Use the form below to filter for articles containing certain key words. Use the calendar on the right for articles published during a certain Month, Year.

October 31--  Concerns about public education funding and common core curriculum standards highlighted Tuesday night's listening session hosted by state lawmakers in Vidalia.

{mosimage}Appling High School teacher Angela McClain asks lawmakers to check into math instruction under the "Race to the Top" common core curriculum standards now being employed in Georgia's schools.

A group of teachers from Tift County mostly favored common core while some parents questioned the math curriculum and objected to what one parent called pornography in a 5th grade textbook.

The educators who testified before the House and Senate Education Committees all appealed for help with funding and Senate Committee Chairman Lindsey Tippins says that a common theme they are hearing all over the state.

"One of the biggest issues on everybody's mind is financing of education.  It's really taken a drubbing in the last few years since we've been in a recession.  It's getting a little bit better, but it's awfully slow," he said.

{mosimage}Senator Tippins (left) talks with attendees after the listening session.

House Chairman Brooks Coleman promises that what they're hearing will be considered during the legislative session whcih convenes in January.

"After the next three hearings, we plan to get together and compile what we've heard and pick out the five or six key areas such as financing, common core, flexibility and accountability, etc.  

{mosimage}"We plan to sit down the Governor and his staff and make some recommendations before his budget comes out.  We plan to meet with the Lieutenant Governor and the House speaker to tell them what we've heard and see what we can do to help people out," Representative Coleman (right) said.

Eighteen people testified before the hearing in Vidalia which was also attended by two state board of education members including Allen Rice of Vidalia.

October 30--  The Georgia Department of Human Services reports food stamp recipients will have their food stamp allotments reduced an average of five percent starting in November.

"Effective Nov 1, as mandated by federal law, food stamp recipients in Georgia will see a reduction of their monthly benefits.

The upcoming reduction is due to the end of the 2009 Recovery Act's temporary boost in funding to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It will impact every household that receives food stamps, beginning with the issuance of November benefits.

In Fiscal Year 2013, an average of 1.9 million Georgians received food stamps each month.

The impact will vary for each recipient, depending upon household size and income. On average, Georgia families will experience a 5 percent change in their monthly allotment.

Recipients will be notified of the specific change to their benefits via mail." 


October 30-- Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for nearly 63 million Americans will increase 1.5 percent in 2014, the Social Security Administration announced today.

The 1.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that more than 57 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2014.  Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 31, 2013.

Some other changes that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages.  Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $117,000 from $113,700.  Of the estimated 165 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2014, about 10 million will pay higher taxes as a result of the increase in the taxable maximum. 

Information about Medicare changes for 2014 is available at    

The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated.  To read more, please visit

October 29--  Key leaders of the Georgia House of Representatives are endorsing the re-election of Greg Morris to a ninth term for the 156th District  House seat.


(L-R) House Majority Leader Larry O'Neal, House Speaker David Ralston, Representative Greg Morris, House Pro Tem Jan Jones and Republican Caucus Chairman Matt Hatchet.

The group attended a Vidalia fundraiser where House Speaker David Ralston urged local voters to send Morris back to Atlanta.

"He's a valuable member of the team and that's why it's important for us to be here today to send that message loud and clear," the Speaker said.

Morris is facing opposition in next May's Republican primary election from former Navy SEAL Lee Burton of Vidalia.

Speaker Ralston's visit coincided with a public hearing in Vidalia by members of the House and Senate Education Committees.  He's hopeful the legislature can help local school boards with more state funding when it meets in January.

"I think we're close to seeing light at the end of the tunnel.  I appreciate that it's been a tough time for local governments and particularly for school boards.  We had a positive session for education last year and I'm hopeful we'll have an even more positive session this year," he said.

He also expects some action will be taken on the federal government's common core curriculum standards.

"We'll take a look at that.  The Governor has also asked the state Department of Education and the state school board to look at this in a very detailed and very thorough way.  I think with that and the work the House and Senate Education Committees are doing, we're going to really drill down into this subject so we can know what's true and what's not true and what's really in the best interest of Georgia's children," Ralson said.

Speaker Ralson doesn't expect much to happen regarding tax reform in Georgia during next year's session.

"I'm not sure how much of that we will be doing this session.  I'm hoping within a year or two we can go back and pick up the whole subject of tax reform.  You can't really reform one part of it without it effecting another part of it, so you really have to do it as a package," he observed.

October 29--  Georgia Governor Nathan Deal will be in Jesup at noon Wednesday to help the Rayonier Corporation celebrate the completion of a major plant expansion.

The Governor and other state and local elected officials and community leaders will join Rayonier executives to celebrate the completion of the company’s $385 million Cellulose Specialties Expansion project, which added 190,000 metric tons of new cellulose specialties production capacity to the mill.

This transitions the facility out of the commodity fluff market and into exclusive production of cellulose specialties, used in everyday products such as flat-panel televisions, computer screens, impact-resistant plastics, filters, tires, paint, food and pharmaceuticals.

October 29--  A $1,000 reward in being offered for information leading to arrests in connection with a rash of burglaries in Vidalia.

"Crimestoppers" approved the reward on the recommendation of Vidalia Police Lieutenant Jimmy Sims who reported 16 breakins during the period September 9th through October 21st.  Five of the burglaries occurred the night of October 21st.

"We're looking for three black males, fairly young, skinny who are entering the businesses and leaving with cash or whatever they can find within 15 to 20 seconds.  If you know anything and give us a call, we might be able to put a little cash in your pocket," he says

According to Vidalia police, the stores broken into are Headliner Salon, Mixon Tire Service, Shuman's Cleaners, T&G Wholesale Florist, Town and Country Salon, Beth's Florist, Chocolate City Hair Salon, Sweet Nails, J.T. Foods, Star Nails, Shop Rite, Fast Break, Jani Raj Discount, Capitol Nails, Vidalia Cleaners and The Hair Shack.  

New Nails at the corner of Highway 280 and the Ezra Taylor Road in Toombs County was also hit.

If you have information, call the Crimestoppers Hotline at 1-866-439-6313.  You do not have to give your name.  If the information leads to an arrest, you will be given $1,000 in cash.

October 28--  Two Vidalia teenagers are being charged in connection with the burglary of a Vidalia loan company.

An investigation led by Police Corporal Randall Holcomb resulted in the arrest of two 18-year-olds, Khalil Harris and Dominique Henderson.

The two are accused of stealing almost $60,000 from Lee Discount Company in a July breakin.

Officers say two cars bought with some of the stolen money the day after the burglary have been confiscated.

The case remains under investigation with more arrests expected, according to Vidalia police.

{mosimage}October 28--  Treutlen High School senior Kali Morris and her dad, Wayne, at halftime of the school's homecoming game.  Kali is the 2013 Treutlen High School Homecoming Queen. (Photo courtesy Jonathon Finley, Soperton News)

October 18--  You are being encouraged to come out Tuesday night in Vidalia and meet with members of the Georgia House and Senate Education Committees who are holding a joint "listening session" at Southeastern Technical College.

Before the Tuesday night session, the legislators are meeting with area school board members and school superintendents.  Vidalia superintendent Dr. Garrett Wilcox welcomes the opportunity to communicate with the lawmakers.

{mosimage}"There are two things.  Obviously we'd like to think at some point our state and local economies will turn around and we'd like to know the plans to restore some of the education funding that hasn't been there the last few years.

