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


May 31--  The number of voting places in Toombs County is being reduced from 14 to five.

According to a plan developed by the Board of Elections, voters who currently vote in the nine locations being closed will be directed to one of the new consolidated locations.  They are the Adult Literacy Center at Brinson Road in Vidalia, the Vidalia Police Department, Cedar Crossing, New Branch and Partin Park in Lyons.

Elections Supervisor Carrie Alligood says the move will save the county money.

"If we keep the existing 14 precincts, the buildings that need repairs on them will cost an estimated $259,000.  Many of the buildings would have to be torn down and new buildings built," she says.

Alligood says the popularity of early voting reduces the need for so many voting places.

"You've got 45 days for a mailout ballot and 21 days to come into our office and that's really catching on.  Especially during runoffs, you don't have that many people coming to the precincts and you're spending up to $800 for as few as ten people to vote there.  It's just no longer cost efficient to keep them open.

"When we close these precincts down, it will allow us to put more voting equipment in the new locations and that will really be more efficient," she says.

The plan requires the approval of the U.S. Department of Justice and Alligood hopes to get that in time to hold the 2014 elections in the new voting places. 

May 30--  A little boy whose faith and courage inspired thousands of people at home and around the world is being buried Friday.

{mosimage}Four-year-old Silas Edenfield of Lyons fought a rare form of liver cancer for more than a year.  He died at his home Saturday.

His Mom, Jessica, says she and her husband, Archie, were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support.

"The support was a lot more than we ever expected.  We got so much support from around the country and around the world.  I think at last count there were more than 20 countries represented on his Facebook page.

"I think the Lord just had a special calling on his life.  Silas' three passions were Jesus, childhoodl cancer awareness and sea turtles.  I think with those three things he loved so much, it covered a lot of people and they were able to relate to him," she said.

Silas' parents and his three older brothers are coping with his death as you might imagine.

"There are good moments and bad moments.  We're relieved in a way that Silas is with the Lord and is no longer suffering, but we're still very sad that he's no longer with us.  You always imagine your child growing up and what they will be like, but we won't have that with Silas and it's very sad.  Children shouldn't die before their parents.

"I think sometimes people think of the verse Romans 8:28 as being a cliche but it's very true.  God really does work all things together for good for those that love him.  This is a really good example of that.  The Lord has used this tragic situation to bring about a lot of good," Silas' mother says.

The funeral is Friday afternoon at two o'clock at the Ronald V. Hall Funeral Home in Vidalia.

The service will be audio streamed live worldwide via a webcast on www.southeastgeorgiatoday.com.  Click here to be directed to the Audio link.

 

 

May 29--  Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia is buying land for future development.

The medical center has bought the Thomas and Betts electrical factory property on Highway 292 east of the hospital.

{mosimage}Medical Center CEO Alan Kent says they got the 44 acres for a reduced price of about $600,000.

"The property became available at a fraction of what was originally asked six years ago.  We wanted to make sure the community has adequate space for taking care of developing healthcare needs for the next couple of decades.  The development may be at the initiative of the hospital or complementary because other businesses find it advantageous to be located near the hospital." he said.

Kent says the hospital is in no hurry to demolish the old factory building.  "Since there's not an immediate plan for that property, we'll be able to take our time and spread that work out over an appropriate period of time," he said.

{mosimage}  The owner is offering a reward for the safe return of her dog, Chipsy.  Chipsy left her home on the corner of Quail and Pheasant Drive on Friday evening and hasn't been seen since.  This baby is a house pet and has never left home before, and is very friendly.  A little hyper, but will answer to 'Chipsy" when called.  Please help us bring her home! If you have any information on this dog, please contact Courtney at 912-293-0942.

 

May 28--  Toombs County Commissioners honored Tommy Thompson of the Toombs County Landfill as the county's Employee of the Month for May.

{mosimage} 

(L-R) Commissioners Jeff McCormick, Wendell Dixon, Chairman Blake Tillery, Tommy Thompson, Roy Lee Williams and Darriel Nobles.

May 27--  The annual Memorial Day program hosted by the local VFW Auxiliary gave local citizens a chance to remember those who gave their lives serving in the United States Military.

{mosimage}Lieutenant Colonel David Pittman (shown here with Auxiliary Mistress of Ceremonies Shirley Curl) from the Third Infantry Division at Fort Stewart reminded the audience that Memorial Day grew from the acts of women of the Confederacy who decorated the graves of Union soldiers in the aftermath of the Civil War.

Members of the VFW Auxiliary and local Girl Scouts spent time over the weekend placing American Flags on the graves of veterans buried in the Lyons City Cemetery and Lakeview Memorial Gardens south of Vidalia.

{mosimage}The program included the reading of names of Toombs County servicemembers killed in the nation's wars.  Included are 15 from World War I, 48 from World War II, seven from Korea and 12 from Vietnam.

Memorial Day music was provided by Diane McBride and members of the Lyons First United Methodist Church choir.

May 27--  A week after he graduated from high school, a Toombs County teenager died from injuries in a traffic accident.

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight says 18-year-old Tanner Williams died after a two-vehicle accident just before midnight Saturday.

He says the accident happened on the Lyons-Center Road not far from the Highway 15 intersection.

According to the Georgia State Patrol, a car was passing Williams' truck when the two vehicles ran together.  The collison caused Williams' vehicle to spin out of control and overturn.  He was thrown from the truck.  A passenger, Cody Williamson, was not seriously injured.

The driver of the car, 18-year-old Sara Chapman of Ailey, and her three passengers were not hurt.

Trooper Denny Garner says none of the people were wearing seatbelts.

Tanner graduated from Toombs County High School Saturday, May 18th.

The State Patrol is investigating the accident.

May 27--  Eight puppies are now in Florida and on the way to new homes.  The Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society hooked up with Susan from "Pilots N Paws" to fly them from Vidalia Regional Airport.

{mosimage} 


May 27--  Vidalia Tea Party leaders are upset with the Internal Revenue Service as the story unfolds on higher ups in the agency who used it for political purposes in the 2010 and 2012 elections.

According to Linda Anderson with the Vidalia Tea Party Patriots, "They've made it very difficult for us to get funding and get the word out.  We have this administration which doesn't have a clue to anything that's going on with the IRS, the AP, Benghazi, Fast and Furious or with anything that's taken place in the last six years.  They don't want to admit to any of this stuff they're doing and I think we're dealing with bad Chicago politics."

Anderson thinks the national media smear campaign has hurt local Tea Party participation.

"They say things that aren't true about us.  That we are racist and just a bunch of crazy, wacko people.

"We are concerned citizens who love our country and we don't like what's happening to it.  Our main purpose is to try to educate people to the truth of what is going on.  There's a great need for people to hear the truth," she said.

May 26-- State Senator Tommie Williams (R-Lyons) has received the highest ranking given on the Georgia Chamber’s Legislative Scorecard. The Chamber’s legislative scorecard recognizes legislators that supported strong business initiatives during the 2013 legislative session.

{mosimage}“I am honored to receive this high ranking from the esteemed Georgia Chamber,” said Sen. Williams.  “Creating an environment for that is attractive to businesses is crucial to the economic development of our state.  Regardless of whether the business is a family owned onion stand or a large corporation like Coca-Cola, their rights and privileges must be protected.”

Throughout the 2013 Georgia General Assembly session, legislators addressed a number of issues important to the state’s business community. Legislation enhancing Georgia's competitiveness through education, economic development, business and industry, and judiciary reform were designated as scorecard issues by the Georgia Chamber Government Affairs Council and are included in this year's legislative scorecard. Each legislator’s grade, given by the Georgia Chamber, reflects an assessment of his or her support for business community priorities.

“What is clear from this year’s scorecard is that lawmakers – both Democrat and Republican – are taking private-sector growth seriously. They realize how important these issues are to the state and to their constituents and that we must take action to encourage investment and job creation,” said Georgia Chamber President and CEO Chris Clark. “We are proud that there was such broad-based, bipartisan support for each of the scorecard bills. As a result, we will improve Georgia’s overall competitiveness and reputation as a state that is open for business. We commend Senator Williams for his dedication and commitment to the betterment of our state.”

May 25--  Southeastern Technical College has received two grants, one for GED assistance and another for online orientations for students.

Help For GED Students

The Southeastern Technical College Foundation was selected on May 17 to receive a $5,000 grant to increase the number of GEDs awarded in Southeastern Tech’s eight-county service area.

