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March 31-- Organizers of the 36th Annual Vidalia Onion Festival have confirmed the world famous United States Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, TheBlue Angels, are planning to perform at this year’s Festival on Saturday and Sunday, April 20 and 21, 2013. The celebration of Georgia’s State Vegetable in historic Vidalia, Georgia will run April 18-21 and will include performances by music legend The Charlie Daniels Bandand hit singer/songwriter and Lyons, Georgia-nativeCraig Campbellon April 20.

Earlier this month, news reports began circulating that the budget crisis in Washington, DC could ground air show exhibitions nationwide including the Thunderbirds, the Golden Knights parachute team and the Pensacola-based Blue Angels. Fans are encouraged to visit the event website at www.vidaliaonionfestival.comand "Vidalia Onion Festival" Facebook page for the latest event information.

"The Blue Angels are a huge draw for the Festival, and we were very disappointed when rumors began circulating about them having to cancel,” said entertainment producer Randy Harrell of Clyde Masters Productions, LLC. “People love to watch an air show, and we’re excited the Blue Angels are still planning on being a part of this year’s Festival.”

This year’s festivities kick off Thursday, April 18 with the Children’s Parade.

The official Opening Ceremonies begin at the Vidalia Regional Airport at 6:00 pm on the 19th. Gates at the airport open at 9:00 am on Saturday, April 20, and The Blue Angels program begins at 12:30 pm. Music will begin that night at 7:00 pm.

Weekend parking passes (unlimited entry) are $40. Friday parking passes (single entry) are $10. Saturday parking passes (single entry) are $25. Sunday parking passes (single entry) are $15. All fees are per car.

For a complete list of events, directions, news, parking, photos, sponsors and more, visit


March 31- – Grand Ole Opry star Charlie Daniels is recovering after having a pacemaker implanted today (3-28), at a Nashville area hospital.
During a doctor visit on Monday (3-25), Charlie was diagnosed with a mild case of pneumonia and admitted to the hospital for a series of routine tests.  The tests revealed that a pacemaker was needed to regulate his heart rate.

He plans to be released from the hospital on Friday (3-29).  The family asks for your thoughts and prayers for Charlie as he recovers.  He will spend the next two weeks at his home.
Charlie recently celebrated 5 years as a member of the Grand Ole Opry, where he is a regular performer.

“I just had not been feeling well and wanted to get checked out,” says Daniels.  “I am thankful the doctors found the problem and were able to implant a pacemaker to get my heart rate regulated.  I am feeling so much better and looking forward to spending Easter with my family.”
Charlie’s performance at MTSU’s Murphy Center in Murfreesboro, TN, as part of the World Outreach Church Easter service,  has been cancelled.
Two CDB concert dates, Englewood, NJ (4-5), and Newark, OH (4-6) have been cancelled and will be re-scheduled.  Charlie will resume his touring schedule with an appearance in Lynchburg, VA on April 11th and continue his tour schedule with the following dates:
Verona, NY (4-12), Chester, WV (4-13), Opry (4-18), Vidalia, GA (4-20), Wilkesboro, NC (4-25), Florence, SC (4-26), Priceville, AL (4-27), Indio, CA (4-28)
For more info on The Charlie Daniels Band tour dates, go to



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Charlie Daniels

March 31-- The Lyons Police Department (LPD) hosted a community egg hunt at Partin Park Saturday.

The officers hid over a 1000 eggs for the kids to hunt, cooked hot dogs, and and had an exhibition by the service dog from the Dublin Police Department.

{mosimage}SOAPS was asked to "showcase" dogs available for adoption from the Lyons Animal Control.  Officer Clark of the LPD just couldn't resist sweet Hattie and adopted her on the spot.  It was love at first sight!

March 29--  The 9th edition of Tales From the Altamaha is almost here and playwright Laurie Jo Upchurch of Appling County has the task of converting the writings of Colonel T. Ross Sharpe into stage adaptations.  She has been the playwright for the last 7 years of the production. 


“I was approached by Better Hometown.  Their previous playwright had to drop out for health reasons and they asked if I would like to become the playwright and so I prayed about it and said yes, I would love to do that.”  She added, “This year is about bringing more things that you love of Tales From the Altamaha and stepping it up a notch.  We’ve got some new songs and a new band member who brings a lot to the mix.  We’ve got some new cast members that we haven’t had yet as well as our old favorite people that come back every year and reprise their characters.”


Upchurch said, “Each story each year is brand new.  It’s even better than it was last year.  I begin writing the new plays in June, so I write from June until August and September and then I turn the script over to Lyons Better Hometown.  They get it published and then we hold auditions.”


In addition to the playwright, Upchurch is also an actress.  “I actually have a scene this year.  I’m kind of the fallback woman if somebody gets sick or can’t be there for various reasons”, she stated.


For more information on this year’s Tales From the Altamaha, contact the Lyons Better Hometown Office at 526-6445.


March 28--  In a called meeting, the Toombs County Commission approved the submittal of an application of a Community Development Block Grant for $500,000 to be used on a facility for the Mercy Clinic.  The approval was delayed from the last regular meeting in order to make necessary changes to the wording prior to approval and the application deadline of April 1st.  A decision on whether or not they will receive the grant should come from the Department of Community Affairs sometime this summer.  This is the same type grant that was used to fund the new Boys and Girls Club in Vidalia.


In conjunction, the Vidalia City Council approved in a called meeting the waiving of the water and sewer tap fees and building permit fees for the Mercy Clinic facility, pending approval of the grant.  In addition, the City of Vidalia also approved Sara Davis of Associates in Local Government of Alma, Georgia as the administrator of their own Community Development Block Grant application.  The city’s grant is also for $500,000 and will be used for water, sewer, and drainage issues within the city.  Hofstadter and Associates of Macon, Georgia was approved as the engineer for the project.  The city previously approved an additional $386,000 to go with the $500,000 grant for a project total of $886,000.


{mosimage}March 27--  Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports a joint effort by the Vidalia Police Department, the Toombs County Sheriff’s Office, Lyons Police Department, East Central Drug Task Force, and the Department of Corrections Probation Division led to the arrest of Casey Bruns of 245 W. Wesley Ave Lyons, Ga. and the seizure of approximately 8 grams of methamphetamines (ICE) and approximately 1 ounce of marijuana. 

On March 20, 2013 the Vidalia Police Department received information about Bruns illegal activity and contacted the Sheriff’s Office to help positively identify the target.  Once the target was identified the Lyons Police Department and the East Central Drug Task Force were contacted along with the local Probation Office.  Subsequently a search of Bruns residence was conducted and the illegal contraband was found and Bruns was arrested. 

This was good police work on part of all agencies involved and goes to show that the local law enforcement agencies are effectively working together to combat the illicit drug activity in our county.  Bruns was charged with Possession of Methamphetamine with intent to distribute and Possession of Marijuana with intent to distribute.  Bruns remains in the Toombs County Jail awaiting arraignment.


March 27--  John Burgess, Site Manager for LanzaTech Freedom Pines Biorefinery in Soperton recently visited Vidalia to speak to the local Rotary Club.  LanzaTech plans to utilize some of the existing technology at the former Range Fuels facility in Soperton alongside their own technology to produce clean, renewable fuels and chemicals from waste biomass.  “Primarily that’s ethanol and other value added chemicals that traditionally come from commodity based feed stocks.” Burgess said. 


