charlesandrewFebruary 27--  A man who has provided legal counsel to Meadows Regional Medical Center for the past 40 years was honored by its governing boards Monday night.

Vidalia attorney Charles Andrew (L) was presented a proclamation in his honor by Meadows CEO Alan Kent.

Resolution of Meadows Regional Medical Center, Inc. 

            WHEREAS, Meadows Healthcare Alliance, Meadows Regional Medical Center, and as agent for the Toombs County Hospital Authority as well as all citizens of Toombs County, Georgia, recognize the great contributions towards the betterment of our community made by CHARLES H. ANDREW, JR.; and

            WHEREAS, CHARLES H. ANDREW, JR., has provided exemplary guidance, leadership and service as legal counsel to the management and the Board of Trustees of Meadows Healthcare Alliance, Meadows Regional Medical Center, and the Toombs County Hospital Authority as well as numerous Hospital Advisory and Working Committees; and

            WHEREAS, CHARLES H. ANDREW, JR., has devoted over 40 years of services to the growth, development, and success of Meadows Regional Medical Center and the medical community served by Meadows Regional Medical Center, and with every counsel and recommendation made to Meadows was a moral compass pointing to the highest legal and ethical standards; and

WHEREAS, CHARLES H. ANDREW, JR., has provided clear dedication to this community by his unselfish and courageous leadership.

NOW THEREFORE, we hereby express our appreciation to CHARLES H. ANDREW, JR., on behalf of all citizens of our community, Meadows Healthcare Alliance, Meadows Regional Medical Center, and as agent for the Toombs County Hospital Authority.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this Resolution be framed and presented to CHARLES H. ANDREW, JR., as a symbol of the appreciation of all the people of Toombs County, Georgia, for his outstanding record of service to this community and spread upon the minutes of this Organization.

This the 28th day of February, 2017.

                                                MEADOWS HEALTHCARE ALLIANCE, INC. and

                                                MEADOWS REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, INC. and

                                                THE TOOMBS COUNTY HOSPITAL AUTHORITY

Andrew is retiring the end of the year and is being succeeded by Macon attorney J.C. Daniel who has done legal work for the medical center for the last ten years.  Daniel is moving to Vidalia and will serve as in-house counsel for Meadows Health.

                                                           

February 27--  The Georgia Supreme Court has upheld a Court of Appeals decision which saves Montgomery County property owners more than $1.1 million in taxes.

In an unanimous decision, the court denied a motion by Montgomery County Clerk of Court Keith Hamilton that it consider a ruling by the Georgia Court of Appeals last June which reversed a ruling by Superior Court Robert Reeves.

A class action suit initiated by Hamilton in December, 2013 sought a refund of Insurance Premium Tax proceeds which he claimed were used unlawfully to pay for five "convenience centers" in unincorporated parts of the county from 2007 through 2012.

The Appeals Court ruled against his contention that state law required the funds be used only for curbside or on-site collection of garbage.

“This is really good news for Montgomery County and all counties in Georgia,” says Montgomery County Commission Chairman Leland Adams.  “The Georgia Supreme Court’s decision to deny the Writ of Certiorari, as petitioned by the Plaintiff, means that all counties in Georgia using Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) proceeds to fund the disposal of solid waste for the primary benefit of the unincorporated areas is authorized and lawful regardless of the method in collecting the waste.  I appreciate our County Attorney, Howard Kaufold, and his team, for leading this effort and achieving this outcome.  Also, I appreciate County Manager Brandon Braddy for his efforts in working with auditors and attorneys in providing information and reports to defend this lawsuit while operating the County.”

There's still one legal hurdle to overcome.  The Appeals Court decision was predicated on the county proving the convenience centers are for the primary benefit of citizens in the unincorporated parts of the county.  It sent the case back to Judge Reeves for further proceedings on that question.

The Supreme Court decision also has implications for Toombs County which is facing a similar lawsuit filed against the county by the same law firm which handled Hamilton's case.

 

 

February 27--  Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

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February 27--  Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

2/22        Joshua Lewis Foskey                          Uvalda, Ga.                          Theft by Taking

2/22        Christopher Dashon Johnson            Lyons, Ga.                            Theft by Taking

2/22        James Clay Ogletree                           Uvalda, Ga.                          Theft by Taking

2/23        Anderson Todd Davis                         Uvalda, Ga.                          Possession of Marijuana <1oz., DUI, Speeding,

                                                                                                                        Tire Requirements

2/23        Milton Alexander Gaskin                   Alamo, Ga.                           Probation Warrant Served

2/24        Ralph Clifford Elrod                           Mt. Vernon, Ga.                   Theft by Taking

2/26        Jeremy Shaun Forehand                    Baxley, Ga.                           Possession of Controlled Substance, Possession of

                                                                                                                        Marijuana <1oz., Possession of Drug Related Objects,

                                                                                                                        Speeding

wreck27feb17February 27--  Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin says there we no critical injuries in a two-vehicle collision which tied up traffic on Highway 15 south of T.A. Blocker's Store Monday morning. (Photo courtesy April Wheeler McCormick)

February 25-- The American Red Cross of Southeast and Coastal Georgia proudly announces WTOC’S Dal Cannady 100-mile walk for the American Red Cross.

Dal will officially kick-off his walk on Tuesday evening , February 28th at the  Bobcat Diner in Collins, GA and will begin walking on Wednesday, March 1st from Thompsons Hardwood in Hazelhurst in Jeff Davis County.   

dal16Dal’s annual walk is geared to support Red Cross volunteer efforts throughout Southeast Georgia as he raises awareness for the ongoing need for local financial support and additional volunteers to strengthen the mission of the organization.  Dal will begin his walk in a different location each morning and will stop by local businesses to greet customers and wait tables. This walk will mark Dal’s six and final year and will be held in celebration of March is Red Cross Month and the local Southeast and Coastal Red Cross 100-year anniversary.

Thanks to the Planet Cycle Kawasaki of Claxton,  Dal will have additional volunteer support with a special ATV vehicle equipped with lights to alert traffic and promote safety during his walk. 

On Friday, March 3rd, Lumber City Georgia’s own country singer and songwriter, Lance Stinson will be in concert at the Glennville City Auditorium. Concert proceeds will support the Dal Cannady Walk!  Concert tickets are available by visiting Dairy Queen in Glennville, Reidsville and Vidalia, Marcos Pizza in Glennville and Jesup, Coldwell Banker in Hinesville and Swim Bike Run in Statesboro.

The public is encouraged to support Dal by cheering him on as he walks through each town, make a financial donation by visiting  http://www.redcross.org/dalsheroes-pub and take a moment to stop by to support Dal at one of the locations below:

Wednesday, March 1st- Hazelhurst to Baxley - (12:00 noon at Sarah’s in the City for Lunch)

Thursday, March 2nd- Reidsville to Claxton - (6:00 pm Harry’s BBQ for dinner at 6:00 pm)

Friday, March 3rd- Claxton to Glennville - (Lance Stinson Concert at Glennville City Auditorium)

Saturday, March 4th- Higgston to Lyons- (Benton Lee’s for dinner at 6:00 pm)

Sunday, March 5th- Twin City to Metter - (Bevrick’s for lunch at 12 noon)

Monday, March 6th- Walthourville to Hinesville- (Pour House for dinner at 6:00 pm)

Tuesday, March 7th- Evans County to Statesboro - (Loco’s for final celebration dinner at 6:00 pm)

February 25--  State Senator Blake Tillery of Vidalia reports on activity this past week in the Georgia Senate.

sentillerydeskAs we wind down week seven in the Senate, we saw several bills pass that would help better protect our law enforcement officers and several other bills introduced for future consideration. Here are a few highlights from legislative days 21 through 24:

Senate Bill 233 or “RFRA” (also called the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”) was introduced in the Senate this week. It would basically encourage the state of Georgia to adopt the same provisions or guidelines for religious freedom outlined in the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, signed into law by President Bill Clinton. It now is in the Rules Committee for consideration.

SB 203 was introduced which would allow a nonprofit to serve as the governing body for Georgia high school athletics. Right now, the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) serves this purpose, but under this bill a nonprofit would compete with the GHSA by allowing public, nonpublic and home schools to join the nonprofit and subsequently allow their teams play each other.

SBs 154, 155, 160 and 169 all deal with increasing protection by upping the ante on punishment for people who try to hurt our men and women in blue. The biggest of these bills is SB 160, also known as the “Back the Badge Act of 2017.” Among other things, this act would make violent crimes against an officer a minimum sentence of five years without parole. This is important to show our men and women in blue that their safety is a priority and we appreciate what they do to protect us.

In addition to these bills, we also heard SB 8, which would protect consumers against “surprise billing”. I know that many of you were excited to see this come before the Senate as it helps better protect you from unforeseen costs associated with being seen by an out-of-network doctor without your knowledge. This is especially important for rural areas where only one hospital serves a large area.

Next Friday is day 28, also known as Crossover Day. It is one of the most stressful and exciting times during session with the exception of the last day, Sine Die. After crossover day, we can only introduce House Bills meaning that any Senate Bills that do not receive a vote on the Senate floor will have to wait until next year. Because of this deadline, I will be dropping a bill next week attempting to improve cell and broadband service in our state’s rural areas. We will be working tirelessly over the next week, and likely late into Friday night, to pass as many bills as we can in the Senate.

As always, I am honored to represent and serve you at the state Capitol. If you have any questions or concerns about bills that you feel will affect our region, please email me.

