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January 31--  The Montgomery County Commission released the following statement Friday regarding a lawsuit filed against the county.

 "The Montgomery County Board of Commissioners has been served with a lawsuit (13CV159) from S. Keith Hamilton, the Plaintiff.  The complaint was filed on December 18, 2013 in the Superior Court of Montgomery County, Georgia.  The Plaintiff is claiming the County has misused the Insurance Premium Tax and overtaxed the citizens in the unincorporated areas of the County.  These claims are untrue and misleading.  The Insurance Premium Tax is authorized under O.C.G.A. § 33-8-8.3.  The County is authorized under this statute to expend these funds for services that benefit the “inhabitants of the unincorporated areas of the County”.  The expenses to provide rural fire coverage and solid waste collection services are paid with funds afforded to the County by the Insurance Premium Tax.

                "The Montgomery County Board of Commissioners are disturbed by the claims made by the Plaintiff.  The Plaintiff claims that the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners have “illegally and erroneously assessed taxes” in the complaint.  The County has been utilizing the funds from the Insurance Premium Tax since 2005.  Current and former commissioners that have served since 2005 did not “illegally and erroneously” assess taxes that the Plaintiff is claiming.  Former and current commissioners that have served the County since 2005 are educated and accomplished individuals.  Some of these commissioners are deacons in their churches and have served in the public sector.  In addition, one former commissioner is a physician, one current commissioner is a pastor, and some others are college graduates.  These former and current commissioners are highly regarded for their character, education and talents.  It is unfortunate that the current and former administrations of the County are being accused of “illegally and erroneously” assessing taxes.

                "The County is confident the Court will find that the Plaintiff’s claims are untrue.  The County is using the funds from the Insurance Premium Tax as the General Assembly intended in the law.  The decision to utilize the funds is a policy making decision by the Commissioners and not a legal decision.  The debate over the Insurance Premium Tax does not belong in the courtroom but the County Commissioners’ board room.

                "The County is confident it will win this case, and the County will continue to provide rural fire coverage and solid waste collection services for the citizens of the unincorporated areas of Montgomery County, Georgia."


January 30--The VHS Indians basketball teams swept the Atkinson Co Rebels in Pearson Thursday. The #2 ranked Indians winning big 81-35. Vidalia dominated the game early leading 26-10 at the end of the 1st and 51-15 at the half. In the second half the Indians built the lead to 71-24 by the end of the 3rd period. Three players in double figures Dashon Holloway with 16 points, Jordan Black had 15 points and Ramel Thompkins with 12 points. Vidalia is now 22-0 and 14-0 in the region.

The 10th ranked VHS Lady Indians defeated the Lady Rebels 79-31. Vidalia led 14-10 after one and then 36-13 at halftime. The Lady Indians out scored the Lady Rebels in the 3rd quarter 28-4 and led 64-27 at the end of the 3rd. Kourtney Owens scored 25 points and Chynna Hodge had 12 points in the win. The Lady Indians are 17-5 and 14-0 in the region.

The Indians will travel to Hazlehurst Friday to play the Jeff Davis Yellow Jackets with the tip set for the girl's game at 7:00pm. You can hear the action with John Koon on Your Favorite, 98Q. 

January 30--- INFANT--- With regret we announce the death of Kaiden Jacoby Drinks of Augusta, Georgia whose death occurred on January 26, 2014 at Memorial Medical Center in Savannah, Georgia. He was born in Savannah, Georgia, Chatham County.

Kaiden Jacoby Drinks is survived by his father, Merrill Drinks, and mother Jacqueline Wiggs-Drinks, both of Augusta. Brother Jamarre Wiggs of Vidalia, Sister Jakiriah Matthews of Vidalia; Grandparents Beverly Drinks of Higgston, Georgia and James Drinks of Uvalda. Sheila Ceasar, Rev. Donnie Ceasar, and Johnnie Jones all of Vidalia. 

Graveside service will be on Saturday (2-1-2014) at 11:00 am at East Park Cemetery in Vidalia. 

Vidalia Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements for Kaiden Jacoby Drinks of Augusta, Georgia. 

January 30--  The Montgomery County Commission is facing a lawsuit for allegedly misusing insurance premium tax proceeds and overtaxing property owners who live in unincorporated parts of the county.

County Clerk of Court Keith Hamilton filed the class action suit after the the commission denied his request for a tax refund for the six year period from 2007-2012.

Hamilton sought a refund totaling $2,311.04 for the period.  The class action request estimates 3,626 taxpayers might be included.

According to the suit, the Montgomery County Commission improperly used proceeds from the insurance premium tax which are required by state law to be used only for specific services in unincorporated areas.  Funds not used in that manner must be used to reduce the property taxes of residents in the unincorporated areas.

The suit claims Montgomery County told the State Revenue Department is was using the money for rural fire protection and solid waste collection while at the same time taxing residents for the same purpose.

A Montgomery County Superior Court judge is being asked to order the county commission to use the insurance premium tax only for the purposes allowed under state law; to keep the funds in a separate account and account for them separately; reflect in the county budget how the funds are used; and refund to taxpayers in the unincorporated areas the funds collected from 2007-2012.

Montgomery County manager Brandon Braddy says attorney's for the county's insurance company are expected to file a reply to the suit by Friday, January 31.

He says the county received insurance premium taxes totaling $656,384 for the last three-year period.


January 30--  The Toombs County Commission has set qualifying fees for local candidates who want to run in the 2014 elections.

Two county commission seats are up for election.  They are in District One now represented by Roy Lee Williams and District Four represented by Jeff McCormick.  The qualifying fee for county commission is $180.  Commissioners make an annual salary of $6,000.

There are four Toombs County Board of Education seats to be filled.  They include the chairman's job currently held by Daniel Caraway, District One represented by Russ Benton, District Three by Rahn Milligan and District Five by John Holland.  The qualifing fee is $72.  School board members are paid $2,400 per year.

Qualifying with the Toombs County Election Supervisor Opens March 3 and closes at noon on March 7.

January 30--  The Lyons Recreation Department says all of its youth league basketball games scheduled for tonight have been cancelled.

January 30-- The Georgia Department of Labor announced today that the unemployment rate in the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha region increased to 10.2 percent in December, up one-tenth of a percentage point from 10.1 percent in November. The rate was 11.3 percent in December a year ago.

The rate rose primarily because the number of new layoffs, represented by initial claims for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, increased to 3,712, up by 1,900, or 104.9 percent, from 1,812 in November. Claims increased in several sectors, including manufacturing, administrative and support services, construction, and accommodations and food services. There were 2,445 claims in December 2012.

Metro Athens had the lowest area jobless rate at 5.2 percent, while the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha region had the highest at 10.2 percent. 

Meanwhile, Georgia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for December was 7.4 percent, down from 7.6 percent in November. The rate was 8.7 percent in December a year ago.


January 30--  The biggest driving factor in Georgia's economy is still agriculture and area farmers and agri-businesses heard some predictions on farm income in 2014 Tuesday during a session in Lyons conducted by the University of Georgia.

According to agricultural economist Nathan Smith, "It's not a boom year for row crops.  There are still some chances for profitability but the margins will be a lot thinner.  The price for the commodity is going down and we're not seeing a drop in the cost, i.e., fertilizer and seed, so margins are going to be tighter."

Smith says it's all about the old law of supply and demand.

"Our production exceeds demand on most commodities so the outlook is not rosy for row crops.  We're looking at lower prices for corn and soybeans with peanuts about where they were for last year.

"In cotton, we see the potential for more acres in cotton.  Prices are probably not where growers want them, but they are relatively better than corn and soybeans," he said.

Regarding Vidalia onion prices this year, "There's the potential out there for us to do a little bit better in price depending on what happens in Peru, Texas and Mexico," Smith said.

January 29--  A late afternoon advisory to rural school systems from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency has caused a change of plans by some local school systems.  GEMA warned about the chance of black ice on bridges early Thursday.

As a result, the following school systems are closed Thursday: Toombs County, RTCA, Montgomery County, Treutlen County, Wheeler County and Telfair County.

Vidalia City Schools and Vidalia Heritage Academy are open.

Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon and STC campuses in Vidalia and Swainsboro are closed until Monday.

January 29-- Georgia DOT crews have been active throughout the night traveling the state roadways for icy area in Southeast Georgia. They will continue to monitor the state routes and interstates as this winter storm moves across our area.

Georgia DOT is urging motorists to stay off of highways as conditions are likely to continue to deteriorate until both the sun and temperatures rise.

The Department advises the public to refrain from all but such absolutely necessary travel until midday Wednesday at the earliest.  If motorists must travel, please be patient with conditions and with one another and be extremely cautious.  Slow down considerably; allow extra distance between yourself and other vehicles, maintain a steady speed; avoid lane changing and sudden acceleration or braking; and never pass a Georgia DOT, contractor or local government truck treating the road.  Also, avoid driving during overnight hours as black ice will form on streets, roads and highways and is virtually impossible to detect in the dark.

Currently classified as temporarily unpassable is the Houlihan Bridge on State Route 25 at the Georgia/South Caroline State Line. Crews are monitoring this location.

Crews are working throughout Southeast Georgia. These following locations are hazardous, icing has been reported and crews are working in these areas:

CHATHAM -  US 17/SR 25/SR 404 at Talmadge Bridge; SR 21 at viaduct north of fire station in Port Wentworth; SR 26 at milepost 1.4-2.0 in Thunderbolt; (I-95) at milepost 109.0-111.96

BULLOCH - US 341/SR 73 Bridges over Ogeechee River Overflow and railway near Screven County Line; SR 24 Bridge over Ogeechee Rive

WHEELER - SR 46 at milepost 0.0 - 0.5; SR 280 at milepost 17.2 - 17.3; SR 441 at milepost 0.0 - 0.8

MONTGOMERY - SR 280 at milepost 0.0 - 0.9

APPLING - SR 4 at milepost 21.1 - 21.2; SR 121 at milepost 26.1 - 26.2

JEFF DAVIS - SR 135  Bridge @ Jeff Davis/Montgomery Line at milepost 24.0 - 24.1

EFFINGHAM - I-95 at milepost 111.96-112.58

TOOMBS - SR 86 Bridge over Ohoopee River at milepost 2.00; SR152 Bridge over Swift Creek at milepost 1.93; SR152 Bridge over Pendelton Creek at milepost 3.93; SR56 Bridge over Rocky Creek at milepost 4.84; SR 297 Bridge over Swift Creek at milepost 1.66; SR292 Bridge over Ohoopee River at milepost 15.46; SR292 Bridge over Pendleton Creek at milepost 11.29

TATTNALL - SR 30 Bridge over Ohoopee River at mile post 0.26; SR147 Bridge over Ohoopee River at mile post 3.73; SR56 Nails Bridge over Ohoopee River at mile post 2.86; SR178 Bridge over Ohoopee River at mile post 9.76; SR178 Bridge over Ohoopee River at mile post 9.50

Motorists are urged to:

Slow down and stay behind the spreaders. The road behind the spread truck will be the safest place to drive. Allow at least ten car lengths between your vehicle and spreaders.

Do not pass. The spreader trucks are wide, and sometimes a group of trucks will work in tandem to spread salt and gravel quickly, especially on major highways.

Be particularly aware of black ice conditions on surfaces such as bridge decks and entrance and exit ramps late tonight and the early hours of Thursday morning.

Remember that technology helps, but only to a point. Four-wheel drive, anti-lock brakes and traction control are beneficial advancements in today's cars, trucks and SUVs, but they can't take the place of good driving habits and the need to reduce speed on snowy or icy roads.

Georgia DOT urges travelers to exercise caution and call 511 for updated information on roadway conditions before getting on the road during a winter weather event. Georgia 511 is a free phone service that provides real-time traffic and travel information statewide, including winter weather closures, reports of icing or other hazardous conditions on interstates and state routes.


January 29-- Kelli Koon being pulled by her brother-in-law Derek Moore in Emanuel County this morning.

January 29--  Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight is warning motorists to beware of ice on bridges in the county this morning.

He says there's been one wreck with no injuries on a bridge on Highway 292 west of Vidalia and he's noted some icing on Highway 152 and Highway 280 bridges.

The roads are okay, however, Sheriff Kight notes as long as the temperature stays in the low 30's, there's a danger of ice on bridges and motorists need to be extra careful.

January 29--  Overnight in southeast Georgia, there was very little to worry about with the winter weather.

Some slight snow accumulation was reported north of Vidalia in Soperton and west in Ailey, however, roads are clear with little or no ice problems.  Tree limbs do have some icing but we've had no reports of power outages.

According to Toombs County EMA Director Lynn Moore, "It went pretty good.  We didn't have issues that I know of.  We didn't have any phone calls or have to go out.  It looks like we might have dodged a bullet."

The forecast is calling for a chance of snow today with temperatures in the low 30's. 

"It looks like it slid up and went around us, but it looks like we may have some more coming about mid-morning," Moore says.

Governor Deal declared a state of emergency in the state early last night primarily due to traffic-related issues in middle and north Georgia.  State employees do not have to report until noon.

Meanwhile, schools are closed today along with some businesses and banks and the Social Security office in Vidalia.


