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June 1--  A Georgia Court of Appeals decision may impact results of a 2010 video gambling raid in Toombs and Emanuel Counties.

You may remember that Middle Judicial Circuit District Attorney Hayward Altman paid an Atlanta law firm over $390,000 in commissions for settlements with 29 convenience stores hit by the operation. Additionally, his office received nearly $735,000 in settlement money.

On May 25th, a three-judge Court of Appeals panel ruled that a similar raid and circumstance in Moultrie in 2010 was "void as against Georgia public policy" and reversed a lower court ruling.

Altman currently has a case growing out of the seizures in Emanuel County pending before the Court of Appeals and says he can't comment because the case is still pending.  He said he is aware of the recent Appeals Court ruling but hasn't had time to review it and noted the panel of judges hearing the Emanuel County case may render a different ruling.

Meanwhile, Alan Begner, the attorney who argued the appeal on behalf of defendants in the Moultrie case, says it's posslble Altman and the lawyers he paid may have to return the money.

"I think the Court of Appeals found the contingency relationship to be void as against public policy.  The use of the word 'void' means it was illegal to begin with and I think that both the money that was paid by stores and machine owners is subject to being returned and that the DA may have to return all the money as well as the two private lawyers," he said.

Altman says he doesn't think the cases which were settled out of court will be impacted by the Appeals Court decision.

Last year the state legislature outlawed the practice of paying commissions to third party attorneys hired by the state.

May 31--  The Savannah Morning News reports that 12th Congressional District congressional candidate Wright McLeod is being challenged by an opponent on his campaign finance reports to the Federal Election Commission.

 


 

May 30--  Here's a scam alert from the Downtown Vidalia Association.

If you're approached to buy webpage advertising on the city of Vidalia webpage, don't bite.  Apparently someone from Swainsboro has been misrepresenting themselves.  They ask for payment upfront and you never gets the ads.

May 30--  The Toombs County Sheriff's Office reports a 40-year-old man identified as Eugene Sybert, Jr. is being charged after a hit-and-run accident in the county Tuesday.

Chief Deputy Barry Brown says Sybert was driving a stolen vehicle from Savannah when he hit two vehicles at the intersection of Highway 130 and Regency Road.  He was later found hiding in a barn off the Cedar Crossing Road.

Brown says Sybert has an extensive criminal record and was on parole from a halfway house at the time of the accident. 

May 30--  Unlike their neighbors in Toombs County, officials in Montgomery County have reached agreement in principle on how they will share local sales tax revenue for the next ten years starting in January.

At a meeting of city and county officials Tuesday, it was agreed the revenue will be shared based on a pro rata share of population in the towns and county.  Representatives from the county commission and the towns of Ailey, Higgston, Mount Vernon and Uvalda agreed to use the same formula that was applied when the agreement was last signed in 2002.  The towns of Tarrytown and Alston had no representatives at the meeting.

County manager David Curry will apply population figures from the 2010 census and officials will have another meeting to finalize the figures on June 21st.

According to the census, Montgomery County has a population of 9,123 with 5,073 citizens living in the unincorporated area of the county.  Mount Vernon has a population of 2,451; Uvalda 598; Ailey 423; Higgston 323; Alston 159 and Tarrytown 87.

Before the June 21st meeting, city officials have been asked to certify their towns qualify to receive local sales tax revenue.  State law requires governments must provide at least three of six basic services in order to qualify.  Those services are water, sewer, garbage collection, police, fire protection and library services.

Any towns in Montgomery County which do not provide at least three of those services will be ineligible to receive sales tax revenue during the next ten years.

County officials say sales tax receipts in the 12-month period from April, 2011 to April, 2012 amount to $380,000 for the county, $158,000 for Mount Vernon, $48,000 for Uvalda, $42,000 for Ailey, $25,000 for Higgston, $12,000 for Alston and $8,000 for Tarrytown.

State law requires local governments to roll back their property taxes each year by the amount of sales taxes received on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

Toombs County officials have been unable to reach an agreement on sharing sales tax receipts and are involved in a court battle to decide how the revenue will be divided in the future.

{mosimage}May 30--  Vic is one of the pups currently at the Lyons Animal Shelter who needs a family to save his life.  Can you help?  Call Holly from the Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society, 912-539-9840 or Lyons Animal Control, 386-2024. Holly says, "Vic is an adorable little male Terrier mix, very friendly, loving and good with other dogs.  He's a great little guy."

May 29--  Last month's Relay for Life in Toombs County raised about $60,000 for cancer research according to Relay volunteer Mary Alice Wilder.

The most money was raised by Sally Meadows Elementary School with $14,447.44.  The People's Bank came in second with $8,318.00 and J.D. Dickerson Primary School third with $6,265.01.

{mosimage}Letha Barfield, team captain from Peoples Bank, and Amber Robenolt, American Cancer Society Community Manager with the awards won by Peoples Bank.  

The most awards went to the Vidalia Baptist Temple which won the Spirit Award, the Scavenger Hunt and the Best Decorated Tent.  

Trinity Baptist Church won the award for the most laps, Team Kaleen was named the Best Rookie Team and the People's Bank had the most corporate sponsors.

May 29--  The board of the Sweet Onion Classic Golf Tournament in Vidalia is providing funding totalling nearly $60,000 to eight organizations this year.

The Cancer Foundation at Meadows Regional Medical Center is receiving $25,000 for the next three years.  A $10,000 grant is being made to the Boys and Girls Club of Toombs County.  Four organizations receiving $5,000 each are the Vidalia Education Foundation,Vidalia High School, the Toombs County Red Cross and the Altama Gallery.  A $2,500 grant was approved for Robert Toombs Christian Academy and $2,000 was okayed for Open Doors to the Handicapped.

 

May 29--  Three administrators in the Vidalia School System are being considered to succeed retiring School Superintendent Dr. Tim Smith.

In the running for the job are Vidalia High School Principal Garrett Wilcox, Sally Meadows Elementary School Principal Ginger Morris and the Career and Technical Director at Vidalia High School, Ryan Flowers.

The school board has called a meeting to interview the three Tuesday, June 5th and plans to announce a hiring decision at its regular monthly meeting June 12th.

Meanwhile, the Toombs County School Board has set a June 22nd deadline to accept applications for a successor to retiring School Superintendent Dr. Kendall Brantley.

May 28--  Eighty-two citizen-soldiers from Toombs County gave their lives defending our country.  There were fifteen in World War 1, 48 in World War II, seven in the Korean Conflict and 12 in the Vietnam War.

Their service and sacrifice was honored Monday afternoon during the annual Memorial Day program presented by the VFW Ladies Auxiliary of J. Barry Jones Post #3563.

{mosimage}The keynote speaker, Army Lieutenant Colonel Joel Smith (pictured with Auxiliary President Shirley Curl) commands an Infantry Battalion at Fort Stewart  and says it's important to remember.

"It's an honor.  I spend all my days with soldiers, but it's useful to think beyond the current conflicts and consider the history and legacy our current soldiers are picking up from veterans of the past," he said.

Lieutenant Colonel Smith has two tours under his belt in Iraq and Afghanistan and he says he proud of today's soldiers, the veterans of the future.

"There are a lot of challenges and committment on behalf of someone who signs up, but there is actually a lot of reward and a sense of meaning.  I guess because it is hard a times, it gives service so much meaning and maybe that's why Americans respect service so much," he noted.

The commander is also glad to hear our area schools have invested in a Junior ROTC Army Regiment.

"I'd encourage a young high school student to consider getting involved in that.  I have a feeling that a lot of those young people will learn some things that allow them to give back and serve their communities.  The leaders in the community would encourage that because there's a sense of discipline and structure that sometimes is lacking out there and that kids need," he said. 

May 25--  Four Republicans qualified this week to run in the July 31st Republican Primary.  The winner will run against incumbent Democrat Congressman John Barrow in November. 
 
All four will be in Vidalia Monday night, June 4th for a seven p.m. forum at Southeastern Technical College.  They will take questions from the audience and from a panel including Jim Galloway from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Peach Pundit Blog Editor Charlie Harper, Vidalia Tea Party Chairman Jim Anderson and Jeff Brown, Chairman of Young Republicans at Georgia Southern.
 
U.S. Representative, District 12
  Rick W. Allen
PO Box 338
Augusta, GA 30903
E-Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Party: Republican
Age: 60
Occupation: General Contractor
Website: www.rickwallenforcongress.com
Date Qualified: Thursday, May 24, 2012
   

  Lee Anderson
160 Louisville Road
Grovetown, GA 30813
E-Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Party: Republican
Age: 55
Occupation: Farmer & Businessman
Website: www.voteleeanderson.com
Date Qualified: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
   

  Wright McLeod
2917 Bransford Rd
Augusta, GA 30909-3003
Party: Republican
Age: 48
Occupation: Attorney
Website: www.wrightmcleod.com
Date Qualified: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
   

  Maria Sheffield
P.O. Box 1832
Dublin, GA 31040
E-Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Party: Republican
Age: 38
Occupation: Attorney
Website: www.mariasheffield.com
Date Qualified: Thursday, May 24, 2012
   

  John Barrow (Incumbent)
PO Box 1001
Augusta, GA 30903
E-Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Party: Democratic
Age: 56
Occupation: Attorney
Website: www.barrowforcongress.com
Date Qualified: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
 

May 25--  There are 18 contested local offices in Toombs, Montgomery and Treutlen counties in the July 31st Primary Election.

Toombs County

Four contested races are in Toombs County and two of those are for seats on the Toombs County Commission.

Three people running for the chairman's seat being vacated by Buddy West are Mac Jordan, former chairman James Thompson and Blake Tillery.  Five candidates are running for the District Three seat of Skeeter Toole who is not seeking re-election.  They are Elmer Caraway, Jim Davis, Johnny Jones, Emory Mixon and Darriel Nobles.  Wendell Dixon is unopposed for the District Two seat being vacated by Louie Powell.

Incumbent Toombs Tax Commissioner Julie Hart Newsome is unopposed on the Democrat ticket in July but will face competition in November from the winner of the Republican primary between Carolyn Zorn and Brenda Williams.

Three members of the Toombs County school board are not running for re-election.  Trent Akins is unopposed to succeed Darriel Nobles in District Two, Michael Grimes will succeed Duane Tomlin in District Four and the successor to Wayne Kirkley in District six is between Charles Hart and Toni Wilkes.

Unopposed incumbents in Toombs County are Sheriff Junior Kight, Clerk of Court Chess Fountain, Probate Judge Larry Threlkeld, State Court Judge Tommy J. Smith, State Court Solicitor Paul Threlkeld and Coronor Ron Hall.

Montgomery County 

There are nine contested races in Montgomery County.

Six candidates running to succeed Sheriff Clarence Sanders are Byron Braddy, Calvin Burns, Marty Collins, Thomas Craft, Jr., Ladson O'Connor and Daniel Taylor.

Tax Commissioner Loretta Lane will be opposed in the November election by Toby O'Neal.

Four candidates vying for the District Two County Commission seat being vacated by Franklin Brantley are Susan Beard, Bob Jones, Jerry Powell and Tim Williamson.

The Post One, District Three Commission job being vacated by Brandon Braddy is being sought by Frank Brantley and Judson Bivins on the Republican ticket and Dorothy Days on the Democrat ticket.

The Post Two, District Three Seat Democrat incumbent Clarence Thomas will face Republican challenger Tommy Byrd in November.

