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August 30--  The Athens Banner-Herald reports the family that founded Angel Food Ministeries has been sentenced in federal court.  The ministry distributed discounted food through many churches and charitable organizations in Georgia.

"The founders of a Walton County-based ministry that distributed discounted groceries to needy families nationwide were sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court in Macon on charges they conspired to use the nonprofit Angel Food Ministries to defraud volunteers and the government.

{mosimage}Wesley Joseph “Pastor Joe” Wingo was sentenced to seven years in prison. His wife, Linda, received five year’s probation. Their son, Andrew Wingo, also drew a seven-year prison term.

The Wingos struck a plea bargain that allowed them to avoid a possible maximum prison sentence of 85 years. Judge C. Ashley Royal also ruled that Wesley and Andrew Wingo must forfeit a total of $3.9 million.

The Wingos had been charged in a 49-count indictment that accused them of establishing nonprofit and for-profit companies to funnel Angel Food funds for their own use. After receiving nearly $7 million in a low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Angel Food bought a large distribution center in Monroe and used its tax-exempt status to gain volume discounts from various food vendors. While growing from a local to a national organization, Angel Food used churches throughout the country to coordinate thousands of volunteers who distributed food to the needy in more than 40 states.

Because it was a nonprofit and its distribution network was largely manned by volunteers, Angel Food brought in revenues that significantly exceeded expenses.

As a result, authorities said, Wesley and Linda Wingo bought jewelry, houses and cars, and used embezzled funds to finance gambling trips and vacations, and even make a down payment on a private jet, according to the indictment.

“Pure and simple, this case is about greed,” U.S. Attorney Michael Moore said in a statement released late Thursday afternoon.

“When people gave their volunteer labor to Angel Food Ministries because they believed they were supposed to help their fellow man, little did they know that they were supporting the Wingos’ lavish lifestyle,” Moore said.

In an agreement reached with prosecutors earlier this year, Wesley and Andrew Wingo each pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Linda Wingo pleaded guilty to one count of misprision of a felony, the legal term for knowing about her family’s wrongdoings and not reporting it to authorities.

Edward Tolley, the Athens attorney who represented Linda Wingo but acted as family spokesman after Thursday’s sentencing, said the Wingos unwittingly found themselves involved in criminal activity.

“I think this case more than any other reflects the danger of unguided use of a (tax-exempt) corporation,” Tolley said. “When you operate a nonprofit organization you cannot treat it as your own and that’s the mistake that was made by the Wingo family.”

The Wingos started Angel Food Ministries in 1994, when they fed 34 Monroe families from their back porch. Their operation grew to include a network of churches and became one of Walton County’s largest employers. At its peak in 2008, Angel Food distributed boxed groceries to more than 500,000 families each month in 45 states.

The nonprofit built its multi-million distribution network by buying food in bulk from national suppliers, repackaging it and selling the boxes of groceries for about $30 each.

The FBI raided Angel Food’s Monroe headquarters in February 2009. The nonprofit laid off all of its workers and permanently closed its doors in September 2011."

August 30--  Georgia's 12th District Congressman John Barrow is spending part of the August congressional recess touring manufacturers in southeast Georgia as part of what he call's his "Made in Georgia Tour."

Thursday he spent a couple of hours at U.S. Energy Sciences in Vidalia, a company on the cutting edge of lighting technology.

{mosimage}Congressman Barrow and U.S. Energy Sciences production manager Will Thomas discuss operations at the Vidalia plant.

"This is an example of what folks are doing around the country and that's investing in technology and people.  You can't beat that combination.  It also gives us a huge edge over those who are looking at the bottom line with cheap labor in other markets.  We actually have the best conditions for making money in this country.  You have to do it right but the people here at U.S. Energy are doing it right and they know what they're doing," Congressman Barrow said after his plant tour and meeting with company partners Cindi Hicks and Andy Loosberg.

He also found out what he's heard before from other employers in the district, the cost of health insurance due to Obamacare is skyrocketing and hurting the bottom line.

"The uncertainities that the insurance industry is facing as a result of what is in the law and what the Supreme Court has done is creating a tremendous amount of uncertainity.  

"The insurance companies are responding by hedging their bets and raising premiums in anticipation of costs they may incur down the road.  I believe we need to fix the law by repealing mandates on employers and individuals," he said.

However, Congressman Barrow says he will not support a move being talked about in Washington to shut down the government in order to defund Obamacare.

"Most folks in positions of responsibility in the House realize that is terrible policy and I happen to agree.  We need to do everything we can to fix this thing, but holding the rest of the government hostage is going overboard and it's bad policy," he said.


August 29--  This year is the 20th edition of the Leadership Toombs-Montgomery Class used by the local Chamber of Commerce to develop community leaders for now and the future.

The 15 members of this year's class have completed their orientation and member Mike Hagan from Meadows Regional thinks the program is a good investment.

"You've always got to be thinking about where you're going to wind up tomorrow and you need to be building leaders for the future.  We already have good leadership in this community, but they get tired and age and need to take a break, so we need fresh young people with new ideas to step into their shoes," he observes.

Another class member is Assistant District Attorney Rizza O'Connor, "Being here two years I just saw how caring and generous this community was and knew this is something I wanted to dive headfirst into and I thought being in this leadership class would show me different ways for me to use my talent and apply it to different areas," she said.

Both Hagan and O'Connor are natives of Savannah and say they enjoy the good things about small town life.

"This place, compared to all the other places I have lived, has the nicest and most caring people here.  This community has embraced me and I've been really grateful for that.  That's one of the reasons I wanted to be part of the leadership program so that I can give back," O'Connor said.

The program is being chaired this year was Blake Tillery and Cindy Williams.


Front Row (Left to Right): Alysa Marsicano, Katie Williamson, Rizza O’Connor, Stacey Kennedy, Cindy Williams (Program Co-Chair)

Middle row: Karon Durden (Coach), Mike Hagan, Laura Brown, Mandy Britt, Ryan Gibson, Hayne Brant, Daniel O’Connor

Back: Lee Burton, Bill Sharpton, Jr., Susan Murray (Coach), David Gibbs, Les Salter, Wayne Williams, M.D., John Jones, Chester Proctor, Blake Tillery (Program Co-Chair), Charles Lang (Facilitator)




August 28-- The Edwin I. Hatch Nuclear Plant has adopted Altamaha Elementary and Toombs Central Elementary School, both located inside the plant’s ten mile emergency planning zone, as they focus community support efforts on education.

"Education is vital to our communities," said Site Vice President Dennis Madison. "Hatch employees are working together to meet some of the student, educator and school needs in the surrounding area."

{mosimage}As they begin to prepare for the school year to begin, Toombs Central Elementary School Principal Tonawanda Irie (center) joins Secretary/SIS Clerk Kim McCoy (left) and Counselor Marissa Morris (right) to accept school supplies from Hatch employees.

Plant Hatch held a "Back to School Supply Drive" to support students and teachers as they return to school. Employees donated items such as notebook paper, pencils, notebooks, crayons and glue to give to the schools to share with teachers and students.

“During a time of significant budget cuts, our faculty and staff appreciate the partnership we have formed with Plant Hatch to provide resources that will enhance the quality of education for our students," said TCES Principal Tonawanda Irie.

Additionally, Plant Hatch sponsored a faculty meal at each school during their pre-planning period. AES faculty and staff were servedlunch on open house day and TCES faculty and staff enjoyed a pre-planning breakfast on their first day back to school.

“We look forward to continuing support throughout the school year,” said Madison. “We wish all of the students and teachers the best as they begin the new school year and hope they reach great new heights this year.”







August 27--  A Treutlen County teenager is facing life in prison without parole.

According to The Soperton News, 18-year-old Corlandis Burgess was found guilty of felony murder in the killing nearly three years ago of 88-year-old Alice  Eleanor Williams at her home in Soperton.

According to officials, Burgess, who was 15-years-old, and 18-year-old Jordan Nobles broke into the woman's home where they beat and stabbed the elderly woman.  Her blood was found on Burgess' clothing.

Nobles previously pled guilty and is serving life without parole.  Burgess will be sentenced at a later date by Judge Donnie Gillis.

August 27--  The man who killed Toombs County teenager Courtney Wilkes two years ago will receive his sentence in less than two months. 

According to our correspondent Angel McCurdy in Defuniak Springs, Walton County Circuit Judge Kelvin Wells will decide Oct. 17 whether Stephen Cozzie will be put to death or spend the rest of his life in prison.

Cozzie appeared in court last Thursday for the first time since a jury recommended that the 23-year-old Seagrove Beach man be sentenced to death for killing 15-year-old Courtney Wilkes on June 16, 2011.