January 29-- After consultation with GEMA Director Charley English and other state agency heads, Gov. Nathan Deal last night signed a state of emergency declaration related to the winter storm for the entire state of Georgia. The governor has delayed the opening of state government until noon Wednesday.

“Many parts of our state have experienced heavy sleet and snowfall, and in the metro areas we’re experiencing traffic jams caused primarily by heavy volume after the quick onset of the winter storm,” Deal said. “Unfortunately, traffic is delaying the ability of crews to treat highways all across the state. I know many people are trying desperately to pick up their children or simply to get home, and I hope they can get to safe, warm stopping point soon. Once at your destination, if at all possible, please stay off the roads until conditions improve. State DOT crews will work around the clock to get roads clear; in addition, the National Guard, the Department of Public Safety and GEMA will work to get the state back to normal as quickly as possible.”

The state of emergency declaration opens up state resources necessary for government response. It also activates the State Emergency Operations Plan, which assigns specific responsibilities to certain agencies.


January 28--  While weather forecasters are talking about snow in the middle and upper parts of the state, they're warning us in south Georgia to beware of freezing rain which makes roads very dangerous.

Toombs County EMA Director Lynn Moore says emergency personnel and road crews are on alert.

"We've got everybody on standby.  The county road crews have already put some sand on some of the county maintained bridges.  We basically have to wait and see what happens and we'll respond to anything that happens," he says.

Because you often can't see black ice on roads, Moore's advice is to stay off the roads until the danger passes.

"Look and see the conditions in your yard and whatever those conditions are, you'll know that's what the conditions on the road will be.  Make a good decision.  Black ice is hard to detect and the simplest thing I can say is that if you don't have to get out, don't do it," Moore advises.

January 28---Miles~Nobles Funeral Home announces the death of Betty J. Maley, 76, who passed away Tuesday, January 28, 2014 at her residence under the care of Spanish Oaks Hospice. She was a native of Appling County.  She was a member of Lakeside Baptist Church of Vidalia and retired from Savannah Luggage in Vidalia after over 30 years of service.  She was preceded in death by her husband, Jack Maley.

Survivors include her one daughter, Claudine Carter and Dale McLain of Baxley; one son, Eston and Susan Thornton of Baxley; two half-sisters, Joann Varnadore of Waycross and Joyce Kack of Savannah; a half-brother, George Crunkleton of Waycross; three grandchildren, Shane and Angie Thornton, Shonda and Byron Carter and Spanky and Megan Thornton; six great grandchildren, Brighton and Addalyn Thornton, Karlee and Miles Carter, Cade and Cooper Thornton and Cody Tanner; two great-great grandchildren, Rilee Tanner and Ryver Tanner; a special caregiver, Brenda Blake;  several nieces, nephews and other family also survive.

Visitation will be held Wednesday, January 29, 2014 form 6-8pm at the funeral home.

Funeral services will be held Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 2pm at the Miles~Nobles Funeral Home Chapel with the Reverend Bobby Brinkley and Reverend Gary Hanks officiating.

Interment will follow in Lakeview Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Vidalia.

Active pallbearers will be Shane Thornton, Spanky Thornton, Byron Carter, Miles Carter, Jake Martinez and Chris Stone.

Honorary pallbearers will be Spanish Oaks Hospice staff, The Pavilion B Hall staff and all family and friends in attendance

Friends and family may sign the online guest book at

Miles~Nobles Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements for Betty Maley.

January 28--  State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville explains action taken by the state of Georgia to assist its employees with insurance costs.


"Today, the Board of the Department of Community Health made changes to the present State Health Benefit Plan which are retroactive to January 1st, 2014.


These changes basically add HMO features to the plan and apply to all three plans proposed by SHBP: Bronze, Silver and Gold.


NOTE:  Member premiums, deductibles, plan contributions and out-of-pocket limits in current plan and 015 Budget remain the same.


Changes are in two major categories:

1.  Pharmacy co-pays


2.  Office co-pays and emergency room co-pays


1.  Pharmacy Co-pays

New changes will replace pharmacy co-insurance with co-pays. These will be at the same level as the 2013 plan under the wellness option.


Pharmacy Co-Pays:

  • Tier 1 Drugs (Generic) - $20.00
  • Tier 2 Drugs (Preferred) - $50.00
  • Tier 3 Drugs (Non-Preferred) - $80.00 (Was $90.00 in 2013)

Like the 2013 HMO plan, co-pays for pharmacy will not count towards deductible or out-of-pocket limits. Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) funds can be used.


2.  Office and Emergency Room Co-Pays

For Doctor's office, Rehabilitation, or ER visits, the change will replace out-of-pocket costs and co-insurance for office/ER visits with co-pays. These co-pays are identical to those in the 2013 HMO wellness option.


NOTE: Preventive care office visits continue to be covered 100%.



  • Primary Care (General Practice, Pediatrics, OB/GYN) - $35.00
  • Specialist - $45.00
  • Rehabilitation Services - $25.00
  • Emergency Room - $150.00
  • Urgent Care - $35.00

Co-pay will end when out-of-pocket maximum is satisfied. After that the plan will pay 100%.

HRA funds can be used for co-payments. For different ER visits, members' co-pays will count towards deductible and out-of-pocket limits.


The total estimated cost over 12 months for changes will be $114 million, which will be taken from the plan reserves.



As mentioned previously, member premiums will not be impacted.  For Plan Year 2014, members will have access to HMO cost-sharing features at HRA prices.  Unlike traditional HMO plans, members will also have access to a reimbursement account which may be used to satisfy co-pays and other out-of-pocket expenses. 


For additional information regarding the changes in the 2014 SHBP go to:

January 28-- With inclement weather headed toward Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal today in coordination with Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black signed an executive order prohibiting price gouging for propane. Georgia’s continued period of cold weather has increased the demand for propane, causing a substantial prices increase in recent days.

“Our families, farmers and small business are worried about getting the heat they need during times of frigid weather,” Deal said. “They shouldn’t have to worry about price gouging, and we aim to prevent that.”

“Due to the much colder than normal weather this winter, we have seen a higher demand for propane gas resulting in shortages and escalating prices in Georgia and across the nation,” said Black. “Livestock and poultry farmers, along with food processors, depend on propane to continue business. We are doing everything possible to work with the propane suppliers and agribusinesses to meet the challenges we are currently facing.”

Deal recently ordered restrictions on propane transport be eased to help increase the state’s supply of propane. If weather conditions do not improve in coming weeks, Deal will revisit state actions.

January 27-- The 41 electric membership corporations (EMCs) in Georgia, including Altamaha, are bracing for the probability of a winter storm.

            Officials are closely monitoring weather conditions and have a variety of contingency plans in place to address problems associated with snow accumulation, ice forming on tree limbs and power lines which can cause damage and outages to the distribution system. 

            Altamaha EMC has employees and contract crews preparing trucks with emergency equipment and necessary materials, should the weather become severe. If needed, Altamaha EMC will call upon EMCs in the state not hit by the storm to provide help and support.

“We are stocked with poles, wire, connectors, transformers and other supplies frequently used in the restoration process. Vendors have been contacted to be on standby in case additional materials are needed.  Our employees are on a heightened state of readiness and prepared to react immediately to any power outages,” says Tammye Vaughn, Manager of Marketing and Communications for Altamaha EMC.

“Altamaha EMC members should contact our office at 912-526-8181 to report any power outages.  In the event of a major outage, we will post updates on our website at and Facebook page.”

January 27--  The window is now open for area students to apply for a scholarship honoring the memory of a beloved Toombs County teen.  From now until March 10th, qualified seniors who wish to apply for the Courtney Wilkes Ag & Vet Scholarship can submit their applications.  Vidalia® onion farmers have collected donations to fund the scholarship for at least ten years in the amount of $1,000.

{mosimage}In June 2011, 15-year-old Courtney Wilkes of Toombs County was brutally murdered while she was on vacation with her family in Florida.   The Vidalia® onion industry established this scholarship to honor the life of the bright, funny, friendly young woman. 

Seniors graduating within the Vidalia onion growing region who are enrolled in either Agriculture or Veterinary fields may apply. They must possess many of the positive attributes Courtney displayed each day including strong morals, good humor, intelligence, commitment to learning, and respectful appreciation of nature and animals.  Those counties qualifying are:  Emanuel, Candler, Treutlen, Bulloch, Wheeler, Montgomery, Evans, Tattnall, Toombs, Telfair, Jeff Davis, Appling, Bacon, Jenkins, Screven, Laurens, Dodge, Pierce, Wayne, and Long.

Courtney was a rising junior at Toombs County High School and number one in her class academically.  She was an officer of FFA, star soccer player, and devout Christian.   She was an outdoor enthusiast described by all who knew her as infectiously cheerful and who offered to everyone around her a bright smile and silly jokes.  She loved animals and aspired to be a veterinarian, which is why applicants must be enrolled in an agriculture or veterinary track. 

Scholarship applications should be submitted by hard copy specifically to:

Courtney Wilkes Scholarship

C/O Vidalia® Onion Business Council

Mail:  P.O. Box 2611

In Person:  100 Vidalia Sweet Onion Dr.

Vidalia, GA, 30475


The deadline is Monday, March 10, 2014, 5pm EST.  For questions or to request an application, contact Bob Stafford at 912-537-1881 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

January 27--  Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits reports the following arrests.


Steele, Mehoshi Yoshiko-B/F-22 YOA- 987 Sandbridge Rd. Twin City, GA- Theft by Shoplifting (MISD) 1st Offense (Citation)

Oliver, Thomas Chad- W/M- 25 YOA-1433 Slim Ray Rd. Glennville, GA- Theft by Shoplifting (MISD) 1st Offense (Citation)/Probation Warrant Served (Lyons PD)

Harris, Andrew Jr. – B/M- 51 YOA- 801 Estelle Dr. Vidalia, GA- Criminal Trespass

Willis, Crystal Elizabeth- B/F- 29 YOA- 506 W. North St. Vidalia, GA- Possession of Marijuana<Ounce, Warrant Served, Failure to Obey Traffic Control Device, Original Container Required for Prescription Drugs, Giving False Name/Address, Possession and Use of Drug Related Object, Possession of Controlled Substances

Nelson, Lillie Dorothy – W/F 23 YOA/ 115 Cole Ln. Reidsville/ Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense

Douglas, Steven Alexander-B/M-35 YOA- 2100 W Smalley Dr. Vidalia, GA- Obstruction of Law Enforcement (simple)/ Theft by Taking/ Criminal Trespass/ Warrant Served



Snell, James Otis-B/M-39 YOA- 711 Georgia St. Vidalia, GA- Theft by Taking/ Criminal Trespass

Day, Samantha-B/F-29 YOA- 202 Thompson St. Vidalia, GA –Obstruction of Officer (Forceful)/ Possession of Marijuana <oz.

Moxley, Brandon Dale- W/M- 34 YOA- 735 Leman Rd. Vidalia, GA- 1st Driving While License Suspended or Revoked/Speeding

Phillips, Billy Reno- W/M- 26 YOA- 146 Old Country Rd. Vidalia, GA- Theft by Shoplifting

Rogers, Jawan Martize- B/M- 26 YOA- 503 Durden St. Vidalia Theft by Shoplifting (MISD) 1st Offense (Citation)

McLemore, Marlon Devaughn- B/M- 36 YOA- 910 Old Dairy Rd. Vidalia, GA- Burglary (Forceful)/Warrant Served (Probation)

Spellman, Kendall – B/M 27 YOA/ 210 Rabbit Run Ailey/ Criminal Damage, 1st Degree, Aggravated Assault w/ Motor Vehicle


McBride, Kendall – W/M 53 YOA/ 1221 Bear Creek Rd. Mt Vernon/ Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense

Carter, Kelly Dwight-B/M 29 YOA-104 Sanford St. Vidalia-Warrant Served (Parole)

Hernandez, Elizabeth-28 YOA-W/F- 234 Joy Bluff Rd. –Theft by Shoplifting (misd.) 1st Offense (Citation)

Burress, Jamie Lanell-26 YOA- W/F-474 Joy Bluff Dr.- Theft by Shoplifting (misd.) 1st Offense (Citation)

Salter, Laron Steven II – W/M 24 YOA/ 1645 Glynn James Rd. Lyons/ Forgery In The 1st Degree



January 27—{mosimage}

VHS Lady Indians Head Coach Chunk Reid was honored Friday night for winning 800 games in his career. Former players and family attended the game and activities and were at mid-court when VHS principal John Sharpe announced that the basketball court at VHS be named “Chunk’s Court.”

“There are two names that are synonymous with VHS basketball Ralph Parsons who the gym is named after and now the court will be called “Chunk’s Court.” Sharpe said.

“ It was a surprise to have as many former players here tonight I really appreciate them being here. I appreciate Vidalia City Schools, the fan support over the years and all of my former players. I want to thank all of my family for being here and for all of the support that they have given me over the years.” Coach Reid said.

January 27--  The Downtown Vidalia "Main Street" Association has inducted new officers for the new year.



January 27--  If you have a family member with mental illness, you know this story all too well.

There are few alternatives for treatment and when someone is in crisis, often the only choice is to call law enforcement and hope that a trained crisis intervention officer shows up.

