the corner of Wynona and Third Streets in Vidalia.

{mosimage} 

(L-R) Tyree White, Alan Kent, Tracy Johnson, Bill Torrance, Tonjai Gaffney, Wykeria McKinney, Katyiah Clark, Dianne Zimnavoda, Mark Kirby, Raymond Turner, Howard Hill, Ronnie Dixon and Lynette Dell. 

 

March 15--  Ogeechee RiverKeepers urges opposition to a proposal that would allow loggers to remove ancient logs from Georgia rivers including the Altamaha.  The organization issued a "call to action" this morning.

Ask Your Representative To Vote No On SB 362

SB 362 is scheduled for a hearing in the House Natural Resources Committee on Thursday, with a possible floor vote shortly thereafter.  This bill applies to "deadhead" logs (logs on the bottom of the rivers) in the navigable portions of the Altamaha, Oconee, Ocmulgee, and Flint Rivers.  It would allow log miners to both harvest the logs and set the price for the logs through a sealed bidding process. Current law has DNR setting the price for this precious public asset.

 

Problem:

The logs sank in the late 1800's during massive harvesting a and transporting  to coastal sawmills and ports for export.  Over time they have become an integral part of the river bottom and serve as habitat for fish spawning, food production and protective cover.   Even under a highly regulated program, mining for the logs on the river bottom will disrupt fragile ecological systems and may release heavy metals and potentially carcinogenic PCB's residing in sediments into the river and related water systems.  Mining activities will disrupt boating, fishing, and swimming activities in the river and may create additional hazards to people using the river.  Mining these logs will serve only a handful of "trophy" wood collectors who can make large profits by selling the old, preserved logs for use as upscale floors and furniture.

 

Solution:

Mining logs from the Georgia's rivers provides no benefit to Georgia's citizens or our priceless rivers and their aquatic resources.  The likely compensation price to the state for the acquisition of these resources will certainly not adequately compensate the state for the sale of these resources.  In addition, there is no justification for the health and ecological dangers presented by this kind of log mining.

 

Action Needed:

Tell your Representative to oppose any effort to pass SB 362.  

 

Click here to send YOUR REPRESENTATIVE a message!

 

Deadline for responding: Please take action by Tuesday, March 20, 2012.

 

The following organizations are participating in this campaign:

    Altamaha Riverkeeper
    Flint Riverkeeper
    Georgia Canoeing Association
    Georgia Conservation Voters
    Georgia River Network
    Mothers & Others for Clean Air
    Ogeechee Riverkeeper
    Sierra Club - Georgia Chapter
    Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper

March 14--  The partnership between the Sweet Onion Animal Society (SOAPS) in Vidalia and the Atlanta Humane Society paid off big time last weekend.

{mosimage} 

SOAPS has been taking small groups of cats and dogs from this area to Atlanta for some time, however, last Saturday Andrea Peacock and others from the Humane Society brought a trailer truck to Vidalia and picked up 65 dogs and 38 cats.

{mosimage} 

"We had gotten a phone call from Penny with SOAPS and they are strapped for foster homes and transport and we told her if they could get enough together to justify the trip we would come down.  Right away she was able to get a ton of animals together which needed our help so we came down and got them," Peacock reports.

Penny Rowe says the animals came from many sources and kept many from ending up in local shelters.

"We took in animals from the community to keep them from ever going into a shelter and we pulled multiple animals from shelters in Mount Vernon, Vidalia and Hazlehurst," she said.

{mosimage}Peacock says the animals from the Vidalia area will be offered up for adoption. "We have a lot of people who just walk in the doors.  We put every animal up on our website and about 70 to 80% of adopters see their pictures on line and come in," she notes.

Meanwhile, Penny Rowe hopes this will become a regular trip for the Humane Society since the need in this area is so great.

"We are just overwhelmed with the animal population in our area.  We have more than we have adopters and we just called on Atlanta Humane to help us out and they did so and we saved 103 animals in one day," she says.

 

March 14--  The Georgia House Democratic Caucus reports the State Senate is blocking efforts to make sure fees collected by the state are used for the purpose collected.

" Representative Al Williams spoke out against the gutting of House Bill 811, a bill aimed at addressing the redirection of dedicated fees, today on the House floor.
 
Introduced by Representative Jay Powell, House Bill 811 provides for automatic fee adjustments of 20% in cases where funds are not appropriated for the specified purposes as stated when the fee was created.
 
Representative Williams praised Rep. Powell for his bill and argued that a Senate subcommittee sought to stop the state from diverting those funds and added language that practically shredded the original intent of House Bill 811.
 
