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September 30--  A Toombs County jury spent four days last week hearing an armed robbery case.  When the guilty verdict was announced, the father of the defendant threatened the jury and was arrested.

{mosimage}Arreon Jackson of Lyons (left) is one of four people who were charged with aggravated assault and the armed robbery in March, 2012 of migrant workers at Herndon Farms south of Lyons.  Three of those charged entered guilty pleas while Jackson pled not guilty.

Even though Judge Bobby Reeves warned those in the courtroom to remain silent when the verdict was announced, Jackson's mother fell on the floor crying.  Her husband, 44-year-old Cornelius Jackson of 251 West Columbia Avenue in Lyons, shouted and was told to leave the courtroom. 

{mosimage}On the way out, Jackson raised his fist at the jury and shouted, "You're dead!"

District Attorney Hayward Altman says Jackson was arrested immediately.

"The Sheriff's Office responded immediately.  Thirteen warrants charging intimidation or injury of a juror were issued for Cornelius Jackson based on the threat that was made in the courtroom.

"We have to take a stance to insure that the safety of jurors is protected and that when that safety is threatened in any manner that we will take the appropriate response," the DA said.

Jackson is being held without bond in the Toombs Detention Center. 

Sentencing for his son, who's being held in the same jail, is expected next week, according to Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight. 

September 26--Two Savannah men were arrested in Vidalia Wednesday on drug charges.

According to Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight, the two attempted to elude officers after being stopped by Toombs County deputies on Highway 280 East.  The driver drove his vehicle through the Walmart parking lot and the pair fled the vehicle on Pete Phillips Road behind Southeastern Technical College.

About ten minutes into the search the pair was spotted near Cintas on Harris Industrial Boulevard where they were apprehended.  Officers searched the two and found what they believed to be cocaine and marijuana.

{mosimage}Twenty-two-year old Terry Lamar Mobley was taken to the Toombs County Detention and charged with Fleeing or Attempting to Elude Police, Driving While License Suspended or Revoked, Failure to Stop at a Stop Sign, Obstruction/ Hindering a Law Enforcement Officer, and Giving of False Identity Information to a Law Enforcement Officer, Possession with Intent to Distributive, and Possession of Cocaine.

{mosimage}His passenger, 22-year-old Larry Parnell Cokley was charged with Possession of Marijuana, and Obstruction/Hindering a Law Enforcement Officer.

Toombs County Sheriff’s Deputies, Georgia State Patrol, and Vidalia Police Department assisted in the search.    



September 25--  The United Way of Toombs, Montgomery and Wheeler Counties kicked off its 2014 campaign Wednesday with a rally at the Vidalia First Baptist Church.

Campaign chairwoman Angie McDaniel says the goal this year is $500,500 to help those who need it the most in the three counties.

"It's everyday people that we're helping.  It's really important because it could be your friend, your neighbor or co-worker, you just never know.  We have so many great organizations in this community.  One great thing about the United Way is that your donation helps 22 different agencies and you can't do that with anything else," she said.

Those attending the kickoff heard examples of United Way assistance to area families and Executive Director Patricia Dixon says their testimony exemplifies what she hears everyday in the United Way office.

"I think it's real important that we put a face on what we're doing here in our community and that you see how local people are being helped.  That way you realize that the money that we raise stays here.  Ninety-nine percent of what we raise stays here and we take care of our community," she said.


The campaign is off to a good start with Pacemakers already reporting contributions.

Trane reported $66,872, Dot Foods $45,630, Vidalia City Schools $13,000, Vidalia Ford $10,000, Ameris Bank $5,685,  and Oxford $5,558.

Some event fundraisers also reported in with $13,400 from Dancing For the Stars, $11,000 from the golf tournament and $2,500 from the Sweet Onion Century Bike Ride.

McDaniel says that amounts to 35% of the goal. 

September 25--  Dr. Mike Simoneaux president of Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, Georgia, has announced that he will retire December 31, 2013.

{mosimage}In March of 2011, Dr. and Mrs. Simoneaux moved to Mount Vernon, GA to begin his service to Brewton-Parker College as Interim President.  He was appointed as President in August of 2011. In the interim two years, Dr. Simoneaux brought his many years of experience to BPC and has developed a deep love for both the college and the community surrounding the college.

A presidential search committee has been formed, as determined by the By-Laws of the Board of Trustees, to include Mrs. Lynda Yawn, Chairperson, Rev. Dannie Williams, Mr. Tim Redding, Mr. Gary Campbell and Dr. Mary Waalkes.  The board chair, Rev. Bucky Kennedy and Dr. J. Robert White, Executive Director of the Georgia Baptist Convention will serve as Ex Officio members of the committee.

Gary Campbell, a trustee of Brewton-Parker College, commented on the impact of Dr. Simoneaux’s leadership:

Dr. Simoneaux and Bonnie joined Brewton-Parker College at a difficult time in our history.  Our previous president had resigned at our first board meeting of the calendar year and the school was in a deep financial crisis.  Morale and focus among our students, faculty and staff was not high and the board needed to find strong, effective leadership quickly.  Thankfully, our Lord already had that person picked out.  With the full support of Dr. Emir Caner, President of Truett-McConnell College, Dr. Simoneaux agreed to come to Brewton-Parker as Interim President.  I remember his plan was only to stay until we found a permanent president.  A few months later we asked Dr. Simoneaux to be that permanent president and he accepted.

The first thing Dr. Mike accomplished was to restore positive leadership and teamwork at BPC.  His focus was first and foremost for the students – their education with an unapologetic foundation in Christian values.  Through this mission Dr. Mike brought the constituencies together and began moving the college in a positive direction.   Bonnie and Mike Simoneaux have truly been a blessing for Brewton-Parker.  They both made a sacrifice in their plans to come to Brewton-Parker and have served diligently and successfully.  I am happy to state that the school has made much progress through Dr. Mike’s leadership as our president.  While we hate to see him and Bonnie go, we are very happy for them as they prepare for a well-deserved retirement and wish them both the absolute best.  