Uvalda Commissioner John Carpenter is being challenged in the Democratic primary by Sharon Strickland for the District Four seat.

Two members of the Montgomery County school board are not seeking re-election.

Running for the District Three, Post One seat in Mount Vernon to succeed Jackson Posey are Gil McDaniel, Nolan Thigpen and Pete Ward.

Chairwoman Deloris James is stepping down and running for her seat in the Higgston-Alston District Two are James Best and Terry Outler.

In the Kibbee-Tarrytown District One, incumbent Lendle Hamilton is challenged by former school board member Henry Price.

Unopposed in Montgomery County are Clerk of Court Keith Hamilton, Coroner Joe Strickland, Probate Judge Ruby Nell Sanders and County Commissioner Vernon Sumner.

Treutlen County

There are five contested races in Treutlen County in the Democrat primary.

Sheriff Tommy Corbin is challenged by Hugh Beasley.

Tax Commissioner Marie Sumner faces opposition from Rena Hackle.

Three candidates are running for the District One County Commission seat of the late Commissioner Joe C. Webb:  Mary Ann Carvin, Bobby Joe Moxley and Laurianne Pullen.

In District Four, incumbent Commissioner Kim Edge faces Maynard Edenfield and the District Five race is between Van Harris and Cashaunda Smith.

Running unopposed in Treutlen County are Probate Judge T.J. Hudson, Clerk of Court Connie Sumner, State Court Judge Jimmy Garner, Solicitor General Keith Pollette, District Three County Commissioner Alvin Wheeler, Board of Education members Leo Gillis, Jr., and Jeff Raiford.  Jon Hutcheson is unopposed to fill the District Four school board seat now held by Keith Edge and Greg Higgs has no opposition to be the county Coroner succeeding his father, Green Higgs.

 

 

May 25--  This alert was issued this morning by the Ogeechee Riverkeeper.

One year ago, the Ogeechee River experienced the worst fish kill in the state of Georgia's history. As we approach another Memorial Day weekend, we are saddened to find more dead fish in the river.

 

On Wednesday, May 23, Ogeechee Riverkeeper received a citizen's complaint of dead fish at the 301 landing and promptly reported it to the Environmental Protection Division.

 

On Thursday, May 24, Georgia's Department of Natural Resources were at several landings along the Ogeechee River near the Bulloch/Screven County lines collecting dead fish.

 

At this point, officials do not have a cause for the deaths, but Bulloch, Effingham and Screven County Emergency Management Agencies have issued a swimming and fishing advisory for the Ogeechee River.

 

Ogeechee Riverkeeper is, and will continue to, monitor the river closely. Check our Facebook page for the latest updates.

 

Should you find dead fish, please report to:

Georgia EPD (1-888-373-5947 toll-free)

Effingham County Emergency Mgmt Agency (912-754-8200 or email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Bulloch County Emergency Mgmt Agency (912-489-1661)

Ogeechee Riverkeeper (1-866-942-6222 ext. 3)

 

To report an environmental emergency requiring immediate attention, such as a spill or chemical release, please call:

404-656-4863 or 1-800-241-4113

 



 

May 24-- State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler announced today that the preliminary unemployment rate in the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha area was unchanged at 10.8 percent from March to April. The jobless rate in the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha area in April a year ago was 11.4 percent.

Metro Athens had the lowest area rate at 6.5 percent, while metro Dalton had the highest at 11.4 percent.

Meanwhile, Georgia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined for the ninth consecutive month in April to 8.9 percent, the first time in more than three years the rate has dropped below nine percent. The rate fell one-tenth of a percentage point from 9.0 percent in March. The jobless rate was 9.8 percent in April a year ago.

Statewide, the rate declined as the number of new jobs grew by 31,900, to 3,926,000, the highest number of jobs in Georgia since January of 2009. Job growth is up eight-tenths of a percentage point, from 3,894,100 in March. In April a year ago, there were 3,904,400 jobs. 

The industries showing growth were: trade and transportation, 9,200; leisure and hospitality, 9,200; professional and business services, 5,900; construction, 3,400; and education and healthcare, 2,700. While the state gained jobs overall, state and local governments shed 3,300 jobs.

May 24--  A soldier who has dedicated 26 years of his life to the United States Army says Memorial Day Monday will be a day to remember comrades he lost during four combat tours in Iraq.

Chief Warrant Officer Four John Bush addressed the Vidalia Kiwanis Club Tuesday as part of Military Appreciation Week.

"This is a time to remember those we left behind, our brothers and sisters.  For me, I left seven brothers in Iraq from the Third Battalion, Seventh Infantry. It's time to remember them and those who came before us all the way back to the Revolutionary War and the sacrifices they made for our great nation.  Also our family members, too.  They weren't in the service but remembering them and reflecting on our roots is important on Memorial Day," he said.

{mosimage}Chief Bush (with Kiwanian and former U.S. Special Forces officer Jim Shepherd) is retiring soon and this will be his last Memorial Day spent in uniform.  He hopes Americans understand the impact repeated combat tours have on our soldiers.

"I think the impact is pretty strong.  It can be consuming, the constant rotation into theater.  The Army has many programs set up to deal with that prior to deployment and upon return to deal with the stress of detuning from combat and dealing with getting back into family relations, which can be tough," he observes.

"Sometimes you have to dig down deep to deal with those tough times, but I think having a good strong faith and having a loving, understanding family is probably 89% of the battle right there,"  Chief Bush says.

The Ladies Auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars invites area citizens to a Memorial Day observance Monday afternoon at three o'clock at Southeastern Technical College in Vidalia.

May 22--  Vidalia's Wardlaw Brothers are lending their considerable talents to help the Southeastern Early College and Career Academy attract students to careers in manufacturing.

{mosimage}David Yarborough is Southeastern Tech's lead economic developer and he hopes a music-video shot on location in Toombs County Tuesday will encourage students to sign up for a new course starting this August.

"It's mainly for high school juniors and seniors and we're just trying to get the word to them and hopefully they be interested enough to look into the Certified Manufacturing Specialist program we'll be starting at the Career Academy this coming August," Yarborough reports.

A local manufacturer championing the course is Andy Kimbell with Truax Veneer.

"The student is going to learn everything from lean manufacturing to work flow, hydraulics, electrical, pneumatics and all of the aspects of manufacturing. Then they have a chance at interviewing for jobs in this area from all of the supporting manufacturers and they'll definitely have a leg up on getting those jobs," he believes.

Yarborough hopes the music-video will help attract at least 20 students to the new course and he's happy the Wardlaw Brothers could help.

"They're good for our community and they're from our community, so we wanted to give them an opportunity to represent our community in manufacturing," he said. 

May 22-- Meadows Regional Medical Center has made a $10,000 contribution to help construct a new building for the Boys and Girls Club of Toombs County.

{mosimage}At the presentation are (L-R) B&G board member Dr. Karen McColl, MRMC CEO Alan Kent, B&G Executive Director Tonjai Gaffney, B&G Board Chairperson Dianne Zimnavoda and B&G board member Howard Holman.

Chairwoman Zimnavoda stated, “This generous gift exemplifies the attitude of so many businesses and individuals in our community and enables our Club to continue its positive impact on the lives of our youth.”

The Boys and Girls Club of Toombs County serves 550 youth at two area locations.  The new club building is being constructed at the corner of Wynona and Third Streets and will replace the current structure located in the old J.D.Dickerson School on Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue in Vidalia.

{mosimage} 

May 22--  The Toombs-Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon-cutting Tuesday morning for the new home of the Applecare Medical Clinic in Vidalia on First Street next to Subway.  The clinic was formerly located on Arlington Drive.

May 22-- Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced today that qualifying for the July 31, 2012 elections will begin at 9:00 AM on Wednesday, May 23, 2012 and end at 12:00 Noon on Friday, May 25, 2012.  The State Elections Division will conduct qualifying of candidates for nonpartisan state offices at its main location in Atlanta and at its South Georgia office in Tifton.  Individuals who wish to qualify with a party for state offices may do so with the political parties during the qualifying period at the State Capitol.

Qualifying for nonpartisan local offices will be held by the elections superintendent or, in the case of partisan local offices, by either the elections superintendent or the respective political party. 

Please contact the county elections superintendent of each respective county for information on local qualifying locations and times. 

In Toombs County, candidates for non-partisan offices and candidates for the Democrat Party register at the Voting Registrars office on Lincoln Avenue in Lyons.  Republican candidates will qualify at Georgia Pine Straw in Lyons.

In Montgomery County, candidates for the non-partisan Board of Education seats will qualify with Elections Supervisor Ruby Nell Sanders at the courthouse.  Others will qualify at the courthouse with candidates for the Democrat Party qualifying in the Coroner's office and Republican candidates qualifying in the grand jury room.

In Treutlen County, all candidates will qualify at the election supervisor's office in the courthouse annex.   

The elections of July 31, 2012 include general nonpartisan elections, party primaries and local elections.  Nonpartisan state offices include offices of the Justice of the Supreme Court, Judge of Court of Appeals and Judge of Superior Court.  For more information on qualifying, please visit the Secretary of State’s website at http://www.sos.ga.gov <http://www.sos.ga.gov> . For additional information on political party qualifying, please contact the Georgia Republican Party at www.gagop.org <http://www.gagop.org> , or the Democratic Party of Georgia at www.democraticpartyofgeorgia.org <http://www.democraticpartyofgeorgia.org> .

May 21--  Local officials got together in Tarrytown Monday morning and broke ground for the town's new fire station.

{mosimage}The old station is too small to house the Volunteer Fire Department's trucks and fire chief Donald Snively says many people have worked to make the new station possible.

"The county commissioners have given us some money towards this, the firemen are going to put the labor into it and we're getting help from the city.  It's a win-win situation for everybody.

The county is providing $99,000 in sales tax revenue to help with construction and is leasing the building to the city, according to Commission Chairman Franklin Brantley.

"It's been a long term effort.  A lot of people were involved in it and Commissioner Vernon Sumner has played a big part in it.  We're just glad its done and look forward to getting it built and serving the community," Brantley said.

The Mayor of Tarrytown, Lynette Coleman, says "This is a dream I've been waiting for a long time.   We're proud of our fireman, our county commisioners and the city.  We thank all of them and we're really proud of it."

May 21--  The chairman of the Toombs County Commission is not running for re-election.

{mosimage}After one term in office, Chairman Buddy West says there are some potential career opportunities which influenced his decision not to run.

"Right there are some potential opportunities which I'm seeking which have just come to light in the last week or so and I just don't feel like I can commit to another term," he said.

Chairman West is the first county chairman to operate under the county manager form of government and he believes it was the right thing to do for Toombs County.

"It's brought a new level of professionalism and raised the bar tremendously in the county.  We have definitely found some things and changed some things and I feel like it's a good accomplishment so far.  We still have seven months  and we've got things to do.  The commissioners are going to work just as hard on some projects and we're going to work to complete them," he said.

West is the third Toombs County commissioner to announce he is not seeking re-election.  Previously Commissioners Skeeter Toole and Louie Powell said they are not running again. 

May 21--  Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville provides an update on legislation passed by the Georgia General Assembly.

LEGISLATION ROUND-UP

This week will close out our look at legislation passed in 2012 by the Legislature.  You can continue to access the legislation through the General Assembly's website or give our office a call and we will try to help you with your questions.

