November 29--  A Lyons man has been indicted for threatening a court officer and jurors in Toombs County Superior Court.

A Toombs County grand jury indicted 44-year-old Cornelius Jackson of Lyons for intimidating Assistant District Attorney Charles Howard and 12 members of a jury which found Jackson's son guilty of an armed robbery.  Jackson allegedly made threatening remarks after the verdict was announced.

An employee of Vidalia Medical Associates was indicted on one count of theft by taking and another of theft by conversion.  Annie Jean Wilson is accused of taking more than $25,000 on each count from her employer.

The grand jury indicted Tyquan Calloway for the armed robbery of Kentucky Fried Chicken in Vidalia last January and for stealing vehicles from Vidalia Ford and T&T Towing of Vidalia.

A woman and three men were charged for the armed robbery of senior citizen Henry Louis Jones at his home on the Lyons-Center Road in October.  They are Armeta Griffin, Tyvone Bacon, Terrance Thomas and Jeffery Phillips.

Indicted for assaulting a drug agent is Mario McNeal for dragging Michael Clements in a vehicle while the officer was attempting to arrest McNeal.

Drug related indictments were returned against George Robinson and William Childs.

Two people were indicted for leaving children in a hot car.  Artem and Danielle Ishkov are charged with three counts of cruelty to children.

The grand jury also made appointments to the Toombs County Board of Equalization.  Jiles McNatt was named to the board and Sylvia Dennis was named an alternate succeeding Herman "Bo" Meeks.  Jack Gibson was reappointed to the board.

 

 

November 27--  Tri-County Family Connections reports a Treutlen High School student has placed in the Top Ten of a statewide campaign against drug and alcohol abuse.

"The Governor's Office for Children and Families is very proud of every student across the great state of Georgia who made the effort to participate in, and promote, the Reel Change GA Video Title Competition. 

{mosimage}Jeremy Raiford of Treutlen County placed third and received winning prizes from the Council on Alcohol and Drugs and Public Awareness Campaign.com. 

The campaign celebrates the fact that most of our students, 12-18, across the state of Georgia are not drinking alcohol. This competition is a chance for teens to create REEL CHANGE across the state and reduce underage drinking, reel by reel. 

Jeremy entered the contest on behalf of the Youth Action Team, which is part of Tri-County Family Connection."

 

 

November 27--  Leaders of Community Project Hope are appealing to local pastors to help save a generation of young black men and women.

At a meeting in Vidalia Tuesday night, Vidalia Mayor Pro Tem Raymond Turner, who also chairs the Project Hope board, said "We know we're supposed to do it at home, but as a community we've got to be a whole family when we see our young men, especially the black males, we're losing them."

Middle Judicial Circuit District Attoreny Hayward Altman told the group violent crime is reaching a critical stage in our area.

"Murders, aggravated assaults and domestic violence have gotten to a critical stage," he said.

Community Project Hope works with the judicial system to help young people in trouble to have a second chance.  The DA applauds their efforts.

"The thought processes these individuals shared tonight regarding discipline, being involved with the youth in the community and with getting churches involved is key.  If they can get God involved in lives they will be successful," he said.

And Altman says the most important thing parents can do for their kids is to learn to say no.  "I tell parents they are not their children's best friend and the key word they need to learn is no," he said.

The founder of Community Project Hope, Wilson Johnson of Vidalia, depends on local churches to shepherd young people in trouble.

"Now they're getting shot, they're getting killed, they're robbing and we've got more gang violence than ever before.  The reason is they don't go to church so someone can teach them what the bible says.

"All of these pastors have a tremendous responsibility to God and their community to try to change the lives of people.  Once we do that we'll see a whole different breed of people and we can clean it up.

"I don't criticize those young men who are doing things and I don't criticize those young girls because they haven't been taught.  It's our responsibility and I blame us, not them," he said. 

November 26-– Last Friday Southern Nuclear Chairman, President and CEO Stephen Kuczynski announced a new site vice president and plant manager at the Edwin I. Hatch Nuclear Plant near Baxley, Ga.

{mosimage}David Vineyard, current plant manager at Plant Hatch, was named the new site vice president.

“I am pleased with the opportunity to serve as Plant Hatch site vice president as we continue our mission of sustaining high levels of plant performance and community service,” said Vineyard. “Our top priority is the safety and health of the public and our employees, and I appreciate the support of the Plant Hatch community.”

Prior to his work at Plant Hatch, Vineyard served as the fleet operations manager at the Southern Nuclear headquarters in Birmingham, Ala., where he functioned as the governance and oversight authority for all nuclear plant operations.

Vineyard joined Southern Company in 1985 at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro, Ga., after serving eight years in the U.S. Navy submarine force. He holds a degree in computer science from Augusta State University and completed post graduate work in computer engineering at North Carolina State University. He has maintained a senior reactor operator’s license at Vogtle for 23 years.

Vineyard and his wife, Beverly, live in Vidalia. They have twin sons, Andrew and Matthew, both employed with Southern Nuclear and stationed at Plant Vogtle.

{mosimage}Tony Spring has assumed the role of plant manager at Plant Hatch.  Spring began his career at Plant Hatch in the engineering department in 1991, serving in modifications engineering, work controls, system engineering and operations. He moved to the corporate headquarters and worked in strategic analysis. He returns to Plant Hatch after most recently serving at Plant Vogtle 3 and 4 as the operations director, then as the initial test program director.

 “I am excited to return to Plant Hatch, where I served for most of my career,” said Spring. “Rejoining the Plant Hatch team feels like I’m returning home, and my family and I are glad to be back in this warm and welcoming community.”

Spring, from Sylvester, Ga., attended Mercer University in Macon, where he met his wife, Lynn, and earned a degree in electrical engineering. Spring and his wife have two daughters – Samantha, 11, and Alexa, 10 – who will be transferring to Vidalia Heritage Academy at the end of the school year. 

 

 

November 26--  A mental evaluation has been granted for the man who is accused of killing a Vidalia woman earlier this month.

Middle Judicial Circuit District Attorney Hayward Altman says the public defender requested the evaluation for 23-year-old James Knight of Lyons.

He was arrested for the shooting death of 66-year-old Gladys Bailey at her home on Glaze Drive in Vidalia November 15.

Superior Court Judge Kathy Palmer referred Knight to Georgia Regional Hospital for evaluation.  Meanwhile, he is being held without bond at the Toombs County Detention Center.

November 26--  A third accused burglar has been arrested in this summer's breakin at Lee Discount Company in downtown Vidalia.

Police say LeArtis Daniels, Jr. of 110 West Jenkins Street in Vidalia was arrested by local officers and the U.S. Marshal's Service.

Two others, Khalil Harris and Dominique Henderson, both of Vidalia, were arrested in October for last July's burglary.

November 25--  Copper thieves have hit five locations in Vidalia and a $3,000 reward is being offered for their capture.

Vidalia police say vacant business buildings have had their heating and air systems destroyed by thieves who are selling copper and aluminum for cash.

The old Western Sizzling building on Highway 280 East had seven roof-mounted units valued at $84,000 stripped of condensors and other metal components.

Four units valued at $20,000 on the roof of Shooter's Bar and Grill on Northeast Main Street were also stripped.  

Other locations that have been hit are Shine's at Orange and North Streets and houses on Ward Street and Everette Street.

If you have information on these cases, call the Vidalia-Area Crimestoppers Hotline at 1-866-439-6313.  If you're information leads to an arrest, you'll receive a $3,000 cash reward.  You do not have to give your name when you call.

November 25-- The Georgia Department of Community Affairs (GDCA) announced today that 19 new Georgia cities will become part of the Main Street Start-up Program, which provides technical assistance to communities looking to improve their downtowns. These cities will work during 2014 to meet state and national criteria to become designated Main Street programs eligible for national accreditation by 2015.

Twenty-five cities across the state applied to the 2014-2015 program, the largest single group of applicants in the history of the Georgia Main Street Program. Collectively, they represent 284,503 citizens, $1.8 million in available local downtown program funding and 10 service delivery regions of the state.

 

“In line with national trends, Georgia has seen renewed interest in downtown revitalization. We’re committed to helping our communities become great places to live, work and play, and our Main Street Program is one of our best examples of our technical assistance to Georgia’s local governments,” said Gretchen Corbin, Commissioner of GDCA, which houses the Main Street program.

 

Focusing on four core areas: design (what downtown looks like and how it functions); organization (the people and organizations that will do the work); economic restructuring (the types of businesses that will work in a particular downtown); and promotion (helping others understand how and why downtown is great), the Main Street program has assisted cities across Georgia since 1980.

The selected cities are:

Albany

Cairo

Porterdale

Ashburn

Chamblee

Ringgold

Auburn

Grayson

Stockbridge

Avondale Estates

Hinesville

Swainsboro

Ball Ground

Holly Springs

Sylvester

Bowdon

Lawrenceville

 

Braselton

Perry

 

 

These communities will work to join 96 other cities across Georgia in the Main Street program. GDCA will provide substantial technical assistance to these communities, including help with board and leadership development, the creation of two- and five-year work plans, development of program budgets and preparation of each to meet the 10 standards set forth by the National Main Street Center, which is a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

 

“It’s an exciting time to be a part of the Georgia Main Street Program,” said Billy Peppers, Director of the Office of Downtown Development. “Georgia was one of the first states in the country to be a part of the national Main Street program, and because of this, Georgia’s downtowns have seen more than $3 billion in impact since 1980, along with the creation of more than 58,000 net new jobs. Georgia’s downtowns are truly open for business.”

 

The Main Street Four-Point Approach® is a proven methodology that empowers communities to utilize their distinctive assets, such as their independent businesses and historic character, to revive their commercial districts, strengthen local economies and increase civic engagement. Since 1977, the Main Street Four-Point Approach® to downtown revitalization has been used by more than 2,000 communities nationwide to stimulate more than 235,000 building rehabilitation projects and create 475,000 jobs.

 

November 23-- Southern Nuclear Chairman, President and CEO Stephen Kuczynski announced today that Dennis Madison, current site vice president of the Edwin I. Hatch Nuclear Plant near Baxley, has been named fleet operations vice president at the company’s Birmingham, Ala., headquarters.

Madison, who joined Southern Company in 1982, has been a leader in various nuclear engineering roles.He has served as Plant Hatch’s site vice president since 2007.

