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April 30--  Vidalia police are investigating the shooting death of a man late Monday night.

Police have yet to release details, however, the dead man has been identified as 28-year-old Deven Jarod Sakers.  Police think he is from Miami.

{mosimage}According to unconfirmed reports, someone entered a house at 204 Macon Avenue in Vidalia.  Sakers, a woman and a girl were in the house.  The woman was roughed up and Sakers was shot and killed.

Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits says investigators don't believe the killing was a "random act."

The GBI is assisting with the investigation and police are looking for whomever is responsible for the crime.

April 30--  A young man with small town roots and big city school experience is the new principal at Montgomery County Middle School.

Monday night the Montgomery County school board hired the assistant principal at Jenkins High School in Savannah.  Marcus Scott grew up in Ludowici and credits his Dad for instilling in him the importance of education.

Marcus Scott (L) with School Superintendent Randy Rodgers.{mosimage}

"I was the first one in my family to graduate from high school and go on to college.  I believe it's because of my Dad motivating me and that's what I want to do with other kids," he said.

His goal in his new job is "to make sure that students are excelling academically and to work with parents and the community as much as possible," Scott said.

The new principal has been in education for eleven years and hopes experience gained elsewhere will help him with his new job.

"Jenkins is a lot bigger school, but I think some of the stuff I learned there I can bring here.  I'm looking forward to meeting the people of Montgomery County," he said.

Scott starts his job July 1.

April 29--  A cash reward is being offered in the armed robbery and assault of a pizze delivery man in Vidalia.

A $500 reward is being offered by Vidalia-Area Crimestoppers in the case of David Carter of Vidalia who was making a Pizza Inn delivery April 11 at what turned out to be a vacant house at 405 Arnau Street.  

According to Vidalia police, Carter was clubbed with a piece of pine limb by two black males who stole an estimated $150 in cash.

If you have information regarding the robbery, call the Crimestoppers Hotline at 1-866-439-6313.  You don't have to give your name.  If your information leads to an arrest, you'll be given the $500 reward. 

April 29-- The chairman of the Banking Committee in the Georgia House of Representatives believes community banks need relief from bank regulators.

State Representative Greg Morris of Vidalia told local Rotarians, "If we don't begin having more transactions between local community banks and small family businesses, I'm afraid our economy is going to continue to lag.  That's a concern of mine for economic development because if our economy isn't growing, all the other issues we are concerned with like education and healthcare become impossible."

In addition to passing the state's $18 billion plus budget, Representative Morris believes the legislature did the right thing in passing a new ethics bill for state lawmakers.

"It was a response to voters in last year's Republican and Democratic primaries.  Before this session, the gifts a lobbyist could give a legislator was unlimited. Part of the bill now is a $75 cap on those gifts.  There are some loopholes and everybody wasn't satisfied with the bill and I wasn't completely satisfied, but in the end, it was a compromise in response to what the citizens said they wanted at the ballot box," he said.

Morris says there was less contoversy in the last session of the legislature and he credited that to the leadership of House Speaker David Ralston, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle in the Senate and Governor Nathan Deal,

"Nathan Deal is doing a fantastic job as governor.  His main focus is not controversy and he's not running for president.  He doesn't have any other objective that I can except making Georgia a better place, particular in improving education and Georgia's economy," Morris said.

House Resolution in Memory of Mary Baker Rice 

{mosimage}Representative Morris presented a resolution passed by the Georgia House in honor of the late Mary Baker Rice of Vidalia to her son, Allen Rice; his wife, Nancy, and his half-sister Jane Pickren.

April 28--  News You Can Use in May from the Toombs County School System.

Lyons Primary School Council meets Thursday, May 2 at 5:00 p.m. in the media center.

Lyons Primary School Field Day will be held Friday, May 3.

Lyons Upper Elementary School DARE graduation will be held Friday, May 3.

Toombs County Middle School Council meets Monday, May 6 at 4:00 p.m. in the conference room.

Lyons Upper Elementary School Council meets Tuesday, May 7 at 4:00 p.m. in the media center.

Toombs County High School Honors Ceremony will be held Tuesday, May 7 at 6:00 p.m. at the Ag Center.

Toombs Central Elementary School FTA meets Tuesday, May 7 at 7:00 p.m. in the cafeteria.

Toombs County Board of Education meets Thursday, May 9 at 6:30 p.m. in the board room.

Lyons Upper Elementary School Field Day will be held Friday, May 10.

Toombs Central Elementary School Field Day will be held Friday, May 10.

CRCT Retests will be given Tuesday, May 14 and Wednesday, May 15. Contact your school counselor for more information.

Lyons Primary School Honors Day will be held Thursday, May 16. The schedule is as follows:

Kindergarten – 8:30-9:45

Pre-K - 10:00-10:30

1st grade – 10:45-12:00

2nd grade – 12:45-2:00


Toombs Central Elementary School Kindergarten Graduation will be held Thursday, May 16 at 7:00 p.m. at Southeastern Tech in the Toombs Auditorium.

Toombs County Band Boosters meets Thursday, May 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the TCHS band room.

Toombs Central Elementary School Pre-K Graduation will be held Friday, May 17 at 8:30 a.m.

Toombs Central Elementary School Honors Day will be held Friday, May 17.

Lyons Upper Elementary School Honors Day will be held Friday, May 17. The schedule is as follows:

Fifth Grade – 8:30 a.m.

Fourth Grade – 9:30 a.m.

Third Grade – 10:30 a.m.


Toombs County Middle School Honors Day will be held Friday, May 17.  The schedule is as follows:

Sixth Grade – 8:30 a.m.

Eighth Grade – 9:30 a.m.

Seventh Grade – 10:30 a.m.


Toombs County High School will hold 2013 graduation on Saturday, May 18 at 8:30 a.m. at the Pit.

Toombs Central Elementary School Council meets Tuesday, May 28 at 5:00 p.m. in the media center.



April 26--  The Georgia Department of Labor announced today that the unemployment rate in the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha region declined to 10.4 percent in March, down seven-tenths of a percentage point from 11.1 percent in February. The rate was 11 percent in March a year ago.

The rate declined because the number of unemployed people decreased to 12,950, down by 925 from 13,875 in February. The number of unemployed people was down from 13,993 in March 2012.

Metro Athens had the lowest area jobless rate at 5.9 percent, while the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha region had the highest at 10.4 percent.

Meanwhile, Georgia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for March was 8.4 percent, down from 8.6 percent in February. The rate was 9.1 percent in March a year ago.


April 25--  Toombs County native son Nick Eason has two Superbowl rings but he says they mean nothing compared to what he was able to do Thursday in honor of his late mother.


He made a seven-figure contribution to the Meadows Healthcare Foundation and named the medical center's newest addition the Iris H. Wilcox Cancer Treatment Center.  His mom, who was a teacher at Toombs County High School, died of cancer last year. 

{mosimage}Melissa Hightower of the foundation told those attending the naming ceremony it was divine guidance that led her to Nick.

"This person is a world changer.  His mother once told him he can't fix the world and his response was 'I'll die trying.'  I believe that.  With this donation to this cancer center he's changing our world and the lives in this community," she said.