Dr. Simoneaux added these comments regarding his time at Brewton-Parker:

At the end of this calendar year, I will retire with almost 28 years of service in Baptist higher education, with most of that time serving with Georgia Baptists.  It has been my great privilege to serve Brewton-Parker College for almost three of those 28 years.  I sincerely thank Dr. White, the Board of Trustees, the faculty, staff and students of Brewton-Parker College for that privilege.  Although God has blessed Bonnie and me with good health and high energy, at my next birthday I will be 75 years old and I feel strongly that it is time for us to begin the next phase of our life.  In closing, I want to thank Georgia Baptists for the high honor of serving our Lord at BPC.  We will be praying for God’s clear guidance on who will have the privilege of serving as the next president.

Dr. Simoneaux began his work in Baptist higher education in 1986, at Palm Beach Atlantic University, in West Palm Beach, Florida, serving in a number of areas including Dean of the School of Music and Fine Arts and Interim Vice President of Academic Services.  In 1999, Dr. Simoneaux accepted a dean’s position at Truett-McConnell College and later served TMC as Vice President of Academic Services, Vice President of Advancement and Interim President. 

Dr. Simoneaux holds the first doctorate in music from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; a Master’s Degree in Church Music from NOBTS, a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Mississippi College and served twelve years under appointment of the IMB as a music missionary to Japan.

Dr. Simoneaux has been married to his wife Bonnie for 54 years; they have two children, Dr. Stephen Simoneaux, Chief Radiologist at Egleston Children’s hospital in Atlanta, and Mrs. Susan Snyder, Chief Financial Officer for Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Athens. The Simoneaux’s have seven grandchildren, plus one grandson in Heaven.  They plan to split their time between Watkinsville and Atlanta.


September 24--  A third grader who wanted his friends to see his toy gun gave school officials at Sally Meadows Elementary School a chance to test their school protocol on such things Tuesday.

School Principal Ginger Morris says a student spotted an Airsoft pistol that shoots plastic bullets in a classmates book bag.

"The child had the book bag and was taking out materials for the day.  The other child saw it and walked up to the teacher and said they thought they saw something.  The teacher investigated and immediately called me and we took it from there," the principal said.

"His explanation was very truthful and very forthcoming.  He said they have games with Airsoft toy guns and he had put it in his book bag to show people that he had it.  It was almost as though he was saying I have this and he was talking to some friends who said you probably don't have it so he brought it to school to say, 'See, I do have it.'"

Even though it was only a toy, Principal Morris said she sent a letter home to all parents.

"You can't afford not to share that with parents.  We want them to know their child's safety is first and foremost with us in everything.  I'm very proud of the child for being truthful and I'm proud of the child who didn't stop class by telling the teacher.  I'm proud of the teacher for knowing immediately what she had to do.  Once that was handled, they went right back into class and instruction carried on.  We didn't spiral out of control and we didn't lose a day of class because it was handled following our protocol," she said.


Septembder 24--  Officials at  the Edwin I. Plant Hatch Nuclear Plant report  unit 2 has been returned to service following a maintenance outage to repair a valve in the steam supply system.

The unit was safely and manually taken offline on Sept. 15 at 9:15 a.m. ET to make the necessary valve repairs. During the shutdown, unit 1 continued operating at 100 percent power.

Both units at Plant Hatch are now operating safely at full power.

September 23--  The investiture of the fifth President of East Georgia State College in Swainsboro is this Friday morning.

{mosimage}The ceremoney for Robert "Bob" G. Boehmer will be held at eleven a.m. in the Luck Flanders Gambrell Center auditorium on the East Georgia Campus.

The Chancellor from the University System of Georgia, Hank Huckaby, and representatives from 24 colleges and universities are expected to attend.

Before being named the EGSC President, Boehmer was the Associate Provost for Academic Planning at the University of Georgia where he had been a faculty member since 1989.

September 23-  The need has never been greater for Boys and Girls Clubs according to Paula Mackelburg, Director of Organizational Development for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

"The need is tremendous out there.  We look at the number of youth who are living in poverty and coming home to single family homes and continue to need opportunities for positive experiences.  It is needed more today than ever.  The economy plays into that as well with two-parent working families and single parent households," she said.

Mackelburg visited the Toombs County Boys and Girls Club to work with its new director, Stephen Miller.

"I'm very excited about the improvements the organization has been making and continues to make.  The board is very focused and driven to make this program a better opportunity for kids.  I'm excited about Steven being on board.  His enthusiasm, excitement and past experience is really going to make the organization able to serve even more children," Mackelburg said.

The Toombs County Boys and Girls Club has locations in Vidalia and Lyons and is one of 37 such clubs in Georgia.

"For Toombs County to have two organzations serving the number of youth you are means you're doing a great job.  You continue to need the support of the community so that you can sustain and continue grow.

"We have a great brand and it's very recognizable.  There are a lot of people in a lot of communities who still don't realize the worth of what we do.  It's a youth development agency with hope and expectations that our kids will make their grade levels on time, have academic success, graduate from high school and leave our organization with good characte and citizenship.  It's not just an after school program," she points out.

September 23-- Lyons Upper Elementary School has received GOLD recognition in the 2013 Governor's SHAPE Honor Roll.

This award recognizes Lyons Upper Elementary School’s dedication to creating a healthy school environment and a culture of wellness for staff, students, and community.   As a result of being named as a GOLD Honor Roll recipient, Lyons Upper Elementary School will receive an official certificate, award decal/banner and a specialty sport package from Good Sports.

{mosimage}Pictured (front row): Jesus Martinez, Mariah Campbell, and Blake Hall.

(back row): Coach Gary Edwards, Cafeteria Manager Lou Beall, Zachary Caraway, and Coach Zina Riner.

September 23--  The Albany Herald published an editorial this weekend which provides more justification for denying re-election to any incumbent lawmaker in Washington, D.C.

"The summer rerun season on television is bad enough, but now here we go with another fall stretch in Washington to boot.

Two familiar topics are at the center of this controversy, their political gravity apparently so strong that lawmakers and the White House are unable to find escape velocity. One is the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, depending on your perspective. The second is the national debt ceiling, which apparently will never get high enough.

