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February 28--  Two Brewton Parker College students were killed Thursday afternoon when a tree fell on their truck as they were traveling on U.S. Highway 280 in Ailey.

{mosimage}College President Dr. Mike Simoneaux said 20-year-old Johnathan Bell of Monticello and 19-year-old Kevin Camp of Shady Dale were on their way to junior varsity baseball practice when the accident happened.

A huge pine tree, its roots undermined by recent rains, was apparently toppled by wind and fell directly on the small S-10 pickup.  

College officials and area ministers met with the college student body early Thursday evening to tell students what happened.

Dr. Simoneaux says a memorial service will be held later.

February 28--  A hearing for a suspended Toombs County school teacher was delayed Thursday in Toombs County Superior Court.

The attorney for teacher and soccer coach Jimmy Price had to appear in another case in U.S. District Court in Statesboro and could not attend the hearing in Lyons.

Judge Bobby Reeves reset the hearing date for March 21.  

Judge Reeves earlier granted Price a temporary injunction prohibiting the Toombs County school board from reconsidering Price's 90-day suspension without pay and ordering him to repay more than $3,500 in unaccounted for school funds.

Price claims the board's decision violates Georgia law.

February 28--  The sheriff of Toombs County is afraid politicians will push through a quick fix on gun violence and ignore the underlying causes.

"They're looking at assault weapons like the AR-15 and clip capacity and things like that.  They're looking at a quick fix," says Sheriff Junior Kight.

The sheriff believes attention needs to be given to rebuilding a credible mental health system.  For example, the state mental health hospital at Milledgeville used to hold thousands of mentally ill patients and now has a population in the hundreds.

"A lot of these people need long term care.  I hate to say it but some people just don't need to be out on the streets," Sheriff Kight says.

"Treatment is usually three to five days and they send them back home.  They get them on medication a lot of the time and it works.  The problem is the patients quit taking the medication and think they can handle the situation on their own.  That's when problems begin to start again," he notes.

Sheriff Kight also believes federal privacy rules regarding patient information need to be modified to help law enforcement monitor potential problems.

"It restrains law enforcement from getting information on mental health people that could be harmful to themselves as wall as others.  We need that information and we're not able to get it," he says.

 

 

February 27--  Local authorities have arrested two people on drug charges.

{mosimage}Thirty-two-year old Ricky Recardo Brown of Lyons was arrested by a Toombs County deputy sheriff who confiscated crack and powder cocaine with an estimated street value of $2,000.

In Vidalia, 33-year-old Wesley Allan Redlin was charged after Vidalia police searched his residence at 908 Jungle Road and found marijuana, Zanax and Roxicodone pills.  

{mosimage}February 27--  The Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society sold more than $5,000 worth of spay-ghetti plates at its annual fundraiser Tuesday night at the Vidalia Community Center. Student musicians from Vidalia High School entertained while the crowd enjoyed the spay-ghetti.

{mosimage}The funds are used to help pay for spaying and neutering of stray dogs and cats in an effort to control the population and eliminate the need for killing the animals.

{mosimage}The food was cooked and delivered by Sam and his folks from Steeplechase and placed on plates by Denise Parsons and helpers from Vidalia High School and members of the "For the Love of Pets" group at J.R. Trippe Middle School.

{mosimage} {mosimage}

Servers kept the food line going while veterinarians (L-R)Walter Perry, Chuck Faulk, Paul May and Merrick Tollison poured the tea and water for diners.

{mosimage}The tiniest attendee was this little Lab in the arms of SOAPS member Thyra Burkowski. 

 

February 27--  New federal regulations designed to reduce calories and sodium in school lunches are causing fewer students to eat what's on the cafeteria line in the Vidalia City school system.

{mosimage}School system nutritionist Linda Collins says, "Some of the students are deciding not to eat.  We've seen a decrease in school lunch participation.  It's kind of increased again at Dickerson Primary and Sally Meadows Elementary.  I think J.R. Trippe Middle School is the lowest participation right now.  The high school students come and go with whether they choose to eat or not."

Participation at J.R. Trippe is down about eleven percent, but cafeteria manager Dianne Taylor says their students are eating what they want.

"I think they're picking up less trays, but they're eating and buying what they want such as entrees, fries or whatever it is they want to eat," she observes while noting that food on the new menu is healthier for the students.

Smaller portions are being served and more vegetables and fruits are being offered.  

"It's been really a challenge this year because we're having to adjust to the new regulations and we're trying to make it a positive thing because students need to eat more healthy, not just at school but at home, too.

"Also, you have to think about exercise.  Many students get no exercise at school.  It's a wellness issue.  It's not just food at school, it's food at home.  It's student well-being.  The whole person is what we need to think about," Collins believes. 

 

February 26--  Here's an update on school closings in the area due to heavy rains and bad road conditions.

*  The Montgomery County school system will closed Wednesday for students, staff and faculty.  The missed day will be made up March 8.

*  The Toombs County school system remains closed Wednesday.

*  Schools in Treutlen County will re-open Wednesday.

* Southeastern Tech is open for classes today and tomorrow.

February 26--  Supporters of the right to own and bear arms in accordance with the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution didn't let Saturday's constant downpour dampen their determination.

{mosimage}Organizers from the Vidalia Tea Party Patriots report good attendance at the Vidalia Onion Factory despite the rain.  

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight was among the speakers in support of the Second Amendment.

February 26--  The estate of a missing investment banker is suing a local bank holding company and its directors for alleged fraudulent activities.

Florida attorney Melanie Damian filed a federal law suit against Montgomery County Bankshares, holding company for the now defunct Montgomery Bank and Trust, and its directors.

Damian is the court-appointed lawyer to recover Lee Price's assets and help investors recoup some of their losses.

Prosecutors say Price raised $40 million from the bank and 115 investors and lost most of the money.  He is alleged to have stolen up to $17 million before he vanished last summer.  

A Florida circuit court judge has issued a presumptive death certificate that he "took his own life at sea."  However, federal authorities are skeptical of Price's suicide and continue searching.

The federal civil suit claims Price and his investors would never have invested more than $10 million in Montgomery Bank and Trust had they known the true value of the bank's assets.

They claim the assets were overvalued by more than $50 million and want their investment returned.

The complaint claims the holding company directors are liable and names as defendants bank president Trae Dorough, Charles Clements, Larry Coleman, Mary Jeanne Fulmer, Greg Morris, Lloyd Moses, Thomas Peterson, William Peterson, Thomas Peterson III, Miller Robinson, John Robinson, Dee Ann McDaniel, Blanche Carswell, William Peterson Jr. and William Peterson,III.

February 26-- Atorneys for Lyons businessman Michael Grimes are asking a judge for a stay in a law suit against him.

Grimes is being sued by former female employee Chelsea White for "repeated sexually-oriented inappropriate conduct and unconsented physical contact."

At a hearing in Toombs County Superior Court, lawyers asked Judge Cathy Palmer to stay further discovery in the case until a criminal investigation is completed by the Lyons Police Department.

Judge Palmer's ruling on the motion is expected within a few days.

February 25--  There will be no school in Toombs County Tuesday and Wednesday.

County School Superintendent Dr. Kim Corley says schools are being closed because of the heavy rain which has made county roads too dangerous for school bus travel.

The missed days will be made up March 11th and 12th.

School has also been cancelled in the Treutlen County School System on Tuesday, however, Treutlen teachers and staff are to report at ten a.m.

Meanwhile, schools in Montgomery County will remain open.

February 25--  The Vidalia High School Quiz Bowl Team took second place in state competition Saturday at Cedar Shoals High School in Athens.

The nine freshmen and sophomores played ten games against schools from AAAA, AAA and AA.  After losing to Westminster, the eventual state champion, the Indian quiz kids defeated every other AA school it faced.  