Eason told the crowd his mother's death had a profound impact on him.

"It was really a life-changing experience for me.  It brought me closer to God.  Without him I would be nothing.  My Mom was a woman of faith.  She loved God, she loved her church, she loved all  people and that's what its about.'

My church motto at Holy Ghost Assembly is 'Lord, Make Us One Everywhere.' That's my vision, to become one community and to not be segregated by race or color, to not be segregated by church affiliation, to not be segregated by rich or poor.  One thing I realized is my Foundation helps people in trying times when they're dealing with cancer and cancer does not discriminate against anyone," Nick said.

The new cancer radiation treatment center is expected to start treating its first patients May 1. 

April 26--  Toombs County's Wardlaw Brothers latest release has hit #26 on Billboard's National Gospel Radio Chart and another TWB song is receiving airplay on Contemporary Christian radio stations.

{mosimage}The Wardlaw Brothers have been traveling the U.S. promoting their new release GOD'S BEEN THERE.  With each performance, audiences are captivated by their stage presence, impressed with their vocal ability and emotionally moved by their heart for ministry. 

Tony, Luther, Jamie, Carl and Rodney are climbing up the Gospel radio charts with their quartet flavored "Right Now Lord".  The Wardlaw Brothers have climbed to #26 on the Gospel Billboard Radio Chart with "Right Now Lord" and have released "Hallelujah" , an electronic infused praise anthem to Christian Radio that is receiving airplay and favorable attention.  "Hallelujah" has been added to 52 Christian Radio stations and is continuing to garner adds and spins. 

TWB are set to appear on Fox 13 Good Morning Memphis Live show on Friday, April 26 and at the movie screening for the documentary film on The Rance Allen Group "Music Majors" at the Memphis Malco Studio On The Square Saturday April 27.  TWB have an exciting spring and summer tour schedule including appearances at The Sweet Auburn Fest, Mayfeswt, WLOU Summerfest and the Atlanta Gospelfest.  For all tour dates and more information visit

TWB Tour Dates:

April 26        Memphis, TN      Good Morning Memphis - Fox 13
April 26        Memphis, TN      Friday Night Live - Acacia Christian Center
April 27        Memphis, TN      "Music Majors" Rance Allen Group Movie Screening
April 27        Little Rock, AR    KPZK Radio Listener Appreciation Concert
April 28        Little Rock, AR    St. Mark Baptist Church
May 3          Atlanta, GA         Atlanta Gospel Fest Media Luncheon
May 4          Atlanta, GA         iPraise
May 5          Atlanta, GA         Sweet Auburn Fest
May 10-11    Augusta, GA       GMBC of Georgia Ushers Convention
May 18        Augusta GA         MayFest
May 19        St. Louis, MI       The Antioch Baptist Church Anniversary
June 15-16  Chicago, IL          Light House Church of All Nations
June 17       Milwaukee, WI    Media Promo
June 18-19  St. Louis, MO       National Baptist Convention
June 22-23  Louisville, KY       WLOU Radio Summerfest 2013
July 11-13   Chesapeake, VA   Indie Gospel Alliance Conference / Blue Mic Awards
July 27        Atlanta, GA         Atlanta Gospel Fest
August 3-4  Atlanta, GA          Bill Pickett Rodeo

April 24-- At the Technical College System of Georgia 2013 Leadership Summit, Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law legislation that will lower the GPA requirement for the HOPE Grant, which goes to students in the technical college system. By expanding access to the HOPE Grant, HB 372 will strengthen the state’s workforce development efforts.

“We need more college or technical college degrees in order to attract  and fill the jobs of tomorrow,” Deal said. “This additional benefit will provide Georgians with greater access to school at a relatively small cost to the state.”

This bill will drop the GPA requirement for the HOPE Grant back to a 2.0 after it increased to 3.0 two years ago for budgetary reasons. Recent growth in Lottery revenues will cover the additional $5 million to $8 million this expansion will cost. 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 recent years, Georgia has seen a large drop in technical college enrollment – much larger than in our University System,” Deal said. “For some students enrolled in a technical school, the loss of scholarship money put higher education out of reach. This law will provide greater access to school and to a brighter career for thousands of Georgians.”

April 24-- Everybody's been wondering.  Who's the donor of a seven-figure contribution to the new cancer radiation center at Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia.

Melissa Hightower with the Meadows Healthcare Foundation says we'll know Thursday.

"It's monumental for this area and we're thrilled to have everybody come out and show their support.  That's Thursday afternoon at five o'clock out at the radiation center," she notes.

"We will introduce the donor to the community and let that donor unveil the name of the new cancer center.  With the donation, they have been given the right to name it and we're excited to have, not a Meadows Cancer Center, but a cancer center with a personal name on it," she reports.

The foundation initially set a goal of $2 million for the radiation center.

"We have seen a huge response from the community and we've blown right through that.  We are continuing the campaign and will do so through the end of the year," Hightower says.

The money is being used to help pay for the building and equipment and to  provide the staff needed to take care of cancer patients and their families.

"We want to provide a holistic approach to treating cancer.  Not just medicine, not just doctors, but having support groups, the nutritional aspects and helping individuals and families get through this process," she says. 

April 23--  Uvalda city councilman Johnny Corley is resigning from the council.

Last week he was informed by the city attorney it was a conflict of interest to serve on the council while at the same time working for the city as a contractor in charge of Uvalda's water and sewer system.

Today Corley submitted his letter of resignation from the council effective April 30.

Corley also said he had planned to resign in August in order to run for mayor and that he will not seek to renew his contract as water consultant when it expires January 1, 2014.

He added, "Uvalda is a great place to live and I have enjoyed working here for the last 35 years."

April 23--  A short supply of Sweet Vidalia Onions this year will cause prices to increase.

"We've still got a lot of onions to sell, but we don't have as many as in years past," reports Bo Herndon, Chairman of the Vidalia Onion Advisory Council.

{mosimage}Farmers are finding many onions in their fields are experiencing seed stem.

"Usually when you have an onion that seed stems, that onion will not get very big at the bottom.  It feeds through the top and you have a big, bushy stem that comes out.  You can't sell that onion to anybody because it's hollow in the middle of the onion and has a big stem in it," Herndon says.

Herndon says this year's crop was hurt by a rainy growing season.  "We had all that rain back in February and March.  Growers down here got from 17 to 21 inches of rain in that period of time.  That stressed these onions out and that's what caused these seeders," he says.

It's too early to tell how much of the crop will be lost, however, Herndon says he's already lost more than a quarter of his crop.

"I've got fields with about 27% damage right now.  Nobody is going to be exempt from it, it's going to be everywhere, he says.

As a result, Vidalia Onion farmers will have to raise prices.

"Let's just say I've got 50% left in my field and onions are bringing $20 a box.  For me justifying going out there and tryiing to harvest the crop, I've got have $40 because I'm throwing away half the crop.  Now I'm not saying that onions are going to $40 a box, but they are going to have to bring more this year, there's just no way around it," Herndon says.