"The other thing I'd like for them to know is how hard our teachers work everyday.  They show up everyday and work with a group of kids who every year seem to need more support," Wilcox said.

The Vidalia school system's funding is unique in that the school board can't increase local property taxes beyond 15 mils. Dr. Wilcox is hoping lawmakers will find a way to help overcome that limitation next year by increasing state assistance.

"Most of us are realists.  These austerity reductions have come mostly as a result of the downturn in the economy and other state agencies have shared in these budget reductions.

"We keep hearing now that revenues are up and if we could just incrementally start restoring funding it would be a great help to our system and hopefully we could provide some more opportunities for our kids because of that," he said.

Dr. Wilcox also believes lawmakers realize how important successful schools in rural ares are to the state's overall economic development.

"My hope is that if the economy turns around, the state will use education as part of its economic development engine.  Companies that are coming into the state are going to look and see what kind of educational opportunities exist for staff and their kids.  I hope the continual funding issues we've been facing don't become a black eye as we try to attract new industriies to Georgia and Toombs County," he said.



October 27--  Southeastern Technical College won two awards for writing and web site design at the National Council for Marketing & Public Relations (NCMPR) District 2 Conference at Hilton Head.

The college’s web site, rolled out at the beginning of this year, received a Gold Medallion award from the organization, which commented on the site’s ease-of-use and accessible organization.

{mosimage} Clarke Schwabe and Krysta Rushing receive NCMPR Medallion awards.  “It feels like all the hard work has paid off,” said Krysta Rushing, director of marketing and public relations at STC. “Out of the hundreds of entries submitted, we brought home not one, but two awards. I couldn’t be more excited.”

The college also won a Silver Medallion award in the writing category for the profile of Carmela Williams, who found success in business, ministry and gospel music during and after her time at STC.

“Technical education provides the opportunity to hear and see some fantastic stories,” said Clarke Schwabe, PR specialist for STC. “And to a certain extent, our job is to—like our patriot mascot—fight for what we believe in. That becomes very easy with stories like hers.”


October 26--  The annual Veteran's Day luncheon hosted by the Downtown Vidalia Association is Monday, November 11th at 11 a.m. at the Vidalia First United Methodist Church activity center.

The guest speaker is combat veteran Major Jon Countess from the Third Infantry Division at Fort Stewart.

Major Countess is originally from Huntsville, Alabama. He attended school at Auburn University and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers in 1998.  Major Countess has served in leadership roles from the platoon to division level. He has deployed to Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

{mosimage}Major Countess returned from Afghanistan in July 2013, and is now serving as the battalion operations officer for 1-3 Brigade Special Troops Battalion (BSTB). His awards include two Bronze Star Medals, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, and the Army Achievement award. His other qualifications and decorations include the Combat Action Badge, the senior parachutist badge, and the Sapper Leader tab. Major Countess is married to Kia Countess, and they have two sons, Jon Rix, and Robert Joel.

Veterans and their immediate family members are invited.  The luncheon is made possible by the support of the Vidalia Masonic Lodge, American Business Women's Association, the Ladies Auxiliary of Veteran's Organizations and Harvey's of Vidalia. 




October 25--  A Toombs County woman is pushing for legislation regarding Autism insurance.  Here's the report in case you missed it on WJCL-TV in Savannah.

"Anna Bullard is on a mission to bring Autism insurance coverage to Georgia. Bullard's daughter Ava was diagnosed with Autism at two and a half years. Her insurance company wouldn't pay a thing. Bullard sought therapies on her own and the results were incredible."
  Click Here: WJCL-TV

October 24--  With music from the Vidalia High School Sound Tribe, the annual Red Ribbon Week parade stepped off first thing Thursday morning at Sally Meadows Elementary School in Vidalia.

For the past 19 years, the Vidalia Police Department has been conducting Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) classes at the school.  The DARE officer is Corporal Dwayne Carpenter.

{mosimage}"The parade means a lot.  They get to get out of the classroom and walk the road and show the people they pledge to be drug free," he says.

Attending the parade were fourteen students from Vidalia High School who act as DARE role models for the 5th graders at Sally Meadows.  One of the students, senior football player Nolan Moore.

"It's very important for us to come tell these kids about the benefits of living a drug free life and about all the opportunities they will lose if they throw their life away by doing drugs.  All the things they can miss out on like memories of friends, varsity athletics and good grades, it doesn't matter if you do drugs because you're throwing them all away," Moore says.

School Principal Ginger Morris believes the annual observance of Red Ribbon Week to fight drug abuse is important for her students.

"It's a time for them to realize there are a lot of adults, not just their parents, but community leaders who say we're here with you and if you are ever offered drugs, just say no, and that's what the DARE program is all about," Morris said.

October 24--  This article from The New York Times reviews a new book called "Extortion" that should be required reading for voters before next year's elections.

The Conservative Who Hates Slush Funds

The Breakers Palm Beach Hotel in a 2003 publicity photo. The Breakers Palm Beach/Associated PressThe Breakers Palm Beach Hotel in a 2003 publicity photo.

A new book, sure to wind up on the nightstands of all campaign finance geeks, documents the many ways in which a torrent of cash is corrupting members of Congress and providing benefits for the wealthy. The issue cannot get enough publicity, but the best news of all is that the book was written by a conservative.

Its unambiguous title is “Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes and Line Their Own Pockets,” and the author is Peter Schweizer, a fellow at the Hoover Institution and an editor-at-large at Breitbart.

Mr. Schweizer’s book shows how members of Congress of both parties use the unregulated vehicles known as leadership PACs to collect huge amounts of money from contributors and spend it on anything they like. The PAC of Senator Saxby Chambliss, Republican of Georgia, spent $10,000 at a Pebble Beach golf resort, $27,000 at a steakhouse, and $107,752 at the Breakers resort in Palm Beach, Fla. Representative Charles Rangel, Democrat of New York, bought a painting of himself using $64,500 in PAC money. (A PAC is one of the few things that senators as ideologically opposite as Ted Cruz and Elizabeth Warren have in common.)

In an op-ed essay published in The Times on Tuesday, he also argued that politicians ranging from Speaker John Boehner to President Obama raise money by threatening to push provocative legislation, then holding back to see which interests contribute the most cash for or against the measures.

There’s no reason why reducing the influence of money should be a conservative or a liberal project. These are fundamental questions of better government, and Tea Party activists who complain about the influence of insider elites should be just as angry as liberal do-gooders. A leadership PAC allows people to contribute six times the limits on standard campaign donations, and retiring lawmakers are even allowed to keep the cash if they choose. That turns a political slush fund into something even worse: A conduit for outright bribery.

But, aside from Mr. Schweizer, the push to limit and disclose political donations has come almost entirely from the left. Conservatives, led by Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, have done everything possible to keep the money flowing. The reason is entirely self-serving: For all the talk about free speech and liberty, Republicans know the biggest bank accounts are on their side, and they don’t want anything to block that advantage. They also don’t want anyone to find out who is giving unlimited contributions, and who is benefiting.

The truth eventually comes out, however, through the work of individuals like Mr. Schweizer, as well as groups like the Sunlight Foundation, The Center for Responsive Politics, and Democracy 21. (Not to mention old-fashioned journalists.) If ever there were an issue on which left and right could come together, it’s this one, and a good first step would be legislation, co-sponsored by members of both parties, to put an end to leadership PACs.


October 23--  Members of the Georgia House and Senate Education Committees are conducting listening sessions around the state and will meet in Vidalia Tuesday, October 29.