Cozzie was convicted in June of first-degree premeditated murder for killing the Lyons, Ga., teenager in a wooded area along Cassine Gardens Nature Trail in Seagrove Beach.

Attorneys Spiro Kypreos and Sharon Williams again represented Cozzie during Thursday’s Spencer Hearing, which is meant to ensure the reliability of the penalty and the sentencing process.

The procedure was established to allow a trial judge to give a defendant the opportunity to be heard and to present evidence against a death sentence.

Cozzie did not speak at Thursday’s hearing.

His attorneys submitted a recorded police interview of a young Wisconsin girl who had spoken to Michael Spencer, prosecutor Bobby Elmore’s key witness, on the day Courtney Wilkes was killed.

Spencer testified at the trial that Cozzie showed him Wilkes’ body after she was beaten and raped. Kypreos tried to convince jurors that he was a liar.

Elmore said Friday that he wasn’t worried about the additional evidence. He said he had no evidence that hadn’t already been presented at the trial.

Both sides have 20 days to present a written memorandum to Wells.

“The law requires (Judge Wells) to give great weight to the jury’s recommendation,” Elmore said. “The jury recommended death by a unanimous 12-0 vote, so definitely the state will seek a death sentence.”


August 27--  A Lyons man died Monday night after being hit by a vehicle.

According to the Toombs County Sheriff's Office, 36-year-old Michael Forrest McClure of 160 C.W. Driggers Road in Lyons suffered fatal injuries when struck by a vehicle driven by Rodney Morris of Lyons.  

The accident happened about nine p.m. on Highway 178 East near the Lyons city limits.

A witness told police McClure was in the middle of the road.  He died not long after being transported to Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia.

August 27--  Property owners in Lyons, Santa Clause and Toombs County will see an increase in their school property taxes this Fall.

Monday the Toombs County school board issued a statement saying it plans to increase the property taxes it will levy this year by 33.52% over the rollback millage rate.

Because Toombs County has conducted a property tax revaluation, the school board could have rolled back the rate to offset a windfall in revenue caused by an estimated 8.5% increase in the county's tax digest.

However, School Board Chairman Daniel Caraway says the increase of 2.4 mils is needed to offset reductions in state revenue which have depleted the school system's local reserves.

"There was several millions of dollars in fund equity back years ago that we've used up instead of raising taxes.  Now we're at a point where there is no money there and we're having to do an increase in the county to cover what the state's not giving us," he said.

According to the school board news release, "Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding has declined from $17,153,745 in fiscal year 2008 to $13,560,992 in fiscal year 2014" despite increased student enrollment.

Further, "The Education Equalization Grant, a major funding source for small, rural school systems has similarly experienced immense decreases from $2,796,997 in fiscal year 2008 to just $1,226,750 in fiscal year 2014."

State law requires school systems to have certain tax rates in future years to qualify for equalization funding.  For example, a county's rate must be at least 12 mils by July 1, 2015 and increase to at least 14 mils by July 1, 2019.

The current school tax rate in Toombs County is 11.508 mils and officials hope the increase to 13.956 mils in fiscal year 2014 will help the school system qualify for more state revenue as part of a mid-year adjustment.  By that time, Caraway says the board will have final figures on the current tax digest which is still subject to change because of taxpayer appeals.

"The truth is we really don't know to the penny what we'll be getting.  We just know we have to cover the payroll for the schools.  What we're going to do as a board is reevaluate and look at it again next April and May.  We may be able to rollback property taxes then, we just don't know," he said.

Taxpayers who object can have their voices heard at school board public hearings set for Friday, September 6th at eight a.m. and six p.m. and Monday, September 16th at eight a.m. at the school board office in Lyons.  The board will vote on the new millage rate following the September 16th hearing.

The text of the Board of Education news release is below.

The Toombs County Board of Education today announces its intention to increase the property taxes it will levy this year by 33.52% over the rollback millage rate.

The Toombs County School System has suffered massive State funding reductions, with State revenues continuing to decline year after year.  Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding has declined from $17,153,745 in fiscal year 2008 to $13,560,922 in Fiscal Year 2014 despite FTE student counts continually increasing.  Further, the school system has suffered other drastic revenue reductions over the years, such as large reductions to categorical grants, including nursing and student transportation. 

In addition, the Education Equalization Grant, a major funding source for small, rural school systems has similarly experienced immense decreases, going from $2,796,997 in Fiscal year 2008 to just $1,226,750 in Fiscal year 2014. 

Coupled with the massive reduction of revenues, expenditures have continually increased, with a $350,000 increase in non-certified health insurance costs in Fiscal Year 2014 alone.  A similar increase in these same health insurance costs for non-certified staff was experienced last fiscal year, when the employer portion of the health insurance costs increased by $150.00 per covered member per month.  Other expenses, such as rising diesel fuel costs and the cost of instructional technology mount to unprecedented levels. 

Despite the rise in expenses and the decreases in funding, the school system has had no increased millage to help soften the blows in the past 7 years, and a study of School M&O millage rates Statewide shows that Toombs County has one of the lowest millage rates in the entire State, with only 5 other school districts with a lower M&O millage rate. 

The school system has eliminated 47 positions through attrition, managed to do more with less, and efficiently utilized its fund equity; however, with fund equity becoming much lower, the District must increase millage, as it has exhausted all other options in order to continue providing a quality education to its students and to continue to operate safe, clean school environments. 

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

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

All concerned citizens are invited to the public hearings on this tax increase to be held at the Toombs County Board of Education Central Office, 117 E. Wesley Avenue, Lyons, Georgia on September 6, 2013 at 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. and on September 16, 2013 at 8:00 a.m.



August 26--Four people were arrested Sunday morning after damaging crops on two Toombs County farms.

According to Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight, the three men and one woman were riding a John Deere Gator and were running through crops owned by Stanley Farms and Andy Page.  When deputies arrived on the scene, they were bogged down.

Arrested are 21-year-old Vivian Hernandez of 250 Green Oak Road in Lyons, Joseph Moore, age 21, of 217 Rushing Drive in Lyons, 22-year-old Deonte Dasher of 404 Randolph Drive in Vidala and 23-year-old Jonathan Kucera of the Vidalia Inn in Vidalia. 



August 26--  A young man whose life was changed by a Boys and Girls Club in his home state of Alabama is taking over as the new director of the Boys and Girls Club in Toombs County.

Twenty-seven-year old Stephen Miller graduated from the University of Alabama and after a couple of years administering nursing homes returned to the organization which played such a big role in his life.

{mosimage}Stephen Miller and his fiance Ashley Shavers arrived in Vidalia Friday and were on hand for the Boys and Girls Club contemporary Christian concert Saturday night at Southeastern Tech.

"I've been involved in the Boys and Girls Club since the age of six.  It was a safe haven for me and my sisters.  I come from a background of a mother on welfare and food stamps and public assistance, so I know what a good wholesome organization can do to change lives because it saved mine.  I know all too well the struggles that some of our youth face today and now I'm in a position to offset some of those struggles," Miller says.

HIs vision for the local Boys and Girls Club is, "to really take us to the next level.  We have a great board, we have fantastic kids and fantastic facilities.  My job is to put all those moving parts together to make sure we're not only serving a large quantity of children but that we're providing quality programs."

Miller is a former Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year in the southeastern United States.  Not only did he earn a Club scholarship for college, but he visited President George W. Bush in the Oval Office.

"That's an experience I'm going to cherish for the rest of my life and now I've been given the opportunity to help other young people do that," he says.

August 22--  Officials in Toombs County say the county's property tax digest has increased in value about 8.5% because of a county-wide property revaluation conducted by the county Tax Assessor's office.

That's an increase of about $56 million, however, that could still change  because appeals are still being heard from taxpayers who disagree with the county's numbers.

Meanwhile, the Toombs County Commission met Tuesday and agreed to roll back the millage rate about one-third of a mil to avoid hitting taxpayers with higher tax bills this Fall.  

Commission Chairman Blake Tillery said the new rate of 9.36 mils is the maximum rate the commission will approve this year.

"That's our maximum.  We cannot go past that.  We can actually go lower and we're going to visit that issue and see if we can do so.  Times are still hard and anything we can do to help our citizens we're going to try to do. 

"At the same time, we've got to pay the bills.  We've got a sheriff's department, we've got a court system, etc and we want to pave some roads.  If it's not fitting into our mission right now of running a lean, efficient county government, we're going to do the best we can to return that money to the taxpayers," Tillery said.