We’re currently evaluating the site so we’re doing a complete shakedown of all of the technology that was left behind and we’re diligently analyzing that to determine whether that is a technology that will remain at the site or we will replace it with something that is otherwise commercially available.” Burgess stated. 


“The next steps for Freedom Pines are the design, installation, and construction of the gas fermenters.  In parallel with that we will be doing the remediation or replacement of the front end gasification technology.  Conversationally, that’s a 20 to 24 month proposition from the day we break ground.”  Burgess added, “One of our priorities is to build a manufacturing base in the Treutlen County and surrounding counties.  We would envision staffing of that plant to be initially to be 50 to 75 people and that’s for the phase one.  The nice thing and part of the reason that Freedom Pines is of strategic interest to the company is it has the potential to expand to a much greater capacity than that and of course that economic impact would expand along with that.”

LanzaTech was founded in New Zealand in 2005 and was the only renewable fuels company named to Forbes top 100 list of America’s Most Promising Companies.  

March 26--  State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville provides an update on state revenue and legislative action in the Georgia Senate. 


The Senate passed the FY 2014 general budget on Friday, which calls for $19.8 billion in state spending.  The budget is based upon an expected 5% increase in revenue collected by the state.  Even with the additional funds the State was forced to cut $200 million in agency budgets to fill holes in Medicaid, retirement funds and growth in education. The Senate softened cuts to the Technical College System of Georgia, restored the Tuition Equalization Grants, as well as eliminating the cut to school nutrition programs.  The Senate added $10 million to fund the new Invest Georgia Fund to try and grow and sustain young Georgia businesses.  The FY 14 budget includes $6.5 million for Technical Colleges to lower tuition for truck driving courses, health professions, and early childhood education.  A conference committee will settle the differences. 


The Senate passed its version of ethics reform on Friday that protects the rights of citizens to lobby the legislature, by making sure only professional lobbyists who are paid for their services are covered under the ethics legislation.  HB 142 includes a $100 gift cap while closing loopholes in the House bill that didn't require expenditure reporting for standing committees, sub committees or "local delegations".  The Senate version also eliminates exemptions for travel expenses for legislator's spouses and staff, prohibits foreign travel, as well as forcing all levels of government to adopt a lobbyist policy.  The bill will now go to a conference committee. 


  • HB 256- Bans the sale of cigar wraps made of reconstituted tobacco to minors.
  • HB 164- Extends a sales tax exemption on engines, parts, equipment, and other tangible personal property used in the maintenance or repair of aircraft.
  • HB 350- Requires that all child care directors and employees pass a national fingerprint records check, and must submit to new background checks every five years. Currently the only employees required to pass national background checks are directors.
  • HB 371- Allows the Department of Revenue to tax liquefied natural gas as diesel.
  • HB 68- Allows the Georgia Composite Medical Board to require orthotists and prosthetists to take continued education.
  • HB 126- Charges someone who willingly or knowingly obstructs any park ranger from performing their duties as a ranger with a misdemeanor, and any person who commits an act of violence against a park ranger guilty of a felony.
  • HB 141- Requires certain businesses that may be exposed to prostitution and human trafficking to post notices which may allow victims to get information to find help.
  • HB 317- Allows the Georgia Composite Medical Board to license and issue administrative medicine licenses.  Administrative licenses are for positions that require medical knowledge, but not the practice of medicine.
  • HB 155- Allows the Department of Natural Resources to issue and sell hunting preserve hunting licenses and preserve operators to issue temporary paper hunting licenses.  The bill was amended to include a provision allowing hunters who legally own firearm suppressors, to use those suppressors when hunting.
  • HB 178- Requires that pain management clinics be licensed by the Georgia Composite Medical Board, and requires that any new pain management clinic must be owned by a physician or multiple physicians.
  • HB 242- Drastically changes the Juvenile Justice system in an effort to combat the high recidivism rates and high costs of the current system.
  • HB 287- Transfers the Division of Archives and History from the Secretary of State's office to the University System of Georgia.  The Archives are located at Clayton State College.
  • HB 372- Changes the eligibility for students to receive the HOPE Grant from a minimum GPA of 3.0 to 2.0.  The Hope Grant is for students who are enrolled in technical colleges.
  • HB 318- Combines the Georgia Tourism Development Act which limits each tourist attraction to one approved company, with the Invest Georgia Act.  The Invest Georgia Act creates a venture capital fund to help promote and grow young Georgia businesses.
  • HB 402- Allows the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources to issue permission for projects of up to six months on protected coastlands and marshes if the project does not alter the natural topography of the protected area.

 If you would like additional information regarding a specific piece of legislation, you may access the Georgia General Assembly website at


March 26-- More teenagers die in traffic accidents in southeast Georgia than in any other part of the state.  The main reason is they don't wear seat belts.

Billy Fulks from the Georgia Department of Health is heading a program to turn that around.  It's called "Drive Alive."

"When we look at the state as a whole, we're doing very well.  Eight-eight to eighty-nine percent of the folks are buckling up.  When we get out to the rural areas, especially the southeast, we have a problem with teen drivers and our death rate is higher than any part of the state," Fulks says.

Bonnie Brantley with the local "Safe Kids" program says surveys at Vidalia High School and Toombs County High School show only about 20 percent of the teenage drivers are buckled up.

The percentage at Wayne County High School in Jesup was low, too, until a popular teenager was killed.  His friend, Hope Waldron, says 80 percent of her schoolmates are now using seat belts.

"It was because of seeing such a young person lose his life."  But she admits before that, it wasn't cool to buckle up.

"A lot of kids my age are very immature and they don't think it's cool to wear a seat belt.  They think it's not popular to wear a seat belt, but if more kids take a stand it will be more popular and there'll be a lot of lives changed because one person took a stand and did something," she believes.

A sophomore at Vidalia High School is alive today because she was wearing her seat belt.  Adeline Frost was calling her Mom on her cellphone when she lost control of her car only three days after getting her driver's license.

"I don't remember looking down but I do remember looking up.  That was the scariest experience of my life.  You don't realize how far you move in three seconds.  I know it (the seat belt) saved me because I would have gone outside the car and I would have been underneath the car," she remembers. 

Fulks says he frustrated because in the 26 southeast Georgia counties with the biggest problem, only 13 schools are allowing their students to cooperate with the "Drive Alive" program in an effort to educate students that seat belts save lives.

{mosimage}March 25--  The Leadership Toombs – Montgomery Class of 2012-13 held their Graduation on Friday March 22nd. 17 members of the class completed the requirements that are set forth in the program guidelines which include attending monthly sessions which help the candidates learn about the resources in Toombs and Montgomery counties which will help them become community leaders. This was the 19th Leadership Class which sponsored by the Toombs- Montgomery Chamber of Commerce. Nominations for the 2013-14 Class will begin in April. For more information about the Leadership Toombs-Montgomery program, contact the Chamber.  