According to Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight, "The Georgia legislature has failed to deal with the issue of mental health problems.  As time goes on, we keep growing numbers.  The government has got to realized we've got a problem and we've got to deal with it."

Sheriff Kight says his deputies responded to 244 mental health and drug addict calls in 2012 in Toombs County.

Given the situation, a local family support group was formed last year to help people get some help from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Cheryl Williams, a guidance counselor at Vidalia High School, helped form the group which meets the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at 6:30 in the Dixon Community Center at the Ed Smith Recreation Complex in Vidalia.

"I received some training and now we have a family support group for family members who are dealing with a loved one with a mental health diagnosis," she says.

Both Williams and Sheriff Kight says a big problem is keeping mental health patients on their medication.  They say problems usually happen when patients decide they don't need it anymore and suffer the consequences when they stop taking it.

One new hopeful development is a new Georgia Crisis and Access Line which Williams says can offer immediate help to families in crisis.

"You make a phone call and they ask you a series of questions.  Sometimes they'll send a team out to your house and depending on the situation they'll say this person needs to see a doctor or no, we need to call 911," Williams reports.

The phone number is 1-800-715-4225.  You find information about the service at .

For information on the Georgia chaper of the National Alliance on Mental Health, go to .  Their helpline is 1-800-728-1052. 

January 26--  Emma Elizabeth Venable has been chosen to represent Toombs County as its nominee for “The Servant’s Heart Award,” an award to be given by Georgia Children’s Cabinet and Georgia’s Fist Lady, Sandra Deal.

Upon Governor Deal’s election, First Lady Deal chose her platform to be “With a Servant’s Heart.”  She asked that County Commissions from each county in the state nominate one young person that they believe serves his or her community through “volunteerism, community involvement, and the betterment of the community.” 

{mosimage}The Toombs County Commission has chosen to nominate Emma Elizabeth Venable, a senior at Toombs County High School. (L-R) Toombs Commissioners Jeff McCormick and Wendell Dixon, Emma, Commissioner Roy Lee Williams, Chairman Blake Tillery and Commissioner Darriel Nobles.

Emma excels in her academic studies and is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Leadership team as well as the One Act Drama Team, Mathematics Team, BETA Club, FFA, FBLA, the girl’s golf team, and Student Council.  Emma is the Senior Class Vice President, and the cheerleading squad captain.

Emma spends much of her time volunteering and was chosen for this nomination because of her efforts to make a difference in our community and for displaying the definition of a servant’s heart.

When asked how volunteerism changed her life, Emma said, “I’ve done a lot to serve, but I believe that my community has helped make me who I am today.  I’ve always wanted to impact my community in the way that it has impacted me, and volunteerism has changed my life completely. At a young age, I was taught how important it is to volunteer and give back to a community that has given so much to me.

"It has taught me that by giving back, I am a part of something bigger than myself. It has taught me that my world is bigger than me. It has given me experiences, and allowed me to meet people that I will cherish for a lifetime. Most importantly, I have been able to show others the love of Christ through my actions of service”.

Emma is the daughter of Mike and Connie Lothridge and Shan and Gail Venable.

January 24--  The family of a Vidalia man is offering a reward for information leading to an arrest in his death.

Forty-seven-year old Harry Patel was shot to death outside his apartment on Manning Drive the night of December 16.

Vidalia Police Lieutenant Jimmy Sims reports Patel's family will pay a $3,000 reward.  

If you have information regarding the case, call Vidalia Crimestoppers at 1-866-439-6313.  All calls are anonymous and you do not need to give your name.  A caller who gives information leading to an arrest will receive $3,000 cash through Crimestoppers.

January 24--  The Toombs County school board is expected to consider selection of a new high school football coach at a called meeting Saturday.

The meeting is set for ten a.m. at the school system's central office in Lyons.

January 24--  This year's extra-cold weather is sparking a call from the Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society (SOAPS) for blankets.

Area animal shelters need the blankets for the outdoor pens to help protect dogs from freezing temperatures.

You're asked to drop off used or new blankets at shelters in Lyons and Vidalia or at blanket dropoff boxes in area veterinary clinics, Webster Motor Company on Highway 280 in Higgston or at Tractor Supply in Vidalia.

January 24--  The Toombs County Commission is providing $200,000 in sales tax revenue to help build an amphitheater complex in downtown Vidalia.

At its January meeting, the commissioners voted three to one to approve the request from Vidalia to help with the $750,000 project.

Commissioner Darriel Nobles voted against the measure and said he was afraid it would open the floodgates to similar requests from Lyons and Santa Claus.

Commission Chairman Blake Tillery believes the project will benefit the county as well as Vidalia.

"We're obviously trying to work with all the cities including Lyons, Vidalia and Santa Claus.  We hope this will be an economic engine to bring more people to downtown Vidalia.  What we want on the county level is more sales tax dollars because that means less property tax dollars and I think all of our residents want that.  That's why we think this may be a good investment," Tillery said.

The chairman also noted Vidalia is assisting the county with paving of the Ezra Taylor Road, a county road which provides access to a recreation complex owned by the city.

"The city has already voted to give us $350,000 toward the paving of that and they also donated their right of way.  That's another issue where we hope there will be some economic development out in that area.  As teams come in to play softball or whatever they're doing out there, those folks are going to have to eat and to have a place to stay.  That contributes to the sales tax base of the community and the more we make on sales taxes the less we have to have in property taxes," he said.

After the meeting Tuesay, the commissioners held a briefing for property owners on the Ezra Taylor Road who are being asked to provide right of way for paving of the road.

The commission also approved a resolution in conjunction with the county's three towns calling for a new five-year Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum during the May 20th primary election.  The current special purpose sales tax expires the end of this year.

January 23--  A 46-year-old former military policeman and Oakland, California police officer is the top student this year at Southeastern Technical College.

{mosimage}Timothy Jackson from Swainsboro, right, with STC President Dr. Cathy Mitchell, won the Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL) award in ceremonies on the college campus in Vidalia.

He says the welcome he received when he was doing his college search helped him decide on Southeastern Tech.

"It was overwhelming.  Everybody just took the time and they were very friendly.  They didn't make me feel like they just wanted to get another student in, but that they really wanted me to succeed.  I couldn't ask for any better," he said.

Jackson returned to his native state of Georgia after a leg injury forced him to leave law enforcement.

"It was a tough decision because I was getting out of my comfort zone.  In the military I was a police officer and after I got out I worked for the police department in Oakland.  All I knew was law enforcement so it was a little scary to go back to school, but once I got in it and started rolling and got with the instructors, it was fine," he said.

When he graduates, Jackson hopes to work at a Veterans Administration hospital. "I'm a veteran and I think it's remarkable what our men and women do for this country.  I want to give a little back and just say thank you," he remarked.

Jackson was nominated by Kerry Dunn in STC's Radiologic Technology program.

"He works hard.  He never gives up and honestly he gets along with everyone.  He has a great work ethic and they love him in clinics because he is great with patients," she says.

Dunn's wife is a doctor in Swainsboro and they have two girls.

Next he competes for the statewide award against students from other technical colleges.  He also receives a $26,500 scholarship from DeVry University to pursue his bachelors degree.  Catherine Doyle from DeVry was present at the Vidalia ceremony to present the scholarship.

Other finalists in the STC competition were James Edenfield from Swainsboro, Sarah McLeod from Glennville and Caitlyn Pittman from Lyons.

January 22-- State Representative Greg Morris (R-Vidalia) today announced the introduction of House Bill 772, legislation which would require applicants to pass a drug test before receiving assistance from the Georgia Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps.

“Hard working Georgians expect their tax dollars to be used responsibly and efficiently,” said Rep. Morris.  “Under no circumstance should the government fund someone’s drug habit.  HB 772 is common sense legislation.”

Under HB 772, the Georgia Department of Human Services would be required to conduct drug tests on adult applicants for food stamps. 

Applicants who also receive Medicaid benefits would be responsible for paying a $17 fee to cover the expense of the drug test.  Applicants who do not receive Medicaid benefits would pay the full cost of the drug test, but would receive food stamp reimbursement in the event that they test negative for controlled substances. 

House Bill 772 also states that any food stamp applicant who fails the drug test would be ineligible for food stamps until a subsequent test is passed.  If an applicant fails the drug test for a second time, that person would be ineligible for food stamps for three months.  Any person failing the test three times would become ineligible for one year.

HB 772 specifies that dependent children under the age of 18 are exempt from the drug testing requirement.  Further, the eligibility of these children will not be affected if their parent fails the drug test.  However, if this happens, the ineligible parent would be required to designate an individual, who must also pass a drug test, to receive the food stamps on behalf of the affected children.

The Georgia Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as the Food Stamp Program, is a federally funded program that provides monthly benefits to low-income households to help pay for the cost of food.

For more information on HB 772, click here <> .


January 22--  Three people are under arrest in connection with the armed robbery of a pizza delivery woman.

According to Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight, the employee of the Pizza Inn of Vidalia was robbed at gunpoint the evening of January 14 while making a delivery near Lyons.

Arrested for the crime are 20-year-old Seth White from Emanuel County, 31-year-old Daniel Longton of Toombs County and a Toombs County juvenile.

Sheriff Kight thanked the Emanuel County Sheriff's Office, the Swainsboro Police Department and the U.S. Marshall Fugitive Task Force for help in the case.

January 22-- Governor Nathan Deal today announced that Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. will expand its service center at the Brunswick Golden Isles Airport in Brunswick.


The company signed a lease with the Brunswick and Glynn County Development Authority to develop a $25 million, 110,000-square-foot/10,219-square-meter maintenance repair and overhaul facility near its two existing hangars. The expansion is expected to create 100 additional jobs, a 50 percent increase in the size of Gulfstream Brunswick’s current workforce.


“We are honored when international companies such as Gulfstream choose to call Georgia home,” Deal said. “Our more than 20-year partnership with Gulfstream underscores its faith in our business climate and skilled workforce. This expansion will have a significant economic impact on Brunswick and Glynn County.”


Groundbreaking is slated for later this year. Construction is scheduled to be completed by May 2015.

January 22--  Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits reports the following arrests.

Corouthers, Shandrika Sherell – B/F 20 YOA/ 907 Scott Dr. Vidalia/ Criminal Trespass

Lawson, Lanorris Randolph-B/M 30 YOA-706 Loop Rpd Apt 706 Vidalia-Warrant Served (Vidalia Probation)

Hall, Russell Mark-W/M 33 YOA-209 East Park Blvd. Lyons-Indecent Exposure


Davis, Rodney Jerome-B/M 45 YOA-303 Jerriel St. H-1 Vidalia-Theft by Shoplifting/Obstruction of Law Enforcement/Warrant Served (Toombs Co.)


January 21--  The flag at Vidalia High School was lowered to half-staff Tuesday when word came that the school's beloved former head football coach had died after a long battle with Parkinson's.

{mosimage}Friends and former players remembered 76-year-old Coach Buck Cravey.  Even though he led the school's football team to its first and only state football title in 1969, the common thread in all the comments was Coach Cravey's love for his players.

Coach Cravey succeeded Coach Ralph Parsons as head coach in 1967.

"He took people on the practice field or at school and really taught them to discipline their ways and their lives.  Buck really directed them in going about their business of family and church and scholastic things.  Not many people played for Coach Cravey who really didn't credit him with steering them on the straight and narrow and on the right way," Coach Parsons says.

The principal at Vidalia High School, John Sharpe, played for Coach Cravey in 1979 and 1980.  

"We were blessed to have that man influence this community for many years.  He had such a tremendous impact on everything I do now as administrator or teacher-coach.  His committment to excellence, his work ethic, his character and his love for the people he came into contact with are something I hope to continue to emulate in everything I do in my profession," Sharpe noted.

Chris Reeves quarterbacked for the Indians three years under Coach Cravey.

"As far as a person who not only coached a great football game, he also taught life values as good as anybody I've ever been around.  I'd put him at the same level next to my Dad.  He was a very special person to me," Reeves said.

Two years after his retirement, Vidalia named its new football field for Coach Cravey in 2005 as a living legacy.

At the ceremony, he said, "I've never received an honor which meant as much as this one does.  All you people in Vidalia are what made this program what is is.  All you players, you are certainly the backbone.  You left your legacy in Vidalia football and the tradition for the program is just getting better and better."

Coach Cravey's funeral is Friday morning at eleven o'clock at the Vidalia First Baptist Church. 

January 21--  Senator Tommie Williams of Lyons provides the following update.

"The 2014 Legislative Session commenced January 13 with the customary call to order by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, the Pledge of Allegiance, the traditional Devotion given by the Chaplain of the Day, the welcoming of newly-elected Sen. Bruce Thompson and the swearing in of the new Secretary of the Senate, David A. Cook. It was a successful beginning to a promising session, and we are hitting the ground running.

This year’s session will be abbreviated and is scheduled to end in mid-March. This will accelerate the legislative process, encouraging a more efficient turnout of bills while also saving taxpayer money.

Governor Nathan Deal delivered the annual State of the State Address on Wednesday. During his address, he revealed his initiatives for juvenile justice reform, education funding and economic development efforts such as the Port of Savannah Expansion Project. Gov. Deal has also proposed a budget of $20.8 billion for FY 2015 with a large portion going towards K-12 and Higher Education.