“When we do other than what we say we will do with the citizens’ money by way of fees, I believe that it is important we call attention to the fact that we have deceived our citizens,” said Rep. Williams. “If you want to add money to the general fund, I beg that you at least have the guts enough to call it what it is—a tax.”
 
When House Bill 811 passed in the House and moved onto the Senate, senators added a provision that the bill would only be in effect when the state’s reserves contain about $1 billion or more.
 
“In its original form, Powell’s bill gives us the opportunity to make it right,” said Rep. Williams. “There is no reason that the citizens of Georgia need to pay a fee for a service that is not being provided.”
 
Representative Williams added, “It is disgraceful how the General Assembly has deceived the citizens of Georgia.”
 

March 13--  The county manager in Toombs County has resigned.

County manager Doug Eaves tendered his letter of resignation Tuesday morning and told us it stated he wants to pursue other business opportunities and spend more time with his family.

Toombs Commission Chairman Buddy West noted Eaves' absence at the monthly meeting of the commissioners Tuesday evening and said county clerk Gail Widener will act as the interim manager.  

On advice of counsel, he said he could not say if the commissioners had sought Eaves' resignation,however, he did say he was surprised.

"It was sudden and it happened extremely fast this morning.  There's a lot of issues going on and I was kind of taken back the way it all came down," West said.

West credited Eaves with helping get the county back on sound financial footing since he came to the county in October, 2008.

In other actions, the commission tabled a bid to resurface nearly two miles of the Lyons-Center Road until the county engineer can do a cost analysis.  Sikes Brothers had earlier submitted an apparent low bid of $157,000 for the project.

It also agree to spend $6,000 to buy an acre of land on the New Normantown Road as a future location for a county convenience center.

 

 

March 13--  It doesn't change the outcome, but Toombs County Election Supervisor Carrie Alligood says voters in Vidalia should not have voted on the Toombs County school system bond referendum March 6.

The bond issue was mistakenly included on the ballots at the four Vidalia voting precincts.  However, when you back out those votes, the referendum still passed 929 to 552, Alligood reports.  "It was an error on my part," she says.

By Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler

March 13 -- Georgia faces a crisis that, if ignored, has the potential to cause long-term, severe financial distress to our residents, our businesses and our stretched-thin state budget.

The issue? Georgia’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, the fund the state uses to pay unemployment insurance claims, is broke. But it’s not just broke, it’s in debt to the federal government, and the debt and interest are piling up. We must address this issue now or face massive interest payments to Washington.

The Georgia Department of Labor had been borrowing from the federal government for years before I was sworn in as your Labor Commissioner. This borrowing continues today and is required by state law. I have developed a plan that will get us out of debt, pay back the interest, and prevent Georgia from being in debt to federal government again. I cannot do this alone. The General Assembly must approve these changes for our Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund to become fiscally sound once again.

How did we get into this much debt? In short, the “trust” was taken out of the trust fund. In an attempt to curry favor with Georgia businesses, Gov. Roy Barnes declared a “tax holiday” before Barnes’ failed 2002 re-election campaign. Businesses stopped paying into the trust fund. By the time we hit the Great Recession – and many, many Georgians became unemployed through no fault of their own – the $2 billion Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund had been reduced by $1.3 billion.

Plainly speaking, Georgia had not saved for that rainy day.

The math is simple. Unemployment spiked and we paid out the trust fund’s remaining $700 million on unemployment benefits. Then, we had to borrow $721 million as more people filed for unemployment benefits. We’re still borrowing. Had we been fiscally conservative, we would have sustained our $2 billion in reserves, rather than using it as a political kitty to buy votes. Georgia would never have borrowed federal dollars and would be “in the black” today.

Now we have a three-tiered problem: a large loan hanging over our heads, interest payments on that loan, and a trust fund that’s broke. If the General Assembly does nothing, Georgia law will force us to continue borrowing money from the Obama Administration – compounding our financial problems and putting them off for another day.

As long as our loan remains outstanding, both federal and state fees will increase. Last year, businesses paid $42 per employee, per year for federal unemployment insurance. In January, the federal government increased that annual fee by $21, raising the total cost to $63 per employee. An additional $21 will be added each year until employers are paying $105 per employee in federal charges. In addition to these federal fees, state unemployment premiums will double if we do not take legislative action this year. These extra costs are certain to make Georgia employers think twice before hiring new employees.

By contrast, our neighbors in South Carolina – who borrowed more than we did – have already begun to repay their debt. Should they eliminate their debt before we do, South Carolina could win an advantage when recruiting new industries. Georgia must remain competitive. That means making debt repayment a priority. If we buckle down and pay off the loan, we can avoid many of the automatically-generated federal and state fees.

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the state wing of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, agree that something must be done now. These business leaders are willing to pay their share to end the federal re-payment plan early.