 

SB 293-There will now be no charge for the "In God We Trust" license plate strip or for the county of residence strip.  Each will be free of charge when purchasing a license tag.

 

HB 729-Updates Georgia Code to reflect the state is ceasing to collect the ¼ mill property tax from counties.  Also specifically excludes insulin from sales taxes.

 

HB 863-Raises the amount of services or materials that state agencies can purchase without bidding from $5,000 to $25,000.

 

SB 346-Allows local pharmacies to sell mail-order drugs and remote order capabilities.

 

HB 861-Requires applicants for TANF benefits to take a drug test.  Limited to one parent in family.  First positive, benefits withheld one month until negative test.  Second positive, 3 months suspension.  Third or subsequent positive, suspension of one year or until completion of drug or substance abuse program and negative test upon reapplication.  Under 18 exempt.  Test reimbursable if Medicaid eligible.

 

HB 879-Requires at least two employees at all public schools to be trained on the care of diabetics.   Requires a Diabetes care management plan by parents.

 

HB 1110-Clarifies that the Department of Community Health has authority to search for additional crimes doing background checks on personal care home owners and employees and authorizes GBI to investigate elder abuse.

 

SB 337-Allows private insurers to offer credits or cash discounts as a wellness plan incentive

 

SB 236-Requires parental involvement in minor's attendance at courses required after a DUI.

 

HB 665-Modernizes Superior Clerks records and processes and allows extensive digitalization.

 

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

 

SB 464-Authorizes DNR to issue 100 new commercial crabbing licenses and provides for a one-day salt-water fishing license.

 

HB 869-Allows DNR Board to set catch limits and other regulations without having prior approval by legislature.  Sets up Finfish advisory Board.  Adds other requirements to commercial fishing vessels like toilet facilities required.

 

SB 366-Prohibits contraband like cell phones from being brought into Juvenile Justice facilities or across guard lines.  Bill also keeps the present limit of detention days in a YDC to the present 30 days.

 

SB 441-Prohibits pointing of a laser at an aircraft or at any officer of the law.

 

HB 1132-New language concerning telemarketing oversight requiring telemarketers to clearly identify themselves or the entity making the call, prohibiting blocking of caller id services.  Does not apply to political calls.

 

SB 402-Permits large state retirement systems like ERS to invest up to 5% in alternative investments starting with 1% and adding 1% per year for 4 more years to 5%.  Sets up standards for investing and annual reports to House and Senate Retirement Committees.

 

SB 372-Requires funeral directors to determine if a deceased individual scheduled for cremation was a veteran and eligible for burial in veterans cemeteries. 

 

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.

 

May 21--  The Uvalda City Council is limiting the authority of the town's mayor.

At its May meeting, the council passed three resolutions limiting the powers of Mayor Paul Bridges.

The council voted that all checks issued by the city include three signatures including the mayor, the city clerk and one member of the city council.

The second resolution stripped the mayor of any authority to direct the operation of the police department, city court, public works and finances of the city.  The authority was transferred to Mayor Pro Tem Bennie Sammons who was designated as the director and supervisor of all city employees.

The council also voted that no city official use any city hall equipment nor incur any expense on behalf of the city that is not directly related to city operations.

Mayor Bridges refused comment on the council's actions and referred questions to Sammons who, in turn, said he could not comment at this time.

The city has undergone an audit and expects results to be announced at its June meeting.   In April, Mayor Bridges told the council he welcomed the audit and said he didn't expect auditors "to find one penny missing."  

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation says it will only investigate citizen suspicions of financial problems in the city if the audit turns up any irregularities.

Meanwhile, the GBI still has an open investigation regarding drugs which were found in a truck owned by city maintenance worker Dexter Cason.  Sources say an allegation was made that the drugs were planted in the truck in an effort to have him fired.  When the investigation started, another maintenance worker, Dallas Adams, quit coming to work and the city council voted at its April meeting to terminate his employment for job abandonment, according to Mayor Pro Tem Sammons.

{mosimage} 

May 19--  Ribbon-cutting ceremonies were held Friday morning for a new Concerted Services office in Mount Vernon.  The non-profit community service agency has 15 employees who are now located in the former central office of the Montgomery County school system on Richardson Street.

Executive Director Ophelia Gaines says the primary job of the Mount Vernon office is to help elderly in the county remain in their homes and out of nursing homes by providing meals and home care.

May 19--  The Class of 2012 at Treutlen High School is the last that will be shepherded by school principal David Avery.

After 30 years in public education, 23 of which were spent in the Treutlen County school system, Avery is retiring.  For the last eight years, he has been principal at the Treutlen Middle/High School in Soperton.

{mosimage}"First of all I'd like to thank my parents, Wayne and Ina Avery.  They instilled good Christian values in me and a strong work ethic. Also, a couple of people in Toombs County I worked for.  Coach Ed Smith and I student taught under Coach Anson Callaway.  Those two gentlemen taught me how to work with people and deal with people and I learned a lot from those two guys," he remembers.

Avery ends his career closing down the building which currently houses the Treutlen Middle/High School.  The Class of 2013 will spend their last year in high school in a new school building which is nearing completion north of Soperton on Highway 29.

"It's really going to great for these kids and the county.  Mr. Ellington and the Board of Education deserve a lot of credit for getting that to become a reality.  It's going to be a great thing.  It's a really, really nice building," the retiring principal observes.

 

May 18-- Congressman John Barrow’s (GA-12) Motion to Instruct the House managers in the conference on H.R. 4348, the Transportation and Infrastructure Reauthorization Bill, to insist upon approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline, passed today with a bipartisan vote of 261 - 152.

“The Keystone XL Pipeline will lower our dependence on oil from the Middle East and create American jobs,” said Barrow. “I’m glad to see my Motion to Instruct pass, because including this in the Transportation Reauthorization bill is the fastest and surest way to get the Keystone XL Pipeline approved.  I understand that some members of my party oppose the Keystone Pipeline, but this is too important to the folks I represent to let partisanship get in the way of good policy.”

Barrow's Motion instructs the House Conferees to insist upon Title II of H.R. 4348, the “North American Energy Access Act,” in the final version of the Transportation Bill. Title II directs the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to issue a permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline within 30 days, in accordance with the Environmental Impact Statement that was approved last year.

To view last night’s floor debate on Congressman Barrow’s Motion to Instruct Click Here

 

May 18--  Area high schools have named the graduates with the best grades during four years of high school as their Valedictorians and Saluatorians.  These students will be commencement speakers at graduation ceremonies this weekend.

{mosimage}Stephen McCall (R) is the Vidalia High School Valedictorian with Salutatorian Jacob Copeland. Stephen is going to UGA to study pharmacy and Jacob to Mercer to study mechanical engineering.

{mosimage}The Toombs County High School Valedictorian is Darby Oliver (R) with Salutatorian Janine Taylor. Darby plans to attend Darton College and transfer to Purdue University to become a veterinarian.  Janine is going to UGA to major in biology and become a doctor.

{mosimage}Montgomery County High School Valedictorian Jasmine Cheeves (R) will attend Fort Valley State University to study pharmacy.  Saluatorian Jessica Johnson has been attending Brewton Parker College while in high school and plans to continue her college education there.

{mosimage}Treutlen High School Valedictorian Teyaijah Givens (R) will study biology at Georgia Southern while Saluatorian Breon Myers is entering the pre-pharmacy program at UGA.

{mosimage}The Valedictorian at Robert Toombs Christian Academy, Carmen Findley (L), is going to LaGrange College.  Salutatorian Sydney Snow will study pharmacy at Mercer University.

{mosimage}May 17--  A former Vidalia Citizen of the Year died Wednesday evening.  Dan Murray passed away after an extended illness.  He was the Citizen of the Year in 1998.

The funeral is Saturday morning at eleven o'clock at the Vidalia First United Methodist Church.  The family will receive friends Friday from six till eight p.m. at the Ronald V. Hall Funeral Home in Vidalia.

May 17--  The McLeod campaign released the following endorsement today.

"Wright McLeod, Republican candidate for Georgia’s 12th Congressional District, today announced an endorsement from FreedomWorks PAC. The PAC selected Wright based on his unwavering support for free markets, fiscal responsibility, and constitutionally limited government.

{mosimage} 

McLeod (left) with Vidalia Tea Party Leader Jim Anderson during a Vidalia visit.

“I’m honored to receive the endorsement and support of FreedomWorks PAC in our effort to unseat four-term, incumbent Congressman John Barrow,” said Wright McLeod.  “FreedomWorks has been a key leader in the Tea Party movement, with hundreds of thousands of volunteers across the country advocating for lower taxes, less government and more freedom.  With the state of our government and economy, its clear we can’t afford the status quo.” 

FreedomWorks PAC Executive Director Max Pappas commented, “Wright McLeod is a solid fiscal conservative who is firmly committed to fighting for constitutionally-limited government. He has been willing to speak out about repealing ObamaCare and the need for a patient-centered healthcare plan.  He also has been willing to speak frankly about our current energy problems and to remove government-created roadblocks to more abundant and less expensive domestically produced fuels. We need more people like Wright who understand the Constitution, will be honest about the true state of the economy and work to rein in the spending.”

Founded in 1984, FreedomWorks has been a national leader in the grassroots, conservative movement by advocating for lower taxes and less government, reducing the national debt, repealing of ObamaCare, reshaping the federal tax code and removing unnecessary government regulations that are suffocating the private sector growth. 

Earlier this month, FreedomWorks played an integral part in Richard Mourdock‘s landslide victory over six-term incumbent Senator Dick Lugar in the Indiana Republican primary. Mourdock’s landslide victory, garnered over 400,000 votes and he won by a massive 61-39% margin

McLeod is an Augusta native.  He graduated from the United States Naval Academy, retired as a Commander after 20 years of service and now runs a successful real estate law firm.  After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from the Naval Academy, Wright earned a Masters degree in National Security Studies from Georgetown University and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Georgia School of Law.  Wright and his wife Sheri are proud parents of three daughters: Collier, Margaret and Grace.  The McLeods attend the Church of the Good Shepherd.

May 17--  Residents of Montgomery County who live in the the Vidalia city limits have been getting a tax break from the city which appears to be contrary to a state Supreme Court decision.

During initial talks between Vidalia and Toombs County about how to share Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) proceeds, county officials noted that Vidalia residents who live in Montgomery County are not entitled to have their property taxes rolled back based on sales tax collections in Toombs County because they are not Toombs County residents.

A 2002 Georgia Supreme Court decison on a similar case in Banks County found the practice to be in violation of state law.

One report which examined Vidalia tax breaks to city residents in Montgomery County since 2006 says it's been averaging about $98,000 a year and could have saved Vidalia residents in Toombs County about a third of a mil on their tax bills.

Vidalia city manager Bill Torrance claims the practice hasn't cost Vidalia taxpayers anything and says the city is looking at the legality of the practice.

"My opinion is that no citizen of Toombs County-Vidalia has paid for any tax relief for Montgomery County, they got their full tax relief, too.  I'm going to have the legal guys look at that and determine what we have to do.  We're certainly not going to continue to do something that's not legal," he said.

Torrance says Vidalia City Attorney Reid Threlkeld is examining the court ruling and will make a recommendation to the city when his review is completed.

May 16--  A trial date has been set for the man accused of killing Toombs County High School student Courtney Wilkes last summer in Florida.