Next up for taxpayers, the question is what will the Toombs County school board do regarding school property taxes in view of the increased value of the digest? 

Last month the school board passed its fiscal year 2014 budget which reflects an estimated increase in local taxe revenue of more than $1.3 million. 

Unless it follows the commission's example and agrees to a rollback, the school board must hold public hearings regarding what amounts to a tax increase on property owners who pay school taxes to Toombs County.

Meanwhile, the Toombs County Commission is considering a proposal from the Sheriff's Office that it upgrade the county's 911 computer system. It tabled a recommendation from Chief Deputy Barry Brown that the county spend more than $600,000 for a new system.


August 21--  Candidates who want to run for city council in Lyons can start qualifying Monday.

The city council set a qualifying fee of $54 for candidates who qualify for the November 5th city council election.  Qualifying dates are August 26th through the 30th at the Toombs County Board of Elections, 125 West Lincoln Street.  City Council seats up for election are in Ward 1 now held by Tracy Johnson, Ward 2 occupied by Ben Mitchell and Ward 4 with incumbent Wayne Hartley.

August 21--  The school property tax rate is going up in Montgomery County but school officials claim taxpayers won't be paying any more because the county's tax digest has gone down about 14 percent.

The Montgomery County school board approved a tax rate of 13.422 mils at its August meeting, an increase of about 1.2 mils over the past year.  School Superintendent Randy Rodgers says the levy should bring in about $2.2 million, about $35,000 less than last year.

He says the system will use funds from its $300,000 reserve to make up the difference.

"We have some fund balances we are able to contribute to the process.  I am asking you to approve a net M&O millage rate of 13.422 mils which is an increase that will actually raise $34,685 less than what we received last year.  So our revenue will be down about $35,000 from our local sources," Rodgers told the school board.

The board also voted to give three percent pay raises to some employees.  According to Rodgers, "that would include clerical workers, maintenance workers, para-professionals, school food services and transportation employees," he said.

To comply with state regulations, the school board voted to adopt a Charter System which is expected to generate an extra $86 in state funds per pupil starting in 2016.

It also agreed to offer a Christian elective course taught by the Montgomery County Christian Learning Center in Brewton-Parker's Briscoe Center. 

"To teach the Bible and Bible classes as part of our curriculum is certainly allowed.  We are not breaking ground with this as part as the state is concerned.  Our friends up in Walton County have been doing this for a long time and have had a lot of success," Rodgers stated.


August 20--  A woman in Tattnall County was feeling dizzy last week and could have been on the verge of a heart attack.  Less than 90 minutes later, she was having an artery blockage removed at Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia thanks to Wi-Fi and the hospital's LifeNet system installed in area ambulances.

According to Travis Roose at the medical center's Cath Lab, "The patient was complaining of dizziness and para-medic Daniel Dasher recognized that and went ahead and did an EKG even though she wasn't complaining of chest pains at the time.  He sent the EKG to us via the LifeNet system from the lower corner of Tattnall County.

"This patient's overall door to ballon time from her home to the cath lab was 74 minutes.  Every minute counts because the artery is closed and you want to open it up as quickly as possible.

"Our location is the furthest out from a hospital that does cardiothoracic surgey.  Our catchment area has really grown and our LifeNet system has been a key to that for these acute patients," he says.

Meadows Regional first installed the LifeNet system three years and ago and Roose estimates it's being used an average of two times per week in emergency situations.

"We get a report from the EMT and they convey that to us.  We notify the cardiologist on call and when the truck is backing up to our doors, we're already here and ready to go.

Patients are typically released from the hospital the day following the heart catherization and are asked to come back a week later for followup and further examination, Roose says.



August 19--  Students are back in school and some members of the Toombs County High School Future Business Leaders of America have some stories to telll about their trip to the National Leadership Conference in Anaheim, California this summer.

{mosimage}(L-R) Jacob Rowland, Michala Coursey and Addison Baldree joined 9,000 other FBLA leaders at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Three members of the Toombs County Chapter of FBLA attended in leadership and competitor roles. Michala Coursey, 2013-14 Georgia State Officer South Area Vice President, began her term in office as she met with competitors to encourage their best performance as they entered the competition areas. She also served as a voting delegate in the Southern Region elections for National Officers for next year.

Local Chapter President Addison Baldree and Georgia Region 2 Officer Jacob Rowland received awards and pins for completing the America Level of the Business Achievement Awards National Program, a program of four levels of FBLA active involvement in the areas of Service, Progress, and Education in their school, community, state, and nation. Both young men also competed in national competitions.  Addison competed in Business Calculations and Jacob competed in FBLA Principles and Procedures and both served as southern region voting delegates.

For the seventh consecutive year, the TCHS FBLA Chapter was recognized as a National Outstanding Chapter and a recipient of the Hollis & Kitty Guy Gold Seal National Chapter Award of Merit which recognizes the top local chapters in the nation. FBLA Chapter Adviser Kathy O’Neal received these awards on behalf of the chapter.  The weeklong conference ended with the induction of the National Officers with Cole Simmons of Georgia FBLA to serve as National President for 2013-14.

The career technology student organization Future Business Leaders of America prepares business students for business & community leadership careers.  FBLA is a vital integrated, co-curricular part of the Business and Computer Science Program with a quarter of a million business student members nationwide. To become a member, students must take a business course and pay state and national dues.


August 19--  There's about a hundred acres of land left for development in the U.S. One Industrial Park north of Lyons and the Toombs County Development Authority is planning to use a portion for a new "spec" building.

"When we finish this building, we'll have 400,000 square feet in the park with 300,000 already occupied and returning benefits to the community," says Bill Mitchell, Executive Director of the Development Authority.

The new 100,000 square foot building is expected to cost more than $2 million and Mitchell says nearly half of that is already in the bank.

"It will probably be in the $2.1 to $2.5 million range.  We've got a million dollars in the bank now and we're talking with the state to get a possible no-interest loan there.  We think we can finance it based on the land we have as a guarantee, so we thin we're in pretty good shape.

"The building we're looking at will be located right at the entrance to the park  south of Kingston Drive and parallel to U.S. One.  It's a very nice, dressed up building with a different front from the others so it won't look like a cookie-cutter approach," Mitchell says.

Mitchell says the success of the U.S. Number One Park is because county leaders committed years ago to investing one mil of tax revenue to economic development.  Even though the area's unemployment rate is above ten percent, he says it would be much higher if it weren't for the industries who came to the area because of the county's foresight.

"Not just Toombs County, but we provide employment for surrounding counties, too.  It would be much higher if it weren't for the 500 to 600 employees in the park right now who wouldn't be there had we not been able to locate Symington and Chicken of the Sea and U.S. Pet," Mitchell notes.

Officials expect a contract to build the new building will be awarded early next year. 


August 18-- Toombs County High School is happy and excited to welcome Mr. Kip Hart as the Instructional Coach at the school for this year. Mr. Hart is responsible for assisting teachers in meeting expectations set forth by the state in the Teacher Keys Effectiveness System. He joins the Instructional Coach team already established at other schools in the system.

{mosimage}Mr. Hart will support teachers as they strive to earn a proficient or higher rating in the ten established performance standards including instructional planning, differentiated instruction, professional knowledge, and academically challenging environment.

In order to provide teachers with the knowledge and data necessary to make informed decisions about their students, Mr. Hart will meet weekly with teachers in the newly formed data room. These meetings will foster collaboration driven by relevant data in order to provide the best education possible for the students at Toombs County High School.

According to Mr. Hart, “I'm excited about this new opportunity.  At TCHS, we will be continuing to improve instruction with a solid focus on student learning outcomes.”

August 17-- Five Southeastern Technical College students and one STC Board of Directors member received the designation “Master Timber Harvester” after completing a two-day logger education program in Swainsboro.

The Master Timber Harvester (MTH) program workshop led by Donna Gallaher, MTH coordinator from the University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forest Resources. Thirty one people, including five STC Forest Technology students and STC Board of Directors and Forestry Advisory Committee member Andy Kimbell, attended the workshop.

The MTH program’s stated objective is “to foster improvement in the professionalism of wood producers.” The MTH event held in Swainsboro was one of four held throughout the year and across the state, a two-day “introductory workshop” that, upon completion, grants the participants an MTH designation that lasts two years.

“MTH loggers have improved opportunities to deliver wood to mills,” said John Thrift, forest technology instructor for Southeastern Tech. “The course is rigorous and includes instruction from top industry leaders from around the Southeast.  The students were grateful for the opportunity to learn from the professionals.”

Thrift’s five students attended the workshop with help from scholarships donated by a family on whose land the students performed forestry work as part of a lab exercise.