Gov. Deal was proud to announce that Georgia has been named “the number one state in the nation in which to do business,” which was a goal our state set out to accomplish last year. With this distinguished ranking, we hope to experience an increase in our state’s economic development efforts and employment rate.

By allocating an additional $547 million to state education spending we are ensuring that our students are receiving the best education possible while also protecting our teachers.  The budget also calls for $25.6 million for Forestland Protection grants which provide local governments with funds necessary to maintain key local services and quality schools while also preserving the state’s crucial natural resources. 

In addition, Gov. Deal has included $35 million in bonds for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.  By dedicating funds to the crucial areas of education and infrastructure we are continuing to attract businesses and provide all citizens with the best conditions and opportunities possible. The week concluded with budget hearings to ensure funds are responsibly allocated throughout the state and state agencies. We took Monday off to  honor and remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and resumed the state’s business on Tuesday.  I look forward to updating you in the weeks to come as we march toward Sine Die, the official end of the 2014 Legislative Session.

As we move forward, I remain committed to supporting policies that promote business growth and get Georgians back to work. As always, it is a pleasure to serve the 19th Senate District. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 404.656.0089 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.."  


January 21--  A beloved man and football coach died early today at Community Hospice in Vidalia.

Seventy-six-year old Coach Buck Cravey coached at Vidalia High School for 24 years and led the Vidalia Indians to their only state football championship in 1969.

Tommy Sasser was the team's quarterback the year it went 14-0 and beat Lithonia 7-6 to win the title.

"I played under him three years and coached with him one year.  He cared so much about his players.  He loved winning and football and had a passion for it, but he kept up with his players once they graduated.  He was most concerned about their success in life and that's what impressed me most about Coach Cravey," Sasser said.

Coach Cravey is the only coach in the state to have won state championships in both public schools and private schools.  He was at Pinewood Christian Academy in 1997 when they won the state GISA title.

Coach Cravey was at Vidalia High School from 1967 until 1992.  After that he spent a year at Briarwood Christian Academy and moved to Pinewood in 1994 where he completed his 35 years in coaching in 2003.

He's the 17th winningest coach in Georgia high school football history with a record of 270 wins, 126 losses and four ties.

In 2005, the new football stadium at Vidalia High School was named Buck Cravey Field.  

At the dedication ceremony, Coach Cravey told the crowd, "I've never received an honor which means as much as this one does.  All you people in Vidalia have made this program what it is.  All you players, you are certainly the backbone.  You left your legacy in Vidalia football and the tradition for the program is just getting better and better."

At the time of the dedication, Coach Jason McBride was the head coach at Vidalia.

"I'm doing what I'm doing today because of Coach Cravey.  There are a lot of people out there who are succeeding in life because they played for Buck Cravey," he said.

Funeral arrangements for Coach Cravey will be announced by the Ronald V. Hall Funeral Home of Vidalia.


January 21--  Teachers in Montgomery County will be working four more days this school term.

The Montgomery County school board added two student days and two post-planning days to this term's calendar at its meeting Monday night.  School Superintendent Randy Rodgers said savings on energy and transportation helped find the money to eliminate the four furlough days.

"That gets us to the point where we are only having one day of furlough this year because our certified staff is currently being paid on a 185-day basis and this four days will make it 189," he said.

The student days are February 13 and March 6 while the faculty only days are May 22-23.

Next year could even be better for Montgomery County school employees.  Rodgers figures Governor Nathan Deal's proposal to restore some funding cuts to the public schools will equate to a $214,000 plus up for Montgomery County.

"We've been in a bad situation in this country and this state and we've had to do better with less.  I'm just proud that our governor sees fit to put money back into education.  He has been promising to do that and I can honestly say that Governor Deal is doing what he said he would do when he was able to do so, " Rodgers noted.

In other actions at its January meeting, the Montgomery school board:

*  Accepted a $75,000 donation from Dr. Joe Brogdon to pave and stripe the high school track with the provision that it be named the Coach Mayes Dobbins Track and Field Facility and that the track be named in honor of former student track star Curtis Ryals.

*  Named the architectural firm of James Buckley Associates of Swainboro to assist with developing a five-year facilities plan at no charge.

*  Agreed to accept bids to remove an abandoned house on school property at the corner of College and Brewer Streets in Mount Vernon.

*  Approved an agreement with Montgomery County and its municipalities for the school system to act as fiscal agent of a $50,000 county recreation department budget.

*  Okayed the same board meeting schedule as in 2013 except for February which will be held Tuesday, February 18 at six p.m.

Rodgers also informed the board a $250,000 tax anticipation loan has been repaid and that $620,000 in local property taxes have been collected.  He says that represents 41% of local taxes due to the school system.


January 21--  The Wardlaw Brothers of Vidalia performed in Nashville Sunday night at part of the annual Stellar Awards.


Seven time 2014 Stellar Awards winner Tamela Mann (Photo Credit: Linximages / The FrontPage Firm


Kirk Franklin Snags Song of the Year, Tasha Cobbs Wins New Artist of the Year and Contemporary CD of the Year, Hezekiah Walker Walks Away with Tradional Choir of the Year and Tye Tribbett Takes Home a Win for Male Vocalist of the Year


Two-Hour Special Aired Live in Primetime on UP Television Network from Nashville's Municipal Auditorium and Runs in Syndication through March 2


NASHVILLE, TN (January 20, 2014) - On the biggest night in Gospel music Tamela Mann's star shined brightest at the 29th Annual Stellar Gospel Awards where she was honored seven times during the show's live telecast at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium. Mann won "Artist of the Year," "Albertina Walker Female Vocalist of the Year," "CD of the Year," "Traditional Female of the Year," "Traditional CD of the Year," "Urban Inspirational Single or Performance of the Year" and "Praise & Worship CD of the Year."


"I'm so grateful, I'm so excited," exclaimed Mann when asked about receiving seven Stellar Awards. "I thank God for the Stellar Awards for opening up this door for us," she added. 


Kirk Franklin (Photo Credit: Linximages / Courtesy of The FrontPage Firm)

Proving that Mann's massive hit "Take Me to the King" was truly the year's best record it also earned "Song of the Year" honors for its producer Kirk Franklin. In an intimate moment at a luncheon for the 29th Annual Stellar Awards, Franklin discussed his long history with Mann, a childhood friend since age 15, and what inspired their collaboration together on "King." Franklin, Mann and her now husband David, first attained music fame together as Kirk Franklin & The Family in the 90's. 


"I am very proud of Tamela and I am very proud to be a part of this record in a small way," said Franklin.   He added, "she is wonderful and beautiful; to God be the glory for "Take Me to the King."  


Ten awards were handed out during the 2-hour live telecast in primetime on UP Television Network. As a part of the pre-show activities, 28 additional awards were announced during ceremonies held on Friday and Saturday. All Stellar winners are selected by online voters. Spirited and engaging, Sherri Shepherd ("The View") and Rickey Smiley ("Dish Nation") added just the right comedic flair to their job as hosts and Smiley treated the audience to a taste of his beloved church lady sketch, "Bernice Jenkins." This year's celebration began with Tye Tribbett hosting a live stream of the star-studded red carpet arrivals that featured Gospel greats, television, film and political luminaries.


Co-hosts Rickey Smiley & Sherri Shepherd (Photo Credit: Linximages / Courtesy of The FrontPage Firm)

Gospel newcomer Tasha Cobbs won "Contemporary CD of the Year," "Contemporary Female of the Year" and "New Artist of the Year." Hezekiah Walker walked away with three awards and tied Cobbs as the second most honored artist of the evening. Fred Hammond, John P. Kee and Anthony Brown were the only other artists to earn multiple Stellar Awards, each receiving two. Recognized for both individual and group success, Brown won "Contemporary Male of the Year" and "Group/Duo of the Year" with Kee winning "Traditional Male of the Year" and "Traditional Group/Duo of the Year." Kee performed with New Life and Brown with Group Therapy, which shared the Group/Duo awards with their front men. Tye Tribbett, the most nminated artist, took home the trophy for "Male Vocalist of the Year." 


Power and praise were on full display from the evening's opening performance as Hezekiah Walker & The Love Fellowship Choir delivered a spirited version of "Every Praise" with praise dancers. Erica Campbell, Jekalyn Carr, Latice Crawford and Lexi united for the Female Collaboration and performed a medley that included "A Little More Jesus," "Greater Is Coming," "There" and "Abide." One commanding performance was followed by another as Anthony Brown & Group Therapy continued to raise the level with "Testimony"; "The Gift" by Donald Lawrence & Company inspired the near capacity audience to get out of their seats.

A highlight of the night was Jennifer Holliday bringing the house down with "Make Them Hear You." Joining forces for the quartet collaboration were The Canton Spirituals, The Gospel Legends and The Wardlaw Brothers and Ricky Dillard closed the show on a high note singing "Amazing." Shirley Caesar, Tasha Cobbs, Isaac Carree, and Kirk Franklin all delivered passionate performances for the Gospel music lovers in attendance.


Annually, The Stellar Awards recognizes the accomplishments of Gospel music icons and individuals instrumental in advocating for Gospel music. Hezekiah Walker received the James Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award for his accomplishments and was acknowledged in a video message by Joel Osteen. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee received the Thomas A. Dorsey Most Notable Achievement Award for her career accomplishments on Capitol Hill and for authoring the bill designating September as National Gospel Music Month. Pastor Maceo L. Woods was honored with Dr. Bobby Jones Legends Award, presented by its namesake, Dr. Jones.


"Our new venue, the Nashville Municipal Auditorium, gave the Stellar Awards performers an opportunity to expand their presentation. I believe this created a big wow affect," said the show's executive producer Don Jackson. "Expanded staging, improved lighting and additional screens allowed for better choreography, which took the show to another level and our artists responded with some of our best performances ever."




January 20--  A bill in the Georgia House of Representatives would prohibit law enforcement agencies from confiscating money and other property found in drug raids.

House Bill One proposed by Atlanta lawyer Wendell Willard has failed to pass in earlier sessions of the legislature and Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight hopes it fails again.

"Taking this money away from small county sherrif's offices and police departments in South Georgia is really going to hurt because they depend on this money to fight drugs," he says.

Sheriff Kight says federal funds to support area drug task forces are drying up and without the confiscated drug dollars, the task forces will be lost.

State Representative Greg Morris of Vidalia says he thinks some law enforcement representatives and lawmakers are discussing ways to change the proposal to provide more transparency and accountability on the use of confiscated money while at the same time continuing the practice.

He says he'll consult with police officials and sheriffs in the 156th District regarding the bill.

"If Sheriff DeLoach and Junior and Bohannon and my law enforcement professionals are okay with the bill and it fixes a gaping hole in transparency of what is being seized and all that being reported, that would be a good thing, but we're not going to do anything that is going to compromise law enforcement's ability to seize property that is aiding and abetting criminals," Morris said. 

January 18--Due to scheduling conflicts with Bryan Co the VHS basketball game times Saturday in Pembroke have been moved from a 4:00pm start to the Girls game starting at 6:00pm and the Boys to follow at around 7:30pm.

January 17--  The Mount Vernon Bank reports a telephone scam is going on and is alerting consumers to be aware.

The bank says citizens are being called and told their "MasterCard" debit cards have been compromised.  The callers asked for the card number, expiration date and security code.

Banks nor card companies never ask for this information and you should never give personal information to callers.

January 17--  Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits reports the following arrests.


Peterson, Annette Helene-B/F- 67 YOA- 1208 Easter Dr. 57 Vidalia, GA-1st Driving While License Suspended or Revoked

King, Artis-B/M-48 YOA- 1105 Thompson St. Vidalia, GA- 1st Driving While License Suspended or Revoked

Phillips, Vickie Denise- B/F- 27 YOA- 217 N. Jefferson St. Lyons, GA- Theft by Shoplifting (MISD) 1st Offense (Citation)


Harris, Khalil Marquin- B/M- 18 YOA- 2505 E First St. Apt 230 Vidalia, GA –Warrant Served

Chambers, Jonathon Tyler – W/M 20 YOA/ 1956 Hwy 135 Vidalia/ Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense

Scott, Eddie Lee Jr. - B/M 25 YOA/ 209 Jones St. Vidalia/ Warrant Served (Statesboro Probation)

Morris, Charleene Ann- W/F- 51 YOA- 700 Durden St. Vidalia, GA- Possession of Methamphetamine

Love, Donny- W/M- 40 YOA- 1255 Charles Dr. Vidalia, GA- Possession of Methamphetamine

Watson, Shane Marie- W/F- 34 YOA- 1255 Charles Dr. Vidalia, GA- Possession of Methamphetamine

Latimore, Davlares, Dewayne- B/M-33 YOA- 201 Lee St. Vidalia, GA –Criminal Trespass/ Criminal Attempt

Singleton, Greg- B/M- 41 YOA- 512  W Toombs St. Vidalia, GA- Battery (Domestic Violence)/ Obstructing or Hindering Person’s Making Emergency Telephone Calls

Gupton, Billy Jack- W/M 39 YOA/ 221 Davis Rd. Vidalia/ Driving While License Suspended or Revoked 1st Offense, Failure To Obey Traffic Control Device, No Insurance 1st




January 17--  After years of discussion and planning, the City of Vidalia is starting the project to refurbish one mile of Adams Street.