To pay back our loan quickly, we must provide a balanced sharing of costs between employers, state government and future benefit recipients. Nothing in my plan will affect those who are currently receiving benefits. I want to ensure that Georgia stays fiscally conservative so you can put your “trust” back in our trust fund.

Unfortunately, the State House did not introduce legislation that would address the loan payback. On the other hand, the State Senate did pass a bill, but some are already questioning its constitutionality. Legislation to raise or reduce revenue must originate in the House, per our state Constitution. If we try to correct our trust fund problem with a Senate bill, it could be challenged in court and thrown out. We would be back at square one.

Constitutional questions could be eliminated if the Senate amends an existing House Bill to include comprehensive solutions, pay down our debt, pay the interest and take our trust fund back to solvency. With the willingness shown by Senate leadership and interested members of both House and Senate, I know we can accomplish this.

With the help of Governor Deal and the General Assembly, Georgia can make our workforce strong again. Without taking real action in the closing days of this legislative session, we will repeat our predecessors’ failed policies. I promised you when elected that, as a Conservative, I would do better. With everyone’s help, we will.

 

March 13--  If you traveled down Highway 280 East in Vidalia Monday, you may have noticed a pink fire truck on the grounds of Meadows Regional Medical Center.

{mosimage} 

The truck is one of four which travels around South Georgia to raise awareness about all forms of cancer.  The truck is from  Savannah where the Southeast Georgia Chapter of the "Guardians of the Ribbon" is headquartered.  The truck is covered in signatures of cancer survivors and memorials signed by family members of cancer victims.

Ann Owens of Vidalia's "Pretty in Pank" Cancer Support Group helped host the event.

"It's been a great day.  It's really neat to see the people come out here and put their family and friend's names on the truck. Just by signing their names means so much and it's very emotional for them," she observes.

{mosimage}Another "Pretty in Pank" founder, Pete Frost, signed the truck in memory of her mother who died of breast cancer in 2010.  

"This has taken on a very personal meaning for me.  We're all in this together and we can fight this breast cancer thing and help each other through it," she said.

The truck was driven to Vidalia by Savannah firewoman Crystal Allen.

"We actually had a lots of survivors today.  We had some people sign in honor of or in memory of, and we like to see the survivors," Allen said.

You can learn more about the pink fire truck fleet at www.gapinktrucks.org .

March 12--  Four people are under arrest in connection with the shooting and robbery of a farm worker last week on the Bo Herndon Onion Farm south of Lyons.

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight identifies those arrested as Arreon Lashun Jackson and Lorenzo Devonte Bennett, both 19 of Lyons, 25-year-old Krista Sagaon of Uvalda and a juvenile.  They are charged with armed robbery and aggravated assault and more charges are pending, according to the sheriff.

A 27-year-old Vidalia man, Antonio Mayweather was investigated in connection with the incident but cleared, Sheriff Kight reports.  He's still facing charges of cocaine possession and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

The worker, 36-year-old Juan Ortega, was shot twice and is hospitalized in stable condition.  

 

March 12--  Dr. Kendall Brantley has been with the Toombs County school system for the past 30 years and has spent the last 20 years as school superintendent.

Last week he announced his retirement.  "Well actually my wife was experiencing some health problems and she retired and I'm at the point in my life where I'm eligible for social security," he says.

Dr. Brantley is remaining at interim superintendent until the school board can find a replacement.  "I wanted to work a bit more in terms of getting a new superintendent transitioned into the appointment by not only a new board but by a board that had been serving quite a while so they could lend their hand in the appointment process because two or three of them will be stepping down in the near future," he noted.

"I certainly have always enjoyed it and it has been a true pleasure serving the people of Toombs County.  Being associated with the children and the many graduates who have come through the system has been a joy," he said.

Dr. Brantley has seen a lot of changes in public education during his career and says many problems now facing schools are a reflection of today's society.

"Almost half of our children come from single parent homes and of course we have several nationalties in our schools with students with limited English speaking abilities, so we have a lot of things to deal with that weren't on the table 50 years ago, I'm sure," he said.

March 9-- Southeastern Tech’s Practical Nursing program held pinning ceremonies for its latest Swainsboro-campus graduating class.

Eight graduates comprised the class: John Blount, Kite; Angela Connell, Glenwood; Kristen Edenfield, Soperton; Danielle Graddy, Wrightsville; Angela Henderson, Kite; Deeangerleakia Scott, Millen; Whittney Singletary, Swainsboro; and Dolores Young, Wrightsville.

“This group of students has been a joy to teach,” said Beth Hendrix, instructor for the Practical Nursing program. “It is so rewarding to teach the students in the classroom and then watch them as they apply the knowledge and skills learned in the clinical setting. I know these students will make excellent nurses.”