The grant, from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, was made in support of STC’s new initiative, A Step Up (For GED Scholarships). The initiative aims to increase the number of students participating in STC’s adult literacy education program and increase the number of GED awards issued in 2014.

OnLine Orientation Funding

 

First-time students to Southeastern Technical College will have a new way to acquaint themselves with the college, thanks to a grant the school received to fund the creation of an online student orientation.

The grant, received from the Frances Wood Wilson Foundation, covered the purchase cost and early maintenance fees for a new online orientation system for Southeastern Tech.

“Having orientation online is a must in today’s fast paced world,” said Brad Hart, STC’s director of enrollment services. “Students are able to complete the orientation at their convenience, whether that is from home or from one of our on-campus computer labs. All they need is an Internet connection.”

 


 

 

May 24--  Robert Toombs Christian Academy in Lyons has its high school graduation this weekend.

{mosimage}The top gradute in the class of 2013 is Anna Sullivan, (left) who was also the school's STAR student this year.

"I am very honored to be the Valedictorian of my class.  I've tried very hard these past years.  I've been at Robert Toombs my entire life and it's really crazy walking down the aisle as the Valedictorian.

"My favorite thing about the school is that it's so small.  I have a great, close group of friends and my parents have even worked there.  My mom was a coach in one-act play and literary and my dad was a football coach.  I think it's great how the parents can be involved also," she said.

Anna is on the way to UGA to major in pre-med.

The Saluatorian is Katie Brigman who's planning on a pre-pharmacy course of study at Armstrong-Atlantic.

Like Anna and her classmates, she's got special feelings for RTCA and it Christian foundation.

"Everyone knows each others name there and it's just a big family. We've had chapel every week since I was little and I think it impacts our school greatly," she believes. 

May 23-- The Georgia Department of Labor announced today that the unemployment rate in the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha region declined to 10.3 percent in April, down one-tenth of a percentage point from 10.4 percent in March. The rate was 10.8 percent in April a year ago.

The rate declined because fewer people were unemployed. The number of unemployed people declined by 167 to 12,746, down from 12,913 in March. And, the number of unemployed people was down by 679 from 13,425 in April 2012.

Metro Athens had the lowest area jobless rate at 5.6 percent, while the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha region had the highest at 10.3 percent.

Meanwhile, Georgia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for April was 8.2 percent, down from 8.4 percent in March. The rate was 9.1 percent in April a year ago.

 

May 23--  The Georgia Department of Agriculture is spending $125,000 of its budget to help animal rescue groups pay for the spaying and neutering of dogs and cats.

{mosimage}State Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black presented a $7,500 check to the Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society Tuesday in Vidalia. (L-R Commissioner Black, Marcia Cherry, Therisa Ingley and Thyra Burakowski)  Black also had a message for pet owners.

"What we really need to get into the hearts and minds of families all across Georgia is that you should have your pet spayed or neutered.  The advantages of doing that from a social standpoint and for the animal's benefit and the general benefit of the community, it's one of the most responsible things a person could do," he said.

SOAPS leader Therisa Ingley says the state grant will help local efforts to control the animal population.

"We all know the only way to prevent the staggering number of unwanted pets we have in this area is through spay/neuter, so any amount of money we can apply toward that end is valuable.  Already this year we've approved over 400 spay/neuters.  At $100 a voucher, that's $40,000 we've already spent.  So, $7,500 means we can spay/neuter another 75 to 100 animals and that will reduce a lot of unwanted pets in this area," she reported. 

Commissioner Black advised citizens to talk with their city and county governments about enacting local laws to control breeding.  

May 22--  Oak Park Police and the Emanuel County Sheriff's Office responded to a call Tuesday at a residence in the southern part of Emanuel County.

Inside they found four-month-old Rosalyn Fullmore dead in her basinette.

According to the Sheriff's Office, two adults in the residence had ingested methamphetamine and fell asleep about nine a.m. Tuesday.  They awoke sometime after two p.m. and found the baby unresponsive.

{mosimage}{mosimage} 

Sheriff Tyson Stephens is charging Robert Benton and the baby's mother, Melissa Fullmore, with possession of meth with intent to distribute, possession of marijuana, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and by a convicted felon.  Both have previous felony convictions.

Charges related to the baby's death may be filed pending autopsy results, according to the sheriff.  

May 22--  A native of Pakistan who immigrated to the United States in 1973 and became a U.S. citizen ten years later is appealing to Muslims to condemn and speak out against terrorists.

{mosimage}Mubarak Chouhdry worked for seven years at Vidalia's Meadows Regional Medical Center and has written a book called, "I Love America, So Why Don't You."  He currently lives in the Atlanta area and visited Vidalia's Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs to discuss his book.

Chouhdry's message to Muslims is simple, "What I'm suggestiing to Muslims is to look back at history and don't hurt and kill.  Why do you want to kill?  God gave us this life and we need to live it to the fullest."

He also advises Americans to study history and become informed about what is going on in the world.

"This is the greatest country and we need to protect it and defend it.  Don't believe everything you read in the newspaper.  Go out and do research because history is a great teacher.  There is a certain threat in the Muslim world and at the same time we've got to defend this country.  At the same time, we need to accept other people because this country is a melting pot," he believes.

Chouhdry's youngest son, Ali, was born in Vidalia and has since graduated from West Point and will soon deploy to Afghanistan.

"I worry about it and his mother is a lot more worried than I am.  We are going to pray to God.  I think we're doing a good work in Afghanistan and he's on a mission.  We're going to support him one hundred percent and we're going to pray for him," he says.

According to a passage in Chouhdry's book, "Muslims living in all the Western countries need to follow the teachings of peace, compassion and more righteousness lavishly promoted by Moses, Jesus and Mohammad.

"Just as the Irish, Italian, German, Indians and Chinese have done before them, Muslims nust integrate and assimilate to become productive citizens of their new land.  Muslims living in the USA should respect diversity and speak out and condemn the killing of innocent human beings and the terrorism committed by the jihadi.

"Most Americans are kind, loving, charitable and the most giving people in the world.  Muslim immigrants and citizens should be thankful every day for their open and accepting arms."

Information on the book is at www.iloveamericasowhydontyou.com .

May 21--  Two teenagers have been arrested and charged with criminal trespassing.

According to Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight, the two are accused of vandalizing mailboxes earlier this month on several roads in the county.

They're identified as 17-year-old Roderick Blair Barwick of 1307 Center Drive in Vidalia and 18-year-old Jessie Hall James of 1396 Dell Conner Road in Lyons.

Citizens who had mailboxes damaged on May 10th or 11th are asked to call the sheriff's office, 526-6778. 

May 21--  The current chief of the Higgston Volunteer Fire Department is the new Montgomery County Emergency Management Director and Coordinator of County Services.

In a 3-2 vote, the Montgomery County Commission hired Jimmy Braddy during a called meeting Monday night.  He succeeds John Neff who left the job March 12.

Braddy had the support of volunteer fire departments in the county and got "yes" votes from Commissioners Clarence Thomas, John Carpenter and Tim Williamson.

Braddy will resign his job with the volunteer fire department and start work for the county June 3, according to County Manager Brandon Braddy.

The commissioners also approved a $10,000 allocation to help fund the county recreation department. 

May 21--  State Senator Tommie Williams of Lyons is one of several Republicans considering running for the 12th District seat in the U.S. Congress, according to the following story today in The Augusta Chronicle.

"Now that Rep. John Barrow has turned down a campaign for the U.S. Senate, the Deep South’s last white Democratic congressman must defy the odds a second time by winning re-election in a district drawn to ensure his defeat.

With the 2014 primaries more than a year away, several Republicans are taking a hard look at opposing Barrow in the 12th District. One GOP candidate says he’ll be running full-time as of June, and others said they will probably make up their minds this summer.

Barrow’s re-election to a fifth term in November was a big upset for Republicans after GOP state lawmakers redrew the district to carve out Savannah – Barrow’s home and Democratic base – and replace it with mostly rural, conservative communities. Barrow moved to Augusta and spent more than $2.8 million on a campaign that cast him as an independent who’s pro-gun and often at odds with President Obama. He defeated Republican state Rep. Lee Anderson, of Grove­town, with a commanding 54 percent of the vote – a margin made possible only by thousands of Mitt Romney voters crossing party lines.