February 24-- Sheriff Doug Maybin announced that Ms. Tammy Sikes has been selected as Employee of the Month for February.

Ms. Sikes began her career with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in May of 2014 as an E911 dispatcher. She was promoted in February 2015 to TAC (Terminal Agency Coordinator) and in January of 2016 appointed to the E911 Supervisor position.

Tammy is a loyal and dedicated employee who is an asset to our office operations. Congratulations and thank you for all you do in the daily operations of the Sheriff’s Office and assisting the public we serve.  

mocosheriffempSheriff Maybin presented Ms. Sikes with a gift certificate to J&B’s Restaurant (courtesy of a Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office supporter).

February 24--  The Georgia Department of Transportation made the following announcement today.

"On Monday, the Georgia Department of Transportation will begin a two-year safety enhancement project along portions of Interstate 16 starting at the Candler/Emanuel County line and continuing into Chatham County at Pooler Parkway.

Georgia DOT, in collaboration with the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC), is implementing an environmentally sensitive program to remove dense tree and bush overgrowth on state right of way.

The scope includes 465 acres of vegetation management within I-16 medians, as well as at interchanges.

The vegetation removal efforts will help the Department meet public demand for a safer roadway, while also enhancing aesthetics throughout the corridor from mile 95.5 to Exit 155. Pooler Pkwy?

Right-of-way reclamation will restore sight distance along large portions of I-16 and allow Georgia DOT to expand its cable barrier program along the corridor.

“As we strive to improve safety along the I-16 corridor, it is important that we expand the recovery zone for vehicles that may leave the roadway so that the likelihood of an errant vehicle striking a fixed object is greatly reduced,” stated Georgia DOT District Engineer Brad Saxon. Also, as evidenced following Hurricane Matthew, fallen trees and debris hindered re-entry efforts along I-16 to the evacuated areas on the coast. Effective vegetation management will help improve the re-entry time of emergency and essential personnel following a major weather event,” Saxon noted.

The project reinforces Georgia DOT’s goal of improving safety first and foremost, but also establishing a clean, green and well-maintained roadway, while leveraging state partnerships to maximize agency resources. Safety enhancement benefits of the project include:

·         Reducing trees and bushes within rights of way to safeguard motorists and provide adequate room for vehicle recovery if someone leaves the roadway;

·         Ensure the visibility of warning, information and instructional signs;

·         Remove overhanging trees and/or branches that may fall onto the interstate and state routes during inclement weather;

The three-phases are tree removal, stump grinding and soil stabilizing plantings made up of pollinator gardens and grasses for hay. As part of GFC’s Best Management Practices, Streamside Management Zones have been established and will remain untouched to protect all state waters within the limits of this project.

Motorists can expect weekday lane closures during daylight hours generally in the eastbound travel lanes with a few locations in the west bound lanes. These lane closures will be utilized for safe entry and exit of heavy equipment vehicles.

February 24-- This morning the Vidalia Police Department was conducting a routine patrol in the area of The Huddle House on Highway 280 in the city when a vehicle was observed not displaying a proper license plate.

Contact was made with the driver and passenger of the vehicle at The Quality Inn located directly behind The Huddle House. Upon contact, it was discovered that the driver, 21-year-old Ryan Dean and the passenger, 27-year-old Stephanie Gardiner, both of Vidalia, had outstanding warrants against them. Both were taken into custody.

vpddrugs24feb17While conducting the arrest, it was discovered that the two were staying in Room 133 at The Quality Inn, and that the smell of marijuana was emitting from the room. Search warrants for the room were granted and a search of the room was conducted and culminated in the seizure of a quantity of methamphetamine and cocaine. Also seized were firearms, ammunition, and cash.

The initial contact with the vehicle also resulted in the arrests of 19-year-old Stephanie Pittman of Lyons and 37-year-old Lannie Morris of Twin City.

All four are being charged with possession of a controlled substance with pending charges to follow.

February 24-- Attorney General Chris Carr is warning the public about a phony email circulating that purports to be from the “Department of Consumer Affairs.”

The email, which allegedly targets attorneys, says that a complaint has been filed against the recipient’s company and urges recipients to click on a link to view the complaint.

This email is NOT from the Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit or any other legitimate government entity.  It is a fake email. Clicking on the link or attachment provided may allow the scammer to install malware on your computer. The scam has been reported in Georgia and South Carolina. To avoid this type of scam, follow these tips:

  • Check the email address.  Since email addresses and domain names from legitimate government entities typically end with .gov, an email address ending in .com or .org that claims to be from the government can indicate it’s a scam.
  • Review the email for any misspellings, grammatical errors or suspicious requests. When in doubt, pick up the phone and contact the sender directly by looking up the actual phone number for the organization; do not use the number provided in the email.
  • Never give out financial or personal information to unverified sources.
  • If you get a suspicious email, you should not reply to it, open any attachments or click on any links.
  • Report phishing and imposter emails to the organization that the email purports to come from. Also, consider reporting the email to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, www.IC3.gov and your email provider. Then DELETE the email.

To view a copy of the fake email, please click here.

February 24--  Meadows Regional Medical Center has a new name. The health system will now be known as Meadows Health.

The launch of the new name is in response to the health system’s unprecedented growth in recent years and range of medical expertise it now offers as well as the continued integration of services as envisioned in national legislation and healthcare trends.

meadowshealth“We have become much more than a hospital,” said Meadows Health President & CEO Alan Kent. “This brings all our services and affiliates under one umbrella. It also reflects our dedication to being the center of excellence in healthcare for our community and our region.”

In the past decade, Meadows Health has seen tremendous growth with the addition of the region’s only comprehensive cancer center, an expanded women’s center, sleep centers, two wound care centers and physician offices throughout the region. In addition, the center has added such advanced medical services as cardiac catheterization, in-ambulance heart attack treatment, radiation oncology treatment and chemotherapy for adult cancer patients.

Besides the renaming of the health system, all services and physician practices affiliated with Meadows Health will display the Meadows brand name.

“Our medical staff and employees have been very excited not only about the fresh new look, but that we are taking steps to convey a better, more accurate understanding of the services Meadows Health provides,” Kent said. “We have a very progressive health system right here at home – as many of our patients already know – and everyone here is excited to get that message out.”
Meadows Health

Meadows Health is the only nationally accredited hospital in Montgomery, Toombs, Treutlen and Tattnall counties. The center offers the latest in medical advancements including cutting-edge cancer care, life-saving heart attack procedures, women’s services, wound care and more. For more information visit www.meadowsregional.org.

February 24-- You can help local animal lovers find homes for dogs and cats and continue spaying and neutering of strays by having a "Spay-Ghetti" supper with them Tuesday night at the Vidalia Community Center.

Therisa Ingley of the Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society says this is the 8th year they've sponsored the supper to raise money.

"Our organization spays and neuters close to 1,000 animals in this community each year.  We get no money from the city or the county to do that.  It is strictly done through money that SOAPS raises through fundraising and donations and this fundraiser is a key element to be able to provide that service," she says.

There is some state funding available to be used for spaying and neutering and SOAPS is getting a grant this year, "It's about $7,500, but people need to realize that will only help us spay and neuter about 75 animals.  We don't ever say no to any money and it's great, but it's only a small portion of what we need," Ingley says.

SOAPS also helps find families for homeless animals both in this area and around the country, "We move about 100 animals a month out of the Toombs County area to our rescue group partners in other parts of the country.  We just finished one of our biggest rescues ever when a group from Brooklyn came down and took over 60 dogs from area shelters that will go to Brooklyn and find homes," she said.

Most advance tickets to Tuesday's supper have been sold, however, you can buy tickets at the door for $15.  Doors open at five p.m. and is served till eight p.m.  You can eat in or take out.

February 23-- U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., was released today from Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta, Ga., after undergoing surgery on his back.

Isakson, 72, was admitted to Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital on Monday, Feb. 20, for a scheduled operation on his back to address spinal deterioration. Dr. Keith D. Osborn of Resurgens Orthopaedics performed the surgery.

“I’m extremely thankful for Dr. Osborn and the wonderful medical team at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital for their excellent care,” said Isakson. “I look forward to returning to Washington with a new and improved back to continue working harder than ever on behalf of Georgians.”

Isakson is working diligently with physical therapists to ensure a successful recovery and is looking forward to getting back into his routine. Per his doctor’s orders, Isakson will recover at home the rest of this week and next week before returning to Washington, D.C.

February 23--On February 22 at approximately 12:58 a.m., Officer Sherwin Bell observed a white Ford Mustang parked in the parking lot of Page Plus on W. North St. Officer Bell made contact with occupants inside, later identified as 39-year old Katrina Cantrell of Lawrenceville, Ga and 35- year old Jessica Hardin of Flint, Michigan.

vpddrugframeWhile speaking with the occupants, Officer Bell smelled a strong odor of marijuana coming from inside the vehicle. After performing a search of the vehicle, large quantities of suspected marijuana and methamphetamine were found, along with a Taurus semi-automatic pistol. Both occupants were arrested and transported to the Toombs County Detention Center.

Cantrell has been charged with trafficking methamphetamine, possession of a controlled substance, possession of a firearm during the commission of certain crimes, and possession of drug related objects. Harden is charged with trafficking methamphetamine, possession of a controlled substance, possession of a firearm during the commission of certain crimes, possession of drug related objects, and possession of marijuana less than one ounce.

*************************************************************

On February 21, 2017, the Vidalia Police Department executed a search warrant after a two-month investigation into reports of drug activity at 607 E. Fifth St.

vpdtutendrugsThis investigation led to the seizure of narcotics and firearms, along with the arrests of four individuals.