In this melodrama, we again have a tired and ultimately pointless plot. Congress has approved a certain amount of spending and, as usual, that spending requires more borrowing. But Congress sets the limit for how much can be borrowed and has to act to raise that limit. So here, the plot thickens. House Republicans say they are willing to go along with a higher debt ceiling, but they want Obamacare defunded in return, a condition that won’t pass the Senate and one that President Obama most assuredly won’t sign. It is the 42nd attempt by the House GOP to kill the health act.

Here is what is most certainly going to happen. The debt ceiling will be raised. It would be a new level of incompetence if lawmakers were to let the United States default on its debt. It will be raised after some drama, but government officials will find ways to pay bills until a solution is reached, even if that comes after the so-called deadline. The national health act will not be repealed or defunded, and will continue to barrel down the tracks to what certainly looks like a train wreck in the making. And there will be a 43rd, 44th, 45th and so on vote by the House GOP to defund/kill Obamacare, at least until everyone goes home to campaign next year.

Oh, and the federal government — Democrats and Republicans alike — will never learn how to function within its means, so we’ll keep on borrowing against our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Please! Someone turn the channel!"

The Albany Herald Editorial Board


September 23--  Authorities in Treutlen County are on the lookout for an alleged drug dealer whose drugs were sent to the cleaners.

Treutlen County Sheriff Tommy Corbin says the girlfriend of drug parolee DeMichael Renfro took his cargo shorts to Radford Cleaners in Soperton and in the pockets were cocaine and marijuana.

"She took them to the dry cleaners for the boyfriend and then they contacted a worker there and tried to get the worker to retrieve them.  The owner turned them over to the sheriff's office and we've made one arrest and we've still got one at large," the sheriff said.

Sheriff Corbin says about 18 bags of powdered coacine and less than an ounce of marijuana were found in the pants at the cleaners.

The employee who retrieved the drugs for the dealer, 49-year-old Shenita McKinney of Soperton, is charged with possession with intent to distribute.  

No charges have been filed against the girl who took the drug-laden laundry to the cleaners.

"I couldn't really charge the girlfriend.  She actually brought the clothes to the cleaners and put her clothes in her name and his clothes in his name.  When she came back to the cleaners she said  she had to retrieve 'an important item.'  I really couldn't actually say that she knew it was drugs.  I believe she knew, but I couldn't prove it," Sheriff Corbin said.  

September 22-- The Georgia Independent School Association has appointed two Robert Toombs Christian Academy staff members to state positions.

{mosimage}RTCA Headmaster, Jon Dorminey (right), has been appointed Chairman of the State Athletic Committee. He is a member of the GISA Board of Trustees and the GISA Appeals Committee. His responsibilities will include but are not limited to oversight of the Athletic Committee, presenting all Committee changes to the Heads of School at the quarterly State Headmasters meetings and assisting the GISA Vice President of Interscholastics with state events and planning.

RTCA Athletic Director and Assistant Headmaster, Hayne Brant, was also appointed Vice Chair of the State Coaches Association. He is also a member of the State Athletic Committee. In his newly appointed roles, Brant will assist with organizing the State Coaches Association Conference, review and revise Interscholastics Rules and Regulations and assist in the selection of sites for State Completions.

September 21--  The Lyons National Night Out against crime is having bad luck this year due to rain.

The event was cancelled for the second time Saturday night  because of thundershowers.

Police Chief Wesley Walker says he'll have to decide if it will be held at a later date or cancellled all together for this year.

September 20--  Twelfth District Congressman John Barrow voted today against a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would have de-funded Obamacare while at the same time providing funding for other government operations.

President Obama earlier said he would veto the bill and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Senate would not consider the de-funding provision of the legislation.

“This isn’t the way folks expect Congress to operate, and today’s bill seriously jeopardizes the future of the American economy. I didn’t support this bill, and I urge my colleagues to develop a practical proposal to avoid a government shutdown," Congressman Barrow said.

Congressman Barrow's "No" vote drew criticism from the two Republican congressional candidates who would like to unseat him next year.


Augusta businessman Rick Allen said, “Today, conservatives in the U.S. House did two things for America:  they voted to defund Obamacare and to fund government.  I applaud and commend the conservative leaders for sticking with their conservative principals.


Sadly, John Barrow voted no.   He chose to stand with Pres. Obama and Nancy Pelosi who threaten to shut down government in order to keep Obamacare the law.  This law is driving people from full to part time, causing layoffs and driving Small Businesses insane with the amount of new regulation that comes with it.  But, what does Barrow care?  He exempted himself from the law.”


The other candidate, former congressional aide John Stone of Augusta, said:


U.S. Rep. John Barrow (D-GA) voted to keep Obamacare in place today in Washington, by voting against the House bill (which passed) to defund the looming healthcare disaster.  Two Democratic congressmen, Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Mike McIntyre (D-NC), voted to defund Obamacare, but not Congressman John Barrow, who represents the most Republican district in the country represented by a Democrat..

“Today John Barrow once again sold out Georgia working families for Nancy Pelosi’s defense of Obamacare, in classic Barrow form by voting to save Obamacare after claiming he first voted against it,” says Republican challenger John Stone (R-GA12).   “This time he can’t get away with the distortion, and we will make sure that every voter in Georgia’s 12th District knows he just voted to save this job-killing destruction of our healthcare system.”








September 19--  A new $24 million high school is going up on Bulldog Road in Lyons. 

Groundbreaking for the new Toombs County High School was held Thursday afternoon and school board chairman Daniel Caraway promises that it will be one of the best in the state.


"The people of Toombs County elected several years ago to pass the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax and that's what it's going to be used for and nothiing else.  It's going to be 190,000 square feet and it's going to be second to none in the state of Georgia.

"We thank the people of Toombs County for supporting what we're doing.  The new technology is required by the state and that's where we're going, to new technology.  We want it in all our classrooms for our students for grades and testing.  We've got a master plan that looks about ten years out and this is part of it," the chairman said.

School Superintendent Dr. Kim Corley echoes the chairman's remarks.

"We're going to be able to do so many more things with the technology in this new facility.  

"Our school system has really just grown.  We're at least a hundred students more in just the high school than we were last year, so we're really excited about the growth and having the space in the new high school," she said.