Assistant State Attorney Bobby Elmore says 22-year-old Steven Cozzie is scheduled to be tried starting October 8 in a Defuniak Springs courtroom.

The state of Florida is seeking the death penalty.

May 16--  In the recently signed Georgia state budget for fiscal year 2013 (FY13), $4.185 million was included for the renovation of the 50-year-old main academic building on the Swainsboro campus of Southeastern Technical College.

The Technical College System of Georgia requested that the money be included in the governor’s budget request, and the funding was supported by both the Georgia State Senate and House of Representatives in their FY13 budget deliberations.

The request was then included in the FY13 budget passed by both houses and sent to the governor, who signed the budget on May 8. 

“A major renovation of this 40,000 square foot building is planned, including replacement of the roof, replacement of the heating and air conditioning system, and replacement of most of the interior,” said Dr. Cathryn Mitchell, president of Southeastern Tech.

Dr. Mitchell also said that once renovations for the classroom building were complete, the Accounting, Business Administrative Technology, Computer Information Technology, Cosmetology, Criminal Justice, and Early Childhood Education programs would be housed in Building 2, alongside the library and bookstore.

Additionally, according to the proposal for the renovation project, “renovation of [Building 2] would allow for some rearrangement and repurposing of spaces to provide students with adequately sized and located student center, student break, and food service areas.”

It is anticipated that bonds for design will be sold this summer and design should be complete this fall.  Bonds to fund construction should be sold late this year or early next year.  The project will be bid out after the sale of construction bonds and construction should start by spring or summer of next year with the building ready for classes by January of 2014.

 

May 15--  The Georgia Chamber of Commerce is urging state residents to vote for a new one penny sales tax to pay for local and regional road and transportation projects.

A Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST) will be on the July 31 primary election ballot.

{mosimage}A spokesman for the Chamber, Heath Garrett, told Vidalia Kiwanians Tuesday the tax will generate $400 million in the next ten years for area road construction.

"It will be a $400 million dollar direct investment in this 16-county area over ten years.  That could me between 12,000 and 14,000 jobs over that ten years and would represent the largest economic activity in this region that we've seen in decades," he said.

The tax can only be used for roads in this region and can't be hijacked by politicians or bureaucrats in Atlanta, according to Garrett.

If the sales tax is not approved, Garrett says the state will no alternative but to look at increases in gas, property and income taxes.  He believes the sales tax is the fairest way to go.

"There's no such thing as a good tax, there's only necessary taxes and this is one of them.  It's 100% local money going to local projects with nothing going to Atlanta or Washington.  We'll get a return on our money without having to raise other taxes to pay for this stuff," he reports.

Georgians currently pay 47.6 cents per gallon in state and federal taxes when they buy gas.  That's the 19th highest in the country.  Garrett claims the state would have to raise the state tax by 27 cents per gallon to equal what the T-SPLOST is projected to collect.  If that happened, Georgians would by paying more gasoline taxes than any state in the country.

Click below to see how much gas tax is imposed nationwide.

http://www.commonsensejunction.com/notes/gas-tax-rate.html

 

May 15--  Vidalia banker and native Wendell Dixon says he is running for the District Two Toombs County Commission seat representing Vidalia.  Incumbent Louie Powell announced last week he is not seeking re-election.

{mosimage}In a written statement announcing his candidacy, Dixon said his goals include establishing and maintaining effective communications between the county and its cities, supporting the county manager form of government and guarding the county's financial position through a balancing of necessary services and minimum tax rates.  Dixon also said he wants to provide a voice for the Vidalia District on the county commission.

His statement lists a variety of community service jobs including the Development Authorities of Toombs County and Vidalia and the boards of the Vidalia Recreation Department, Sweet Onion Classic, Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce, Vidalia Onion Festival, United Way and the Vidalia Kiwanis Club.  He's a member of the Vidalia First United Methodist Church where he's been on the Board of Trustees and chaired the Administrative Board. 

May 15--  The Toombs County Commission is petitioning to have a judge decide how sales tax revenue should be allocated between it and the towns of  Vidalia, Lyons and Santa Claus.

Toombs County is seeking an increase in the amount of revenue it receives but has been unable to reach agreement in meetings and mediation with the cities.

County attorney Howard Kaufold filed a petition May 10th asking that a Superior Court judge from outside the Middle Judicial Circuit hear testimony from both sides and make a final decision on how the money should be shared.

Local governments are required by state law to reduce property taxes by an amount equal to that collected from sales taxes.  

City officials claim an increase in the sales tax allocation to Toombs County will result in reduction of services or a net increase in property taxes by city dwellers.

Any allocation decided by a judge would take effect in January and remain in effect for ten years.

May 14--  Sales tax collections so far this year are up in the city of Vidalia.

City financial manager Bill Bedingfield told the city council Monday night Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) revenue is up 22% for January and February and that Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) collections are 12% ahead of last year. "That's a good number," he said, "and we hope that continues."

The city council okayed a request from the North Thompson Baptist Church to connect a daycare center to city water and sewage, agreed to help sponsor a triathalon in October to benefit local cancer victims and okayed an economic development loan to U.S. Energy Sciences.  The $167,000 loan is for 84 months at three percent interest.

May 14--  State Senator Tommie Williams of Lyons is among state Republican leaders slated to address this weekend's 2012 Republican State Convention in Columbus.

Senator Williams is scheduled to talk on Saturday followed by the election of delegates to this year's Republican National Convention.

May 14-- Jacob and Sophia are America’s most popular baby names for 2011.  This is the thirteenth year in a row Jacob tops our list for boys and the first year for Sophia, who knocks Isabella to number two after a two-year stint at the top of our list for girls.  There is only one new name in the top 10 on either list this year.  Mason rocketed to number two from outside of the top ten to replace Anthony on the boys’ side.

For all the top baby names of 2011, go to Social Security’s website www.socialsecurity.gov.  Here are the top 10 boys and girls names for 2011:         

        

Boys 

Girls

1.

Jacob 

Sophia

2.

Mason 

Isabella

3.

William 

Emma

4.

Jayden 

Olivia

5.

Noah 

Ava

6.

Michael 

Emily

7.

Ethan 

Abigail

8.

Alexander 

Madison

9.

Aiden 

Mia

10.

Daniel 

Chloe

While having fun with baby names on www.socialsecurity.gov, don’t forget your own mom.  Social Security’s website has the top-rated online services in the U.S., including Extra Help to pay Medicare prescription drug costs.  This Mother’s Day help your mom or someone you care about by taking them to www.socialsecurity.gov to apply for retirement, disability, Medicare, and this year, for the first time, you can help someone obtain a benefit estimate using the online Social Security Statement. 

Mason, a relatively popular name since the 1990s, had never cracked the top 25 until 2010, when it hit number 12.  Some may attribute this year’s rise to number two to reality TV star Kourtney Kardashian’s son.  We note, moreover, that Mason has been a regular top-five name in Wisconsin for many years, undoubtedly a tribute to strong-legged Green Bay Packer kicker Mason Crosby.

Many pop-culture naming trends appear in a popular feature of Social Security’s baby names website--the “Change in Name Popularity” page.  This year’s winners for biggest jump in popularity in the Top 500 are Brantley and Briella.

The fastest riser on the girls’ list may come from Briella Calafiore, the blonde reality star hairdresser from cable TV’s “Jerseylicious” and its spinoff, “Glam Fairy.” 

For the boys, there could be some controversy over Brantley – depending on whether you are a fan of college football or country music.  Arguments could be made that the popularity of the name comes from John Brantley, the quarterback for perennial powerhouse The University of Florida, or from Brantley Gilbert, the singer with the number one country hit “Country Must Be Country Wide.”  If you like both football and country music, you’re a winner either way!

The second fastest riser on the boys’ list is Iker.  There may be some international influence here—Iker Casillas Fernandez is the well-known goalkeeper for both Real Madrid and the Spanish National Team.  In 2010, Iker led Spain to a World Cup championship, just in time to influence the 2011 baby names list.

On the girls’ side, Angelique is the second biggest climber, but she may have gotten there with some magic.  Angelique is the character name of a witch from the cult favorite “Dark Shadows.”  She worked her witchcraft just in time for the blockbuster Hollywood remake of the 1960s TV show.   

We are pleased to report there has been an Elvis sighting!  Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue is happy to announce that Elvis is back where he belongs, in the top 1,000.  “Last year I was all shook up when Elvis dropped way down below the top 1,000, but Elvis is back into the promised land of the top 1,000, and that’s all right.”  Elvis has been spotted at number 904 on the list.

Social Security started compiling baby name lists in 1997, and the agency’s website offers lists of baby names for each year since 1880.  Social Security is America’s source for most popular baby names because parents supply this information to the agency when applying for a child’s Social Security number at the time of the child’s birth. 

May 14--  A community outreach survey conducted in Montgomery County by the Georgia School Boards Assocation (GSBA) concludes that most people think the school system is performing well in spite of the bickering between two factions in the county.

{mosimage}Laura Reilly (left) from the GSBA conducted the survey and briefed the county school board on the results.

"There's overriding support for what's going on in the classroom in Montgomery County.  The people believe the kids here are good and this is a good school system.  They want to move beyond the controversies which have been in the community the past few years," she said.

In addition to an online survey, Reilly met with more than 70 people in six focus groups and said she heard one term from all of them.

"The term Hatfield and McCoys came from all the focus groups, that is not my phrase.  What you're talking about is not limiting the communications to the Hatfields and the McCoys.  You want everybody involved in the communication and in the process and in giving input.  I think what you've had in the past few years is just hearing from the squeaky wheels.  We want to get rid of just hearing from the squeaky wheels and hear from everyone," she reported.

One group which refused to meet with Ms. Reilly was "Kids First Montgomery" led by Adrian Bell of Uvalda which has been the most vocal critic of the school board.

"Reverend Bell said he felt like the process was not neutral enough.  He felt like GSBA was not a neutral organization even though I tried to convince him that I wouldn't have know him on sight and I don't know anyone here, but he had some strong feelings about that.  I did encourage him and his constituents to take the online survey and I'm sure some of them did because some of their voices did come out in the survey," she said.

The online survey garnered input from 268 people.  Reilly said open-ended comments revealed a 50-50 split in support for the school board with the 50% against wanting a new school board and superintendent.

She recommended in the future that the behavior of adults be improved, that emphasis be placed on the positives and that the waters be calmed to resolve the governance issues raised by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools which placed the school system on probation last year. 

Also at the meeting, Superintendent Randy Rodgers reported standardized test results with 100% of sixth graders passing the reading test and 84% of the seventh graders passing the math test.

The school board also okayed the spending of $179,700 on various maintenance and renovation projects this summer in the schools.

May 10--  Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville provides his perspective on the state's finances and other issues under the Gold Dome.

STATE REVENUES UP, GOVERNOR'S VETOES DOWN!

April turned out to be a good month for the State revenue-wise and for the Legislature as well as Governor Deal's vetoes were few this year in both the budget and in legislation.

 

DECREASE IN REFUNDS KEY IN 11.0%- $151 MILLION INCREASE FOR APRIL

It is no secret that during tax paying season, the flow of tax refunds can skew revenue numbers as we saw in years where refunds were pushed forward into July and August. Of course as the economy slipped, refunds increased and individuals filed as early as possible to get the needed refunds faster.  That created the glut.