Thirty-three-year-old Jimmy Moore of Vidalia has been charged with two counts of transactions in controlled substances or marijuana within 1000 feet of housing projects and three counts of possession of firearm during the commission of certain crimes.

Forty-four-year-old Theresa Phillips of Vidalia has been charged with two counts of transactions in controlled substances or marijuana within 1000 feet of housing projects and three counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of certain crimes.

Thirty-five-year-old Delicia Jordan of Vidalia has been charged with two counts of transactions in controlled substances or marijuana within 1000 feet of housing projects and three counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of certain crimes.

Nineteen-year-old Octavious Haynes of Vidalia has been charged with obstruction.

The Vidalia Police Department encourages citizens to contact the police department with any information on drug crimes so we can better serve the community.

 

February 24--  Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits reports the following arrests.

Moye, James Douglas- W/M- 35 YOA- 308 Findley Cemetery Rd. Lyons, GA- Obstruction (Simple)/Theft by Shoplifting

Perry, Curtis D. - W/M- 36 YOA- 1013 Hitchcock Rd. Uvalda, GA- Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense (Citation)

Hattaway, Justin Bradley- W/M- 29 YOA- 179 Petross Rd. Vidalia, GA- Theft by Conversion/Theft by Shoplifting (3rd Offense)

Peavy, Brittany- W/F- 23 YOA- 1143 Victory Cir. Lyons, GA- Criminal Trespass

Willis, Joseph Albert- B/M- 23 YOA- 502 Washington St, Vidalia GA- Possession Of A Controlled Substance with Intent To Distribute Within 1,000 Feet Of Housing Project

Phillips, Therea A- B/F- 44 YOA- 607 E. Fifth St, Vidalia Ga- Possession Of A Controlled Substance With Intent To Distribute within 1,000 Feet Of A Housing Project

Moore, Jimmy Lee- B/M- 33 YOA- 803 Morris St, Vidalia Ga- Possession Of Marijuana

Haynes, Ortavious Deshun- B/M- 19 YOA- 610 Durden St, Vidalia Ga- Obstruction Of Police Officer

Jordan, Delicia Maranda- B/F- 35 YOA- 607 E. Fifth St, Vidalia Ga- Possession Of A Controlled Substance With Intent To Distribute Within 1,000 Feet Of A Housing Project

Martin, Kensee- B/F- 24 YOA- 502 Washington St, Vidalia Ga- Possession Of A Controlled Substance With Intent To distribute Within 1,000 Feet Of A Housing Project

Cantrell, Katrina Marie- W/F- 39 YOA- 98 Regal Way Lawrenceville, GA 30044- Possession Of Marijuana Less Than Ounce/ Trafficking in Methamphetamines/ Possess Firearm, Knife During Commission Of Attempt To Commit Crime/ Possession Of A Controlled Substance

Hardin, Jessica Renee- W/F- 35 YOA- 5351 E. Carpenter Road, Flint Michigan 48506- Possession Of Marijuana Less than Ounce/ Trafficking In Methamphetamines/ Possess Firearm, Knife During Commission Of Attempt to Commit Crime/ Possession Of A Controlled Substance

Sharpe, Zavion Jacwan- B/M- 24 YOA- 602 S. College St. Apt# 113 Statesboro, GA- Loud Music From Vehicle (1st Offense)/No Driver’s License/No Tag/No Proof of Insurance/Willfully Obstruction of Police Officer Simple/Verbal/Warrant Served

Gillenwater, Justin Charles- W/M- 21 YOA- 610 E. James St. Claxton, GA- Possession of Marijuana Less Than Ounce

Brown, Larell Demario- B/M- 26 YOA- 222 Lanier Dr. Apt. 101 Statesboro, GA- Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense (Probation Warrant)

Daniels, Tylan - B/M- 17YOA- 1203 Peacock St. Vidalia GA-Battery (FVA)

Wright, Harold Zarion Sr. - B/M- 33 YOA- 212 South Madison St. Lyons, GA- Theft by Shoplifting (Felony)

February 23-- If you've noticed flowers already blooming in your yard this year, you know why Vidalia Onion farmers are expecting an early crop.

The warm weather has accelerated the onion crop according to Vidalia Onion Farmer R.T Stanley, Jr., "They are at least two to three weeks ahead of schedule right now.  If we don't have any bad cold weather between now and the 15th of March, I think we'll be about two weeks earlier than normal and it could be three weeks.  We have onions now which are getting to be three inches in diameter. That's getting to be a Jumbo Onion and for this time of year it's unbelievable.

"It looks like a real good crop, the quality is great right now, but we've learned in the past that you can't count on anything until we've got them harvested and in the house," he said.

Because of the early crop this year, Stanley believes State Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black will allow farmers to ship Vidalia Onions earlier than in the past.

"He should take into consideration this unusual weather situation and the onions being earlier like they are.  I think he probably is going to change it to about the 10th of April, that's what my prediction is," he said.

Stanley Farms is one of the largest Vidalia Onion producers and employs migrant guest workers to harvest the crop.  As a result, Stanley is not worried about the federal government crackdown on illegal immigrants.

"We use all H2A workers to harvest this crop.  We've already got them signed up under contract and we've been doing this for the last five years.  We have learned how to use that program legally.  It's very expensive, but we don't have a choice," he said.

February 22--  The Vidalia Police Department has a new police Captain.

James Jermon is a 17-year veteran of the Vidalia Police Department.

JAMESJERMON"I was always told I could go as far as my merits would take me.  After the passing of Captain Kennedy, he was one who always believed in me and that one day I would be in this position, it was an honor and I knew it was gong to be a difficult task," he said.

Captain Jermon is proud to follow in the footsteps of Vidalia's first black police officer, "I'm definitely honored and I want to put one name out there that was passed on to me when I first started here and that's Lieutenant James Bloomfield, the first black police officer to be hired by the City of Vidalia.

"He was a light to the black community, from what I understand, and I want to be a light to not only the black community but to the entire community.  I want people to see that a young man from Compton, California who almost ended up in a gang is now a Captain in the Vidalia Police Department."

Captain Jermon says his life was turned around by a Los Angeles police officer, "I was a small young kid and wound up in south central Los Angeles, Compton, as a matter of fact, and one of my coaches for Pop Warner football was a Los Angeles police officer who took time to coach us.  He was a beacon of light for me growing up because I grew up without a Dad.  He was a Dad to us who didn't have fathers there in the community."

The new rank puts Captain Jermon in charge of the police department's patrol officers whom he advises, "If you follow your policies, if you follow your standard operating procedures and if you treat every call as though your Mom or your grandmother or your sister is standing behind you, you can't go wrong."

 

February 21-- Pineland is proud to announce the recent merger of Broadtech Solutions and Pineland Computer Services. Since 2007, Alex Muzafarov, Denis Fedulov, and the team of computer technicians at Broadtech Solutions have worked diligently in the Toombs county area to provide top-notch technical services to business clients. As business technology needs intensified and service opportunities increased, the team at Broadtech Solutions began looking for ways to augment their client offerings and provide quick and easy access to the technical assistance their clients required.

pineland(L-R) Keith Wommack, Southeast Fire and Burglar Alarm; Eddy Jones, Pineland Telephone Cooperative; Alex Muzafarov and Denis Fedulov, Pineland Computer Services.

In late 2016, Broadtech Solutions began discussions with Pineland Telephone Cooperative, Inc. and its subsidiary Pineland Computer Services. Pineland Telephone purchased Pineland Computer Services, formerly Baker & Owens Computer Solutions, in 2008. James Owens, Network Engineer and co-founder or Baker & Owens, stayed on with the conversion and continues to provide exemplary technical services to clients in the Metter, Swainsboro, and Statesboro areas.

In January of 2017, Broadtech Solutions joined the Pineland family as well. Today, Pineland’s four computer experts are available to provide a wide list of services and technology needs across the entire southeast Georgia area.

The Pineland family of companies, which includes Pineland Telephone Cooperative, Inc., Southeast Fire & Burglar Alarm Company, and Pineland Computer Services offer customers and interested patrons two offices from which to obtain information, drop off payments, or pick up small service items. They can visit the Pineland offices at 30 S Rountree Street in Metter or the office in Swainsboro at 425 S Main Street. The companies can be reached via phone at (800) 247-1266 or find us on the web at www.pineland.net.

A ribbon-cutting for the new Pineland Office at 308 Maple Drive in Vidalia will be held Wednesday, March 1 at 4 p.m.

Pineland Computer Services began in Statesboro, Georgia in 2004 as the family company Baker & Owens Computer Solutions, joining the Pineland family in 2008. Pineland Computer Services provides commercial computer repair and maintenance, system analysis, data recovery and transfer, virus and spyware removal, advanced business networking, remote and on-site support, and business maintenance plans by CISCO and A+ Certified personnel.

Pineland serves over 1,200 square miles in all or parts of nine-counties in Southeast Georgia, bringing Telephone, Internet, TV, Computer, and Security services to its customers. In its 65th year, over 90% of Pineland’s customers receive their services via a dedicated Fiber-to-the-Home network. Pineland’s mission is to offer an outstanding customer experience through the efficient delivery of progressive technology solutions in the markets served. We will achieve this mission by applying our Core Values of Excellence, Integrity, Innovation, and a Servant’s Heart in everything we do.

February 20--  Oxford Industries is making another contribution to the Boys and Girls Club of Toombs County.