April 22--  A former Montgomery County commissioner is the new county manager.

Brandon Braddy was hired Monday night to be the county's first manager under local legislation passed by the state legislature changing the county's form of government to one administered by a county manager.

{mosimage}(L-R) Commissioner Frank Brantley, Brandon Braddy, Chairman Vernon Sumner, and Commissioners Tim Williamson and John Carpenter. (Not pictured, Commissioner Clarence Thomas.)

Commission Chairman Vernon Sumner believes Braddy is uniquely qualified for the job.

"I think we've hired a good person and I think he'll be able to do the job we need him to do.  I'm very glad to have him on board.  The commissioners set the policies for him to work with.  He works under us and will be able to get out and take the legwork off of us," the Chairman said.

Braddy served on the county commission for 16 years and was chairman for over two years.  He decided not to seek relection in 2012.

"It's going to more of an operational position and I look forward to working with all of the department heads in developing their budgets and helping them with their departments.  I hope that my experience on the policy side will flow on over to the operational side.  I know what to expect from the commissioners because I sat on that side of the table.  I want the constituents to know that my door is always open to help them with any problems they have and I just look forward to working for Montgomery County," Braddy said.

Braddy attended Brewton-Parker College before going to Georgia Southern for his degree in business administration and accounting.  He went to work for Montgomery Bank and Trust after college and has been with Mount Vernon Bank since April, 2011.

His father was the county probate judge for 36 years and Braddy says he's been learning about local government since he was a boy.

"It's just been a part of my family and stems back from my family being involved in county politics and public service.  Now I get the opportunity to be involved in an administrative role and I'm looking forward to it," he says.

Braddy's first day on the job will be May 6.

April 22--  A state senator believes America's future is dim unless there's a spiritual reawakening in the country that reverberates throughout the halls of Congress.

"I've come to believe that our problems are ninety percent spiritual and they're not going to be fixed with changes to policy.  That doesn't mean we shouldn't work on good policy, but we should work on policies that encourage good behavior," Senator Tommie Williams of Lyons told the Vidalia Rotary Club.

{mosimage}The former President Pro Tem of the Georgia Senate believes federal and state government programs are unsustainable.

"Medicaid is a huge consumer of dollars.  The Department of Juvenile Justice is growing.  The Department of Family and Children's Services is growing.  One in seven people is now on food stamps.  Disabiltiy in the social security system is growing.  The prison system is growing and in our court sysem almost someone in every family is tied up in court somehow.  This is not sustainable, not to mention we've already got huge debt, and it's not getting better," he said.

"All these problems get fixed when you have a different view.  When you look at things spiritually, taking care of the poor has a different perspective because you think about it in terms of helping as part of disciipleship, not just a giveaway.

" Their policies are built to encourage more dependency.  For those of us in elective office, we've got to make some real tough decisions.  We can't continue down this road and expect the family to come back together.  Half the kids are born to single parents now.  You can't build a fatherless nation.

"It's almost politically incorrect to be a Christian today.  That's certainly not how the country was founded.  We are a pluralistic society and I understand that and I support that, but I'm concerned about where we are and where we're going.  Not financially because that's a result of where we are spiritually," he said.

Senator Williams believes the country has been in decline for the last 50 years and we are now seeing the results.

"Since the 60's we've been in moral decline.  We all can take some responsibility for that.  I can and and we all need to do some repenting.  As a nation, we're not as good as we were and we're suffering the consquences of it.  Things like family have to become first again.

"George Washington had some warnings for us in his farewell address.  He said don't forget your religion, don't get too tied up in foreign affairs and cherish the public credit.  Those are the kinds of things that we've paid no attention to and now the chickens have come home to roost, Senator Williams said.


April 20-- Building a simple turn lane – but one that is helping bring perhaps 150 new jobs to Toombs County – is the first local Transportation Investment Act (TIA) funded project to begin, State Transportation Board (STB) and Georgia Department of Transportation officials announced today.

Hundreds more similar regional and local projects across much of Middle Georgia, all financed by TIA sales tax revenues, will follow over the next decade.

Toombs is one of 17 counties in the Heart of Georgia/Altamaha Regional Commission District. Voters there – and in the River Valley and Central Savannah River Area regions – last summer approved a 1 percent sales tax increase for the next 10 years to be dedicated exclusively to transportation improvements in their respective counties and cities.

Heart of Georgia communities are expected to realize nearly $400 million in infrastructure improvements over the course of that decade. The area primarily is represented on the STB by Board Member Don Grantham.

“This is the first of many great ‘TIA’ days for Toombs County and the Heart of Georgia,” Mr. Grantham commented. “The trust and confidence the region’s voters expressed in their local elected leaders and also in the Department of Transportation were much appreciated; now that trust begins to reap dividends. I am confident they will come to view TIA as one of the best investments in their communities they ever made.”

The Toombs project will add a dedicated turn lane on State Route 130 north of Lyons to serve a new pet food manufacturing facility. That U.S. Pet plant is bringing a $25 million private capital investment and between 100 and 150 new jobs to the area. The turn lane, costing $162,000, will be constructed by McClendon Enterprises, Inc., of nearby Vidalia, and should open to traffic this summer.

Forty-six counties and their respective cities comprise the three regional districts that approved the TIA referendum last July. Cumulatively, they are expected to self-generate approximately $1.8 billion in new revenue dedicated to local transportation improvements.

Georgia DOT will coordinate work for cities and counties on some smaller jobs, like the Toombs project, and also assist in the engineering and construction management of larger projects. All of the projects were selected by regional commission roundtables of local elected officials after much public input. Seventy-five percent of the revenues will be utilized for the construction of these roundtable pre-selected projects while the remaining 25 percent


April 18--  The Vidalia Onion Festival Childrens' Parade marched down Meadows Street in downtown Vidalia late Thursday afternoon with the theme "Yumions Going Country in Downtown Vidalia."  Kids wearing the best theme outfits competed for gift certificates.

{mosimage}Claire Gault won first place in the 0-3 age category.  Second place went to Caleb Williams and third to Cason Barnard.

{mosimage}In ages four to seven, country singer Noah Morrison took the top prize with Heather Emanulson garnering second and Caleb Pittman third.

{mosimage}In the group judging, (left) Braley Davis, Jesslyn Collins and a dog named Boo tied with a group dressed as onion bags (names unknown).

{mosimage}In one case, the excitement was too much to bear!

April 18--  WTOC-TV in Savannah reports the following about little Silas Edenfield of Lyons who is battling cancer.

"The staff at the Jekyll Island Authority's Georgia Sea Turtle Center has named a new loggerhead sea turtle patient after a Lyons boy who is battling terminal liver cancer.

Silas Edenfield, 4, asks to go to the sea turtle room each time he goes for chemotherapy treatment at the hospital, according to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. His bedroom at home is also filled with stuffed sea turtle animals.

{mosimage}The staff at the sea turtle center were so moved by his story they named a new loggerhead patient after him. On April 27, Silas the sea turtle will be released from the center's care and will enter back into the wild, during the Tybee Turtle Trot on Tybee Island.