{mosimage} 

(L to R): Instructor Kathy Holt, John Blount, Angela Connell, Kristen Edenfield, Danielle Graddy, Angela Henderson, Deeangerleakia Scott, Whittney Singletary, Dolores Young, Beth Hendrix

March 9--  State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville provides an update on the legislature this week.

OPTIMISTIC REVENUE REPORT ENDS BUSY WEEK

Governor Deal released the February revenue results showing a 7% overall increase over February of 2011.  Even though February is the lowest revenue month of the year, re-establishing the trend of increasing revenues month over month is important after two months of negative or flat growth.  Individual Income Tax collections were up a whopping 27.8% and net Sales Tax collections were up 10.0%.

 

Motor Fuel taxes were up overall 14.2% with excise taxes up only 0.9% but fuel sales taxes, due to rising prices, up 27.1%

 

Corporate Tax collections continued negative showing a minus $47.2 million reduction.  Tobacco taxes and alcoholic beverage numbers were skewed due to corrections being made and real trend numbers will show up below in the Year to Date numbers.

 

YEAR TO DATE NUMBERS

So after 8 months of the 2012 fiscal year, state revenues show an overall 4.7% increase totaling $10.5 billion for that period with a gain of $470.9 million.  Individual Income Taxes show a 7.0% increase and Sales Taxes are up 5.6% YTD.  Motor Fuel taxes are up 7.8% overall for an increase of $47.9 million YTD although the Excise portion is negative at -5.3%.

 

Corporate Income Taxes continue to sink, down $117.5 million for the year or 37.9%. After correction, Tobacco Tax collections show an increase of 2.5% and Alcoholic Beverages an increase of 1.7%.

 

So, after the Governors reduction in the 2012 Revenue Estimate, the state is on target to meet budget projections for the balance of this year.

 

A FLURRY OF ACTIVITY AS "CROSSOVER DAY" COMES AND GOES-- SENATE ACCEPTS HOUSE GENERAL BUDGET TO REVIEW.

 

Below is a partial list of legislation passed by the Senate during the previous week ending with the final day passing for Senate bills to pass this chamber and be considered by the House.  From here on, the Senate will be considering House Bills.   

 

Bills Passed Out of the Senate

 

For a more complete list see http://www.senate.ga.gov/spo/en-US/UpperChamberReport.aspx

 

SB 355 -Expands the definition of those who are required by law to report suspected child abuse. Further defines groups covered by the reporting requirement including "child service organization personnel, clergy and school personnel." Clergy members in some confidential situations like confessionals are exempt along with attorneys with their clients. Any adult who witnesses child abuse or receives reliable information from a person who has witnessed child abuse must report this within 72 hours. This bill comes forward at least partially in response to the Penn State abuse case.

 

SB 288 - Allows Pharmacists and Nurses to administer an expanded list of vaccines to those over the age of 19 without a prescription.

 

SB 356 - This bill increases the number of superior court judges in both the Bell-Forsyth Circuit and Middle Circuit from two to three.

 

SB 386 - Permits Advance Practice Nurses to order radiographic imaging tests.

 

SB 431 - Makes the theft of medical identity of a person a felony. This includes obtaining medical care, prescription drugs, or financial gains without the person's consent.

 

SB 312 - Applicants for food stamps would be required to engage in professional development activities such as advancing their education or taking self development classes. This may include completing a GED, pursuing technical education, attending self-development classes, or adult literacy classes. It exempts seniors and others.

 

SB 469 - Places restrictions on mass picketing at private residences and requires annual authorization for union dues.

                                                                                       

SB 350 - Requires that firearms belonging to innocent owners used in a crime be returned.

 

SB 411 - Creates the Georgia Sheriffs' Cooperative Authority which will create a representative group to work on behalf of county sheriffs offices for training, contracts, as well a statewide public safety database.

 

SB 459 - Allows the Public Service Commission to create a process where consumers can opt out of the installation of electric smart meters at no cost.

 

SB 473 - Allows medal recipients who are on active duty or in the reserves to receive the Purple Heart license plate.

 

SB 493 - Allows Georgia residents between ages 18-21 to be licensed to carry a weapon. Applicant must complete and pass a firearms course within 3 months of the license application.

 

If you would like additional information regarding a specific piece of legislation, you may access the Georgia General Assembly website at http://www.legis.ga.gov/.

 

March 9--  The longtime school superintendent of the Toombs County school system is resigning.

Dr. Kendall Brantley announced his decison at Thursday night's meeting of the county school board.  The resignation is effective Tuesday, March 13, however, Dr. Brantley will remain as interim superintendent until a replacement is found.  He's also agreed to mentor his replacement if needed to assure a smooth transition of leadership.