The Vice-President of Oxford Operations, Mark Kirby, presented a $10,000 check to help with club operating costs.

oxfordbandg(Front Row, L-R) B&G board member Grey Meredith, Oxford associates Sherron Threlkeld, Lynn Thompson, Angie McDaniel and Donya Wood, Oxford VP Mark Kirby; (Back Row, L-R) Vidalia Mayor Pro Tem Raymond Turner, Steve Taylor from Oxford and Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Ralph Goethe.

"We feel like the Boys and Girls Club is a good way to get a lot of bang for the buck.  A little bit of money goes a long way and has a big impact here in the community.  Some former Oxford employees are very involved here with the club and they've reached out to us over the years and we've come through and will continue to support the club here for years to come and we're happy to do it," he said.

Oxford contributed $25,000 when the new Boys and Girls Club building was constructed several years ago.  That gift and the latest were both  made in honor of former company executive Grady Jackson.

"Grady Jackson was an executive with Oxford for many, many years.  When the club was doing the expansion with the gymnasium a few years ago, they asked if we could help and we said yes we could and we wanted to do it in Grady's honor because he was an important part of this community and of Oxford's success.  So what we're doing this year with a donation to the operating funds is to build on top of that," Kirby noted.

Ralph Goethe,the club's Executive Director, thanked Oxford for its commitment to the club. 

He expects the construction project which is doubling the size of the club building will be completed in March.

"We're going to use that money to help us with equipment for the expansion, scholarships for kids who can't  afford to come and other things we need for the club and the kids.

"Right now we have an average daily attendance of 219 kids and we know there are more kids out there who need the Boys and Girls Club. We just want the parents and grandma and grandpa to bring them.  We'll have a new expanded building and new people to run this club.  So, bring 'em.  It's going to be a nice place," he said.

 

February 20--  Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

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February 20--  Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

2/13        Greg Singleton                                      Vidalia, Ga.                           Public Intoxication

2/16        Amanda Michelle Whisnant                 Uvalda, Ga.                          Bench Warrant Served

2/16        Allen Tolbert                                         Tarrytown, Ga.                     Driving w/Suspended License, Tail Light Violation

2/17        James Britt Register                            Vidalia, Ga.                           DUI, Failure to Stop at Stop Sign, Safety Belt Violation

2/18        Thomas Adam Williamson                 Mt. Vernon, Ga.                   Probation Warrant Served

2/18        Venancio Cardenas                              Uvalda, Ga.                          DUI, Improper Stopping in Roadway

 2/19        Tony Colt Kight                                  Soperton, Ga.                       Aggravated Assault, Criminal Damage to Property (2nd)

                                                               

February 20--  The treasurer of the Vidalia Charter Chapter of the American Business Women's Association is the group's "Business Woman of the Year.'

marylouMary Lou Henry was named at the chapter's annual meeting, but couldn't be there due to the birth of her grandson in Houston.  Reached on her return to Vidalia, she said "I am very thankful and grateful for their choosing me. I didn't expect it, but I'm proud and thankful," she said.

Chapter President Angela Cook said, "She's deserving to be the ABWA Woman of the Year.  It's to recognize someone who is very outstanding and someone who has picked up and helped us out during the year with various things they have done."

sharonhulettThe Chapter also named Sharon Hulett, Business Manager at Meadows Regional Medical Center, as its "Business Associate of the Year."  Last year's Business Associate, Al Ross of the Peoples Bank, made the presentation.

Mrs. Hulett started as a file clerk in the hospital business office nearly 40 years ago, "I started straight out of school and enjoyed the work.  I've always been blessed to work with some good people and good bosses.  It's something I've enjoyed doing and when you enjoy your job, it helps a lot," she said.

The primary service project of the Vidalia ABWA Chapter each year is sponsorship of the Vidalia Onion Scholarship Pageant.

"We do the Best in the Class Scholarship, we do the $1,000 scholarship for our Onion Queen, $750 for the Era Alexander Scholarship and $500 for the Helen Morris Scholarship.  The whole idea is to get them to school and involved in the activites of the community," Chapter President Cook said.

February 19-- Vidalia Heritage Academy’s high school students in the Dual-Enrollment class celebrated the New Immigration that increased during the Industrial Age of the United States in the late 19th Century.

Students presented visual projects about various immigrant groups and prepared some ethnic foods for their classmates to enjoy. The students brought dishes that they had personally researched, prepared, and cooked, including culinary delights introduced by Scots-Irish, Chinese, Italian, Russian, Greek, and Jewish immigrant groups to America.

vhaimmigrants Winona Li (center), a citizen of China presently serving as an intern at VHA, was a special guest of the class and she brought her own concoction of Chinese rice with chicken, peppers, onions, and bamboo. Sam Spring (L) represents an Eastern European immigrant and Lauren Adams (R) depicts an immigrant from China.

This activity promoted the appreciation of different cultures and ethnic groups as the students learned how immigrant groups came to the USA and how students at Heritage can impact the World.

The mission of VHA is to equip students spiritually, intellectually and physically to love God and serve Him as Christ’s ambassadors in the World

February 19-- The Robert Toombs Christian Academy Board of Directors is proud to announce that Dr. Cathy Mitchell has been named as Interim Headmaster effective immediately. Dr. Mitchell is a former RTCA parent and board member, but most recently she served as President of Southeastern Technical College for 18 years before retiring in 2015.

rtcamitchellAlthough not part of her original retirement plan, Dr. Mitchell feels she has been led to RTCA. Dr. Mitchell states, “RTCA has a long (46 years) history in our community. My plan for RTCA is to continue our tradition of high academic standards…great athletic programs and extracurricular activities…mixed with a lot of fun in a Christian, family atmosphere… making lifelong friends and memories along the way…and turning one child at a time into the best person he or she can possibly be.”

Other changes include Mrs. Linda Johnson assuming the role of Assistant Headmaster for Academic Affairs. Mr. Hayne Brant will assume the role of Assistant Headmaster for Student and Auxiliary Services.

February 17---  State Senator Blake Tillery of Vidalia reports on this week's activity in the Georgia State Senate.

"This week in the Senate we completed week six and legislative days 17 through 20. Halfway through my first session, I’ve had the privilege of hosting several groups from Long, Wayne, Appling, Tattnall, Jeff Davis and Toombs Counties just this week.

Of all the bills we heard on the Senate floor this week, Senate Bill 16, sponsored by Sen. Ben Watson (R – Savannah), received the most attention. SB 16 aims to expand the conditions medical cannabis can cover to include autism; however, it reduces the amount of THC in medical cannabis oil from five percent to three percent. I agree with the addition of autism to the conditions that could use low THC oil, it just doesn’t seem fair to blindside families who have been benefiting from using five percent THC oil with regulations that would change that. There was an amendment brought up on the Senate floor that would have changed this provision in the bill, however it failed.

In the end, I voted against the SB 16 because of the reduction of the THC allowed in the oil. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for families to uproot their lives and move to another state just to seek treatment for their children so they can live a more normal life.

Last, but certainly not least, I co-sponsored Senate Bill 165 with Sen. William Ligon (R – Brunswick) which seeks to address the transportation and disposal of coal ash in Georgia. Most people in our district are familiar with the issue of coal ash and the harm it poses to residents if it were to leak into the water supply. I understand it is hard for small, rural communities to turn down the money a landfill that accepts coal ash could bring to their local economy and we want economic opportunity for our counties, but I believe that keeping you healthy and safe is more important. The federal Constitution prevents us from passing a total ban on coal ash coming into Georgia, so we had to get creative. Therefore, this bill proposes that coal ash originators cannot get away from liability for physical harm from coal ash toxins even if they carry their coal ash to third party landfills. Entities who dispose of the coal ash must have at least $100 million in assets in Georgia to cover liability. 

As always, I am honored to represent and serve you at the state Capitol. If you have any questions or concerns about bills that you feel will

affect our region, please email me. I enjoy hearing your feedback and always take into consideration your thoughts and feelings. Thanks for

the opportunity to serve you."

  

February 17-- Plans to put solar panels on 1,500 acres in south Toombs County dimmed Thursday.

At a meeting of the Toombs County Development Authority, board members rejected a request from the developers that they be granted a 75% percent property tax abatement for 25 years.

The authority also wants a surety bond for reclamation of the land and the environment at the end of the lease period.

According the Development Authority Executive Director Bill Mitchell, the unnamed company wanted to lease the land for $1,000 per acre per year for what he said would be the largest solar panel complex in the state to date.

Mitchell says the developers will be notified of the Authority's position and after that, "The ball's in their court."

February 17-- U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., has introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure hospitals are fairly reimbursed for their services by the federal government.

The budget-neutral Fair Medicare Hospital Payments Act of 2017 (S.397) would help hospitals remain open and functioning, especially in underserved and economically struggling regions by correcting a flawed formula that results in disproportionately low Medicare reimbursement payments to hospitals in rural and low-wage areas.

“Too many rural hospitals have been forced to close in recent years, and hospitals in states like Georgia are at a unique disadvantage because of the way these Medicare payments are calculated,” said Sen. Isakson, a member of the Senate Committee on Finance. “This legislation would address the discrepancy in payments, help to prevent future closures of hospitals in medically underserved areas, enable hospitals to boost wages in economically struggling regions, and ensure patients have access to emergency and needed care.”

Specifically, the Fair Medicare Hospital Payments Act would establish a national minimum “area wage index” of 0.874. The area wage index is based on the relative hospital wage level in the hospital’s geographic area compared to the national average. Over the past three decades, legislative and regulatory changes have combined with broader economic trends to create an uneven playing field that has resulted in hospitals losing out on millions of dollars in Medicare payments annually.