Speaker of the House David Ralston is also expected to attend some or all of the sessions which are being hosted by Senator Tommie Williams of Lyons and Representative Greg Morris of Vidalia.

The joint committee will meet with local school superintendents and school board members before holding a public session Tuesday night at 6:30 at Southeastern Tech in Vidalia.

Citizens concerned about public education in Georgia are invited to attend.

October 23-- RTCA senior Sarah Payne has qualified as a Semifinalist in the National Merit Scholarship Program. Of the 1.5 million students competing by taking the Practice Standardized Aptitude Test (PSAT), only 16,000 students - less than one percent of each state's high school seniors - qualify as Semifinalists.

{mosimage}Sarah is now eligible to become a Finalist in the program, which would make her eligible for National Merit Scholarships supported by independent sponsor organizations and by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation's own funds.

Sarah is the daughter of John and Helen Payne. 

Since its founding, National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) has recognized 2.9 million students and provided over 377,000 scholarships worth about $1.5 billion. The honors awarded by NMSC to exceptionally able students are viewed as definitive marks of excellence. Recipients of Merit Scholarship® awards, Achievement Scholarship® awards, and corporate-sponsored Special Scholarships have increased the nation's respect for intellectual accomplishments and have contributed significantly to its talent pool of future leaders.


October 22--  Revenue from Local Option Sales Tax Collections (LOST) will continue to be collected and distributed to Toombs County and its three towns.

A spokesman for the Georgia Department of Revenue said the department will continue to use the distribution formula which was agreed upon by the four governing bodies in resolutions sent to Atlanta last Tuesday.

Last year a Superior Court judge set the distribution scheme after Toombs County took the cities to court in an unsuccessful effort to gain more tax money.

Earlier this month the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that judges lack the constitutional authority to set tax distribution.  However, because the current governments in Toombs County have agreed with the judge's formula, there will be no disruption in the local sales tax revenue.

That's good news for property owners according to Vidalia city manager Bill Torrance, "This local option sales tax is a direct dollar-for-dollar tax relief for property taxpayers.  It protects that and insures we can rollback property taxes to compensate for the taxes we get from the sales tax.  We're excited about it and I hope we don't have to go through that again."

October 22--  "Access North Georgia" reports Vidalia newspaper editor William Ledford, Jr. was arrested during an undercover investigation of prostitution in Banks County.

"The Banks County Sheriff's Office has arrested five more people on pandering charges.

The arrests followed a criminal investigation on Friday, Oct. 18.

"That investigation was initiated after complaints were made by a Banks County citizen regarding Internet postings of escort services listed for the Banks Crossing area," said Deputy Carissa McFaddin, public information officer for Banks County Sheriff's Office.

Banks County Chief Deputy Shawn Wilson explained how the undercover investigation came to be.

"We had several reports that people were placing ads for escorts for the area, and we went ahead and conducted our second operation of the year in the area, which netted five arrests," Wilson said. "One thing that Sheriff Speed has advised is that we are not going to tolerate prostitution in the Banks Crossing area."

{mosimage}Arrested and charged with pandering were the following individuals:

* Adrian Jerome Anderson, 29, of Athens;

* Eric Christian Salis, 36, of Jefferson;

* William F. Ledford Jr., 57, of Vidalia;

* Javier Vallejo, 24, of Cornelia; and

* Robert Latron Campbell, 36, of Athens.

On Jan. 23, Banks County officers arrested 11 people in connection with a pandering investigation in the Banks Crossing area.

"The Banks County Sheriff's Office will continue to aggressively enforce the state law of pandering in hopes to curtail sex offenders, drug dealers and other criminal activity that affects our community," said Sheriff Carlton Speed."

October 21--  Citizens concerned about national education standards expressed their views during a panel discussion in Vidalia on what's called the Common Core Curriculum.

A member of the panel, State Senator William Ligon of Brunswick, says parents need to be concerned and get involved to stop it in Georgia.

"Here tonight I heard concerns from several parents who are expressing their experiences from common core.  We're getting emails from concerned parents about the struggles their students are having with math and english.  We're getting reports that some of the books on the common core reading list at completely inappropriate and should not be used in our schools," the senator said.

Senator Ligon has introduced two bills in the State Senate which he hopes will gain traction when the legislature convenes in January.

"We will be able to make a difference if and when the people in this state let their elected officials know they want Georgia to retain control over the education of our students.

"They need to ask their representatives and senators to vote for Senate Bills 167 and 203.  If we can come together, their voices will be heard and we can make a change.

"Do we as a state want to control what will be taught to our children, or do we want that control to be give to people outside this state who are not accountable to the taxpayers of this state?  The answer to that is no.  We want that control here in Georgia," Senator Ligon said. 


October 19--  Toombs County High School celebrated homecoming Friday night with the crowning of its Homecoming Queen and Homecoming Princess.


(L-R) James Knight escorts his granddaughter Princess Christasia Jones.  Homecoming Queen Megan Meadows escorted by her brother, D.R. Meadows.

October 18--   Terry Hall of Vidalia and his family were in a Panama City, Florida courtroom this week to witness the sentencing of the man who was drunk when he rammed the vehicle occupied by his daughter, Kerri Ann Hall of Vidalia.  Here's the story filed by WJHG Television.

"Twenty-three-year old Robert Michael Dick III showed no emotion when he walked into the court room Wednesday afternoon.

{mosimage}There was plenty of emotion from family members of his victim, 21-year-old Kerri Ann Hall from Vidalia, Georgia.

Dick killed Hall more than a year ago, when he rear-ended her vehicle on Back Beach Road. He was drunk at the time and left the scene.

Hall's sister, Tiffany Pruett, who was seriously injured in the wreck, read a letter she wrote to Robert Dick.

"Between the pain and the memories, it's a struggle to get through each and every day. When you get out, you will still have the rest of your life ahead of you,"said Pruett.

Family members of Kerri Ann Hall say she wanted to be a pediatric nurse and her loss hasn't been easy for them.

"It's been pure hell. It has been for all of our family. We've always been a close knit family that we have always enjoyed times together and helped each other. The struggle has pulled on our strings for sure," said Terry Hall.

Neither Dick nor his mother spoke. Circuit judge Brantley Clark Jr. then sentenced Robert Dick to 15 years in prison for DUI manslaughter.

This is not Dick's first brush with the law. In 2007 Bay and Walton sheriff's deputies arrested Dick after he tried to shoot and run over six people in Inlet Beach.

Authorities found guns, ammunition, and marijuana in his car and his mother's home.

Besides the 15 year sentence, judge Clark also permanently revoked Dick's driver's license. He has 30 days to appeal the sentence."


October 18--  Pierce County Sheriff's Deputy Randy Strickland, 55, was arrested on federal charges yesterday for his role in the trafficking of methamphetamine.  Strickland had his initial appearance today in federal court in Brunswick, Georgia before United States Magistrate Judge James E. Graham, where he was ordered detained without a bond.   

 According to papers filed with the District Court, Deputy Strickland allegedly agreed to act as “security” for individuals he believed were dealing meth, by acting as the lookout.  Strickland’s drug activities allegedly occurred while he was in uniform and while he was driving his police vehicle.  When Pierce County Sheriff Ramsey Bennett received information about Strickland’s apparent criminal activities, he immediately requested federal law enforcement assistance.  