 

It appears, though that the recovering economy, little by little, is helping state revenues show improvement and the April numbers reflect decreasing refunds (down 6.0%) and payments increasing (up 8.6%) compared to 2011.

 

Individual Income Tax Payments for April increased as a category 13.2% or $93.7 million on total revenues of $1.5 billion.

 

Net Sales Tax collections totaled 4.8% or an increase of only $22 million for the month.

 

Motor Fuel Taxes increased 17.7% or 6.3% on excises taxes and 28.4% on sales taxes producing an increase of about $12 million for the month.  Tobacco and alcohol tax revenues were up.

 

YEAR TO DATE NUMBERS MEETING BUDGET PROJECTIONS

After ten months of the FY012 Fiscal Year, the state has taken in $13.2 billion dollars or $676,913 over the first ten months of FY011 for a percentage gain of 5.4%.  If 4.4% is the target for the remainder of the fiscal year, then we are meeting that goal.  Hopefully, if the trend continues, all funds in excess over the budget will go into the reserve at the end of June.  Rebuilding the Revenue Shortfall Reserve is critical.

 

Individual Tax payments total $6.7 billion YTD for an increase of $487.7 million or 7.8%.  Net Sales Tax collections show $4.4 billion or $225.3 million increase or 5.3%.  Both of the top two categories are very encouraging.  Motor Fuel Taxes show a moderate 10.1% increase YTD with Excise Taxes down 2.8% and Sales Taxes on Fuel up 22.3% or about $76 million in new dollars going into DOT for roads and bridges.

 

Corporate Income Taxes continue to be anemic at -23% or -$127.8 million for the year.  Tobacco and Alcohol Beverage Taxes are up 2.0% and 5.0% respectively.

 

So, unless the wheels come off in May and June, Georgia is poised to wind up the year on a high note.

 

GOV. DEAL VETOES 6 STATEWIDE BILLS AND 2 BUDGET LINE-ITEMS

As a reflection of the closer working relationship Gov. Deal has established with the Legislature, the governor only vetoed 6 pieces of statewide legislation and only two budget items.  While not vetoing the funds, he also listed 8 budget line-items where he instructed Departments to disregard non-binding language in the budget.

 

GOVERNOR'S LEGISLATIVE VETOS

SB 38-This bill restored some powers of the State School Superintendent which had been taken away under a previous superintendent mainly to hire and fire top administrators.  With this veto, the State Board may continue to delegate those powers.

 

HB 181-This bill made changes to the Special Needs Scholarship.  The Governor expressed support for the concept, but stated that an amendment added to HB181 would have likely reduced the scholarship award amount which would likely have resulted in fewer numbers of children being served.

 

HB 456-Created a Legislative Sunset Review Committee which would have had broad powers to review state agencies and determine if they were still needed.  The Governor stated that with the State actively initiating Zero-Based-Budgeting, a review is going to be taking place under those auspices.  He also noted the estimated cost of between $3 and $7 million and that no funding was appropriated for the bill.

 

SB 470-PresentGeorgia Patient Self Referral laws prohibit providers referring patients to facilities where the provider has an investment interest.  The legislation created additional exemptions for counties where a "military junior college" was located.  The Governor's veto message noted while this legislation only applied to Baldwin County, the precedent might be set for other exceptions.

 

HB 1051-Companion bill, HB 1052, did not pass and removes any need for this bill as a stand-alone law.

 

HB 1117-Originally intended for Fulton County alone dealing with bond sale elections, an amendment would allow wider investments which, in the Governor's view, put those funds at risk.  He recommended the author re-introduce the original bill again.

 

BUDGET VETOES

The Governor vetoed a bond of $3 million for renovation of the Rural Development Center at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus for classroom space.  He asserted the project was not included on the Board of Regents Capital Outlay Priority List.

 

Additionally, the Governor vetoed $1.47 million in bonds for three rail projects in Liberty County, Southwest Georgia and Northwest Georgia.            

 

 

May 11 – Lt. Governor Casey Cagle attended the fourth annual Georgia Forestry Association supper and meeting in Swainsboro along with Larry Calhoun, Johnny Payne and John Thrift of Southeastern Tech.

Cagle noted the contribution of technical colleges and, in particular, forestry programs to the reported $25 million economic impact of the timber industry on Emanuel County.

“Lt. Gov. Cagle is a great supporter of rural Georgia and the state’s forestry and agriculture industries,” said Calhoun, STC Provost. “He is also a champion of technical education and clearly sees the connection and importance of a well-educated workforce and Georgia’s economic future.”

STC’s forestry program’s contribution to local industry has been well demonstrated—graduates and current students work for, among others, Battle Lumber Company, Rayonier, Yeomans Wood and Timber, and Atlantic Wood Industries.

“The forest technology program routinely scores high job placement rates,” said Thrift, forest technology instructor at STC. “I believe the success of our students can be attributed to the streamlined, flexible training that is the spirit of the technical college system.”

With the lieutenant governor’s support and flexible training that incorporates the latest technology, Southeastern Tech’s forestry program figures to remain a major contributor to regional economies in the future.

{mosimage} 

 Photo (L to R): John Thrift, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Johnny Payne, Larry Calhoun

###

May 11--  There are 22 adults in our area who volunteer their time to be mentors for students in the Vidalia City school system.

The idea is to help at-risk young people succeed and most of the mentors say they get a lot of satisfaction from helping.

Take Nancy Peterson, for example.  "I think there are so many young people who have so much potential and they just need somebody to recognize it," she says.

"Sometimes I wonder if they're getting anything out of it, but I think my mentee appreciates somebody caring, I really do," she says, and adds the learning goes both ways, "I'm learning a lot about gangs that I never knew, and for this young girl, it's second nature to her, and it's very scary," she believes.

Another mentor is retiree John Waddell of Vidalia who first started mentoring a young boy at Sally Meadows Elementary and has been with him through middle school and next year into high school.

"I'm not too sure I'm doing him any good, but he's doing me a lot of good.  It's a privilege to be able to do something. I've been with him so long, it's like he's one of my own.  I don't necessarily have to help him with his school work, but just going out on the school yard and throwing a ball or shooting some baskets, it lets him know there's an adult who thinks he's something special," Waddell observes.

Other mentors in the program are Mac Jordan, Alonzo Smith, Sara Chapman, Andrew McIntyre, Hal Chesser, Elissa Blount, Karen Brantley, Macky Bryant, Suzi Braddy, Steve DeWeil, Howard Kaufold, Denise Latham, Bill Rice, Keith Horton, Warren Sowell, Wilson Smith, Kenny Jones, Greg McKenzie, Latrelle Stockton and Tracy Long.

 

May 10--  A Vidalia man was stabbed to death late Wednesday night.

{mosimage}Vidalia Police Sergeant Gerick Palmer says Benjamin Kelly was found on the living room floor of his residence at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Symonds Street.

"At approximately 12:28 a.m. we responded to do a welfare check at 628 Fifth Avenue and an officer responded and found Benjamin Kelly lying on the floor of his residence.  EMS was called to the scene and attempted to revive Mr. Kelly to no avail," Sergeant Palmer said.

A neighbor said a butcher knife was broken off in Kelly's chest and he had a head wound.

{mosimage}He said a woman identified as Rochelle Hurst of Augusta came to his house at about midnight and he knew something was wrong by the way she looked and that she had blood on her hand.

Police later picked the woman up for questioning about three blocks from the house.  She was taken to the Toombs County Detention Center in Lyons.

Residents of the area report that Kelly and Hurst, both in their middle 40's,  had a long term relationship and had frequent flghts when she came down to see him from Augusta. 

The GBI is assisting the Vidalia Police Department with the investigation.

May 9--  Vidalia's veteran school superintendent is retiring.  Dr. Tim Smith (photo left) made the announcement at Tuesday night's meeting of the Vidalia school board.

{mosimage}"As of June 30th, I will be fully retired.  I have spent 42 years in this business and have spent almost 30 of those years in Vidalia.  I was serious earlier when I said that when you get here, you just don't want to leave.  I set goals a few years ago that I wanted to completely renovate this school system and build a J.R. Trippe Field House and those will be completed shortly.  It's a good time for me to tell everybody thank you for your support, thank you for your guidance and thank you for the things that you have done and will continue to do for the people and the students here in the Vidalia City School System.  I appreciate it," he said.

Board of Education Chairman Hal Chesser (photo, right) says it's going to be tough to replace Dr. Smith.

"He's been very important to the school system.  He's run it very efficiently and during these tough economic times he's been a great leader.  He'll be truly missed," he said.

The school board held an executive session and afterwards voted to accept applications for the superintendent's job from within the school system.

"We chose to offer the superintendent's job to all qualified people in our school system.  We felt like it would be better to hire from within the inside for budget reasons and for continuity to keep our system running like it's running," Chesser said.

{mosimage} 

(L-R) Mr. Gardner, SDM Principal Ginger Morris, Mrs. Collins and JDD Principal Carol Welch.

Other teachers and staff members who are retiring this year were honored Tuesday night including special education teacher Jennifer Collins from J.D. Dickerson Primary School, Assistant Principal Henry Gardner from Sally Meadows Elementary, Bill James, Jr. and Wanda Daniels from J.R. Trippe Middle School, and Charlotte Bowen and Gail Gibson from Vidalia High School.

May 9--  The newspaper in Rome, Georgia published the following editorial on the transportation sales tax (TSPLOST) vote coming up the end of July in Georgia.  You might want to read it before you vote. 

Also, you may want to attend next Tuesday's TSPLOST briefing hosted by the Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce in order to be an informed voter.  It's at 4:30 p.m. at Southeastern Tech.

Although the editorial discusses North Georgia, many of its conclusions apply to southeast Georgia as well.

Drivers Needed (The Rome News-Tribune)

WERE IT NOT for jawboning by the state and local chambers of commerce, plus quite a few hometown newspapers such as ours, the ballot question on July 31 regarding a special added penny of sales tax that will run for 10 years solely for transportation projects wouldn’t have a prayer of carrying in most of the state. It still may not.

Indeed, this area’s voters can be excused for somehow thinking they are voting on a new tax to build a ton of new highways in the Atlanta metro. The pro-tax advertising bombardment has already begun there on TV that spills over into homes in Floyd, Bartow, Paulding and other counties where the fate of local new road projects — not dreams of untangling interstates — are actually on the ballot.

As noted before, rarely has such a major issue been sent into such a hostile environment ... or been so confusing.

First, this is actually 12 separate referendums for various parts of the state. In Northwest Georgia, the total vote of all the counties involved decides — Floyd could lopsidedly support it but get nothing; Floyd could overwhelmingly oppose it and still have to pay the new tax (and get its road projects).

THERE’S EVEN a “poison pill” in the legislation that won’t show on the ballot: Any region that defeats it will, in the future, have to ante up 30 percent in local “matching funds” to get any state road work done instead of the current 10 percent. Win (pay new tax) or lose (extract more local taxes) the state picks up more transportation money.

And, other than in the core Atlanta area where Democrats still offer up competing candidates, most of the regions will lure primary voters that are heavily of Republican leanings including the Tea Party faithful, already on record as opposing the measure because it is a tax. So, for that matter, do some environmentalist groups, such as the Sierra Club, because they want most, if not all, future “road” money to go to mass transit, not paving.

The balloting deck is stacked against passage in those areas where supporting campaign dollars and feet-on-ground organizational efforts are not overwhelming.