David Vineyard, current plant manager at Plant Hatch, will assume the role of site vice president. He joined Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro, Ga., in 1985 and served in various supervisory roles and operations leadership positions until 2010, when he was named fleet operations manager at Southern
Nuclear’s corporate office. He moved to Plant Hatch as plant manager in 2012.

Tony Spring has been selected as plant manager of Plant Hatch. He started working at Plant Hatch in 1991 and served in several engineering and operations roles. He was named initial test program director for the construction of Vogtle units 3 and 4 earlier this year.

“The leadership and experience of these individuals in the operation of nuclear facilities will ensure Southern Nuclear’s overall fleet success,” said Kuczynski. “With a proven track record of setting and reinforcing high operational standards, each of them clearly has the ability to lead our fleet and the Hatch team to achieve industry-leading performance.”

November 22--  Montgomery County Commissioners held a ribbon-cutting Friday morning for the county's new Road Department compound in Mount Vernon.

{mosimage}

(L-R) Incoming county road department supervisor Milton Fountain, County Commissioner Tim Williamson, Mrs. Faye Dukes (Holland-Underwood Foundation), Commissioner John Carpenter, John Roller (HUF), Chairman Vernon Sumner, Don Christian (HUF), Commissioners Clarence Thomas and Frank Brantley, county manager Brandon Braddy and outgoing road chief Trawick Curl. 

A new building and renovation of an existing structure cost the county $133,000 which Commission Chairman Vernon Sumner says is well worth it.

"It means a lot to them.  They are going to be able to work out of the weather and have a good facility to help us out.  If you could see the one we used to have, you'd see a great improvement," he said.

The seven-member department maintains 400 miles of county roads, according to county manager Brandon Braddy.

The Commissioners also presented certificates of appreciation to board members of the Holland-Underwood Foundation which donated the land for the road department.

Chairman Sumner says the county also has plans to locate a computerized county fuel pump on the property that will be used by all county vehicles including the Sheriff's Department.  Authorized users will be given identification numbers to help account for fuel, he said.

November 22--  An Illinois Congresswoman who is also a combat veteran reveals fraud and abuse of a government program designed to help disabled veterans.  Click below to watch the testimony before the House Oversight Committee.

http://www.upworthy.com/whats-the-worst-thing-you-could-say-to-a-congresswoman-who-lost-her-legs-in-battle-found-it?g=2

November 22--  The Georgia Public Service Commission has filed a complaint with AT&T on behalf of a Vidalia resident.

Joe Holland of Vidalia says the company never told him there would be extra charges if he upgraded to AT&T's "UVERSE" internet service.  He only found out when his next bill included a charge of $299.37.

The PSC advises consumers to ask vendors about all charges before agreeing to any new service.  

Meanwhile, if you've had problems similar to Holland's, you can call the PSC at 404-651-5025 and lodge a complaint.

November 22--  The Georgia Power Foundation donated $2,500 to the Southeastern Early College and Career Academy (SECCA) in Vidalia.  The school provides career training to high school students from Vidalia, Toombs, Montgomery and Treutlen counties.  The money will be used to support instructional programs at the school. 

{mosimage}SECCA CEO Shelly Smith and Southern Company Employee and SECCA Board Member Bruce Asberry.

 

 


 


November 22--  Toombs County commissioners honored a couple of county employees at their November meeting.

{mosimage} 

Amanda Hart, an administrator at the Toombs County Detention Center, was named the county's employee of the month for November and accepted her gift certificate for a free dinner for two from (L-R) Commissioners Jeff McCormick, Wendell Dixon and Roy Lee Williams and Chairman Blake Tillery.

{mosimage}Another employee receives a shopping gift certificate for the winning wellness  slogan the county will use in its wellness program for county employees.  Sandra Barber, who works in the Commission office, suggested "Toombs Will Commit to be Fit," and is shown with Commissioners McCormick and Dixon and Chairman Tillery. 

November 22--  Four area counties may lose most of their library services due to lack of state funding.

The Ohoopee Regional Library System runs public libraries in Toombs, Montgomery, Tattnall and Jeff Davis Counties.

Director Dusty Gres says the level of state funding has been reduced to 40 percent and that's basically to pay for library professionals.  The libraries have already had to reduce their hours of operation and the hours could be cut even more next year.

"The big focus right now is getting the funding we're going to need for fiscal year 2015 which starts July 1.  They are telling us there will be no state money for books and materials nor maintenance and operations.  The only money we'll be getting is for the state-required professionals," she says.

Gres says the library board will be appealing to county commissioners to increase their local share of library funding by up to $30,000 in each county.  The Toombs County funding amount for next year is currently $36,000, which is the same amount in this year's budget.

According to the director, folks in rural areas should get the same level of services as those in urban areas.  She reports many less fortunate people can't afford Internet service and use the library for that purpose.

"Many of the poor people don't have Internet at home so they use it here.  It's also interesting that during the past three years, the use of books has increased.  Also, we have started circulating electronic books and we're getting more people going back to audio books," she said.

Gres is asking citizens to contact elected officials at both the state and local levels and appeal for funding of the libraries.

"Speak to your state representatives and tell them that particularily in the rural areas we need state assistance just to provide the basic kinds of services that other people get.

"Speak to your local representatives and tell them you know tax dollars are scarce but that the library has got to be available for everyone and for our children," she says.

November 20--  Toombs County plans to spend more than $1 million to buy more land for the county landfill.

At Tuesday's meeting, the Toombs County Commission agreed to offer a Bibb County company, Madison Lumber LLC, $2,500 per acre for 443 acres of land adjacent to the landfill.  

Chairman Blake Tillery said the offer, if accepted by the company, will take care of landfill expansion needs for the next 50 to 70 years.  It would also provide a source for dirt which Tillery says is a more immediate need.  He estimates the county has only an 18-months supply of cover dirt from its current dirt pit.

County manager John Jones reported the county is asking the Georgia Department of Transportation for authority to proceed locally with paving of the Ezra Taylor Road.  He expects a decision on the request in December.

The county is hiring a member of the Toombs County Recreation Board as the part-time director of the county Recreation Department.  Joseph Hutcheson will be paid $900 a month.  The commission named Michael Anderson to take Hutcheson's place on the board.

The commission approved $35,000 to pay employees Chrismas bonuses and awarded a $5,544 contract to Brazell Technology of Collins for four new computers and a printer for the state court.

November 20--  The Lyons city council is being asked to pass a local law to hold down noise in the city.

At the November city council meeting, David Stanley presented the council with a petition signed by 18 residents regarding loud noise from Kerrigan's night club on Highway 280.  Stanley said the music is so loud is "shakes the water in sinks and vibrates the house."

Mayor Willis NeSmith promised to discuss the issue with the city attorney.

The council approved the 2014 city budget of $3,737,243.00, awarded a website contract to Wesley Woods for $1,499.00 and okayed a deal with Republic Services for weekly pickup of recycling dumpsters at city fire stations.

November 20--  The Toombs County Development Authority has a new slate of officers to start the new year.

Wendell Dixon succeeds the late Chip Matheson as chairman.  The vice-chairman is Tommy Rollins with Reid McArthur, secretary; Sam Polk, assistant secretary; Robert Greene, treasurer and Michael Grimes, assistant treasurer.  Mike McKinley from M&T Farms joins the board succeeding Wayne Smith whose term has expired.

The Authority hopes to receive bids in January for a new "spec" building in the U.S. One Industrial Park north of Lyons.  Cost estimates range up to $2.5 million.

Part of the financing will be done with a $1 million loan from local banks organized by the People's Bank.

Meanwhile, Authority officials say they have $200,000 available for low interest loans to local businesses to help retain or create local jobs.

 

November 20-- As part of the Southeastern Technical College Swainsboro campus 50th anniversary celebration, the college broke ground on the site of its new health science building.

{mosimage} 

(L to R) Nate Williamson, architect for Cooper Carry; Larry Calhoun, STC Provost; Tom Hall, president of Dublin Construction; Lynda Morgan, STC Foundation chair; Don Wilkes, chairman of STC Board of Directors; Nathan Jones, Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission project manager; Cathryn Mitchell, president of STC; Ron Jackson, TCSG commissioner; State Representative Butch Parrish; Tommy David, TCSG state board member; Swainsboro Mayor Charles Schwabe; State Representative Matt Hatchett; State Senator Jack Hill; State Senator Jesse Stone.

With guests from across the state in attendance, including Technical College System of Georgia Commissioner Ron Jackson, school officials celebrated the Swainsboro campus’ first addition in 10 years.

“It’s a great gift on your 50th birthday to break ground on a building that will serve your community for years to come,” said Jackson. “The building will be state-of-the-art with state-of-the-art equipment that will be incredibly important to the success of the health care industry in this region.”

The new building will house a number of programs, including an Associate of Science in Nursing program for registered nurse hopefuls, and add a health sciences library and nearly a dozen new labs to accommodate one of the college’s largest program areas.

STC President Dr. Cathryn Mitchell recognized the concerted effort it took to make the building possible, but credited two individuals in particular with some of the project’s heaviest lifting.“When you see this beautiful building, when your children and grandchildren are able to take advantage of the programs taught in this building, think about Senator Jack Hill and Representative Butch Parrish, because if not for them, this building would not be a reality,” said Mitchell.

Both legislators were gracious in their comments and spoke to the work that STC does that makes these efforts possible. Parrish made note of the new building’s ability to develop talented individuals who would stay in rural Georgia and improve the community in which they learned their craft, and Hill spoke to the potential of the college evidenced in its history.

“That’s the great thing about today,” said Hill. “We recognize the historical significance of the last 50 years, but on the other hand, what we’re really all about is the future.”

As the need for health care professionals continues to rise—around 15,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day for the next 20 years—an investment in technical education health sciences in Georgia would seem to be a strong one, as Commissioner Jackson pointed out.

“Everywhere you go, no matter where you are in Georgia, if you have a need for medical care… and you ask the people who are caring for you in those facilities, I can almost bet you 40-50 percent of the individuals you meet came through a technical college,” said Jackson. “It’s a remarkable number of people that our technical colleges prepare for the health care industry.”

 


 

 

 


 

November 20--  SCHELLA LOGAN HOPE, 47, of Brunswick, Georgia, was convicted earlier this month by a federal jury of various health care fraud, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering offenses for her role in a $4 million scheme upon the Georgia Medicaid program.  Chief United States District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood presided over HOPE’s 5-day jury trial.