Dr. Brantley has been with the Toombs County school system since 1981 when he started as a teacher and coach and later served as principal of Toombs Central.

School board member Duane Tomlin has been on the board during Dr. Brantley's entire tenure.  "He has always worked above and beyond the call of duty in trying to meet the needs of children.  He has great strength in budget and legal issues and was a master at matching state, local and federal money so the money could go as far as it could go," Tomlin notes.

Tomlin also credits Dr. Brantley with providing needed facilities.  "He was instrumental in making a lot of upgrades in our schools.  We've made improvements in our older schools and built a new upper elementary and new middle school and are in the planning stages with the approval of the SPLOST and bond issue of going ahead and initiating the new high school and new Toombs Central Elementary School.  He is going to be greatly missed," Tomlin said. 

The school board plans to ask the Georgia School Board Association to assist in the board's search for a new superintendent. 

March 9--  A Swainsboro attorney will mediate the sharing of Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) revenue among Toombs County and Vidalia, Lyons and Santa Claus.

Leaders in the governments have been unable to reach an agreement on how the revenue will be shared when the current agreement expires the end of this year.  Toombs County commissioners want to increase the county's share by nearly 20 percent and have met opposition from the town mayors.

As a result, the parties have engaged Franklin Edenfield to try to mediate an agreement with the first mediation session set for Thursday, March 29th at nine a.m. at the Toombs County courthouse.

"We'll present our side and they'll present their side to the mediator and he will come back independently and say I feel this is your weak point or this is your strong point and hopefully we'll try to reach a consensus," says Toombs County manager Doug Eaves.

The cities have already told the county they want to keep the revenue sharing the same as it is now.  If the mediator can't convince them otherwise, the issue will be decided in court.  

Eaves says they'd like to avoid a court fight, but says "we want tax equity for all citizens in the county and are prepared to work to protect that principle."

The county manager says the old formula, based solely on population, has been ruled illegal by the Georgia Supreme Court and that other criteria have to be considered.  He admits the change could be painful to city residents who could end up paying more in city property taxes.

 

March 8-- Georgia’s net tax collections for February 2012 totaled $765 million, an increase of nearly $50 million or 7 percent compared to February 2011. With eight months of FY2012 now completed, net revenue collections totaled almost $10.6 billion year-to-date, an increase of $471 million or 4.7 percent compared to the same period last year.

“February’s numbers saw positive trends, as we continue to move in the right direction,” Deal said. “With revenues up and unemployment down, Georgians have to like what they’re seeing, even though there’s still much work to do.”

Despite a very busy start to the Income Tax refund season, Georgia’s net tax revenues held strong. Gross tax revenues, totaling $1.75 billion, were up $151 million compared to last year. Additionally, the Sales Tax revenue continued to see steady growth and Individual Income Tax withholding also showed strength for the month.

The following changes within the various tax categories contributed to the net revenue increase in February:
 

Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections for February 2012 totaled $235.75 million, up from $184.5 million in February 2011, for an increase of $51.25 million or 27.8 percent.

The following notable components within Individual Income Tax account for the increase:

•      Individual Income Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) were up $37 million or 6.9 percent
•      Individual Withholding payments were up $97 million or 14.4 percent over last year
•      Individual Tax Return payments were up $13 million compared to last February
•      All other Individual Income Tax categories, including Estimated Tax payments were down a combined total of $(21.75) million compared to last year

Sales and Use Tax: Net Sales and Use Tax collections for February 2012 totaled $412 million, up from $374.5 million in February 2011, for an overall increase of $37.5 million or 10 percent. Gross Sales Tax collections were up $51.25 million over the previous year with a total of $777 million for the month. The monthly Sales Tax Distribution to local governments totaled $354.5 million, an increase of $9.25 million or 2.7 percent.

Corporate Income Tax: A number of large Corporate Income Tax refunds resulted in very low net Corporate Tax revenue as February 2012 declined $(47) million or -346 percent, down from $13.75 million in February 2011. 

The following notable components within Corporate Income Tax make up the decrease:
•      Corporate Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) were up $46 million over last year

•      Corporate Estimated payments were down $(2.5) million or -18.5 percent compared to last February

•      Corporate Income Tax and S-Corp Tax payments were up a combined $1.5 million for the month

March 7--  A delegation from the Vidalia Onion Fesitval made the annual trek to Governor Nathan Deal's office in Atlanta this week for the official signing of a proclamation recognizing the 35th Annual Vidalia Sweet Onion Festival.

{mosimage}

(L-R) State Representative Greg Morris, Richard Williams, Senator Tommie Williams, Brad Hart, Ingrid Varn, Governor Deal, Shaun Oliver, Andy Woodruff, Lance Helms and Les Salter.