And school principal Dr. Tosha Middlebrooks is looking forward to moving in the new building to start the 2015 school year.

"It's going to mean a lot to our students.  We're very excited having a new school.  It's going to mean larger classrooms, a new environment and a lot of opportunities for our students," she said.

The buiding should serve the county well for at least the next three decades according to Larry Roundtree from John Tuten and Associates who designed it.

"We like to think the life of a schoolhouse is about 30 to 35 years.  We try to plan finishes and functionality that will give boards of education that kind of life," he said.

And the school board has plans for the old high school.

"Eventually we hope to rennovate it and make it Lyons Primary School and move the school on Lexington to this facilty.  Our plans also include a new Toombs Central Elementary School either at the current location of very near it in the future as well," she reports.




September 18--  The Toombs County commission has to make a decision in the next 30 days on where to build the new home of the Mercy Clinic, provider of health services to uninsured, low income citizens.

The state has approved the county's $500,000 Community Development Block Grant to build a 4,000 square foot building for the clinic on a vacant lot near the former Meadows Regional Medical Center.

At Tuesday's county commission meeting in Cedar Crossing, the clinic's Dr. Nancy Stanley reported more space is needed for the clinic and said an unnamed donor has agreed to help if the clinic can find a suitable building to rennovate.

She suggested the county okay adding to the west wing of the county health department building in Lyons, however, Cindy Hart from the health department said they have plans for that space even though it has been vacant for some time.

Commission Chairman Blake Tillery asked the two parties to negotiate and see if they could come up with a recommendation.  He said the commisison will hold a called meeting within two weeks to make a decision.

In other actions the commission approved expenditures of nearly $850,000:

     *  $426,520 to replaces the county's 911 computer and commo systems.

     *  $314,132 to buy the sheriff's department four new patrol cars and six new trucks.

     *  $108,399 for a new EMS ambulance.

County manager John Jones reports the state has agreed to sell the county land on Resmondo Drive for a new convenience center.  When constructed, it will replace the dumpster site now located on North Victory Drive.

{mosimage}The Toombs County Employee of the Month for September is Blake Monroe who works with the county ambulance service.  (L-R) Commissioners Jeff McCormick and Wendell Dixon, Blake Monroe, Chairman Blake Tillery, and Commissioners Roy Lee Williams and Dariel Nobles.

September 18--  A Soperton teenager will be spending the rest of his life in a Georgia prison.

According to Treutlen County Clerk of Court Connie Sumner, 18-year-old Corlandis Burgess was sentenced to life without parole Wednesday morning by Judge Donnie Gillis at the Treutlen County courthouse in Soperton.

Burgess had been found guilty of the killing nearly three years ago of 88-year-old Alice Eleanor Williams at her home near Soperton.  Burgess and 18-year-old Jordan Nobles broke into the woman's home where they beat and stabbed her to death.

Nobles had earlier entered a guilty plea and also got life without parole.

September 18--  The Vidalia Board of Education said thanks to some volunteers and to Georgia Power at its September meeting.

{mosimage}Recognized as "Indian Stars" are Lynn Weber (center) and Charlotte Sisson (right) shown with Superintendent Dr. Garrett Wilcox.  The two former Vidalia school system teachers spent the summer tutoring reading students at J.D. Dickerson Primary School.

The system also accepted an energy savings check of more than $12,000 from Georgia Power.  Some school buildings were equipped with new lighting from U.S. Energy Sciences which allowed reduction of energy usuage.


(L-R) Monty Moon, U.S. Energy Sciences; school board chairman Tim Truxel; B.J. Davis, Georgia Power; Richard Dalton, U.S. Energy Sciences; school superintendent Dr. Garrett Wilcox; John Underwood of Rhodes Electric and Darren McClellan, Georgia Power.

September 18--  The Vidalia Kiwanis Club installed new officers and board of directors at its Tuesday meeting.


Front Row: Bill Torrance (President) John Koon (President Elect) Blake Brown (Vice President) Nina Thompson (Secretary) Wesley Luhn (Treasurer)

Middle Row: Doug Roper (Past President) Jimmy Dixon (Bd Member) Ingrid Varn (Bd Member) Cindy Williams (Bd Member) Cynthia Reese (Bd Member)

Back Row: Mike Hagan (Bd Member) Blake Tillery (Bd Member) Buck Moon (Bd Member) Chris Keene (Bd Member)

September 18-- Monday President Obama made a speech on the country's economy and took a potshot at Tea Party members of Congress who want to stop funding of Obamacare.

"One faction of one party promises economic chaos if it can't get 100% of what it wants," the President said.

Monday night in Vidalia, 12th Congressional District candidate John Stone of Augusta spoke to Vidalia Tea Party members and later said in an interview this is nothing new from President Obama.

"I think what he has to realize is there are some great free market ideas coming out of the Tea Party that he and the folks on his side need to open up and listen to and stop being obstacles to those type of proposals," Stone said.

The Augusta Republican suggests a better solution to health care insurance is to repeal Obamacare and give Americans access to federal health care insurance which covers federal workers and members of Congress.

"The federal employees health benefit plan currently covers eight million federal employees nationwide and provides coverage at the same affordable rates regardless of your health status or condition and it's available in all 50 states and terroritories.

"We simply need to open access to that plan for anyone who wants it.  If we do that, people have an opportunity to get health insurance regardless of pre-existing conditions at an affordable rate and we don't have to change one iota of law on state-governed plans, on employer plans, on anybody's plans and we don't have to make an mandate on employers or individuals and we don't have to have the IRS investigating our health background," Stone believes.

"I know as I've moved around the district and shared this idea with some folks who are Democrats and those on the other side of the aisle, they say, 'You know, by golly, that makes sense. I actually like that,' Stone relates.

Stone is facing Republican Augusta building contractor Rick Allen in the congressional primary next summer.  The winner will challenge incumbent Democrat John Barrow in the 2014 general election.

September 17--  Some creative farmers in southwest Georgia have been growing olive trees, and after watching their progress for the past few years, Tommie Williams of Lyons is harvesting  his first crop of Toombs County olives.