In Georgia, there are more than 100 hospitals that would benefit from a minimum area wage index that currently have an index below 0.874. Since 2010, five Georgia hospitals have closed that would have benefitted from Isakson’s legislation. The legislation has been endorsed by the Georgia Hospital Association and the National Rural Health Association.

Along with Isakson, the Fair Medicare Hospital Payments Act was introduced by U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Mark Warner, D-Va., Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Richard Shelby, R-Ala.

“Tennessee hospitals, like many hospitals across the country, have seen drastic decreases in Medicare payments while other areas of the country get more for the same services because of a flawed reimbursement formula in Medicare,” said Sen. Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee. “This legislation will help protect hospitals in Tennessee from these shrinking Medicare reimbursements that make it harder for them to recruit staff, care for patients and stay in business.”

“Ohioans who live in underserved communities should not have their access to healthcare threatened by a broken federal formula,” said Sen. Brown. “Hospitals serving our most vulnerable areas that are economically struggling encounter enough challenges without unfair reimbursement rates further complicating their ability to care for patients. By correcting this discrepancy, we can strengthen healthcare in our rural and underserved communities and help ensure patients continue to receive medical care close to home.”

“Healthcare centers in rural areas already face unique challenges in providing care to underserved communities, and the federal government’s inability to provide a balanced payment system for services provided to Medicare beneficiaries only exacerbates these problems,” said Sen. Warner. “This is particularly true in Virginia, where four of the Commonwealth’s 13 statistical areas would benefit from a change in this payment formula. Our bipartisan legislation provides the funding Virginia’s rural hospitals need and helps them remain financially viable while providing care that is not dependent on cost.”

“Rural hospitals play a vital role in delivering care to Virginians but face too many threats to their long-term viability,” said Sen. Kaine. “By establishing a national minimum ‘area wage index’ for Medicare reimbursement, the bipartisan Fair Medicare Hospital Payments Act will remove one of these threats to the future of rural hospitals and will improve the delivery of care for rural communities in Virginia.”

“I’m proud to support legislation that will help to even the playing field for rural hospitals that are penalized because of the current wage index reimbursement formula,” said Sen. Shelby. “Without a more equitable methodology, hospitals in Alabama and across the nation will be forced to close their doors, negatively impacting patients and the overall quality of care. I am committed to ensuring that Alabama and its rural hospitals receive a more fair calculation compared to the current system that picks clear winners and losers.” 

February 17-- Twelfth District Congressman Rick Allen introduced  legislation to repeal the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule. The rule was issued under the Clean Water Act (CWA) by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) and was designed to define the scope of waters protected and regulated by the EPA.

“Truthfully, WOTUS is the antithesis of limited government. This rule grants the federal government regulatory power over virtually any place where water flows in the United States—ditches, ponds, man-made constructions—you name it. Not only would it expand the federal government’s authority and undermine the rights of states, local governments and landowners, but it would create more red tape, preventing economic growth and jobs particularly in the agriculture industry. The last thing Americans, especially farmers, need is the government attempting to regulate backyard streams and puddles on their land.

WOTUS was flawed from the beginning, which is why it has been tied up in the courts since 2015. My bill is the first step to ensuring this rule never sees the light of day. In our quest to reduce the scope and size of the federal government, dismantling WOTUS is crucial. I look forward to working with President Trump, the new Administration and my colleagues on this very important issue.”

 

February 17--  Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits reports the following arrest.

Cruz, Jorge-H/M 41 YOA-17 Kitty Crossing Vidalia, GA-Warrant Served (Middle Georgia Probation)

Mimbs, Brittni Mimbs - W/F 25 YOA/ 205 Bobby Williamson Rd. Lyons, Ga. / Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense (Citation)

Roundtree, Daniel Thomas- W/M- 46 YOA- 2792 Vann St. Vidalia, GA- Theft by Deception

Jackson, Elijah Bradford-B/M 24 YOA-762 Clinton Branch Rd Dublin, GA-Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense/Obstruction of a Police Officer

Guyton, Shakira De’Asia-B/F 23 YOA-804 N Franklin Dr. Dublin, GA-Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense/Obstruction of a Police Officer

Carter, Shelia Ann-W/F 56 YOA-606 Vann St. Vidalia, GA-Disorderly Conduct

Argo, Charles-W/M 55 YOA-608 Vann St. Vidalia, GA-Disorderly Conduct

Crawford, Anthony Wayne- W/M- 46 YOA- 1476 GA Hwy 292 Lyons, Ga 30436 DUI-1st Offense/ Failure To Maintain Lane

Bustos, Juan M- W/M- 41 YOA- 477 S. Thompson St Vidalia, Ga- Warrant Served (Theft By Shoplifting- 3rd Offense)

Williams, Summer Brooke- W/F- 19 YOA- 100 Bermuda Rd Apt A5 Statesboro Ga, 30458- Possession Of Marijuana Less Than One Ounce

Osborne, Megan Ann- W/F- 17 YOA- 55935 Hwy 46 East Metter Ga 30439- Possession Of Marijuana Less Than One Ounce

Clark, Kayla Marie- W/F- 21 YOA- 230 South Main St Apt 326 Statesboro, GA 30458- Possession Of Marijuana Less Than One Ounce

Edge, Cody Elijah - W/M 31 YOA/ 2012 Cottonwood St. Vidalia/ Driving While License Suspend Or Revoked 2nd/ Speeding

 

February 16--  Three of Vidalia's four schools have received a top state rating regarding their climate for learning and the fourth is less than a point behind.

Assistant Superintendent Lucy Claroni briefed the Vidalia school board on the 2016 rating at its February meeting.

"Three of our schools had a five-star rating and that's excellent.  It just shows that the culture of a school has a real positive effect on the academic achievements of our students," she said.

The schools with the top rating are Vidalia High School, J.R. Trippe Middle School and J.D. Dickerson Primary School. Sally Meadows Elementary School got four stars.

"The school climate ratings are based on surveys of students, teachers and parents and their perceptions of the school climate; student discipline; student survey data on the use of illegal substances, violence, bullying and unsafe instances in a school; average daly attendance of teachers, administrators and staff and the percentage of students with fewer than six unexcused absences," Mrs. Claroni noted.

In 2015 Vidalia High School got a three-star rating and the other schools all got four stars.

Mrs. Claroni believes a program the school system started to educate students on the benefits of positive behavior has had an impact on the climate in the schools.

"Kids are given guidance on how to behave in classrooms, the cafeteria, the hallways and the restrooms and those are our expectations. When good things happen in the school then positive things happen and I think that's made a difference," she said.

The climate rating also addresses the financial resources available to schools.  According to Claroni, Vidalia spends about $7,800 on each student each year which she says is less than many school systems which got lower climate ratings.

 

February 15--  Officers from the Vidalia Police Department were among a group of city employees recognized at the February meeting of the Vidalia City Council.

vpdofficers17jpgThree of the officers are newly promoted and are (Front Row, L-R) Captain James Jermon, Lieutenant Kim Williamson and Detective Sergeant Randy Holcomb.  Also on the front row, Officer John Humphery and (Back Row, L-R) Mathew Bell, Joshua Colbert, Michael Howell, Christopher Morgan and Chief Frank Waits.

 

February 15-- U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today issued the following statement after his meeting with Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee to serve as the next U.S. Supreme Court Justice:

supreme“Judge Gorsuch has received ample praise from across the political spectrum for his judicial temperament and reliance on the text of our Constitution and laws when forming his opinions. I enjoyed our meeting today and believe that Judge Gorsuch will serve with wisdom and distinction, continuing the fine legacy of the man whom he would replace, the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

“I have confidence that Judge Gorsuch’s hearing before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary will be productive, and there is no reason for any delay of the Senate’s consideration of this outstanding nominee. I urge the Senate to move quickly toward a vote on his nomination to fill this critical vacancy.”

The Senate confirmed Gorsuch unanimously in 2006 for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, based in Denver, Colo.

February 14--  The city of Vidalia is continuing its efforts to remove dilapidated buildings from the town's neighborhoods.

Monday night the city council authorized $50,000 to get more unsightly buildings torn down and removed.  City Marshall Shaun Oliver estimates that will cover removal of up to ten buildings.  The city has removed more than 200 buildings since it started the program 15 years ago.

In another effort to keep the city spruced up, the city is sponsoring a "Clean-Up Day" this Saturday and city manager Nick Overstreet says 257 people have already signed up to pickup litter and more are welcome.

"One of the main focuses are the arterial routes like Highways 280 and 292 and the downtown area.  The larger the group, the more we can cover.  We welcome anyone.  If you get up Saturday morning and decide you'd like to help, we'd love to have you," he said.

Volunteers will gather at nine a.m. Saturday at the ESG headquarters building on Brinson Road and lunch will be served following the litter patrol.

In economic development news, the council was informed a new onion processing plant is opening in Vidalia.  Joe Filippone of the Montgomery County Development Authority says 25 fulltime employees are expected to work at Sweet Onion Processing, LLC which is owned and operated by Eddie Wright in the Montgomery County Industrial Park.  The company is making a $1.7 million dollar investment, he said.

Also Bill Mitchell of the Toombs County Development Authority says negotiations are ongoing with a company which wants to invest $122 million to install solar panels on 1,500 acres of land in south Toombs County just north of the Altamaha River.