McLendon Enterprises of Vidalia is doing the $1.6 million dollar project and project manager Tim Adams says it will take a couple of months before motorists see workmen actually on Adams Street.

"People are not going to see us on Adams Street right away.  This project actually starts seven blocks away on Linda Drive and we'll be working our way up Adams Street.  We've got about 60 days of work before we'll actually physically be in the road.  Then we'll be in the road a lot from Darby Circle up to Highway 280 and that road basically gets replaced including water, sewer and storm drainage," Adams said.

Vidalia City Manager Bill Torrance says improving drainage is a big part of the work.

"They're starting on Linda Drive because that's the outfall for drainage.  This drainage improvement is extremely important because when the Highway 280 pairs came through, it placed all that water at the intersection of Highway 280 and Adams Street all the way down to Second Street.  When it rains hard, we've had a big bowl there full of water and this is going to give us the ability to get that water out of town and on down to Rocky Creek," Torrance notes.

Toward the end of March, Adams says drivers would be smart to seek alternate routes into town and avoid Adams Street.

"We've got to cut that road 40 times.  There's going to be a lot of congestion in that area because it's a high traffic area in the mornings and late afternoons and we're asking folks to be patient with us and maybe move over a block and use Church Street," he advises.

Depending on the weather, Adams hopes the new street will be complete in the September/October time frame.

January 16--  The Toombs County Development Authority is seeking bids for construction of a speculative building in the Toombs Industrial Park on U.S. Highway 1 north of Lyons.

Sealed bids must be submitted by February 20 at two p.m. and all interested companies must attend a pre-bid conference February 4 at ten a.m. at the Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce in Vidalia.

For more information, click on or call Michelle Johnson at the Development Authority, 912-537-4466.

January 16-- Dr. John K. Derden, Professor Emeritus of History at East Georgia State College, will conduct his annual tour of sites associated with Sherman's March through East Central Georgia on Saturday, February 22, 2014. 

This year's tour will place additional emphasis on the site of Camp Lawton, the Confederate POW camp located on the grounds of Magnolia Springs State Park north of Millen.  Dr. Derden is author of a recent book (The Largest Prison in the World:  The Story of Camp Lawton, Mercer University Press, 2012) on the history of the prison. 

This activity is offered through the Office of External Affairs of East Georgia State College.  Participants will gather at 9:00 a.m. for a pre-trip orientation in the Sudie Fulford Community Learning Center on campus.  The group will eat lunch in Millen and return by 6:00 p.m.  Transportation will be provided. 

Dr. Derden, who has conducted this tour since the 125th anniversary of the March in 1989, commented on the significance of this event which so heavily impacted this part of the state:   "The sesquicentennial of the American Civil War has brought to the forefront the significance of that conflict and of the central issues with which it dealt.  Fought on American soil from Pennsylvania to New Mexico, from Missouri to Florida, and on the high seas, the war pockmarked the map of the U.S. with the sites of the war's skirmishes and battles. 

"Virtually every U.S. family was affected by it, and its memory persists as is revealed by the fact that more books have been written on the fratricidal war than on any other aspect of the American past, and many more American soldiers died in the Civil War than in any other U.S. war.  One of the major campaigns that hastened its end was undoubtedly Sherman's March to the Sea in the fall of 1864.  The main units of Sherman's 60,000-man force marched through East Central Georgia on their way to Savannah. 

"As they marched, they passed through what are now Jenkins, Burke, and Emanuel counties, and they were on the road from November 15 until the first week of December 1864, when they approached Savannah.  Many of the roads, some of the houses, and a goodly number of descendents of the original families are still there."

Join Dr. Derden and fellow enthusiasts on this fun and fact-filled day tour of sites associated with the March to the Sea in Emanuel, Jenkins, and Burke counties. 

Along the way the group will visit Birdsville Plantation, locate some of the places where General Sherman spent the night, retell stories told by families who lived along Sherman's route, visit the Old Buckhead Church where Kilpatrick's Union cavalry and Wheeler's Confederate cavalry skirmished, walk the site of "the largest prison in the world" (Camp Lawton) and see some of the recent archeological finds related to it, and travel on some of the actual roads that Sherman's forces used.  Each participant will also receive a packet of informational material related to the March.

Sponsored by the Office of External Affairs at East Georgia State College, the tour fee (which includes all expenses) is $70 per person. Registration deadline is February 18. If  interested, please call Amanda Williams at (478) 289-2133 to reserve a seat.

January 16--  State Senator Jason Carter responded to Governor Nathan Deal's State of the State address according to this story filed by Jonathan Shapiro for WABE Radio in Atlanta.  Carter is expected to be the Democrat Party's nominee in the Governor's race in the November general election.

"State Senator and gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter delivered the Democrats’ official response to Gov. Nathan Deal’s State of the State address, dishing out a harsh critique of Deal’s upbeat assessment.

Carter said the state is still suffering from high levels of unemployment and poverty.

"If you’re a small business or a regular middle class family, chances are you’re feeling forgotten," said Carter.

The 38-year-old Decatur resident blasted Deal’s handling of the child welfare system as a “moral failure” and said the governor's proposed $547 million spending increase on education is an election year ploy.

“Georgia has the fourth worst graduation rate. Almost three quarters of our school districts have stopped teaching students the full 180 days per year. There’s simply less educating going in Georgia today.”

Carter said schools are in crisis. He proposed separating education from the budget process so lawmakers can’t play politics with it.

“Today, our education budget is a shell game. A separate education fund will make investment in education our state’s top priority every year, even in the hard times. Especially in the hard times,” said Carter.

He blamed Deal for a steep drop in technical college enrollment and made light of the governor's frequent references to Site Selection magazine’s endorsement of the business environment statewide.

“It’s nice to have a magazine say you’re pro-business but if you’ve decimated the technical colleges in this state the way this governor has and you’ve denied businesses the skilled, trained workers that they need, you’re hurting Georgia's businesses, not helping them,” said Carter.

He didn’t mention his famous grandfather, former President Jimmy Carter, but cited his roots as a ninth generation Georgian coming from a long line of farmers, businessmen, and Sunday School teachers."

The Georgia Republican Party issued the following statement after Senator Carter's rebuttal to Governor Deal.

"Senator Jason Carter didn't give a rebuttal today.  He merely recited the stale talking points of the Democratic Party," said Ryan Mahoney, spokesperson for the Georgia Republican Party.  "From class warfare rhetoric to fiscal doublespeak, Carter once again proved that he's nothing more than a mouthpiece for the left."


Pulling a page straight from the playbook of President Barack Obama, Sen. Carter accused Deal of catering only to the wealthy by saying, "Gov. Deal doesn't care about the middle class."


"With over 200,000 new private sector jobs created in the last three years, the unemployment rate in Georgia is the lowest in five years," said Mahoney. "Clearly, all Georgians, regardless of economic or social standing, benefit when more jobs are available in the Peach State.


"What Sen. Carter conveniently forgot to mention was his strong support for Obamacare - the single biggest job killer in America.  Despite skyrocketing premiums and thousands lof middle class families losing their insurance coverage right here in Georgia, Carter continues to support the President's healthcare initiative.  Obviously, he cares more about pleasing the Party than serving the people."


Carter went on to trash Governor Deal's leadership on education, claiming the "education budget is broken" and the Governor's proposed budget that includes enhanced funding for education is merely an "election year ploy."


"Apparently, Senator Carter's political ambition has clouded his memory," said Mahoney.  "Since taking office, Governor Deal and Republican Leadership have directed fifty cents of every dollar of new revenue to education.  By adding almost a billion dollars of new funding to education, it's clear that Republican lawmakers are serious about investing in our children's future.  That's not an "election year ploy," that's consistent conservative leadership."


At the end of the speech, the Atlanta liberal questioned Governor Deal and the Republican Leadership's conservatism stating that, "Trading in tomorrow for today is not conservative.  It's reckless."


"Given Sen. Carter's record and lineage, he's obviously no authority on conservative fiscal policy," said Mahoney.  "However, credit agencies like Moody's, S&P, and Fitch are.  Georgia is one of ten states with a AAA bond rating - a feat only accomplished through fiscal restraint and conservative budgeting.  By increasing the Rainy Day Fund by over 500% and year-over-year revenues without raising taxes, Republican lawmakers are creating a stronger Georgia that future generations will be proud to call home.


"We applaud Governor Deal and the Republican Leadership in the House and Senate for doing their part to make this state great.  Because of their hard work and the conservative initiatives they have championed under the Gold Dome, Georgia continues to grow, thrive, and succeed." 





January 15--  Here is Governor Nathan Deal's 2014 State of the State address delivered this morning at the state capitol in Atlanta.

"Lt. Governor Cagle, Speaker Ralston, President Pro Tem Shafer, Speaker Pro Tem Jones, members of the General Assembly, constitutional officers, members of the consular corps, members of the judiciary, my fellow Georgians:

In January 2011 when I addressed this body in my first State of the State address, this Capitol building and much of our state was engulfed in the worst snow and ice storm in several decades. In hindsight it was analogous to the deep freeze that had descended on the economies of the United States and Georgia, which is sometimes referred to as the Great Recession. While the economic calamity did not manifest itself overnight, as did our winter freeze, nonetheless it caught our nation as unprepared as any icy city without snow plows.

Although the sunny January days in Georgia melted the effects of our surprise storm within a week, no such relief was forthcoming for the economy. Businesses closed, buildings became vacant, and the newspapers that served as the legal organs of their counties were filled with foreclosure notices as families lost their homes. Congress applied historical amounts of financial salt and sand, known as the stimulus, on the ice laden roads of commerce, but traffic still could not move. State governments, like that in Georgia, that could not print money nor operate on unbalanced budgets, were required to reduce spending and consume their cash reserves. Even while parts of our budget were frozen or shrinking, other parts were not shrinking at all; these were the entitlements and enrollment-based programs. In Fiscal Years 2008 and 2009 Georgia dipped into its Rainy Day Fund for $1.4B. Some states that were unwilling to face the realities of the moment even raised taxes on their citizens, but not Georgia! 

I will not recount further the disastrous effects of the Great Recession on our citizens, some of which have left permanent scars. Instead, I want to tell you how the parts of our state government, working together like buddies in a war zone foxhole, have not only survived, but have reformed our operations in order to better serve our citizens. So now, let me proudly say as is normally stated on the opening lines of a State of the State address: “The State of our State is Excellent and it is a Great Day in Georgia.”

But this day did not arrive without a lot of hard work and sacrifice. So, to the members of the General Assembly, to the teachers and administrators, to the state employees, to the business owners large and small, and to the workers and families of Georgia, I say thank you!

My approach as governor has been to do in the hard times, what is almost impossible for government to do in the good times; that is, make state government programs leaner and more efficient and concentrate scarce resources on those areas that will produce the best and most long lasting results. To that end, we have eliminated certain programs and consolidated others in order to achieve greater efficiency in the use of taxpayer dollars. While fighting to hold the line on k-12 education, we have reduced the number of state employees by 12,750 from 5 years ago, which is a drop of 16.5 percent.

My basic focus has been on creating private-sector jobs for Georgians. With your help and the involvement of our business community, we have done some great things. We have implemented real tax reform, such as eliminating sales tax on energy for manufacturing; we have essentially removed the marriage tax penalty on working Georgia couples; and we have abolished the annual birthday tax on vehicles. And each of these are part of a mosaic that led Site Selection Magazine to declare Georgia to be the number one state in the nation in which to do business.

According to Tax Foundation, Georgia has the lowest tax burden on its citizens of any state in the nation. I don’t know about you but I see that as a good thing, and I will fight to keep it that way!

Now I realize that there are some who frown on our low tax policies. I feel certain that in this election year some will propose that we change our policies—and they may even have protestors to back them up. Their solutions may sound appealing on the surface, but will ultimately require us to raise taxes on all Georgians. We must resist those temptations. Just as individuals cannot borrow their way out of debt, governments cannot tax their way out of a recession. There is no such thing as free money, particularly when it comes from Washington and has costly strings attached. Washington wants to mandate to Georgia how we spend our dollars. Let me tell you, in Georgia, we know a lot more about how to balance a budget than Washington does.  And don’t be deceived by the argument that “it’s our money—the Federal Government is just giving some of it back.”  Yes, it is our money, but if the Federal Government doesn’t need it for federal purposes, they should stop taking it in the first place!

As an example, the Affordable Care Act is anything but affordable and is costing our state $327 million dollars this year. You should be aware that, even without expanding, currently Medicaid and PeachCare cost every Georgian through federal and state taxes nearly $1,000 each year. Expansion would add 620,000 people to our taxpayer funded health plan, costing us even more. Now, the executive branch in Washington is trying to do what the courts deemed unconstitutional for Congress to do, but we will not allow ourselves to be coerced into expansion. Be assured, I am prepared to fight any intrusion into our rights as a state.  