{mosimage}"The oil is really good.  It's very tasty and I think it can compete with anybody's olive oil," Williams says.

"It's just a wonderful oil with lots of health qualities.  The greener the olive oil and the fresher the olive oil the better it is.  People are looking for unfiltered, green olive olive that's high in all the attributes that are healthy," he notes.

Three years ago Williams planted 3,200 trees on five-and-a-half acres near Lyons.  He's imported a centrifuge from Italy and installed it in the old Natsu restaurant building in Lyons which is the processing plant for the brand "Terra Dolce Georgia."{mosimage}

He's hoping olives can become a cash crop for area farmers, much like the Vidalia Onion.

"I used to work for Pinky McRae who was one of the first people to market what were Toombs County onions and he always called them Toombs County onions at the time.  Then it caught hold and lo and behold, it is what it is today.

"I think the olive has the potential.  It's not a perfect environment, but the trees grow very well.  They don't require a lot of insecticide, a little fungicide, but they are very hearty, evergreen trees.

"We think we've got the right climate and the right soil types.  All the things that make onions good seem to make olives good.  I'm going to send off some samples to those who know how good olive oil should taste and I'm hoping we'll have some good olive oil to market to the world," he said.

Farmers who are interested in growing olives are invited to a seminar hosted by Williams Saturday morning, September 21 at ten o'clock in the former Natsu building on Highway 292 West in Lyons.  He'll demonstrate how the olive oil is processed and host a field trip to the olive grove.

September 15--  The 22nd Annual Sweet Onion Classic wrapped up Friday at Hawks Point Golf Course in Vidalia. 

The annual event includes a charity auction and golf tournament and this year's proceeds are benefitting two worthy causes in Vidalia, according to Sweet Onion Classic board chairman Stewart Hamilton.

"This year we're giving $75,000 to the cancer center at Meadows Regional Medical Center and $10,000 to the Toombs County Boys and Girls Club.  We're fulfilling a three-year pledge of $250,000 the the cancer center.  We gave $75,000 last year to the cancer center and if we come up short this year, we'll make it up next year," he said.

Hamilton succeeded long-time board chairman Tom Findlay last year.

"There's a ton of work.  We've got some great board members and there's a whole lot more folks who just do a great job.  I'm just blessed to be a part of this great organization because we raise a lot of money that all goes back to the community," he noted.

Over the years, Hamilton says the Sweet Onion Classic has raised $1.3 million for community projects and is open to worthy projects in the future.

"We try to stick to brick and mortar projects.  If anyone is in need of anything, just contact me and we'll give them an application to fill out," he said.

This year's tournament winners won the scramble format with a team net score of 50.11, nearly 22 strokes under par.  They are Jim Smith, Jared Kirby, Patrick Ferreia and Tedd Comeford.

September 13-- This week, U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Saxby Chambliss co-sponsored the Union Bailout Prevention Act, which would prevent the Obama administration from granting unions’ request for special Obamacare premium tax subsidies for union members’ health care plans.

Isakson serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which oversees health care and he also serves as the top Republican on the Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee, which oversees labor unions.

The bill, S.1487, introduced by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., comes in response to reports that the Obama administration is working on regulations to address criticisms raised by unions about the health reform law. If the Obama administration grants this special treatment, union members with health plans known as “Taft-Hartley plans” would receive taxpayer-subsidized premium tax credits on top of generous union plans that already receive the employer tax exclusion, ultimately forcing taxpayers to double-subsidize union members’ health plans. 

While many believe Section 1301 of Obamacare clearly states that multi-employer union health plans are not a qualified health plan – and union employees in these plans are not eligible for premium tax credits –  unions are still seeking a way around this provision. This bill would ensure that that the administration does not provide a special fix to Obamacare to appease union pleas. 

“This unfair provision that allows labor unions to receive special treatment is yet another reason why I have voted nearly sixty times to repeal, replace or dismantle Obamacare,” said Isakson. “The American people should be outraged that their tax dollars are going to give President Obama’s biggest campaign supporters an Obamacare bailout. I will continue to fight every day to repeal and replace this terribly flawed law with a step-by-step approach that makes health care more accessible and affordable.”

“This administration’s blatant favoritism toward labor organizations undermines the hard work and efforts of small business owners and non-union individuals across America,” said Chambliss. “This is yet another reason why I support a full repeal of Obamacare. While we must address the skyrocketing costs of health care, we must do so for all Americans, not just labor-union members. I hope President Obama will realize that taxing many to pay for the privileges of a few is unacceptable.” 

Isakson and Chambliss have voted to defund or repeal Obamacare almost sixty times, and they continue to support its full repeal. Chambliss and Isakson are both co-sponsors of numerous legislative proposals that would repeal the law in full or provisions in the law, including both the Obamacare Repeal Act, S.177, and, more recently, the Defund Obamacare Act, S.1292.


September 12--  The Vidalia Police Department is retiring the badge number of its late police officer, Corporal Brad Bradley, who died last week of a brain aneurysm.


The city of Vidalia issued a proclamation retiring the badge number in his honor.

WHEREAS:                             William D. Bradley, IV, was employed by the City of Vidalia on July 15, 2009, and;


WHEREAS:                             Officer Bradley reached the rank of Corporal within the Vidalia Police Department, and;


WHEREAS:                             Corporal Bradley was assigned to the Criminal Investigations Unit, and;


WHEREAS:                             Corporal Bradley has served the City of Vidalia with distinction since his employment, and;


WHEREAS:                             The City of Vidalia desires to honor Corporal William D. Bradley, IV, after his untimely death on September 4, 2013.



THEREFORE:                          I, Ronnie A. Dixon, Mayor of Vidalia, on behalf of our entire community do proclaim the;




Corporal Bradley’s badge number is to be permanently retired from service within the Vidalia Police Department.  I further order that all flags flown over the City be placed at half-mast until

5:00 pm on Saturday, September 7, 2013.




September 12--  The area Thunderbolt Junior ROTC Regiment has new training facilities at the Southeastern Early College and Career Academy in Vidalia.