Augusta attorney Wright McLeod, who sought the GOP nomination in a crowded primary last year, said he’s “on the fence” about running for the House seat again. He suspects Barrow will be even tougher to beat in 2014.

He sees only one upshot to Barrow seeking re-election to the House: “Hopefully it’ll keep some Republican candidates on the sidelines.”

State Sen. Tommie Wil­liams, a Republican from Lyons, said he’s “seriously looking” at the race, though he questions whether it’s worth going to Washington amid the current partisan gridlock.

John Stone, a veteran Repub­lican aide on Capitol Hill who worked for late Rep. Charlie Norwood and former Rep. Max Burns, has resigned as chief of staff to Texas Rep. John Carter so he can run for Barrow’s seat. He ran in the old 12th District in 2008 and lost to Barrow by 32 percentage points.

Stone chalks up his loss to record Democratic turnout for Obama’s first presidential race and a lack of sup­port from the national Re­publican Party. He said it should be a different story for Republicans seeking to oust Barrow next year – as long as they don’t blow their chances with a nasty, expensive primary. Some blame a bruising, four-way Republican primary last year for giving Barrow the edge he needed to win.

“We had an absolutely awful primary in the Repub­lican side, the typical circular firing squad we tend to do,” Stone said.

Stone confirmed he’s been calling McLeod and other potential GOP candidates and asking them to stand down and leave him unopposed.

Augusta businessman Rick W. Allen, who also might run again for Barrow’s seat after an unsuccessful GOP primary campaign last year, wasn’t too impressed with Stone’s offer.

“It was a shocker because, frankly, John Barrow beat John Stone by 32 points last time,” Allen said.

“And I asked him, ‘How do you think you’re going to do better this time?’ ”

Allen paid handsomely to be the Republican runner-up in the primaries last year, when he spent $610,000 of his own money before losing a runoff.

He’s not letting his financial losses stop him from considering a comeback race. He planned to meet with party leaders and key supporters during last weekend’s Republican state convention in Athens and said he would likely to make up his mind soon afterward.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has named Barrow among seven House Democrats it considers the most vulnerable in 2014. NRCC staff are being dedicated full-time to helping defeat them.

Barrow insists he’s not worrying now about a race that’s still a year away.

“There’s a time for campaigning and this definitely isn’t it,” he said. “The best way to apply to be rehired for a job like this is to work harder at it than anybody else.”

 

May 21--  A report in a North Georgia newspaper claims the new city manager in Lyons resigned from his previous job after his employers questioned his use of a city credit card.

The Dalton Daily Citizen quoted city officials of Varnell, Georgia as saying Jason Hall resigned in mid-March about a week after he was questioned about personal charges on the city credit card.

Lyons Mayor Willis NeeSmith says he and the city council were aware of the issue before they hired Hall in April.

"I did some checking on him and there was some controversy that went on up there.  It was divided among councilmen and I talked with both sides (in Varnell) and we talked it over in our council.  We liked his attitude and we went with our gut feelings on him, " the mayor said.

Hall says $1,800 quoted in the paper as restitution he made to the City of Varnell upon his departure is incorrect.  However, he does say he paid back a much smaller sum of money.

He's also asking citizens of Lyons for a chance.

"We're starting a new life down here and we're excited about Lyons.  One of the things that excites me about Lyons is the city has an amazing staff with a good checks and balance policy.  There's no question about the monies that come in and leave Lyons.  I hope the City of Lyons judges me on the dedication I've had to the city in the last few weeks and the things we've acccomplished instead of judging me on remarks that were made months removed and almost begrudgingly," Hall said.

May 20--  The Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremoney for a new insurance agency on the strip in Vidalia. 

{mosimage}Attending (l-r) are Ronnie Green, Cassie Neal, Marsha Temples, Martha Ann Thigpen, owner Kimberly Thigpen, Raymond Turner, Brian McDaniel and Blake Tillery.

May 20--  The Vidalia City School system has an unusally high number of teachers retiring this year.

At its May meeting, the school board thanked ten teachers with 322 years of combined classroom experience.

{mosimage}(Seated, L-R) Theresa Durden, Deanne Floyd, Janice Reid, Joyce Walden, Debra Moncrief, Sherri Cooper. (Standing, L-R) Terri Kennedy, Gloria Helms, Betty Fulton and Linda Collins.

Four teachers retiring from J.D. Dickerson Primary School include Mary James, Janice Reid, Deanna Floyd and Theresa Durden who has spent all 39 years of her career teaching in Vidalia.

She has some advice for parents with children.

"Children whose parents are involved in their education and who are in the school periodically to find out what's going on, those are the children who are successful.  The more parents are involved, the better children succeed in education.

Mrs. Durden has spent the last nine years teaching first graders and she's excited about the use of technology in the classroom.

"Technology is a big thing and it's important.  It's a big motivation for the children and anything that will keep their interest is a good thing," she says.

She also has some advice for people thinking about a teaching career.

"Take it serious.  You have to love children.  If you don't have a love for children, patience and interest in their welfare, then I don't think it's a job for you," she advises.

Other retirees include Joyce Walden, Debra Moncrief and Sherri Cooper from Sally Meadows Elementary; Terri Kennedy from J.R. Trippe Middle School; and Gloria Helms and Betty Fulton from Vidalia High School.

The school system's food service director, Linda Coillins, is also retiring after 36 years on the job.

May 17--  The top students at Toombs County and Treutlen High Schools are leading their classmates in graduation cermonies this weekend.

{mosimage}The valedictorian at Toombs County High School is Natalie Kirkley (right) who says she has a lot of people to thank.

"My parents always encouraged me to do my best.  When I was a young child, I was always required to make "A's" and that's why I am valedictorian today.  I also want to thanks the Wilkes family.  They are a great inspiration and a very strong motivator for me.  Courtney should have been our valedictorian.  With everything that happened, they just motivated me, too, and I want to do her proud," she said.

The Bulldog salutatorian is Alex Dismuke.

"It definitely took a lot of work.  I know I worked very hard for the grades I made.  The "A's" haven't been easy and I'm very proud of the work I've done," she said.

{mosimage}At Treutlen High School, Hunter Dennard (right) takes top honors.

"It feels great.  I love my high school and I've worked so hard for this all my life.  I'm so proud to be able to represent my class," she said.

Hunter's advice to freshmen is work hard and have fun, "Dont' give up even if you have a rough week or a bad test.  One grade isn't going to effect everything so stay relaxed and have fun.  High school is the best time of your life," she believes.

The Viking salutatorian is Keegan Smith who hopes to be a game designer and knows hard work pays off. 

"Now that I have it, it's like all that work finally paid off.  I did what I was supposed to do," he said.

May 16--  It's high school graduation weekend and the students who have done the best in the past four years are getting special recognition.

The valedictorian this year at Vidalia High School is Jillian Davis.  In her case, it's a family tradition.

{mosimage}"My sister was valedictorian and my brother was ranked three.  It feels really good to be up there with them.  I absolutely wouldn't be where I am today without my family, especially my Mom, and I don't know what I'd do without her.' she says.

Jillian is going to Presbyterian College in South Carolina to study pre-med.

Her runner-up is salutatorian Trace Calloway who's headed to the honors program at the University of Georgia.  He says, "Vidalia has been great.  I've been very involved and it's been a lot of fun with a lot of great teachers.  The school has a great educational system with a lot of advanced placement classes and a lot of chances to explore and learn whatever you want to learn."

The Indian Class of 2013 graduates Friday night at 7:30 at Buck Cravey Field.

The valedictorian at Montgomery County High School is Chloe Clark who's going to study at UGA enroute to medical school.

{mosimage}"I put a lot of hard work into it.  It means a lot and I've had a lot of great competition like Raysean who was right behind me.  It means a lot to graduate with these great people.   We're a very close class and if one of us was down someone is always there to help them back up," she says.

The Eagle salutatorian is Raysean Ricks.

"It kind of came natural, except these last two years I had to study harder because classes were more difficult and I had to work for it," he says.

Raysean is going to Augusta State and wants to be a registered nurse.

He also advises incoming freshmen to take that first year of high school seriously and use the time to get prepared to make better grades in the coming years.

The Eagles graduate Friday night at eight o'clock at Brogdon Field in Mount Vernon.

May 17-- The scandal that’s enveloped the IRS for targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups went further and also targeted conservative media outlets. That’s according to Family Talk Radio, which says its parent organization had an application for tax exempt status held up for more than a year. And it says IRS officials told them it was because of its political message.