{mosimage}Quiz Bowl team members are:  Front Row –left to right:  Marissa Poole, Raiden Honnaker, Jadin Cross, Sterling James, and William Collins Second Row – left to right: Nicholas Owens, Melanie Lariscey, Taylor Fabacher, and Brent Miller.

February-- A dog named "Boo" at her new Mom's wedding.  Volunteers from the Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society rescued "Boo" from the Lyons Animal Shelter last summer and she was adopted by a New York couple in time for their wedding last Fall.

{mosimage}Her Mom writes,  "She is the sweetest, most wonderful dog in the world. She has changed our life in such an incredible way.

Boo was a big part of our wedding this fall. She was even in the church!

We are forever grateful to you and your amazing organization.

Your work is so important and enriches the lives of so many animals and so, so many humans. I hope what you do will always bring a great deal of pride and meaning to your life," said Mary Finalborgo.


 

 

 

 

February 23--At the February meeting, members of the Meadows Regional Medical Center Medical Staff Youth Advisory Board learned Friends and Family CPR under the instruction of Joe Hulett, Paramedic.  The CPR training is offered in February to coincide with the American Heart month.

 {mosimage}The Board is composed of area juniors and seniors with exceptional academic records and interests in a medical related career.   Montgomery County High School, Robert Toombs Christian Academy, Toombs County High School, Treutlen High School and Vidalia High School are all represented on the board.   

The Board began meeting on a monthly basis in September.  The programs each month vary, from topics on healthcare, to community issues, to special guests discussing topics that are interesting and informative to the students.

Participants learned about the healthcare industry and how integral healthcare is to the welness and vitality of a community.  The motto for the program is LEADING TODAY’S YOUTH TO A HEALTHIER TOMORROW.  The MRMC Medical Staff hopes this program will provide participants with the knowledge, confidence, and skills to encourage them to pursue a healthcare related career.

 

February 23-- With less than a week until the March 1, 2013, deadline to pay all federal benefits electronically, the Treasury Department reported today that nearly 129,000 Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) checks are sent each month to benefit recipients in Georgia.

The Treasury Department is urging Social Security and other federal benefit recipients to not delay and switch now to either direct deposit or the Direct Express® Debit MasterCard® card.

Check recipients can sign up for direct deposit or the Direct Express® card by calling toll-free 1-800-333-1795, visiting www.GoDirect.org, or talking to their local federal paying agency office. The process is fast, easy and free.

February 23— Flat Creek Dairy in Emanuel County has been invited to compete in the final round of the 2013 Flavor of Georgia Contest March 11-12 at the Georgia Railroad Freight Depot in Atlanta.

Flat Creek Lodge’s Georgia Red is one of three cheeses selected as finalists in the dairy product contest.

The Flavor of Georgia Food Product Contest is a chance for food businesses to highlight their new products and gather feedback from a panel of food industry professionals.

Finalists will be bring their products to the final round of judging March 11-12 as part of Governor's Annual Agriculture Awareness Week, at the Georgia Railroad Freight Depot in Atlanta.

This year 25 finalists were selected from a field of more than 100 products thatwere submitted the contest’s eight categories.

“Food entrepreneurs from every corner of the state submitted delicious and innovative Georgia products this year,” said Sharon P. Kane, Flavor of Georgia contest coordinator. “From the onion fields in south Georgia to in-town Atlanta, we received products that show off the best that the state has offer.”

Kane, a food business development specialist, and her colleagues at the Center for Agribusiness and Environmental Sciences at the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, have organized the annual contest since 2007.

 

Judges for this year’s final round of the Flavor of Georgia contest include food brokers, buyers, chefs and other food industry experts. They judge each entry on flavor, use of Georgia ingredients, Georgia theme, innovation, commercial appeal and originality in each category.

Other finalists in the dairy category include Udderly Cool Dairy Applewood Smoked Gouda by Udderly Cool Dairy, LLC in Roopville and Capra Gia Tuscano Marinated Feta by The Capra Gia Cheese Co. in Carrollton.

Finalists in the contest’s other seven categories can be found here www.flavorofgeorgia.caes.uga.edu.

Winners will receive a plaque presented by Governor Nathan Deal and Commissioner ofAgriculture Gary Black, membership in Growing Georgia and bragging rights.

All of the finalists earn the right to have their products stamped with the 2013 Flavor of Georgia logo, and they will gain exposure to the grocery buyers and food science professionals who judge the final round of the contest.

Kane followed up with the 2011 finalists and found that between 70 and 80 percent experienced increased interest in their products, sales and business contacts as a result of the contest.

All of the 2013 Flavor of Georgia entries will be featured in the Flavor of Georgia Product Director. More information about the contest is available is at www.flavorofgeorgia.caes.uga.edu.

This contest is sponsored by the UGA CAES Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development in partnership with the Center of Innovation for Agribusiness, Office of Governor Nathan Deal, Walton EMC, the Georgia Department of Agriculture, the Georgia Agribusiness Council and the UGA Department of Food Science and Technology.

 

February 22--  The Association County Commissioners of Georgia provides an update on its perspective of what's going on in the Georgia General Assembly. (Editor's Note:  This is info provided to county commissioners by the ACCG and should be taken in that context.)

"ACCG spent much of the week keeping a watchful eye on legislation and working with House and Senate members as bills moved through legislative committees and subcommittees.The Georgia General Assembly passed the halfway point of the 40-day legislative session on Wednesday and has a full two weeks ahead leading up to Day 29 on March 5.

 

Legislators are working hard to get their bills through the House and Senate committees and onto their respective chamber’s floor in advance of crossover day on Day 30. Legislation that has not passed in either the House or the Senate by that time may no longer be considered in its current form during this legislative session. As a result, many bills are on a fast track and are expected to move quickly in the next several days. 

 

County priority initiatives are doing well, but ACCG continues to monitor several issues of concern. As the legislative session progresses, please watch for ACCG action alerts if county input is needed on specific bills. Make sure that you know how to get in touch with your legislators quickly as there is often a very narrow window of time to get in contact with them when legislation is heading to the House or Senate floor.

 

Title Ad Valorem Legislation Stalls in the Senate

 

The legislation (HB 80) that sets forth changes to the title ad valorem tax (TAVT) system has stalled in the Senate Finance Committee. At the same time, counties are working hard to prepare for the implementation of this new system which is set for March 1, 2013. With each passing day, it will become more and more difficult to get changes put into place for this new statewide system prior to its rollout. It is important for county tax commissioners to monitor this legislation and watch for guidance from the Department of Revenue on any changes that may need to be enacted quickly if it passes the Senate and is signed by the Governor prior to March 1. For more information on the title advalorem tax system, click here

 

Ethics Legislation Heads to the House Floor on Monday

 

ACCG has closely monitored the ethics legislation (HB 142 and HB 143) as it has progressed through the House.  This week, these bills were discussed and passed out of the House Rules Committee and are scheduled to be considered on the House floor on Monday, February 25. 

 

More to Come on Juvenile Justice Reform Next Week

The juvenile justice reform legislation (HB 242) cleared the House Judiciary Committee this week. This legislation is a combination of some of the provisions from the Juvenile Code Rewrite and the recommendations from the Criminal Justice Reform Council in regards to juvenile justice. The bill restructures the juvenile code to improve the process for practitioners and judges. For a section by section summary, please click here

To see the entire Legislative Update, click here.

 

 

 

February 21--  If you buy a car from anybody after March 1st, you have to pay a new 6.5% one time title ad valorem tax.

The Georgia Department of Revenue is implementing the new Georgia law, according to Commissioner of Revenue Doug McGinnity.

"I think as most people know now, when you buy a car you usually pay sales tax and every year you get an ad valorem tax bill from your county.  After March 1 of this year, that system is going to change and both of those taxes are going away.

Instead, anytime a car is purchased, whether its new or used, whether from a friend or a dealer, you're going to pay a new tax known as a title ad valorem tax. Once you pay that tax, you're done.  You won't get that ad valorem tax bill anymore, but there will be a yearly registration you'll have to pay, but that ad valorem tax will go away for any car bought after March 1.  