              Pierce County Sheriff Ramsey Bennett said, “This is a situation where there are no winners.  This gives the Office of the Sheriff a black eye and erodes the confidence of the public in law enforcement.  As Sheriff, I will not tolerate this type of conduct.  I want to reassure the public that we will police ourselves as well as the general public.”

            The present charge against Strickland carries a maximum prison sentence of 40 years, and a fine up to $5,000,000. 

October 17--  A Florida judge has sentenced Steven Cozzie to death for the murder of Toombs County teenager Courtney Wilkes.  Tom McLaughlin files this report for us from the courtroom in DeFuniak Springs, Florida.

" A heart-rending human drama that began June 16, 2011 with the brutal murder of 15-year-old vacationer Courtney Wilkes came full circle Thursday when her killer, Steven Cozzie, was sentenced to die for the crime.

{mosimage}In the end, for the Wilkes’ family and those who had worked to bring Cozzie to justice, there was tearful satisfaction, but no joy.

“There’s not  winner here,” Toni Wilkes, Courtney’s mother, said as she and her husband, Cordy, left a Walton County Courtroom in which they’d spent many painful hours this summer during Cozzie’s trial. “We’re sorry for all involved.”

A very business-like Circuit Court Judge Kelvin Wells said he’d gone through each argument Assistant State Attorney Bobby Elmore had provided for putting Cozzie to death and weighed every reason defense attorneys had proposed for sparing the 23-year-old Seagrove Beach resident.

As he annunciated the “aggravators” versus the “mitigators” it was clear the fear, pain and agony Wilkes had suffered as she was strangled, beaten and dragged into a dry swamp area to be raped and killed weighed heavily in the judge’s decision.

“It is hereby ordered that you be sentenced to death as to count one, premeditated murder,” Wells said.

He also sentenced Cozzie to life sentences for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and for kidnapping, and to 30 years for aggravated child abuse.

Afterward, the Wilkes family embraced Elmore and the several Walton County law enforcement officers who had come for the sentencing.

The vicious crime, hours of preparation for court and arduous trial experience that included a criminal phase, a death sentence phase and a required Spencer Hearing had created an evident bond between local authorities and the Wilkes, residents of Lyons,  a rural South Georgia community.

“From my perspective, this is the end of the first chapter of one of the saddest cases I’ve ever had to handle,” veteran prosecutor Elmore said after the sentencing. “And I’ve had to handle some sad cases.”

The defendant looked resigned, almost, to his fate. He showed no emotion as he was processed after court had been adjourned.

Cozzie did glance over at three family members as he was led from the courtroom. Huddled on the front row of the courtroom with the defense team of Sharon Wilson and Spiro Kypreos, they did not appear to acknowledge his look as they consoled one another.

Wilson and Kypreos shepherded the Cozzie family in silence from the Walton County Courthouse.

Toni Wilkes said that her family began serving its sentence in this case “when we lost our little girl two years and four months ago.”

“Now we want to go home and start living our lives again,” she said.

They were leaving with a Florida community’s best wishes.

“I hope Courtney’s family can have some peace and move on with their lives,” Elmore said.

Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson was also in the courtroom Thursday. He too embraced the Wilkes’ family after the verdict was read.

But, like everyone else in the courtroom, he could find no reason to celebrate the death sentence.

“I don’t take any joy with this sentence being handed down,” he said. “But I am in complete agreement with this sentence being handed down.”

Under Florida law, the death sentence is automatically appealed to the state Supreme Court.  Officials say it could take up to 25 years for the appeals process and for the court's sentence to be carried out.

A video report is available at




October 16--  The Vidalia City Council has approved a budget of $600,000 to build an amphitheater on the downtown lot formerly occupied by the Vidalia Police Department.

At the same time, the council was informed at its meeting Tuesday night "The Temptations" have been booked to be the first act to use the new stage.  Les Salter from the Vidalia Onion Festival Committee says the group will perform as the headliner for the Friday night Onion Festival Street Dance which is being returned to its downtown venue after a few years absence.

City leaders are hopeful the new amphitheater will be finished by the end of March.

Jason Colbert from Community Hospice thanked the council for its support of last month's Downtown Music Festival.  He said it netted $11,000 for local children battling cancer.

The council approved a 20-year lease with Hannah Solar for four acres of land near the city's Swift Creek Water Treatment Plant.  The company will pay the city $15,000 a year to locate solar panels on the property which will generate electricity for sale to Georgia Power.

City finance director Bill Bedingfield reports sales tax collections in the city are down this year compared to last year.  Local option sales tax revenue is down nearly three percent and special purpose local option sales tax collections are down almost two percent.

He reports the city has collected $67,179.42 so far this year in transportation sales taxes and that collections are up slightly in the local hotel/motel tax (+1.29%) and the alcohol sales tax (+2.12%).

An emotional Vidalia Mayor Ronnie Dixon asked city manager Bill Torrance to read a statement on the death of former councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Chip Matheson.

"The City of Vidalia mourns the loss of John C. "Chip" Matheson.  Chip passed away on October 15, 2013 at his home.  He was a long term councilman for the City of Vidalia taking office in January, 1988 and serving until December, 2007.  Councilman Matheson held the position as Chairman of the Finance Committee and served on many other committees of the council during his five terms in office.  He was Mayor Pro Tem from 1996 through 2007.  

"Councilman Matheson was involved and instrumental in developing a business-like approach to city government.  He believed in open government and was always available and accessible to citizens of Vidalia.

"Councilman Matheson took the leadership of the Vidalia Onion Festival in 1995 and reformed the festival to insure financial strength and organization that ensured an appropriate celebration of the Vidalia Onion for our community.

"The City of Vidalia and her citizens have lost a great friend and leader.  Chip led in difficult times with integrity and honesty.  It was a great honor to serve with him.  I have lost a dear friend."


October 16--  They're watching their pennies in Montgomery County.

County manager Brandon Braddy informed the county commission at its October meeting that the county budget is about four percent in the red as the fourth quarter begins.

In actions taken at the meeting, the commissioners agreed to use $26,000 in sales tax revenue to buy a new fire truck for the Higgston Fire Department.  It also okayed $13,500 from a state grant to buy a truck for the county's EMA department.

The commission is planning to seek a $500,000 state grant to upgrade Three Rivers Lane.

The November meeting of the commission was changed from Monday, November 11th to Tuesday, November 12th due to the Veteran's Day holiday on the 11th.

October 15--  Toombs County Magistrate Judge Chip Matheson died of pancreatic cancer Tuesday morning.  He was the Vidalia Citizen of the Year in 1997.

A Vidalia businessman until assuming the Magistrate position in 2005, he served on the Vidalia City Council 20 years where he was the city finance chairman and served as Mayor Pro Tem.

{mosimage}Chip was serving as chairman of the Toombs County Development Authority at the time of his death and would have completed his second five-year term on the Authority at the end of the year.

He was a former chairman of the Vidalia Onion Festival, is a past-President of the Vidalia Kiwanis Club and served as finance chairman of the the Sweet Onion Classic board for eight years.

Funeral arrangements will be announced by the Ronald V. Hall Funeral Home in Vidalia.

October 15-- Governor Nathan Deal today announced that Shrivallabh Pittie Group, a leading textile manufacturer in India, will build its first U.S.-based manufacturing facility near Sylvania, creating 250 jobs and investing $70 million.

“The decision by Shrivallabh Pittie Group to locate its new facility in Georgia is an example of how our state is quickly becoming the No.1 state for companies to do business,” Deal said. “The company’s decision to build its first U.S. facility in Georgia underscores our attractive infrastructure and diverse talent pool.”