In other actions:

*The council awarded a $16,000 contract to McLendon Enterprises to clear land south of Airport Road for use by the Sweet Onion Festival carnival rides.

*Accepted four small wetland lots at the corner of Houston and Estroff from Tom Peterson.

*Approved submission of a $750,000 grant request to the state for water/sewer and drainage work in the Bay Street area.

*Approved polices on cellphone use by city employees and requiring random drug testing of city workers.

*Okayed a budget of $361,366.54 for capital improvement projects in the city this year.

* Approved replacement of rusted out fencing at the Animal Shelter for $5,656.00.

*The council was informed of a road condition index that will help set priorities for resurfacing of city streets in years to come.

February 14--  A Florida man is recovering in a Savannah hospital after being shot following a police chase Monday afternoon in Emanuel County

According to Emanuel County Sheriff Tyson Stephens, 57-year-old Larry Eugene Jones of Orlando was driving a tractor-trailer reported stolen from Laurens County when he was spotted by Treutlen County deputy sheriffs on I-16.  He led them on a chase into Emanuel County where other officers assisted with stop sticks and the vehicle came to a halt near Oak Park. After brandishing a handgun, officers shot Jones and he was flown by a medivac chopper to Savannah.

Authorities say Jones is facing a myriad of felony charges and will be returned to Emanuel County when he is released from the hospital.

February 14--  The Toombs County Board of Education held its monthly meeting last Thursday night.  Excerpts from the meeting's minutes are below courtesy of School Superintendent Richard Smith.

"During the Superintendent’s Report, Mr. Smith asked Toombs County Principal Melanie McLemore to come forward and recognize Oren Morgan as the 2017 Toombs County High School STAR Student. Oren was also named the regional STAR Student for having the highest SAT combined score for our educational region. Oren selected Mrs. Rustin Howard Parker as his STAR Teacher, who was also recognized. The board congratulates Oren and Mrs. Parker on their selection and thanked them for representing Toombs County Schools in such a positive manner.

"Mr. Smith also shared the 2016 Star Climate Ratings from the CCRPI Report for all 5 Schools. Lyons Upper Elementary School was awarded the highest rating available to a school with a 5 STAR rating. Lyons Primary, Toombs Central Elementary, and Toombs County Middle each received a 4 STAR rating and Toombs County High School received a 3 STAR rating.

"On a motion by Mr. Holland, seconded by Mrs. Wilkes, the board approved the following personnel
recommendations:

Employment Recommendation: Charlsie Mobley, Teacher, LUES.

Retirement Notice for the end of the current year: Larry Smith, Migrant Director; Rushing Stephens, LUES, Elaine Allen,
TCMS, Elizabeth Shaw, LPS, and JB Cone, TCHS.

Resignations: Jessica Coleman, LUES, effective at the end of the current school year.

Transfers; Kathy Peebles, Food Service, from TCMS to TCES.

Supplemental Duties; Kyle Redmond, Girls Soccer, TCHS.

FY2018 Administrative Staffing Plan;
Carmen Roberts, Assistant Superintendent;Nathan Miller, Technology Director; Pam Sears, Federal
Programs Director; Sabrina Woodruff, Special Education Director, Human Resources; Bill Benton,
System Athletic Director, Assistant Transportation Director; Courtney Gay, School Nutrition Director;
Missy Dixon, Technology Coordinator.

Melanie McLemore, TCHS Principal; Brent Coleman, TCHS Assistant Principal;Marissa Morris, TCHS Assistant Principal, Special Ed Coordinator;

Renee Garbutt ,TCMS Principal; Chris Bell, TCMS Assistant Principal; Sandra Floyd, TCMS Assistant Principal;

Tonawanda Irie, TCES Principal; Tabatha Nobles, LUES Principal; Rhonda Stone, LUES Assistant
Principal, CTAE Director; Judy Hellgren, LPS Principal; Reggie Roberts, LPS Assistant Principal.

"On a motion by Mrs. Wilkes, and seconded by Mr. Akins, the board voted to approve the purchase of one (1) 2017 Blue Bird Vision 72 School Bus from Yancey Bus Sales and Service for $85,000. The bus will be financed using approximately $77,220 from the State Bus Bond Program, $4,775 from SPLOST II funds, and $3,005 from general funds.

 

February 13--  The federal government is suing Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia for alleged violation of federal law.

In a complaint filed December 23 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District, Dublin Division, U.S. Attorney Edward J. Tarver claims the hospital received Medicare payments in violation of the Stark Law and the federal Anti-Kickback Statute.

The Stark Law was passed in 1989 to "curb over utilization of services by physicians who could profit by referring patients to facilities in which they have a financial interest."

According to the law, doctors with a "financial relationship" with Meadows are prohibited from referring patients to the medical center and the medical center is prohibited from submitting Medicare claims for services rendered as a result of such referrals.

The government also alleges the hospital paid physicians to make referrals and then billed Medicare for reimbursement based on the referrals.

Allegations in the suit have been under investigation for more than a year and the government says it may file an amended complaint at a later time under the False Claims Act.

The government seeks a jury trial and a verdict ordering Meadows to reimburse the government for Medicare over payments plus legal costs and interest. However, according to public records, most Stark Law cases are settled out of court.  One of the latest in Georgia was in 2015 and involved Columbus Regional Healthcare System which settled for more than $25 million.

The suit says Meadows has fully cooperated with the investigation and is working with the government to "resolve the issues arising out of the investigation."

Meadows CEO Alan Kent has been advised by legal counsel not to discuss ongoing litigation.

February 13--  Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

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February 13--  Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

2/07        Kenneth Fleming Williams               Milledgeville, Ga.                 Criminal Attempt, Items Prohibited by Inmates

2/07        Amanda Marie Sweat                        Baxley, Ga.                           Bench Warrant, Bondsman off Bond

2/08        Jessica Renee Miller                            Girard, Ga.                            Items Prohibited by Inmates

2/08        Brittany Fowler                                  Warner Robins, Ga.             Disorderly Conduct

2/12        Lisa Peace Rozier                                Augusta, Ga.                         Possession of Drug Related Objects, Possession of

                                                                                                                                Marijuana <1oz., Possession of Methamphetamine,

                                                                                                                                Possession of Schedule 4 Narcotics (x2), Possession of

                                                                                                                                Schedule 2 Narcotics, Pills Not In Original Container,

                                                                                                                                Alternation of License Plate

2/12        Christopher L. Lomaneck                  Ailey, Ga.                              Possession of Drug Related Objects, Possession of

                                                                                                                                Marijuana <1oz., Possession of Methamphetamine,

                                                                                                                                Possession of Schedule 4 Narcotics (x2), Possession of

                                                                                                                                Schedule 2 Narcotics, Pills Not In Original Container

February 13-- The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Project Vote, Campaign Legal Center, Voting Rights Institute at the Georgetown University Law Center, along with the New York City office of Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP and Atlanta-based firm of Caplan Cobb LLP, acting as pro bono counsel, announced a settlement today in a lawsuit filed on behalf Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta, the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda and the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, which challenged Georgia’s exact-match voter registration verification scheme.

The groups issued the following press release.

"The suit alleged Georgia’s “exact match” system violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and deprived eligible Georgians of their fundamental right to vote under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and resulted in Georgia restoring more than 42,000 previously purged voters to the rolls.

“This important victory ensures that tens of thousands of voters will not be disenfranchised by Georgia’s “no match, no vote” policy, which unnecessarily denied people the opportunity to register to vote,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  “We will continue to fight ongoing voting discrimination and barriers to the ballot box. Now is the time for focus on policies that can help make voting easier in Georgia and across the nation.”

"The complaint, which was filed in September 2016 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, concerned Georgia’s voter registration verification process. Since 2010, Georgia required all of the letters and numbers in the applicant’s name, date of birth, driver’s license number or last four digits of the Social Security number to exactly match the information in the state’s Department of Drivers Service (DDS) or Social Security Administration (SSA) databases. If even a single letter, number, hyphen, space, or apostrophe did not exactly match the database information, and the applicant failed to correct the mismatch within 40 days, the application was automatically rejected and the applicant was not placed on the registration rolls - even if they were eligible to vote.

This flawed process led to the cancellation of tens of thousands of applications from eligible applicants, with African American, Latino, and Asian American applicants being rejected at rates significantly higher than White applicants. For example, of the approximately 34,874 voter registration applicants whose applications were cancelled between July 2013 and July 15, 2016, approximately 22,189 (63.6 percent) identified as Black, 2,752 (7.9 percent) identified as Latino, 1,665 (4.8 percent) identified as Asian-American, and 4,748 (13.6 percent) identified as White.


Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the Secretary of State agreed to implement reforms to help ensure that eligible Georgians will no longer be denied the right to register and vote as a result of data entry errors, typos and other database matching issues that do not bear upon the applicant’s eligibility to vote. Some of the reforms agreed to by the Secretary of State pursuant to the terms of the settlement include:

  • Georgia will no longer automatically cancel voter registration applications where the information on the application fails to exactly match the applicant’s data on the Georgia Department of Drivers Services (DDS) or Social Security Administration (SSA) databases;
  • If the data on a voter registration application fails to exactly match data on the DDS or SSA databases, applicants will be added to the rolls as "pending," with no deadline to correct the mismatch;
  • Such registrants will be able to present their Georgia driver’s license, State ID card or other forms of appropriate ID at the polling place and be able to cast a ballot;
  • In cases where the applicant is a U.S. citizen, but the DDS database contains an error or out of date information showing the applicant is not a citizen, those individuals will be able to show proof of their citizenship -up to and including on Election Day - to complete the registration process and cast a ballot.
  • The full details are set forth in the attached Settlement Agreement.