No citizen should really like this proposal as it is a forced selection between the devil and deep blue sea. However, no citizen — particularly in these parts — can really afford to do anything but support it. Why? Because it is likely the last, best chance for this neck of the state-forgotten piney woods to ever see long-sought key highway improvements.

FOR GREATER Rome, this may well be the only way those alive today will ever see a widening of Ga. 140 from U.S. 27 to Ga. 53 and then a four-laning to Adairsville, a total rebuild to four lanes of Ga. 101 from East 12th Street in Rome to U.S. 278 in Rockmart — the deadliest stretch of highway in these parts — plus firm funding for the U.S. 411 Connector to I-75.

Even that wouldn’t be “soon” — look at the timetable on the project list and all these are on the back end, some 7-10 years out — but at least, like the local SPLOST line items Floyd voters are more familiar with, they represent firm commitments. There’s also a large kitty (25 percent) of the revenues set aside for purely local projects to be determined by the home folks.

And that, frankly, would be far, far better then what seems likely to happen if the TSPLOST is voted down.

As Angie Lewis, who heads the local chamber board, put it: “Not having a direct connection to Interstate 75 has cost this community countless jobs over the last four decades. If we do not support this tax, we can add another 10 more years to the wait for more jobs and greater economic growth.”

Actually, it could be more like 20 ... if not 50 years.

STATE LEADERS have said there is no alternative transportation plan if the TSPLOST is defeated but have already signaled what will happen.

Former Gov. Sonny Perdue already gave the General Assembly and executive branch concurrent control over the selection of all state highway projects with the Department of Transportation, in effect emasculating those who know about roads in favor of those who know about politics, bringing home the bacon and such.

Gov. Nathan Deal has warned: “You may not get the General Assembly to be able to delegate that authority back down to local levels of government to participate in the project selection process again, if this proves to be unsuccessful.”

House Speaker David Ralston, chimed in: “If it fails, then I think it is going to be difficult to have the General Assembly go back and re-do something that’s failed. I don’t think there’s going to be any point in trying to dress up a crashed car.”

And then Deal named a political pal and power broker, Toby Carr, former head of the Georgia GOP, as the state’s transportation planning director with the most say on future project selections. Carr, by the way, has his degrees in finance and agricultural engineering likely meaning his background in road planning is limited to driving where his GPS tells him to go.

WITHOUT the TSPLOST, and its mandated project list in coming years, it will be influence and power under the Gold Dome, of which Greater Rome in recent years has had very little, that will determine who dominates the feeding trough and who gets treated like the runt.

Additionally, it is unlikely the ruling legislators will find the state’s $2 billion annual gas tax income sufficient to feed their appetites for pork. Hence it is a pretty good guess that if the sales tax is defeated they will replace such lost income by doubling or tripling the state’s lowest-in-the-nation motor-fuels tax (7.5 cents). Voters wouldn’t get a say on that one.

Even though it involves an added tax, the TSPLOST at least grants this region road improvements it has long begged for. That’s a lot better choice than turning this region’s future over to political deviltry.

Now, would somebody please get into the driver’s seat before this thing runs off the road?

May 9-- Gov. Nathan Deal announced today that Georgia’s net tax collections for the month of April 2012 totaled $1.53 billion for an increase of $152 million or 11 percent compared to April 2011. Through 10  months of FY2012, net revenue collections totaled nearly $13.3 billion for an increase of $677 million or 5.4 percent compared to the same period last year.

The following changes within the various tax categories contributed to the net revenue increase in April:
 
Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections for April 2012 totaled $804.75 million, up from $711 million in April 2011, for an increase of $93.75 million or 13.2 percent.

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

•      Individual Income Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) were down $34 million or -6 percent
•      Individual Withholding payments were up $54.75 million or 8.0 percent over last year
•      Individual Tax Return payments were up $25 million or 8.6 percent compared to last April
•      All other Individual Tax categories, including estimated payments were down a combined $(20) million

Sales and Use Tax: Net Sales and Use Tax collections for April 2012 totaled $482.5 million, up from $460.5 million in April 2011, for an overall increase of $22 million or 4.8 percent. Gross Sales Tax collections were up $52.5 million over April 2011 with a total of $902 million for the month. The monthly Sales Tax Distribution to local governments totaled nearly $401 million for an increase of $20 million or 5.3 percent over last year.

Corporate Income Tax: Corporate Income Tax collections for April 2012 declined $(2.25) million, down from $70.25 million in April 2011 to $68 million this year.

The following notable components within Corporate Income Tax make up the decrease:
•      Corporate Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) were up $1.25 million over last year

•      S-Corporate Tax payments were down $(2.75) million or -58.5 percent compared to last April

•      Corporate Income Tax, Net Worth and Estimated payments were up a combined $1.75 million

May 8--  A cash reward is being offered by CrimeStoppers for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for marring the community with graffiti.

Vidalia police report eight instances of buildings and vehicles being spray-painted in March and April.

According to Lieutenant Jimmy Sims, "We're trying to identify suspects who are destroying private property throughout the city and I've noticed it also in Lyons, Mount Vernon and the Petross community," he says.

{mosimage}Police say blue paint has been used to spray gang symbols on buildings at Southern Davis, Video Warehouse, Brice Cinema, Mary's Interiors, Love Fellowship Church and restrooms in the Flossie Hayes Park.  Vehicles owned by Wilkes Office Supply and Dennis Truck Lines were sprayed. 

Lieutenant Sims urges citizens who see suspicious activity to call 911 right away.

"If they see somebody with a spray paint can or marking a building, call 911 and give them an idea who they are, what they're wearing and where they're at and we'll see if we can put a stop to this," he said.

The Vidalia-Area CrimeStoppers Board has approved a $500 cash reward.  The toll free number is 1-866-439-6313.  All calls are anonymous and callers get the cash no questions asked if an arrest is made based on their call.

May 8-- Donations to the Southeastern Technical College Foundation by full-time employees this year totaled $35,951, according to Eide Nesmith, executive director of the STC Foundation.

{mosimage}Nesmith noted that for the first time since Swainsboro Tech and Southeastern Tech merged, 100 percent of the school’s full-time faculty and staff pledged and donated.

“I am very proud to work in an environment where there are so many genuinely caring employees,” said Nesmith.

 The success of STC’s internal campaign is something not every school can claim.

“Many larger schools are unable to achieve this outstanding participation rate,” said Nesmith.

The Southeastern Technical College Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides guidance and assists in securing funds for Southeastern Technical College. The STC Foundation helps recognize an unmet need by providing financial support required to sustain current operations and afford future growth.

For more information on the STC Foundation, contact Eide Nesmith at 912-538-3133 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

May 8--  You can bid on some great items, trips and treats at Friday night's "Showcasing Toombs-Montgomery" at the Vidalia Community Center.  This is one of the local Chamber's important fundraisers.  For ticket info, call the Chamber at 537-4466.

Click below to see this year's auction listing.

Showcasing Toombs-Montgomery Complete Auction List

May 8-- Southeastern Tech graduated its 2012 radiologic technology class in a ceremony held at Toombs Auditorium on the Vidalia campus.

 Six students were recognized for completing the required coursework of STC’s radiologic technology program: Ashlee Davis of Soperton, Griselda Delamora of Hazlehurst, Amy Milton of Baxley, Stephan Powell of Lyons, Scott Thomas of Swainsboro, and Brandi Williamson of Vidalia.

{mosimage}(L to R): STC Clinical Coordinator Kerry Dunn, Stephan Powell, Amy Milton, Brandi Williamson, Ashlee Davis, Scott Thomas, Griselda Delamora, Tara Powell

“The graduates you see here tonight have completed over 500 hours of academic instruction and over 1500 hours of clinical education time,” said Tara Powell, director of the radiologic technology program.

Staff and students gave several awards to the staff of some of the clinical sites where they received instruction, and some of the students themselves were named award winners. Amy Milton was named the Most Outstanding Student Technologist, and the Covidien Award of Excellence was given to Amy Milton and Stephan Powell.

“When I first started taking my core classes for this program, this night was just a figment of my imagination,” said Powell. “It’s a privilege to have worked alongside these five people and even more an honor to be sharing valedictorian status for the radiologic technology class of 2012.”

The guest speaker for the ceremony was Christy Allen, administrative supervisor at Meadows Regional Medical Center.

“I congratulate each one of you for graduating tonight,” said Allen. “You’ve all worked hard, studied long hours and you and your families have made many sacrifices in order to make this a reality. You are all a true testament that perseverance pays off.”

 

For more information on STC’s radiologic technology program, call 912-538-3100 or visit www.southeasterntech.edu.

 

May 8--  Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has been signing laws the last few days which were passed by the state General Assembly.

The President Pro Tem of the state Senate, Senator Tommie Williams of Lyons, is glad the governor has signed laws on abortion, prison reform and charter schools.

The charter school bill will let citizens decide in a statewide referendum if they want the state to fund charter schools.  Senator Williams believes it's needed to give poor families a chance at sending their kids to better schools.

"What about the academic success of the child?  It's not about where the money is going, but who is doing the best job of teaching the child and producing the product we want in society.  Charter schools are 20% cheaper to operate with 20% better results on average," he says.

Senator Williams believes the move to get non-violent offenders out of the state's prisons will save money and help some people turn their lives around.

"The courts cost us a lot of money.  We're trying to protect the people from the folks who are real bad guys, and do a little more rehabilitation with the folks who have addictions," he said.

Senator Williams was on hand to witness the signing of an anti-abortion bill designed to  reduce the number of abortions. The new law generally prohibits abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

"Before it was the health of the mother and the health of the mother could be interpreted in a number of different ways which was, frankly, a way to get around late term abortions.  Now they'll have to find another state," he said.

A lot of the credit for the accomplishments in this session of the legislature goes to Governor Nathan Deal, according to Senator Williams.

"We've got one of the best governors we've had in a long time.  This governor is just really gifted at consensus building, he's a kind person, a smart person and a governor who's not in it for his own glory.  It's made for great working relationships at the capitol," Senator Williams observes.

May 7--  Gov. Nathan Deal today signed into law the 2013 budget, which takes effect upon the start of the fiscal year on July 1.

 “Together with the General Assembly, we have enacted a budget that holds the line on spending, while investing in the priorities that will contribute to making Georgia the No. 1 place in the country to do business and create jobs – and continue our high quality of life,” said Deal. “As I do with general bills, I worked with legislators on the front end to make sure we’d have as few line-item vetoes as possible, and we have succeeded in doing that. I think the best way to eliminate wasteful or inefficient spending isn’t with a line-item veto – which is an important tool – but by never allowing such projects into the budget in the first place. I commend the General Assembly on its responsible work, which will preserve our coveted AAA bond rating.”

Budget highlights:

·  WThe FY 2013 budget for state funds is $19,341,669,543.

·       The FY 2013 budget increase is $837.9 million, or 4.5 percent, larger than the final FY 2012 budget, though much of that increase reflects costs expanded by population growth.

o   FY 2013 remains $1.8 billion, or 8.6 percent, under the original FY 2009 budget of $21.2 billion, which was the state’s highest budget passed to-date.

·       When adjusted for inflation, per capita spending in the FY 2013 budget is comparable to FY 1994 spending levels. (FY 2013: $1,971)(FY 1994: $1,954)

·       As of the end of December, the size of the state workforce is lower than it has been in more than 14 years. Since the beginning of the economic downturn in FY 2008, the state workforce has been reduced by 12.4 percent as part of overall cost savings measures to balance the budget to reduced revenues.