The facility will be located at the Screven County Industrial Park near Sylvania. The plant will manufacture a range of different counts of carded cotton yarn and production will be flexible in order to meet market demand. It will use class-leading machinery and benefit from great economies of scale as the entire capacity will be based at one location. The company will utilize synergies between the new plant and its existing textile operations, including technical expertise and a global sales and marketing network.

The Screven County Industry Park is a GRAD-certified site, one of more than 30 around the state that offers advanced due diligence for industrial development through the Georgia Allies’ GRAD (Georgia Ready for Accelerated Development) program. Shrivallabh Pittie Group will also take advantage of the services of Georgia Quick Start, an award-winning state program that will provide the company with free, customized workforce training and development.

Founded in 1898, Shrivallabh Pittie Group is a leading textile manufacturer with substantial presence in the Indian textile sector, operating in 13 locations.

“We are very excited about this project, which is the biggest single investment in U.S. cotton yarn sector in decades,” said the chairman of Shrivallabh Pittie Group, Vinod Pittie. “We believe there is a significant market opportunity for yarn manufacturing in Georgia due to a skilled local workforce, proximity to high-quality cotton fiber, the economical supply and reliability of power and world-class infrastructure to international markets. We are proud to generate 250 new U.S. jobs and to bring a positive economic effect on the local area and its rich cotton textile heritage. Lastly, we would like to thank both the state of Georgia and Screven County for their sponsorship of this project.”

Shrivallabh Pittie Group received assistance for its new facility from the Screven County Development Authority and Wylly Harrison, project manager at Georgia Department of Economic Development.

“I am pleased to welcome Shrivallabh Pittie Group to Screven County,” said the chairman of Screven County Development Authority, Bobby Smith. “These 250 jobs and the $70 million investment represent 250 jobs for our friends and neighbors, as well as countless opportunities for local businesses to grow and prosper. We thank our strong partnership with the state of Georgia and Screven County. Together we have made this project a success. We welcome Shrivallabh Pittie Group to team Georgia and team Screven.”

“Georgia’s resources for textile manufacturing are best in class,” said Pat Wilson, chief operating officer at Georgia Department of Economic Development. “Sylvania has been home to textile facilities in the past and offers the Shrivallabh Pittie facility a diverse workforce that has experience in textile manufacturing.

About Shrivallabh Pittie Group

The Shrivallabh Pittie Group is an India-based industrial group with interests across textiles, finance, retail and real estate. The company has a substantial presence in the Indian textile Industry with manufacturing capacity in numerous locations. The Shrivallabh Pittie Group has evolved into a major player in the yarn industry and has a strong and experienced management team with decades of industry experience.


October 15--  Vidalia police say four burglaries have hit downtown businesses in the last week.

According to police, burglars are breaking windows or doors and entering the businesses.  Hit so far are Beth's Florist, Chocolate City Hair Salon, Town and Country Salon and Shuman's Cleaners.

Police are still investigating the burglary at Lee Discount Company where a large amont of money was stolen in a July breakin.

October 15--  Three men and a woman are under arrest in connection with what police say was a home invasion in Toombs County.

Sheriff Junior Kight says 74-year-old Henry Louis Jones of 1577 Lyons-Center Road called 911 about one a.m. Monday, October 7.

Jones claimed 22-year-old Ameta Patel Griffin of Lyons lured him into his bedroom.  After about five minutes, he says three black men came in the room, beat him with a pistol and tied him up.  They left taking cash, jewelry and a handgun.

Being charged with armed robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and false imprisonment are the woman, 23-year-old Terrance Thomas and 20-year-old Jeffery Phillips, Jr., both of Lyons, and 23-year-old Terrell Bacon of Uvalda.

{mosimage} {mosimage}   {mosimage}    {mosimage}

Bacon          Griffin       Phillips            Thomas

October 15--  Parents and educators concerned about federal curriculum standards in Georgia schools can learn more about the issue Thursday night in Vidalia.

Tanya Ditty, State Director for a group called "Concerned Women of America," is one of four panel members trying to educate citizens.  She claims the state has sold its sovereignty over education in order to obtain dollars from a federal program called "Race to the Top."

According to Ditty, parents were left out of the discussion when it comes to math standards in our schools.

"Parents have been pushed out of the picture.  If your child is not doing well there's not a thing they can do about the changes in the way math is being taught.  It's all being driven by a national standard which is driving curriculum and there's not a thing local schools can do about it," Ditty says.

State Senator William Ligon from Brunswick has drafted legislation to address the problem and will be on the Vidalia panel.  Others are Jane Robinson from the American Principles Project and Dr. Mary Kay Bacallao, a Mercer University math professor.

Ms. Ditty urges parents to become involved.

"They're going to learn how we got here, why it is not good and what they can do to reverse course in Georgia and make a change," she says.

The meeting is Thursday night at seven o'clock at Southeastern Technical College in Vidalia.

October 14--  A Georgia Supreme Court decision is threatening the ability of governments in Toombs County to collect Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) revenue.

Last year the cities of Vidalia, Lyons and Santa Claus had to go to court against Toombs County to get a ruling on the distribution of sales tax collections.  Toombs County wanted more of the money but ultimately lost in court.

Now the state Supreme Court has ruled that judges have no authority to set tax distribution rates.  That decisiion nullfies the Toombs County decision and has local officials looking for a way to maintain the tax.  If they fail, it could mean a major reduction in services and a large increase in local property taxes.

"We're able to do a dollar-for-dollar rollback on property taxes with what we receive in sales taxes.  To not be able to do that could cause an increase of three mils in the county and an increase of five to seven mils in the cities.  That would be devastating," according to Toombs County Commission Chairman Blake Tillery.

The local governments are signing resolutions telling the state they agree to the sales tax distribution defined in the court case and hope they can get some kind of favorable dispensation until the legislature can address the Supreme Court's concerns when lawmakers convene in January.

"This period between now and January is critical for us because LOST collections for the city of Vidalia are averaging $160,000 a month and if you took that out of our budget, it would affect us in a drastic way," says Vidalia city manager Bill Torrance.

A spokesman for the State Revenue Department says it will work with the state Attorney General to see if an interim solution can be done legally.

Meanwhile, Vidalia city manager Bill Torrance regrets the administration of former county chairman Buddy West refused to reach agreement with the cities.  The refusal cost local governments an estimated $300,000 in fees and court costs and now is causing a whole new set of problems.

"The offer was always on the table to leave it like it was.  I don't think anyone could have foreseen this because we were following the law.  I wish we could have been one of the counties that through cooperative efforts left it like it was at the time and not spent that money and now have the potential danger of losing the sales taxes along with the money that was spent in court.  It's s shame," Torrance said.


October 11--  Some victims of domestic violence endure for years, but in some cases it happens unexpectedly.

{mosimage}"My ex-husband was trying to control me and keep me from leaving the house.  He had never been abusive but in 20 minutes I became a victim of domestiv violence and was shot three times," said Valerie Williams Thursday to a Domestic Violence Awareness Month luncheon sponsored the The Refuge Domestic Violence Shelter in Toombs County.

Williams, from Brunswick, has three chiildren and was appointed by Governor Nathan Deal to the Georgia Commission on Family Violence.  Her advice to abused women is to seek help and get out.