All the cars you owned before March 1 can stay on the old system.  So there will be two systems here in Georgia.  The old system everyone is used to and the new system which goes in place March 1," McGinnity explains.

The value of the vehicle will not based on what you paid, but on the blue book value as determined by the Department of Revenue.

If you finance the vehicle, Toombs County Tax Commissioner Brenda O'Neal Williams says the 6.5% tax will be rolled into the purchase price.

"I assume all these dealerships are going to collect this money that is owed and they'll bring it down here at one time.  If you buy a $50,000 car and your taxes are "X" number of dollars, they're going to bring all that to us at one time and you can come down and purchase your tag.  If you finance your car, and most people do now, they will finance that amount in with your payment," she believes.

For more information on the new system, the Department of Revenue has a website, www.newtitletax.com , which gives details and answers frequently asked questions.

February 20--  A Vidalia teenager has been arrested for armed robbery.

Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits reports 18-year-old Tyquan Maurice Calloway is being charged for the January 17th holdup at the Kentucky Fried Chicken in Vidalia.  He was arrested a month after the robbery and taken to the Toombs County jail.

Chief Waits says more charges may be filed as the investigation continues.

February 20--  A re-hearing in the case of a suspended Toombs County teacher has been blocked by a court order.

Toombs County Superior Court Judge Bobby Reeves issued a 30-day temporary restraining order against the Toombs County school board late Tuesday.  It prevents a school board hearing which had been scheduled for teacher and soccer coach Jimmy Price for Thursday night, February 21.

On February 7 the school board suspended Price for 90 days without pay and ordered him to make restitution of more than $3,500 missing from fund raisers conducted by his soccer team.  He was also cited for leaving a student unattended at a local health clinic.

According to Price's attorney, the school board's punishment violated state law.

"When they conduct these hearings, they can do one of three things at the end of it.  They can terminate the teacher's contract, they can suspend the teacher without pay for up to 60 days or they can reinstate the teacher.  Those are the only three remedies the statute gives them," says Reidsville attorney Hugh McCullough.

A week after the initial hearing, School Superintendent Dr. Kim Corley made a motion that the school board reconsider its decision on Price on the grounds that it was contrary to law. 

On February 19, Price appealed the local board's decision to the Georgia Board of Education for exceeding its authority under state law.  His appeal says the school board cannot suspend him for more than 60 days nor can it order financial restitution.

Judge Reeves has scheduled a hearing on the restraining order for February 28th in Toombs County Superior Court.

"At that time, I will be arguing that he should continue the restraining order.  If he lifts it, then presumably the board would be free to continue as they intended to," McCullough reports.

February 20--  The Montgomery County school system is considering a move to charter schools.

At its February meeting Monday night, Louis Erste from the Georgia Department of Education briefed the county school board on options that could give the school system more flexibility under state regulations and provide financial assistance.

Erste says a charter school system option would provide the Montgomery County school system $1.5 million to help it implement plans spelled out in the charter.

"That's real money, especially in tough financial times.  We make it our job to put all the cards on the table, but it's up to them to decide.  In some cases it just makes sense," Erste said.

County School Superintendent Randy Rodgers believes the charter school system is the way to go and hopes it can get board approval and be implemented starting in fiscal year 2014.

All schools in Georgia have a June, 2015 deadline to decide on any changes to their mode of operation.  Because the Montgomery County school board is beginning strategic planning now, Erste says it is in a good position to get a head start.

"At the leadership level, once they realized this was before them, they asked me to come in, so I'm impressed," Erste noted.

Meanwhile, the school board was informed that Montgomery County High School principal Dr. Henry Walding is asking that his contract for next year not be renewed.  The contract for his assistant principal, Eric McDonald, was renewed.

The board also renewed the contract for elementary school principal Brittany Deen and hired Jeff Davis High School teacher Melanie McLemore to be the new assistant principal at the elementary school to succeed Ginger White.

It also hired Brenda Braddy, former bookkeeper at Montgomery County Bank, to keep books at the middle/high school.

Contracts were also renewed for central office employees Karen Poole, Audrey Walters and Luverne Mobley.

The school board also approved measures to install new locks and security systems where needed in the school system.

 

 

February 19--  If you need radiation treatments for cancer, you won't have to wait much longer to get them done in Vidalia.

A $1.7 million linear accelerator has arrived at Meadows Regional Medical Center and is expected to be installed, tested and ready to treat cancer patients by May 1, according to Meadows CEO Alan Kent.

"The linear accelerator is the heart of a radiation treatment center for cancer.  This is the device that emits radiation in highly controlled doses to affect tumors that patients have in certain types of cancer," he said.

The new Meadows accelerator is the only one of its kind in Georgia.

"Medical technology changes so rapidly that when you buy the newest one you have an opportunity to leapfrog the technology.  This just adds to our ability here to offer truly state of the art diagnosis and treatment," he adds.

The new radiation center will complement the already existing chemotherapy treatment available at Meadows.  Kent notes that means local patients can get complete cancer treatment in Vidalia and no longer face multiple trips out of town for treatment.

The delivery of the accelerator signals a new era for cancer patients, according to Meadows CEO Alan Kent. “We think the most exciting part of this is that it continues our mission of providing extraordinarily high quality medicine right here in our community so people don't have to travel," Kent said.

{mosimage}Meadows has partnered with Florida Radiation Oncology Group (FROG) to build Phase One of the cancer center situated on Highway 280, adjacent to the hospital. Last week Meadows announced the addition of Henry Cline, M.D., Radiation Oncologist coming from Northside Hospital in Atlanta, starting April 1.

Medical Oncology services will continue to be offered on the hospital’s main campus until phase two of the Cancer Center construction project is complete.   

{mosimage}According to Patrick Byrne, M.D., Medical Oncologist for Meadows Regional Cancer Center, “Our mission in oncology treatment and care is to give our patients and their families not just good cancer care, but the best."

{mosimage}In an effort to better serve this community a second Medical Oncologist, Stephen Tiley, D.O. will be joining Dr. Byrne at the Medical Oncology Center on August 1.

“We have been fighting to provide this region with radiation since 2004. Last week was a historical moment for the people of this area. We now can provide this community with three highly skilled oncologists and the technology match,” said Senior Vice President, Howard Holman.

 

 

 

February 18--  There may be a shift in property values in the next Toombs County tax digest.

Toombs County Commission Chairman Blake Tillery told the February commissioner's meeting that property values of commercial property is expected to show an increase.  He says that's because a thorough evaluation of business property hasn't been done in Toombs County in 20 years.

On the other hand, Tillery says some homeowners may see a decrease in residental property values due to the poor housing economy in the past few years.

County manager John Jones is starting a Total Quality Management Program to improve efficiency in county government.  It will set up feedback from frontline employees in each department on ways to improve county operations.

{mosimage}The county is starting a new employee recognition program and named building maintenenance employee Danielle Brinson as its first Employee of the Month.  She received a $50 gift certificate for a meal at a local restaurant.

The commission reappointed Howard Kaufold as the county attorney and named Ingrid Varn and Richard Williams to represent Toombs County tourism on the Altamaha River Partnership.

The commission also approved a change in its monthly meeting time.  Starting in March, the meetings will be held the third Tuesday of each month at 5:30 p.m. 

February 18-- Tickets for the 2013 production of “Tales from the Altamaha” are now available. 

Nine performances of the new play, “Legends, Lures & Corn Likker” are scheduled for April 4 - 13. 

Ticket prices range from $10 - $20; general admission tickets are available at Smith’s Hardware in Lyons and in Vidalia at the Downtown Vidalia Association Mainstreet Office and Ameris Bank at 1705 E. 1st Street. 