The public is invited to join the center as they not only release the newly healed patient back to the ocean, but also celebrate Silas.

The Edenfields are spending as much time with their family as possible and are asking those touched by Silas' story to pray for him and the family, according to a news release.

For more information about Silas and how to help go to

Elizabeth Harvill at Meadows Regional Medical Center reports Golden Bows are being sold today at The Party Store and More in Vidalia to help the family.

April 18--  An Uvalda city councilman has a decision to make.

Councilman Johnny Corley was advised by City Attorney Andy Ramay at Tuesday night's city council meeting to either resign from the council or give up his city contract running Uvalda's water and sewer system.

Corley was mayor of Uvalda for 12 years and has been a city employee for 35 years.  He was elected to council two years ago.  He says his status was changed at that time from city employee to an independent city contractor because some of his fellow councilmembers were uncomfortable with him being a city employee.

The conflict of interest was brought to the council's attention by A.J. Evans who also says he's interested in running for the council.

"I had my doubts for a long time.  There's a lot of things going on that ain't supposed to be going on in the city.  I started doing some checking and talked to a friend of mine who's a lawyer and he said it's illegal.  It's nothing against Johnny personally, but the law is the law and fair is fair," he said.

Councilman Corley says this is the first time he's been advised that holding both positions is a conflct of interest.

"I've never heard an attorney that the city had that said my position and what I was doing was a conflict.  I'm not saying that's not a fact, but we've never had an attorney who said it was," he said.

The council gave Councilman Corley until May 1 to make a decision. He says he's still thinking about what to do.

"If you go back and look at my record during the time I was mayor, you'll see that I had some outstanding accomplishments and I'm very proud of them.  I continue to be that way.  I wouldn't do anything in the world to hurt this little community," he said.

April 17--  The National Rifle Association issued a statement today following defeat of gun control legislation in the U.S. Senate.

"Today, the misguided Manchin-Toomey-Schumer proposal failed in the U.S. Senate. This amendment would have criminalized certain private transfers of firearms between honest citizens, requiring lifelong friends, neighbors and some family members to get federal government permission to exercise a fundamental right or face prosecution.  As we have noted previously, expanding background checks, at gun shows or elsewhere, will not reduce violent crime or keep our kids safe in their schools. 

The NRA will continue to work with Republicans and Democrats who are committed to protecting our children in schools, prosecuting violent criminals to the fullest extent of the law, and fixing our broken mental health system. We are grateful for the hard work and leadership of those Senators who chose to pursue meaningful solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems."



April 16--  Vidalia has a new industry thanks to Trane.

The Landsberg Company has opened its first operation in southeast Georgia in order to provide direct packaging support for the shipment of Trane products.

{mosimage}According to Regional Vice President Kevin Mills, "Our primary opportunity in Vidalia is related to Trane, a large national account for us.  That's a cornerstone of our business here, but that allows us to service hundreds of other new customers as well and that's a great opportunity for us."

The new packaging plant is located in the Montgomery County Industrial Park in west Vidalia and has potential for serving many different types of clients.

"We're a full provider of industrial packaging and janitorial supplies.  We have been serving the southeast from our Atlanta hub for 30 years and our faciity here will help us better serve the coastal Georgia market," Mills says.

And already the company is looking for more space.

"We've quickly consumed the 20,000 square feet here and we're actively looking for more space because of the demand," Mills says.

The company currently has 15 employees in Vidalia many of whom are supplied by the Toombs County Service Center.

April 16--  A man wanted for a Tuesday morning murder in Richmond County was apprehended in the Vidalia Walmart parking lot Tuesday afternoon.

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight says law enforcement in this area had been alerted that Steve Lawrence Allen of Blythe may be coming to Toombs County after he shot two people and killed the mother of his girlfriend in Blythe.

{mosimage} {mosimage}

"He had picked up a lady here in Vidalia on Allen Drive.  I think he had met her on the Internet.  He picked her up and they went to Walmart.  We understood they were planning to leave Vidalia and go to Savannah, but we found him at Walmart," Sheriff Kight said.

Sheriff Kight said he drove up beside Allen's truck in the parking lot.

"He had a gun in the back seat of the truck.  He had a Glock 9mm but offered no resistance.  I pulled him out of the truck, handcuffed him and that was it," Sheriff Kight said.

Investigators from Richmond County came to the Toombs County jail to pick up Allen and question the woman, identified as Johnnie Marie Stevens.  Sheriff Kight said she told him she had no idea what the man had been involved in.  He also said Allen appeared to be mentally unstable.

April 15--  This year's STAR teacher at Montgomery County High School is taking over this summer as the high school principal.

English teacher Pamela Richards was hired by the county school board Monday night to succeed Dr. Henry Walding who's been the head Eagle for the past two years.

{mosimage}Superintendent Randy Rodgers (left) said the selection committee interviewed seven candidates for the job and felt that Richards is the best person for the position.

"I'm overwhelmed, I'm overjoyed and I'm very excited about the opportunity to take our school to the next level," she said.

She has 17 years in teaching and came to the school system last year from Bacon County where she was head of the English Department. She says the move was the right decision in spite of negative publicity about the school system the past few years.

"I was warned not to come.  I was warned to stay away, that Montgomery County takes good people and turns them bad.  I had a former administrator try to discourage us from coming here, but this has truly been the best decision we've made for our family," she noted.

"I have never found a lovelier set of students.  This is truly a misunderstood county and I look forward to being part of counter-acting the negative publicity.  The only way to do that is to create positive news and that's what I hope to do," Richards said.

The new principal is the fourth generation of her family with roots in education in Montgomery County.  Her dad, Larry Calhoun, graduated from the high school and is now the Provost of Southeastern Technical College.

"My great granddaddy was school board chairman here, my granddaddy taught here and my Dad graduated here.  It's very important to me to uphold that legacy and that family pride," she said.

Richards' husband, Phillip, is the high school physical education teacher and assistant football coach. They have three children in the school system.

Coach Richards was asked if he had a problem with his wife being the boss at school.  He said no, it's that way at home, too.


April 15--  The Athens Banner-Herald reports an Athens woman has been named the official spokesperson for the Vidalia Onion.

Athens food writer, cookbook author and cooking expert Rebecca Lang recently was named the official Vidalia onion spokesperson for 2013.

{mosimage}Throughout the sweet onion’s growing season, which lasts through late summer, Lang will travel the country making in-store grocery appearances, promote the onions via social media and develop recipes in conjunction with the Vidalia Onion Commission’s Taste of Summer contest, a promotion that offers prizes for top recipes incorporating Vidalia onions.

Lang grew up in Telfair county, located on the western edge of the Vidalia onion belt in south Georgia. She can remember her farmer father planting Vidalias at least one season.

“Vidalias were always part of everything,” Lang said. “You saw onion fields as much as you saw the blue sky.”

Lang has long promoted the onion through her food writing and TV appearances, so much so that for Lang, Vidalia onions are synonymous with regular onions.

“So many of us chefs are so passionate about the ingredients we use,” Lang said. “So, being that the Vidalia is the greatest sweet onion on the planet, I’m promoting whether I’m the spokesperson or not.”