My focus on job creation is paying off. According to the federal department of labor, in the three years since I became governor, there have been approximately 217,000 new jobs added in our state, and major job announcements are almost a weekly occurrence. As a result, our state unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in 5 years!

There are many ingredients in the recipe for job growth. I have already mentioned the importance of favorable tax policies. In addition it requires adequate infrastructure so that people, as well as raw materials and finished products, can move freely within our state. This general assembly has already made changes to funding formulas so that interstate projects and freight corridors will be prioritized. In the budget I am submitting to you, I have included $35M for the deepening of the Port of Savannah. If approved, we will have $266M, which will represent Georgia’s share of this important project. I intend for us to start dredging the project this year! This was first authorized by Congress in 1999. Approximately 50 percent of the cost of this project will be devoted to environmental mitigation. In addition, the project has been approved by four separate federal agencies. We have studied and planned long enough. It’s time to start moving dirt!

Another important element of job growth is the availability of a trained and reliable workforce. We are fortunate that our workforce is ranked number one by CNBC, that our technical college system and its quick start program are regarded as the best in the country and that our colleges and universities, both public and private, provide excellent graduates. Even so, we have applied the same scrutiny to these institutions that hard times dictate.  We have asked them to examine themselves through the prism of the work readiness of their graduates.

This has resulted in priority being given to those areas of study where job placement is high. Last year we identified three areas of study in our technical colleges where jobs already existed.  Those were commercial driving, practical nursing and early childhood education. For students who pursued those areas, we have paid 100 percent of their tuition through the HOPE Grant. This year I am asking you to expand that to an additional 4 areas of training—welding, health care technology, diesel mechanics and information technology.

In order to fill the needs of a growing economy, we need more of our citizens to acquire education and skills beyond high school. To encourage this, I am asking you to create a new Zell Miller HOPE Grant for students in our technical college system. This grant will cover 100 percent of tuition for those who maintain a 3.5 grade point average.

In addition, my budget will include $10M for a 1 percent interest loan program devoted solely to students attending our technical colleges. This will allow students who have a financial need to cover the funding gap in tuition, books and fees. I am also recommending that the Hope Scholarship and the HOPE Grant be awarded at 103 percent of the amount last year.

In accordance with our trend of putting our education where our economy is, I am happy to announce the creation of the Governor’s High Demand Career Initiative. We will bring together the heads of Economic Development, the University System of Georgia, our technical colleges and schools, along with key leaders in some of our important private-sector industries. This initiative will allow us to hear directly from the employers of our state about what they expect their future needs will be, and it will give our institutions of education the chance to get ahead of the curve in preparing tomorrow’s workforce.

While these are important changes to our post high school education programs, it is equally important that our pre-k through high school programs continue to improve the quality of our students. We must work to avoid the necessity of costly remediation. If we hope for the greatest results, we must get it right the first time! This means making sure they’re reading on grade level by the end of third grade and then following through as they continue their education journey. 

Let me take this opportunity to thank my wife, the First Lady, who visited every school district in the state to read to Georgia’s children in order to emphasize the importance of their learning to read.  

Because of the progress we have made and Georgia’s existing 20-year investment in what is now recognized as one of the best Pre-K programs in the country, we have been awarded an Early Learning Challenge Grant of over $50M. This money will be used to accelerate the reforms that we implemented last year.

In the Great Recession, state revenues dropped 19 percent [FY 2007 to FY 2010], meaning I came into my term during hard times when much of the savings of low-hanging fruit had already been plucked.

Since spending on Education has always been the largest part of our state budget, representing over half of all spending, it was to be expected that it would be reduced during these hard times. However, during my administration, funding for education has increased by over $930M. That does not include capital spending for education, which represents 76% of our entire state bond package. $239M of this year’s capital investments went to the Department of Education for use on K-12 programs. Since FY 2012, nearly 50 cents of every dollar of new revenues has been dedicated to education. In the budget I am sending you for FY 2015 almost 82 percent of new revenue receipts are dedicated to education, with 68 percent of those new revenues going to k-12 alone.

Total state funding for K-12 education has increased each year I have been governor. Funding for Quality Basic Education, the outdated formula that allocates revenue to the local school districts, has increased roughly 13 percent since FY 2011.

My amended 2014 budget will also call for bringing current the Forestland Protection Act Grants to help those local governments and school systems whose ad valorem tax digests are negatively impacted by this law. The total 2014 amount is almost $40M, of which $22.6M will go to school districts and the remaining amount to municipal and county governments.

As these numbers indicate, we will spend almost $8 billion in next year’s budget on k-12 education. My proposal represents the largest single year increase in k-12 funding in 7 years. That’s an addition of $547M, an increase of over half a billion dollars in one year for our local school systems! It will enable us, in partnership with local school districts to restore instructional days, eliminate teacher furloughs and increase teacher salaries. These funds will provide our local school systems with the resources and flexibility to address the most critical needs of their students and teachers.

As we search for more effective ways to deliver quality education to our students, I have included $44.8M in the budgets to better connect every classroom in Georgia, including those in rural areas, to the internet and digital resources students need to thrive. This is part of the recommendations of the Digital Learning Task Force. It is also compatible with the Innovation in Teaching competition I initiated last year, whereby Georgia Public Broadcasting is videotaping some of the best teachers in our state and making them available to other schools. It is my goal that every child in any classroom in our state will have access to the best instruction possible, and this can be done by expanding the availability of our on-line learning.

Over the past two years, we have found ways to reduce the need to build new prison beds, whereby we will save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and keep Georgians safer—in 2012 with our Criminal Justice Reform and again in 2013 with our Juvenile Justice Reform, both of which passed unanimously in this General Assembly! 

These reforms gave us a blueprint on how to use rehabilitation to reduce recidivism. Already we have seen relief for taxpayer dollars by dropping jail backlogs by nearly 90% of what they were when I came into office.

The novelist Victor Hugo said that if you open a school door, you close a prison. Perhaps this is true considering 7 out of every 10 Department of Corrections inmates do not even hold a high school diploma or GED. That means we have 38,000 Georgians who walked out of our school doors and into our prisons. That must stop. This is why improving our high school graduation rate is so important.  High school dropouts with no marketable skills become the feedstock for our prisons. 

While individuals are in our system, we must do a better job of raising their education and skills to an adequate level so that when they are released they will be better prepared to meet our workforce needs, rather than reenter the revolving door of the past.

This year, we intend to roll out our third leg of our criminal justice reforms, the one that will sustain our previous efforts.  If an offender has been equipped to enter the workforce upon release, that person will stand a greater chance of avoiding relapse.  If our reentry and reform efforts reduce our recidivism rate by 25 percent, we would see around 1,400 fewer crimes each year, with at least 1,100 fewer victims!  This is a goal we should be able to achieve or exceed.

These Criminal Justice reforms will allow non-violent offenders to break their addictions, reclaim their lives and keep taxpayers from spending $18,000 per inmate for each year they are in prison. These reforms will also increase the safety of our society.

Over the past three years, at my direction and in accordance with the legislation subsequently passed by the General Assembly, we have reviewed 40 percent of all budgetary programs through a Zero-Based Budgeting analysis. As a result, we have consolidated programs and agencies where duplication existed and eliminated others. My budget this year will continue this pattern.

When I took office, we had a depleted emergency fund.  Now, with your help, we have grown our Rainy Day Fund by 518 percent.

When I took office, Georgia had a AAA bond rating from all three major agencies. With your help, we are one of only ten states that still maintain that advantage, a rating that even the federal government doesn’t have.

When I took office, we still had revenue numbers that made across-the-board budget cuts a necessity. Now, with your help, we have grown our year-over-year revenues for each quarter that I have been governor without raising taxes!

While it is appropriate to celebrate these accomplishments, their true significance is that they are part of the plan to create more jobs for our citizens. It is my firm belief that if people have good jobs they can provide for themselves and their families and will have less need to ask government to do things for them. Achieving that goal has been my primary focus.

Well today, more Georgians have jobs than at any other time since October 2008. We are getting people in our state back to work at a faster rate than the national average. For those 217,000 or so Georgians who now have jobs, they know what the sting of the frozen economy feels like. They lived through it. But for them, the freeze has ended.

This is what we’ve done in three years … imagine what we will do in the next five.

And since Georgia has now been recognized as the No. 1 state in the nation in which to do business, we can rightfully expect many more jobs to come our way.

Yes, we began this journey three years ago in the midst of an ice storm and a recession. With your help on a bi-partisan basis, we have turned what might have otherwise been a long cold “Winter of Despair” into a time of preparation. And now our efforts are being rewarded. The early rays of recovery are cresting the skyline. I believe the warm sunshine of prosperity is once again shining on Georgia. May God continue to bless us all!"




January 15--  The Vidalia school board is discussing construction options at Vidalia High School.

At its January meeting Tuesday night, architect Mike Parker briefed the board on the possibilities regarding the 40-year-old building.  Any decisions could take up to three years to implement and he said it's important to begin the discussion now.

He advised the board to, "have a vision and start doing the research to make sure that vision is headed in the right direction so we can maximize every dollar."

If the board decides to take action, Parker says it can choose to renovate, modernize or build a new school.  Each option earns the school system a different amount of state funding and impacts the amount of local dollars required for the project.

Parker estimates modernization of the current building would cost up to $18 million and a new building could be as much as $30 million.

"In round numbers the renovation may get $10 to $12 dollars a square foot in state money.  If they approve modernization, you get between $50 and $60 dollars a square foot.  New construction is about $85 dollars a square foot.

"Each process is a different amount, but you also have to look at what local dollars you have to contribute.

"We want to start now working with the state to make sure we do the right form of funding so we maximize the local dollar and stretch it as far as possible," he said.

Parker said a logical location for a new building would be on the site of the old Oxford Plant which is school system property adjacent to the high school.

Meanwhile, the board is also considering a $1.5 million project thus summer at J.R.Trippe Middle School including replacing portions of the heating and air system and the roof plus some interior finishing work. 

January 15---Command Sergeant Major William T. Mixon (U.S Army Ret.) was born in Vidalia, Georgia on January 15, 1929. He died January 11, 2014 in West Palm Beach Florida at the Veterans Administration Hospital.  

CSM Mixon entered the Army in 1948 and completed 35 years of service in the Army retiring at Fort Bragg, North Carolina as the Command Sergeant Major of XVIII Airborne Corps. During his 35 year career he held numerous positions of increasing responsibility including Sergeant Major of the U.S. Army Ranger Department, Command Sergeant Major U.S. Army Infantry Center, Command Sergeant Major 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam and Command Sergeant Major U.S. Army Alaska.

He served 31 years on parachute status completing more than 1500 military static line parachute jumps.  Command Sergeant Major Mixon served in combat during the Korean War with the 3d Infantry Division where he participated in the Inchon Landing and fought in the Chosen Reservoir Operations. He served a total of 18 months in combat during the Korean War. He also served two one year tours during the Vietnam War with the 101st Airborne Division including service as the 101st Airborne Division Command Sergeant Major from 1969-1970.

 He participated in numerous operations such as Operation Hawthorne, Junction City, and other combat operations including a parachute drop at Kontoon, Vietnam. During the Cuban missile crisis, he was stationed in the Panama Canal Zone where his unit was poised for contingency airborne operations associated with that historic period of American history. 

After his retirement from active duty in 1983, he worked for Mutual of New York Life Insurance Company in Fayetteville, North Carolina and managed his own business. He was chosen by President Reagan to serve on the National Veterans Cemetery Board. 

He also served on the advisory board of the Association of the United States Army, Braxton Bragg Chapter, and the Counsel of Trustees Association of the United States Army, Washington D.C. He was a member of the Masonic Blue Lodge with a 3d degree and 50 years of service. He also was a member of the Scottish Rite with a 32d degree. CSM Mixon was recognized as a premier sports official and was a member North Carolina Athletic Association.  His awards and honors include Legion of Merit (2 awards), Bronze Star, Air Medal (44 awards and 1 with V device), Korean War and Vietnam War Service Medals and Combat Infantryman Badge with star. He earned the Master Parachutist Badge, Ranger Tab, and Expert Infantryman Badge.

He is a member of the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame, Ranger Training Brigade Hall of Fame, 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division Hall of Fame and the U.S. Infantry Center Dough Boy Award. He was honored with the Association of the United States Army William G. Bainbridge Award and the Presidential Medal for his service to the Association.  

CSM Mixon is survived by his wife of 63 years, Mary Winefred Mixon. He has three children LTG (Ret) Benjamin R. Mixon, Sarah Jane Forsythe and Betty Jean Davidson. He has six grandchildren, Michael, Ashlee, Kortney, Adrienne, Amanda and Charles. He has four great grandchildren Mary Charlotte, Frederick, Eliza, and James. He is survived by his sister, Mamie Turner.

CSM Mixon was preceded by his mother and father Tracy and Cora, brothers Grady, Lamar, John and sister Josephine Rogers. 

The funeral Service will be held in the chapel of Ronald V. Hall Funeral Home at 310 North Street West, Vidalia, Georgia beginning at 3 PM January 18, 2014.  Burial will follow in Lakeview Memorial Gardens with Military Honors.

The family will receive friends at the funeral home beginning at 1 PM on Saturday.

In lieu flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association or the National Kidney Foundation.