“The landowners were so pleased with their work, they donated the money,” said Thrift. “I was extremely encouraged the students decided to use the money to invest further into their professional development, not to mention they attended the workshop during summer break. We have high-quality students who are serious about a career in forestry, and that is an example of their commitment.”

The workshop attendees received an MTH designation, but they also took a step toward Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification. The SFI, according to Gallaher, is a forest and forest product certification program concerned with certifying and promoting sustainable practices in forestry, and the MTH workshop satisfies the “logger education” portion of certification.

“Forest product certification assures consumers that products come from sustainably managed forests,” said Gallaher. “Many SFI-program-participant forest product manufacturers have policies preferring to procure fiber from loggers who participate in a logger education program.”


 (L to R) John Thrift, Donna Gallaher, Forest Tech students Chris Mulrooney, Cody Johnson, Matt Snellgrove, David Pittman, and DW Lindsey and STC Board of Directors and Forestry Advisory Committee member Andy Kimbell

August 17--  The Lyons observance of America's Night Out has been cancelled due to rain.

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker announced Saturday morning that tonight's events scheduled to start at Lyons City Hall at seven and culminating with a community walk are called off due to the weather.

August 16--  U.S. Senate candidate Karen Handel continues to reveal how the federal government routinely wastes millions of tax dollars.  Her latest revelation reports many federal workers continue to get checks even after they're dead (which begs the question, How can you tell??)

"The 42 Days of "Only in Washington" today highlighted the fact that the federal government sent an average of $120 million in retirement and disability payments to deceased former federal employees every year for at least the past five years.

"In a September 2011 report, the Inspector General (IG) for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management found that―the amount of post-death improper payments is consistently $100-$150 million annually, totaling over $601 million in the last five years."  [SOURCE:]

The Inspector General found that the son of a deceased beneficiary had been cashing his father's checks for 37 years. Taxpayers were billed for  more than half a million dollars, and the scam was not discovered until the son died in 2008.

"Like any taxpayer, I am personally offended by this waste and by a federal government that allows it to happen with our money," Karen said.  "I didn't let that kind of thing happen as Fulton County Commission Chair or as Secretary of State, and I won't accept it as your next Senator."


August 16--  If an airline has ever lost your luggage, you know the impact it can have on your trip.

A new Vidalia company thinks it has a better way for the airlines to find you when they find your luggage.

WorldTrac plans to put radio frequency identification reader units in airline lost baggage departments and issue travelers a coded card the size of a credit card which is placed inside the baggage.  The reader will decode the card and send the owner of the luggage an instant email with instructions on retrieving the bag.

The company is headed by President Frank Raiford with Senior Vice President Bob Davis and Vice Presidents Ray Hamilton, Tom Meredith and Louie Thompson.

"It's a huge, huge expense to the airlines.  I think it's something like 3,000 bags lost an hour.

"We've done a tremendous amount of research trying to come up with the best solution.  In that, we've seen where so many others have failed and why they failed.  We've got a very simple approach that's very scaleable across the world and across any airline and it can go all the way through their facilities.  The cost of the infrastructure has been something that's been very prohibitive for the technology to roll out, but we've got it so simple all we do is plug it into an outlet and it's up and running on its own," Thompson explains.

According to Thompson, the company's call center in Vidalia will take care of customer service.

"We've got a call center that takes our calls and handles our emails.  We've got a way worked out to handle all that," he says.

In addition to baggage recovery, Bob Davis says the company has the potential to track any kind of property including laptops and cellphones.  Its potential customers include luggage manufacturers, department stores, electronics stores, computer manufacturers, law enforcement, airlines, gun manufacturers and "everyone in the world that owns assets and travels around with their assets."

The company has received a low interest economic development loan from the City of Vidalia for $180,000.  In its application, it said it currently has 12 employees with four more jobs to be created.

According to its loan application, Raiford handles all police and international airline sales.  Davis is in charge of all sales, marketing and product design.  Thompson and Meredith oversee operations and Hamilton manages manufacturing and research and development.

It plans to start operations in September and is projecting sales of $1.2 million the first year.

August 15--  The Vidalia Educational Foundation is providing a grant to help the growing robotics program in the Vidalia City school system.

{mosimage}(L-R) Jo Hamilton, Vidalia Educational Foundation, VHS science teacher Jeff Ikner and VHS Principal John Sharpe

The $3,000 grant will help teacher Jeff Ikner continue to grow the program.

"We started three years ago with seven students and now we expect between 50 and 80 students.  We need materials for those students to use.  Robotics equipment is very expensive and this will go a long way to get the high school started and allowing them to compete this year," Ikner says.

Vidalia students have made strong showings in region and state science and robotics competition and Ikner feels it's a big plus for students.

"It's a method of giving them the ability to think creatively, to build and design things, learn computer programming and use math and thinking skills that other activities may not focus on," he observes.

Vidalia High School Principal John Sharpe is excited with what the program is doing.

"It's fantastic.  I had the privilege this summer of walking into camp and seeing some of the students Mr. Ikner had who started back in the first and second grades.  Those students were real involved and it was incredible the problem solving skills they were learning," he said.

August 14-- On June 11, 2013, the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners awarded a bid of $189,750 to Everett Dykes Grassing Co. of Cochran, Georgia to repair potholes on several county roads.  The Montgomery County Board of Commissioners requested the engineering services of John E. Roller of Mount Vernon to oversee the project and bid process.
Proceeds from the TSPLOST voted in by the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha’s Special Tax District in last year’s General Primary Election are being used to fund the project. 

{mosimage}This is one location along Old River Road that was recently repaired near the Long Pond Community.  The Board of Commissioners’ Office is identifying some of the areas that are being repaired with signs stating: “YOUR TSPLOST DOLLARS AT WORK”. 

Chairman Vernon Sumner said, “The Montgomery County Board of Commissioners is pleased to announce that a portion of Montgomery County’s local distribution of the TSPLOST is being used to fund the bid that was awarded to Everett Dykes Grassing Co.  The Board and I are thankful that the County has this additional funding source to repair and improve our roads in the County.”

The Commissioners’ Office anticipates the project to be complete in two to three weeks.

August 14--  Two additional days of classes are being added to this year's school calendar in Vidalia city schools.

The school board approved the new calendar at its August meeting Tuesday night.

The move reduces the number of furlough days for teachers and staff from ten to eight and will cost the system about $160,000 in salaries.

The class dates being added back are October 14 and March 10.

August 14--  Vidalians will see about $8 million dollars worth of roadwork and public works projects getting started in the next few months.

The largest is the widening of Highway 292 West from Orange Street to the city limits.  A new lane will be added to the road which runs in front of Vidalia High School.  McLendon Enterprises of Vidalia has won the contract from the state Department of Transportation for $5.9 million.

The second largest project will cost an estimated $1.6 million to fix all the problems on Adams Street.  Once water and sewer lines are relocated, curbs and sidewalks will be upgraded and the road will be repaved.  Work is expected to start in the Fall.

A rennovation project along North Main and McIntosh Streets will provide new sidewalks and beautification at a cost of $400,000.

Meanwhile, a $163,000 contract has been awarded to Ricketson Construction Company to resurface parts of seven city streets including Brinson Road, Broadfoot Boulevard, Calendar Road, Church Street, Dixie Drive, Jefferson Street and Jones Street.

The city council has also okayed a proposal to spend up to $290,000 in sales tax collections to build an outdoor amphitheater on the former site of the Vidalia Police Department.

At its August meeting, the council also okayed a $180,000 economic development loan to help a local startup company called WorldTrac produce and market a tracing device for luggage and other property.  It expects to create up to a dozen jobs.  The three percent loan is for 7.5 years.

The council named Father Jim Clendinen to succeed Anita Estroff on the Vidalia-Toombs County library board, modified the city's ordinance on flea markets and approved new by-laws and the board of directors for the Vidalia Onion Festival headed by incoming chairman Tom Cato.

August 3-- The  Vidalia City School system is applying to the state for a "charter system of schools" which will give the system more flexibility in operations and a little more state funding.

All school boards in the state are being required to choose one of four options by June, 2015 ranging from status quo to what amounts to almost independent charter schools.

School Superintendent Dr. Garrett Wilcox says the Vidalia school board chose the more conservative approach which maintains the board's oversight of the schools in the system.

"It gives us some flexibility to get away from some of the state board rules and, hopefully, as long as the legislature continues to fund the charter systems, it's about $80 more dollars per year per student in the system," he said.

Will it work?