Reserved seat tickets can only be purchased at the Lyons Better Hometown Office at 134 NW Broad Street in downtown Lyons.

Call 912-526-6445 for more information or go to www.talesfromthealtamaha.com.

 

February 18-- State fire investigators with the office of Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens' office are looking into a church fire in Tattnall County.

According to investigators, the Collins Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Collins was destroyed by the fire. The blaze was reported at about 6:30 a.m. Sunday, by a nearby resident who saw the fire.

The cause of the fire is unknown at this time.

February 16--  The Toombs County school board is going to take another look at its decison in the case of a suspended teacher.

The board has called a meeting for Thursday, February 21st at 6:30 p.m. to reconsider its decision regarding Middle School teacher and varsity soccer coach Jimmy Price.

The meeting comes two weeks after the board conducted a fair dismissal hearing for Price. He was suspended 90 days without pay and ordered to make restitution to the school system of more than $3,500.

The money was missing from fund raisers conducted for the high school soccer team.  

The board also ruled Price violated school policy by leaving a 13-year-old student unsupervised at a local health clinic.

February 16--  A Toombs County man will complete his sentence in a shooting death case.

Superior Court Judge Cathy Palmer denied a motion by 63-year-old Norman NeeSmith that he be released early from jail due to illness. 

Last April NeeSmith pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of 22-year-old Justin Patterson and was sentenced to serve up to 14 months.

Patterson's family wanted NeeSmith to face a jury trial and objected to the plea and sentence.

The hearing on NeeSmith's motion was held Thursday in Toombs County Superior Court.

February 16--  A woman who killed her boyfriend last May in Vidalia is going to jail for 20 years.

Rochelle Hurst pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the death of Benjamin Herman Kelly.  She was indicted for malice murder in November for hitting Kelly in the head with a hammer and stabbing him in the chest.

The sentence was imposed by Superior Court Judge Cathy Palmer in Toombs County Superior Court.

In another case, Middle Judicial Circuit District Attorney Hayward Altman says a plea hearing has been set for former Lyons Police Chief Ricky Newsome.

Newsome was arrested in September, 2011 for allegedly selling a confiscated car and using the proceeds for his personal use in addition to taking other police department funds. It's also alleged he distributed an estimated ten pounds of confiscated marijuana and violated his oath of office by committing illegal acts.

He joined Lyons police in 1996 and was the police chief at the time of his arrest. He's currently out of jail on a $100,000 bond.

Newsome is expected to enter a guilty plea at a hearing Thursday, March 14th at 1:30 p.m. in Toombs County Superior Court.

 

 

February 14--  The Vidalia City School System spends less per pupil than most school systems but gets better results, according to a year-long study.

"When we look at this question of how strategically are you using your resources, I have been doing this for more than a decade in districts across the country and I've never seen anyone who had the strategic elements in place that they have in this district.  It is impressive to the point that are doing a video to show that it can be done,"  reports Stephen Frank with Education Resource Strategies.

{mosimage}The company is evaluating how school systems use their people, time and money to improve student performance.  Frank briefed the Vidalia school board on its findings at Tuesday night's school board meeting.

"We've studied a variety of districts in the state of Georgia and across the country.  We look for evidence of cost effective resource use and more than any other districts we've studied, we saw Vidalia doing that again and again.

"For example,the students struggling the most in math and english we're given more time.  That seems simple but it's really hard to achieve for many districts.

"They were spending more on their core classes than their non-core classes.

"Their ninth grade english classes were being invested in at a much higher level than their twelfth grade electives.  Things like this we saw over and over again where they were able to focus on their priorities and achieve gains," Frank noted.

Frank says the Vidalia schools have made gains despite spending an average of $1,600 per pupil less than the average district in Georgia.

The company told the school board in order to keep moving forward, it needs to cut non-performing teachers and find a way to hire back more instructional coaches to help faculty handle the load.

"Over the past several years they've had to cut their expert support to the point where they now have only one instructional coach for over 80 teachers.  That's a level that not sustainable. They need to figure out a different model or way to increase that investment to maintain the excellence they have achieved," Frank said.

 

Vidalia Radio Stations Premiere New Health Show

February 13-- A weekly radio show to help listeners with health issues is starting this week on radio stations in Vidalia.

To go along with your morning coffee or tea, the “Cup of Health” radio program will be hosted by Tammy Thompson of Vidalia Medical Associates and John Koon of Vidalia Communications.  The pair will discuss how you can prevent bad health and cure what ails you with VMA Doctors Ronnie Smith and James Barber, Jr. and Physicians Assistants Lee Arnold and Dustin Carter.

“We are excited to bring this important program to our listeners,” says Zack Fowler, General Manager of Vidalia Communications Corporation.  “These experts will be talking about many of the health concerns that impact the lives of so many people here in Southeast Georgia.  The object is to help listeners do something that will improve their health and quality of life,” Fowler said.

The 25-minute program will air live each Thursday morning at 8:05 on Sweet Onion Country, 1017 FM, and NewsTalk 970, WVOP.  It will also air the fourth Thursday of each month on Your Favorite, 98Q, Georgia’s Station of the Year.

“Tammy and John have been doing health features on our stations for more than a year.  They have fun doing it and I’m sure they’ll bring the same enthusiasm to “Cup of Health.”  We are very happy that the physicians and PA’s from Vidalia Medical Associates have agreed to make time each week to join us.  I think that shows their commitment to informing and educating folks about how we can take better care of ourselves and our families,” Fowler observed.   

 

February 13-- Following remarks at the Georgia Hospital Association’s annual meeting, Gov. Nathan Deal today signed Senate Bill 24 which  authorizes the board of the Georgia Department of Community Health to implement the hospital provider fee.

This fee provides the state matching funds needed to draw down federal Medicaid dollars critical to the survival of hospitals that serve the state’s most vulnerable populations.

“Today, we took a major step forward in securing  the financial stability needed for health care facilities throughout Georgia,” said Deal. “Giving DCH the power to authorize a provider fee — as it currently does with nursing homes — will help ensure that hospitals, particularly rural hospitals and those serving a large number of Medicaid patients, will still receive their fair share of reimbursement.

“I am signing this legislation, passed overwhelmingly in both houses, because it is integral not only to the hospitals in Georgia but also to providing access to high-quality health care in all corners of the state.”

SB 24 will now allow the DCH board to set the fee percentage based on the General Assembly’s appropriation in the Medicaid budget. The funds raised through this fee can only be used for the purpose of drawing down federal matching dollars that will then be redistributed to hospitals.

Current federal law allows states to use revenue from provider fees to make up the state share of Medicaid. In most instances, the cost of the fee is returned to providers through an increase in the Medicaid reimbursement rate or to avoid reductions in these rates. Hospitals in Georgia will continue to receive an enhanced Medicaid reimbursement rate. The fiscal year 2013 budget allocates $235 million in hospital provider fee revenue and $454 million in federal Medicaid revenue associated with the fee for a total of $689 million. The $689 million serves an important role in funding the healthcare for the state’s current Medicaid program.

 

February 13--  The Georgia Department of Transportation has reopenend state highway 147 southeast of Lyons.

The road was reopened at nine p.m. Wednesday after being closed all day due to flooding.

February 12--  Montgomery County manager David Curry resigned his job for personal reasons as of February 1st.

At its February meeting Monday, the Montgomery County Commission named former County Commission Chairman Franklin Brantley to take Curry's place on an interim basis pending review of the appointment by the county attorney.

The county is moving to a County Manager form of government and plans to recruit a fulltime manager once local enabling legislation passes the state legislature.

Meanwhile, the commission has scheduled a called meeting Saturday morning at ten o'clock to confer with new Montgomery County Sheriff Ladson O'Connor.  Chairman Vernon Sumner says the Sheriff wants funds for his office transferred to his control.  Sumner says the Commission would prefer to keep all county check-writing centralized in the Commission office. 