{mosimage}The new rappelling tower and indoor firing range will be used by cadets from school systems in Vidalia and Toombs, Montgomery and Treutlen counties.


Officials held a ribbon cutting for the new facilities. (L-R) Montgomery County School Superintendent Randy Rogers, SECCA CEO Shelly Smith, Vidalia City School Superintendent Dr. Garrett Wilcox, Vidalia High School Principal John Sharpe, SECCA Board Chair Jeff Raiford, Toombs County High School Principal Dr. Tosha Middlebrooks, Southeastern Technical College President Cathy Mitchell, Treutlen County School Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Conley, Montgomery County Board of Education Member Henry Price, and SECCA Director of High School Programs David Avery. (Photos courtesy The Advance)

September 11--  Voters in Vidalia will decide if alcohol will be sold in the city on Sundays.

At its September city council meeting, the Vidalia city council agreed to put the question on the ballot November 5.  Voters will decide if they want retail stores to sell liquor, beer and wine and if they want restaurants to offer sales by the drink.

Mayor Ronnie Dixon told the council about 200 Georgia towns and cities have okayed alcohol sales on Sunday.  Councilmembers agreed with councilwoman Lisa Chesser that voters should decide about Sunday sales in Vidalia.

The council also agreed to a slight rollbackof the city's property tax millage rate because of an increase in the Toombs County tax digest.  City manager Bill Torrance says the rollback from 4.5 mils to 4.382 will generate an extra $65,000 in revenue for the city.

Meanwhile, Vidalia's water and sewage rates may be going up.  City councilman Eddy Tyson gave the council some proposed increases for consideration at a future meeting.  Water sales in the city this year are down about 4% and the water and sewer account is more that $130,000 in the red.

The council heard citizen complaints about late pickup of yard trash and got a briefing from Republic, the city's garbage vendor, regarding abuse of the system.

{mosimage}Republic showed pictures of logs, trees and large mounds of yard trash that have been put on the side of city streets.  The council agreed that yard trash mounds bigger than 4 X 5 X 10 feet should not be picked up by the city and that owners should pay for the removal of larger loads privately.

According to Republic, their trucks fall behind their regular pickup schedules when they take time to pickup oversize loads.

There may also be some help on the way to pave the Ezra Taylor Road east of Vidalia.  The city agreed to pay Toombs County up to $350,000 as its share of the project.  The county is attempting to expedite the $2.2 million paving project which would be funded by transportation sales tax collections. 

September 10--  U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today issued the following statement on a resolution to authorize a U.S. military strike on Syria. The resolution, S.J.Res.21, is expected to come to the Senate floor for consideration early this week.

“After carefully weighing this very important issue, I have decided that I will vote against the resolution to authorize a U.S. military strike in Syria.

“Over the past week, I have traveled my state and have talked personally to hundreds of Georgians. Thousands more constituents have contacted my office by phone and email. It is clear to me that Georgians overwhelmingly oppose our country getting involved militarily in Syria.

“The administration’s lack of a clear strategy is troubling, and the potential fallout following a military strike is also troubling.”

Meanwhile, 12th District Congressman John Barrow's office tells us he is still undecided on the question.  He was scheduled to get a classified briefing Monday and has asked his constituents for their input via a newsletter survey.


September 10--  Only a handful of people showed up for two Toombs County school board public hearings on a property tax increase.

According to School Superintendent Dr. Kim Corley, "I think it was four or five people who came to the first one and we had zero people at the second one."

The school board is increasing property taxes by more than 33% over what they would have been had the board decided to roll back the millage rate due to an increase in the Toombs County tax digest.

Dr. Corley says the school system can't afford the rollback due to increases in things such as health insurance and decreases in state funding.

She expects an increase of $350,000 in health insurance.

At the same time, Dr. Corley reports state funding has decreased by more than $6 million in the last five years despite increased enrollment.

The end result is the school system has used up its reserves and needs new tax revenue to meet expenses.

"I don't look for us to be able to recoup fund equity.  So we won't be building up fund equity, but we'll be using the money to pay for expenses that in the past we paid with fund equity," she says.

The school system budget for fiscal year 2014 projects a reserve of only $52,400.

The increase of 2.4 mils will bring the Toombs County school property tax rate to 13.956 mils.  Dr. Corley says that should help the system qualify for more state funding in the next two years.

"Usually if you go up in the millage rate, it's about two years before you actually see that additional funding coming in on equalization.

"We're hoping this will help with our local fair share.  This increase does not get us to where we should be, that would have been a little more than 15 mils, however, considering the reassessed property values, we're not to impose any more than we actually have to," Dr. Corley promised.

The final public hearing on the tax increase is Monday morning at 8 a.m. at the board's central office in Lyons.  The board will hold a called meeting at 9 a.m. to vote on the increase. 

September 9--  At a time when property owners in Toombs County are about to get significant increases to their school tax bills, the state school superintendent says it's Governor Nathan Deal's fault.

Superintendend John Barge says that's the main reason he's running to get Governor Deal out of office.

"One of my concerns over the period of years I've been the state school superintendent has been the lack of any vision or support for public education by the governor's office.

"Many of our school systems are drying up on the vine financially due to the lack of support from the state as far as the amount of money the state has withheld that they've earned.  

"I get it about tought budget times and that the economy is rough, but we've had three consecutive years of increased revenue.  It's time to start restoring fundsto our public education system because we've got entire school systems in the rural part of Georgia that are just months away from complete bankruptcy," Barge says.

According the Superintendent Barge, raising property taxes at the local level can't sustain public education.

"You raise property taxes and what good does that do?  Then you've got families who may be losing their homes and their farms due to the inability to pay the increased taxes.  It's a really difficult cycle and I'm just not seeing the support there for public education and that's really what's caused me to jump into this race," he said.

Barge says he wants to work on other challenges facing the state like healthcare, Medicaid and economic development.

"Georgia has consistently fallen during the last few years in its ranking nationally when it comes to unemployment. When you look at education, you've go to tie that to economic development and we've got to have a leader who understands the relationship between those two and how dependent they are on one another," he sasys.

September 6--  Two people wanted in connection with a Florida murder were arrested early Thursday morning in Toombs County.