"Time will tell.  I think it's a plus that we'll have access to some form of new revenue.  Fortunately, we were able to add back two days to the calendar this year and that's two more days our students will have access to receiving a quality education that they've been deprived of for quite some time," Dr. Wilcox noted.

Dr. Wilcox estimates the school system will receive up to an additional $200,000 a year under the charter system and perhaps can save more money through local innovation while at the same time improving academics.

August 12--  Lawmen converged on a Lyons house early Friday morning and made seven arrests on alleged drug and firearm violations.

According to Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker, Lyons police officers, Toombs County Sheriff's office deputies and agents from the East Central Georgia Drug Task Force executed a search warrant at 255 East Columbia Avenue about six a.m.

Charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of firearms during commission of a crime are the two residents of the Columbia Street address, Eric Canty and Derrick Johnson, Jr.

Also, Frank Blanding, 406 Ward St, Apt D, Vidalia; Chance Mayner, 174 Scott Drive, Vidalia; Deborah Brooker, 106 East 6th Street, Vidalia; Deante Canty, 801 West Street, Vidalia and George Tillman, III of 157 Katie Dudle Village in Dublin.

Chief Walker says more than 70 bags of marijuana and various firearms were confiscated at the house.

August 12-- Governor Nathan Deal today announced that Georgia’s net tax collections for the month of July totaled $1.41 billion for an increase of $88.5 million, or 6.7 percent, compared to the month-ended July 2012. Gross tax revenue deposits for the month totaled $1.85 billion, an increase of $70.5 million or 4 percent compared to last fiscal year.

The following changes within the various tax categories led to the overall net revenue increase in July:

 Individual Income Tax:  Individual Income Tax collections for July totaled $758.25 million, up from $698 million in July 2012, for an increase of $60.25 million or 8.6 percent.

The following notable components within Individual Income Tax account for the net increase:
•      Individual Withholding payments were up nearly $55.5 million or 7.8 percent

•      Individual Income Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) were down $ 1.75 million or -4.2 percent

•      All other Individual categories including Return & Assessment payments were up a combined $3 million

Sales and Use Tax:  Gross Sales Tax collections declined $43.25 million or -5  percent compared to last year, while net Sales & Use Tax collections for July 2013 dropped $30.25 million or -6.6 percent, down from $460.25 million in July 2012 to a total of $430 million in July FY 2014. Lastly, the monthly Sales Tax distribution to local governments totaled $378.75 million, which was a decrease of $17.5 million or -4.4 percent compared to last year.

Corporate Income Tax:  Corporate Income Tax collections for July 2013 decreased  $4 million or -21.8 percent compared to last year when Corporate tax revenues totaled nearly $18.0 million in July 2012.

The following notable components within Corporate Income Tax make up the decrease:
•      Corporate Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) were down  - $3 million or -23.6 percent

•      Corporate Estimated payments for July 2013 decreased $ 6.5 million or -30.4 percent

•      All other Corporate Tax categories combined for a decrease of nearly $ 0.5 million compared to FY 13

Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Fees: Motor Vehicle Fee collections for July 2013 totaled $83.5 million, which was $62.25 million higher than the previous year. The large year-over-year increase is the result of new tax legislation, House Bill 266, that became effective as of March 1. The new law established a Title ad Valorem Tax to replace Automobile Sales Tax, which was traditionally assessed on the purchase of a car. As a result, gross Sales Tax collections have been reduced while Motor Vehicle fees have increased an average of $50.75 million per month since the filing of March returns began in mid-April of FY 2013.


August 12--  A Republican candidate for Congress is challenging incumbent Democrat John Barrow to vote for defunding ObamaCare.

{mosimage}Augusta businessman Rick Allen made his second campaign visit in two months to Toombs County and said Barrow is ignoring the challenge.

"On this voting to defund ObamaCare, I've issued a challenge to John Barrow to sign that petition.  I have not heard from him.  He says he voted against the law and he's voted against repeal of the law three times and I want to see where he stands on the vote to defund it," said Allen on a visit to Vidalia.

Allen says President Obama's edict to exempt businesses from implementing ObamaCare was a purely political move to get past the 2014 congressional elections.

"If the President hadn't delayed the mandate, I believe there would have been an uprising that he wouldn't have been able to overcome.  They got nervous that we would keep the House and they would lose the Senate.  He's just putting off the pain of that to not lose those seats.

"I see a movement in this country that's encouraged me to do what I'm doing.  What we need is another revolution like 1994 and I'm hoping to be part of that revolution in 2014," Allen said.

Both Allen and his Republcan primary opponent, John Stone of Augusta, are conservatives who endorse the Tea Party.

Allen says the difference is that Stone has been a part of the Washington establishment while he (Allen) is a conservative businessman who wants to bring businesss solutions to problems in federal government.

August 10-- DISH (NASDAQ: DISH) and Raycom Media, Inc. today announced an agreement regarding the continued retransmission of Raycom TV stations in 36 markets. Service to DISH customers in the affected markets is expected to be restored overnight. 

Viewers of WTOC-TV in this area had been unable to see the station on their DISH receivers for the past week.

Terms of the agreement between DISH and Raycom were not disclosed.

August 9--  Vidalia Heritage Academy welcomed 210 students along with their teachers and parents for the first day of school Friday.  

{mosimage}Those attending gathered around the flagpole celebrating the beginning of the new school year with a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance to the US Flag.

Rev. Bucky Kennedy led the prayer and State Representative Greg Morris presented the school a new Georgia State Flag that will be flown each day.

August 9--  The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is passing out more than $62 million to improve public housing in Georgia.

Included is nearly $3.5 million for 17 public housing authorities in this area.

Alamo - $43,215, Alma - $376,145, Baxley- $186,231, Claxton - $235,547, Douglas - $480,471, Dublin - $676,727, Glennville - $135,036, Glenwood - $55,716, Hazlehurst - $158, 651, Lyons - $148,745, Metter - $145,657, Mount Vernon - $39,083, Reidsville - $200,462, Soperton - $133,991, Statesboro - $167,365, Swainsboro - $290,260, Vidalia - $119,837,  

August 9--  A Metter construction company will build the new Toombs County High School.

The county school board approved TQ Constructors at its August meeting Thursday.  The company submitted a low bid of $24,092,000 which was about a half-million dollars lower than its nearest competitor, McDonald Construction of Vidalia.

The project is being financed with about $3 million in state funds and the balance by special purpose local option sales tax collections and school bonds.  The bonds would be paid off by 2022 using sales tax revenue.

School officials are planning to move into the new building to start the 2015 school year.

August 9--  Students in the Toombs County school system start the new school year Friday, August 16.  The following Friday, Toombs County High School is hosting a "Party at the Pit" in Lyons, according to Principal Dr. Tosha Middlebrooks.

{mosimage}"As principal of Toombs County High School for the 2013-2014 school year, my chief priority is ensuring that all students have a positive climate in which to learn. At TCHS, 'The Bark is On' as we are focusing on academics, athletics, and an active community. As such, the administrative team continues to develop and support initiatives which will support our students and combine all stakeholders as we strive for continual improvement.

"As such, the administration and athletic department of Toombs County High School, along with the Toombs County All Sports Booster Club, extends an invitation to the community attend Party at the Pit on Friday, August 23 at 6:30 PM. This event gives the community an opportunity to meet the football players, cheerleaders, and Redcoat  band members as TCHS kicks off Bulldog football season with plenty of school spirit.

"In order to combine athletics, academics, and an active community, Toombs County High School has made plans to Pile the Pit. We are asking parents, students, teachers, and community members are invited to bring school supplies to fill the buckets as we pile the pit in conjunction with Party at the Pit. Individuals who donate supplies will be given the opportunity to win an All-Sports Season Pass from the Toombs County Booster Club.

Toombs County football players and cheerleaders will be on hand to personally thank the community as we work together to invest in our students by providing school supplies for the upcoming school year. Suggested supplies include: flash drives, three inch three ring binders, loose leaf paper, subject dividers, pencils, pens, highlighters, markers, colored pencils, post-its, graphing calculator, graphing paper, copy paper, construction paper, toner, glue, rubber cement, any art supplies, and back packs.

Toombs County High School is also excited to welcome new staff members to our school for the upcoming year. Dr. Jennifer Irvin will be serving as Assistant Principal. Additional new staff members include Bradley Benton, Paul Baldy, Sherrie Bowen, Karen Braddy, Pamela Calloway, Adam Hightower, Miranda Kight, Schlonda Phillips, David Purvis, Kyle Redmond, Deborah Fountain, and Shorn Furse. The addition of these individuals will provide many more opportunities to enrich the educational experiences of the students at TCHS.