"Try to get some help.  Be very smart and get a safety plan if you're thinking about leaving. Let someone know.  Don't be afraid and don't feel like it's your fault.  Domestic violence is very prevalent and lives are being destroyed and children are being lost.  Find someone you can communicate with and make a safety plan so you can get out," she advises.

One place you can get help is "The Refuge" which serves a five-county area surrounding Vidalia.

According to Director Betty Dell Williams, "We want to get the word out that there is a shelter here that helps victims of domestic violence.  We want them to know there is hope.  As we heard the story today, you can go from victim to survivor to overcomer.  That's what we want for victims.  We want them to get out, to be safe and to have hope.

"We're a 24-bed facility and we serve women and children inside the shelter and we also serve men.  If a man needs a place to go, we'll put him in a motel.

"They do not have to come into the shelter to get our services.  We have services such a temporary protective order.  Some women choose to go stay with family or with friends and in that case we help with protective orders and support groups.  We also have support groups for the children," Williams explains.

You can contact "The Refuge" by calling 538-9935.

October 10--  The Atlanta Business Chronicle reports on a ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court regarding a Georgia law which prescribes the process counties and their muncipalities must use to decide how proceeds of Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) will be divided.

The process was employed in Toombs County last year when the county and the cities of Vidalia, Lyons and Santa Claus could not meet an amicable agreement and ended up in court to decide the issue.

"The Georgia Supreme Court has issued a ruling that could affect the ability of cities and counties to collect local option sales tax (LOST) revenue.

In a unanimous opinion issued Monday, the justices declared unconstitutional an amendment to the 1975 Local Option Sales Tax Act approved by the General Assembly in 2010 allowing cities and counties that can’t agree on how to split the revenue to appeal to the courts.

The Supreme Court declared that having a judge decide how to allocate tax revenue puts what should be a legislative decision into the hands of the judicial branch of government.

“The authority to levy a tax is a legislative function of the state or local governments created by the state,” Justice Robert Benham wrote in the decision. “To the extent the 2010 amendment to the LOST Act permits judicial resolution of the issue … the amendment violates the separation of powers doctrine.”

Amy Henderson, spokeswoman for the Georgia Municipal Association, said the ruling has created uncertainty among local government officials on how to collect sales taxes moving forward.

“This leaves a lot of questions,” she said. “What does it mean for the cities and counties that have reached an agreement [on dividing sales tax revenue] through the courts and for those that don’t have an agreement?”

One potential response would be for the General Assembly to short-circuit the high court by passing a constitutional amendment and putting it on the statewide ballot, an approach lawmakers have taken in recent years following other rulings.

Local governments have used LOST revenue to help hold a lid on property taxes in their communities. Unlike the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), which is limited to capital spending, LOST revenue can be used for operating costs."


October 10--  A $500 reward is being offered by the Vidalia Area Crimestoppers regarding a Wednesday burglary in Vidalia.

Vidalia Police Lieutenant Jimmy Sims says the home of Vidalia Mayor Pro Tem Raymond Turner at 1002 Raymonia Circle was burglarized and several thousand dollars worth of items including jewelry were stolen.

If you have information regarding this crime, you can call the Vidalia Crimestoppers Hotline anonymously.  If your information leads to an arrest, you will be given the $500 cash reward.

The number is 1-866-439-6313.

October 7--  The city of Lyons is setting up zones for weekly pickup of yard trash.

City Manager Jason Hall says four zones have been identified with Zone One serviced the first week of the month, Zone Two the second week, Zone Three the third week and Zone Four the fourth week,

"Nothing has changed about normal household garbage.  It still goes in the blue container and it's picked up on your normal weekly pickup day.

The only thing that's changed is your brush-debris pickup, limbs, tree trimmings and things like that.  If you know your zone and week it's picked up, just make sure you have it all out there at that time and it will be picked up sometime during that week.  Then you'll have three more weeks before it's picked up again," Hall said.

The zone map for yard trash pickup is shown below.


October 7--  If severe weather is heading for Montgomery County and you live there, you can be warned directly by the Code Red Emergency Notification System.

It's a free service, but you have to sign up, according to Montgomery County Emergency Management Director Andrew Leanza.

"We dont' have any weather warning sirens in this county.  We're actually the 131st county in Georgia to sign up.  You will receive notification if the national weather service issues a weather alert for your area.

Montgomery County will use the Code Red System Friday to contact as many residents as possible whose names and phone numbers are available.  However, if you're not contacted, you can get in the data base yourself.

"Go to and look for the Code Red link.  It takes you to a website where you can sign up for the kind of warnings you would like to receive (tornado, severe thunderstorn , flood warning, etc).  It asks you for your name, address and phone numbers, email and it will contact you in case of severe weather," Leandra says.

October 7--  Montgomery County High School observed the school's homecoming Friday night before the football game with Treutlen High School.

{mosimage}Roxy Burkett and Jared Quarterman were crowned as the Homecoming Queen and King.

October 7--  A Toombs County Grand Jury has returned 35 indictments including seven for drug related accusations.

Winston Salem, Jr. and Jamie Springer indicted for cocaine; charges related to prescription drugs against Wesley Redlin, Debra Hutcheson, Jeannie Sanchez and Andrea Terrell; meth charges against Marilyn Aeger and James Lee Partin; and marijuana indictments were returned against Johnny Edwards and Carenzo Jackson.

In incidents at the Toombs County Detention Center, Sara Kent was indicted for a riot in a penal institution.  Roger Jefferson is charged with furnishing prohibited items for inmates and four inmates charged with possession of prohibited items are Paula Pickren, Judy Mixon, Krista Collier and Ryan Belch.

Aggravated assault and battery indictments were returned against seven people including Kenneth Inman, Sr., Andrea Atkins, Joseph Phillips, Michael Byrd, Leroy Smith, Jerome Mincey and Jeanne Gunby.

Nine people are facing burglary-related indictments including Michael Kilpatrick, Nevada McCall, Christopher Day, Brianna Brantley, Donovan Connell, Donovan Hackle, Nathan Drew, Jimmy Edenfield, Jr., and Robert Williamson.

Theft by receiving stolen property indictments are pending against Jonathan Jordan, Cameron Williamson and Elizabeth Kirkley,

Obstruction of an officer indictments are facing John Pace, Rocfellie Green and Anitra Wiggins-Layne.

Inocente Dykes and Bruce Watts are indicted for possession of a firearm by a convicrted felon.

Francesca Blaine is accused of a bomb threat at the Vidalia Police Department and Matthew Johnson, Jr. is charged with failure to register as a sex offender.


October 4-- On the afternoon of Wednesday, Oct. 9, employees at the Edwin I. Hatch Nuclear Plant will conduct a hostile action-based practice exercise in coordination with federal, state and local emergency officials.

“We want to inform the community that this is only a drill and there is no cause for concern,” said Dennis Madison, Hatch site vice president. “Southern Nuclear’s top priority is the safety and health of its employees and the public. We work closely with our emergency response partners to ensure we are 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 of this emergency exercise is
for a nuclear power plant to demonstrate its ability to protect the public, plant operations and employees through the coordination of onsite security and emergency response with offsite federal, state and local emergency responders and agencies.

During the hostile action-based practice exercise, numerous law enforcement and emergency responders may be onsite and around the community. Emergency response vehicles may be observed entering and
exiting the facility. Law enforcement may also utilize helicopters to support the response effort.

The final evaluated hostile action-based emergency exercise will be conducted on Wednesday, Nov. 13. If you have questions regarding this emergency exercise, you may contact 1-855-880-2058.