This year’s class includes: Sheila Adams, Josh Beck, Mary Bennett (OptimOrthopedics), Tyler Corley (City of Lyons), Tonya Green (Vidalia City Schools), Terry Hall (Meadows Regional Medical Center), Tina Hill (Vidalia City Hall), Val Holton (Ameris Bank), Wanda Kent, Ashley McIntyre (Southeastern Technical College), Tiffany Moore (Four Rivers Veterinary Center), Tim Quigley (Vidalia City Schools), Nicole Roberts (Southeastern Technical College), Al Ross (Peoples Bank), Krysta Rushing (Southeastern Technical College), John Underwood (Rhodes Electric), Jessie Williams. 

March 25--  The 22nd Annual Southeast Georgia Soapbox Derby events have been announced and are listed below.  Participation is high once again and another record breaking year is expected.


Saturday, April 13th – Soapbox Derby Beauty Pageant.  Held at STC with ages 0 – 18.  A $500 scholarship is up for grabs in the Miss Division.  For more info contact Millie Price at 912-293-6929.


Sunday, April 14th – 1st Annual Derby Hill 5K Challenge.  2:00 PM start on Derby Hill.  For more info contact Ginger Russell at 912-293-3251.


Friday, May 3rd – Street Dance.  Held in downtown Lyons featuring the Tiger Creek Band.  Starts at 6:00 PM until.  More vendors are needed also.  For more info, contact Sheldon Miller at 912-293-8732.


Saturday, May 4th – 22nd Annual Southeast Georgia Soapbox Derby.  More than 42 cars are expected to participate.  There will be a Super Stock Division for the first time this year with 12 cars entered.  For more info, contact Michael Williamson at 912-245-5685.

{mosimage}March 25--  The Vidalia Police Department honored their officers and support staff last week with an awards banquet held at the Vidalia Community Center.  Following a talk given by Tim Bearden who is the Director of the Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth, and dinner, the awards presentation was held.  Two officers shared the Officer of the Year Award with Timothy Coursey and Josh Blake taking the top honor which was voted on by their peers.


Coursey, a 3 year veteran of the department, said, “It means a lot to me.  I’d really like to thank all the supervisors that have had to put up with me all these years.  It’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”  Blake, who has a little over 2 and a half years with the department said, “It makes me feel good that I’m out there doing my job professionally.  I’m courteous and I’m glad that everybody else in the department seems to have a little faith in me.  It gives me a lot of pride and I enjoy what I do.”


Other officers and staff receiving honors were Lasandra Wells - Employee of the Year, Justin Phillips – Rookie of the Year, and James Jamon – Supervisor of the Year.


March 22--  According to Vidalia Onion Festival Air Show Committee Chairman Marsha Temples, the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels have given her the go ahead to order the needed accessories for their upcoming show.  This reinforces the fact that their trip to Vidalia is still a go and has not been cancelled despite the rumors. 


March 21--  Sabrina Culpepper Campbell was named the 2013 Lyons Citizen of the Year in the annual banquet held at Chatter’s Restaurant sponsored by the Lyons Merchants Association.  Campbell is only the fourth woman recipient of the award that began back in 1971.  Campbell’s father, the late C. Warren Culpepper was the 1988 recipient of the award, making them the only father/daughter combo to receive the honor. 


“I am just shocked, speechless really, and people who know me know I am never speechless.  I am just thrilled because I enjoy doing things for others and I enjoy volunteering and to be recognized with the recipients who have gotten it before is just amazing.  Thank you so much.”  She added, “I love Lyons.  I love the school system here.  I’ve worked in education for over 30 years and I love volunteering here in Lyons.


She went on to state that she received her sense of community involvement from her father.  “I can remember being a child and daddy would at all times be volunteering or heading up a committee and I think I got my love of organizing from him.  He loved to do things for others and I think he taught me well.”


Active Image Found in Vidalia 3/20/13 @ 8pm on Loop Rd.  If this is your dog, call 912-293-3325

March 20--  The man in charge of enforcing county ordinances and animal control is the Toombs County Employee of the Month. 

{mosimage}Skipper Smith was honored at Tuesday's meeting of the county commission and receives a $50 gift certificate to a local restaurant. (L-R) Commissioners Jeff McCormick and Wendell Dixon, Skipper Smith, Chairman Blake Tillery and Commissioner Darriel Nobles.

March 20--  If you can't read, you're in trouble and the Vidalia City School System is doing something about it.

"Reading is a predictor of future success.  There's a direct correlation between your reading skills and why and how you're going to graduate and what place you're going to gradutate when you're a senior," observes Lucy Claroni, the Curriculum Director for the school system.

The school system has received a $1 million grant to improve reading in its four schools.  

It will help teachers learn how to teach reading better, buy books for libraries and classrooms and invest in new technology.

"Right now we don't even have enough money to buy textbooks.  With the grant we'll have a rich environment with books and down the line each child will have an E-Reader to download their textbooks and books they enjoy reading into their E-Reader," she says.

Claroni says it costs the school system a quarter-million dollars each time it buys a new textbook.  These expenses can be avoided in the future.

"Whenever there is an update, students can download an update.  For example, science textbooks and history textbooks get outdated monthly," she reports.

Part of the grant program calls for assessments of students' reading progress and that's where parents come in.

"Parents need to be aware of those assessments and when they see those assessments and what their child's strengths and weaknesses are, they need to ask the child's reading teacher what they can do at home to strengthen the child's weaknesses.  It also doesn't matter what grade level their child is in because we're working with all grade levels from kindergarten to high school," Claroni says.

March 20--  Toombs County officials are concerned about slowing tax revenue collections.

County Manager John Jones told the March meeting of the Toombs County Commission that local sales tax collections are down 12% this year.  He also reports initial collection of the new transportation sales tax is less than expected by about $9,000.  Jones said collections of $30,000 had been projected in the first month, but only $21,000 was collected.

At the same time, the county is expecting quotes on county employee health insurance soon and Jones is anticipating premium increases of between 15% and 25%.

He alerted the Commissioners that adjustments to the county budget may be necessary unless something changes in the next few months.

The Commission accepted the resignation of county Solicitor Paul Threlkeld who is moving to a law firm in Savannah.  Governor Nathan Deal will appoint an interim successor pending a special election next year.

The county is considering a recycling program at the county landfill for plastic, cardboard and glass.  It's also looking for property to open new convenience centers in the north and south parts of the county.

{mosimage}As part of its employee recognition program, Charles Newsome was thanked for 35 years as a county employee.  He currently works at the landfill.

The Commission also named county Ordinance Control Officer Skipper Smith as the Toombs County Employee of the Month. 

March 20--  The Montgomery County school system is considering a change to its school calendar.

At its March meeting, the county school board heard a proposal from Superintendent Randy Rodgers which would reduce the number of school days but increase the number of hours in each school day.

Rodgers said the option is like the one currently employed by Toombs County and would reduce the number of class days by about 13 while lengthening the school day by a half-hour.  Classes would start at 7:30 a.m. and end at 3:15 p.m.

The board took the recommendation under advisement and will decide on the calendar at a future meeting.

The superintendent also informed the board that he's seeing a downward trend in the collection of sales taxes which, if it continues, could further hurt the school system's finances.

{mosimage}Rodgers (left) recognized Gail Bellew as the school system's Special Education Teacher of the Year.  She teaches at the Montgomery County Elementary School.

March 19--  The Savannah Morning News reports a judge in Spalding County has ruled against environmentalists trying to protect the Ogeechee River from pollution by a Screven County plant.