August 9--  Two Republicans from Augusta are trying to unseat Democrat John Barrow in the 12th Congressional District in next year's election and both visited Toombs County Tuesday.

They are Augusta businessman Rick Allen and John Stone, former assistant to the late Congressman Charley Norwood and more recently to a conservative Texas congressman.

Both Allen and Stone are Tea Party conservatives and Stone believes his experience in Washington gives him a leg up.

"Congressman Carter, whom I've worked with the last four years, was the co-founder of the Tea Party caucus in Washington along with Michelle Bachman.  It's not just the media and not just the Left, it's the Republican establishment that's been attacking the Tea Party, but I'll tell you if it weren't for the Tea Party, we wouldn't have the majority in the House right now that we won in 2010.  The majority of the party in on the Tea Party side and what we have to do is win over the leadership, too," Stone says.

{mosimage}Stone claims Congressman Barrow has been unsuccessful in helping reduce the 12th District's unemployment rate which is the highest in Georgia.  He also believes Barrow is out-of-step on other issues.

"We have to repeal ObamaCare and we have to replace Obamacare because it's about to destroy healthcare in the country.

"On the Benghazi issue and others, we have an out-of-control federal government and that's why so many people are paranoid now about their own government.

"There's a bill by Congressman Frank Wolfe calling for an independent counsel investigation of Benghazi but we're not getting support from our present congressman on that.

"There was an amendment brought up last week that would have reined in the NSA from the wiretaps.  We need to support things like that and had I been the Congressman I would have supported it.

"We've got to go back and actually balance our budget.  We continue to get up to the last minute on budget negotiations and then our own leadership collapses.

"We simply have to start standing up to this agenda, standing up for the Constitution and the rule of law which the Obama administration continues to violate," Stone said.

Allen's thoughts on the campaign are coming up in a future story.

August 7-- Former Georgia Secretary of State and U.S. Senate candidate Karen Handel asks, "why did Congress spend $27 Million to teach Moroccans how to make pottery?" Spending our tax dollars on pottery classes in Africa is only the latest example of Karen's "Only in Washington" Campaign that is examining 42 outrageous actions by Washington.

"While Morocco is no doubt a lovely place, we have families in Georgia that are being hurt by high taxes fueling out of control spending. Georgia families -- American families -- should be Congress' top priority," Handel said. "What's worse is that the program was deemed a failure, and $27 MILLION of our hard-earned dollars were spent on a program that was a failure as well as a mistake. It's this kind of ridiculous, out of comtrol spending that has helped saddle us with a nearly $17 trillion debt. As Georgia's next U.S. Senator, I'm going to do something about it."

August 7--  Lyons' new city manager was sworn into the job Tuesday night.  Jason Hall (left) took the oath from city attorney Bruce Durden at the monthly city council meeting.


The council set a qualifying fee of $54 for candidates who qualify for the November 5th city council election.  Qualifying dates are August 26th through the 30th at the Toombs County Board of Elections, 125 West Lincoln Street.  City Council seats up for election are in Ward 1 now held by Tracy Johnson, Ward 2 occupied by Ben Mitchell and Ward 4 with incumbent Wayne Hartley.

The council turned down a request from Municipal Court Judge Paul Cook to raise his monthly salary from $350 to $650 a month, however, it agreed to make him a counter offer of $500 a month subject to review in 12 months.

The city will open bids for resurfacing of five streets August 29th at eleven a.m.  The streets are West Columbia, Hilton Drive, West Trapnell, West Toombs and South Lanier.


August 7--  U.S. Congressman Jack Kingston is running his first statewide race as he seeks to succeed Senator Saxby Chambliss in the 2014 elections.

{mosimage}Kingston has been representing southeast Georgia counties for the past 20 years and knows he's got to raise money to reach voters in North Georgia if he's going to win in the Republican primary.

Two of his opponents are sitting Congressmen, Paul Broun, Jr. of Athens and Phil Gingrey of Marietta, yet Kingston says his work in their districts is paying off.

"We have been warmly received and won some straw polls up there.  We've gone head to head with the incumbents on their home turft and we feel good about it," he observes.

Kingston spoke to Vidalia Kiwanians Tuesday and let them know where he stands on NSA eavesdropping on U.S. citizens.

"I am against the National Security Administration monitoring your phone calls.  If you're suspected of being a terrorist, that's a different matter.  Go to a judge and get a court order for eavesdropping.  In the meantime, don't collect the phone calls I'm making to my family planning my vacation.  That was not the intention of the Patriot Act," he said.

Congressman Kingston also says the recent failure to pass a farm bill is indicative of the inability to get anything done in Washington these days.  He says taxpayers will continue to pay the price for that failure.

"This is a case of letting perfect be the enemy of good.  We had a farm bill that maybe wasn't as good as I would have wanted, but it was one that reformed food stamps.  It required able-bodied recipients to work.  It said if you're on food stamps, you can't have drugs.  It cut food stamp spending by $20 billion.

"Some people believed it didn't go far enough, but to some it went too far.  So we were unable to get it passed and that just shows you what division we have in Washington, D.C.

"That was our best hope of reform.  I'm afraid now that food stamps will continue to skyrocket because we were unable to get the votes for the reform bill," he said.


August 6--You can track area road projects on a new state webpage.  Here's how.

"The Georgia Department of Transportation today launched a brand new, dedicated website focused on the Transportation Investment Act of 2010 (TIA) projects and activities.  This website,, provides full access to available project information and activities, as well as revenue collections and reporting documents.

The Transportation Investment Act of 2010 requires the establishment of a website to publish a non-technical report for each TIA region showing the status of project budgets from original estimates to current estimates and all expenditures in the preceding year.  This new TIA website not only creates the best arrangement for those reports, but also offers an opportunity to showcase specific project information in a manageable format.

“This website really brings all the information about TIA together in one place so everyone can quickly access key information about projects and the program,” State Transportation Board Chair Johnny Floyd commented.  “It is important that the Department and the other agencies involved in delivering TIA projects present all the information in a way that is easy to navigate and understand.  This website accomplishes that.”

The TIA website provides information on projects on the approved investment lists in the Central Savannah River Area, Heart of Georgia-Altamaha and River Valley regions, and may be sorted by project type, county and band schedule of construction start.  Additionally, each project listing also houses the original information sheet presented to voters including mapped location of projects, descriptions and budget.

The TIA website provides audience-specific pages for Local Governments, Consultants/Contractors, Small/DBE/Veteran-owned businesses and Media outlets.  All pertinent reports, including revenue collections, Citizen’s Review Panel documents and the original House Bill 277, may be reviewed on the website.

Forty-six counties and their respective cities comprise the three regional districts that approved the TIA referendum in 2012.  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 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 will be disbursed to the regions’ governments each month on a predetermined formula basis for discretionary use on local transportation-related efforts. Full information on TIA may be found at


August 6-- Emanuel County Junior College was founded in 1973 based on the concept that every Georgian, whether located in urban areas or rural communities, would have access to a college education.  Forty years later, that vision still prevails as East Georgia State College delivers a world-class educational experience to a widely diverse group of students on campus locations in Swainsboro, Statesboro and Augusta.

Since the first graduating class of 3 in 1974, EGSC now boasts an enrollment of 3,000, hailing from 110 Georgia counties, 27 states other than Georgia and 11 foreign countries.   To celebrate the forty years of academic excellence, the college faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends have planned a series of events to commemorate the occasion and welcome a new President.

On Thursday, September 26 through Saturday, September 28, you are cordially invited to join with your friends and neighbors in celebrating this achievement.  The theme of the series is Educating. Graduating. Serving Communities; An Enduring Legacy.

The festivities will begin with Convocation on Thursday, September 26, at 11 a.m. in the auditorium of the Luck Flanders Gambrell Center.  Convocation speaker will be Dr. Michael L. Thurmond, former three-term Georgia Labor Commissioner and current interim superintendent of the DeKalb County School District.  Dr. Thurmond has served in the Georgia Legislature and has led the Division of Family and Children’s Services, where he created the Work First Program, helping over 90,000 welfare-dependent Georgia families move from dependence into the workforce. 

The topic of Dr. Thurmond’s presentation is “The Struggle is Real.”  To prepare for his presentation, faculty and students will be engaged in active discussion regarding issues of student struggle in education, from proper preparation to the cost of higher education.  The convocation will re-emphasize the tradition of marking the official beginning of a new academic year and encourage interaction within the college community. 