October 4--  Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores in area public schools are down this year and are well below the state average.

The state average SAT score is 1,452 points, the same as last year.  However, among ten area high schools, the average is 1,353 points, or 99 points less than the state average. The national average is 1,498 points.

In area rankings, Jeff Davis High School is first with 1,402 points, Vidalia High School is second with 1,379, Treutlen is third with 1,373, Montgomery County High School is fourth with 1,361, Toombs County High School is fifth with 1,359 points, Tattnall County High School is sixth with 1,353. Metter High School is seventh with 1,352, Appling County High School comes in eighth with 1,337, ninth place goes to Swainsboro High School with 1,312 and Wheeler County High School is tenth with 1,304 points.

Vidalia High School principal John Sharpe says one bright spot is the success of students who are taking the most difficult courses.  Of the 82 VHS students who took the test, those in rigorouse courses did well.

"We're not happy with the overall test scores and we'd like to see them go up.  We're having more and more students take the SAT and those who take the most rigorous courses, the honors and advanced placement classes, are really excelling and exceeding the national average.  Those are the classes which really gear you up for success at the college level.

"Some of the other students don't have that content background that would enable them to score as well on the SAT," Sharpe notes.

Among private schools, Robert Toombs Christian Academy is well above the national and state averages with an average score of 1,628.  It's worth noting the school has only tested ten of its 20 seniors so far which is far less than the number of students tested in the public schools.

RTCA guidance counselor Mabel Williamson believes the smaller classes are an advantage to RTCA students.

"When our students go into the tracks in high school we discuss their future.  We get with them in the ninth and ten grades to prepare them for the University System or the colleges in our area.

"Our English teachers are very aware of the skills which are needed for these students in college.  Our math department tries to drive these students to the math skills they need for success in college.

"We also offer an elective for one semester which helps students prepare for going into a testing environment and I think that helps also," she says.

High School












Jeff Davis





























































October 3-- Augusta businessman Rick Allen today asked why Congressman John Barrow voted twice to keep the World War II Memorial closed in Washington, D.C instead of joining a majority of bi-partisan lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives to fund America's national parks, museums and monuments.

The U.S House voted Tuesday and Wednesday to provide funding for national parks, museums and monuments and both times Barrow voted NO.

“It took more federal personnel to secure the WWII Memorial from veterans than are typically standing guard there—so this is clearly a political act,” Rick said. “A bi-partisan group of House members voted to fund parks, museums and memorials and open the World War II Memorial for the veterans visiting Washington, D.C., but President Obama and John Barrow are focused on inflicting pain on Americans as a tool to save Obamacare and that is flat out wrong.

These men and women put their lives on hold and freed the world from oppression and tyranny, but John Barrow thinks it is more important
to protect Obamacare than it is to honor those that stormed the beaches of Normandy. Why would he do that?"

The U.S House of Representatives voted on H.J. Res. 70 Tuesday evening, but the joint resolution did not receive the two-thirds of the vote in the House to suspend the rules and pass the bill. Wednesday, House Republicans brought H.J. Res. 70 back up under regularorder and it passed the U.S. House 252-173. Barrow voted both times against it.

H.J. Res. 70 now awaits action in the U.S. Senate.

The U.S. Park Service closed the World War II Memorial and placed barricades andyellow police tape to keep veterans on Honor Flights from visiting the memorial. The veterans of World War II pushed the barricades aside so they could visit the memorial.

October 2--  Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight says Lyons Upper Elementary School was locked down for a while Monday.

The sheriff said precautions were taken after a teacher at the school received threatening letters and notified her school principal.

According to the sheriff, a Montgomery County man with a history of mental problems sent the letter.  No charges were filed but the man was picked up for evaluation.

October 2--  Montgomery County commissioners and mayors from the county's six towns met Monday night and agreed on distribution of future sales tax proceeds.

Assuming voters approve collection of a one percent special purpose local option sales tax at the polls in 2014, the governments plan to use the same distribution formula as is currently in effect during a six-year period starting in 2015.

Montgomery County:  54.18%

Mount Vernon:  25.56%

Uvalda:  6.55%

Ailey:  6.03%

Higgston:  3.54%

Alston:  1.74%

Tarrytown:  .98%

Vidalia:  1.42%

Officials also discussed the need to develop a multi-year budget to fund a county recreation program.  The commission said it would provide $15,000 and Mount Vernon Mayor Joey Fountain said he thought the city could provide $10,000.  The other mayors were asked to seek approval from their city councils for annual funding of $5,000.

The program is conducted by the county school system.  Superintendent Randy Rodgers said an annual budget of $50,000 is needed for operations.

October 2--  The Toombs County Commission is pledging one mil of county taxes to support the Toombs County Development Authority. 

The action at a called meeting Tuesday night means the Authority will receive an estimated $666,000 in fiscal year 2014 to support economic development initiatives in the county.

The Commission also agreed to amend the terms of a $500,000 state grant for the Mercy Medical Clinic in Vidalia.  The amendment must be approved by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

It seeks to do some renovation and add space to the Toombs County Health Department to house the Mercy Clinic.  If disapproved, the money would be used to build a new building for the clinic on Maple Drive in Vidalia in accordance with the original grant request.

October 2--  The City of Lyons today announces its intention to increase the property taxes it will levy this year by .06 percent over the rollback millage rate.

This tentative increase will result in a millage rate of 2.89 mills, an increase of 0 (Zero) mills. Without this tentative tax increase, the millage rate will be no more than 2.83 mills. The proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $100,000 is approximately $2.40.

Mayor Willis NeSmith says the increase will generate $12,881 for the city.

Each year, the board of tax assessors is required to review the assessed value for property tax purposes of taxable property in the county. When the trend of prices on properties that have recently sold in the county indicate there has been an increase in the fair market value of any specific property, the board of tax assessors is required by law to re-determine the value of such property and adjust the assessment. This is called a reassessment.

When the total digest of taxable property is prepared, Georgia law requires that a rollback millage rate must be computed that will produce the same total revenue on the current year’s digest that last year’s millage rate would have produced had no reassessments occurred.

The budget tentatively adopted by the City of Lyons requires a millage rate higher than the rollback millage rate; therefore, before the City of Lyons may finalize the tentative budget and set a final millage rate, Georgia law requires three public hearings to be held to allow the public an opportunity to express their opinions on the increase.

Public hearings will be held at the Lyons City Hall October 10 at 12 p.m., October 15 at 7 p.m., and October 17 at 12 p.m. in conjunction with a called meeting of the city council.

October 1--  A former Navy SEAL and U.S. Army Warrant Officer says he's planning to run in next year's Republican primary to represent the 156th District in the Georgia House of Representatives.

Since graduating from Vidalia High School in 1988, Lee Burton spent more than 20 years in the military with Navy deployments in support of the first gulf war in Iraq, SEAL operations in Yugoslavia, the Middle East and Africa, and Army deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq and duty in Israel.

"My whole point is I served you honorably overseas and now I'd like to serve you here," Burton says.

Burton would challenge Representative Greg Morris of Vidalia who is in his eighth term representing the 156th District in the Georgia House.  

{mosimage}After retiring from the military, Burton came home and starting getting involved with politics.  He was an alternate delegate to the 2012 National Republican Convention in Tampa where he met former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his wife, Callista. 

Burton is currently a vice-chair of the Toombs County Republican Party and represented the county at the state convention this year in Athens.  He's a member of the Georgia Tea Party.