"These reforms, which were partly implemented before the November 8, 2016 general election, gave more than 42,000 previously disqualified applicants, who were otherwise eligible to vote, an opportunity to complete the registration process and cast a ballot.

"The settlement will also result in giving thousands of additional applicants whose applications were rejected as a result of the “exact match” system between October 1, 2013 and October 1, 2014 the opportunity to now finalize their voter registration and be able to cast ballots in this year’s elections and elections in the future.

“Asian Americans are the fastest growing immigrant population in Georgia. Our communities are naturalizing in increasing numbers, and we will continue to see more New Americans exercise their right to vote,” said Stephanie Cho, executive director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Atlanta.  “We are pleased that this decision increases access to voting for immigrants and people of color.”

“The fundamental right to vote should never hinge on data entry errors and technicalities. Our systems can and must do better," said Danielle Lang, deputy director of Voting Rights at the Campaign Legal Center. "Thanks to this settlement, and our partners who led this effort, tens of thousands of eligible Georgia voters will be restored to the rolls.”

“This settlement is an important recognition that as sacred as the vote may be in democracy; the vote cannot protect itself,” said Francys Johnson, Georgia NAACP President.  “This is not the work of government alone.  It takes a vigilance from engaged citizens to protect and defend our fundamental values.  These reforms at the heart of this settlement are strong indications that our democracy works.”

“This case illustrates the importance of careful, sensible registration procedures,” said Michelle Kanter Cohen, election counsel for Project Vote. “No American citizen should be denied their fundamental right to vote because of discriminatory practices or bureaucratic mistakes.”

“This settlement brings an end to Georgia’s onerous exact match requirement and instills important protections for voters in our state,” said Helen Butler, executive director of the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda.  “Voters deserve an election system that enables participation, not one that creates barriers and forces voters to jump through unnecessary hoops.”

About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. Formed over 50 years ago, we continue our quest of “Moving America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers' Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and community development; economic justice; voting; education; and criminal justice.  For more information about the Lawyers’ Committee, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org.         

sentillerydeskBy: Sen. Blake Tillery (R – Vidalia)

Another week has come and gone in Atlanta, leaving just 24 legislative days for us to introduce, vet and vote on bills. We’re really starting to get down to the nitty-gritty, and many important topics and bills are being discussed. Here are a few bills that were passed on the Senate floor this week that may impact businesses, healthcare and life in District 19:

SB 48 freezes the cost of a hunting and fishing license if the hunter renews his or her license before their expiration. As we all know, hunting season is the best season and this bill would make it cheaper for you to participate by cutting the cost of a license.

SB 14, or “the rural hospital tax credit,” expands the tax credit available to most companies to 70 percent of their tax liability or $10,000 dollars, whichever is less, when partnerships, LLCs and S corporations make a donation to a rural hospital. This is especially important to the hospitals in our district.

SB 12 would allow dental hygienists to perform certain duties while a dentist is out of the office. In places like Atlanta this may not be a big deal, but in areas like where we live, it can be. This bill will also help those wishing to volunteer their services at low-cost and charity dental clinics. We want our citizens to be able to receive the best care possible in a timely manner, and this bill would allow that to happen.

SBs 4, 40, and 52 all deal with the updating of services and procedures surrounding mental health and patient care.

In addition to these bills, we saw the amended Fiscal Year 2017 budget pass in the Senate. Included in the budget is over $27 million to fund law enforcement salary increases and over $100 million for education. This amended budget is the first step to making sure our state funds are being used responsibly and in a fiscally conservative manner.

Please let me if you have any questions or concerns about bills that you feel will affect our region. I enjoy hearing your feedback and always

take into consideration your thoughts and feelings. Thanks for the opportunity to serve you.  

Sen. Blake Tillery represents the 19th Senate District, which includes Appling, Jeff Davis, Long, Montgomery, Telfair, Toombs, Treutlen, Wayne, and Wheeler counties and a portion of Liberty and Tattnall counties.  He can be reached by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

NAMI meetingCheryl Williams of NAMI Statesboro/VidaliaFebruary 13--  About 20% of kids experience some form of a mental health condition and education and early identification is key to stopping problems down the road.  Toombs County has been selected as a pilot site for a new mental health initiative.

Pat Strode of the Georgia Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness explains, “We’re a part of a national organization.  We’re the largest grassroots mental health organization of its kind and we represent the Georgia chapter.  We have 20 or more affiliates throughout the state.  Our primary goal is to educate folks in and around the community on issues related to mental illness.” 

Strode added, “Statistics say that one in ten children will develop a mental health condition in any given year or experience it and that one in five adolescence kids starting at age 14.  That is a significant amount of kids.  We’re effectively punishing our kids for being ill with symptoms that they don’t understand, nor can they articulate.”

Strode explains how Toombs County was selected.  “In rural counties the infrastructure and services are far less than in urban communities.  We want to make sure we have a good representation of children from across the state.  Toombs County and Vidalia was selected for those reasons and because we have great community support here.  There is great support among law enforcement and among the mental health service providers and the advocates,” said Strode.

Strode commented, “It’s all of our responsibility to support our children, whether you have a child or not.”

February 10--  A large crowd was on hand as the top citizens of Vidalia were honored at the annual Vidalia Citizen of the Year Banquet at the Activity Hall of the Vidalia First United Methodist Church. 

Patricia DixonThe 2016 Vidalia Woman of the Year is Patricia Dixon.  “It really is very special to be chosen by my peers to join this group of special ladies.  I can’t take a lot of the credit.  My community supports me in so many things.  Vidalia is a great community and I’m so thankful to the Lord that he put me here,” said Dixon.  She added, “I couldn’t do any of this without my sweet husband Jimmy.  He walks beside me and I get him into so much stuff.”

Harry MosesThe 2016 Vidalia Man of the Year is Harry Moses.  “Overwhelmed is the first word that comes to mind.  Totally shocked.  I’m particularly pleased to join my father who received this award before me and my wife who got it a couple of years ago.”  Moses added, “I was born here, grew up here, educated in the local schools and made my living and a life here and it’s given so much back to me.  What I’ve given is a small measure compared to what I’ve gotten back.”

Vidalia has honored their citizens of the year since 1948 and the annual event is co-sponsored each year by the Vidalia Lions Club, the Vidalia Kiwanis Club, and the Vidalia Rotary Club.

February 9-- The 2017 class of Leadership Toombs Montgomery  visited the Georgia Capitol thanks to the efforts of Representative Greg Morris and Senator Blake Tillery.  The group toured the Capitol, met with Secretary of State Brian Kemp and Secretary of Agriculture Gary Black, watched the Georgia Senate in action from the gallery, and had a "lunch and learn" with Representative Morris and Senator Tillery.

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( L-R) Senator Blake Tillery, Debbie Evans, Nick Overstreet, Jake Cleghorn, Brandon Boston, Frank Champion, Laura Tiley, Lauren Howard, Sarah Brown, Arren Moses, Governor Nathan Deal, Jensie Smith, Tray Leslie, Michelle Johnson, Cindy Williams, Garrett Wilcox, Mandy Britt, Chris Keene, Representative Greg Morris

"The trip was a great addition to this year's program that we hope will become an annual event" stated LTM co-chair Garrett Wilcox.  Longtime LTM supporter Cindy Williams and Toombs Montgomery Chamber Executive Debbie Evans were instrumental in organizing the visit.  The Chamber and Leadership Toombs Montgomery thanks Representative Morris and Senator Tillery and their staffs for a great experience. 

February 8--  Sergeant First Class J.M. Lamb on the Georgia State Patrol Post in Reidsville reports the following activity in January.

ACTIVITY TOOMBS CO TATTNALL CO APPLING CO
Traffic Crashes 14 18 9
Injuries 6 9 5
Deaths 1 1 0
Traffic Tickets 111 70 74
DUI Arrests 3 3 1
Speeding Tickets 21 12 15
Seat Belt Tickets 40 34 39
Child Restraint Tickets 0 0 0
Warnings 267 91 202

February 8-- April Nicole Smith of Lyons graduated from Brewton-Parker College following the December 2016 term, according to Provost Dr. Robert Brian.

Smith earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in general studies.

Also, seven students from Toombs County qualified for the Dean’s List at Brewton-Parker College.

Students are Julia Brinson, Emily Taylor Page, and Benjamin Andrew Sikes, all of Lyons; and Ashley Sierra Dawson, Jennifer Renee Jones, Carolina Grace Murray, and Colby Purvis, all of Vidalia.

Qualifying students were enrolled in 12 or more hours and earned a grade point average of 3.6 or better.

February 8-- Students at Vidalia Heritage Academy collected 3000 cans of soup and vegetables, along with boxes of cereal and pasta and donated them to God's Storehouse where it will be distributed to needy people in our area.  This is a major part of who we are as a school, "equipping students to love God and serve others."

vhacansVHA challenged each student by awarding a “free dress day” to the class who brought in the most cans!

The 4th grade won by bringing in over 800 cans for the worthwhile cause.

February 8-- This past weekend four middle school students from Robert Toombs Christian Academy traveled to Brewton Parker College to participate and to perform with the GISA Middle School All-Select Band.

rtcaband17(L-R) Hayden Wiggins, Kaine Parham, Trey Brant and Hunter Coley had the opportunity to experience performing with other students from around the state. The students are looking forward to sharing their experiences with other RTCA band members. Miss Christina Trowell is the band director at RTCA.