The Ogeechee Riverkeeper has lost an effort to force the shutdown of unpermitted pollution from a Screven County textile processor.

In a judgement issued last week, Spalding County Superior Court Judge Christopher C. Edwards found that the state’s top pollution regulator, Environmental Protection Division Director Judson Turner, “acted reasonably under the circumstances and consistent with the provisions of the Georgia Water Quality Control Act” in allowing the discharge to continue.

Click here to read Judge Edwards' 15-page order on the Ogeechee River case.

Georgia law affords the director enforcement discretion, saying he may order a violator’s activity to cease but not that he must do so, Edwards ruled.

“The legislature and the Director are both authorized by law to make these ‘guns or butter’ economic decisions, balancing the externalities of pollution — our innocent children will swim in an ocean we are allowing to contain some small quantity of formaldehyde and other pollutants — against the benefits of industry — the parents of these same innocent children have jobs and our workers including brave firefighters have fire retardant clothing,” the order states.

In reacting to the order, Riverkeeper attorney Don Stack rejected this reasoning, saying it was “ridiculous and sad that people continue to think that there must be a choice made between clean, healthy water and economic vitality.”

“Additionally, unfortunately, the belief that the illegal discharges result in some undefined acceptable levels of formaldehyde in the ocean, more than 70 miles downstream of the source, completely ignores the impacts those discharges have on the people who use the Ogeechee at and just below the plant,” Stack said. “Dilution is not the solution to pollution. Prevention of pollution should be the goal of all citizens of the State. Those efforts should be led by EPD. Instead the State hinders the efforts of those most affected. That is reprehensible.”

In May 2011, the Ogeechee was the site of a fish kill that left 38,000 fish dead; all were discovered below King America Finishing’s discharge pipe. EPD’s follow-up investigation revealed the company’s fire retardant processing line that had been operating for five years without a pollution permit.

The EPD issued a letter that July informing the company it could restart the fire retardant line under specified conditions while a permit was being developed.

That permit was issued more than a year later in August 2012 but withdrawn in October in response to a legal challenge.

A new permit is in the works that includes a previously omitted analysis of whether lowering water quality is necessary to accommodate economic development.

Attorneys for the nonprofit Ogeechee Riverkeeper filed its request for the judge to order the shutdown Nov. 13 in Superior Court of Screven County arguing a permit — not a letter — is required. The case was subsequently moved to Spalding County, where EPD Director Turner resides.

In a February hearing, the EPD’s Program Manager Elizabeth Booth testified that “the company was cooperating with EPD and that the monitoring and testing results showed that the company’s discharge was neither toxic nor violating water quality standards,” the order states.


Clean Water Act

Edwards’ order agreed with the EPD director that the Riverkeeper lacked standing and that a different course of action, namely a Clean Water Act suit in federal court, is the proper legal remedy in this case.

“The Director asserts that, because this legal remedy was specifically created for situations where the regulatory agency ‘cannot or will not command compliance,’ as in this case, it must be considered an adequate remedy at law.”

The Riverkeeper has already filed a Clean Water Act citizen suit in the southern district of Georgia, but Stack said he was astonished that state regulators sent its citizens to the federal government for relief.

“It’s like, OK you have some other alternative so don’t look to us to enforce the law,” Stack said. “Even though the state law is directly on point and we’re the waste regulators. And these are the same people who get upset with the feds interfering with governments within their boundaries.”

Assistant EPD director Jim Ussery said the judge made the right decision.

“The director does have broad discretion and exercised this in crafting the remedy,” he said.

EPD negotiated what it decided was a safe discharge, according to Ussery. Stopping the fire retardant line would have effectively shut the company down, Ussery said.

“It would have been a punitive action with no environmental or public health purpose,” he said.

King America Finishing issued a statement Friday saying, “King America Finishing is very pleased that the Spalding County Superior Court denied the legal action seeking to forcibly shut down the plant in Screven County. We are also pleased with Judge Edwards’ ruling that the Georgia EPD has acted reasonably in its actions both to protect the Ogeechee River and to protect the jobs of the hundreds of Georgians who work at the King America plant. We look forward to continuing to manufacture our life-saving products in full compliance with environmental laws and regulations.”



March 19--  Georgia's new vehicle title tax started the first of the month and some customers are a little confused about the new system.

Chris Reeves with Harton Chevrolet-Buick-GMC in Vidalia says buyers need to know it's a good deal.

"For some reason they think now they're having to pay sales tax and when they get to the tag office they're going to have to pay ad valorem taxes which is untrue.

"There is no longer a sales tax added on a vehicle.  It's called a Tax Ad Valorem and what happens is once they pay this one time at the dealership, when they go to the tag office from now till they get rid of that car, they will no longer have to pay ad valorem tax on the vehicle.  They will have to pay the annual tag fee which probably runs around $20, but they will no longer pay ad valorem taxes on the vehicle," Reeves notes.

Reeves says the new title tax is actually less than buyers were paying before March.

"If there's a rebate, they take that off before the tax ad valorem is added.  Even if you have a trade, they take that off and you take the rebate off.  So, it's really helping people because the tax rate went from 8% to 6.5%, there's no longer a SLPOST fee which was one percent on the first $5,000 and that's no longer out there," he says.

In Reeves opinion, the new system may not help state revenue as much as lawmakers thought.

"I don't know how long this is going to last because it's actually been better for the consumer than it has been for the state," he says.

On thing the new law does do is close a loophole on vehicle sales between private individuals.  When you go to get your title on a private sale, you'll have to pay a sales tax before you can get your tag and title.

March 18-- This article on inequities in Georgia public school funding was published today on "Georgia News Clips."  You can subscribe to this daily statewide news service for $6 a month.  For info, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Poorest schools don't receive equalized funding
by JAMES SALZER, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ATLANTA (AP) — Gov. Nathan Deal won praise in January when he announced plans to plow an additional $40 million into struggling Georgia school districts that are having trouble raising enough money to educate their children.

What neither the governor nor applauding lawmakers knew at the time was that virtually the entire increase next year will flow to Gwinnett, Clayton and Paulding County schools. Many of the small-town systems that most Georgians would call poor are getting nothing.

That's according to calculations the Georgia Department of Education recently made using a new equalization funding formula legislators approved last year. About two-thirds of districts get the money on top of their regular state allocation to help address the financial disparity between wealthy and poor systems.

Gwinnett County's equalization take alone next year will rise from $43.2 million to $65.6 million. Meanwhile, dozens of small, rural systems in Georgia — and many of metro Atlanta's biggest systems — will get no extra funding. It makes some superintendents wonder whether the formula was drawn to help certain districts and not others.

"I am not sure there is anything equal about it," said Cherokee County Superintendent Frank Petruzielo. "It seems to me that it is the most politically motivated component of education funding in Georgia."

House Education Chairman Brooks Coleman, R-Duluth, who co-chaired an education funding commission that recommended the changes to the equalization law, said politics has nothing to do with it. Gwinnett, he said, is benefiting from the formula used to determine payouts because it has a giant, growing student enrollment at the same time property values have tanked.

"There was nothing done to specifically help Gwinnett," Coleman said. "It's a function of the numbers."