February 12-- Altamaha EMC is alerting members to a telephone scam that is sweeping the local area.  Scam artists posing as representatives of Altamaha EMC are calling members and demanding immediate payment to avoid disconnection of electric service. The primary target of this scam has been Spanish-speaking members and the elderly.  These suspicious calls show up on the caller ID as 800 or 888 numbers.

Altamaha EMC advises members to NEVER give out credit/debit card numbers or other personal information over the telephone.  If a member receives a suspicious call, mailing, email or other type of unusual contact or offer from a person or company claiming to be from or working on behalf of Altamaha EMC, the member should end the call immediately and report the call to local law enforcement.  Members should also call Altamaha EMC to report the incident. 

 

Altamaha EMC employees do not call members to request payments.  As a courtesy to our members, our employees may occasionally visit a member’s location to request payment before disconnecting their electric service due to an unpaid balance.  In these instances, our employees do NOT ask for sensitive information such as Social Security numbers, bank account numbers or other personal banking information.  All EMC employees authorized to collect money in the field, have proper picture identification and drive vehicles marked with the EMC logo.

Tammye Vaughn, Manager of Marketing and Communications for Altamaha EMC, says, “Although this latest scam is limited to telephone calls, we have had reports in the past of scam artists who pose as utility workers to gain access to a member’s home.  We are warning our members not to allow people claiming to be utility employees into their homes without checking for proper identification.  Our employees typically visit a home only in response to a service call. If you did not call us to request a service call, don’t allow anyone claiming to be an EMC employee into your home. To verify the authenticity of anyone claiming to be an Altamaha EMC employee, call our office at 912-526-8181.  We encourage our members to be vigilant at all times and to notify local law enforcement if they believe they are a victim of this fraudulent scheme. Please warn family members or friends who may be susceptible to such schemes.”

SPANISH VERSION

Estafa de Utilidad EléctricaGolpeaÁrea Local

Altamaha EMC está alertando a sus miembros de una estafa telefónica que se extiendeporlaárea local. Los estafadores, haciéndose pasar por representantes de Altamaha EMC, están llamando a miembros y exigiendo pagoinmediatoparaevitardesconexióndelservicioeléctrico. El objetivo principal de este fraude son miembros hispanos y miembros de mayor edad. Estas llamadas sospechosas aparecen en el identificador de llamadas (caller ID) con números que empiezan con 800 o 888.

Altamaha EMC recomiendaa susmiembros NUNCA darnúmeros de tarjetas de crédito / débito o otrainformación personal porteléfono. Si un miembro recibe una llamada sospechosa, envio por correo, correo electrónico, o otro tipo de contacto o oferta inusual de una persona o empresa que afirma provenir de Altamaha EMC o afirma estar llamando por parte de Altamaha EMC, el miembro debe colgar la llamada inmediatamente y reportar la llamada a la policía local. Los miembros también deben llamar a Altamaha EMC para reportar el incidente.

Empleados de Altamaha EMC no llaman a miembros para solicitar pagos. Como cortesía a nuestros miembros, nuestros empleados pueden ocasionalmente visitar la ubicación de un miembro para solicitar el pago antes de desconectar el servicio eléctrico debido a un saldo no pagado. En estos casos, los empleados NO piden información confidencial como números de seguro social, números de cuentas bancarias, o otra información bancaria personal. Todos los empleados de EMC autorizados para colectar dinero tienen identificación apropiada con foto y vehículos marcados con el logotipo de EMC.

Tammye Vaughn, Gerente de Mercadeo y Comunicaciones para Altamaha EMC, dice: "A pesar de que esta última estafa se limita a llamadas telefónicas, tenemosinformesque en el pasado estafadores se hacen pasar por trabajadores de utilidades eléctricas para obtener acceso a la casa de un miembro. Estamos advirtiendo a nuestros miembros a no permitir que personas que dicen ser empleados de utilidades eléctricas entren en sus casas sin comprobar la identificación apropiada. Nuestros empleados típicamente visitan el hogar de un miembro sólo para responder a una llamada de servicio. Si usted no nos ha llamado para solicitar una llamada de servicio, no permita que nadie que dice ser un empleado de EMC entre en su casa. Para verificar la autenticidad de alguien que dice ser un empleado de Altamaha EMC, llame a nuestraoficina al 912-526-8181.Urgimos a nuestrosmiembros estar alertos en todo momento y de notificar a la policía local si creen que es una víctima de este plan fraudulento. Por favor, avise a sus familiares o amigos que pueden ser susceptibles a tales estafas. "

 

 

 

February 11--  Here's a link to the keynote address at last week's National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.  Dr. Benjamin Carson is a neuro-surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital.  His speech has caught the attention of Americans concerned about the direction of the country.

http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-TV/2013/02/07/Dr-Carson-Prayer-Breakfast-Speech-That-Slams-Obama-Debt-Right-In-Front-Of-Him

 

 

February 11-- Gov. Nathan Deal today announced that Georgia’s net tax collections for January totaled $1.73 billion for an increase of nearly $164 million, or 10.4 percent, compared to January 2012. At the end of seven months, net tax revenue collections are up almost $564 million, or 5.7 percent, compared to the same point last year.

The following sections summarize the net revenue changes within major tax categories during the month:
 
Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections in January 2013 totaled $1.025 billion — up from $881.75 million in January 2012 — for an increase of $143.25 million, or 16.3 percent.

The following notable components within Individual Income Tax account for the increase:
•      Individual Estimated payments were up $90.75 million, or 85.8 percent

•      Individual Withholding payments were up $53 million, or 6.9 percent
•      Individual Income Tax refunds (net of voided checks) were down $26 million, or -47.2 percent
•      All other Income Tax categories, including Return payments, combined for a decrease of $26.5 million

Sales and Use Tax: Net Sales and Use Tax collections for January 2013 totaled nearly $519 million, up slightly from January 2012 when net sales tax totaled $518.5 million. Gross sales tax collections dipped slightly by $660,000, or -0.07 percent, compared to last year, while the distribution to local governments fell $11.75 million to a total of $444.25 million. However, sales tax refunds increased $10.75 million, effectively offsetting the impact of the distribution and helping to create an essentially flat month of net collections relative to 2012.

Corporate Income Tax: Corporate Income Tax collections for January 2013 increased $18.25 million, or 710 percent, compared to last year’s net collections total of $2.5 million. Net corporate refunds dropped considerably compared to last fiscal year, while gross corporate revenue dropped only slightly by $1.5 million.

The following notable components within Corporate Income Tax make up the increase:
•      Corporate Tax refunds (net of voided checks) were down $19.75 million, or -54.8 percent

•      Corporate Estimated payments were up $11 million, or 70.2 percent

•      Corporate Tax Return payments were down $16 million, or -79.6 percent

•      All other Corporate Tax categories (including S-Corp) combined for an increase of $3.5 million

February 11--  It was a first for Vidalia last Friday.  The Georgia Supreme Court convened in the city's new municipal annex to hear arguments in two cases which are under appeal.

{mosimage}(L-R) In the front row, Justice Robert Benham, Chief Justice Carol Hunstein and Presiding Justice Hugh Thompson.  In the back row, (L-R) Justices Harold Melton, David Nahmias and Keith Blackwell.  The seventh justice on the court, Justice Harris Hines, did not make the trip due to illness.

"It's important I think for citizens of local communities to know there is a Supreme Court, who we are, what we do and the role we play in the judicial system," said Chief Justice Carol Hunstein.

Earlier the Chief Justice addressed the Georgia General Assemby and suggested a new approach for dealing with juveniles in trouble with the law.

"What is the best way to handle juvenile offenses.  Is it always the hammer?" she asked.

According to the Chief Justice, the curent system is not working.

"If you have gone to a juvenile prison, when you get out within three years, 65 percent, will have committed another criminal offense.  That is not a good statistic.  Something is not working.  Governor Deal is very supportive of giving local communities the opportunity to look for alternatives for juvenile offenders," she said.