             According to evidence presented during the trial, HOPE was a licensed dietician who ran a business located in Brunswick, Georgia, known as Hope Nutritional Services.  From 2005 through 2011, HOPE stole the identities of thousands of needy children between the ages of 0 and 5 that were enrolled in Head Start programs located throughout the state of Georgia.  Once HOPE obtained the identities of these children, HOPE fabricated patient files, falsified prescriptions from doctors, and submitted $4 million worth of claims to Medicaid for nutritional services that were not provided.  HOPE then used the money she stole from Medicaid to pay for luxury automobiles, designer clothing, and vacations, among other things.

            Coconspirator Arlene Murrell pled guilty before HOPE’s trial to her role in the scheme.  Murrell testified against HOPE at trial, and detailed how she helped HOPE commit the fraud.

            HOPE was convicted of 58 counts of Conspiracy to Commit Health Care Fraud; Health Care Fraud; Aggravated Identity Theft; and Money Laundering.  Upon her convictions for these offenses, Chief Judge Wood remanded HOPE to the custody of the United States Marshals pending sentencing in the case.

At sentencing, HOPE faces 10 years in prison for each of the 17 health care fraud offenses; 20 years in prison for the various money laundering offenses; and 2 years consecutive prison sentences for each of the various aggravated identity theft offenses.  HOPE also faces up to 3 years of supervised release, and may be ordered to pay restitution to the victims in this case.  

 

    

November 20--  The new school in Treutlen County has been having humidity problems and the administration has now placed an unused room "off limits" after it was found to be infested with mold.

School Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Conley says Room 211 has never been used by students but was a professional development classroom for faculty.  She describes the mold as dust-like and said it was found on furnishings and storage cabinets in the room and that it will be cleaned with bleach and water next week.

The superintendent says no mold has been found in other parts of the school and environmental specialists have advised it's okay to continue school.  Meanwhile, they're keeping a close watch on other parts of the building.

"I met with the staff yesterday and told all of the teachers if they see any visible mold in any of their classrooms they are to tell their principals who will let the central office know and we will make sure we have everyone out of that room and we will bring the crews in and we will clean that room while we continue to look for the source of the humidity," she said.

The school system sent the following release to local media.

The Treutlen County School System has been studying the constant humidity issues at our new facility for several months.  As a result of the ongoing study, we have had several tests conducted regarding the airflow and the air quality within our school.

On Monday afternoon, we received a report from our environmental specialist regarding a mold assessment taken in Room 211 at the school.   The data that was received for Room 211 indicated that “extremely heavy Unnatural Aspergillus/Penicillium-like Mold has been detected on Desks, Chairs, Filing & Storage cabinets and discharge from the HVAC System Air passage Discharge Vent “ in Room 211. 

Room 211, the professional development room, has not been used as a student classroom last year nor this year, and was closed as soon as mold was detected in the room, which was prior to the mold assessment.  At this time, we have no report of mold in any other section of the building and Room 211 is off-limits to all students and staff.

It is the professional opinion of the Environmental Specialist that we can continue to conduct school as usual based on the information that we currently have in hand.  However, we will contact the CDC for guidance before we make a decision regarding the closing of school.

As a precaution, we plan to conduct a thorough assessment of the entire building to determine if there are other areas where  mold may be located and, if so, the origin of the mold.  After that step is completed, all affected areas will be cleaned according to environmental standards.

As we acquire information, we will keep you updated on the findings.  Safety of our students and staff is a number one priority and we will continue to monitor the situation throughout the school.

 

 

 

November 20--UPDATE:  The welcome home event planned for local National Guardsmen has been cancelled because their flight back home has been delayed at least 12 hours.  Local organizers say they don't expect them to arrive back in Toombs County until at least midnight Saturday.  Still, if you'd like to put a welcome home sign, yellow ribbon or flag in your yard for them, your encouraged to do so.  However, there will be no welcome home event at Partin Park as originally planned.

November 19--  Seven National Guardsmen from this area are returning home from Afghanistan Saturday and local residents are being encouraged to help welcome them back.

{mosimage}One of those returning is Sergeant First Class Drayton Dowd from Cedar Crossing.  His brother, Marvin Dowd, and his motorcyle club, the Toombstone Brothers, plan to meet the soldiers after they leave Fort Gordon and escort them on their bikes down U.S. One to Lyons.

"A lot of people don't realize how much they sacrifice to go over there.  It not only affects the soldiers, it affects the wives and the children and upsets the whole family because they have jobs of their own that they have to leave," he notes.

This is Sergeant Dowd's second overseas deployment and it's been a tough one accordng to his wife, Kathy, because he's missed something that most Dad's take for granted.

"This was kind of a rough deployment on my husband .  Our son, Brandon, is a senior this year and he plays football for Toombs County High School and Drayton missed all of his games," she said.

The seven are expected to arrive at Partin Park in Lyons around 4:30 or 5 p.m. Saturday and Kathy hopes folks in and around Lyons will put out signs, flags or yellow ribbons along U.S. One and even stop by the park to welcome them home.

"Just basically come out and show your support and show you appreciate them.  Many folks I've talked to so far are going to have flags in their yards or yellow ribbons.  Maybe you can even make a little sign and put it in your yards because you'd be surprised what a little sign can mean to a person whose been gone," she said.

The other soldiers are twins Tracy Rapp of Vidalia and Travis Rapp of Reidsville, Doc Hackle from Johnson Corner, Alvin Smiley of Reidsville, Scott Andrews of Cedar Crossing and Jeff Logan from Jesup.

November 18--  A former resident of the Soviet Union who is now a U.S. citizen and businessman is alarmed at similarities he sees developing between his homeland and the United States.

{mosimage}Thirty-six-year old Oleg Ivutin, shown here at his company's distribtion warehouse in Mableton, addressed the Georgia Tea Party in August and will be in Vidalia Tuesday night to address Vidalia area Tea Party members and interested citizens who wish to hear his message.  He will speak at 6:30 at The Captain's Corner on Stockyard Road.

The following article appeared in The Marietta Daily Journal regarding his concerns.

MARIETTA — As guest speaker at the Marietta-based Georgia Tea Party on Thursday, Oleg Ivutin of Smyrna warned of growing similarities between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union where he grew up.

The U.S. is on a “fast track” to becoming an authoritarian government like the U.S.S.R., said Ivutin, a businessman who challenged Joe Dendy as chairman of the Cobb GOP in March.

Under communist rule, the Russian police spied on people, collecting files to use against them. Neighbors were encouraged to report on neighbors. Ivutin sees similarities between what happened in Russia and what is happening here. The KGB never had it so easy, he said.

“I think with the software that’s available today you can analyze people’s behavior and predict where they’re going to be on Tuesday at 2 a.m.,” Ivutin said. “Obama’s argument for all this is always, ‘Well, I have this power, but we’re never going to use it. And time after time again he uses it, and whatever is going to happen after Obama we don’t know.”

Consider, he said, the U.S. government’s use of drones against civilians.

“There is always collateral damage, but it opens up the reasoning for all these wars and the military presence.”

Consider how the city of Boston was placed on lockdown during the Boston Marathon bombing.

“I believe every weekend there is a teenager in Boston that’s armed and dangerous, but they don’t lock down the city every single weekend,” he said.

Ivutin believes history will judge National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden not as a traitor, but as a whistle-blower.

He cited an organization affiliated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation called Infragard as an example of how the U.S. government already encourages private citizens to inform on their neighbors, just as the KGB encouraged Russians to inform on theirs.

“It’s really an Orwellian society,” he said.

A prison system that benefits the elite

Ivutin says another similarity between the Soviet Union and U.S. is the prison systems.

The Soviet Union arrested not just the criminals but political dissidents, using prisoners as slave labor to build the infrastructure and increase the wealth of the Russian elites. In the U.S., there are also those who are earning money at the expense of prisoners.

“With the drug war you have, half of all the prison population is there for drug violations,” Ivutin said. “In Russia, they were benefiting from slavery when they were putting people in jails. Here, private prisons make money off of prisoners. So when prisoners go to prison the prison owner gets money, part of that is profit.”

The U.S. now has a larger percentage of its population incarcerated than any country in the world.

In some cases, the states, including Georgia, have contracted with private prison companies to house prisoners.

In the Soviet Union, the government benefited from large prison populations through slave labor. Private prison companies in the U.S. benefit from a larger prison population through profits.

“There is always a benefit factor to somebody. In the Soviet Union, it was to the elite. Here it’s really to the elite as well,” Ivutin said.

The military-industrial complex and the debt crisis

With the Soviet Union, the lion’s share of expenses went to prop up the military.

“The United States spends close to a trillion (dollars) a year on its military,” he said.

That’s more than the rest of the world spends on military hardware and troops, combined.

“No one is interested in looking at comparisons to see that the U.S. military is so vastly superior to every other country combined,” he said.

Such overspending is bankrupting the country when tax collections come in at $2.2 trillion but spending is more than $3 trillion.

“Then you have interest on the debt that we pay on the $16 trillion portion, and in the Soviet Union it was the same exact thing,” he said.

The Soviet Union had to import much of its goods, just as the U.S. imports many things from China.

But the Soviet Union lacked the revenue to pay for its imports and turned to borrowing, just as the U.S. borrows.

“So there was a lot of deficit (spending) in the Soviet Union,” he said. “The United States has a lot of deficit, trade deficit, it buys a lot more than it sells, and it borrows a lot of money, so the financial pressures are exactly the same.”

Fortunately, the U.S. dollar is the reserve currency of the world, but as soon as that changes, there will be a collapse, he predicted.

“Debt produces debt and there will be a point eventually where all of this is going to end, the music will stop, and there will not be enough chairs.”

Republicans in name only

From Ivutin’s perspective, establishment Republicans, whether it’s U.S. Sen. John McCain at the federal level or Georgia House Speaker David Ralston at the state level, are not doing anything to stem the tide.

“I look at John McCain and Hillary Clinton. I don’t see any differences on any issues,” Ivutin said. “If you look at our state House with Ralston and everybody else, this is where all the socialists are hiding. They’re all in the Georgia State House. We don’t have many Republicans in there,” he said.

Any bill that supports returning constitutional rights to the citizens and opposes big government is not something Ralston will support, Ivutin charges.

“I believe he’s got a different agenda. They make those bills sound good. Like bills on ethics, ‘Hey, we’re doing something on ethics.’ The original bill sounded big, but when you look at the bill that they passed, it’s like, ‘Woah, now they can really get away with it.’”