Brian Robinson, spokesman for Deal, said the governor didn't know where the extra money was going when he proposed the increase.

"The Legislature changed the way we calculate equalization last year. We fully funded the formula that is now in the law," he said.

Using more up-to-date enrollment and financial data, the House slightly altered Deal's original request, approving $474.4 million in equalization funding for the upcoming school year, up from $436.1 million this year. Excluding Gwinnett, Clayton and Paulding, the amount of equalization funding would actually drop, slightly, next year. About half of all equalization funds go to suburban or exurban metro Atlanta-area districts.

The equalization fund, set up in 1985, is supposed to provide greater equity in school funding for systems with lower property tax bases. It was often thought of as a way to help poor, rural districts that can raise little from property taxes. But the collapse of the real estate market in metro Atlanta changed the equation, and the largest grants in recent years have gone to districts that are neither rural nor comparatively poor.

The state's formula for disbursing the money uses the number of students in the district, the value of property and the property tax rate. A property wealth-to-student ratio qualifies some suburban and urban districts to receive grants.

In the final hours of their 2012 session, state legislators passed a bill intended to slow the growth of the equalization fund and get more money to poor rural districts. The changes reduced the number of systems getting equalization — weeding out some of those deemed too "wealthy." In some cases, rural districts got more. In others, they were left out completely.

Gwinnett has been getting an increased share of equalization money in recent years because it has the right combination of rapid enrollment growth and eroded tax base.

Rick Cost, the school system's chief financial officer, noted that in 2007, Gwinnett schools enrolled 9.1 percent of all students in Georgia. Its tax digest was 8.9 percent of the state's total. Next year, he said, Gwinnett will enroll 9.9 percent of all students in the state, but its tax digest will amount to 8 percent of the state's total.

In 2007, Gwinnett didn't qualify for equalization funding. Since then, it has been ranked poorer and poorer by the state formula, and has collected an extra $186 million. That money goes to help offset the system's loss in property tax money.

"Since fiscal 2008 ... we have lost $143 million in annual local tax revenue ... and we have 26,000 more students," he said.

The tax base in many systems has plummeted since the recession, but enrollment in those districts is not growing like Gwinnett's. Enrollment in DeKalb, Cobb and the city of Atlanta systems, for instance, has remained about the same or fallen since the October 2007 count. Enrollment in much of rural Georgia has been stable or fallen as well.

Gwinnett is often considered an innovator in education. Even in tight times, it is making a digital push to invest $54 million in technology improvements that, within a few years, will make hardback textbooks obsolete, allow students 24 /7 access to their schoolwork and give teachers the ability to give tests and track student success — all via the Internet.

By contrast, some of the small, rural systems missing out on equalization have one teacher per subject in their high schools, few advanced courses or foreign language options, no financial reserves to fall back on and no hope of raising serious money from property taxes.

Quitman County's district, with 345 students, has a much smaller enrollment than most Gwinnett elementary schools. Its superintendent, Allen Fort, worries about having to lay off one or two of his few teachers because of limited funds.

"But somehow we're richer than Gwinnett County," said Fort, whose Southwest Georgia district doesn't qualify for equalization funding. "Don't call it equalization, because it's not equal."

Fort said Quitman schools raise about $70,000 from a mill of property taxes. The system's budget is $3 million.

"One mill (of property taxes) in Gwinnett County could run my system for 10 years," he said. "I am not against Gwinnett getting money, I am just trying to figure out how we got none."

Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, D-Dawson, a member of the Senate education and appropriations committees, represents much of Southwest Georgia. Several of her districts don't receive equalization funding.

"If you look at the financial challenges these districts continue to have, it's not fair," she said. "There needs to be a concerted effort to take a long, hard look at how you define equalization. Without proper funding, there is no way for our students to compete against students from other parts of the state."

David L. Sjoquist, a state tax and funding expert at Georgia State University's Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, noted that officials have made efforts in the past to lessen the amount of equalization money going to districts like Gwinnett.

"Everybody has looked at that and scratched their head. Everybody has looked at that and said, 'That's not fair,'" he said.

Sjoquist said there have been proposals in the past to incorporate some measure of personal wealth into the equation, which would help places like Quitman County, where household income is about half of Gwinnett's, and the poverty rate is twice Gwinnett's. But so far the idea hasn't gone anywhere.

Coleman, the Gwinnett lawmaker, said counties like Gwinnett and Clayton get the equalization money because they have "earned it" under a formula designed to help systems that need it the most. "Gwinnett is big, and it's poor," he said.

But Gwinnett also has a strong legislative delegation, and the school system has its own lobbyist at the Capitol. Fort has a hard time believing Gwinnett's political clout hasn't played a role in developing and maintaining a system that benefits the local school system.

"Clout, hell, they've got a sledgehammer," he said. "There are more senators and representatives in Gwinnett County than there are in South Georgia. In the end, we don't matter."



March 18--  Forty contestants took part in the 36th annual Vidalia Onion Festival Beauty Pageant Saturday at Southeastern Technical College in Vidalia.


{mosimage} (Front L-R) Little Miss Onion Sprout Carley Michelle Moxley, Little Miss Onion Seed Keeley Hall. (Back L-R) Miss Spring Onion Megan Dukes, Miss Vidalia Onion Rachel Hendrix and Junior Miss Vidalia Onion Ashton Craft.

A 2009 graduate of Robert Toombs Christian Academy who's now enrolled at Augusta State University is the 2013 Miss Vidalia Onion.

Rachell Hendrix says the title is something she's wanted for a long time, but was surprised to win.  The 22-year-old Queen is the daughter of David and Cindy Hendrix of Vidalia.

"Honestly, it could have been any of these lovely girls.  It's such an honor and something I've wanted for such a long time.  It means so much.  I love this area and I'm so happy to be able to represent this area as a role model," she said.

The Junior Miss Vidalia Onion is a freshman at Vidalia High School, 15-year-old Ashton Craft, 15-year-old daughter of Ronald and Tammy Craft.

"I'm very surprised.  I just never thought I'd win, but I'm glad I did.  I did it all for my Poppa who's out there watching tonight, I did it all for him," Ashton said, referring to her grandfather James Thompson.

This year's Little Miss Onion Seed is three-year-old Keeley Hall, daughter of Zolby ajnd Brooke Hall;  Little Miss Onion Sprout is is Carley Michelle Moxley, seven-year-old daughter of Mendy Glisson and Calbe Moxley; and Miss Spring Onion is Megan Dukes, 13-year-old daughter of Greg and Lisa Dukes.

The pageant has been sponsored for the last 36 years by the Vidalia Charter Chapter, American Business Womens Association, headed by President Val Holton.

"We like to give back to the community.  It's a great opportunity for the girls.  The winner gets a $1,000 educational grant and we're real pleased that Rachel got it tonight," she said.

March 18-- According to Emanuel County Sheriff J. Tyson Stephens, a wanted sex offender, DECHANE SHAMIK JONES, age 21, has been arrested without incident by the U.S Marshals’ Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force (SERFTF) and the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office at an East Dublin,GA, residence.

{mosimage}Jones had warrants outstanding for his arrest for Failing to Register as a Sex Offender in Emanuel County and for Probation Violations.

The Emanuel County Sheriff’s Office and the Swainsboro Police Department assisted the SERFTF in locating Jones. Jones has been returned to the Emanuel County Sheriff’s Detention Center where he will be held without bond until his court appearance.