Lang just finished up a book tour promoting last year’s “Around the Southern Table,” published under the Southern Living banner, and she said she’s looking forward to acting as “the ambassador” for the vegetable with a big reputation.

“It’s such a big part of the economy in Georgia,” she said. “It’s our state vegetable.”

Vidalia onion season officially starts Monday. May is National Vidalia Onion Month.



April 15--  If you contributed to the local United Way this year, you'll be glad to know its agencies are using a computer tracking system to help avoid assistance abuse.

Sandy Roberts with the Salvation Army in Vidalia says "Charity Tracker" helps make sure those who really need assistance are being served.

"We have a data base now that shows us if the same people are going everywhere.   You really can't just tell another agency about a client, but with "Charity Tracker" they can just put a name in and the computer will tell them if they're in it.  It makes us better stewards of what we have to make sure those who really need help are getting it and the ones who are working the system aren't getting it so it's all gone when somebody who really needs it walks in," Roberts reports.

Right now Roberts says the Salvation Army food pantry is almost bare and she's hoping the United Way-Letter Carrier Food Drive in May will help her re-stock the shelves.

She's also asking that if you have any clothing, old applicances or furniture or almost anything, they need it for the Salvation Army Store on Jackson Street in Vidalia.  The store is one way they raise money to help people.

"There's a lot of families who would never come and ask for help, but they shop in our store.  They can buy kids clothes for $1.99 and their clothes for $2.99 and that helps them be able to afford to buy food and pay bills," she says.


April 13-- Toombs County High School celebrated an important celebration all across the world: Pi Day! Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159.

Students in various math courses at TCHS watched videos, completed hands on activities, and ate lots of pie to celebrate Pi Day. Students also voted for a Pi King and Queen. Students unanimously chose Mr. Shane Griffin, TCHS math teacher, and Dr. Middlebrooks, TCHS principal, as their first annual Pi King and Queen.

{mosimage}Students gathered in the gym on March 29, 2013 to crown their King and Queen. Mrs. Lashley and students provided entertainment with their own rendition of the TCHS Pi Harlem Shake. LaKayla Faison blew students’ and staffs’ minds by memorizing the most digits in Pi – over 100 digits! Finally the students were able to watch their senior vice president, Samantha Shatto , pie Mr. Griffin and the junior vice president, Damian Thrower, graciously pie the principal Dr. Middlebrooks!

The Math Department would like to thank all of the student and teacher volunteers who participated in our first annual Pi Day Celebration!

April 12--  Georgia's two U.S. senators, Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, were among 16 Republicans who voted with most Democrats to allow a floor debate on a gun regulation bill.

The details of the compromise aren't yet final, but Thursday's 68-31 vote was a major procedural hurdle that allows Democrats to avoid a Republican filibuster.

Isakson and Chambliss have not said how they would vote on a final bill, which comes after last year's massacre in Newtown, Conn. Isakson has said any new law should focus on background and mental health. But he's been pressured from gun rights groups to oppose any changes.

Isakson isn't up for re-election until 2018. Chambliss has already announced that he will not seek a third term next year.

A final vote isn't expected for weeks.

April 11--  The Gainesville Times editoralizes on the General Assembly's efforts to reform ethics of state lawmakers.

"Well, it’s better than nothing. Barely.

"Those looking forward to stronger ethics legislation from the recently completed General Assembly session were left with less than a half loaf and wanting more.

"To be fair, the bill limiting gifts from lobbyists is better than the void it filled. Before, lawmakers needed only to report their treasure trove of gifts, listed on a website for all to see. Except, of course, most voters don’t bother to check it, and few state officials seem to fear they will, based on token or absent opposition most faced in the 2012 election.

"It appeared for awhile no bill would pass as the Senate and House remained at odds over a dollar amount to set limiting gifts (the House said zero; the Senate, $100). That raised suspicions the attempt might be a charade, a frenzied effort to appear committed to the cause while letting it die under the cloak of disagreement. In the end, a compromise bill was agreed to on the final day, and rushed to a vote before most members could fully consider it.

"There would not have been a bill at all without the nonbinding referendum on the July primary ballot that showed a strong preference for lobbying limits from voters of both parties. Prior to that, House Speaker David Ralston blew off such efforts as a “silly” left-wing witch hunt. Other members expressed hurt feelings that anyone would think their votes could be swayed by a steak dinner, plane ride to the beach or football tickets.

"Once the public weighed in, minds changed and Sen. Josh McKoon, a voice in the wilderness to that point, was able to propose his bill to cap gifts. Ralston then decided to go one better and cut out gifts entirely with his House plan.

"That is, except for the fine print. Despite good intentions by McKoon and others, there are enough loopholes in the final version to keep most of the goodies flowing.

"For instance, while lobbyists may not lavish gifts on an individual lawmaker beyond the compromise price of $75, they are not limited in how much they can spend on a group, be it members of committee or the whole Assembly.

"Even worse, it includes loose restrictions as to whom is affected by the limits. State employees were made exempt, though many lobby on behalf of their organizations.

"Guess who that includes? The state university system and the World Congress Center, the very groups able to pony up ballgame tickets with impunity. Seems legislators might be willing to give up a nice dinner here and there but not their Bulldogs and Falcons. Those who hire them still have to pay a hefty price to see those teams in person.

"Another loophole could keep lawyers from having to register and adhere to the rules as long as they are “advising” their clients without being expressly paid to lobby. Now there’s a gap you could drive a truck through. Senate Rules Chairman Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, even conceded that such lawyers would be on the “honor system” to register their intentions.

"Not to take a dig at the legal profession and the fine people who practice it, but let’s get real. Lawyers don’t live by fuzzy rules; their profession is based on how they can slice the law down to a fine point. It’s nonsense to think they will comply unless required to do so.

"Nor should they. If legislators really wanted a law to limit lobbying gifts and not just dance around the issue, they would have passed one. And they didn’t.

"This is why Common Cause Executive Director William Perry referred to the bill as “a mess.” All it seems to do is complicate a simple issue and pretend to keep special interest from filling lawmakers’ pockets and bellies while doing little to change the status quo.

"To be fair, the legislature did have a productive session in some areas. The state budget is balanced, as required by the Constitution, and amid more cuts it restores some funding for education. Grade-point standards to qualify for HOPE Grants for technical and vocational schools was lowered, giving those students a needed boost.

"Legislators shuffled off the hospital “tax” to a state agency to levy, but doing so helped fill a hole in the state’s Medicaid budget. Juvenile justice reform will defer more nonviolent young offenders to rehabilitation courts instead of jail, saving money and giving troubled youngsters a more hopeful path.

"All told, it was a fairly productive session. If the final version of ethics reform had matched the rhetoric and the promises made, we could have given the legislature an A-plus this year.

"Perhaps we can consider the lobbying bill a flawed first attempt and seek a do-over next year. Here’s hoping someone will step up and seek to close those gaping loopholes and provide real reform and the will to enforce it.