The Colorado Springs-based ministry founded by James Dobson applied for 501(c)(4) status in September 2011. In addition to the paperwork, Family Talk also submitted copies of its radio show. After months of no action, their attorney was finally able to get an IRS agent on the phone in March. That’s when he said he was told that Family Talk would not receive tax exempt status because it was “not educational” and it was a “partisan right-wing group” that was “political” in nature.

Family Talk protested, asking the IRS to reconsider and threatening legal action. The IRS relented, issuing the tax-free status nine days later. “The only reason they relented,” show co-host Ryan Dobson says, “is we threatened litigation.”

National Religious Broadcasters president Frank Wright says he’s “alarmed” by what appears to be a targeting of Family Talk, saying it amounts to a de facto Fairness Doctrine policy. The FCC may’ve done away with it, he says, but adds, “This vampire seems alive and well at the IRS.”

May 16--  The gas main that was ruptured Wednesday near Mount Vernon has been repaired.

Kristy Benson with Atlanta Gas Light says repairs were completed Thursday morning.  She reports company crews are now working their way through some 2,300 customers who had their service disrupted in Mount Vernon, Ailey, Vidalia, Lyons, Swainsboro, Soperton and Twin City.

Benson can't say exactly when service will be completely restored.  The disruption has hurt many restaurants in the area who cook with natural gas and also the Chicken of the Sea plant north of Lyons.

May 16--  The mayor of Uvalda and the city council met behind closed doors for nearly two hours Wednesday night.  When it was over, no action was taken and the town's police chief, Lewis Smith, still had his job.

{mosimage}Mayor Paul Bridges (left) wanted the chief fired because Chief Smith had refused to stop a roadside check the mayor objected to Friday night, May 3rd.  The chief and the mayor have had disagreements for more than a year.

After the meeting, Chief Smith (standing) appealed to Mayor Bridges to let citizens who attended address the council.

{mosimage}"My job is on the line.  These people are here to support their chief and you Mr. Mayor don't want to hear it," the chief said.

On advice of the city attorney, Mayor Bridges allowed public comment from the roomful of ctizens who heartily endorsed the work of Chief Smith.

Afterward the mayor said, "I'm humbled that they came to express their support for the chief of police.  It was my opinon that the roadblock was unsafe and that was the reason I addressed that with the chief.  It was not my intention to upset any of my citizens because I think Uvalda citizens are awesome people.  I think this puts it to rest."

However, Chief Smith is not convinced.

"I'm just overwhelmed that the community came out tonight and supported me like they did.  I don't feel this issue will be closed as long as Mayor Bridges is the mayor.  He has caused so much hurt to this city, not only to me, but to other people as well.  The only way we can have closure is in November or January 1 when Mayor Bridges is gone," the police chief said.

May 15-- Gov. Nathan Deal today instructed the state Department of Natural Resources to return Bibles to cabins and lodge rooms at state parks.

“Out of an abundance of caution to avoid potential litigation, the commissioner removed the Bibles from rooms – though they were still available on site – after a complaint from a visitor. The attorney general and I agree that the state is on firm legal footing as we move to return the Bibles to the rooms. These Bibles are donated by outside groups, not paid for by the state, and I do not believe that a Bible in a bedside table drawer constitutes a state establishment of religion. In fact, any religious group is free to donate literature.”

May 15--  A gas main west of Mount Vernon was damaged by bridge construction on the Oconee River Wednesday. 

According to Montgomery County Sheriff Ladson O'Connor, "Nobody was really at fault, it must have got run over or something and it ruptured the line.  They told us this afternoon it would be 48 to 72 hours before everything was repaired.  The traffic is open on the bridge and there's no danger they said."

In addition to residential customers, the sheriff says the outage shut down the Chicken of the Sea plant north of Lyons.

The company issued the following statement:

Atlanta Gas Light is working on natural gas outage in these areas: Mount Vernon, Ailey, Vidalia, Lyons, Soperton, Swainsboro and Twin City. 

Crews will be going to affected to customers to make sure their gas appliances are off. After the repairs are made, crews will return to affected customers to turn on their service and relight appliances.

Service personnel will need to have safe access to your home, and must be clear access to appliances and equipment, according to a company news release. A responsible adult needs to be home during the visit.  

The company offered these guidelines during the outage:

  • If you smell a natural gas (which smells like rotten eggs):
  • Do not use any devices, appliances or items that might create a spark that could ignite the gas.
  • Evacuate the home. Keep everyone away from the building until a gas company employees says its OK to return.
  • Never try to find or turn on gas service yourself.
  • Know the location of your natural gas meter.
  • Report the natural gas smell to the Atlanta Gas Light hotline at 1.877.427.4321.

To report a gas leak, call in the metro Atlanta area call 770.907.4231. Outside the metro Atlanta area, call 1.877.427.4321. For more information, visit atlantagaslight.com.

May 15-- U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today joined his colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee in sending a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius demanding details of a fundraising scheme in which she has solicited funds from the health care companies she regulates to help launch Obamacare.

The Senate Finance Committee has jurisdiction over the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

In the letter, the senators asked for a top-to-bottom review of the Department’s decision to move forward with the fundraising scheme, which has raised numerous legal questions under federal regulations prohibiting the augmentation of congressional appropriations.

As the Republican Members of the Senate Committee on Finance, one of the key committees of jurisdiction over health care issues, we were troubled by the news reports concerning your interactions with health care industry executives asking for donations of money to assist with funding for enrollment efforts related to the health care insurance exchanges,” the senators wrote. “Our initial reaction is that this appears at best to be an inherent conflict of interest and at worst a potentially illegal augmentation of appropriation.

The Finance Committee members who signed the letter in addition to Isakson were Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), John Thune (R-S.D.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) 

May 15--  The city of Vidalia and Vidalia City Schools are seeking a federal grant to help pay for two security officers in the schools.

The Vidalia city council agreed Monday night to seek $216,000 over a three-year period for police officers at Vidalia High School and J.R. Trippe Middle School.  A quarter of the cost would be paid locally and split between the city and the school system if the grant application is approved.

In other actions at its May meeting, the council okayed a request from the Downtown Vidalia Association to stage a Downtown Music Festival and Street Dance on September 14 with the Swingin' Medallions and local performers..

The chairman of this year's Vidalia Onion Festival, Brad Hart, informed the council he expects this year's festival will break even despite Friday night's rainout.  The committee is planning a meeting with the city soon to start planning the 2014 festival.

City Finance Director Bill Bedingfield reports the city has collected all but $277,000 of this year's property taxes.  He also reports hotel tax collections are up 13% and Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenue is up nearly 8%.

Tuesday on the monthly "Vidalia Today" radio program, Bedingfield said this Fall could be a busy one for construction projects in the city.  He's hopeful work will start on the repair of Adams Street and that a beautification project north of the railroad tracks downtown will also get started.  He also expects the Georgia Department of Transportation will begin its project to four-lane Highway 292 on the stretch that runs in front of Vidalia High School.

 

May 14--  The Montgomery County Commission has called a meeting for Monday at 5:30 p.m. to hire a new county Emergency Management director.

Meanwhile, at its regular May meeting Monday, the commission awarded the county health insurance policy to Mount Vernon Insurance with an annual premium of $162,288.  County Manager Brandon Braddy says its a slight savings over this year.

The commission voted to exempt churches from paying the county a building permit fee.  

It also approved purchase of three new vehicles including two for the sheriff's office and one for the county manager.  New Ford F-150's are being bought from Woody Folsom in Baxley for $27,325 each.

May 14--  Members of the Class of 2013 at Brewton Parker College celebrated their graduation Saturday. 

{mosimage}BPC student Lauralee Price congratulates her friend Laura Veale following the May 11 ceremony on the Mount Vernon campus. (Story courtesy Amanda Corbin, Photos by Lauren Moye)

Brewton-Parker College held Commencement Ceremonies for the Class of 2013 Saturday, May 11 on the Mount Vernon campus inside Saliba Chapel. Special guest speaker for the ceremony was the Honorable Chief Judge John Ellington of the Georgia Court of Appeals.

{mosimage}Ellington spoke to the graduates about service and leadership. “The people you meet and the friends you make will make a difference,” he said. “Help build brighter futures for the state of Georgia. Serve others and get involved in your communities, and you know you will have made a difference.”