"I just want to get in there and do my part and try to be a representative of the people, serve them honorably and stay in touch with them.  I didn't want to do anything larger than the district because this is right here where I live.  It's where my friends are and it's where my family has been.  I've come back, I love it here, and I want to do anything I can to make it better," he said.

Burton is a former Navy SEAL sniper instructor who says he's now taking aim at welfare fraud and job creation in rural Georgia.

"We have to do something with our welfare program that's going on in this state.  Hard working people are paying their money and they see abuses in the system.  Everybody wants help other people, but we'd rather see somebody get a ladder to climb instead of an elevator to ride.

"We've got to reduce unemployment here.  With the new Savannah port down here, it's the second largest exporting port in the country, and there's no reason we couldn't use that to get some jobs in this district.  We've got to do something with the taxes to give incentives for businesses to come in here and try to help us out," Burton said.


October 1--  The Chairman of the Toombs County Commission has been named by Georgia Trend magazine to its annual listing of outstanding young Georgians.

It's the 17th year Georgia Trend has presented a group of 40 outstanding Georgians under the age of 40. The honorees represent business, government, politics, nonprofits, science, conservation and education.

The 40 were chosen from nominations made by readers throughout the state. Final selections were made by the Georgia Trend editorial staff.

{mosimage}From left: Sonji Jacobs Dade, director of communications for the mayor of Atlanta; Amir Farokhi, founding director of GeorgiaForward; Melissa Tymchuk, director of public relations and marketing for Northeast Georgia Health System; and Blake Tillery, Toombs County Commission chairman.

Blake Tillery, at age 29, is one of the two youngest people on this year's list.  He was nominated for the award by Charles Andrew and Howard Holman of Vidalia.  

The magazine writes, "When Tillery was an undergraduate studying international affairs at the University of Georgia, he ran for a seat on the Clarke County Commission. “That was unsuccessful, but I came within 300 votes of unseating my English professor at the time,” he says, “and that gave me a taste for politics. I’m one of those extroverts who loves being in a group discussion, whether it involves property taxes or the Braves.”

He won his next race back in Toombs County, and now he is guiding his community toward consolidation. “We’re working with neighboring counties to be among the first to integrate our services as much as possible to bring the most service to taxpayers for the lowest cost,” he says.

He practices trial law at Smith & Tillery, teaches at Brewton-Parker College and volunteers for the local Boys and Girls Club, Heart of Georgia Altamaha Workforce Investment Board and Kiwanis Club."


October 1-- Former Georgia Secretary of State and U.S. Senate candidate Karen Handel today said the current government shutdown is the result of a "failure of leadership in Washington" and called on the President and members of Congress to return their pay to the Treasury during the shutdown.

"The government shutdown is a result of a failure of leadership in Washington and the inability of those we elected to do their jobs. And, what are we hearing from Washington this morning? Excuses and blame -- neither of which are going to stop the destructive effects of Obamacare on the American people and our economy; neither of which are going to get our country's fiscal house in order," Karen said.  

"It's time for real leadership and a rational plan to cut the reckless spending, including the trillions related to Obamacare, before it bankrupts our country and dims the opportunities of future generations," Karen added.  "In the real world, if you don't do your job, you don't get a paycheck
.  Congress and the President should forfeit their pay during the shutdown.  They clearly are not earning it."

October 1--  Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports Toombs County deputies responded to a 911 call Friday night on Highway 152 on the Toombs-Tattnall County line.  He says a woman had been stabbed in the neck.  

Deputies used a four-wheel vehicle to move the woman from the Ohoopee River bank under the Highway 152 bridge to the bridge where a helicopter landed to rush her to Savannah. 

Sheriff Kight said she had lost a lot of blood.  The case was turned over to the Tattnall County Sheriff's Office since she was found on the Tattnall Counti side of the river.

The Tattnall County Sheriff's office issued the following information on the incident.

"On Friday, September 27, 2013 The Tattnall County Sheriff’s Office responded to an assault at the Ohoopee River Bridge on Hwy 152 West of Cobbtown, Georgia. Responding Deputies found the 32-year-old Michelle Morris laying on the river bank suffering from life threatening injuries. Emergency personnel flew Morris to Savannah, Georgia for treatment of her injuries.

     During the investigation information was gathered that lead to Christopher Lee Barwick, age 32, of Metter, Georgia as a possible suspect. An extensive man hunt was conducted for Barwick who was apprehended at his family’s home early Saturday morning.  Barwick is currently being held at the Tattnall County Jail without bond on multiple felony charges related to the assault. 

    Sheriff Quinton Rush would like to express his appreciation to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (Region Five Statesboro) for their assistance with the investigation and the Candler County Sheriff’s Office, Metter Police Department, Toombs County Sheriff’s Office, Georgia State Patrol (Reidsville & Statesboro Posts), Georgia State Patrol Aviation Unit, and Georgia State Prison K-9 Unit with their help in the search of Barwick."

October 1--  Twelfth District U.S. Congressman John Barrow answers frequently asked questions about the federal government shutdown in an email newsletter to constituents.

"At midnight, funding for government operations ended.  As a result, you’ll begin to see limited services available from the government in a number of areas.  It’s unfortunate that partisanship has led to the first government shutdown in 17 years.  I’ll continue to work during this time to find common ground to get the government running at full capacity again.  A pro-longed shutdown will only damage our economy. 

I’ve compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions for you to help you understand what’s going on during this shutdown.  With limited employees available to assist with Social Security, Medicare, and veterans claims, I want to make sure you’re taken care of during this time. My staff and I are available to assist in any way that we can.

1.       What causes a shutdown? Under the Constitution, Congress must pass – and the President must sign – laws to fund the government. If Congress can’t agree on that law – or if the President vetoes it – the government does not have the legal authority to operate.

2.       Why is this happening now? Current authority to spend money expired at midnight on September 30.  Because there is no authority to spend money, the federal government shuts down.

3.       Does a shutdown mean all federal government functions stop? No.  There are two major categories for federal employees in the event of a shutdown: exempted and non-exempted.  In a shutdown, exempted employees continue to work, although without pay.  Non-exempted employees report to work just for enough time to secure their office and may not continue to work beyond then. 

4.       What parts of the federal government continue to function?  There are key government functions that carry on during a shutdown, including anything related to national security, public safety, or programs written into permanent law.  Every federal branch, department, and agency has published a review of their employees to determine which employees are exempted and which are non-exempted.  You can see the reviews for the Executive Branch here.  You can see the reviews for the Legislative Branch here.  You can see the reviews for the Judicial Branch here. I have instructed my staff to report to work for two purposes: to work toward reopening the federal government and to be available to help any with any federal agency that is unresponsive due to limited staff. 

5.       And which parts must shut down? Everything else.

6.       Specifically, what will be open and what will not?  You can find some more questions and answers from the USA Today article here.

7.       Will I still receive my mail? Yes.

8.       Will I still receive my Social Security or Veterans Affairs check? Yes, but if the shutdown is prolonged, then it may be delayed.

9.        What will happen to my Veterans Affairs benefits?  Some benefits will be impacted, and others will not.  You can see more information here.

10.     Will I still have my Medicare insurance? Yes.

11.     Could government agencies ignore the shutdown? Under a federal law known as the Anti-Deficiency Act, it can be a felony to spend taxpayer money without an appropriation from Congress.

As always, please do not hesitate to call my office at (202) 225-2823 if you have any questions.  We will be open each day from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  You can find more information as it becomes available at"