The Emanuel County Sheriff’s Office Sex Offender Registry and Tracking Unit (SORT) is responsible for maintaining a registry of all sex offenders residing and working in Emanuel County.

To find more information about SORT, go to the sheriff’s new website at Anyone with information helpful to this or any other case is asked to call the Emanuel County Sheriff’s Office at (478) 237-7526.

March 18--  The Toombs County Board of Education has avoided a Superior Court hearing by reaching an out-of-court settlement with one of its teachers.

In February the school board suspended social studies teacher and soccer coach Jimmy Price for 90 days without pay and ordered him to repay $3,509.77 in funds missing from school candy sales and concession stand sales at soccer games.

Price appealed to the Georgia Board of Education because state law limits a suspension to 60 days.  He also obtained a temporary injunction in Toombs County Superior Court preventing the school board from conducting a second hearing to reconsider its earlier ruling.  

A hearing to make the injunction permanent had been scheduled for February 21.

Price's attorney, Hugh McCullough of Glennville, says the two parties have reached agreement stipulating that Price's suspension is reduced to the legal limit of 60 days and that he will make restitution of the missing money.

McCullough also says his client has never been accused of stealing the funds but does admit to "lax management" of how the funds were collected and accounted for.

In other Toombs County school board news, the board awarded a contract at its March meeting for site preparation for the new Toombs County High School.

Karl Owens' OCS, Incorporated of Vidalia submitted a low bid of $692,872 to ready the land adjacent to the current high school location for the new school.

School Superintendent Dr. Kim Corley reports she is awaiting receipt of state funding allotments for next year so she can complete the school system's budget.  She's hopeful there'll be no need for job cuts nor furloughs.  At the same time, she's not ruling out a property tax increase if needed.  Dr. Corley notes Toombs County has one of the lowest school property tax rates in the state and may be forced to relook the situation if the state continues cuts to the system's allocation.

Dr. Corley also reports all of the school systems teachers and para-professionals have obtained highly quaified status in their subject areas and that Toombs County High School has been named an "AP Challenge School" for offering advanced placement classes to its stuents in all academic areas.

The school board also saluted Toombs County High School wrestler Xavier Horne for winning the state AA wrestling championship in his weight classification.

March 17--  A record crowd attended the annual Market Hog Show at the Toombs Agri-Center.

The show was sponsored by the Toombs County Young Farmers and included showmanship and premium weight class divisions.

Forty young people showed 67 hogs in four weight classes and four showmanship divisions.

{mosimage}Front Row –Thomas Cloud, Class 1 Champion;Trey Cloud, Cloverleaf Showmanship Championship; Lorren Herndon, Grand Champion and Class 3 Champion and Britton Herndon, Pee Wee Showmanship Winner and Pee Wee Weight Class Champion.

Landon Cowart, Reserve Grand Champion and Class 2 Champion; Judge Ricky Wheeler, Junior Showmanship Winner Cody Williamson; and Senior Showmanship Champion Sky Herndon


This year’s judge was Ricky Wheeler, Central Region Animal Science Area Teacher.

Pee Wee division participants were Tucker Braddy, Jada Creamer, Kara Frost, Gavin Hall, Britton Herndon and Emmie Lynn.

FFA members exhibiting included:  Bailey Bryson, John Carroll, Kayla Collins, Landon Cowart, Taylor Dismuke, Summer Dykes, Taylor Lee, Abigail Lynn, Madison Lynn, Daniel McCall, Chad Newman, Haley Smith, Emma Owens, Wesley Ricks and Brad Sanders

4-H members exhibiting included: J.J. Braddy, Thomas Cloud, Trey Cloud, Clayton Creamer, K. D. Frost, Madison Hall, Lorren Herndon, Madison Herndon, Sky Herndon, Dawsan Love, Isabell Maris, Erin Ricks, Dalton Underwood, Cody Williamson, Cole Williamson, Tucker Williford, Karlie Wright andPeyton Wright.

For more information about Youth Agricultural Programs, contact Toombs County FFA at 526-6068 or Toombs County 4-H at 526-3101. 



March 16-- Six students from Montgomery County Elementary School attended the spring edition of the fourth annual “Step Up and Lead” conference.

{mosimage}Montgomery County Elementary School Student Council officers attending the conference are (L-R standing) Sarah Ortiz, Emily Walker, Ryan Holton and Macie Pittman and (sitting L-R) Jamiya Bryant and Trey Ricks. Teachers Sarah Rich and Wesley Bratton accompanied the students.

Coming from all parts of the state, elementary and middle school students had the opportunity to attend the “Step Up and Lead” conference series. A joint effort of Georgia 4-H and the Georgia Association of Elementary and Middle School Principals,  “Step Up and Lead” conferences focus on cultivating leadership skills in elementary and middle school students while providing adult leaders with a framework for engaging these students when they return to school. 

The conference was held in Tifton at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus Conference Center on Thursday, March 7th. Youth from all parts of the state were able to participate in interactive activities designed by youth development professionals. 

“Step Up and Lead” Conferences feature motivational speakers and exciting, interactive workshops.  Workshops are designed to engage and empower youth in future leadership initiatives. These three sessions focused on Team Building and Cooperation, Planning and Organizing, and Building Communication Skills. 



March 15--  The Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) provides a weekly update to its members regarding legislation in the General Assembly.  Here's this week's report from the its perspective.

"Legislators have wasted no time this year checking off the official 40 days of the 2013 legislative calendar. This week, the General Assembly set the schedule for the final days of the legislative session with plans to end their work before the end of March. Watch for a flurry of activity over the next week as legislators work to amend bills to get their priorities considered. As a result, the ACCG policy staff and interns are keeping a close watch on committee work and floor amendments. The legislative schedule for the next two weeks is as follows:  

·        Day 35: Wednesday March 20

·        Day 36: Thursday March 21

·        Day 37: Friday March 22

·        Day 38: Monday March 25

·        Day 39: Tuesday March 26

·        Day 40: Thursday March 28 

 Watch for issues such as ethics reform to generate much debate and media interest as legislators try to resolve differences between the House and Senate approaches to this high visibility issue.  

Juvenile Justice Reform Heads to the Senate Floor Next Week

HB 242 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, March 13. The bill was amended to extend the timeline for custody hearings and related summons from 24 hours to 72 hours, thereby eliminating the need to staff the courthouse on the weekends. The bill was further amended to clarify that a court appointed special advocate (CASA) shall be appointed as a guardian ad litem (GAL) whenever possible in all cases, eliminating the cost of an additional attorney. It was also amended to allow the court to make the determination as to whether expenses should be charged to the counties in juvenile proceedings within a 120 day timeframe. It was further amended to specifically state that counties are responsible for expenses related to superior court proceedings when a child is prosecuted as an adult. Additional changes were made that do not impact counties. To review the complete summary for HB 242, please see the sectional summary.

Bill to Allow Guns in Courthouses and Government Buildings will Likely Get Senate Hearing Soon

HB 512 is this session’s omnibus gun legislation that lifts several current prohibitions on where concealed firearms and other weapons may be carried.  Importantly to counties, it authorizes the carrying of guns into courthouses and other county government buildings that do not have security guards who screen ingress into these facilities. ACCG has offered acompromise with the author to leave this decision to local governments, but to no avail.       