Following a processional of faculty and degree candidates led by Professor Zeke Addison, faculty grand marshal, Rev. Karl Hay, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Mount Vernon and BPC Board of Trustees Member, gave the invocation. Dr. David Wilson, BPC Assistant Professor of Church Music, led the ceremony attendees in the college’s Alma Mater, and Dr. Charlie Bass, BPC Vice President of Student Services, gave the benediction.

Local graduates of the Class of 2013 included:

Mt. Vernon

Jennifer Joan Blaylock, A.A.

Blake Shawn Conner, B.S. in Biology

January Lashley Conner, B.A. in Psychology

Richard Anthony Purcell, B.A. in Christian Studies

Lyons

Marissa Jayne Brown, B.A. in Human Services

Elisa D. Gordy, B.A. in Communication

Yolanda Hernandez, A.A. and B.B.A. with a concentration in Management

Clarke Wright Johnson, B.A in History

Laura Johnson, A.A.

Lisa Belinda Taylor, B.A. in Psychology

Vidalia

Crystal Seagle, B.F.A. in Creative Expressions

More commencement photos can be found at www.facebook.com/brewtonparker.

May 14--  The school year is wrapping up and school officials in Montgomery County are taking the opportunity to recognize bus drivers and riders.

{mosimage}Terry Richardson (R) is honored by Brent Braddy, Director of Transportation for the school system, for 20 years of safe driving.

{mosimage}Reverend James Love is the Montgomery County School System Bus Driver of the Year.

{mosimage}Driver Steve Lewis presents student Sherrod Williams with a Good Behavior Award .

{mosimage}Driver Carolyn Anderson holds the Good Behavior Award which was presented to student Quin Ely (not pictured). 

May 14-- STANLEY SMITH, 61, of Douglas, Georgia, pled guilty yesterday before Chief U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood for distributing drugs to his customers without a legitimate medical purpose. 

            According to evidence presented during his guilty plea hearing, SMITH owned and operated Malcolm’s Drug Store located in Douglas, Georgia.  A month ago, state and federal investigators received information that Smith had been trading very addictive prescription drugs for sex acts with multiple women since 2010.  Some of women were addicts or became addicted to the drugs SMITH provided.  In one instance, SMITH provided a woman with up to 360 hydrocodone pills a week.  In an effort to hide his criminal activity, SMITH used aliases at various hotels, and would tape drugs and money on the outside of an electric box outside of his pharmacy.  When approached by investigating agents, SMITH admitted he had traded drugs for sex for more than two years. 

            U.S. Attorney Edward Tarver stated, “This defendant used his pharmacy license as a license to deal drugs.  He preyed upon those addicted to drugs and caused others to become addicted, all for his own personal gratification.  This pharmacist will now exchange a white coat for an orange jumpsuit.” 

            SMITH faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $500,000.  There is no parole in the federal system.  SMITH will be sentenced after the U.S. Probation Office completes a presentence investigation.

 

May 13--  The Montgomery County Sheriff's office is cracking down on video gambling.

Three convenience stores were raided Friday night, according to Sheriff's investigator Justin Fountain.

"They were operating video poker machines. You can give out merchandise for winnings off of poker machines, but they were giving out money to players who were playing the machines."

Fountain believes the stores have been involved in commercial gambling for two or three years.

"We had word they were doing it before.  They actually took the machines out at one time, but then they put them back in and that's when we went back in and did an investigation," he said.

After a three-month investigation, the raids at Rabbit's Truck Stop in Vidalia, Buzzy's in Uvalda and Uvalda Foods were conducted by sheriff's deputies assisted by the Georgia Department of Revenue, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Mount Vernon Police, Georgia State Patrol and the District Attorney's office.

Charged with commercial gambling are store proprietors Mittala Patel, Smida Patel and Ketankumar Patel.

"We didn't want to take their stores.  it was a more a learning lesson for them not to do this anymore.  We're not into ruining their business or anything like that," Fountain said.

He reports the three were booked and released on bond.

May 13-- Over 120 peopled walked on stage as students and left as graduates in two Southeastern Technical College ceremonies held at the Swainsboro-Emanuel County and Toombs auditoriums on April 30 and May 7, respectively.

{mosimage}STC Provost Larry Calhoun addresses the graduates of the Vidalia campus on May 7.

Ninety five Vidalia graduates and 38 Swainsboro graduates from the 2012-2013 class met STC President Dr. Cathryn Mitchell on stage and received that sought-after document.

“I extend to each of you my heartfelt congratulations and best wishes in your future endeavors,” said Mitchell.

The guest speaker at both ceremonies was LaNette Holloman, the Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership winner for 2012. Holloman shared her struggles with teenage pregnancy, unemployment and homelessness, all of which she overcame through technical education.

“We all congratulate you,” said Holloman. “You have done an amazing job. You have accomplished something that many stopped along the way. So congratulations, and I wish you so much success.”

Holloman implored the students to not view this as a finish line, but as a milestone leading to greater things.

“The world has been waiting on you,” said Holloman. “Go out and make your mark.”

 


 

 

 


May 13--  A 1981 graduate of Vidalia High School is returning to be the school's new principal next school year.

John Sharpe was selected by the Vidalia school board at a called meeting Friday afternoon.

{mosimage}"When I first got into education, I had some wonderful mentors and teachers and professionals who had a tremendous impact on my life.  My dream job then was to be the principal at Vidalia High School.  I just love the community, I love the school.  I'm beyond excited and very humbled to have the opportunity to come back and lead our school,"  he says.

With all the challenges facing public education today, Sharpe says the key to success is parental involvement and that's something he plans to encourage at Vidalia High School.

Sharpe taught social studies at Vidalia High School for seven years before spending eight years as the Assistant Principal at Sally Meadows Elementary.  From there he moved to Lee County High School where he only spent a year before returning for a seven-year stinit as Headmaster at Robert Toombs Christian Academy in Lyons.  He's currently the principal at Johnson County High School in Wrightsville.

He will succeed Dr. Garrett Wilcox in July.  Dr. Wilcox is giving up one of his two hats in the school sysem and will focus on his duties as school superintendent. 

May 11--  For the second time in a week, Toombs County deputy sheriffs have made methamphetamine arrests in the southern part of the county.

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports deputies were executing a warrant  for Montgomery County Wednesday, May 8 when the meth was discovered at 182 John Toole Road in Cedar Crossing.

{mosimage}{mosimage}{mosimage}

Thirty-six-year old Joshua James Carlo (left) and 37-year-old Valerie Carlo (center) are charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute.  Another woman, 33-year-old Dixie Nicole Best, faces possession charges.

The East Central Drug Task Force is assisting with the investigation.

May 11--  An Adrian woman was booked in the Toombs County jail this week for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars from a local medical practice.

{mosimage}Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight says Annie Wilson is charged by the GBI with theft by taking.  She is suspected of taking $70,557.17 from Vidalia Medical Associates and another $38,449.29 from the Endoscopy Center of Southeast Georgia.  Wilson was employed as a financial assistant.

She has been released on bond, according to Sheriff Kight. 

May 10--  Here's a video urging Americans who are frustrated with Washington politicians of all persuasions to take action.

http://www.youtube.com/v/jeYscnFpEyA

 

 

May 10--  The annual Letter Carriers Food Drive to help the needy is Saturday.

By now you should have received a plastic bag in your mailbox and United Way Executive Director Patricia Dixon hopes you'll put some non-perishable food items in it early Saturday and hang it on your mailbox for pickup by your letter carrier.

"We're asking everyone to help us out and let's get lots of food on Saturday," she says.

The food which is collected Saturday will be picked up Monday morning by two local agencies which operate food pantries.

"Our community has been very, very good about stepping up to the plate and we get two or three truckloads of food.  Salvation Army will go to the post office in Vidalia and the Southeast Georgia Communities Project will go to the post office in Lyons and pick up the food.  We really need support because our food pantries are really low right now," Dixon reports.

She recommends food items like peanut butter, jelly, canned meats and vegetables, soup and macaroni and cheese which shes says go a long way for people who have no food in their homes.

May 8-- Kimberly Warren, an Ambassador Girl Scout from Vidalia, received her Gold Award at the Girl Scout High Awards Ceremony in Savannah. 

The Gold Award is the highest award in Girl Scouting and requires a minimum of eighty hours devoted to a volunteer service project.