Ivutin called on supporters of the U.S. Constitution to draw a line in the sand.

“These people should openly admit that ‘Yes, we’re socialists,’” he said. “‘We just pretend to be Republicans because we want to get elected in the South.’ And they refuse to take that stand. This is why the tea party movement, the Ron Paul movement, the liberty movements are so popular is because everybody understands it finally. People are starting to watch what they do, not what they say they do.”

Breaking away from the GOP?

Ivutin received rousing applause from the audience at Thursday’s tea party meeting, among them Peter Elizalde of east Cobb, a public school social studies teacher who said he couldn’t reveal where he teaches for fear that the school administration would retaliate against him because of his political beliefs.

Elizalde, who calls himself a Republican, said the time is fast approaching when the tea party movement should break away from the Republican Party, which has taken people like him for granted for too long.

The breaking point is if Republicans don’t vote this November to defund Obamacare when the continuing resolution that serves as the nation’s budget is approved, he said.

“To me, if we take a stand, draw a line in the sand now, and we tell (U.S. House Speaker) John Boehner and every GOP in the establishment, ‘Look, we go this far. You will split the party of the conservative movement if you go along with this.’ I will be perfectly OK with that. Because if anything, we will go down fighting, showing the rest of America maybe not in the next election, but in the future someone will remember that this country was made up of ideals and people who were willing to stand by them, not people who were willing to, just for political conveniences, adjust to things.”

Ivutin said he hasn’t given up on the U.S. yet, which remains the last hope for the world.

“The rest of the world understands what is going on in America,” Ivutin said. “They know what American people are up against today. And they hope and pray that American people will win and Obama tyranny will lose because that’s their lives. Because they know if nothing changes, more war comes their way.”

 

November 18--  State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville provides some insight regarding revenue growth to the state's coffers in his weekly "Report from the Senate."

 

TITLE/TAG FEES, CORPORATE INCOME TAXES LEAD OCTOBER REVENUES

 

At 5.9% growth for October, state revenues were up satisfactorily but took a different path to get there.  The largest category, Individual Income Taxes, was up only 1.4%....not a good sign.  Sales Taxes continued to show the downward trend, -5.0%, due to new and used car sales being removed from the category and changed to a title/tag fee.  The two bright spots this month were Tag/Title Fees which gained $59.2 million on receipts of $87.9 million for a 207.2% growth...and, Corporate Income Taxes were up $34.6 million on receipts of only $30.5 million.  That may sound strange, but there was a negative figure in October of a year ago.

 

Total Revenues for the month were $1.46 billion and the $81.8 million gain amounted to a 5.9% increase.

 

Inside the numbers, it appeared that in Individual Income Taxes, the increase in refunds of $13.3 million ate up all of the increase for the month leaving the category with a miniscule 1.3% growth.  Withholding payments were up slightly, less than 1% and Individual Return payments were up$18.5 million or 29.9%, which is a good sign of continuing strength in small business.

 

When you combine the decrease in sales tax amounts with the increase in the tag/title fee, the combined or "effective" sales tax collection, as I like to call it, shows an increase of 8.0%.  

 

Other categories reporting were Motor Fuel Taxes increasing by 9.3% and tobacco and alcoholic beverages, both negative at -17.9% and -12.9% respectively.

 

YEAR TO DATE TOTALS AFTER ONE THIRD OF FISCAL YEAR

October completes four months of the fiscal year or one third of the year.  State Revenues stand at $5.9 billion with an increase YTD of $329.1 million or a 5.9% growth rate.  Not to be overly negative, it is safe to say the numbers are not as good as at first glance.  The largest category of revenues, (Individual Income Taxes), usually about half of all state revenues, stands at 4.0%, YTD, on receipts of $3.1 billion with an increase of only $120.1 million.

 

Sales Taxes net to the state total $1.6 billion, or -7.2%, and are negative at -$129.1 million, wiping out the increase in Individual Income taxes.  Only when you include the Title/Tag fee gain of $255.1 million, do you get a positive number for the year so far.  Sales taxes look pretty good after calculating in the title/tag fee increase, showing a gain of $126.0 million or a 6.6% "effective" sales tax increase.

 

The other positive category is Corporate Income taxes, another positive for the state, showing a $63.4 million increase or 36.0% YTD.

 

Motor Fuel Tax receipts continue to improve showing an overall increase of 8.2% with an increase in Excise, by the gallon, taxes of 8.7% and motor fuel sales taxes by 7.5%.

Tobacco and Alcoholic Beverage Taxes are positive YTD, at 12.5% and 2.0% respectively.

 

So, it is hard not to be optimistic when the state is meeting the FY014 budget targets and cruising along at a 5.9% rate, which will mostly meet the needs outlined in the two previous columns.  But you have to be a little concerned about where the increases are coming from and the general condition of the two top categories of revenues:  Individual Income Taxes...and the Sales Taxes category, which is now clouded with the title/tag fee changeover on automobiles. 

November 18--  The unemployement rate in our area continues to run above ten percent and is the highest in the state.  However, even if companies have jobs to offer, some people won't work because the U.S. welfare system pays them more not to work.

{mosimage}Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler says it's a problem here and abroad.

"I think anytime you put together a system where public benefits outweigh wages, you're in bad shape.  All you have to do is look around the world.  We had a group come in from a European country and they we're talking about how much they pay out in unemployment.  It was somewhere in the neighborhood of $26,000 a year and that didn't include public housing which was provided.  I asked them if they have problems finding people to fill jobs and they said yes.  Anytime you make it easy with programs for somebody not to go back to work, after a while you're going to train them not to work," Butler said. 

Meanwhile, for people who are willing to work, Butler says Georgia has a good track record attracting companies and creating jobs.

"Georgia is ranked the number one place to do business.  Just over the last 12 months, we've seen Georgia gain more than 110,000 jobs.  We're doing better than most states when it comes to job creation," he said.

The Labor Commissioner also recommends companies seek out veterans when they're hiring.

"A lot of businesses don't know they can get a $2,400 federal tax credit if they hire a veteran.  If that veteran was disabled and has been unemployed for a while, that tax credit can amount to $9,600 which is very significant.  We've seen Georgia businesses use that tax credit to get over $200 million in tax credits just this year," Butler reported.

The Labor Commissioner was in Vidalia for a speech to the Vidalia Kiwanis Club and to speak to a seminar for businesses sponsored by the Georgia Department of Labor.

 

November 15-- UPDATE:  Vidalia police confirm the arrest of a 22-year-old Lyons man in connection with the death of a Vidalia woman Friday morning.

Police Lieutenant Jimmy Sims says James Jamare Knight is being held at the Toombs County Detention Center.

He's accused of fatally shooting 66-year-old Gladys Bailey about 8:30 a.m. at her home at 708 Glaze Street.  

Unconfirmed reports say Knight was an acquaintance of the family.  Sims describes the shooting as a "domestic dispute."

November 15--  A Vidalia woman is dead after a shooting at her home Friday morning.

{mosimage}Coroner Ron Hall (white shirt) confers with a GBI agent in front of the victim's home.

Neighbors identify the victim as 66-year-old Gladys Bailey of 708 Glaze Street near the corner of Cadillac Drive.  She was decribed as a "God-fearing, Christian woman" who worked as a caregiver for shut-ins.

Unconfirmed reports say a man identified as an acquaintance of her daughter has been taken into custody.

Toombs County Coroner Ron Hall says her body has been taken to the state crime lab in Savannah for an autopsy.

Vidalia Police and the GBI are investigating the death.

November 14--  A Mount Vernon man is facing animal cruelty charges.

Montgomery County Sheriff's Investigator Justin Fountain says Vincent O'Conner is charged with abandoning six puppies on Ferguson Road.  A passer-by got his tag number and that led to his arrest, according to Fountain.

The dogs were taken to Four Rivers Veterinary Clinic where one almost died according to Dr. Chuck Faulk.  O'Conner has been released on bond.

Fountain also reports two drug arrests.  Charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute are Marvin Peeples of Mount Vernon and Daniel Lee Moore of Uvalda.

November 14--  A former assistant District Attorney is succeeding the late Chip Matheson as Chief Magistrate Judge in Toombs County.

{mosimage}Rizza Palmares O’Connor was sworn in Wednesday by Toombs County Probate Judge Larry Threlkeld. She was appointed to the position by Middle Judicial Circuit Judges Kathy Palmer and Robert Reeves. Prior to being appointed Chief Magistrate, Mrs. O’Connor acted as an Assistant District Attorney for the Middle Judicial Circuit.

Mrs. O’Connor is a native of Savannah, GA, and a graduate of Calvary Baptist Day School. She attended Mercer University as a Tift College Scholar, graduating cum laude in 2007 with a Bachelor of Business Administration and minor in Communications.  A portion of Mrs. O’Connor’s undergraduate studies were at Oxford University in England.

Upon earning her undergraduate degree, Mrs. O’Connor attended the Walter F. School of Law at Mercer University where she received her Juris Doctor in 2010. While at Mercer, Mrs. O’Connor served as president of the student body and received the Wall Street Journal Award for Student Achievement.

Mrs. O’Connor lives in Vidalia with her husband Daniel J. O’Connor, who is also an attorney. She is a member of First Baptist Church of Vidalia, Toombs-Montgomery Young Professionals, and Kiwanis Club of Vidalia. Mrs. O’Connor also is participating in this year’s class of Leadership Toombs-Montgomery.

 

 

November 14--  The Vidalia school board is electing to give its four schools more autonomy through what is called a "Charter System of Schools."

The board voted Tuesday night to apply to the Georgia Board of Education for the Charter System authority.

School Superintendent Dr. Garrett Wilcox says it will result in creation of five-member school governance teams at each school.

"The big part of this from an operational standpoint is having a little more local control at the school levels.  We'll have to create a school governance team that can be considered similar to our school councils, but it will have a little more autonomy over the decision making that goes on at each local school," he said.

One of the team's responsibilities will be recommending school principals to the local school board, according to Dr. Wilcox.

"Ultimately the school board will continue to approve and act on matters like it has in the past.  The recommendations that principals typically make that come back to the school board will go through the school governing councils to the school board for approval at the system level," he said.

If approved by the state legislature, the school system stands to gain an additional $80 per student, however, Wilcox says there are no guarantees on the funding.

Still he reports there are other advantages to the charter system.