{mosimage}According to Sheriff Junior Kight, 33-year-old Isaac Duwayne Sheffield of Silver Springs, Florida is wanted in connection with the stabbing death of a 72-year-old man earlier this week in Marion County, Florida.

Sheffield and 42-year-old Mary Lee VanOrder of Ocklawaha, Florida were apprehended during a felony traffic stop by Toombs County deputies and the Georgia State Patrol.

Sheffield is being held in the Toombs County Detention Center pending extradition to Florida.  The woman is free on bond.

September 5--  The city of Lyons is encouraging business owners to spruce up their places of business.

Alexa Britton of the Lyons Better Hometown office says business owners can receive a facade grant of up to a $1,000.

"We would love to see property owners and business owners in downtown Lyons spruce up the front of their buildings and we want to make sure there is money available to help them," she said.

Applications for the grants are available at the Lyons Better Hometown office and can be used for property in the downtown area and on major streets coming into town including U.S. Highway 1, Highways 292 and 280 and South Victory Drive.

Meanwhile, the Lyons city council has okayed demolition of a vacant building adjacent to the Lyons Better Hometown office and is proceeding with plans for improvements to the nearby Altamaha Heritage Center.

The council also gave the go ahead to connect the Chicken of the Sea plant north of Lyons to city water in order to provide more water pressure for plant boilers and fire protection.   City manager Jason Hall told the council this is a high priority project which will allow the plant to increase production.

Hall also informed the council that Southeastern Civil of Statesboro has submitted the apparent low bid of $612,607 to work on city drainage and street projects funded in part by a $500,000 community development grant.

The council approved a $300 a month pay raise for city court judge Paul Cook, agreed to provide back door garbage pickup for disabled citizens, okayed waiving of the city's occupation tax for vendors who pay entry fees in city-sancationed events, and nominated three people to succeed Wayne Smith on the county Development Authority when his term expires this year.  They are Mike McKiinley, Wayne Hartley and Bill Mixon.

The council voted to observe Halloween trick-or-treating in the city this year from six till eight p.m. on Tuesday, October 29th.  

It also issued a proclamation in observance of Red Ribbon Week from October 23-31 in Lyons to encourage prevention of drug abuse. 

September 4--  NewsMax reports Newt Gingrich of Georgia says the U.S. has bigger fish to fry than President Obama's proposed attack on Syria.

"Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich urged Congress Tuesday to "vote no" on a military strike against Syria and instead begin debate on what he described as even bigger strategic challenges for the United States and the world.

"The most powerful nation in the world does not need a three- or four-week debate about a limited, symbolic, tactical use of power," the Georgia Republican wrote Tuesday in an opinion piece for CNN, as he urged Congress to "vote no on a meaningless public relations use of military force against [Syrian President Bashar Assad].

"What we do need are three debates about very large strategic challenges," he added, referring to Iran's nuclear program, the spread of radical Islamism, and the vulnerabilities in the U.S. military being created by "budgetary drawdowns."

"Each of these challenges is massively bigger and vastly more important to our survival than the symbolic Syrian attack," Gingrich said.

The former 2012 GOP presidential candidate, now a co-host of CNN's "Crossfire," said that "launching a few missiles at Syria" as a tactical action "will not change history." But he insisted that refusing to address the three challenges he laid out would have much larger repercussions.

Citing what he said were 12 years of doing nothing to address Iran's nuclear development efforts under both Presidents Obama and Republican George W. Bush, Gingrich said the time has finally come for "a national debate about stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons."

"We did nothing decisive for seven years under President George W. Bush even after he described Iran as part of the axis of evil (along with Saddam Hussein's Iraq and the North Korean dictatorship). In the first five years of Obama's administration, we have continued to do nothing decisive. Meanwhile, day by day the Iranian dictatorship works at acquiring nuclear weapons," he said.

Gingrich called for a similar debate on the "threat of radical Islamism."

"From Benghazi in Libya to the opposition to [Assad] in Syria to the unrest in Egypt, there is overwhelming evidence the death of Osama bin Laden did nothing to defeat radical Islamists," he continued. "There are more of them today than ever and more coming from Western Europe and America to join the fight in Syria.

"When Chechen Muslim terrorists set off a bomb in Boston, there is clear evidence that the war against radical Islamists is going to be bigger and harder than anything for which we have prepared. This is a vastly more important topic [than] a brief missile assault on [Syria]."

Finally, Gingrich said there must be a debate on "the budgetary drawdowns in the American military [that are] rapidly creating a generation of vulnerabilities unlike anything we have seen since Pearl Harbor in 1941.

"For 72 years, we have lived in a world of massive American power. The decline of the Navy, the gradual obsolescence of the Air Force, the shrinking of the Army and Marine Corps, and the emergence of new technologies are all combining to create a national security challenge of historic proportions," he continued, adding that a debate about reforms to ensure the adequate "sizing and funding of American defense forces" is "vastly more important to our survival and safety than a mere skirmish in the Mediterranean against Syria."

"Both parties in Washington are unprepared for the three debates that matter," Gingrich concluded, accusing the nation's leaders of preferring to deal with "trivia to stay busy" so they won't "have to face the really big issues."

September 4--  Good oral health contributes to your overall health and the dental program run by the Mercy Clinic in Vidalia for low income citizens is making a difference.

Last year fourteen dental students from the Regents University Dental School in Augusta worked in the Vidalia clinic under the supervision of retired Vidalia dentist, Dr. LLoyd Darby.

"I'm very excited about what I've been able to do here and I'm really pleased to be working with the dental school.  It's a huge thing for the community because we're treating people who have no other source and we're also introducing these dental students from Augusta to this community," he observes.

{mosimage}(L-R) Clinic volunteer Chan Patel, dental student Amanda Ervin, Dr. Lloyd Darby and dental student Jordon Chancler.

The first two students to arrive this academic year are Jordon Chandler from Perry and Amanda Erwin from Elberton.

"We're learning a whole bunch of good stuff.  We've done a little bit of everything.  I've done some extractions, a root canal and some fillings and we've been working with patients to get a treatment plan so they know exactly what care they need," Erwin says.