Chief Justice Hunstein believes money for juvenile programs should be provided to counties instead of the state prison system.

"The perception is that if you're just tough on crime, that's going to be the answer.  It turns out, that is not the case.  The new proposal is rather than those dollars going to incarcerate a juvenile at $91,000 a year, it's better to have local community services and give those monies to the counties so they can develop programs to actually help turn these chidren's lives around," she said.

The idea to invite the Justices to Vidalia was suggested by Vidalia City Attorney Reid Threlkeld. 

{mosimage}They arrived in Vidalia late Thursday and had a dinner meeting with over a hundred members of the Middle Judicial Circuit Bar Association headed by Metter attorney Brent Carter shown here with the Chief Justice.

On Friday, the court attracted a full house during two hours of hearings in the new Vidalia city council chambers and then adjourned for a joint lunch meeting of the Vidalia Kiwanis, Rotary and Lions Clubs at the Vidalia Community Center. 

February 8-- MARCUS ANTIWAN DICKERSON, aka “DAWG,” 35, a native of Vidalia, was sentenced Monday by Senior Judge B. Avant Edenfield to 25 years in prison for his role in a large-scale drug trafficking organization operating in the Vidalia, Georgia area..  

            United States Attorney Edward J. Tarver stated, “Illegal drugs are not only a problem in Georgia, they are a plague on our entire nation.  This Defendant was an enormous threat to the South Georgia communities that he targeted.  Those who peddle and profit from this scourge in our communities can expect to spend decades in federal prison.”                                                           

            {mosimage}DICKERSON  received the heftiest sentence of 15 defendants charged together in a 55-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in January 2012.  All 15 defendants pleaded guilty and received an average sentence of over 11 years in prison.  The convictions resulted from a two-year investigation conducted by DEA, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), and the East Central Georgia Drug Task Force (ECGDTF). 

            According to the evidence presented during several guilty plea and sentencing hearings, DICKERSON led an organization that distributed powder and crack cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana on a large scale in Toombs, Emanuel, Bulloch, Montgomery, and Treutlen Counties.  Most of the cocaine which the organization distributed was obtained by DICKERSON in the Atlanta area, where he also maintained a residence.  At the time of the offenses, DICKERSON had absconded from supervision by Georgia Department of Corrections parole for a prior cocaine trafficking sentence in 2002.  There is no parole in the federal system.

            In addition to DICKERSON, the other Defendants convicted and sentenced as part of this prosecution included:

            Tyson Lamar Davis, 29, Vidalia, Georgia, was sentenced to 230 months in prison;

            Eric Stephon McClendon, 35, Vidalia, Georgia, was sentenced to 235 months in prison;

            Trenton Arlanda Kinsey, 30, Vidalia, Georgia, was sentenced to 78 months in prison;

            Dexter Jamaal Fields, 25, Mount Vernon, Georgia, was sentenced to 63 months in prison;

            Eddie Littles III, 32, Vidalia, Georgia, was sentenced to 188 months in prison;

            Terry Powell, 27, Vidalia, Georgia, was sentenced to 148 months in prison;

            Ricardo Marquis Davis, 30, Vidalia, Georgia, was sentenced to 168 months in prison;

            Isaac Hurst, Jr., 25, Vidalia, Georgia, was sentenced to 63 months in prison;

            Alvin C. Hamilton, Jr., 37, Vidalia, Georgia, was sentenced to 225 months in prison;

            Zikomo Taheam Bostic, 28, Vidalia, Georgia, was sentenced to 96 months in prison;

            Colby Terrell Williams, 28, Swainsboro, Georgia, was sentenced to 64 months in prison;

            Bobby Lewis Day, 33, Lyons, Georgia, was sentenced to 73 months in prison;

            Matthew Dontel Hill, 29, Vidalia, Georgia, was sentenced to 27 months in prison; and,

            Kaneesha Lashay Simpson, 22, Vidalia, Georgia, was sentenced to 40 months in prison.

February 8--  The women behind the "Power of the Purse" came through Thursday night at their "Dancing for the Stars" fund raiser on behalf of the United Way of Toombs, Montgomery and Wheeler Counties.

Six couples engaged is the dance competition and organizer Virginia Lyon says the big winners are the area community service organizations which depend on United Way support to help those in need.

The event raised more than $10,000 which brings the "Power of the Purse" total to $70,500 for the United Way.

{mosimage}Six couples performed with the duo of Ursula and John Spence garnering the most votes for their Charleston rendition.  Other couples "Dancing for the Stars" include James Stokes and Stacy Freeman, Howard and Susan Hill, Shane and Sandra Harrelson, Sheldon and Casey Miller and Lee and Jennifer Evans.

Toombs County Commission Chairman Blake Tillery and Wendy James gave an encore performance of their dance which won the event last year.

February 8-- Gov. Nathan Deal, along with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, House Speaker David Ralston and state Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna), announced today a proposal that will lower to its original level the GPA requirement for the HOPE Grant, which goes to students in the technical college system. By expanding access to the HOPE  Grant, the governor and legislators aim to strengthen the state’s workforce development efforts.

“After talking with many members of the General Assembly and crunching the numbers at our budget office, I’m glad to report that we’ll be able to lower the GPA requirement for the HOPE Grant back to 2.0 after raising it to 3.0 for budgetary reasons two years ago,” Deal said. “I believe this additional benefit will help Georgia families trying to get ahead and will boost the state’s ability to attract and fill high-skilled jobs.

“With an estimated cost between $5 million and $8 million, we believe this will provide greater access to school – and access to a brighter career – at a relatively small cost to the state.”

Current law requires a GPA of 3.0 to obtain the HOPE Grant for technical schools. The change to a 2.0 GPA will require legislative action for implementation.

Since the needed HOPE reforms were implemented when Deal first took office, there has been a decline in enrollment in the technical school system and in the University System. But the state has seen a disproportionate drop in the technical school system. For some students enrolled in the system, the loss of scholarship money put higher education out of reach. This new bipartisan effort is one way Deal intends to remedy the problem.

“I’m proud to stand here with a bipartisan group of Georgia leaders committed to helping all Georgians attain a higher education degree,” he said. “I look forward to working on this issue with Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate. In the chambers, of course, I work through my floor leaders, but I’m happy to say they’ll be working with Rep. Stacey Evans of Smyrna who has worked with me on this issue.”

The state is able to expand funds for the HOPE Grants because of recent growth in Lottery revenues. In the first six months of this fiscal year, deposits were up $32 million, a 7.6 percent increase over the same period the year before.

In addition to the proposed change to the GPA requirement for technical colleges, Deal announced plans to attach language to move higher education funding in Georgia from an enrollment-based formula to an outcomes-based formula, as recommended by the Higher Education Funding Commission. (See report here.)

“Increasing the numbers of grant recipients does no one any good if the student doesn’t finish with a degree,” said Deal. “Put simply, we need more Georgians with college or technical school degrees in order to attract the jobs of tomorrow to our state.”

Deal previously announced that his recommended budget for fiscal year 2014 includes 10 extra days for Pre-K, which restores the full 180-day school year, and a 3 percent increase for HOPE recipients. When Deal took office two years ago, the reserves funds for the HOPE and Pre-K programs were on the path to bankruptcy. Because of courageous action by the governor and the General Assembly, including both Republicans and Democrats, the state has stabilized Lottery-funded programs and is now adding back to the programs as funds allow.

 

February 8--  In a special called meeting that lasted for more than 4 hours, the Toombs County Board of Education voted unanimously to suspend Toombs Middle School teacher and varsity soccer coach Jimmy Price for 90 days without pay.  In addition, Price is to pay restitution to the Toombs County Board of Education of over $3,500 for funds that are unaccounted for but were under his supervision over the last 2 years.