 

March 7--  A tag violation in Vidalia Tuesday resulted in two drug arrests.

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports marijuana packaged for distribution was found on 20-year-old Christopher Tyrone Kinsey, Jr. and 20-year-old Preston Alexander Coleman, both of Vidalia.

They are charged with possession with intent to distribute.

March 7--  A farm worker was robbed and shot early Tuesday morning on Bo Herndon's farm south of Lyons.

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight says a large amount of cash was taken from Juan Ortega in a pre-dawn shooting at the house he occupied on the farm.  Ortega was shot in the chest and groin and is in serious condition at Memorial Medical Center in Savannah.

{mosimage}Sheriff Kight believes 22-year-old Krista Dyann Sagaon may have alerted Ortega's two alleged assailants that he had the money.

Tuesday night lawmen arrested 27-year-old Antonio Mayweather of 406 Adams Street in Vidalia and charged him with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of cocaine.{mosimage}  

Sheriff Kight says Mayweather is also being investigated in connection with the shooting and that the woman is wanted in connection with the robbery.  A second unidentified black male is also being sought in the case. 

If you have information on the whereabouts of Krista Sagaon your asked to contact the Toombs County Sheriff's office at 526-6778.

March 7--  A one-car wreck killed one young man and seriously injured another in Toombs County Tuesday night.

According to Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight, an SUV travelling south on Grays Landing Road near Benton Lee's crossed the northbound lane, hit a ditch, rolled on its side and struck several trees.

{mosimage}Toombs County coroner Ron Hall said the vehicle was so damaged it was hard to tell it was an SUV.  

Georgia State Patrolman Humberto Marin reports the driver, 21-year-old Nicholas Leseueur of 221 Miles Road, Uvalda was thrown from the car and killed.  His passenger, 20-year-old Brandon Morris of 224 Foskey Road, Uvalda, was airlifted from the scene to Memorial Medical Center in Savannah in critical condition.

March 6--  Voters in two counties gave their school systems votes of confidence in Tuesday's voting.

In Vidalia and Toombs County, voters approved continuation of a one percent local option sales tax for education with 68% of the voters voting yes.  

Vidalia schools will collect an estimated $14.1 million over a five-year period.  "It just shows that the voters are with us and what we are trying to do in education," according to Vidalia School Superintendent Dr. Tim Smith.

An estimated $15.3 million of the sales tax will be allocated to Toombs schools, and the voters also okayed a $13.4 million dollar bond issue for Toombs County schools to build a new Toombs County high school building and a new building for Toombs Central Elementary.  Sixty-two percent of the voters approved the bond issue.

In Treutlen County, 74% of the voters approved continuation of a sales tax to pay off bonds which are financing construction of a new K-12 school in the county.

In the Presidential Primary, former Georgia congressman and House Speaker Newt Gingrich won statewide in Georgia and locally.  He won 53% of the vote in Toombs County, 55% in Montgomery and 59% in Treutlen.

State Senator Tommie Williams of Lyons endorsed Gingrich.  "We've still got a number of southern states with primaries and over half of the delegates are still out there for the taking.  We're not in first place but hopefully from here on out he can do well," Williams said.

Senator Williams says whomever gets the nomination will have the support of Republicans against President Obama and he says it could come down to a brokered convention in Tampa before anyone knows whato that candidate will be. 

Among the other candidates, Santorum got nearly 21 percent and Romney 20% in Toombs County with Ron Paul just under five percent.

In Montgomery County, Santorum got 23%, Romney 16% and Paul 5%.  In Treutlen, Santorum got nearly 20%, Romney 18% and Paul just over 3%.

March 6--  STC staff and students from across Southeastern Tech’s eight-county service area assembled in Swainsboro and Vidalia to show off their talents in two “STC’s Got Talent” competitions.

Held at the Emanuel County Auditorium in Swainsboro and Tattnall Auditorium in Vidalia, the shows saw stand-up comedians, dancers, singers, and a variety of performers show their skills for a chance to win trophies and cash prizes.

{mosimage} 

Of the 19 entrants, 13 in Swainsboro and six in Vidalia, six went home winners. In Swainsboro, Emanuel County locals claimed the top three—Rayne Odum (center) won first place, Javier Bullard (left) took second, and Brandi Hudson finished third.

{mosimage} 

Vidalia’s competition was won by Jeffrey Hall (left) of Vidalia. Don Paradice of Vidalia (right) finished second, and third prize went to Jessica (second from left) and Jodie Hutcheson of Tarrytown.