"Lobbyists provide a key service in the legislative process to inform and advise legislators, and no one wants to curtail that. But those important discussions can be held just as easily in a Capitol office over coffee, Cokes and doughnuts than at a stock car race or a seaside villa on Jekyll Island.

"When we finally get to that point, we’ll know our legislators are working for us and not their own personal interests."

April 11--  You can imagine the alarm when Vidalia School Superintendent Dr. Garrett Wilcox saw a frontpage headline in the local newspaper this week that said, "Shooting at Vidalia High School."

There has been no shooting and Dr. Wilcox wants everybody to know the story was really about law enforcement training which occurred at Vidalia High School during Spring break.

"For those who read the article, it's pretty obvious what the intent was, but I'm a little nervy about the headline.  For people just glancing at the headline coming in a convenience store or what have you, they might think we've had a problem and we haven't.  There's been no shooting at the high school or any of our schools," he said.

The story was about local police officers training on how they would handle a shooter should someone ever invade the high school.  School officials and local police have been conferring on security concerns in the aftermath of what happened at the school in Newtown, Connecticut.

April 11-- Released yesterday, President Obama’s budget proposal allots only $1.28 million to the Savannah Harbor Deepening Project.  Georgia Governor Nathan Deal says it helps move the project forward, but fall short of what is needed from the federal government.

“This amount certainly falls far short of what we were hoping for, particularly considering the time pressures we face on this project and the 5-to-1 return on investment our nation will begin to receive once this is completed,” Deal said. “With the understanding that we’ll have a 60-40 federal-state split on funding, Georgia has lived up to its promises. We’ve now put aside $231 million, which is a significant portion of our share. The federal government has funded only a small fraction of its obligations, and we would like to see more and quicker progress on this front. That said, this funding in the president’s budget shows the administration’s support for the Record of Decision that gives the go-ahead for us to move forward. Now that this is an approved project, we hope we’ll receive additional federal dollars through the Corps of Engineers budget for port projects.”  

April 10--  Two months ago the Montgomery County school board got a state briefing on five options for operating its school system starting in June, 2015.

Tuesday night the Vidalia school board got the same briefing from Louis Erste, head of the charter schools division.  One of the options is for a system of charter schools which brings with it $1.3 million in federal funds if Vidalia decides to turn each of its four schools into charter schools.

Erste says $14 million is still available for award to school systems in Georgia.

School board members are expected to make a decision in the next few months.  Superintendent Dr. Garrett Wilcox believes it will take the system as least nine months to prepare supporting plans if the board wants to change the status quo.

The school board also accepted retirements effective in May from nine teachers and school nutrition director Linda Collins.  It named Denise Parson as her successor.

Facing a $1.1 million dollar budget deficit, Superintendent Wilcox got the board's approval to save $112,000 in custodial costs by awarding a contract to All Clean for cleaning of all four of the system's schools next year.

April 10--  The Montgomery County Commission is set to interview candidates for county manager.

The commissioners met in executive session Monday and decided on four applicants who will be interviewed for the job next week.  Interim manager Franklin Brantley did not apply.

Brantley said he expects the Commission will take some action to fill the vacant Emergency Management position at its May meeting.

In other actions, the board approved a purchase order policy to help track county expenditures and approved building improvements to the county maintenance shop and repairs to the county library.

Brantley told commissioners the first transportation sales tax check in the amount of $13,000 had arrived from the state and recommended some of it be used to repair potholes and for striping of the Conway-McDonald Road.

The county will also award resurfacing contracts for three miles on the South Old River Road, seven-tenths of a mile on North Old River Road and four-tenths of a mile on Round Hole Lane.

April 9--  You can do something Wednesday that may save your child's life.

This area is way below the state average in use of car seats for children and seat belt use in general.

It's costing lives and Harris Blackwood, Director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, is trying to get your attention with a free car seat safety check Wednesday afternoon at Walmark in Vidalia.

"We want to make sure that children are properly buckled in an age appropriate car seat and that's why we are coming to town.  We want to make sure they are absolutely safe, they are our most precious commodity," Blackwood says.

Bonnie Brantley with SafeKids Toombs County says the statistics are alarming.

"Percentages of actually using a car seat are actually in the 20% range. That's not good when the state averages over 80%," she says.

Bad things happen to children who are not properly secured in a car seat.

"If it's not installed properly, it puts the child at more risk of being ejected.  If the harness straps are not tied against the child, the child could actually submarine or come out of it in a rollover or crash.  We're trying to make sure these children are properly restrained," Brantley says.

Experts will be in the Walmart parking lot in Vidalia Wednesday from 1:30 till 4:30 p.m. and Brantley says it will take less than 15 minutes for them to check your child's car seat for correct installation.

If you don't have a car seat for your child, 600 have been shipped to Vidalia for distribution to folks who can't afford one.

"If they qualify and are in need of a car seat.  Remember to bring the child because we fit the child to the seat and the seat to the car," she reports.

April 8--  The state budget approved by the General Assembly contains money to build a new building on the Southeastern Technical College campus in Swainsboro.

According to College President, Dr. Cathy Mitchell, "It's going to be a health sciences building, $8.2 million and 40,000 square feet.  It will house a practical nursing program, a medical assisting program, a certified nurses aide program, a pharmacy tech program and we're planning to start a registered nurse program on that campus as well."

"It's really great for the Swainsboro community.  That's an older campus and we're trying to update it.  Last year we got $4.2 million to rennovate Building Two which is the largest building on that campus.  With that and building a new health science building, it's a tremendous improvement on that campus," she said.

Dr. Mitchell thanked three legislators for helping get the project funded.  Representative Butch Parrish of Swainsboro and Senators Jesse Stone of Wrightsville and Jack Hill of Reidsville made sure it was funded.

"Our legislators were very, very helpful.  They worked hard to get it added to the budget," she said.

Construction of the new building should be completed within two years, Dr. Mitchell reports.

April 7-- The Toombs County High School Chapter of Future Business Leaders of America spent an exciting weekend in Atlanta at the State Leadership Conference where the chapter was recognized as a Superior Gold Chapter of the Year for the second year in a row.

{mosimage}(L-R) Desiree Coplin, Haley Edge, Kyle Toole, South Area Vice President MichalaCoursey, Local Chapter President Addison Baldree, Jacob Rowland, Region 2 President Dustin Wingard, Myka Johnson, and Cheyenne Jackson

After many exhilarating competitions, workshops—one of which was led by chapter member Jacob Rowland—and an intense campaign for the election of the 2013-14 state officers, the event ended with the Awards Ceremony Saturday night. 

In the awards received by the chapter, Addison Baldree was honored as a Georgia FBLA Who’s Who Honorable Mention and a recipient of the Community Service Award of Merit, Dustin Wingard received a $500 scholarship for FBLA Outstanding Member, Mariela Villa placed 3rd in the state in Public Speaking I, and  Jacob Rowland placed 5th in FBLA Principles and Procedures and 9th in Hospitality Management. 

Myka Johnson, Desiree Coplin, and Breanna Mitchum were recognized for completing the Future Level, Michala Coursey for completing the Business and Leader Levels, and Jacob Rowland for completing the Leader and America Levels of the Business Achievement Awards.