During the hearing, Price admitted that he could not account for $523 that was missing from a recent candy fundraiser to benefit the Toombs County varsity soccer program.  Upon further investigation by the school system an additional $2,986.77 was unaccounted for from similar fundraisers during 2012 for the soccer program.  Price denied taking any of the money but could not account for its whereabouts.{mosimage}   

In addition to the lost funds, Price also admitted to taking a 13 year old male student to the R.T. Stanley Health Clinic to get a physical so that he could play soccer and then left him there without school supervision to return to soccer practice.  The student was at the health care center for approximately 45 minutes without school supervision and without written permission from the student’s parent and without permission or knowledge of the school administration, both a violation of school policy. 

Hugh McCullough, Price’s attorney stated, “He’s made mistakes, there’s no question about that.  And he has violated some of the school policies.  But the question is do we go with somebody who has never had a problem before, and when this crops up, do we go to the most draconian, most severe punishment.” 

After the hearing Price had no comment other than to say he was happy to still have his job.

 

February 7--  A Toombs County High School student is facing three criminal charges in connection with a bomb threat at the high school Wednesday morning.

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker says 17-year-old Jonathan Reyes of 261 South Jefferson Street in Lyons faces a felony charge of making a terroristic threat and is also charged with disrupting operation of a public school and making an unlawful call to 911.

He was arraigned in Toombs County Magistrate Court Thursday and bond was set at $7,500.

February 7--  Members of the Lyons City Council will get a pay raise next year.

Mayor Willis NeSmith says the increase from $150 to $300 a month is long overdue and will bring the pay of Lyons councilmembers closer to what towns of similar size are paying.  The mayor is paid $500 a month and is not getting a raise.  The increase takes effect January 1, 2014.

Three seats on the city council are up for election November 5.  Candidates who wish to qualify for the first, second or fourth ward seats can pay a qualifying fee of $54 during the qualifying period which opens August 26 and closes August 30.

Mayor NeSmith told the council at its Tuesday night meeting that 13 applications have been received so far for the vacant city manager's job.  Applications will close the end of February.

Meanwhile, the council has a called meeting Monday, February 11th at seven p.m. to discuss changes to the city charter which are needed to implement a city manager form of government in Lyons.  Local legislation by the Georgia General Assembly will be sought during the current term to make the change.

The price of city employee health insurance is going up 1.6% this year, according to Mayor NeSmith, and will cost nearly $395 per employee each month with Blue Cross-Blue Shield and agent Al Lewis.  

February 6--  Four people died in the Wednesday morning pile-up on Interstate 16 near the county line between Laurens and Bleckley Counties.

{mosimage}Those killed are Clayton and Josephine Warnock of Dublin, Jeff Moore of Effingham County and Michael Smith of Covington.  Nine people were injured.

Officials say the wreckage of seven tractor-trailers and 20 other vehicles covered a half-mile stretch of the Interstate.  Two of the semi's caught fire and several other vehicles were also in flames.

Apparently a combination of smoke from a nearby controlled burn and patchy fog reduced visibility and led to the chain reaction collisions.


 

 

 

 

 

February 6--  A 17-year-old Toombs County High School student was taken to the Toombs County jail Wednesday after a bomb threat disrupted school.

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker says the youth's name will be released once charges are finalized and a warrant issued by the Toombs County Magistrate's office.

The call to Toombs 911 was made about eight a.m. and delayed the start of school at all the schools in the system.  Once officials discovered two broken windows at the high school, other schools convened while high school students gathered at the nearby Toombs Agri-Center.

Bomb-sniffing dogs from Treutlen and Chatham Counties searched the high school and campus and found nothing.  High school students returned to class after lunch, according to School Superintendent Dr. Kim Corley.

February 6--  Brewton Parker College in Mount Vernon is having its 2013 Homecoming this weekend with the theme, "Home Sweet Homecoming." The Homecoming Queen and King will be announced during halftime of the college's basketball games Saturday.

Here's the schedule of Homecoming events:

            Friday

            Alumni Registration, 4 p.m., Phillips Student Center

            Buffet Dinner, 5 p.m., Residential Restaurant in Phillips Student Center

            BPC Baseball Game., 7 p.m., Barons Baseball Field

            Saturday

            Student Hosted Campus Tours, 9:30 a.m.

            Alumni Registration, 9:45 a.m., Gilder Recital Hall

            Brewton-Parker Honors Ceremony, 10:30 a.m., Gilder Recital Hall

            Alumni Society Luncheon, 11:45 a.m., Cyber Cafe

            Women’s Basketball Game, 2:00 p.m., Gillis Gymnasium

            Homecoming Court, 3:30 p.m., Gillis Gymnasium

            Men’s Basketball Game, 4:00 p.m., Gillis Gymnasium

Contact: For more information on costs or to register online, go to www.bpc.edu/alumni or call 912-583-3255. 

February 6--  A Georgia produce company has found a way to get around voids in the growing season.

Because you can't grow many vegetables during the winter in Georgia, Southern Valley Fruit and Vegetable in Moultrie started its own produce company in Mexico, according to its Director of Operations, Jon Schwalls.

"A lot of the crops we grow are cold sensitive crops and there is no U.S. production, so a lot of the consumption during that time of year is an offshore product.   We needed a more stable supply chain during the entire year so we wouldn't lose that connection with our customers and it has given us the opportunity for more growth," he said.

Schwalls was a speaker at the University of Georgia-sponsored economic forecast meeting in Lyons.

He's been in agri-business for the past 17 years and has some advice for young people looking for careers, try agriculture.

"I'm not a farmer.  I'm engaged in business everyday.  We're an ag company but we employ accountants, salesman, managers, agronomists, market research and marketing folks, electricians and we just employ a large variety of people to make it all come together.  There's an incredible amount of opportunity.

"I'd encourage any kid who is interested to look on the internet for the Produce Marketing Association and get your eyes open on how big a field it really is," Schwalls said.

He says the produce and vegetable business is an $800 billion dollar a year industry in the United States.

 

 

February 5-- House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) today announced the appointment of the following individuals to the Citizens Review Panel for the Heart of Georgia Altamaha special district:

·       Billy Trapnell, Metter—Trapnell is the Mayor of Metter. He attended Georgia Southern College. He also served on the Regional Transportation Roundtable, the body which developed the transportation project list that will be funded by the Heart of Georgia special district transportation sales and use tax that voters approved in November. He and his wife, Yvonne, have three children and five grandchildren.

·       Kathryn Fisher, Cochran— Fisher serves as the Executive Director of the Cochran-Bleckley Chamber of Commerce. In her role, she manages all the financial responsibilities for the chamber and the Economic Development Authority. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia and her education certification from Georgia College. She is married to Joe Fisher.

·       Roy Herrington, Baxley— Herrington is the owner and president of Thompson’s Farm Supply, Inc. He attended the Marsh Business College in Atlanta. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Appling County Chamber of Commerce and is a member of the Baxley Kiwanis Club. He previously served on the Georgia Department of Transportation Board. He and his wife have three children.

The Transportation Investment Act of 2010 established a Citizens Review Panel for each special district which approved the Special District Transportation Sales and Use Tax. Each Citizens Review Panel is charged with the review of the administration of projects and programs on the approved investment list for its special district.  For more information about the Transportation Investment Act of 2010, please click here.

 

 

 

February 5-- Southeastern Technical College President Dr. Cathryn Mitchell visited with state representatives in Atlanta to discuss funding for a new medical building on the college’s Swainsboro campus.

Mitchell met with Reps. Jack Hill, Greg Morris, Butch Parrish and Tommie Williams over Southeastern Tech’s plan for the proposed building, which calls for a roughly 39,000 square foot “Health Science Center & Library” containing 11 different labs and 17 classrooms at an estimated cost of around $8.5 million.

{mosimage}STC President Cathryn Mitchell with State Reps. Greg Morris (left) and Butch Parrish (right) in Atlanta  to discuss plans for a new medical building on the Swainsboro campus.  