·       The Revenue Shortfall Reserve is now $328.4 million as of the end of the last fiscal year, June 30, 2011. This is a 183 percent increase over its level at the end of FY 2010.

 

May 7--  It will cost students who take the GED test up to $65 more dollars than it has in the past starting in July.

– Georgia’s adult learners who want to improve their education have easy access to free programs that offer adult education and GED preparation through the Technical College System of Georgia’s (TCSG) Office of Adult Education. 

 

The only cost that adult learners have to pay is the GED test fee. Now, for the first time since 2007, that fee is set to rise in July to $32 for each part of the test under a plan approved on May 3, 2012,by the state board that oversees the TCSG.

 

The total cost for the five-part test will be $160 and goes into effect on July 1, 2012, after the TCSG, its colleges, and the local testing centers work to inform Georgians about the price change.

 

The new price structure applies to all currenttests and coincides with the nationwide implementation of a computer-basedGED test.The TCSG Office of Adult Education is currently piloting the computer-based test at two technical college locations and plans to implement it at all GED testing centers statewide by year-end. 

 

This is the first price increase for the GED test in five years, when the previous cost for each of the five test components rose from $13 to the current $19 (or $95 for the full test battery). The new price factors in the cost of the development, implementation, delivery and use of the test, including the computer-based version.

 

“The computer-based GED test is being implemented nationwide, and Georgia is one of the first states to use it. This is an important step for our state since the new GED test that’s scheduled for release in 2014 will beonly available on computer. Our ability to begin student preparation early will be a plus for our test-takers. We’ve been working in close collaboration with the national GED Testing Service in Washington, D.C. to ensure that Georgia’s adult learners can make an easy and successful transition to the paperless test,” said Beverly Smith, TCSG assistant commissioner for adult education.

 

Evaluations from over 600 GED test-takerswho took thecomputer-based test atthe two pilot test centers at Gwinnett Technical College and Ogeechee Technical Collegehave been positive about the experience. Even students with minimal computer skills found that the experience was easier than they first thought.

 

Once fully deployed, the computer-based GED test will provide additional benefits to Georgia’s test-takers, including the use of basic technology that’s required for many job applications as well as in training programs and workplaces. From hospitals to construction sites, computer use is a common skill that’s expected in today’s job market. Technology integration in the workforce will continue trending upward, and Georgia’s adult learners will gain from using the basic keyboarding skills required to take the GED test on computer.

 

According to Nicole M. Chestang, executive vice president of the GED Testing Service, “Georgia’s test-takers will also benefit by receiving instant unofficial scores for four of the five subject tests, and in 2014 GED testing on computer will add a significantly enhanced and expanded score report – rather than the current pass/fail approach. Also, in 2014 test-takers will be able to receive not just the traditional high school equivalency, but also a new career- and college-ready endorsement for easier entry into the workforce and college training programs.”

 

Qualified students who cannot afford the fees will be eligible to apply for grants through the TCSG colleges and local community organizations. All of the other essential adult education programs, including Adult Basic Education, GED test preparation classes, college and career advisement, and English as a Second Language classes, remain available free of charge to any Georgian.  Last year, almost 80,000 Georgians took advantage of easy access to those programs.

 

Smith stated that the new cost structure should not deter anyone, regardless of their income, from taking and passing a test that will change their lives for the better, including the potential for a higher-paying job and access to a college education.  “Students who think that they won’t be able to cover the cost or who need other assistance shouldn’t hesitate to get more information from their local GED testing center or the TCSG Office of Adult Education.Individuals who qualify based on need can get help with access to grant money from the TCSG Foundation, TCSG college foundations, and local literacy partners. And we’re actively seeking more individual, civic, and corporate donors who are willing to help the more than 1.2 million adult Georgians who need a GED diploma,” said Smith.

 

Smith added, “In FY 2011, almost 28,000 people took the GED test in Georgia and over 19,000 passed it and earned their GED diploma. More than 9,500people received fee assistance to take the test, and we expect to substantially increase that number in the coming year.”  

 

There are added benefits for completing the program and passing the tests. “Once they earn a GED diploma, the state presents graduates who are Georgia residents with a $500 HOPE voucher that can be used to enroll at a TCSG college, which in turn opens the door to receive the HOPE grant,” said Smith.

 

The HOPE grant, which is separate from the voucher, will pay for a large portion of the state technical college tuition. To keep the HOPE grant, students must maintain at least a 3.0 college grade point average. 

 

A list of all of Georgia’s GED testing centers and more information is available at https://tcsg.edu/forAdultLearners.php

 

More about computer-based GED testing:

 

        Test-takers can registeronline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

        They can go online day or night to schedule a test and even schedule on a test day.

        Easy choice of a test center location, day and time that’s convenient to the test-taker.

        Instant unofficial results given at completion of most tests (except for the Language Arts – Writing test).

        There’s increased time for testing with a substantial reduction of administrative tasks.

        Increased security - electronic tests are downloaded/uploaded with no internet connection during testing.

        Ability to expand GED test centers in more Georgia counties with the use of existing local computer labs.

 

 

May 7--  The Thunderbolt Junior ROTC Regiment headquarted at Vidalia High School has promoted cadets who will run the Regiment next school term.  The Regimental Change of Command ceremony was held Saturday.  Here's a listing of the new chain of command.

 

Position Auth Rank Promoted Rank Name
Regimental Commander C/COL C/COL Mitchell, Anthony Mason
Regimental Deputy Commander C/LTC C/LTC Salem, Shakeia K.
Regimental Executive Officer C/LTC C/CPT Shim, Jennifer
Regimental Command Sergeant Major C/CSM C/CSM Smith Rickesha J.
Regimental Personnel Officer (R-1) C/MAJ C/2LT Singleton, Daisha
Regimental Security Officer (R-2) C/CPT C/CPT Rogers, Roderick
Regimental Operations Officer (R-3) C/MAJ C/MAJ Fussell, Charnia
Regimental Logistics Officer (R-4) C/MAJ C/2LT Singleton, Traulonda
Regimental Public Affairs Officer (R-5) C/MAJ C/2LT Simpson, Aerona
Regimental Recruitment Officer/A/S-4 C/MAJ C/2LT Poole, Karstin
Regimental Raider Team Commander C/CPT C/2LT Collins, James
Regimental Rifle Team Commander C/CPT C/2LT Stovall, Caleb
Regimental Drill Team Commander C/CPT C/2LT Moore, Cory
       
Battalion Commander (Vidalia) C/LTC C/MAJ Chanta Robinson
Battalion Executive Officer C/MAJ C/2LT Williams, Amber
Battalion Command Sergeant Major C/CSM C/SGM Owen, Kristopher
Battalion Personnel Officer (S-1) C/CPT C/2LT Rogers, Shakira
Battalion Security Officer (S-2) C/CPT C/2LT Sanford, Bricia
Battalion Operations Officer (S-3) C/CPT C/2LT Fox, Jordan
Battalion Logistics Officer (S-4) C/CPT C/2LT Brogdon, Scotty
Battalion Public Affairs Officer (S-5) C/CPT C/2LT Moore, Jessica
A Company Commander C/CPT C/2LT  
B Company Commander C/CPT C/2LT  
A Company First Sergeant C/1SG C/SSG  
B Company First Sergeant C/1SG C/SSG  
       
Battalion Commander (Toombs) C/LTC C/MAJ Molly Quarterman
Battalion Executive Officer C/MAJ C/CPT Dakota Melton
Battalion Command Sergeant Major C/CSM C/SGM Cason Douberly
Battalion Personnel Officer (S-1) C/CPT C/2LT Markeyla Lawton
Battalion Security Officer (S-2) C/CPT C/2LT Christopher Summers
Battalion Operations Officer (S-3) C/CPT C/2LT Tanner Higgs
Battalion Logistics Officer (S-4) C/CPT C/2LT Rhett Cooper
Battalion Public Affairs Officer (S-5) C/CPT C/2LT Crystal Perkins
A Company Commander C/CPT C/2LT Callie Foster
B Company Commander C/CPT C/2LT [Vacant]
A Company First Sergeant C/1SG C/SSG Fantasy Smith
B Company First Sergeant C/1SG C/SSG [Vacant]
       
Battalion Commander (Montgomery) C/LTC C/MAJ Love, Taylor
Battalion Executive Officer C/MAJ C/CPT [Vacant]
Battalion Command Sergeant Major C/CSM C/SGM Spires, Joshua
Battalion Personnel Officer (S-1) C/CPT C/2LT Pittman, Madison
Battalion Security Officer (S-2) C/CPT C/2LT [Vacant]
Battalion Operations Officer (S-3) C/CPT C/2LT Daniel Foust
Battalion Logistics Officer (S-4) C/CPT C/2LT Snead, Craig B.
Battalion Public Affairs Officer (S-5) C/CPT C/2LT Johnson, Keauja
A Company Commander C/CPT C/2LT Sosa, Dora
B Company Commander C/CPT C/2LT [Vacant]
A Company First Sergeant C/1SG C/SSG Sneed, Precious
B Company First Sergeant C/1SG C/SSG [Vacant]
       
Battalion Commander (Truetlen) C/LTC C/MAJ Holton, Joshua D.
Battalion Executive Officer C/MAJ C/CPT Goodwin, Rebeka
Battalion Command Sergeant Major C/CSM C/SGM Spivey, Jack
Battalion Personnel Officer (S-1) C/CPT C/2LT Kitchens, Caitlin M.
Battalion Security Officer (S-2) C/CPT C/2LT Rivers, Samuel P.
Battalion Operations Officer (S-3) C/CPT C/2LT Harden, Sadaria S
Battalion Logistics Officer (S-4) C/CPT C/2LT Hollis, Lakieya Q.
Battalion Public Affairs Officer (S-5) C/CPT C/2LT Wadley, Lyric J.
A Company Commander C/CPT C/2LT [Vacant]
B Company Commander C/CPT C/2LT [Vacant]

 

{mosimage} 

Lydia Sammons of Vidalia is driving the 98Q Car in this year's Derby.

May 5--  The largest field ever to compete in the annual Southeast Georgia Soap Box Derby started rolling down Derby Hill in Lyons Saturday morning.  At the end of the day, one of the 42 young racers will clock the overall best time to win the 2012 title and a trip this summer to the All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio.

{mosimage} 

Drivers had their pictures taken before starting the race Saturday morning.

{mosimage}

Ready to Roll!

 

 

May 4--  Apparently someone in the federal government has decided their effort to regulate who can milk the cows or bring in the crop on the family farm should be reversed.  For years farm kids have done chores around the farm without federal oversight and apparently that can now continue, at least, for now. 

Recently, the Department of Labor recently determined that they would not apply the Fair Labor Standards Act to affect the ability of farmers and ranchers to hire youth to work in agriculture. 

Congressman John Barrow released the following statement:

"I'm very pleased that the Department of Labor listened to folks involved in agriculture, dropped this rule, and gave farmers the security to know this won’t come up again under this administration.  There are very good reasons to protect young children from oppressive working environments, but this provision would have threatened Georgia’s agricultural economy, while eliminating important agricultural education opportunities for our children.  I want to thank everyone who expressed their discontent with the possibility of this provision and want you to know that your voice was heard.”