And Chandler says there's very little they can't do. "It's an awesome opportunity for people who are on a low or fixed income.  We do probably 98% of what a normal dentist office can do.  With Dr. Darby's years of experience, most things we can handle here at this clinic.  It's a chance to not neglect what they've been neglecting because they think they can't afford it."

Dr. Darby says the clinice took care of 229 patients during its first year and provided services that would have cost those patients $364,000 from a private dentist.

"It's a good feeling to have somebody who comes in in pain and to see them walk out without that pain," Chandler says.

The program is a cooperative effort among East Georgia Health Care, dental hygenists from Southeastern Tech,  the Georgia Regents University dental school and the Mercy Clinic in Vidalia.

September 3--  State Senator Tommie Williams of Lyons is supporting Augusta businessman Rick Allen in his run for the 12th District seat in the United States Congress.

Allen's campaign reports that Williams and State Representative Barry Fleming of Harlem are endorsing Allen in his bid to succeed Congressman John Barrow.

Allen is facing John Stone of Augusta in the Republican primary election.  Stone most recently worked as Chief of Staff for Texas Congressman John Carter and formerly was an aide to the late Congressman Charlie Norwood and Congressman Max Burns.

“Rick has been a tremendous force for good in the Augusta community,” Williams said.

“He is a savvy and successful businessman who understands that local citizens and leaders know better than the federal government how to solve the challenges that face them. Washington needs a lot more of that kind of attitude these days.”

September 3--  Property owners in Vidalia will see an increase in their school property taxes this year.

According to the school system, the school board has tentatively adopted a millage rate which will increase property taxes by 2.79 percent.

Vidalia School Superintendent Dr. Garrett Wilcox says the increase in the local tax digest will help the school system raise about $315,000 in revenue.

"Our board doesn't have the ability to go above 15 mils.  I'm not saying we should, but the reevaluation was almost a blessing in disguise," he said.

Dr. Wilcox says the increase will allow the school system to restore some furlough days which had been levied on system employees and provide more days of instruction for students.

"Our goal is to get back to 180 days for our students.  It's not a great deal of increased income, but with what we've dealt with the past several years in terms of cuts, we can get  our students back on an even playing field with the number of days they are attending school," he said.

Because the school board is planning a .407 mil increase on Vidalia property taxpayers, it is required by state law to hold three public hearings before adopting the tax rate.

Those hearing are scheduled for Thursday, September 12 at six p.m. and Monday, September 23 and Tuesday, September 24 at noon at the Board of Education office on Adams Street.

According to the school board, the new tax rate will cost homeowners with a home valued at $100,000 to pay an additional $16.28 in taxes this year.

The biggest hit will be on owners of commercial property in Vidalia who have seen their property values double or triple in some cases.


September 2--  The Augusta Chronicle reports on the election of Dublin's Dubose Porter to head Georgia Democrats.

"Georgia Democrats have chosen former House Minority Leader DuBose Porter as their next state chairman during a special election, as the state party looks to rebuild itself after recent fundraising challenges and ahead of major elections next year.

DuBose Porter was elected chairman, defeating former Sen. Doug Stoner.  Christina A. Cassidy
Christina A. Cassidy

Porter defeated former state Sen. Doug Stoner of Cobb County and Rockdale County Tax Commissioner R.J. Hadley on a second ballot Saturday in a special election. About 250 members of the party’s state committee voted after hearing similar messages from the three candidates.

The difference, perhaps, was in tone as Porter gave an impassioned speech that focused on his experience and his plan for raising money by seeking regular contributions from the party faithful and hosting more big-ticket fundraisers.

“We have a big challenge ahead of us, and I know you and you know me,” said Porter, who also is co-owner and editor of The Courier Herald in Dublin, Ga. “We’ve been shoulder to shoulder for years and now we have to look at our party and how we can move it forward.”

The special election was called after Mike Berlon stepped down as chairman in June. The attorney had been reprimanded by the State Bar of Georgia, sued by a client and was on the defensive after the party reported weak fundraising ahead of the 2014 statewide and congressional elections.

Specifically, financial reports showed the Democratic Party of Georgia had just $30,734 in cash on hand at the end of April, compared to $631,960 for the Georgia Republican Party.

The crowd of Democrats from around the state heard from party treasurer, state Sen. Lester Jackson, D-Savannah, who said the party has started to turn around its finances and now had total assets of $152, 791. He noted that party leaders had taken action in recent months to cut the budget and reduce expenses.

“We were bleeding,” Jackson said. “This was not easy. We had to cut our budget and frankly hurt a lot of people.”

The dearth of fundraising has been a major cause for concern from party leaders.

“A lot of the money follows who controls the political process because they are the ones who get things done,” said Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson, D-Tucker.

He said he was confident that as demographics shift and create more opportunities for Democrats to bring in more voters, momentum will build.

“There is a benefit to us, as people see we may be possibly leading the state in the future, more and more people will be willing to donate and sacrifice,” Henson said.

Candidate recruitment was also a major topic during the meeting, and Democrats received some good news with former state Sen. Connie Stokes announcing plans to run for governor in 2014.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed had stirred some controversy among the party faithful in June when he said he thought Republican Gov. Nathan Deal had done a good job and that Democrats should focus on the 2014 U.S. Senate and the 2016 presidential races.

Among those not attending was Michelle Nunn, considered the top Democratic contender in the U.S. Senate race. Two of the other Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate – former state Sen. Steen Miles and physician Branko Radulovacki – addressed the crowd."


September 2-- Georgia state schools Superintendent John Barge says he will be challenging Gov. Nathan Deal in next year's Republican primary.

Barge told The Athens Banner-Herald Friday that he hasn't seen "a whole lot of vision or support for public education" from Deal and believes voters want a leader "who will govern and not play politics."

Barge is completing his first term as superintendent and says he plans to stay in his position while campaigning for governor. A formal announcement is expected next week.

The relationship between Deal and Barge has been noticeably chilly since the two were on opposite sides of the debate over a state charter schools amendment. The measure, opposed by Barge as unnecessary, ultimately passed.

Deal, meanwhile, has roughly $1.1 million in cash for his re-election bid.