“As of now, the Swainsboro campus only has space for two medical programs: Practical Nursing and Medical Assisting,” said Mitchell. “We need a more diverse group of programs to meet the needs of our area, and this building will do that.”

According to STC’s report, “440 students who live in the Swainsboro campus’s service delivery area have to travel to other technical colleges because the Swainsboro campus does not have space to offer needed programs.” The report estimates a new facility will create space for around 400 additional students.

“This facility will serve as an economic stimulus to the local area by producing highly skilled graduates who will stay in this area to work,” said Mitchell.

With 15,000 baby boomers turning 65 each day for the next 20 years, demand for health care workers state- and nation-wide is expected to rise dramatically. According to Southeastern Tech’s proposal, a new medical building in Swainsboro will position the college to act on this need and create better prepared and more viable students and workers.

The project is currently the Technical College System of Georgia’s number six project on the capital outlay funding request list presented to Governor Nathan Deal. If approved, the building project would continue the college’s push to expand and enhance the Swainsboro campus—the college received funding for the 2013 fiscal year to renovate the campus’s 50-year-old main academic building.

Mitchell plans to meet with more community leaders to rally support and several local organizations and individuals have already lent their voices to the proposal.


February 5--  A Red Cross Blood Drive is being held today from one till seven p.m. at the Vidalia Community Center.

Earlier, Future Business Leaders of America students at Toombs County High School organized a drive which exceeded its goal.

The Toombs County High School Chapter of Future Business Leaders of America hosted an American Red Cross Blood Drive on January 29 and exceeded their goal of 62 by collecting 67 units of blood. 

{mosimage}High school students, faculty, and even a few members of the community stood in line to roll up their sleeves to help save the lives of others in the second of three drives held each year in the high school band room.

FBLA is responsible for signing up the donors, scheduling appointments, setting up the facility, and keeping things organized during the drive. This is just one of the many projects the student business organization does to teach students civic responsibility.  FBLA Chapter Vice President Dustin Wingard contributes to reach the drive goal.

 

 

February 5--  Cash rewards are being offered for information regarding two armed robberies in Vidalia.

The Crimestoppers committee met Monday night and approved rewards of $500 in each of the cases.

In the early hours of January 4th, a black male held up the cashier at Flash Foods at 905 East First Street in Vidalia and fled on foot.  He was slender, dressed in black with a hoodie and had a red bandana and sunglasses on his face.  He carried a blued, semi-automatice pistol, possibly a .45 caliber.

About two weeks later, in the early morning hours of January 17th, a black male struck the night manager of Kentucky Fried Chicken in the head as he was entering his vehicle with store's night deposit.  He was wearing dark clothes with a hoodie and sunglasses and fled on foot.

If you have information on either case that leads to an arrest, you will receive a $500 reward.  

The Crimestoppers toll free number is 1-866-439-6313 and you do not have to identify yourself. 

February 4-- The Supreme Court of Georgia will hold oral arguments in the city of Vidalia this Friday morning, Feb. 8, at 10:00 a.m. Court will be held in the new City Council chambers at the Vidalia Municipal Annex, located at 302 First Street East.

Each year, the court travels outside Atlanta to hear cases for the purpose of making the court’s business and the judicial process more accessible to the public.

During this session, the court will hear appeals in two cases:  The first is a civil case from Chatham County involving a law firm that has been sued for malpractice. The second is a criminal case in which a Screven County man is appealing his murder conviction and life prison sentence.

 

February 4-- Former Tattnall County Deputy Sheriff Ramsey Collins Arnold, 26, of Claxton, Georgia, was sentenced last week to 9 years in prison by Senior District Judge B. Avant Edenfield for distributing methamphetamine he had stolen from the evidence room of the Tattnall County Sheriff’s Office.

             During the guilty plea and sentencing hearings, the evidence showed that in 2011, while serving as a deputy sheriff in Tattnall County, Arnold began stealing methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana from the evidence room of the Tattnall County Sheriff’s Office and trading the drugs for oxycodone.  For example, in July 2011, Arnold stole approximately 185 grams of methamphetamine that remained in the evidence room after a criminal case had been completed.

            U.S. Attorney Tarver said, “No one is above the law. This defendant stole evidence that was used to charge and convict other defendants, which he then used to enter the drug trade.  He broke his oath and the trust given to him by the citizens of Tattnall County and became a criminal.  He will now join his new colleagues in federal prison.  Combating public corruption will continue to be a top priority for this Office.”

 

           

 

 

February 4--  Farmers from the Toombs County region got some pretty good economic news from experts at the University of Georgia.

{mosimage}A crowd gathered at the Toombs Agri-Center in Lyons for a session on what to expect in 2013.  Economist Dr. Nathan Smith from UGA says it won't be as good as the banner year farmers enjoyed in 2012, but the outlook is still positive.

"We actually saw record prices in 2011 and 2012 for our major ag commodities.  Even with the state being in a drought, this past year was a record year.  All five major crops had record yields.  It was an unique year this past year and while we don't expect the same yields or the same prices, the outlook for 2013 is still pretty positive," Smith said.

Dr. Smith says the port of Savannah is playing an important role in exporting more and more Georgia farm products overseas, particularly cotton, peanuts and pecans.

"We're a leader in the world in agriculture.  One out of three acres of production ends up being exported out of the U.S. these days.  When you look at farm policy, it's actually to encourage more exports in agriculture because we have the excess production," he reports.

February 2--  A southeast Georgia trio was jailed in Aiken County, South Carolina after the truck they allegedly stole in Toombs County was found at an Aiken motel.

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight says a pickup truck stolen from Sandspur Lane in Toombs County January 16 was found by South Carolina authorities on January 25.  Inside a motel room they found the three in the process of manufacturing methamphetamine.

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Facing a South Carolina drug charge and Toombs County charges of vehicle theft and four counts of entering a vehicle are 20-year-old Brooke Taylor (left) and 20-year-old Nikki Taylor (center), both of Jeff Davis County, and 33-year-old Charlie Cobb of Toombs County. 

February 2--  Designing robots to improve the quality of life of senior citizens has been the work this year of robotics teams in the Vidalia City School System.

Two teams from Sally Meadows Elementary School and one from J.R. Trippe Middle School competed in various levels of competiton during the year.

{mosimage}"The Killerwatts" captained by Sally Meadows 5th grader Khushi Mehta went all the way to state competition where they came in 30th in a field of 520 teams.  Their project was a robotic smart car for elderly drivers.

"Seniors want to feel independent and help themselves.  They don't want to rely on others their whole lives, so we wanted to make a senior smart car that would drive itself," Khushi said.

Sally Meadows third grader Aeden Ikner led the "The Microchips" who placed third in region competition with a robotic lawnmower.

"We came up with a lawnmower that is battery powered, costs less and you don't get on it and drive.  It drives itself," Aeden explained.

{mosimage}At J.R. Trippe Middle School, Josh Bell and his team captained by Bennett Moore, "The ShortCircuits," placed third in region and came in 24th at the SuperRegionals be designing a Technology Center to help senior citizens use today's technology to improve their quality of life.

"We were trying to design a Senior Center they could go to and learn all about technology and use social networking web sites like Facebook and Twitter to keep together with family.  If they don't use these things, they're lonely.  If they do use these things, it reduces the risk of depression and it helps their overall health," Josh said. 

February 1--  A former CIA officer and author of the book, "From the Company of Shadows," will speak in Vidalia.

Kevin Shipp held high level jobs in the Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. State Department.

He will address the Vidalia Tea Party Monday night, February 11th at 6:30 at the Captain's Corner Restaurant on Stockyard Road.  Shipp will discuss fedeal government intrusion, invasion of privacy and attempts to circumvent the First, Second and Fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The public is welcome to attend.  For information, contact Jim or Linda Anderson, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..