On Thursday evening, a Capital Campaign kick-off dinner will be held in the physical education center at the college.  The details of a five million dollar, 5 year capital campaign will be announced during the evening.  The featured keynote speaker will be Dr. Bill Crowe, director of the Georgia Center for Continuing Education at UGA.  Dr. Crowe is the former President of Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas, one of the largest community colleges in the nation.  Highlighting the dinner will be a silent art auction featuring work by faculty, staff, students and alumni.    The dinner is $25 per person and requires advance reservations.  You may register online at  The event begins at 6:30 p.m. 

Friday, September 27, the Investiture of Robert Boehmer as the fifth president of EGSC will be held in the Luck Flanders Gambrell Center Auditorium.  The event will be followed by an outdoor reception to be held in the student quadrangle.  The investiture will follow ceremonial protocol.  Guests for the ceremony will include USG Chancellor Hank Huckaby, members of the USG Board of Regents, college presidents, elected officials and other dignitaries.  Guests are requested to be seated by 10:40 a.m. 

 The fun continues on Saturday, September 28, beginning at 7:00 a.m. with registration for the Bobcat Dash with a Splash.  The 5 K begins at 8 a.m. and the one mile fun run begins at 9 a.m.  Registration may be made in advance online at The unique 5 K race will be a color run where participants are “splashed” with green and gold colored powders at various points along the race and at the finish line.  Runners wearing white clothing will get the best overall effect.    The awards ceremony will follow the run

Beginning at 11 a.m., the 40th anniversary celebration will continue in the Luck Flanders Gambrell Auditorium with a student performance featuring highlights of Emanuel County Junior College, East Georgia College and East Georgia State College.   There will also be a dedication of the EGSC Community Wall.   Following the performance, the audience is invited to participate in an outdoor commemorative aerial photograph. 

 Saturday afternoon following the 40th anniversary celebration promises to be a time of great fun and excitement as the Parents, Family and Alumni event gets underway.  Planned activities for the afternoon will include Bongo Ball, a student Talent Showcase, Family Jeopardy, Art World, featuring pottery exhibits, balloon animals, sidewalk chalk competition and make your own (free) tie-dye tee shirts.  Guests may also participate in beach volleyball, disc golf, ropes course, basketball games with members of the state champion Bobcat team, a tennis clinic and planetarium shows at the Fulford Center. 

The afternoon highlight will be the Bobcat Regatta, a duct tape boat race on Ezra Pond.  Boats are constructed of two items only, duct tape and corrugated cardboard.  This event will be open to public teams, as well as members of the college community. There is no fee to enter butadvanced registration is required and prizes will be awarded.  Online registration is available at  A complimentary lunch will be served and snacks will be available for purchase.

Come out and join in the fun as EGSC celebrates forty years of service to our region.  The economic impact of the college continues to grow as we are a catalyst for development in the area.  For more information, visit us at or call us at 478-289-2367. 

August 6--  The apparent low bid to build the new Toombs County High School was submitted by a Metter contractor.

TQ Constructors submitted the low bid of $24,092,000 at the bid opening conducted by the Toombs County school board last Thursday night.

McDonald Construction of Vidalia submitted the second lowest bid of $24,612,000.

Four other bids submitted were from Elkins Construction of Jacksonville, $25,296,000; McKnight Construction of Augusta, $25,909,342; RA-LIN and Associates of Carrollton, $25,995,000 and Copper Construction of Vidalia, $28,578,000.

School board architect John Tuten is evaluating the bids and could make a recommendation in time for the school board to award the contract at its August 8th meeting.

August 5-- Cancer is a group of diseases that in one form or another has affected loved ones, friends or even oneself.  Cancer does not respect age, ethnicity or gender.  Millions all over the world have suffered, but, millions are surviving! 

The popular gospel group The Wardlaw Brothers (TWB) of Toombs County are among those who have experienced this painful disease within their own family and are on a mission to spread hope and assist those who are suffering, as well as to celebrate those who have survived. 

To honor all persons who have been touched in some way by cancer, The Wardlaw Brothers have written and released a special song "We Will Survive".  The single is available only on iTunes with portions of the proceeds from the sale of the single to benefit two Georgia-based foundations. 

TWB has partnered with The Nick Eason Foundation and The Pretty In Pank Foundation who are on the same mission, to offer support to those affected by this disease.

TWB is requesting that everyone partner with them in support of this effort by not only downloading the single, but by watching and sharing the companion video.  "We Will Survive" has a poignant and inspiring video that features friends, family and those TWB admire who are cancer survivors, currently fighting cancer and those who have succumb in their fight.

TWB are five biological brothers (Tony, Luther, Jamie, Carl and Rodney) from Georgia who have recently garnered success with their Top 20 Billboard Gospel Radio Chart hit “Right Now Lord”, from their GOD'S BEEN THERE CD.  The brothers have also had key appearances on national TV shows - BET's Bobby Jones Gospel, The Word Network and TCT TV Network.  TWB will be featured as musical performers at the Bill Pickett Rodeo in Atlanta, GA August 3-4 and have a special performance appearance in the forthcoming film Angel's Wings featuring noted actor Reginald VelJohnson ("Family Matters" TV Show) and actress Robin Givens.

 Please Watch, Share and Support 
"We Will Survive"
<<Official Music Video>>
click link or graphic below


About:  The Nick Eason Foundation 

Founded in January of 2012, The Nick Eason Foundation has a mission is to assist families with loved ones fighting cancer.  The Foundation helps families financially as well as spiritually and emotionally to try and relieve some of the immense pressure that comes with managing such a critical family time. 

The inspiration for The Nick Eason Foundation comes from Nick’s own experience losing his mother to breast cancer in 2012.  He also lost his uncle to cancer, and has lost other friends to the illness over the past few years.  Through his experiences, he realized that many families cannot manage the struggle alone, whether from the financial or emotional stresses the consistently arise. 

Nick Eason is a native of Lyons, GA who played football for Clemson University and went on to play in the NFL for the Denver Broncos, the 2009 Super Bowl Champions the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Arizona Cardinals.  With the drive to achieve more goals after his eventual retirement, he is currently finishing his master’s degree in Human Development.  His long-term goal is to build his foundation into a national organization, helping families across the country.  Nick’s experience with his mom taught him the real power of family, and how that power can bring peace during such a difficult time. 

About:  The Pretty In Pank Foundation

The Pretty in Pank Foundation (PIP) was begun in Georgia in 2007 by three friends - Ann Owens, Jill Murphy, and Pete Frost whose families had each been greatly affected by breast cancer. Although Jill’s mother had lost her battle, Ann’s niece and Pete’s mother had recently been diagnosed.

And so it began, three friends enlisted local talent and other volunteers to plan a variety show FUNdraiser to “raise a little money” for the ladies affected in their small town. Ann, the owner of the local theater, afforded the use of the perfect venue. The first Pretty in Pank variety show was held, selling out, and making $3,000 and thus launching future events to support the foundation’s goal: to bring help, hope, and humor to those battling breast cancer.

 Download "We Will Survive"


August 5--  Here's some medical consumer information you may find interesting.  This website compares medical costs at hospitals around the country.  For our area, click on the state of Georgia and the Savannah region.

August 5--  There's a bit of World War II aviation history being restored in South Georgia.

"It was just an incredible find.  It was the holy grail of airplanes," says vintage aircraft restorer Tom Reilly.

{mosimage}Several years ago Reilly, who does his restoration work in a hangar at the Douglas, Georgia airport, discovered the remains of a P-82 Twin Mustang at an aircraft graveyard in Ohio.

The fighter was created in 1945 by North American Aviation to escort U.S. bombers on missions to Japan.  It was also used during the Korean conflict.

Reilly was astonded to learn the aircraft he found is actually the prototype and obviously is one-of-a-kind.

"On April 15, 1945 our airplane flew for the first time and proved it was 50 times faster and it had about a third-again the range.  It had two pilots for redundancy and safety.  It carried a lot of bombs underneath and had the same .650 caliber machines guns, not mounted on the wings, but in the midsection to fire between the two propellors," he reports.

Reilly is passionate about his work.

"They're addictive.  To look at at World War II airplane, if they could talk, they'd tell an incredible story.  These are combat aircraft used in World War II to stop the Axis powers from taking over our country," Reilly notes.

He says there is a small community of people like him in the country who help each other find pieces and parts of the old aircraft to use in restoration.

"There are only about 30 people in the country who do what I do.  The people who build Corsairs know where all the parts are, but if I know where some Corsair parts are, I tell them.  There are people who specialize in certain airplanes. 

"I specialized for years in B-24's, B-25's and B-17's and now I'm specializing in the P-82.  There were people out there who knew where some parts were for the P-82 and they told me and I immediately went there to buy them or try to trade for them," he said.