Region 2 President Dustin Wingard and Region 2 Secretary Michala Coursey were acknowledged for their contributions to the state chapter in their individual roles throughout the year. 

The final highlight of the evening for the chapter was the election and swearing in of Michala Coursey as the Georgia South Area Vice President State Officer for next year.  She will represent the chapter and Georgia FBLA in her new role at the National Leadership Conference in Anaheim, California in June. Jacob Rowland will also be attending the conference to receive national recognition for having completed all four levels of the Business Achievement Awards.

The Chapter is led by Adviser Kathy O’Neal, a Business and Computer Science teacher atToombs County High School.


April 6-- At the 65th Annual University of Georgia State Science and Engineering Fair, all 3 Vidalia High School science teams placed among the top 4 in their categories.  There were 325 high school projects with an average of 40 projects in each category.


{mosimage}(L-R) Jarred Fountain, Jake Everett, faculty sponsor Jeff Ikner, Zeel Meehta,

Maja Mitchell and Caroline Smith.


         Jarred Fountain placed fourth overall in Engineering and received the Georgia Foundation Award for having the best project in Engineering.  He was also interviewed by a GaTech professor and informed that if he continued with the Science Fair, he would receive a personal recommendation from him for the GaTech School of Engineering.  Jarred reinvented the wheel by designing aluminum cylinders that are capable of withstanding the extreme temperature ranges in the martian atmosphere.  Jarred placed Second at the Savannah Regional Competition in order to qualify for State. 

          Ben Flamm and Jake Everett placed 3rd in Physics.  Ben will be attending GaTech in the fall to major in Engineering.  Ben and Jake designed, built, and collected data over how efficient airplane wings would be if designed based on aquatic features.  Ben and Jake placed first at the Savannah Region Competition in Physics. 

          Caroline Smith and Maja Mitchell placed 2nd in Biochemistry by making plastic from corn for a sustainable dome habitat on Mars.  Caroline was accepted to UGA to dual major in biology and chemistry.  Maja will be attending an art institute in Texas.  They placed first in the Region Competition.

          Zeel Mehta placed 2nd in Microbiology for slowing the rate of microbial growth in corn.  Zeel is an 8th grade student from J. R. Trippe and has competed in the Science Fair for two years already. 


April 5-  Meadows Healthcare Foundation has received  a seven figure pledge (specific amount not disclosed) from a unnamed donor. Due to this sizable donation, the donor has been given naming rights to the cancer center.  

The foundation will introduce the donor to the community at the Radiation Center's ribbon cutting ceremony on April 25th.  The donor will also reveal the name chosen for cancer center at that time.

"I know the community will be very happy when they see who this signature donor is and how much love is behind this very generous gift.  Almost every person has been affected by cancer in some way or another and this donor is no exception." says Foundation Director, Melissa Hightower.

This donation is the largest single gift that has been given to the foundation since its inception in 2009.

"I want to make a difference in this community.  I believe in giving back and helping people.  Cancer hits close to home for me and this cancer center will be one of the most advanced centers  in the state of Georgia and I am honored to be involved with this project." says the anonymous donor.

An artist's rendering depicting the new name will be made public by the donor at the ribbon cutting ceremony.   "We are thrilled be able to put a name on the cancer center  that will reflect the reason for this donation." adds Hightower.

The community is invited to the ribbon cutting ceremony.  Tours of the Radiation Center are 4:00-5:00 p.m. and the ceremony will begin  at 5:00 p.m.

April 4--  Congressman Paul Broun of Athens was the first to announce his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Saxby Chambliss and he's the first to visit Vidalia.

{mosimage}He met with local Republicans and the Vidalia Tea Party Tuesday.

"There are four questions I ask myself about all legislation and I'll do that in the U.S. Senate just like I've been doing in the U.S Congress.

*The first one is, is it right?  Does it fit the the Judeo-Christian Biblical principles that our nation was founded upon?

*The second question, is it constitutional in accordance with orginal intent?

*Third, do we need it?

*Fourth, can we afford it?

If all four are yes, I vote for it.  If not, I vote no.  We've got to put this country back on course and we've got to stop this out of control spending that both parties are doing in Washington," Broun says.

The Republican primary in 2014 is attracting a lot of candidates in addtion to Broun.

He and Congressman Phil Gingrey of Marietta have garnered about 15% in a poll released Wednesday with Congressman Jack Kinsgston of Savannah picking up 14% even though he has yet to formally announce his candidacy.

Former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel picked up nine percent.

Sea Island businessman David Perdue, first cousin of former Governor Sonny Perdue and former CEO of Reebok and Dollar General, got five percent in the survey.

Broun believes his record of opposing increased federal spending sets him apart from his congressional colleagues.

"I alone have the record and have the will to say no to the out of control spending," he says.

April 4-- Toombs County High School English teacher, Mandy Sanders, will join the Advanced Placement teaching team.  TCHS was awarded the Advanced Placement Teacher Training Grant for a teacher to attend training at a Summer Institute in July. 

Advanced Placement classes, which are endorsed by the College Board, are college-level classes taken in high school. Upon completion of the course, students take an AP exam which, with sufficient scores, offers the student college credit. All AP classes meet the rigor requirements required for the HOPE scholarship.  Mrs. Sanders will receive AP training this July at Valdosta State University. 

{mosimage}Toombs County High School AP Team from left to right are top row Eric Gerrish, AP Spanish; Bobby George, AP US History; Kip Hart, AP Chemistry; bottom row Sheila Pittman, Ap Calculus; Mandy Sander, English; Rustin Howard, AP English (not pictured, Leatte Williamson, AP World History).                               



April 3--  Because of Spring break, there are no students at Vidalia High School this week, but local lawmen are in the building rehearsing what they would do in the event a shooter invaded the school.

Vidalia Police Captain Clint Kennedy and Toombs County Deputy Sheriff Danny Willamson conducted the training of officers from Vidalia, Lyons and the Sheriff's Office with assistance from Georgia State Patrol troopers.

{mosimage}(L-R) Toombs County Deputy Terry Smith, Georgia State Patrol Trooper Tim Mitchell, Vidalia Police Officer Robbie Carter and Lyons Police Sergeant Thomas Craft set up in a diamond formation stalking a shooter in the hallway of Vidalia High School. 

Deputy Williamson says they're building a base to build on.  Following meetings with local school officials, police are using school blueprints and familiarizing themselves with the buildings.

"Captian Kennedy has the blueprints of the Vidalia schools and we're also getting the blueprints for the Toombs County schools and their school safety plans.  We're also planning an assembly for the students to show them what we want them to do if something should happen," Deputy Williamson says.

"They're going to make a lot of mistakes today, but that's what the training is for.  The more we practice the better we'll get.  The guys are really motivated.  Many of them are parents, too, and they have children in these schools so they take a personal interest in this training," he says. 

April 3-- Georgia Agriculture Commissioner, Gary W. Black, today announced the official “Shipping Date” for the 2013 Vidalia® Onion Marketing Season is April 15, 2013.