 

March 5--  Today, President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams (R – Lyons) passed SB 410 which adopts indicators such as quality of learning by students, financial efficiency and school climate for individual schools and school systems. The legislation requires a numerical score rating for individual schools and school systems based on student achievement, achievement gap closure and student progress. It also requires that a letter grade be assigned to each school and school system and included on each school and school system’s annual report card. The grade is derived from the numerical score, with a majority of the grade based on student achievement. SB 410 passed with a vote of 38 to 13.

 

"AYP is a pass/fail system, which did not provide a way to track progress or improvements," said Sen. Williams. "This bill implements new criteria based on DOE's waiver request. The end result will allow us to reward schools for improving and incentivizes them to make progress."

 

The proposed letter grade law creates a open, transparent A-F letter grade rating system which allows parents and the public to easily compare the relative performance of schools in their district and throughout the state. Letter grades assigned to each school and/or school system will reflect the student's academic performance as well as other important factors which include improvement in student achievement, graduation rates and closing the achievement gap of historically underperforming groups.

 

March 5--  Voters in Treutlen County can avoid a property tax increase by approving continuation of a one percent local option sales tax for education when they go to vote Tuesday.

School Superintendent Chuck Ellington reminds voters the sales tax money is needed to repay a local bond issue which voters approved back in 2007 to build a new K-12 school.

"The ESPLOST vote is actually for a continuation of the current ESPLOST so we can make the bond payments without a tax increase for property owners," Ellington says.

The Superintendent says a property tax increase of over four mils would be needed if the ESPLOST is not approved.

The new $18 million school is under construction on Hiigway 29 north of Soperton.  Nearly $8 milliion of the cost is being paid for by locally financed school construction bonds.

"The bonds have been sold and we need the ESPLOST to continue making the bond payments," Ellington says.

The Superintendent says construction of the school is a bit ahead of schedule and he expects it to open this Fall.

March 5-- The Toombs County school system is trying to build two new schools and needs voter approval in Tuesday's Presidential Primary.

Toombs School Superintendent Dr. Kendall Brantley is asking voters to approve continuation of a one percent local option sales tax for education and to okay a bond issue.

"A continuation of the current ESPLOST will raise enough money for the project at Toombs County High School and to build a new building at the Toombs Central site," he says.

Officials expect the ESPLOST will raise $15.3 million over five years for Toombs County schools.  Much of that revenue will be used to finance $13.4 million in bonds which the school system plans to issue as soon as possible to get the projects started and to take advantage of favorable construction costs in today's economy.

Both the ESPLOST and the bond issue are on Tuesday's ballot.

"We ask voters to vote YES twice.  Once so we can continue the current ESLOST and once so we can issue bonds to do the project as soon as possible.  We've got a struggling economy and lots of people need work in the area and it will help stimulate the local economy and help us build the projects immediately," Dr. Brantley said. 

March 2--  Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits reports the following summary of departmental activity for the month of February.

 

 

February

2012

YTD

Calls for Service

1454

3019

Homicide

0

0

Rape

0

0

Aggravated Assault

2

5

Burglary

4

13

Armed Robbery

0

0

Robbery

0

0

Arrest – ADULT

64

130

Arrest – JUVENILE

2

5

Criminal Trespass

18

33

Family Violence

14

31

Assault/Battery

20

32

Accidents

57

111

DUI

9

16

Traffic Tickets

181

396

Warning Tickets

374

796

Alarms

107

171

Mileage

18105

38834

Fuel Consumed

1786

3638

 

 

March 2--  Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville provides an update on Georgia Senate legislation in his weekly "Notes From the Senate."

"Senate Bill 321 known as the "Metal Theft Bill" passed this week 44-5.  The bill would place new requirements on the recycler and those who bring items in for payment. The secondary metal recycler must obtain a permit from the local sheriff to purchase regulated metal property. Sheriffs will also create an electronic database. There are also certain restrictions on who can bring in items like copper and aluminum coils from air conditioning units. It will require not only descriptions of the items brought in and the name and address of the person bringing them in, but a digital photograph and/or video showing the metal item.  This type of information will be given to the local county sheriff and put into the database.  Another key component to the bill is the 14 day hold on payment for items brought in. The metal recycler can pay only by check or electronic funds and must be sent to the address of the individual who brought the item in unless they are working for a business entity and it will be sent to that address. If the local sheriff has reason to believe the item is stolen they can place a hold on the item. This will help those who report metal theft to be able to contact the local sheriff's office and to see if any matching items have been brought in for recycling. The Sheriff can return the item back to its owner, go after the thieves, and the recycler will not have lost the monies they gave for the stolen metal property. These restrictions do not affect aluminum cans.  The bill now goes to the House. Eventually both bodies must agree on a bill.