Ronald V. Hall Funeral Home of Vidalia is in charge of arrangements.

January 14--  The old saying, "Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees," is the gist of a program called "Young Gamechangers" in Georgia.

The group of under-40 professionals has kicked off a six-month program to help the City of Dublin and Laurens County "re-vision" their community.  

{mosimage}Members of the group are from all over Georgia and includes Ingrid Varn, Executive Director of the Vidalia Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"You've got this group of 35 people from all over the state and from different professions and for free they come in and tell you how you can make your city better," she says.

Last year the initial class of Young Gamechangers focused on Americus and Sumter County.

Kris Hattaway with the Newtown Macon program was part of that class and says she loved it.

"I got to go to Americus and Sumter County which is a different lifestyle and economy from what I'm used to and that gave me a new perspective.  I also had the chance to meet and work with other young leaders from around the state.

"They've already implemented some of the recommendations we made so its about giving back to the community and it's also been a personal help because of the relationships we made while working together, Hattaway said.

This year Hattaway is helping guide the Young Gamechangers efforts in Dublin under the auspices of an organzation called Georgia Forward.

"The whole purpose of Georgia Forward is to be an independent, non-partisan organization that brings the state together as a whole," she noted.

Meanwhile, Ingrid Varn hopes Vidalia can host the program in the future or at least learn from what she observes in Dublin.

"I knew that me being in the program would help me get my foot in the door to possibly bring it to Vidalia and also just to learn," she said.

The group held its orientation session earlier this month in Dublin and plans to come up with recommendations in the next few months to present to leaders in Dublin and Laurens County this summer.

January 13--  House Bill 310 passed the Georgia State Senate by substitute today by a vote of 38 to 15. The bill substitute would revise the schedule of state and local candidate elections to correspond with federal candidate elections dates, and was carried by Sen. Butch Miller (R – Gainesville). Sen. Miller also serves as chairman of the Senate Majority Caucus.

“Keeping two separate election calendars is not only impractical – it’s impossible,” said Sen. Miller. “The State of Georgia doesn’t have the personnel or technology needed to even consider pursuing such an option. By changing state and local candidate election dates to match those of federal candidate elections, we will be able to create a more efficient process that conserves state resources and taxpayer dollars.”

The State of Georgia is now required to have at least 45 days of absentee balloting before the date of a runoff or primary election where a federal candidate is on the ballot, which has shifted the dates of federal candidate elections away from the traditional election calendar. The substitute to HB 310 sets the following schedule for local, state and federal candidate elections in 2014:

·       General Primary Qualifying Period: Begins at 9:00 a.m. on Monday of the 11th week prior to the General Primary and ends at 12:00 Noon on the Friday immediately following (March 3 – 7, 2014)

·       General Primary Election: Held on the 24th week preceding the November General Election (May 20, 2014)

·       General Primary Runoff: Held on the Tuesday of the 9th week following the General Primary (July 22, 2014)

·       General Election: Held on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November (November 4, 2014)

·       General Election Runoff: Held on the Tuesday of the 9th week following the General Election (January 6, 2015)

HB 310 now travels back to the House of Representatives for consideration.

January 13--  The city of Vidalia thought it could build an amphitheater complex downtown for about $500,000.  However, it had to make some design changes when the cost ballooned to more than $1 million.

At Monday night's city council meeting, the council authorized the city to spend up to $750,000 for a 30 x 40 foot covered stage, paved parking and landscaping on the site formerly occupied by the Vidalia Police Department.  The goal is to have it ready for the 2014 Vidalia Onion Festival in April.

The council approved a resolution in cooperation with Toombs County, Lyons and Santa Claus asking voters to approve a new one penny special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) in the May 20th primary election.

The current tax expires this year and voter approval is needed for another five-year levy starting in 2015.

The council also voted to add another $97,000 to the Adams Street renovation project to allow for the replacement of 25 sewer connections.

It also agreed to ask the state for a $500,000 grant to help with drainage in the Bay Street area.


Toombs County Probate Judge Larry Threlkeld (left) delivered the oath of office to three incumbents re-elected without opposition in November.  Eddie Tyson is starting his fifth term as 2nd Ward councilman, Mayor Ronnie Dixon is beginning his sixth term, 1st Ward councilman Cecil Thompson is starting his fourth term and Reid Threlkeld has been city attorney for 36 years.

Vidalia Fire Chief Buddy Coleman is retiring after 39 years with the fire department.  Bryan Sikes is the acting Chief until Coleman's successor it named.

The council made appointments for 2014 including Lloyd Mobley and Sam Polk to the Vidalia Development Authority, Ray Blount to the Vidalia Housing Authority, Brian McDaniel to the city Planning and Zoning Commission, Chris Black to the Vidalia Recreation Board, Les Ramsey to the Revolving Loan Committee and John Tyson and Andrew McIntyre to the Development Authority of Vidalia.

Doug Roper, Sr. and city manager Bill Torrance were named to a Recreation Advisory Committee being formed to examine delivery of recreation services in cooperation with Toombs County and the City of Lyons.


January 13--  Montgomery County will keep its ambulance service with Toombs EMS in 2014.

After putting the service out for bids, the county commission accepted a bid of $186,000 from Toombs County at its Monday night meeting.  A bid from Choice Care in Treutlen County was submitted after the deadline and was not considered.

County manager Brandon Braddy estimates the new contract will save the county about $36,000 this year.

The Commission also approved a general fund budget of $3.7 million in 2014, about $300,000 more than 2013.  Braddy says the increase is due primarily to the activation of the county's own E-911 service and the addition of two employees to the county road department. 

January 13--  The Georgia General Assembly convenes today in Atlanta.

Walter Morris reports in The Athens Banner-Herald on some issues lawmakers may consider before returning home to run for re-election in the May primary elections.

"Raises for state workers and teachers, a scholarship and loan for technical-college students, and assistance for felons reentering society are among the few new initiatives expected in this year’s legislative session.

The new ideas may be few, but the fights over old issues probably won’t be. Among the battles will be the Common Core curriculum, the minimum wage, expanding Medicaid, limiting medical-malpractice claims and guns on college campuses.

“Many people have said this session will be fast and furious, but I don’t use that characterization because furious implies anger,” said Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome. “I say it will be fast and focused.”

Legislators nearly always promise a quick session, but there is a good reason to believe them this year. A federal judge has ordered an earlier primary, prompting lawmakers to maximize the time left after adjournment when they can campaign and raise funds.

“We have been asked by everybody, ‘What’s going to be happening during the session?’” said Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus. “The answer is not a whole lot.”

Here are some of the major topics expected to come up during the 40 days the constitution allows the General Assembly to meet each year:


Tax collections have steadily improved since the last recession, but they still haven’t returned to the pre-recession level even though the number of students and people getting state services never stopped growing. Gov. Nathan Deal is waiting until his speech State of the State speech Wednesday to reveal most details about his spending recommendations, but House Speaker David Ralston told reporters he is looking for state workers and teachers to get their first pay raise in years. Deal did say he will fund 525 additional child-protection social workers.


One of the few tidbits Deal has released is his commitment to complete the state’s share of deepening the shipping channel in the Savannah River, even as he awaits federal funding. Deal said his budget will include the final installment of $35 million. Since the current budget includes a $50 million installment, that frees up $15 million for other uses.


The only other budget detail Deal has let slip is his decision to put nearly $14 million toward low-interest loans and a scholarship for books and supplies for technical college students. He will also propose a 3-percent increase in the HOPE Scholarship to four-year colleges.


A task force of judges, prosecutors, government officials and advocates meeting at Deal’s request recommended a series of policy changes designed to help felons move from prison to productive employment and law-abiding society. The recommendations call for job training, help finding employment and individual plans for each prisoner’s reentry into society.

“Helping rehabilitated offenders transition back into society will reduce recidivism, save taxpayer dollars and keep Georgians safe,” Deal said.


A separate study by a state Senate committee is recommending restrictions on criminal records, such as mug shots and booking information. The goal is to make it easier for felons to find a job. Among the suggestions are prohibiting employers from asking job applicants certain questions about arrests.


A controversial proposal held over from last year would restrict how sheriffs and local police seize cars, cash and other valuables suspected in drug sales and other crimes. Sheriffs and prosecutors opposed it then, but have agreed to compromise this year.


Legislation by Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, would end the state’s three-year participation in the multistate education standards developed largely under the leadership of then-Gov. Sonny Perdue. Conservatives see it as giving up state control and also object to its recommendations about math and some literary books.


Removing restrictions on college students from exercising their Second Amendment right to have concealed weapons on campus is another controversial bill held over from last year. Versions passed the House and Senate, but agreement fell apart in the final moments of the session. Ralston said its passage is his priority.


Democrats have announced they will join their party’s national push to boost the minimum wage. Their bill would raise the lowest hourly wage from $5.15 gradually to $9.80.


Despite repeated statements by Deal and other Republicans that the state can’t afford it, Democrats will continue pushing for Georgia to accept federal funds to expand eligibility in Medicaid, the insurance program for the poor. Since last session, hospital trade groups in the state have come out for expansion, pointing to the closure of multiple rural hospitals as a reason.


Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, pre-filed a bill to prohibit all state and local governments from taking any steps to implement the Affordable Care Act, including assisting people trying to sign up for insurance through exchanges.

“We’re going to take a look at it in Georgia. There’s a fair amount of interest in the bill,” said Ralston, who acknowledged that he had not read the bill yet. “I think it’s a fair subject for discussion.”


The Senate Health Committee held hearings throughout the summer and fall on Senate Bill 141 which would replace medical-malpractice lawsuits with a system similar to worker’s compensation where claims are reviewed by a panel of appointees rather than a court. Advocates say it would reduce claims for malpractice, which would result in lower medical costs. Groups for lawyers and doctors oppose the bill, and state leaders say it’s too complicated to pass this year. Still, advocates will continue pushing it.


Legislators in the House and Senate are sponsoring proposals for different ways to end the income tax. Deal has said the timing isn’t right, but conservatives are insistent it would stimulate the economy.


Introduced the final week of last year’s session, a bipartisan bill would end Georgia Power Co.’s monopoly and allow other companies to generate electricity from the sun and sell it.


January 13--  Congressman John Barrow's voting record on Obamacare may be his downfall in this year's 12th District congressional race.

{mosimage}Augusta businessman Rick Allen is seeking the Republican nomination to face Barrow in November.

During a visit to Vidalia, Allen said it's not a good time to be an incumbent and he plans to let voters know how many times Congressman Barrow voted to keep Obamacare.

"Obamacare is affecting a lot of people.  John Barrow says he's for pre-existing conditions and he's for young people being able to get insurance, but he's against the mandates.  Guess what?  You can pay for it without the mandates so it has to be defunded.  John Barrow has voted against defunding it 27 times and we're going to get that message out," Allen said.

Allen lost to Lee Anderson in the last congressional primary and will face former Capitol Hill staffer John Stone in the May primary. 

"I have four children, five grandchildren and two on the way.  We could be the first generation to leave this country in worse shape than our parents left it to us.  

"That is something I'm not real proud of and I've got to go try and do something about it.  I want to serve my country and I think the business community and the working person needs to get involved.  This is not what I had planned at the stage of my life, but I feel something has got be done and we've got to step up.  We can't go out this way," Allen said.

Allen said his goal at the end of 2013 was to have campaign contributions of $400,000.  He says he's raised about $373,000 so far and is hoping to raise more as the popularity of incumbents continue to drop.

"There's a great anti-incumbent sentiment out there right now.  It's kind of like throw them all out.  I'm not an incumbent, I'm a businessman and I think our government needs some business principles so we can get this spending under control," he said.

January 12-- Gov. Nathan Deal announced today that Georgia’s net tax collections for the month of December totaled $1.75 billion for an increase of $64 million, or 3.8 percent, compared to the month-ended December 2012. Year-to-date, net tax revenue collections totaled $9.09 billion for an increase of $442 million, or 5.1 percent, compared to the same point last year.

Changes within the following major tax categories explain the net tax revenue increase in December:

Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections for December totaled $958 million — up from nearly $945.25 million in December 2012, for an increase of roughly $12.75 million, or 1.4 percent.

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

•      Individual Withholding payments for December were up $21 million, or 2.5 percent

•      Individual Income Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) were down $9.5 million, or -31 percent

•      Individual Estimated Tax payments were down $20.25 million, or -18.9 percent, from FY 2013

•      All other Individual Tax categories including Return payments were up a combined $2.5 million

Sales and Use Tax: Gross Sales Tax collections declined $32 million, or -3.9 percent, on account of legislation implementing a one-time Title Tax, while net Sales & Use Tax collections for December decreased nearly $26.5 million, or -6 percent — down from $440.75 million in December 2012. Lastly, the adjusted monthly distribution to local governments totaled $372.25 million, a decrease of $0.5 million compared to FY 2013.

Corporate Income Tax: Corporate Income Tax collections for December increased nearly $18 million, or 13.2 percent, compared to FY 2013, when Corporate Tax revenues and refunds combined for a total of $135.5 million.