ACCG is opposed to the state, not local governments, authorizing guns in courthouses and government buildings and asks that you please contact your Senators immediately to let them know any concerns your county may have. The bill will likely get a hearing next week in the Senate Judiciary Non-CivilCommittee.     

Contact Legislators about Forestland Protection Act Grants and HB 19

HB 197 is pending in the Senate Finance Committee and, if passed, will encourage more timber owners to enroll land in the Forest Land Protection Act. The state is currently a year and a half behind paying their constitutionally obligated share of this program’s costs to the local governments. Please encourage your legislators to appropriate what is already owed to the counties before passing HB 197 to further expand this program. For 2011, the state has not paid the local governments $5.6 million in approved grants. The State of Georgia is budgeting for the 2012 grants in the FY 2014 budget. The amount budgeted, $14.2 million, is almost $8 million short of the estimated $22 million that will be needed to pay for the 2012 grants. Make sure your legislators know the amount your county is owed and the impact the late and underfunded payments will have on your budget.

To see the entire Legislative Update, click here.



March 15-- April Braddy reports this puppy is missing from his home in Uvalda.

{mosimage}He is a light blue and white pitbull puppy with his ears cut. He's a healthy boy and is 13 weeks old.  A reward is being offered.  If you have seen this pup, please call April at 912-245-1944 or call Vidalia Animal Control at 912-537-8866...any help will be gladly appreciated!

March 14--  The former police chief in Lyons is going to jail.

{mosimage}Ricky Newsome (left, with attorney Joe McGovern) was sentenced Thursday afternoon in Toombs County Superior Court by Judge Cathy Palmer. 

After hearing recommendations from Middle Judicial Circuit District Attorney Hayward Altman, Judge Palmer sentenced Newsome to ten years in prison and five years on probation for violating his oath of office and distributing marijuana.  The maximum he could have received was 25 years.

Newsome was arrested in September, 2011 and has been out on bail after confessing to his crimes.

He apologized before sentence was passed and asked for mercy.

"I regret what I did.  It was wrong and I lost the trust of the citizens of Lyons.  Most of all I hurt my wife and family, but that's no excuse.  I did wrong and would like to take this time to apologize for what I did and ask the court to have mercy on me," he said.

Newsome's wife Brenda, who has lung cancer, and Pastor Stephen Toole of the Cedar Crossing Church of God, asked the judge for leniency.

Judge Palmer passed sentence and said, "What you did totally reflected on the office of Chief that you held and on the good work of everyone working under you.  You disgraced the badge," she said.

Newsome was ordered to report Monday morning when  his sentence will begin.

March 14--  The emergency management director in Montgomery County has been terminated.

The County Commission announced the departure of John Neff following an executive session Monday.  Neff has been with the county for five years.

The commission also plans to start advertising for a fulltime county manager the next two weeks.

In other actions, it authorized John Roller of Mount Vernon to oversee county road resurfacing and agreed to start working on a resolution seeking continuation of a one cent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.

March 14-- The Georgia Department of Labor announced today that the unemployment rate in the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha region rose to 11.9 percent in January, up six-tenths of a percentage point from 11.3 percent in December. The rate was 11.8 percent in January 2012.

The rate rose because 2,593 more job seekers entered the labor force looking for work. Of that number, 1,540 found jobs, but 1,053 did not and that forced the rate up. 

Metro Athens had the lowest area jobless rate at 6.6 percent, while metro Dalton and the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha region had the highest at 11.9 percent. 

Meanwhile, Georgia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for January was 8.7 percent, unchanged from December. The rate was 9.3 percent in January a year ago.



































March 14--  The Vidalia City School System is facing a $1 million shortfall in its operating budget next year.

School Superintendent Dr. Garrett Wilcox briefed the school board at its March meeting Tuesday night.

The school system has suffered a $2.5 million budget reduction in the last seven years and has eliminated over 40 jobs during that period.

Most of the cuts were made when people retired and their jobs weren't filled, however, Dr. Wilcox is afraid other jobs will be impacted in the new budget.

"We hope not.  Most of those jobs in the past went by the wayside by attrition, and we'll have several more this year with folks retiring, but we're probably at the point now that attrition won't get us to that $1 million number and that's the sad part of all this.

"We don't have any choice but to protect our core curriculum.  The staff has met and we've started the process.  We're all aware of what it means to make these cuts and what it means to the school system and who we are moving forward.

"The worst part is that the kids suffer from all this.  There are some programs that the kids hold dear and the parents hold dear that will have to be considered as we try to come up with this money," he said.

The school system's reserve has dropped from more than $3 million two years ago to $1.2 million now.

The school board authorized Dr. Wilcox to use $200,000 of that to help meet next year's shortfall.  He says the monthly payroll for the system is about $1 million.

The school board is expected to get recommendations on how to deal with the $1 million shortfall in May or June, Dr. Wilcox reports.

The state has reduced funding to the school system by nearly $12 million since 2003.










 $        219,429.00

 $        219,429.00


 $        459,891.00

 $        679,320.00


 $        539,755.00

 $    1,219,075.00


 $        539,750.00

 $    1,758,825.00


 $        261,489.00

 $    2,020,314.00


 $        214,164.00

 $    2,234,478.00


 $        802,372.00

 $    3,036,850.00


 $    2,092,217.00

 $    5,129,067.00


 $    1,646,892.00

 $    6,775,959.00


 $    1,738,431.00

 $    8,514,390.00


 $    1,739,191.00

 $  10,253,581.00


 $    1,739,191.00

 $  11,992,772.00


Meanwhile, the price of school lunches will go up slightly next year because of state guidelines.  The price will increase a dime for all students except those who qualify for reduced lunch prices.


March 13--  The organizer for this year's Vidalia Onion Festival "Gospel Music Fest" in downtown Vidalia died suddenly at his home on Taylor Springs Road Wednesday morning.

{mosimage}Paula Toole of the Downtown Vidalia Association says Rickey Palmer in his role as "Pilgrim, The Clown" was downtown last Friday promoting the Gospel Sing which will feature "The Dixie Sonlighters" and other groups from around the state who have been invited to perform.

Rickey's wife, Mary, says the sing will go on as scheduled and she will host, "because Rickey would have wanted me to."

The sing will be held in Meadows Street Park April 19-20.

Paula says anyone who can help the family defray funeral expenses is urged to contact the Ronald V. Hall Funeral Home in Vidalia, 537-7877. 

March 12--  The city of Vidalia's operating budget was already tight this year, and now it's even tighter.

City manager Bill Torrance told the city council Monday night the annual franchise payment from Georgia Power is about $100,000 less than budgeted and that city department heads have been told to cut expenses wherever possible.

City finance director Bill Bedingfield reports Local Option Sales tax collections this year are down more than five percent while tax revenue on alcohol is up nearly three percent and the hotel/motel tax is up more than 19 percent.

Meanwhile, the council gave the go ahead to negotiate with a solar company which wants to lease city land off Aimwell Road for solar panels.  Hannah Solar of Atlanta says it will pay $15,000 a year for the lease.