{mosimage}For her Gold Award project, Kimberly chose to help Animal Shelter animals and offer an extracurricular opportunity for students who are interested in animals.  Kimberly started a club at J. R. Trippe Middle School called "For the Love of Pets."  The club has met once per month, and they have had educational programs on the importance of spaying and neutering animals, taking care of pets in cold weather, avoiding items that are toxic to pets, how therapy dogs are trained and used, and how to start an aquarium.  Resource people who provided these programs for the club included Terry Yates, Dr. Chuck Faulk, Tiffany Moore, and Donna Beall.  The club also sponsored drives to provide food and blankets or towels for the shelter animals, and the club members also assisted SOAPS with their Spayghetti dinner.

Kimberly said that she is grateful for the encouragement and help she got from adults in the community for this project, including Mrs. Jody Haltom who served as her project advisor and who has supervised the monthly club meetings.  She is proud that the club has provided information for students on how to care of their own animals, and has also provided a means for the students to help the animal shelter.  She hopes that the club will continue each year to increase the projects they do to help animals and the Animal Shelter.

May 8--  Two men with a history in Vidalia are implicated in a Statesboro rape case.

{mosimage}{mosimage}

Statesboro police are charging 20-year-old Joshua Denzel Brown (left) with the rape of a woman in an apartment complex in the town early Monday morning.  He is allegedly one of several men who were having sex with an unconscious 20-year-old woman.  A second man, 20-year-old Nikilas Jamal Fussell, is also being sought in the case.

Both Fussell and Brown were teenagers living in Vidalia back in 2011 and were charged in connection with vandalism at Vidalia High School in March of that year.

Police report the woman was taken to the hospital and had no visible physical injuries.

May 8-- Governor Nathan Deal today announced that Georgia’s net tax collections for the month of April 2013 totaled $1.73 billion for an increase of $201 million, or 13.2 percent, compared to April 2012. Year-to-date, net revenue collections totaled $14.1 billion for an increase of $808 million, or 6.1 percent, compared to the same point last year.

The following changes within the various tax categories contributed to the net revenue increase in April:

Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections for April totaled $1.01 billion — up from $805 million in April 2012 — for an increase of nearly $210 million, or 26.1 percent.

The following notable components within Individual Income Tax account for the increase:

•      Individual Income Tax refunds (net of voided checks) were down $6.5 million, or -1.2 percent

•      Individual Tax Return payments were up $282 million*, or 88.2 percent, over last year

•      All other Individual Tax categories, including Estimated payments, were down a combined $78.5 million

* Due to a reporting change with respect to Extension payments, the Return payment category is the primary driver for the dramatic year-over-year increase within Individual Income Tax.

Sales and Use Tax: Net Sales and Use Tax collections for April totaled nearly $417 million — down from $482.5 million in April 2012 — for an overall decrease of $65.5 million, or -13.6 percent. Gross Sales Tax collections were down $58.5 million compared to FY 2012 as a result of the recently implemented Title ad Valorem Tax fee law, which replaced both the point-of-sale sales tax on a vehicle and the annual ad valorem tax known as the “birthday tax,” effective March 1. Lastly, the combined impact of the monthly distribution to local governments and April refund activity was a decrease of $7.25 million to the month’s net collections.

Corporate Income Tax: Corporate Income Tax collections for April increased nearly $50.5 million, up from a total of $68 million in April 2012 to $118.5 million in the current year.

The following notable components within Corporate Income Tax make up the increase:

•      Corporate Tax refunds (net of voided checks) were down $40 million compared to last year

•      Corporate Estimated Tax payments were up $27 million, or 44.1 percent, compared to April 2012

•      Corporate Income Tax Return and Net Worth payments were down a combined $16.5 million

May 7--  The Lyons City Council held its May meeting Tuesday night and agreed to start a $2,500 computerized work order system for the public works department which new city manager Jason Hall said is "direly needed." 

The council also agreed to pay half of a nearly $10,000 project to replace the roof on the Nell Brown Memorial Library.  The library will pay the balance.

It also agreed to help with repair and maintenance of a van used by the Toombs County Family Intervention Center.  The center helps at-risk young people and depends on the local United Way for its funding.

In another action, the council voted to exempt vendors from the city's occupational tax during non-profit events in the city like the Soap Box Derby and the Real Squeal.

The city will host a reception for the new city manager May 21st from four till six p.m. at city hall and invites local citizens to attend.

May 7--  Students at Sally Meadows Elementary School worked this year to raise money for the "Make A Wish Foundation."  They presented their $9,000 in earnings during the school's Field Day.

{mosimage}(L-R Front Row) Madeline Collins, Ty Dalley, Bryson Whited and Azayvion Wallace.  (Back Row) Kathy Tucker from the Foundation, Patti Feimster and Jeremy Foreman, Executive Director of Georgia Serves.

May 7--  Tuesday was report card day for schools in Georgia.

The state Department of Education released the first-ever College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) which grades schools on a 100 point scale, the same as students receive in their classes.

Generally speaking, many area schools fared below the state average and some did not receive a passing grade.

Among high schools, the state average is 72.6 points.  Vidalia High School came the closest to the state average with 71.4 points, followed by Treutlen High School with 69.5, Montgomery County High School with 67.9 and Toombs County High School with 65.2 points.

In the middle schools, the state average is 81.4 points.  J.R. Trippe Middle School in Vidalia made 80.1 points followed by Montgomery County Middle School with 78, Toombs County Middle School with 72.5 and Treutlen Middle School with 65.8.

The elementary school state average is 83.4 points.  Lyons Upper Elementary School scored 76.8 points closely followed by Toombs Central with 76.4.  Treutlen Elementary got 75.9 points, Montgomery County Elementary had 73.7 and Sally Meadows Elementary had 73.6.

The only two schools in the area who pulled down "A's" on their report cards are the primary schools in Lyons and Vidalia.  Lyons Primary got 95.6 points and J.D. Dickerson Primary made 91.4 points.

The new school grading system replaces the No Child Left Behind measurements.  

The scores released Tuesday are based on last school year.

Vidalia School Superintendent Dr. Garrett Wilcox said he wants some time to digest the data before making a comment, however, Toombs County School Superintendent Dr. Kim Corley issued a news release.

"I am very pleased to announce that the Toombs County School System did not have a single school in our district on the priority, focus, or alert school list.

"We were very pleased with that news. We certainly always want to continue to improve and will strive to make sure that the overall score for every school in our district improves each year.

"I can’t say enough about how hard our students, employees, and parents work to make sure that our students are academically successful. We will continue to make this our goal and look forward to great things happening in the Toombs County School System in the future," Dr. Corley said.

 

 

May 7--  Gov. Nathan Deal today signed into law the Fiscal Year 2014 budget, which takes effect upon the start of the fiscal year on July 1. This marks the third year in a row the governor successfully and conservatively balanced the state’s budget while reducing government spending by implementing austerity cuts, without raising taxes, and preserving Georgia’s coveted AAA bond rating.

“The General Assembly and I have once again enacted a budget that holds the line on spending, while funding the priorities that continue to help make Georgia the No. 1 place in the country in which to do business and create jobs,” Deal said. “Even with improving revenue numbers, state government faced another round of cuts because of the growth of expenses in education and in our Medicaid program. I commend the General Assembly once more for its responsible work, which focuses on the core functions of state government.”

Deal took a conservative approach in setting the revenue estimate given the national uncertainty with the federal debt limit and budget negotiations that could impact state revenues. In order to meet reduced revenue estimates and growth needs in K-12 and Medicaid, agencies again took 3 percent budget cuts, with the exception of select public safety and human services agencies.

Budget highlights:

·       Includes general fund growth of 4.6 percent or $818.5 million over the amended budget estimate. This includes the reauthorization of hospital provider payment legislation.

·       Includes $246.7 million to cover the growth in expenses for Medicaid and PeachCare.

·       Includes $146,583,599 for enrollment growth, training and experience of Georgia’s teachers to recognize a 1.36 percent increase in enrollment.

·       Includes $12,915,130 to increase the Pre-K calendar to 180 days, providing $312 million in lottery funds for 84,000 slots for 4-year-olds.

·       Includes $5 million in additional funds for cancer-related research and $45 million in bonds for a new cancer research building at Georgia Regents University.

·       Includes $92,065,000 in bonds for renovations, equipment and new building construction for the state’s technical college system.