"It entitles us to some flexibility regarding some rules and regulations we've had to follow that in some cases are a hinderance to the operation of our school system.  We think we'll be able to take advantage of those and provide more and better opportunities to our kids because of that flexibility.

"Class size is one of the big things.  Seat time is another.  We actually get away from having to report our expenditures regarding the old 65% rule for classroom instruction versus other areas," Wilcox reports.

All of Georgia's public schools have to inform the state school board of their administration systems by 2015.  They have four options ranging from status quo to allowing each individual school to apply for charter school status.

Wilcox characterizes the "Charter System" as a happy medium and the option he thinks most school systems will adopt.

November 13--  The city of Vidalia plans to build an amphitheater downtown at the corner of South Main Street and Durden Street on the property formely occupied by the Vidalia Police Department.

The city is currently reviewing a conceptual drawing of the amphitheater and adjacent grounds.  Part of the concept is a lighted fountain at the rear of the property with room for 78 adjacent parking spaces.

{mosimage} 

 

November 13--  The United Way of Toombs, Montgomery and Wheeler Counties is nearing the end of its annual campaign and is a few thousand dollars short of its goal of $500,500.00.

The campaign concludes Thursday and Executive Director Patricia Dixon reports 97% of the goal has been met.

If you can help the United Way meet its goal, call 537-2776.  Final totals will be announced at the victory luncheon Thursday at the Lyons First Baptist Church.

November 13--  WSB-TV in Atlanta reports on the case of a flea/heartworm pill which a Florida breeder suspects may have caused the death of three puppies.  The manufacturer does not agree.



flea meds photo
Tucker died on Sept. 19, shortly after taking the flea drug Trifexis.
flea meds photo
Jade died on Sept. 22, shortly after taking Trifexis.
 

Following a Channel 2 Action News Investigation, Channel 2 consumer investigator Jim Strickland obtained documents from a pathologist hired by drug maker Elanco that said three puppies did not die from taking the drug Trifexis, made by Elanco.

"Trifexis played no role in the death of this dog," Dr. Jeffrey Engelhardt wrote.

In the case of three dogs, Engelhardt said Trifexis' involvement was unlikely. The dogs died of heart failure in September.

Engelhardt did not examine the dogs' remains, only their pathology reports. Engelhardt is a former scientist with Eli Lilly, Elanco's parent company.

The dogs' breeder told Strickland the puppies came from five generations of Vizsla stock with no history of heart problems.

"I breed for temperament. I breed for health, and I've never had something like this ever happen," said breeder Jan Fowler.

Four of Fowler's puppies born on June 5 are thriving. They were never given Trifexis, a once-a-month pill to kill fleas and prevent heartworm.

The three that died had one dose of the drug and became weak and lethargic. Two of the dogs died three weeks after taking the pill. One died in six days.

"We have not been able to identify with all of these reports, any specific trends we can link directly to the use of the product," said Elanco veterinarian Dr. Stephen Connell. "Certainly we want to investigate these cases. We want to get to the bottom of this as much as anyone does."

"I've been showing with these dogs for 20 years, I know all the dogs behind them," said Fowler. "As a breeder, I need to know what happened to prevent it from happening again, in case it was something in my line, which I don't believe it is."

Marietta veterinarian Dr. Michael Good has prescribed the pill, although he said he prefers other products. Good said with any medication, owners ought to take the lead from their pets.

"I would think most veterinarians whose clients complain, 'Hey, my dog is sick,' (would advise) 'then don't give it to your dog,'" Good told Strickland.

Elanco insists any side effects are mild, not fatal.

"We still feel this is a safe product for the vast majority of pets that receive it," said Connell.

Georgia Veterinary Medicine Association Responds

The GVMA issued the following to member veterinarians after WSB's report.

"The GVMA would like to let GVMA members know about a story that aired on November 11 on WSB-TV in Atlanta regarding the possible link between the death of three dogs and Trifexis.

Please view the segment here.

Trifexis manufacturer Elanco has released some information that may help you when talking with clients. They have also created a phone hotline where consumers can get more information – 888-545-5973.

Veterinarians with questions may wish to contact Elanco Chief Veterinarian Dr. Steve Connell at 317-433-5488 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

You can also view the additional medical documentation here:

Bishop Necropsy

Jade pathology report

Tucker pathology report

GVMA response

The GVMA posted the following responses to the GVMA Facebook page as well as the Facebook page for WSB. We encourage you to use these posts in communications to clients on this topic.

Stories such as this demonstrate how important it is to have a relationship with your veterinarian.  With knowledge of your pet’s medical history and lifestyle, a veterinarian can recommend the best product for your pet. With the use of any medication, it is important to talk to your veterinarian about any changes in your pet’s health or behavior. 

It is important to note, heartworm disease is a very serious and sometimes fatal medical condition. The threat of heartworm infection in Georgia is year-round, and a few areas in Georgia have some of the highest levels of incidence reports in the nation. Fortunately heartworm disease is easily preventable. That is why the Georgia Veterinary Medical Association encourages the year-round use of heartworm preventative. Because there are many options for heartworm prevention, it is important to talk to your veterinarian about the right medication for your pet."

 

 

 

November 13--  Montgomery County High School is in the top ten percent of Title One schools in Georgia making the most progress improving the academic performance of its students.

The Georgia Department of Education released its list of "High Progress" schools Tuesday based on three years of statewide assessments.

School principal P.J. Richards says it's welcome news.

"So much of what we hear as an educator, and this isn't unique to Montgomery County High School, are the negatives.  The stakes are higher than they've ever been before, resources are more limited than they've ever been and yet we're expected to work miracles.  I think our teachers do work miracles and I know my faculty is going to be able to hold their heads up and know we're moving in the right direction.  It's really nice to know the overall trend is improvement here and I can promise that it's going to continue," she said.

Richards was a STAR teacher at Montgomery County High School before being named school principal this year.

"There are a great deal of changes taking place in the educational real, but one thing hasn't changed and that's building relationships with children and getting them to believe in themselves and pushing them beyond what they think they can do. 

"We have a wonderful, caring faculty that strives to help each student be successful in the classroom.  When you have a group of people as dedicated and caring as we have here, good things are going to happen," Richards said.

Four other schools in the area which made the "High Progress" list are Jeff Davis High School, Glennville Middle School, Emanuel County Institute and the Adrian School of Performing Arts.

November 12-- Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler will be a keynote speaker during an Employment Law and Legislative Issues Update Thursday, Nov. 14, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Southeastern Technical College in Vidalia. 

{mosimage}The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) is teaming up with the State Employer Committee (SEC) to offer a crash course on how to handle management challenges in the upcoming Business and Employer Summit. The event will feature a number of guest speakers, including Commissioner Butler; Cherry Rizer, GDOL employment and training consultant; Jonathan Martin, employment law attorney, and Don Betts of Georgia Tech.

Supervisors, managers, human resource professionals and business owners are encouraged to attend this unique summit designed to help them meet, understand and conquer compliance challenges in the workplace.

Commissioner Butler will provide attendees with an update on local, state and federal legislative issues impacting employers and businesses this year, as well as challenges that could affect them in the next few years.  He will also give an update on the GDOL in 2013.

Rizer, who is recognized statewide for assisting employers in resolving unemployment insurance (UI) issues, will offer advice on best practices in UI claims and appeals representation. Martin, a partner with Constangy, Brooks and Smith, LLC, will speak on “Why Is It Still Happening? Are These People Nuts? How Can I Protect my Company?” Betts will address “Employers Like Me – Sustainable Healthcare Innovations,” and provide information to help non-health related employers establish a new organization called EmployersLikeMe – a peer-to-peer networking group.

Seating will be limited, and pre-registration is encouraged. The cost is $60 per person, and $50 for additional attendees per company. Registration at the door is $75. Attendees can receive 6.0 Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) recertification credits for attending this program. Registration includes a light breakfast and lunch. For more information about registration, contact Brenda Macoy at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call 404-859-6992.

November 12 --  On the afternoon of Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013 employees at the Edwin I. Hatch Nuclear Plant near Baxley, Ga. will conduct a mock hostile action-based exercise in coordination with federal, state and local emergency officials. 

“We want to notify the community that this is only a drill and there is no cause for concern,” said Dennis Madison, site vice president for Plant Hatch. “Georgia Power and Southern Nuclear’s top priority is the safety and health of its employees and the public. We work closely with our local and state emergency response partners to ensure we are all fully prepared to act quickly in the unlikely event of an emergency.”

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires nuclear power plants to conduct a hostile action- based emergency exercise at least once every eight years. The primary objective is for the nuclear power plant to demonstrate its ability to protect employees, plant operations and the public through the coordination of onsite security with offsite federal, state and local emergency responders and agencies.

Several hundred federal, state and local officials will participate in this fictitious hostile action-based scenario. During the exercise, numerous law enforcement and emergency responders will be onsite and emergency response vehicles may be observed entering and exiting the facility. Law enforcement may also use helicopters and other large equipment to support the response effort. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency regulators will be on hand to evaluate the demonstration.

November 11--  Some kids in Vidalia got together Saturday and sold lemonade for a good cause.

{mosimage}(L-R) Rebecca and Chamblee Evans and Emma Kate Williams (not pictured, Jacob Thompson) raised $38.50 which they donated to the Nick Eason Foundation which helps people fighting cancer.

Melissa Hightower of the Meadows Healthcare Foundation reports the money will be put to good use.

"We will use this $38.50 to help pay one of our current cancer patient's electricity bill.  So as the weather gets cool, this cancer patient who has lost their job because of the effects of chemotherapy treatments, will have heat this month...just because of a little lemonade and some really big hearts," she said.

 

 

November 11--  Three people have been arrested in Montgomery County on drug charges.

Montgomery County Sheriff's Office Investigator Justin Fountain says an investigation with the Mount Vernon Police Department led to the arrest of Richard Lee Johnson of Mount Vernon.  He is charged with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and possession of three firearms by a convicted felon.

Two Twiggs County men were arrested during a road check with the Georgia State Patrol in Tarrytown.

Fountain says two cousins, Quaveris and Miguel Mims, are charged with possession of marijuana.  Officers also found a .45 caliber pistol and $10,305 dollars hidden in the car which led to charges of carrying a concealed weapon during the commission of a crime.

November 11--  The lack of spay-neuter laws in the area leads to overpopulation of dogs and cats and the practice of dumping animals on the side of the road.