Georgia Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall also release this statement:

“We are pleased that the Department of Labor chose to withdraw this set of rules,” said Georgia Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall. “As proposed, the DOL rule would have fundamentally changed how the department interprets the existing parental exemption for family farms and would greatly restrict the ability of youth to work on common farm equipment. It could have changed and hindered the ability of youth to gain real-life agricultural experience through education programs like 4-H and FFA.”

This rule would have vast implications for the agriculture industry that could have affected those involved in livestock and grain production, commodity transport, youth agriculture education, and other sectors.

 

 

May 4--  Tumi became a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange last month and now trades under the symbol "TUMI."

{mosimage} 

Vidalia’s Richard Lawrence (second from right), Vice President of Operations, along with other members  of Tumi’s Executive Committee participating in the ringing of the Opening Bell at the New York Stock Exchange. (Photo courtesy Ben Davis)

 

May 4-- The Georgia Department of Revenue has announced that the new license plates will be available in all 159 counties on Monday, May 7, 2012. The new tags are manufactured and distributed in a process that will significantly decrease the amount of time it takes Georgia taxpayers to receive their license plate. The new plates, which are digitally printed, will also allow the Department to reduce its inventory carrying cost due to the new on-demand process.

With the new plates, older plates will begin to be phased out. Any license plate issued prior to December 1, 2003 and having the plate heading “Georgia…on my mind”, will be replaced at the time of registration renewal or a vehicle registered in Georgia for the first time at the county tag office. Registered vehicle owners having a license plate issued after December 1, 2003 and having the plate heading WWW.Georgia.gov including any vanity, prestige, veteran, college or university, or any other specialty license plate will be replaced beginning May of 2013.

Registered vehicle owners will be able to choose between a traditional plate and the new plate designed by Ms. Linda Sosebee. The new license plate depicts a colorful landscape with a peachtree and peaches. Ms. Sosebee’s design was chosen by Governor Deal as the winner of the 2011 Georgia License Plate Design Contest in July.

May 4--  The four-school Thunderbolt Junior ROTC Regiment headquartered at Vidalia High School honored its outstanding cadets and promoted a new chain of command at an honors ceremoney this week at Southeastern Tech.

The regiment is wrapping up its first year and is a one-of-a-kind because it includes students from four different school systems:  Vidalia, Toombs, Treutlen and Montgomery counties.

Command Sergeant Major (Retired) David Draughn is the senior instructor for the Thunderbolts and describes the year as, "Interesting, a little hectic at times, but only because we were getting used to each other.  The support from all of the schools and the community at large is really refreshing and great and is one of the reasons this regiment has gotten a good start this year and I'm looking forward to more years of the same thing," he said.

{mosimage}The new regimental commander for next year is Cadet Colonel Mason Mitchell from Vidalia High School whose Mom and Dad, Tony and Tonia Mitchell, were present for his promotion.

"It's going to be a big responsibility, but I know with the support of the fellow cadets, the sergeant major and First Sergeant Brantley and my parents, I know that I can overcome any obstacles that are put in my path.  It's a great honor that I was chosen to be commander of the Thunderbolt Regiment and I'm looking forward to next year," he said.

Classes and training for the Thunderbolts are conducted at Vidalia High School and school principal Dr. Garrett Wilcox knows the program has a positive impact on the cadets in the program.

"They have really bought into this concept of being part of a team and it's amazing to see the turnaround and the initiatives they are taking to make this program better everyday.  I just want to say a big thank you to Sergeant Major Draughn and First Sergeant Brantley for their efforts as we continue to move forward," he said.

May 3--  Three-term Toombs County Commissioner Louie Powell is not seeking re-election.

"I've always put 110% into serving the people of Toombs County, but I'm at the point now of having to concentrate on my business and my personal life," Powell said Thursday.

Commissioner Powell represents District 2 which includes most of the city of Vidalia.  In his early days on the commission, he worked to develop an orderly budget process.  He was the go-to guy for overseeing the county landfill, starting the county-operated ambulance service and worked with former Commissioner Steve Brown in developing the county manager form of government.

"When I came to the county, the goal was to have a county manager and the landfill was in a chaotic situation with the EPA and other agencies.  Basically, I've completed all the goals I had and Toombs County is in great financial shape and everything's done so it's time to let somebody else step up and serve the people," he says.

One disappointment Powell has is the current standoff between Toombs County and its muncipalities regarding allocation of local option sales tax collections.  

"The LOST negotiations got off to a bad start.  Yes, the county is in good financial shape, but in order to continue operating Toombs County without having to raise taxes, all the LOST negotiations is about is the equal distribution of sales tax dollars.  I would certainly hope we could have come to a conclusion without this thing going as far as it has.  I wish everybody could come back to the table and say let's work this out, but I haven't heard any news of that happening," he observes.

Qualifying for Powell's vacant seat opens later this month with Vidalia banker Wendell Dixon expected to run for the office.  

 

 

May 2--  Governor Nathan Deal's press office issued the following release:

Gov. Nathan Deal today signed into law historic reforms in the state’s criminal justice system. HB 1176 will revolutionize how Georgia punishes nonviolent crimes by seeking alternative treatments where possible and preserving expensive prison beds for offenders who pose a danger to society.

“With this bold new direction in criminal justice, we will bolster public safety, increase our chances of rehabilitating lives and bend the unsustainable cost curve we face in our prison system,” Deal said. “We spend $1.2 billion a year on our prison system and those costs were set to soar far beyond what we can afford. That makes no sense for taxpayers when there are most cost-effective means that have better outcomes.

“The Criminal Justice Reform Council worked all year, receiving input from all corners of the state, and I have asked the members to continue their work through this year to explore other areas for reforms. The result was a piece of legislation with support so deep that it passed unanimously in both chambers of the Legislature. This will pay dividends to taxpayers over and over, from the reduced cost to our prison system to the increase in the number of people who return to the workforce and support their families.”

 

 

May 2--  The Montgomery County Board of Education is going to court in an effort to block a decision by the Georgia Board of Education to reinstate three  teachers who lost their jobs as part of a reduction in force (RIF).

The state board said the decision last year to release Lisa Parker, Allie Rhodes and Marilyn Haymans was "arbitrary and capricious."

However, Montgomery County School Superintendent Randy Rodgers said standard reduction in force policy was followed in deciding which teachers would be terminated.

"The RIF procedure shall include the professional expertise, effectiveness and overall job performance of individual employees as reflected in annual evaluations as well as the Superintendent's own observations and knowledge.  Only where demonstrated competence and expertise are equal among employees shall other factors such as tenure status, level of certification and length of continuous service with the board be considered in order to make recommendations regarding the termination or downgrading of an employee's position," Rodgers told the board.

The school board held a called meeting Tuesday night and voted to appeal the state school board's ruling in Montgomery County Superior Court.

The Superintendent says it's unfortunate that the teachers had to lose their jobs, but claims the school system's financial status made it necessary.

"It was necessary to take action in order to make necessary changes to our budget by decreasing expenditures to be more in line with the revenues we had to work with.  Considering that prior management had operated the school district in deficit financing for the two previous audited school years, it was incumbent on me to make decisions that would correct this practice and move our finanicial conditions to the point that necessary employees could be fairly compensated and that school children couold receive the education they require and deserve," Rodgers said.

May 2--  The Vidalia Police Department reports the following activity during the April, 2012.

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May 2--  The chairman of this year's Vidalia Onion Festival thinks the event this year raised enough money to refurbish the festival's cash reserve and enable planning for a big show next year.

{mosimage}"I was very pleased with how the community came out.  Sunday was extremely weak but Friday and Saturday were way above what we expected.  I don't have final numbers yet, but I think we're right on the plan we set a year ago or maybe slightly above it," chairman Tim Truxel reports.

Truxel said his goal was to generate $80,000.

"It was important we could rebuiltd those reserves because the earlier you can plan for the acts, the better off you are and the better the festival will be next year," he said.

The 2013 festival will see the return of the Navy's Blue Angels and other aviation acts.  That should attract even more people and Truxel promises to avoid the traffic jam which plagued festival-go'ers Friday night.

"It's going to be a very busy place and we're going to be geared up and ready to handle the crowds next year.  Hindsight's always 20-20 and I think if we had had both gates open, we would have been able to get everybody in, but we won't make that mistake again," Truxel promises.

May 1--  Leaders of the 4-H program in Toombs County won top awards at the state meeting of the Georgia Association of Extension Service 4-H Agents in Cordele.

{mosimage}Volunteer Leader David Garrett (second from left) is the 2012 Southeast District Outstanding Volunteer.  He was recognized for his contributions to the Toombs County 4-H Project S.A.F.E. Shotgun Team.  Six years ago, David began the shotgun team with only five shooters.  The program now has over thirty shooters for the 2012 year. His wife, Lesli (left), is a 4-H program assistant in Toombs County

Toombs County Agent Jason Edenfield (third from left) is the state winner of the Outstanding Support by an Agriculture Agent.  In addition to his duties as agriculture agent, Jason spends many hours, after the office closes working with Toombs County youth with the local hog show and BB Rifle Team.  Jason fully supports the Extension  4-H Program and his support is evident, because he always makes time to help youth.

4-H Coordinator Cheryl Poppell won the 2012 GAE4-HA Peach of a Profession Scholarship.  The scholarship will be used to assist Cheryl as she attends the 2012 National Association of Extension 4-H Agents meeting.  The NAE4-HA meeting will serve as a great opportunity to learn from others and bring new program ideas to Toombs County.   Cheryl was also the recipient of two team awards for her contributions to the Georgia 4-H Cyber Academy 4-H Club.

4-H is the Youth Development Program of the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.  For more information about this or any other 4-H activity, call the Toombs County Extension Office at 526-3101 or visit Toombs County Extension online at http://www.ugaextension.com/toombs/.

 

May 1-- Senator Tommie Williams (R-Lyons) was present today as Governor Nathan Deal signed into law a pro-life bill that will reduce the maximum weeks in which an abortion can be performed from 26 to 20 weeks. HB 954 will effectively eliminate most abortions in Georgia after the midway point of pregnancy.

{mosimage}“At the beginning of the 2012 legislative session, the Senate Majority Party made a commitment to protecting Georgia’s children. HB 954 extends this protection to children who do not yet have a voice but have fully defined human attributes, including the ability to experience pain,” said Sen. Williams. “All human life is sacred, including the lives of those who are yet to be born.”

The bill makes an exception for pregnancies deemed “medically futile,” or those in which a profound and irremediable congenital or chromosomal anomaly is present and would not allow the fetus to survive outside the womb.

HB 954 was co-sponsored by Sen. Williams and Rep. Doug McKillip (R-Athens), and will become effective on January 1, 2013.


May 1--  The Vidalia school system is involved in two construction projects and is borrowing money to pay the bills using projected income from its sales tax revenue as collateral.

School Superintendent Dr. Tim Smith says the money will be used as needed to pay for work at J.R. Trippe Middle School and J.D. Dickerson Primary School.

"We're doing exactly the same thing to go ahead and finish out paying for this renovation and field house project as we did with Sally Meadows Elementary.  We'll establish a line of credit and we'll draw on it when our expenses surpass the money we have in the ESPLOST account and then we'll use the incoming ESPLOST money to pay it back, just like we did last time, and it'll take about a year," Dr. Smith estimates.

He says the school system will seek a line of credit of $1.5 milliion from banks in Toombs County.  "We'll ask them all to submit a proposal and we'll take the best one," he reports.