In other actions, the council okayed a license for a new game room on McIntosh Street across from God's Storehouse with the warning that one case of disturbing the peace could lead to revocation.

It approved a temporary alcohol permit to the Vidalia Onion Festival Committee.  It permits the sale of beer from four till ten p.m. Saturday in the area fenced off for the Charley Daniels concert at the airport festival site.

The council also agreed to negotiate with a promoter who wants to bring a Luke Bryan concert to the airport in October.   

March 12--  School administrators around Georgia are keeping an eye on what happened yesterday at Dublin High School.  It could save them lots of money in energy costs in coming years.

{mosimage}Groundbreaking was held for solar panels that Dublin High School plans to use to provide electricity at the school.

"This is going to be a very positive thing for us. It will start saving money for us immediately," Dublin City Schools Superintendent Dr. Chuck Ledbetter said.

"The bottom line is its going to reduce our power bill," Ledbetter said. "Over time as power rates go up over the course of the lease, it saves us even more money."

In the first year alone, the power plant is expected to save the school district $100,000 and cut one furlough day. Ledbetter says over the next 25 years, the district will save $3.5 million.

MAGE SOLAR is supplying the materials for power plant. Over the next 25 years, the school district will lease it from Greenovations for $300,000 a year.

Solar panels on the roofs and ground at the high school will turn sunlight directly into electricity, enough to power the entire school.

On days where it is rainy or overcast, Dublin High School won't be in a blackout. Instead, it will buy energy from Georgia Power like normal.

Construction is set to begin immediately. The solar panels should be up and running by June.

March 12-- According to Emanuel County Sheriff J. Tyson Stephens, a joint investigation involving the Emanuel County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has resulted in the arrest of Samantha Janes SCOTT (21) and Randy Lee SCOTT (36). Both are charged with Murder and
Concealing the Death of Another.

{mosimage} {mosimage}

The charges result after investigators initiated a missing person case after Kenneth Wiley JANES, the father of Samantha Scott, was reported missing by concerned citizens.

Investigators ultimately located the body of a person believed to be Kenneth Janes in a makeshift grave on Friday, March 8th, at the Scott Family Cemetery in northern Emanuel County.

Samantha Scott has an additional charge of Financial Transaction Card Fraud. Randy Lee Scott is also charged with two counts of Possession of Firearm by Convicted Felon.

Sheriff Stephens stated that he “certainly regrets the circumstances of the case for the concerned family members of Mr. Janes. I wish to thank the investigators, GBI agents and officers from assisting agencies for their hard work and effort in the investigation of this case.”

District Attorney Hayward Altman offered his condolences to the family of the victim for the loss they have suffered.

Mr. Altman also expressed his gratitude for the excellent work conducted by the Emanuel County Sheriff’s Office Investigative Division and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, specifically GBI Special Agent Joshua Alford and Chief Investigator Rocky Davis for following up on the initial report of the missing person.

Investigators have been assisted in the case by the District Attorney’s Office for the Middle Circuit of Georgia, the Emanuel County Coroner’s Office and the East Central Georgia Drug Task Force.

Anyone with information helpful to this case is asked to call either of the following agencies: Emanuel County Sheriff’s Office at (478) 237-7526, GBI Region 12 at (478) 374-6988 or the District Attorney’s Office at (478) 237-7846.

March 12--  Deanna Stoddard's little Dachshund is missing. 

{mosimage}She says,  "I let my three inside dogs out to enjoy the fine spring weather Monday morning and my little Emme dog is missing.  We left for school about 6:50 a.m. and my husband got home from work about 8:50 a.m. She’s missing from Conway McDonald Road in Tarrytown. Emme is a rust colored daschund who weighs about 13 pounds. She’s wearing a small pink collar with a red rabies tag.  She has been spayed." 

If you have any info on Emme, please contact Deanna Stoddard [This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ]

March 11– Wendy Brannen, who has served as executive director of the Vidalia® Onion Committee (VOC) since July 2005, has resigned to take a position with U.S. Apple Association in Washington, DC. 

{mosimage}“This has not been a job.  This has been a joy,” said Brannen of her time at the VOC.  She continued, “These growers and packers, the industry, and the Vidalia community have been beyond good to me.  While I look forward to working in a new industry in a new place, I will always be thankful for this tremendous adventure and without a doubt will continue to be a Vidalia onion ambassador.” 

Jason Herndon of Herndon Farms in Lyons, Georgia, vice-chairperson of the VOC, commented, “It has been a pleasure for us in the Vidalia industry to have Wendy on board with us for the last eight years.  We hate to see her move on, but we all understand the name of the game. She has really helped us to become a major marketed commodity and shown great leadership and focus in helping to ensure our marketing strategies were successful. We will sincerely miss her but wish her the best in her new position with U.S. Apple.”

During hertenure with Vidalia onions, Brannen redeveloped the industry’s website, introduced the group to social media strategy, and expanded retail outreach through broad-based consumer programs including online contests and giveaways, downloadable coupons, and paid advertising.  Her signature strategy, however, has been developing major promotional partnerships.

In 2012, Brannen directed the Sweet Vidalias & Country Music promotion with Universal Music Group, Nashville.  During that program, the VOC launched a new Vidalia Facebook page that garnered almost 36,000 fans in the four-month promotional window.  Fifty thousand Vidalia coupons were downloaded with a whopping 26 percent redemption.  In 2011 during year one of that promotion, Brannen suggested a national Vidalia Onion Jingle Contest which resulted in more than 136,000 visitors to the Vidalia onion website.  The winning jingle is now used in radio ads.

Brannen is, however, most widely recognized as spearheading the wildly popular Shrek “Ogres & Onions” partnership with DreamWorks Animation.  That promotion landed the VOC on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, on ABC World News with Dianne Sawyer, Fox Business, New York Post, and a laundry list of other A-list media.  Reports that parents were getting kids to eat Vidalia onions because of colorful Shrek packaging struck curiosity and drove sales of consumer packs up almost 30 percent.

Another bright but unusual note in the list of Brannen’s accomplishments is the Vidalia Onion Museum, which Brannen spearheaded for five years from conceptualization through implementation to public relations outreach.  That museum opened in Vidalia during April 2011 and has had visitors from more than 45 states and 12 foreign countries to date.

March 11--  Despite rumors and press reports to the contrary, the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels are still planning on appearing at the Vidalia Onion Festival Air Show in April.

According to Marsha Temples with the air show committee, an email Friday, March 8 from the Blue Angels said they have not been told anything about cancelling the Vidalia appearance and it is still on their schedule.

The flight demonstration team has cancelled some air shows due to budget cuts by the Department of Defense.

Earlier the Blue Angels told Temples they should have a final decision on the Vidalia show by March 15.


March 11--  Here's a girl who's been in the Lyons Animal Shelter since December and needs a loving "forever home."

Karan Crane of the Sweet Onion Animal Society volunteers at the shelter and tells us this about "Liza."

{mosimage}"We call her Liza and she is as sweet as a 30lb sack of sugar.  Liza is such a sweet, gentle, loving and very affectionate and calm girl.  She is a little on the thin side, she ate her food bowl clean today, and she is so ready to have her very own family.  Liza is a black female lab blend with a little white on her chest." 

Contact Animal Control Officer Joseph Sikes at the Lyons Police Department if you would like to adopt "Liza."