{mosimage}For the second time in two years, David and Patti Winge have found puppies near their home on Ferguson Road in Montgomery County.  This time they rescued a litter of six which they took to Dr. Chuck Faulk at Four Rivers Veterinary Clinic.

"They were all rail skinny, covered in fleas and full of hookworms.  Five of them, once we got them dewormed and seen to, started bouncing back immediately.  One little girl was having some pretty major issues and starting seizuring and we were really afraid we were going to lose her.  Fortunately, she's turned around," Dr. Faulk reports.

A passer-by took the tag number of the person who left the puppies and Montgomery County Deputy Sheriff Justin Fountain is investigating under the county's nuisance law which prohibits the abandonment of animals.

Sheriff Ladson O'Connor says it's an all-too-frequent occurrence.

"It was an exception that somebody actually picked them up and took them to the vet.  Most people are like me.  I've had them thrown out at my house and they wind up homesteading.  We really don't have a lot of options for the dogs and animals around here," he reports.

In David Winge's opinion, "People are just crazy for dumping them off.  Cruel, just cruel, no heart."

And Dr. Faulk thinks increased enforcement could help the situation.

"I think if they could make an example of some of the folks who are doing this, I think the word would get out and it would make a big difference," he says.

{mosimage}Jazmin Walker and Dr. Faulk with the little girl who bounced back from near death after being abandoned in a cage with her littermates on a dirt road in Montgomery County.  They named her Matilda meaning "Strength in Battle."

November 9-- In their final performance of "The Ransom of Emily Jane," the RTCA One-Act Play cast and crew finished as State Runner Up in the GISA One-Act Play Competition at Darton College in Albany.

{mosimage} 

Eight schools competed in the state-wide competition, with Westminster Christian edging out RTCA for the title.

With nearly 200 cast members performing, RTCA students received two of the five Outstanding Actor Awards.

{mosimage}Sydni Collins (left, with Susan Sullivan) was honored for humorous portrayal of rotten child Emily Jane Dorset.

Cole Thompson was selected for his role as Sonny, the meeker of Emily Jane's two kidnappers who is taunted and abused without mercy by Emily Jane.  In their scoring, the judges even commented that they "felt his pain!"

{mosimage}“This was such an excellent group to work with this year, and I knew they were going to do great things,” noted director Susan Sullivan. “I've had so much fun ‘working’ with them and can’t thank them enough for all the thrills, laughs, hard work, dedication and memories. It's been an honor!”

 

November 8--  Rashella Reed, 41, a former Atlanta Public School teacher from Riverdale, Georgia, was sentenced on Wednesday by United States District Judge William T. Moore, Jr. to serve 14 years in prison for her role in a massive $8 million fraud upon the Food Stamp and WIC programs. 

Earlier this year, Reed and 2 others were convicted after a 4-day jury trial of conspiring to defraud the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as the Food Stamp Program, and the Women, Infant and Children Program (WIC).  In addition to her prison sentenced, Reed was ordered to serve 3 years of supervised release upon her release from prison and to pay $8,254,239.46 in restitution.     

According to evidence presented during the trial and at Reed’s sentencing, Reed and others conspired to traffic over $8 million in government benefits from the Food Stamp and WIC programs, and to launder the proceeds of their ill-gotten gains.  The scheme involved 13 storefronts throughout Georgia, including stores in Savannah, Augusta, Atlanta, Decatur, Macon and Columbus. 

Reed owned and operated the Decatur, Georgia store known as, “The Baby Spot.”  The 13 stores amounted to “pretend” grocery stores, which were used as a front to buy over $8 million in food stamp benefits and WIC vouchers for cash.  Food Stamp and WIC recipients were paid anywhere from $.10 to $.60 on the dollar for their benefits; Reed and other conspirators pocketed the rest. 

The organization was attempting to expand into Alabama and Tennessee when it was dismantled by federal agents investigating the case.  A total of 16 defendants were charged with the scheme; 13 pled guilty and 3 were convicted at trial.  To date, this case was the largest prosecution of its kind in the State of Georgia.   

 United States Attorney Edward J. Tarver said, “SNAP and WIC are part of the hunger safety net put in place to provide assistance to eligible, low income individuals and families who qualify.  These defendants scammed federal food programs, swindled American taxpayers and literally took food out of the mouths of children. 

"The work of dedicated and hardworking federal agents prevented this scam from spreading further into neighboring states and costing taxpayers many more millions of dollars.  This case is an example of the work that federal agents and prosecutors are doing to end fraud in federal programs.” 

 

Karen Citizen-Wilcox, Special Agent-in-Charge of the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General said, “This OIG investigation shows how greed attracts individuals at all levels.  Ms. Reed was college educated and employed as a teacher.  However, she found it necessary to take part in a multi-million dollar fraud scheme that offended the sensibilities of the American taxpayer and deprived needy individuals of nutrition. 

The jury conviction and 14 year sentence handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Moore serves as an extreme eye opener for individuals who think that such crimes only get a slap on the hand.  OIG remains ever committed to such investigations and to working with the DOJ to prosecute individuals consumed by such greed.”

The prosecution of this case arose out of an investigation led by Special Agent Salina Walker of the USDA-OIG.  Assistant United States Attorneys James D. Durham and E. Gregory Gilluly prosecuted the case for the United States.  For additional information, please contact First Assistant United States Attorney James D. Durham at (912) 201-2547.

 

November 8-- The Georgia Department of Education issued the following report which shows slight progress has been made among Georgia's 4th and 8th graders in reading and math.

"Georgia's students showed gains from 2011 in all four areas tested, according to national test results released Thursday.

The results of
the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) show Georgia's students improving in 4th grade reading and math, as well as 8th grade reading and math. Georgia had higher results than the nation on the 4th grade reading test (222 scale score compared to the nation's 221).

In addition to making gains on the overall scale score, the percentage of Georgia’s students scoring at Advanced levels increased from 2011 in each of the grades and content areas: 4th grade reading (+2 points), 4th grade math (+1 point), 8th grade reading (+2 points), and 8th grade math (+1 point).

"The results from this year’s National Assessment of Education Progress show that Georgia’s students are making gains, but we must continue that progress to ensure our students are prepared for life after high school, whether that be college or right into the workforce,” State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge said. "I am most proud of the gains our students showed in scoring at advanced levels in each of the grades and subjects tested."

READING
Key Findings in Grade 4 Reading

• The average reading score for students in Georgia was 222.  This was a one point increase from the score in 2011 (221) and a four point increase from the score in 2009 (218).

• Georgia's average score in 2013 (222) was one point higher than that of the nation's public schools (221).

• The average reading score for White students in Georgia increased from 231 in 2011 to 233 in 2013.  The average score for Black students increased from 208 in 2011 to 209 in 2013.  The average score for Hispanic students decreased from 214 in 2011 to 213 in 2013. 

• The average reading score for students who were eligible for the National School Lunch (NSL) Program increased from 209 in 2011 to 211 in 2013.

• In 2013, the percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above Basic was 67 percent. This was a one percentage point increase from 2011 (66 percent), and a four percentage point increase from 2009 (63 percent).

• The percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above Basic (67 percent) matched the percentage at or above Basic for the nation’s public schools (67 percent).

• In 2013, the percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above Proficient was 34 percent. This was a two point increase from 2011 (32 percent), and a five point increase from 2009 (29 percent).

• The percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above Proficient (34 percent) matched the percentage at or above Proficient for the nation’s public schools (34 percent).

• In 2013, the percentage of students in Georgia who performed at Advanced was 9 percent. This was a two point increase from 2011 (7 percent), and a three point increase from 2009 (6 percent).

Key Findings in Grade 8 Reading

• The average reading score for students in Georgia was 265. This was a three point increase from the score in 2011 (262) and a five point increase from 2009 (260).

• Georgia's average score (265) was one point lower than that of the nation's public schools (266).

• The average reading score for White students in Georgia increased from 272 in 2011 to 274 in 2013.  Black students’ average score increased from 251 in 2011 to 252 in 2013.  Scores for Hispanic students increased from 258 in 2011 to 260 in 2013. 

• The average reading score for students who were eligible for the National School Lunch (NSL) Program in Georgia increased from 253 in 2011 to 255 in 2013.

• In 2013, the percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above Basic was 75 percent.  This was a one percentage point increase from 2011 (74 percent) and a three percentage point increase from 2009 (72 percent).

• The percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above Basic (75 percent) was two percentage points lower than the nation’s public schools (77 percent).

• In 2013, the percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above Proficient was 32 percent. This was a four percentage point increase from 2011 (28 percent), and a five percentage point increase from 2009 (27 percent).

• The percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above Proficient (32 percent) was two percentage points lower than the nation’s public schools (34 percent).

• In 2013, the percentage of students in Georgia who performed at Advanced was 4 percent. This was a two percentage point increase from 2011 (2 percent) and 2009 (2 percent).

MATHEMATICS

Key Findings in Grade 4 Mathematics

• The average mathematics score for students in Georgia was 240.  This was a two point increase from the score in 2011 (238) and a four point increase from 2009 (236).

• Georgia's average score in 2013 (240) was one point lower than that of the nation's public schools (241).

• The average mathematics score for White students in Georgia increased from 249 in 2011 to 250 in 2013.  The average score for Black students increased from 224 in 2011 to 226 in 2013.  The average score for Hispanic students increased from 233 in 2011 to 235 in 2013. 

• The average mathematics score for students who were eligible for the National School Lunch (NSL) Program was 227 in 2011 and 230 in 2013.

• In 2013, the percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above Basic was 81 percent.  This was a one percentage point increase from 2011 (80 percent) and a three percentage point increase from 2009 (78 percent).

• The percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above Basic (81 percent) was one percentage point lower than the nation’s public schools (82 percent).

• In 2013, the percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above Proficient was 39 percent.  This was a two percentage point increase from 2011 (37 percent), and a five percentage point increase from 2009 (34 percent).

• The percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above Proficient (39 percent) was two percentage points lower than the nation’s public schools (41 percent).

• In 2013, the percentage of students in Georgia who performed at Advanced was 7 percent.  This was a one percentage point increase from 2011 (6 percent), and a two percentage point increase from 2009 (5 percent).

Key Findings in Grade 8 Mathematics
• The average mathematics score for students in Georgia was 279. This was a one point increase from the score in 2011 (278) and 2009 (278).

• Georgia's average score (279) was five points lower than that of the nation's public schools (284).