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

•      Corporate Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) were up nearly $0.75 million, or 2.6 percent

•      Corporate Estimated Tax payments for December increased $15 million, or 10.3 percent

•      Corporate Income Tax Return payments were up $5.5 million, or 51.5 percent

•      All other Corporate Tax categories, including S-Corp and Net Worth payments, decreased by $1.9 million  

Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Fees: December fee collections totaled more than $88.5 million, which was nearly $65.5 million higher than the previous year before the implementation of HB 266 (see below).

*Tax Reform Impacts*:  HB 386 and HB 266 had significant impacts on Georgia’s tax structure that influence current month and year-to-date revenue collections across multiple tax collection categories. The increase in Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Fees is the result of the March 1, 2013, implementation of the title ad valorem tax (TAVT). Sales Tax collections have been impacted by the elimination of the auto sales tax, reduction in the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing, implementation of the Georgia Agricultural Tax Exemption program and reinstatement of the sales tax holidays. Individual Income Tax has been impacted by the marriage penalty reduction effective Jan. 1, 2013.


January 10--  Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits reports the following arrests.

Simpson, Donald-B/M 54 YOA-211 Crooms St. Vidalia-Possession of an Altered Firearm


Simpson, Donald Jr.-B/M 29 YOA-211 Wiggins St. Vidalia-Possession of Marijuana/Possession of Firearm During Commission of A Crime/Possession of Controlled Substance

Cooper, Evelyn- B/F- 57 YOA- 213 Oak  St. Vidalia, GA –Theft by Shoplifting (Warrants)



January 10--  Two area lawmakers agree the 2014 session of the Georgia General Assembly which convenes Monday should be shorter than usual because primary elections in the state have been moved up to the month of May.

{mosimage}(L-R) Senator Williams, Gary Sanchez with AT&T and Representative Morris.  AT&T hosted the event Thursday morning at the STC Economic Development Center in Vidalia.

Senator Tommie Williams of Lyons and Representative Greg Morris of Vidalia told the annual Chamber of Commerce pre-legislative breakfast the state budget will be the focus of attention.

However, Morris has a couple of individual priorities.  He wants the legislature to approve placement of a monument at the capitol containing the Ten Commandments and the preambles of the national and state constitutions.

He also wants a law devised that will pass muster in federal court requiring drug tests for those who receive welfare.

"Working men and women are required to take a drug test to work.  It boggles the mind that folks who are asking for public tax dollars would not be required to take a drug test like working men and women in this state.  We are going to keep fighting until we win," Morris said.

Senator Williams says one of his goals is to look for ways to make it easier for people to start businesses in the state.  He said that might include breaks on employer payments of unemployment and workmen's compensation insurance and discouraging monopolistic practices by large companies.

The Senator also praised Governor Nathan Deal for denying federal attempts to increase the Medicaid rolls in the state.

"The federal government is telling us you need to add 600,000 to 700,000 more people to the roll and we'll pay for it.  We know that in future years they're not going to hold that line and we'll be in worse shape than we are now.

"There are those on the left who want the federal government to be the nanny for everybody.  It's a terrible policy that promotes sloughfulness.  We need to promote responsibility," Williams says.

Both Senator Williams and Representative Morris have been in office since 1998.  Williams has no declared opposition in this year's election while Morris is being challenged in the Republican primary by former Navy Seal Lee Burton of Vidalia.

January 9---Shirley Jean Gassett Copeland, 72, of Lyons, died Wednesday, December 25, 2013 in Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah after a sudden illness.  She was born September 2, 1941 in Waycross to the late Clarice Sharpe Gassett and Edward "Mutt" Gassett and was a 1959 graduate of Waycross High School. She married Thomas Martin "Bigun" Copeland on June 10, 1960 in Waycross and has lived in Toombs County since 1969.  She enjoyed working in her yard, loved flowers, fishing and camping, and her great-grandchildren.  She was preceded in death by her parents, her stepfather Dewey Byrd, and her brother Edward Gassett, Jr.  

She is survived by her husband of fifty-three years, Thomas Copeland of Lyons; two sons, Darrell Copeland and wife Monette and Dennis "Charlie" Copeland of Lyons; one granddaughter, Ashley Mock and husband Ronnie of Mt. Vernon; two great-grandchildren, Aryana and Zayne of Mt. Vernon; two sisters, June Wilson and husband Frankie of Tifton and Dorothy Brensinger and husband Larry of Holly Hill, Florida; one brother, Herbie Gassett and wife Phyllis of Winter Haven, Florida and several nieces, nephews, cousins, friends.

A Memorial service will be held on Saturday, January 11, 2014, at 11:00 a.m. in the chapel of Ronald V. Hall Funeral Home.  

The family will receive friends at the funeral home one hour prior to the service.    

Ronald V. Hall Funeral Home of Vidalia is in charge of arrangements.

January 9-– Live-streamed video of Georgia’s best-known bald eagles can now also be seen on the website of Georgia’s best-known wildlife agency.

In a partnership between the Department of Natural Resources and Berry College, the DNR Wildlife Resources Division is streaming video provided by the northwest Georgia college of two bald eagles nesting near Berry’s athletic and recreation center.

The public can follow the pair 24/7 at, as well as on Berry College’s website ( Berry staff and eagle watchers also track the birds on Facebook at

The nest, first documented in 2012, has been a hit since Berry began streaming it during winter 2013. Two eaglets took their first flights from the nest that spring, a fledging celebrated by fans. This year, the school added a camera that provides a high-definition view into the nest built high in a pine tree.

DNR Nongame Conservation Section Program Manager Jim Ozier, head of bald eagle monitoring in Georgia, said the agency had been looking for an opportunity to live-stream an eagle nest. Berry’s cams answer that need, providing an entertaining and educational look at these iconic raptors.

“It allows people an up-close look at nest maintenance and parental behavior – activities normally seen only from afar, if at all,” Ozier said.

Jeanne Mathews, assistant vice president of Public Relations and Marketing at Berry, said the school “very much appreciates the assistance of Sony, Georgia Power and Fluid Mesh Networks for helping us make this opportunity possible.”

“We hope our viewers will enjoy this unique and exciting chance to watch bald eagles 24 hours a day.”

Egg watch 2014 is on as viewers wait for the pair’s first egg. Ozier said laying can stretch into January, though eagles do not produce eggs every year.

Once common in Georgia, bald eagles declined during the mid-20th century. By the early 1970s, there were no known nests in the state.

But, populations rebounded here and elsewhere, helped by a 1972 U.S. ban on use of the insecticide DDT, habitat improvements through federal Clean Water and Clean Air acts, protection under the Endangered Species Act, greater public awareness, and restoration of local populations through release programs. While still protected by federal and state law, bald eagles were taken off the federal threatened and endangered species list in 2007.

Last year, the Nongame Conservation Section documented 171 occupied nesting territories in Georgia. Of these, 129 were successful, fledging 193 eaglets. For comparison, there were 55 known nesting territories in 2000, nine in 1990 and one in 1980. 

January 8--  An employee at Southeastern Technical College has been dismissed after admitting she stole money from the school's adult education program.

According to STC President Dr. Cathy Mitchell, as much as $50,000 may have been diverted over a period of years.  The exact amount won't be known until an investigation by the Vidalia Police Department is completed.  The name of the employee is being withheld pending charges in the case.

The school says the shortage came to light during a financial review of the Southeastern Certified Literate Community Program which is a separate entity from the college.  It operates the area GED program from the Adult Literacy Center on Brinson Road in Vidalia.

January 8--  Accused bank embezzler Lee Price is being held without bond after his arraignment this morning in U.S. District Court in Statesboro.

{mosimage}U.S. Attorney spokesman Jim Durham says Price entered a not guilty plea before U.S. Magistrate G.R. Smith.  He noted not guilty pleas are standard in arraignments conducted by federal magistrates since they are not authorized to accept guilty pleas in felony cases.

Durham says Price and his lawyer will decide if Price wants to proceed to trial.

He's under federal indictment in Georgia for defrauding Montgomery Bank and Trust in Ailey and Vidalia of $21 million.  He's also been indicted by a federal grand jury in New York on similar charges.

Price had been missing since 2012 when he wrote a 22-page confession detailing his financial dealings and promising to kill himself.

He was arrested during a routine traffic stop New Year's eve in Glynn County.

January 8--  The Athens Banner-Herald reports that a state Senate Committee recommends access to an individual's criminal record be limited.

"A Georgia Senate committee is recommending the state make it easier for ex-convicts to erase their criminal records and to block landlords, employers and the press from accessing arrest information.

The report was released Tuesday by the special committee studying the issue, made up of Sens. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus; Hardie Davis, D-Augusta; Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro; Butch Miller, R-Gainesville; and Ronald Ramsey, D-Decatur.

The recommendations include prohibiting companies from asking job candidates about convictions that have been legally wiped away and ending the release of mug shots and booking information.

The committee’s report notes that having a criminal record makes getting jobs and housing difficult.

“Ex-offenders who do not secure stable employment are much more likely to recidivate (go back to prison) than their counterparts who find work,” the report states.

Although the committee held four hearings and heard testimony from members of the legal and law-enforcement professions as well as government agencies, two groups it didn’t hear from disagree with some recommendations, employers and the media.

“Employers should be able to ask questions about convictions,” said Sarah Lamar, a member of the Society of Human Resource Managers and an attorney with the Savannah firm HunterMaclean. “... They should be able to use their legitimate business decisions about who gets hired.”

And David Hudson, attorney for the Georgia Press Association, warned withholding release of arrest information is bad policy.

“Of course we have other protections in this country, but the general notion of not allowing the public to know who is arrested, for what, and their identities through photographs would remove great safeguards for individual citizens, and for effective oversight on how police authorities and jailers perform their duties,” he said.

While Stone signed off on the report along with the other committee members, he added comments suggesting the state go slow about making big changes.

“We should work with incremental changes to the system and continue to monitor the results so that policy changes are evidence-based,” he wrote."

January 8-  The Lyons City Council held its first regular meeting of the New Year Tuesday night.

{mosimage} Lyons City Attorney Bruce Durden delivers the oath of office to (L-R) Ben Mitchell, Wayne Hartley and Charles Nobles.

The first order of business was to give the oath of office to re-elected incumbents Ben Mitchell and Wayne Hartley and to newly elected councilman Charles "Spec" Nobles.

"I would like to clean the city up.  We've got some areas in town which need cleaning up bad and that's my first project," Nobles said and he promised to be an active member of council.

"I'm a four-year man and I don't want to hurt your feelings, but it doesn't bother me if I hurt your feelings because I don't want to get elected again," he said.

The council gave the Lyons Merchants Association until January 15th to decide if it wants to continue sponsoring the Southeast Georgia Soap Box Derby.  If not, the council has indicated it will pay the annual registration fee of $1,450 which was due for payment December 30 to the national Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio.

Mayor Willis NeSmith reports Soap Box Director Michael Williamson resigned his position due to conflicts with the Lyons Merchants Association and noted the LMA needs a new derby director if its wants to continue sponsorship.

LMA member Roy Stewart says the organzation has not received a bill for the annual license fee and will decide at a meeting Tuesday night how to proceed.

The councl appointed Kevin Hill of Lyons and Lyons City Manager Jason Hall to represent it on a recreation advisory committee being formed in cooperation with the city of Vidalia and Toombs County.

It also voted to change the city's water tower maintenence contract to a Tuscaloosa, Alabama firm at a savings of about $4,000 per year.  Pro Tank will maintain the city's three water tanks for $29,450 annually versus the $33,501 currently charged by Utilities Servicies.

January 7--  Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits reports the following arrests.

Cook, Keyanna Raqueal- B/F- 26 YOA- 35 Bazter Durrence Home Apt. 35 Glennville, GA- Theft by Shoplifting (MISD) 1st Offense (Citation)

Moye, Amos- B/M- 45 YOA- Rt. 1 Box 18 Ailey, GA- Warrant Served (Montgomery Co. S.O.)

Russo, Ashley Marie Ann- W/F- 21 YOA-  793 Ansley Ander Ave. Collins, GA –Theft by Shoplifting (misd.) 1st Offense (Citation)

Russo, Carla Marie-W/F- 39 YOA- 793 Ansley Ander Ave. Collins, GA- Theft by Shoplifting (misd.) 1st Offense (Citation) 


Jackson, Loquacious Marice-B/M 29 YOA-210 Dexter St. Vidalia-Simple Battery (FVA)

Waller, Robert – B/M 19 YOA/ 604 NE Main St. Vidalia/ Warrant Served (Parole Warrant)

Kilgore, Gretta Denise – W/F 32 YOA/ 606 W Hwy 292 B6 Vidalia/ Theft by Shoplifting 2nd Offense

Mathis, Desirea Lane-W/F 22 YOA-7 Sawmill Ln Scotland, GA-Warrant Served (Vidalia Bench Warrant

McCullough, Nathaniel Robert- W/M- 26 YOA- 12 Mashburn St. Hawkinsville, GA- 2nd Driving While License Suspended or Revoked




January 7--  The Montgomery County Commission maintained the status quo in a called meeting to organize for the new year.

The commissioners re-elected Vernon Sumner to serve as chairman, Frank Brantley as vice-chairman and John Carpenter as Deed Commissioner.

Vidalia attorney Macky Bryant was reappointed as county attorney.