·       Includes $50 million in bonds for the deepening of the Savannah Port.

·       Includes $47,199,479 for grants to charter systems that are within their initial contract.

·       Increases the award amount for HOPE scholarships and HOPE grants by 3 percent over FY 2013.

·       Includes $4,785,231 to open the new Rockdale Regional Youth Detention Center, and renovate and open the new Bill Ireland facility, a 30-bed youth development campus

·       Includes a zero-based budget analysis of 57 budgetary programs, including all programs for the Georgia Department of Education. Future budgets will continue to use a ZBB review process for approximately 10 percent of budgetary programs each year.

 

May 7--  For the second time in just over a week, the Montgomery County school board has hired a new Montgomery County Middle school principal.

At a called meeting Monday night, the board rescinded it's earlier hiring of Marcus Scott, an assistant principal at Jenkins High School in Savannah.

After hiring Scott, the board learned he had been fired by the Liberty County Board of Education in 2006.  The firing happened after his former wife reported they first had sex in 1999 while she was a 15-year-old student and he was a 20-year-old substitute teacher at her school.  They later married, had a son and divorced.

County School Superintendent Randy Rodgers says, "As time progressed, we realized that the situation we had was not going to be a good fit."

The board has now hired a faculty member from the Dekalb County school system to take the job.

Jaunita Boatwright most recently has been teaching Enlish as a second language and has been in education for 20 years.

{mosimage}Mrs. Boatwright and Superintendent Rodgers.

"Elementary, middle, I worked for the college board, central office, everything, I've had my hand in everything, I just love teaching," she said. 

And her message to students and parents, "Get excited.  We're going to move forward and be successful."

   

 

May 6--  A Vidalia dentist is facing drug charges.

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports 40-year-old Dr. Rebecca Wolfe is charged with manufacturing methamphetamine after components for making meth were found in a barn she owns on the Joe Wolfe Road near Uvalda.

He says it all started Saturday when Wolfe brought a man who had been shot in the stomach to the emergency room at Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia.  Twenty-year-old Michael Andrew Hester had been shot with a .22 caliber weapon and Sheriff Kight says he's investigating circumstances surrounding the shooting.

{mosimage} {mosimage}

Wolfe left the ER and was later arrested on the drug charges along with 20-year-old Matthew Garrett McCullough.  Officers searched Wolfe's barn after seeing smoke and smelling a strong order.

May 6-- Today at the state Capitol, Gov. Nathan Deal signed two pieces of ethics legislation that are supposed to bolster Georgians’ confidence in their state government.

The first bill, House Bill  142, restores rulemaking powers to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, more clearly defines the role of a lobbyist, and sets the first cap on legislative lobbying spending.

The second, House Bill 143, the companion to HB 142, requires more transparency in regard to campaign fund-raising and spending during certain local races, and it ensures that the public knows about any campaign donations given to members of the General Assembly leading up to the start of the legislative session.  

“I have enacted these bills to strengthen ethics laws in our state because the public demanded it and good government longed for it,” said Deal. “Our success as leaders of Georgia depends heavily on the public’s ability to trust us. Georgians are correct to insist that the voices of the people echo louder under the Gold Dome than the narrow views of special interests. Together, these bills constitute a major step in improving ethics, trust and transparency in our state.”

HB 142 overhauls the ethics laws relating to public officials and employees by giving regulatory authority back to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, and defining lobbyist expenditure as the following:

·       Any expense exceeding $75 for transportation, travel, lodging, registration, food and beverages.

·       Tickets for admission to athletic, sporting, recreational, musical concert or other entertainment events, unless face value is paid by the recipient.

·       Recreational or leisure activities.

The bill also prohibits any expenditure by a lobbyist except:

·       Widely distributed promotional items.

·       Food and beverages produced in Georgia.

·       Awards, plaques, certificates or mementos.

·       Discounts, upgrades, memberships, or other accommodations extended by a business to a bona fide customer.

·       Legitimate salary, benefits, fees or commissions associated with recipient’s nonpublic business.

·       Campaign contribution.

·       Food beverages and registration at group events (entire agency, entire General Assembly, full House, full Senate, standing committees of each body, majority and minority caucuses of each body, any group approved by the Commission).

·       Reimbursement or payment of actual and reasonable expenses for the cost of attendance at a educational, informational, charitable or civic meeting or conference held within the United States and directly relates to the official duties of the public officer, plus food and beverages for such public officer. Spouse and staff are included.

Defines “lobbyist” as the following:

·       Person who receives or anticipates receiving more than $250 per calendar year in compensation or reimbursement, specifically for undertaking lobbying.

·       Person who makes a total lobbying expenditure of more at $1,000.

·       Person who is compensated specifically for undertaking lobbying. 

Furthermore, it requires that all lobbyists must register with the commission before commencing lobbying activities, adds a new requirement for lobbyists disclose any state agency they will be lobbying in an attempt to influence rulemaking or purchasing. However, registration provisions do not apply to:

·       Citizens who communicate their own personal views, interests or professional opinions.

·       Employees or independent contractors who solely participate in soliciting a bid or preparing a written bid.

·       People invited to testify by Legislature.

·       People invited to testify by public agency or governmental entity. 

·       Officials of a business or group that employs a lobbyist, if that official is not compensated for lobbying and does not incur $250 of expenditures per year. 

·       Attorneys representing clients when such attorney is not paid specifically for lobbying

·       Public official or officer

·       Public employee, aide or intern who performs services at direction of General Assembly

HB 143 focuses primarily on campaign finance and:

·       Adds “attorney fees connected to and in furtherance of the campaign” to the definition of “ordinary and necessary campaign expenses.”

·       Requires all county and school board candidates to file campaign contribution and campaign expenditure reports with the county election superintendent. 

-Exception: Candidates who do not raise or spend greater than $2,500.

·       Requires all municipal candidates to file campaign contribution and campaign expenditure reports with the municipal clerk.

-Exception: Candidates who do not raise or spend greater than $2,500.

·       Requires significantly earlier disclosure of all campaign contributions greater than $100 received by a member of the General Assembly between Jan. 1 and the commencement of session.  Those donations must now be reported by Jan. 31, as opposed to March 31.

Deal called for changes to state ethics laws during his State of the State address in January.

 

May 3--  Robert Toombs Christian Academy in Lyons has been accredited in Georgia since it's founding, however, Wednesday it earned national accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

{mosimage}"It's a big milestone for the school from an academic standpoint.  It allows our students more opportunity nationally as far as which college or university they can choose," says RTCA Headmaster Jon Dorminey.

The headmaster believes the accreditation makes RTCA more competitive in local education.

"We understand we're in competition with local schools and we're charging for what they do for free.  We want to make sure we're going above and beyond what we need to do to educate our kids.  Our test scores reflect that with our SAT scores being about 200 points above schools in our area and our STAR testing in elementary grades is about two-and-a half grade levels above.  This accreditation validates what we are doing and enables us to show parents they are getting a lot of bang for their buck by sending their kids to private school.

"We found that pretty much everything we were doing is right on point.  The accreditation process not only validated to us what we were doing, but also validates us to the community, that we are doing is providing a quality education in a Christian environment with good discipline and spiritual growth.  That's what a lot of parents are looking for these days," Dorminey said.

According to Dorminey, RTCA's enrollment last year was 290 and is already past 330 for next school term.  He hopes it will grow to more than 350 by the time school starts.  

May 6--  There's a new author in Vidalia.

Tabernacle Baptist Church Assistant Pastor Chester Proctor hope's his first book will help change lives.  Thus, the name "Game Changers."

"I settled on Game Changers because it became a part of what the book is about and that's not being a sideliner, but being a game changer, being somebody who comes in and throws that hail Mary pass to win the game or hits that homerun to win the game.  We're all looking for game changers in sports, for game changers in our lives and we need game changers in church.

"We have a lot of people who I call 'Sit and Obit.'  They sit in church every week and when they die the name of the church appears in the obituary.  I feel like God has more for us in our churches than just sitting there and that's being effective to reach the lost," Proctor believes.

According to Proctor, the characters in his book tell a story that can lead readers to make changes.

"You'll be able to see the lives of these people and you'll be able to connect.  If you want to be effective in life, you've got to make changes," he says.

The foreword in the book is written by Ken Bevel of Sherwood Baptist in Albany, the church which has had such an impact with the movies "Courageous" and "Fireproof."