• The average mathematics score for White students in Georgia increased from 291 in 2011 to 292 in 2013.  Black students’ average score remained the same at 262 in 2011 and 2013.  Scores for Hispanic students decreased one scale score point from 277 in 2011 to 276 in 2013. 

• The average mathematics score for students who were eligible for the National School Lunch (NSL) Program in Georgia was unchanged at 267 from 2011 to 2013. 

• In 2013, the percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above Basic was 68 percent.  This was unchanged from 2011 (68 percent) and a one percentage point increase from 2009 (67 percent).

• The percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above Basic (68 percent) was five percentage points lower than the nation’s public schools (73 percent).

• In 2013, the percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above Proficient was 29 percent.  This was a one percentage point increase from 2011 (28 percent) and a two percentage point increase from 2009 (27 percent).

• The percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above Proficient (29 percent) was five percentage points lower than the nation’s public schools (34 percent).

• In 2013, the percentage of students in Georgia who performed at Advanced was 7 percent.  This was a one percentage point increase from 2011 (6 percent), and a two percentage point increase from 2009 (5 percent).

MORE INFORMATION:
- National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) website: http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/

Georgia Reports

4th Math

http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/subject/publications/stt2013/pdf/2014465GA4.pdf

4th Reading

http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/subject/publications/stt2013/pdf/2014464GA4.pdf

 8th Math

http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/subject/publications/stt2013/pdf/2014465GA8.pdf

8th Reading

http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/subject/publications/stt2013/pdf/2014464GA8.pdf



November 8-- Southeastern Technical College VP for Student Affairs Barry Dotson traveled to Germany in October to take part in the Transatlantic Outreach Program.

The program is a non-profit, public/private partnership between Federal Foreign Office of Germany and certain German businesses, established to encourage intercultural dialogue, and to provide the opportunity for North American educators to experience Germany in person.

Nine education professionals from the District of Columbia, Georgia, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Washington were selected to make the trip.

{mosimage}“We toured German educational institutes to learn about their secondary and postsecondary system of education with a specific emphasis on the Vocational Educational Institutes within the country and the business apprenticeship programs,” said Dotson.

At those institutes, Dotson discovered the importance of the country’s work-based apprenticeship program. The German Chamber of Commerce works with technical and vocational institutes to ensure that students are given appropriate apprenticeships and evaluated regularly.

Northwestern University Professor Harold Sirkin, writing for businessweek.com, wrote that “as a result of this system, few Germans find themselves unemployable. The youth unemployment rate, for example, was just 7.7 percent in February [2013], well below that of the U.S. (16.2 percent..).” Dotson agrees with the assessment.

“In our country, I still think we try to push some people to a four-year degree when really they just need some technical, vocational training in order to be able to get a job,” said Dotson. “In the German system, whatever track you choose, you have multiple paths that you can take that will lead you to college, career, or work.”

The tour spanned three cities, Frankfurt, Munich and Stuttgart, and brought the Americans into contact with high-ranking staffers from major German banks, schools and government ministries. The program was, however, also concerned with cultural exchange, so recreational events were spread throughout the trip.

“It is hard to pick one highlight—I enjoyed the cultural aspect of Germany as much as the educational aspect,” said Dotson. “The short visit to Oktoberfest, participation in the German-American Appreciation Day celebration in Stuttgart and dinner in an 800-year-old monastery were all learning experiences as well as the tours of the vocational educational institutes.”

Dotson returned from his trip with a broader appreciation for the work of technical colleges, a specific admiration of German education and a reaffirmed belief in the work of his own college.

“I don’t think you get any better than our system of education, but I did come away very impressed with the German system,” said Dotson.

November 7--  Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson's office released the following after Wednesday's Senate committee hearing on Obamacare.

"At a Senate Finance Committee hearing Wednesday, U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., pressed Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for answers over the threat of fraud and abuse of Americans’ sensitive private information because of security deficiencies in Obamacare.

Sebelius is the highest ranking official in the Obama administration who is responsible for the implementation of Obamacare.

Isakson cited a June inspector general’s report that found QSSI, the contractor that developed the Obamacare website, guilty of violating security requirements that exposed 6 million Medicare beneficiaries’ private information. Isakson also raised concerns that Obamacare exchange “navigators,” who help consumers find health care plans and handle personal information, are not required by the federal government to undergo criminal background checks.

“I’m not convinced that HHS is doing what it should to protect the information of the American people. I was very disappointed that Secretary Sebelius only said that she’d take under consideration requiring criminal background checks for those who will be handling Americans’ private information in the Obamacare exchanges—that should be a minimum requirement,” said Isakson following the hearing. “There are many flawed decisions that have been made by HHS and CMS in the rollout of Obamacare, and the website is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many, many problems yet to be seen.”

Isakson also continued to voice dismay that Georgians in rural areas are seeing their health insurance premiums double because of Obamacare. According to recent reports, many Americans who live in rural areas will be forced to pay higher prices for the same coverage. To view a video clip of a post-hearing interview in which Isakson discusses Sebelius’ testimony, click here.

In September of this year, in response to the rising threat over security concerns, Isakson co-sponsored the Trust But Verify Act, which would delay the opening of Obamacare insurance exchanges until security operations that will handle Americans’ personal information for the exchanges are independently verified.

Isakson has voted to defund, dismantle or repeal Obamacare almost 60 times, and he continues to support its full repeal. Isakson is a co-sponsor of dozens of legislative proposals that would repeal the law in full or provisions in the law, including both the Obamacare Repeal Act, S.177, and, more recently, the Defund Obamacare Act, S.1292. Isakson has also sent a letter to President Obama urging him to permanently delay the implementation of Obamacare for all Americans. 

November 7--  The President of the Vidalia Rotary Club is back from Togo, West Africa where she and other Rotarians dispensed vaccine to protect young children from polio.

Rotary International has been waging a worldwide war against the disease for years and Sandra Kate Ellington says there's still work to be done.

"We still have polio in the far reaches of India as well as West Africa.  In Togo, the country I visited, polio was definitely present.

"A team of us from the United States that included 38 Rotarians organized by a Rotary Club from California travelled to Togo where we met with Togonese Rotarians.  They organized the project for us to go out into a village and vaccinate children against polio," she said.

She reports the people in the villages live day to day in conditions we can hardly imagine.

"Education is a challenge. Sanitation is a challenge.  The Togonese Rotarians run education programs about sanitation and how to improve bathroom facilities because a lot of times that is what actually spreads disease in their area," she said.

The Rotary group spent a day helping build a foundation for a new school and also contributed money for school uniforms which are required to attend school.

"The Rotarians on the trip raised funds to help pay for uniforms for children who were not able to participate because their families could not afford to pay for the uniforms," Ellington said.

She describes the people she met as happy just to be alive each new day, something she says is much different from expectations in our culture.

Accompanying her on the trip was her husband, Georgia Court of Appeals Judge John Ellington of Soperton, whom she quotes as saying, "We have an American dream.  We want to get married, have children, have a job, have a house, that's part of the American dream. 

"When you meet these people and talk with them about how they live, they're just happy to be alive and that's a big difference.  They don't have an education system to expose them so they can even have a dream."

 

 

November 6-- Last year Vidalia Heritage Academy was the only school in Georgia selected to participate in the prestigious Harvard Model Congress and sent four high school students to the event.

{mosimage}The high school at VHA has once again been selected for the conference and will be sending a seven student team to Harvard comprised of three sophomores and 4 freshmen. (L-R, front row: Makayla Martin, Kaylee Randolph, Leigha Williams, Ashley Dawson. Second row: DJ Hadden, Brayden Price, Ashton Jackson. Third row: History and Government Teacher Bobby George, Headmaster Jeff McCormick.)

Harvard Model Congress is being held in Boston in February and brings together more than 1,600 of the brightest high school students from all over the world.  Entirely run by Harvard University students, the conference simulates the workings of the United States Congress.  By providing an opportunity to see how policy is created, bills are passed, and how Congress functions, the Harvard Model Congress allows high school students to serve as Representatives, Senators, White House Staffers, Cabinet Members, Congressional Media, and Lobbyists.

“We were so humbled last year to be the only school in Georgia selected to be a part of something so prestigious,” says Jeff McCormick, VHA Headmaster. “The four students that participated did an incredible job being paired with other students from across the globe and holding their own in debates and drafting legislation. Two of them will be returning with the team this year and the maturity and insight they are giving to the five new students is amazing to watch. Plus, VHA is now guaranteed selection each subsequent year so we will have some of our high school students attend the Harvard Model Congress four years in a row. That looks incredible on any college application.”

According to McCormick, “We want our students to be world changers. I can think of no better way to positively influence our communities, our state, our nation, and the world with a biblical worldview than to have them involved with the political process at an early age.”

The estimated cost of attendance is $1000 per student but the school’s delegation is trying to reduce the cost by actively fundraising. If you are interested in making a donation to the VHA Model Congress team or for more information about the trip, contact Jeff McCormick at 912-537-6679 orThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 


 

November 5--  Voters in Vidalia have approved the sale of alcohol in the city on Sundays.

In Tuesday's referendum, the vote for package sales passed 327 to 245.  Voters also approved sale by the drink 338 to 229.

The new city policy will take effect in Vidalia January 1, 2014.

November 5--  Local authorities are warning dog owners to keep their dogs close to home to avoid being poisoned.

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight says at least eight dogs have been poisoned in a one-mile area around the Old Normantown Road.  One dog was saved at a local vet clinic.

The sheriff says the dogs started dying Halloween.  If you have any information, call the Toombs County Sheriff's Office, 526-6778.

November 5--  A Vidalia Onion farmer is taking the state to court over a new regulation issued by the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

{mosimage}After three meetings with Vidalia Onion farmers this year, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black is changing the time Vidalia Onions are packed and shipped.

Under the old rules, a farmer could ship onions to market before the department's official shipping date as long as the onions passed USDA inspection and met standards for a run of the mill Grade A onion.

However, early shipping caused some Vidalia Onions to disappoint consumer expectations regarding flavor, appearance and quality.  In an attempt to avoid that, Commissioner Black has changed the reference to "shipping date" to "packing date"

In the future, Vidalia Onions may not be packed nor sold before midnight on the Monday of the last full week of April.  In 2014, that date is April 21.

"We got a lot of input from growers and most of them feel very confident this is the right step to take to restore confidence in 2014," he said.