 

Bills Passed Out of the Senate

 

SB 176 - Allows government agencies to conduct meetings by teleconference in order to save on costs

 

SB 238 - requires motorized wheelchairs and scooters to be equipped with reflectors like the ones used for bicycles

 

SB 293 - "In God We Trust" decals for auto tags will be offered to the public free of charge

 

SB 346 - Allows for in-state pharmacies to get into the mail order prescription delivery business

 

SB 350 - Requires that seized fire arms during a crime be returned to an innocent owner

 

SB 372 - Requires a funeral director in charge of a crematory to determine whether the remains are those of a deceased veteran. If the funeral director is unable to make the determination then a veterans' organization will be allowed to access all information available from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in order to determine if the deceased is a veteran.

 

SB 403 - School systems will earn funding for school nurses based on enrollment. In elementary schools one nurse will be funded for every 750 students. In middle and high schools will be one nurse for every 1500 students will be funded. The state will fund 50% of the total costs while the local system does not have to match nor fund above or below the 50% mark. The funding will be phased in.

 

SB 424 - Expands the location where displays of materials of American Law like our founding documents can be displayed in government buildings

 

SB 427 - Mandates fiscal notes on costs affecting the private sector in legislation where there might be significant impact on business

 

SB 429 - Requires agencies to issue permits in a timely fashion and to provide online updates of the process for permit approvals

 

SB 441- Makes it a high and aggravated misdemeanor to point a laser device at a law enforcement officer on duty. It also is makes it a misdemeanor to point a laser device at a plane or helicopter

 

SB 448 - Requires third party debt collectors who had purchased the debt to prove the actual amount owed and paid by the borrower. Limits the amount a creditor can recover against a debtor

 

SR 590 - Urges the Department of Education to implement CPR courses in schools

 

HB 800 - Changes the requirements for eligibility of the Assistant Adjutant General Appointee to include five years of service in the reserves or active duty as well as the National Guard"

 

If you would like additional information regarding a specific piece of legislation, you may access the Georgia General Assembly website at http://www.legis.ga.gov/.

 

March 2--  Toombs County voters are being asked to approve continuation of a one percent local option sales tax for education when they vote in Tuesday's Presidential Primary Election.

If approved, the sales tax would raise $29.5 million over a five year period with the money divided between Toombs County schools and Vidalia City Schools.

Vidalia's school system would get just over $14 million.  "Of course we'll maintain the roofs on our buildings and our parking lots and do the general maintenance on our buildings.  We're in the process now under the current SPLOST of completely renovating all of our facilities, so most of our brick and mortar work is done," says Vidlaia School Superintendent Dr. Tim Smith.

"What we've got to do now is move into electronic education and let our students use computers and technology a lot more than we have in the past.  This is not something we need to do, it's something we have to do to make our students competitive in the world market," he says.  "We need to completely upgrade our servers and storage capacity because if we go into textbooks on computers as opposed to paper textbooks, we've got to have tremendous amount of storage space to give our students access," Dr. Smith points out.

Dr. Smith points out that sales tax revenue is restricted on how it can be spent, but at the same time it frees up property tax revenue to offer a better curriculum at the schools.

"The SPLOST money can only be spent for large dollar capital projects which last over an extended number of years.  The more of those kind of projects we can pay for with SPLOST money, the more local money we can transfer into our instructional program and those are like the art, music, computer labs and those kinds of things," Dr. Smith notes.

March 1--  State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler announced today that Georgia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined in January to 9.2 percent, the lowest rate since March of 2009 when it was 9.1 percent. That is a decline of two-tenths of a percentage point from a revised 9.4 percent in December. The jobless rate was 10.1 percent in January a year ago.

The rate went down because about 13,000 more Georgians were employed in January than in December.

Also, newly revised numbers show that Georgia gained 83,700 jobs in the last 12 months. This is the largest January to January job growth since 2006.

“This job growth shows that Georgia is headed in the right direction,” Commissioner Butler said. “The business services sector, which includes temporary employment agencies, showed the most growth. Economists consider this to be a leading indicator that businesses are gaining confidence in the economy and are beginning to grow their businesses.”

Among the sectors showing growth over the year, professional and businesses services gained 37,000 jobs, retail trade gained 15,100, health care and social assistance grew by 11,100, and manufacturing gained 7,300.

While Georgia lost 45,300 jobs between December and January, most of the loss was expected in temporary seasonal employment. This is the smallest December to January job loss since 1987.

In January, the number of first-time claims for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits rose to 77,756, up 14,042, or 22 percent, from 63,714 in December. Most of the increase is attributed to seasonal layoffs in retail trade and construction. However, on a positive note, the number of initial claims decreased 11,903, or 13.3 percent, from 89,659 claims filed in January of last year.

Also, the number of long-term unemployed workers decreased 900, to 244,200 from December to January, the fewest number since October of 2010.