"I sent him and copy and asked him to take a look at it.  He did and he agreed it's exactly what we need  and he wrote the foreword for it.  I'm excited that he did that," Proctor reports.

Copies of the book are available in hardcover and paperback.  For info, go to www.pastorchester.blogspot.com .

May 4-- Jemelleh Coes, a Special Education English Language Arts and Reading teacher from Langston Chapel Middle School in Statesboro, has been named the 2014 Georgia Teacher of the Year. Ms. Coes was named the winner of the award at the annual Georgia Teacher of the Year banquet held Friday night at the Georgia International Convention Center. As Georgia Teacher of the Year, Ms. Coes will serve as an advocate for public education in Georgia.

{mosimage}"Jemelleh Coes is going to be a wonderful representative of the teaching profession in Georgia," said State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge. “As the daughter of immigrants from Guyana, Ms. Coes worked hard to become a teacher and make a difference in the life of a child. Now she will have the opportunity to share her story and passion with many others.”

Driven by wanting a career that would help others, Ms. Coes became a teacher at Langston Chapel Middle School after graduating from Georgia Southern University. She has spent her entire career at Langston Chapel and is currently teaching English Language Arts, Resource Language Arts and Remediation English Language Arts.

In her application, Ms.Coes stated, "You have a choice. Choose wisely. This is one of the most important lessons that I hope to instill in the life of every student that I come in contact with. When teaching students, it is important that lessons are choice-driven, authentically student-centered, and goal-oriented.”

Ms. Coes chairs and facilitates a program called Delta Academy, which fosters a love of science, technology, engineering and math for middle school girls in Southeast Georgia. She is a mentor at a group home for homeless girls in Bulloch County. Ms. Coes is also involved with Kiwanis and Toastmasters. Once a month, Ms. Coes leads scrapbooking projects with children in the local community who have never been exposed and don’t have the means to create crafting projects.

As Georgia Teacher of the Year, Ms. Coes will represent Georgia teachers by speaking to the public about the teaching profession and possibly conducting workshops and programs for educators. She will also compete for the 2014 National Teacher of the Year.

The Georgia Teacher of the Year Program is sponsored by United Healthcare.

2014 Georgia Teacher of the Year Finalists (in alphabetical order by district)

Teacher, Subject, System, School

Tamika N. Ball, Mathematics ,Atlanta Public Schools, D.M. Therrell School of Health Sciences and Research

Brandon A. Mitchell, Physical and Environmental Science
Barrow County, Winder-Barrow High

Terrie L. Ponder, Social Studies
Carrollton City, Carrollton Junior High

Jeanine Wetherington, Gifted K-5
Colquitt County, Norman Park Elementary

Shannon Pollitz, Eighth Grade Gifted English Language Arts
Floyd County, Pepperell Middle

Barbara Rosolino, English Language Arts, AP Literature and Composition
Henry County, Eagle’s Landing High

David DuBose, Advanced Music, Band and Instrumental Music
Marietta City, Marietta High (Runner-up)

Dr. Polly S. Holder, Spanish
Walton County, Walnut Grove High

Tanya Smith, Physical Science and Gifted/Accelerated Chemistry
Wayne County, Wayne County High
 

{mosimage}

Reader Comments:

"This t-shirt pretty much says it all.  Let's bring these back along with common sense and

this country would be all the better for it.

Zack, where can I get this t-shirt??? I want to order a bunch of them! Tom Hill Alston, GA"

"Love the t-shirt!  Where can I get one?

"The Bible should be taught at home as well as in school and the use of guns for sport and protection should be taught at home.  Gloria Register-Hutcheson"

I have always said "God, Guns and Guts made this country.  Let's keep all three" - Tim McCoy 

"Where can I get one?" - L.C. and Betty Williams

"LOVE IT! Maybe we should take algebra out of schools (which we don't need ) and put these in ... It might turn America around. This is what's needed in America...."  Chris Brantley 

"This is something we need very bad. Thanks" - T. W. Smith

"Guns and religion are two things that SHOULD be taught at home along with tolerance." - Johnny Brantley

Any feedback on this?  Send it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your name for posting. 

Here's a link a reader forwarded regarding the T-Shirt:

http://patriotdepot.com/two-things-every-american-should-know-how-to-use-t-shirt/

 

 

 

 

May 3-- Congressman Jack Kingston officially entered the race for U.S. Senate on Thursday.

{mosimage}Kingston formerly represented the Toombs County area and is one of Georgia's longest-serving Republicans in Congress.  He said in a campaign blog that he had the credentials to move the conservative agenda in Washington.

The Athens native, who works in insurance, is the third Republican congressman to enter the 2014 race to replace U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who has announced his retirement. The other candidates include Athens Rep. Paul Broun and Marietta Rep. Phil Gingrey.

"We need a Senate that is responsive to the American people. We need a Senate that acts to make government more effective and accountable," Kingston said in a Facebook post Thursday.


May 2-- Fifteen Vidalia High School students have earned their Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) industry certification in Word 2010. 

The MOS exam is the only performance-based certification that validates the skills needed to get the most out of Microsoft Office.  Earning a MOS certification can give students an advantage in today's competitive job market and expand their employment opportunities. 

Business and Computer Science teachers, Mrs. Gloria Helms and Mrs. Donna Collins are proud of their students and the 100% passing rate of the class.  

{mosimage}Front:  Brent Miller, Allison Edenfield, Dana Roberts, Bruce Honaker, Jordan Robins, Taylor Robins, Brendan Carroll.

Back:  Travis Turner, J.D. Mitchell, Trace Calloway, Kadarius Massey, Raheem Turner, Austin Smith, David Roberts and Daniel Morrison.  


May 2--  Race officials have been checking the cars all week and Saturday is the big day for the Southest Georgia Soap Box Derby in Lyons.

Race Chairman Michael Williamson says the field this year is the biggest ever.

"We have 58 racers this year.  We've added a SuperStock Division which means the kids who have won the Stock Division or who have outgrown the Stock Division can race in the SuperStock Division," he says.

Opening ceremonies are planned for 7:45 a.m. with the first cars scheduled to go downhill on North Victory Drive at 8 a.m.

Williamson expects to see some faster speeds this year, "We've been reaching about 32 miles per hour in the Stock Division and we're hoping to get 35 to 38 miles per hour out of the older kids," he predicts.

Winners of both divisions and their parents will attend this summer's Soap Box Derby World Championship in Akron, Ohio.

The weekend gets started with the Soap Box Derby Street Dance with the Tiger Creek Band Friday night at six in downtown Lyons.  All the racers will be introduced and you'll get to see this year Soap Box Derby Queens.

 

May 1--  A $1,000 reward is being offered in a Vidalia murder case.

Twenty-eight-year old Deven Sakers was shot and killed late Monday night in a house at 204 Macon Avenue.

Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits says police are looking for the shooter and hope that the reward will prompt a call to Crimestoppers at 1-866-439-6313.  You can call anonomusly and if the call leads to an arrest, you will be given the cash money.

Police have released little information about the case except to say they don't believe it was a random act.  A woman in the house at the time was roughed up by the attacker but was not injured.  A girl in the house was not hurt.

May 1--  A young family man from north Georgia is the new city manager in Lyons.

Jason Hall comes from the small Walker County community of Varnell where he's been the town administrator for the last two years.  Prior to that he worked for the city of Ringgold.

{mosimage}"I was looking for a city that had a lot to offer.  I did a lot of research on Lyons and they seemed to have the city down pat.  They have a lot of good things going on and I want to be involved with a city like that," he said.

Lyons Mayor Willis NeSmith says 41 applicants applied for the job.

"He's a young fellow.  He's full of energy and is very personable.  Myself and council think he's going to do us a very good job continuing to work with the county, the city of Vidalia and the city of Santa Claus and with the Development Authority.  We just feel like we're going to do very well under him," the mayor stated.

Hall started on the job just over a week ago and is very pleased with what he had found in city government.

"A lot of things we're looking for are just little tweaks here and there.  Streamlining some processes and making it easier for citizens to call in and make our public works and police departments aware of what's going on.  And then there are some major projects I need to get on board with to help move forward," he says.

And if you need to talk with Hall, "I've always had an open door policy and I'm always going to take time to talk with citizens if they need to."

Hall and his wife Melissa have a daughter who's about to be a senior in high school and two younger boys.