However, the area's largest Vidalia Onion grower, Delbert Bland of Tattnall County, told the AJC Black's plan is "totally unacceptable."  Bland has been growing onions for three decades and believes you can't dictate a year out when a crop will be ready for shipping.  

His attorney, former state Attorney General Mike Bowers, has filed suit to stop Black's order which he claims is illegal.

"It's very clear that what the Commissiioner of Agriculture has done is violation of the law.  The statute says shipping date and you can't change that with a rule to say packing date, it's that simple," Bowers says.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Vidalia Onion Committe, Kevin Hendrix of Metter, thinks something needs to be done to protect the Vidalia Onion brand.

"I think it's a good thing.  A lot of times when we try to rush it to market, we don't put the best product out there and consumers aren't happy.  We're hoping this will try to clean some of that up," he says.

Commissioner Black also notes there is flexibility in his new order which will allow a change to the packing date if dictated by weather and crop conditions.

November 4--  The Athens Banner-Herald reports incumbent 12th District Congressman John Barrow has more cash to wage a re-election campaign than do his Republican challengers combined.

"With the midterm elections a year away, U.S. Rep. John Barrow has $1 million stashed away to defend his seat during a 2014 campaign in which the east Georgia Democrat is expected to be a top target of Republicans.

The latest campaign finance reports show Barrow of Augusta with a huge fundraising advantage over two Republicans running for a shot at denying the Democrat a sixth term. The numbers show that Barrow has more than $10 to spend for every $1 in the bank account of his nearly would-be GOP rival.

Of course, the race for Barrow's 12th District seat has barely started. First Republicans will have to elect a nominee to challenge Barrow, with the primary scheduled for May 20. So far two GOP candidates are in the race — Augusta construction company owner Rick W. Allen and former Capitol aide John Stone, also of Augusta. The primary winner will face Barrow in the Nov. 4, 2014, general election.

Republicans have been trying to oust Barrow since he first won office in 2004 and twice have redrawn the 12th District to whittle away key portions of the congressman's Democratic base. Lawmakers carved Barrow's hometown of Athens from the district before his first re-election campaign in 2006, then pushed Savannah outside its boundaries before the 2012 campaign. Those changes left Barrow with a district that clearly favors Republicans, yet he defeated GOP state Rep. Lee Anderson last year with a commanding 54 percent of the vote.

Now Barrow's gearing up for his next campaign fight. The congressman raised $274,350 in the three-month period that ended Sept. 30 and reported having just more than $1 million in the bank.

Allen was the runner-up in the 2012 Republican primary and has been aggressively pursuing a comeback. His latest campaign disclosure report shows Allen raised $124,782 in the three-month period ending Sept. 30. Allen's total fundraising for the 2014 campaign is more than double that amount, but he's also spending heavily — $145,610 in the last quarter — on staff, consultants and online campaign tools. At the end of the period he had $92,130 left in the bank.

"We don't have to match him dollar for dollar," Allen spokesman Dan McLagan said in an emailed statement. "Barrow and Obama are wrong, we are right and I wouldn't trade places with him for every penny he has in the bank."

Stone, meanwhile, insisted that his campaign for the GOP nomination is gaining momentum despite numbers that showed him lagging far behind Allen.

Stone reported raising $46,169 in the last quarter, a little more than one-third of what Allen raised. He had $43,352 cash in the bank. And though Stone has been running full-time since the summer started, his overall fundraising remained below $100,000.

"We fully expect Rick to raise more than us, but we have our budget for what we need to win the primary," Stone said. "I think we're in good shape."

Barrow's spokesman, Richard Carbo, said the congressman had no comment on the campaign to date.

Stone is seeking a comeback against Barrow. He ran as the Republican nominee in 2008. Barrow defeated Stone by 32 percentage points.

Barrow's 12th District seat covers 19 mostly rural counties and includes the cities of Augusta, Statesboro, Dublin and Vidalia. Its voters widely favored Republican Mitt Romney in last year's presidential election, yet Barrow managed to earn enough support from Romney voters to win a fifth term.

Though off to a strong start, Barrow isn't likely to start coasting when it comes to raising money. Winning re-election in 2012 cost the congressman $2.8 million.

 

November 4--  The Georgia House of Representatives has presented a resolution to the Toombs-Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce recognizing next year's 20th anniversary of Leadership Toombs-Montgomery, a program designed to develop community leaders.

Georgia House Speaker David Ralson presented the resolution during a visit to Vidalia.

{mosimage} (Front Row, L-R) Speaker Ralston, Chamber Board Chairperson Susan Taylor, Cindy Williams, Jack Dell, Debbie Evans and Senator Tommie Williams. (Back row, L-R) Representative Greg Morris, Bill Mitchell, John Koon, Howard Hill and Blake Tillery.

"When you think of 18 or so members in a class times 20 years, you've got quite a group of people who have been prepared for leadership in our community and who are actively working in leadership positions in our community now," Chamber President Bill Mitchell said.

Leadership Toombs-Montgomery started in 1994 and was shepherded the first three years by Lynette and Jack Dell of Vidalia.

"It's about young people learning what needs to be done in the community, what we've got, where we need to make progress and doing something about it.  We've certainly got that in Toombs and Montgomery counties," Jack Dell observed.

 

November 2--  National Honor Society students at Vidalia High School collected lots of pet food to benefit the Sweet Onion Animal Society and animals in our area.

{mosimage}Standing (L-R) Nate Truxel, William Collins, Jake Everett, Kennedy Wright, Hart Cook and Teresa Yates from SOAPS.

Seated (L-R) Sam Thompson, Chambria Harrison, Kam Jordan, Jacqueline Jedlicka, Jordan Robbins, Camilla Frost, Cassidy Long and Emily Combs.


 

November 1-– Georgia Governor Nathan Deal this week joined Rayonier executives and other dignitaries to celebrate the completion of Rayonier’s $385 million Cellulose Specialties Expansion (CSE) project at its mill in Jesup, Georgia. The project added 190,000 metric tons of additional production capacity to the mill.

{mosimage}

(L-R) Jack Perrett, General Manager, Rayonier Performance Fibers-Jesup Mill, left, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, James "Boot"  Thomas, Chairman of the Wayne County Commission and Paul Boynton, Chairman, President and CEO of Rayonier. 

Rayonier’s technically-advanced cellulose specialties fibers are used in everyday products such as flat-panel televisions, computer screens, impact-resistant plastics, filters, tires, paint, food and pharmaceuticals.

“Georgia’s rural economies are built on the strength of the forest products industry, and this region has reaped the economic benefits from the Rayonier facility since the 1950s,” said Governor Deal. “Rayonier is one of Georgia’s largest exporters at the Port of Savannah, and the CSE project was one of Georgia’s largest capital projects last year. We have no doubt that Rayonier’s investment will keep our state at the forefront of the forest products industry for generations to come.

The expansion encompassed 29 major individual projects, including several projects undertaken to enhance environmental systems. Including efforts beyond the CSE project, the Jesup mill has invested more than $80 million in environmental improvement projects over the past six years. With the completion of the CSE project, all three lines are now capable of producing high purity cellulose specialty products. The majority of the project was completed in late June, and the new mill produced its first cellulose specialty acetate pulp in early July, weeks ahead of schedule.

“Without the support and help of Governor Deal, the State of Georgia and the local community, this project would not have been possible.  Over the last two years, Jesup and Wayne County have shown tremendous hospitality to the thousands of workers who helped complete this monumental project,” said Paul Boynton, Rayonier’s chairman, president and chief executive officer. “The entire community can take great pride in what has been and will continue to be accomplished at the Jesup Mill. This expansion project solidifies Jesup’s and Georgia’s global leadership in the production of cellulose specialty fibers, a key component of a wide and growing number of consumer products.”

A recently-completed economic impact study compiled by Georgia Tech researchers concluded that Rayonier’s Jesup Mill has an annual economic impact of nearly $1 billion in Southeast Georgia. Each year, the company contributes more than $10 million to Georgia’s tax base, while paying more than $117 million to Georgia vendors who provide the Jesup Mill with a variety of goods and services.

Including Rayonier’s Jesup Mill, forestry and wood procurement operations, Rayonier employs more than 940 Georgians and the company is the largest employer in Wayne County. Timber purchased by the mill also supports approximately 1 million acres of working forests in the Southeast United States.  According to the Georgia Forestry Commission, the impact of the forestry industry to Georgia’s economy is estimated at $25 billion annually and creates more than 118,000 jobs.

November 1-- Governor Nathan Deal announced today that EP American Footwear (EPAF), LLC, will open its first footwear manufacturing facility in Hazlehurst, creating 250 jobs and investing up to $10 million over the next 36 months.

“Georgia’s strong manufacturing infrastructure helps companies such as EP American Footwear thrive and grow,” said Deal. “The company’s new facility reflects how Georgia’s competitive assets can yield economic gains for the local community.”

The 13-acre EPAF facility will open its doors in 2014 and is expected to manufacture 4 million pairs of shoes annually, reaching major retailers across the United States. The project will provide shoes to Walmart and support Walmart’s commitment to creating more jobs and increasing domestic manufacturing.

“We are excited to bring manufacturing back to the USA and specifically Hazlehurst,” said Joe Russell, Co-CEO of EPAF. “EPAF will be the largest molded footwear facility in the nation and this will be the first large-volume footwear manufacturer to produce shoes in the U.S. in quite a few years. We chose Hazlehurst as our location primarily due to the local workforce who lost their jobs during the exodus of employers from years past.” 

EPAF will also utilize Georgia Quick Start, the nation’s top workforce training program, to provide customized training for its new employees. The company received assistance from numerous state and local economic development partners. Project Manager Ryan Waldrep assisted the company on behalf of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

“This location is coming to fruition thanks to cooperation from the Joint Development Authority of Jeff Davis County, Hazlehurst and Denton, the state of Georgia, the Georgia Department of Economic Development and Georgia Power,” said Ray Wooten, Jeff Davis County Commission chairman. “We look forward to working with EP American Footwear for many years to come.”

“EP American Footwear’s decision to locate in Jeff Davis County is a turning point for the region, which has been disproportionately affected by joblessness over the course of the last decade,” said Chris Carr, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “The company will provide new jobs and opportunity to a workforce that is already well-versed in manufacturing operations.”

About EP American Footwear, LLC

EP American Footwear, LLC, is a partnership between Elan Polo, a leading global provider of nonbranded footwear, and McPherson Manufacturing, provider of contract assembly and manufacturing services.