Reilly says he found a P-82 canopy in Maryland and an engine in Mexico.

He expects to finish the restoration of his Twin Mustang in the next couple of years, and he says he and his investors stand to make up to 500 percent return on their investment.  

According to Reilly, the plane now sitting in Douglas will attract high-end aviation enthusiasts willing to pay from $18 million to perhaps $27 million to have the only Twin Mustang prototype in the world.

August 3--  Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports his officers will take part in a Public Safety Driver Training course in a simulator co-sponsored by the Association County Commissioners of Georgia and the Georgia Municipal Association.

{mosimage}The simulator can expose drivers to more than 80 scenarios they could face on a daily basis while doing their law enforcement jobs in Toombs County.

When a driver makes an incorrect decision, the simulator instructor can replay the situation and have the driver repeat the same scenario to learn proper techniques.

August 2--  The sheriff of Candler County and one of his staff members are being sued by the family of a woman who hung herself in the county jail two years ago.

According to The Metter Advertiser,  Sheriff Homer Bell and Robbie Youngblood are accused of negligence in the death of Kimberly Nicole Clements.

The federal lawsuit claims Sheriff Bell was indifferent and took no precautionary action when he was told Clements was threatening to kill herself.

Vidalia attorney Wilson Smith is one of the attorneys representing the family.

August 2--  Two solar projects are being proposed for location in Tattnall County.

According to The Tattnall Journal, a company named Scatec Solar, North America has options to buy 700 acres of land near Cobbtown and another 100-acre tract near Collins.

A company official told Tattnall County Commissioners the solar farms would produce a total of 100 megawatts.

Construction costs of the two projects are estimated at $185 million and would employ 12 people for operations and maintenance when completed.

The company's worldwide headquarters is in Oslo, Norway.

August 2-- Former Georgia Secretary of State and U.S. Senate candidate Karen Handel unveiled today the third example in her “Only in Washington” series of ridiculous actions in Washington. This campaign highlights 42 things that could only happen in our nation’s Capitol. Why 42? That’s one example for each year her opponents have spent in the U.S. Congress.

{mosimage}Today, Handel's campaign highlights the Congressional Barbershop where our Congressmen go to get cut-rate hair-cutting and personal grooming. Well, cut-rate for them with taxpayers picking up the remainder of the tab.

"The Congressional Barbershop ran a $340,000 deficit last year, which means regular Americans either paid or borrowed that amount to style the hair of our members of Congress," Handel said. According to the Columbus Dispatch, the Congressional Barbershop ran a $340,000 deficit last year. Check it out at:

“This is ridiculous,” Karen said. “Members of Congress, like everyone else, should have to pay for their own personal grooming. Taxpayers in Georgia should not be financing it, subsidizing it or putting up with it."

August 2--According to WJCL-TV in Savannah, a ground beef recall is being made and includes ground beef shipped to Bi-Lo in Georgia.

"A Kansas-based company is recalling about 50,000 lbs. of ground beef products over fears of E-Coli contamination – and some of the stores being affected are in Georgia and South Carolina.

"The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the National Beef Packing Company products were shipped nationwide. There have been no reported cases of illness, but, in an online statement Wednesday, National Beef Packing Co. reported “a voluntary recall for NatureSource Natural Beef, NatureWell Natural Beef, and National Beef Commodity Ground Beef.” It said the meat was produced on July 18 and has a use by/freeze by date of August 7.

"Supermarket chains Winn-Dixie and Bi-Lo are two of the stores recalling the ground beef.

"Winn-Dixie is immediately recalling the affected Fresh 93% Lean Ground Beef from all stores in Georgia, as well as Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.

"Bi-Lo is recalling the same product from its shelves in all stores in Georgia and South Carolina, as well as North Carolina and Tennessee."

August 2--  The Georgia Department of Transportation is removing the red light at the intersection of College and Broad Streets in Ailey on Wednesday, August 7, weather permitting.  The DOT sent out the following release.

"Georgia Department of Transportation crews have scheduled removal of the traffic signal from operation on S.R. 30/College Street at Broad Street in the City of Ailey on Wednesday, August 7, weather permitting. 

"After the existing traffic signal is removed from operation, Broad Street will be stop sign controlled and S.R. 30 will have free flow traffic. Motorists shall be subject to the traffic laws applicable after making a stop at the stop sign on Broad Street.

"Motorists are reminded to pay special attention to stop signs and posted speed limits to ensure safe passage through this intersection."

August 2--  The Toombs County landfill will get a lot bigger in the coming years.

The county commission is planning to spend an estimated $5.6 million dollars to add seven new cells and make some other modifications to the landfill starting in April of next year.

According to Commissioner Darriel Nobles, "The land we're going to build these new cells on is the land that the road into the landfill runs on.  We're going to have to reroute that road and some power poles and there's a chance we'll have to move our scale house.  That's why it's going to cost a little bit more."

Commissioner Nobles says the landfill processes about 150 tons of garbage a day and he estimates the expansion will take care of its needs for at least the next 15 years.

The landfill is a money-making operation because of the tipping fees it charges to customers.  Because of that, Commissioner Nobles says, "The money that comes from the landfill will pay this $5.6 million off."

About the time construction of the new cells is completed, Nobles says the next big thing at the landfill is finding a new supply of dirt.

"When you put six inches of dirt over what you collect each day, it takes a lot of dirt.  We've only got about two years worth of dirt left in the dirt pit we're using now.  When that runs out, we're going to have to buy some adjacent land to get the dirt or either we'll have to start trucking dirt in.  When you start trucking dirt in, that's a very big expense," he says.

Toombs County's landfill is one of the few remainiing publicly owned landfills in the state.  Nobles says the county has turned down offers to sell it to private companies because the Commission wants to stay involved due to the long term environmental concerns of the county.

August 1--  If you use the DISH satellite system to watch Savannah television station WTOC, you're out of luck.  DISH issued the following statement.

" Despite steady efforts by DISH to negotiate a new deal with Raycom Media, DISH customers in Savannah, Ga., learned this morning that Raycom has blocked access to its CBS-affiliated channel WTOC 11 unless DISH agrees to pay a massive price increase. DISH (NASDAQ: DISH) has offered to pay the same rates as its primary competitors for the same programming, but Raycom still refuses to sign a contract.

“We are ready to listen to a fair proposal from Raycom to bring this impasse to a swift end,” said Sruta Vootukuru, DISH director of programming. “Unfortunately, the broadcaster has not been willing to pursue an agreement that would have avoided this disruption of service to our customers and the Raycom viewers. DISH has offered to pay Raycom the same rates as our primary competitors; yet Raycom has stalled negotiations, refusing to accept that fair offer. DISH has negotiated hundreds of local retransmission agreements and on behalf of customers, we hope Raycom will soon agree to terms in line with market standards.”

Montgomery, Ala.-based broadcaster Raycom Media blocked DISH customers in 36 markets (including Savannah) from accessing various local television channels. At this time, Raycom has refused DISH the legal right to carry its programming unless DISH pays more than four times what it pays now.

The action affects viewers of various ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC-affiliated stations in the following markets: Cleveland, Ohio (CBS); Panama City, Fla. (Fox); Montgomery, Ala. (NBC); Knoxville, Tenn. (Fox); Savannah, Ga. (CBS); Toledo, Ohio (CBS, Fox); Columbus, Ga. (ABC); Richmond-Petersburg, Va. (NBC); Cincinnati, Ohio (Fox); Jonesboro, Ark. (ABC); Tyler-Longview, Texas (ABC); Biloxi-Gulfport, Miss. (ABC); Paducah, Ky. (CBS); Honolulu, Hawaii (CBS and NBC); Tucson, Ariz. (CBS); Shreveport, La. (CBS); Baton Rouge, La. (CBS); Charlotte, N.C. (CBS); Charleston, S.C. (CBS); Ottumwa-Kirksville, Mo. (Fox); Birmingham, Ala. (Fox); Dothan, Ala. (Fox); West Palm Beach, Fla. (Fox); Augusta, Ga. (Fox); Lubbock, Texas (NBC); Lake Charles, La. (NBC); Huntsville-Decatur, Ala. (NBC); Albany, Ga. (NBC); Louisville, Ky. (NBC); Hattiesburg-Laurel, Miss. (NBC); Wilmington, N.C. (NBC and Fox); Evansville, Ind. (NBC); Columbia, S.C. (NBC); Jackson, Miss. (NBC); Florence-Myrtle Beach, Fla. (NBC); and Memphis, Tenn. (NBC).