The shipping date is based on the recommendation of the Vidalia® Onion Advisory Panel under the authority of the law, rules and regulations applicable to Vidalia® onions.

Vidalia® onions may ONLY be shipped prior to April 15th  if each and every load being shipped has a Federal-State Inspection Certificate stating the onions have met the established grade requirements and are under “Positive Lot Identification” as approved by the Federal-State Inspection Service. “Baby” Vidalia® onions with greens attached may also be shipped earlier in the season.

{mosimage}“The Federal-State Inspection assures the quality of the onions and that they have matured to meet the marketing standards,” Commissioner Black said. “Onions that are harvested and shipped too early and do not meet the grade requirements can damage the reputation of this important crop.”

Most in the industry are still reeling from the 2012 crop, where growers say historically higher-than-normal temperatures during the growing season spurred smaller sizes and the onset of a particularly virulent strain of downy mildew; the combination of which resulted in roughly one-third reductions in marketable yields.  Storage facilities last season remained largely un-filled, which resulted in a shortened season.

Vidalia® growers feel generally upbeat and optimistic regarding this upcoming crop.  Most are reporting great stands, uniform growth and a general low-incidence of plant disease – all pointing to a great crop.  Conversely, many are concerned about the recent (and forecasted) cooler-than-normal temperatures.  The expectation now is this will slow maturity and the onset of harvest to the point, many believe, that few quality supplies will be available much before April 15.  Georgia Vidalia® onion growers plan to harvest more than 12,000 acres of  Vidalia® onions in 2013.

Vidalia® onions are unique to Georgia and may only be grown in parts of a 20-county area in the southeastern part of the state.  The onions are prized for their sweetness and lack of heat and are used raw or cooked.


April 3--  A Utah company has entered into a joint management agreement and lease with Emanuel Medical Center in Swainsboro.

ER Hospitals of Salt Lake City says it will provide financial and management resources to help the medical center.  The agreement took effect Monday and also includes Emanuel Emergency Medical Services and Emanuel Nursing Home.

The company also manages hospitals in Nevada.  The agreement with Emanuel Medical Center is its first in Georgia.

April 3--  The Atlanta Business Chronicle reports on a profitable year for Oxford Industries which has a Distribution Center in Lyons.

The Atlanta-based clothing company reported its profit was up 6 percent in 2012, a year also marked by the poor performance of its Ben Sherman brand.

  • Sales: $855.5 million, up 13 percent
  • Net Income: $31.1 million, up 6 percent
  • Earnings Per Share: $1.89, up 7 percent

Click here for the full earnings report.

J. Hicks Lanier, Oxford Industries chairman and CEO:

“We are very pleased with the 2012 performance of our two largest brands, Tommy Bahama and Lilly Pulitzer. We launched Tommy Bahama’s international expansion in 2012 and we now operate nine stores in the Asia-Pacific region, including our newest in Yokohama, Japan... Needless to say, Ben Sherman’s operating results in fiscal 2012 were extremely disappointing. Missteps in the execution of our strategy coupled with a difficult consumer market in the UK and Europe have put pressures on both our top line and gross margins. We are taking specific actions to stabilize and improve this business, but the impact of these challenges is expected to continue into 2013, particularly in the first half.”



April 2--  The U.S. Navy's Blue Angels called the Vidalia Onion Festival air show committee late Tuesday with some bad news.

Despite previous assurances that the Vidalia show was still a go, the Blues have been told by higher ups the trip to Vidalia is a no go because of Defense Department budget cuts, according to Marsha Temples with the air show organizers.

"We were having an air show committee meeting this afternoon at 5:30 and my cellphone rang at 5:40.  It was the Blue Angels saying they have to cancel the Vidalia show."

Even though the Blue Angels had already cancelled other April air shows, they held out hope they could make it to Vidalia and gave the go ahead to order some supplies.  Luckily, the order has yet to go out and that saves about $15,000, according to Temples.

"They're as disappointed as I am.  They were lead to believe they'd still come here and they've been practicing to be prepared," Temples said.

Temples say the show will go on and her plan is to "pull a rabbit out of a hat" and find a headliner for the air show. 

"I want everybody to know the Blue Angels cancelled their appearance but Vidalia is still going to have an air show.  I've talked to our air boss who's been working with me for years.  The Sun Fun Air Show is the week before us in Lakeland, Florida and we'll find somebody that everybody will be really pleased with," she promises.

April 2--  Students in Montgomery County will go to school fewer days next year, but the school days will be about a half-hour longer.

With the exception of board member Terry Outler, the Montgomery school board voted Monday night to approve a calender which amounts to 13 fewer days of school.  It's 160 days for students and 168 for teachers.  This year students are in class 173 days and teachers work 181 days.

Outler voted against the change because he thinks it's unfair to some school system employees. It cuts the pay of employees like school bus drivers and lunchroom workers.

School Superintendent Randy Rodgers says the calender is like the one being used by the Toombs County school system and allows Montgomery students enrolled in the Southeast Early College and Career Academy to attend the same classes with Toombs County students.

Meanwhile, Rodgers reports recent decisions by the legislature on equalization funding and declining enrollment in Montgomery County amounts to a $160,000 hit to the school system's budget.

"The equalization formula was redistributed with the counties of Gwinnett, Paulding and Clayton receiviing the great majority of equalization funding.  We're expecting about $120,000 less than we received this year plus about $40,000 less due to decreasing enrollment.  We've got to find areas from which to take those amounts," Rodgers says.

Montgomery County is also undergoing a property tax revaluation and the superintendent foresees an increase in the tax rate just to bring in the same amount of revenue as this year.

"We do not anticipate, at this point, increasing our revenue.  Depending on what the revaluation does, it will more than likely effect the number of mils it will take to generate the same amount of money," Rodgers believes.

The school board also approved spending $285,200 in sales tax revenue for facilities improvements this summer, approved accepting a $1,000 college scholarship in the name of Reverend Robert J. Conner and okayed the retirements of two teachers, a librarian and a para-professional.


April 1-- The Georgia Department of Labor announced today that the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha region’s unemployment rate declined to 11.2 percent in February, down seven-tenths of a percentage point from 11.9 percent in January. The rate was 11.8 percent in February a year ago.

The rate declined because of two factors -- there were 662 fewer new layoffs, and the labor force, which is the number of people employed plus those unemployed but actively looking for a job, decreased by 2,112.

The number of first-time claims for unemployment insurance benefits fell to 1,735 in February, down from 2,397 in January. The decreases came mostly in construction, manufacturing, trade, transportation, and warehousing, and administrative and support services. And, the number of initial claims was down over-the-year by 567 from 2,302 in February 2012. Most of the over-the-year decline came in the same industries as the monthly decline.

Also, the region’s labor force declined to 124,654, down from 126,766 in January. The labor force totaled 126,207 in February 2012.  

Metro Athens had the lowest area jobless rate at 6.1 percent, while the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha region had the highest at 11.2 percent.

Meanwhile, Georgia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for February was 8.6 percent, down from 8.7 percent in January. The rate was 9.2 percent in February a year ago.

Local area unemployment data are not seasonally adjusted. Georgia labor market data are available at