February 8--  Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits reports the following arrests.

Jackson, Tonya-B/F 22 YOA-703 Winona St. Vidalia, GA-Criminal Damage to Property 2nd Degree/Simple Battery (FVA)

McGowan, Dale Robert- W/M- 56 YOA- 202 Pine St. Vidalia, GA- Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense (Citation)

Cobb,Valerie Amber- W/F- 38 YOA- 507 S. Broadfoot Blvd, Vidalia Ga- Driving While License Suspended Or Revoked/ Wrong Way On A One Way Street

Dent, Jamar Marque- B/M- 32 YOA- 714 Clyde Blvd, Vidalia Ga- DUI-1st Offense/ Driving While License Suspendd Or Revoked/ Possession Of A Controlled Substance (Felony)

 

 

February 7--  The 2017 Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) program included students and teachers from five area high schools. 

The program was hosted Monday night by Toombs County High School.

STAR students have the highest SAT scores in their schools and are in the top ten percent of their class based on grade point average.

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STAR Students (L-R) with their STAR Teachers behind them are Jacey Thomas and Jonathan Hardeman, Montgomery County High School; Oren Morgan and Rustin Howard-Parker, Toombs County High School; Brayden Price and Mandy Sanders, Vidalia Heritage Academy; Anastacia Wood and Candace Chomskis, Vidalia High School and Hope Denmark and Ann Smith, Robert Toombs Christian Academy.

The academic recognition program is in its 59th year after being started by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators to honor outstanding students and teachers and to encourage academic excellence.

Locally the program is sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Vidalia with contributions from Altamaha Bank and Trust Company, Million Pines Community Bank, Peoples Bank, Vidalia Federal Savings Bank and the Vidalia Rotary Club.

February 7-- Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black has announced that the Georgia Grown Feed My School for a Week (FMS) is growing to include 27 schools throughout Georgia.

Lyons Upper Elementary will be one of those 27 schools, thanks to the grant written by Toombs County Foods and Nutrition Director Courtney Gay and Principal Tabatha Nobles.

Commissioner Black says the FMS school systems are on the forefront of the farm to school movement in the state and key to the success of the 20/20 Vision for School Nutrition in Georgia which aims to have at least 20 percent of every meal in Georgia public school every day to be comprised of Georgia products by the start of the 2020 school year.

“These school nutrition directors are setting the example of how to purchase local products for school systems, all while improving the nutritional value for students,” Commissioner Black said. “We look forward to working with these schools this year and beyond to promote local and healthy eating in school systems throughout the state.” Lyons Upper Elementary School was one of the eight new schools added in 2016.

Feed My School for a Week first launched in 2011 to help bridge the gap in nutritional value and quality of food served Georgia schools, while providing more farm to cafeteria opportunities. Through the efforts of schools selected for the FMS program, the Georgia Department of Agriculture is able to identify local agricultural products available to school systems in diverse areas.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) is the voice of the state’s agriculture community. The department’s mission is to provide excellence in services and regulatory functions, to protect and promote agriculture and consumer interests, and to ensure an abundance of safe food and fiber for Georgia, America, and the world by using state of the art technology and a professional workforce.

Feed My School Georgia Grown Week will take place at Lyons Upper Elementary the week of April 24-28, 2017. During that week, students will enjoy lunches featuring Georgia grown foods. A Georgia map/bulletin board will be on display highlighting the farms where the food is grown.

Monday, April 24, the Georgia Mobile Dairy Classroom will visit, along with Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black and several Toombs County FFA members.

Tuesday, April 25, a Mini-Ag Expo will be held in the gym. Sponsors include, Ag South, Toombs County Extension, Toombs County FFA, Toombs County Young Farmers, Herndon Farms, and Farm Bureau. If you would like to set up an agricultural education booth, please contact Lyons Upper Elementary at 526-5816.

Wednesday, April 26, students, faculty and staff will “Dress like a Farmer” and have an outdoor exhibit of tractors and farm equipment. If you have farm equipment you would like to showcase, please contact Lyons Upper Elementary at 526-5816.

Thursday, April 27, LUES students will walk to Toombs County Middle School to tour the greenhouse and take part in planting a seedling of their own.

Friday, April 28, will be the Field Day at LUES, in which we will have Vidalia Onion relays and games. The final day will also host a writing contest for the students to tell “What I learned about Georgia Agriculture this week.”

Again, if you would like to participate in one of our activities as a sponsor or for an exhibit, please call Lyons Upper Elementary at 526-5816.

February 7-- Jeff McCormick, Headmaster at Vidalia Heritage Academy, was honored by staff, students, and parents for completing his tenth year leading the Christ-centered school.

jeffheadshotAn array of balloons, signs, gifts, and personal notes from students greeted him in his office. “I was overwhelmed, and absolutely humbled by their generosity and kindness,” McCormick stated. “The personal notes, though, especially from our seniors, they brought me to tears. You just never know what students might remember as they look back over 10 years.”

Among the things students wrote about McCormick’s leadership were that he always made them feel safe, encouraged, challenged, loved, and prepared for the college experience they were about to embark on. One student wrote, “The time you personally took with each of us to ensure we were preparing for college and for life was incredible and I don’t think other principals do that.”

There are many highlights of McCormick’s decade long impact at VHA. Under his leadership, the total enrollment grew from 65 students in his first year to 400 students today. In the midst of that growth the school has experienced even greater spiritual, academic, arts, and athletic accomplishments.

In 2014, VHA became fully accredited by SACS and ACSI. According to Bob Dixon, Board Chairman, “The stability Jeff has brought to us for these ten years has been crucial to our school’s growth and I’m not sure it would have been possible without his vision and determined efforts. His leadership, pastoral care, desire for excellence, and passion to guide these students into Christlike maturity is what really sets our school apart.”

McCormick summarizes the core value of his leadership in the Latin term ‘Carpe Aeternitatem’ which is translated in English as “seize eternity.” He strives to lead the VHA staff to make a daily impact of eternal significance, “Why settle for a day when you can grasp a hold of eternity?” he says, “Every single day walking through those doors (at school) is a small piece of eternity. So every day you make an eternal investment. Let that guide us all.”

February 7--  The Vidalia Rotary Club thanked outgoing President Dr. Garrett Wilcox. 

garrettrotarybyeIncoming President Tres Herin (R) presented the President's Gavel Plaque and thanked him for his leadership. 

The Vidalia Rotary Club meets each Wednesday at noon at the Meadows Regional Medical Center Wellness Center.

February 7-- Thirty-five Southeastern Technical College students were recognized as STC Foundation scholarship recipients at a scholarship banquet in Vidalia at the STC Economic Development Center.

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The scholarships, funded in part by the success of the foundation’s Raising Interest and Donations for Education (RIDE) in 2016, were officially awarded for Fall semester 2016 and Spring semester of this year, but this event gave the students an opportunity to meet foundation donors and trustees as well as community leaders.

 "I want to encourage all of you, students, to leverage the assets you’ve been given, whether that be scholarship dollars that you are receiving tonight, time that you have, or the God given talents that you have been given,” said Mark Thompson, STC Foundation Vice President. “Be willing to take some risk in how you invest those assets and manage that risk to achieve your goals. Congratulations to all the scholarship recipients.”

The Louie and Betty Calhoun Scholarship was awarded to Mathew Reese of Vidalia. Alayna Farrow of Midville and Lindsay Manning of Glennville received the Certificate Program Scholarship. The Fish and Wildlife Management Scholarship was given to Kalob Griggs of Midville and Michael Purvis of Twin City.

 General scholarship winners included Shelby Allen of Vidalia, Kirby Allmond of Vidalia, Ashley Cone of Statesboro, Chanel Dilworth of Statesboro, Felicia Dykes of Tarrytown, Savannah Garner of Vidalia, Melissa Jones of Vidalia, Madison Jowers of Baxley, Michael Joyce of Reidsville, Shannon Kirby of Lyons, Eric McNeal of Vidalia, Maribel Mirzakhani of Vidalia, Coertze Peters of Vidalia, Triston Ricks of Vidalia, Kathryn Stewart of Baxley, and Bridget Wright of Hazlehurst.. Erin Brown of Reidsville received the Grace Smith Memorial Scholarship.

Medical scholarship recipients were Alicia Baker of Vidalia, Taylor Bush of Twin City, Vivian Gato of Statesboro, Samantha Page of Twin City, Emily Peek of Lyons, and Yesenia Santoyo of Lyons. Mason Brannen of Claxton and Faith Dudley of Vidalia received the Scott Meehan Memorial Scholarship. The William J. Peterson, Jr. Scholarship was awarded to Asha Renfroe of Soperton. Melissa Palma of Lyons received the President’s Scholarship. The Rotary Corporation Scholarship was given to Erin Brown of Reidsville.

The Swainsboro Campus Scholarship was awarded to Danny Coleman of Midville. The Grady Toney Memorial Scholarship was given to Brittney Curl of Collins. Finally, Cynthia Edwards of Lyons won the Vidalia Campus Scholarship.

Where possible, each scholarship recipient was seated with people who were closely tied to the source or namesake of the scholarships. As part of the banquet’s activities, the TCSG State Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership winner of 2016, Ashley Rodgers, a graduate of South Georgia Technical College, addressed the scholars.

“Students, everyone values you, everyone values what you bring to the table, and what you are going to bring to your community,” said Rodgers. “So work hard, preserve, you’re going to be great because that’s what the technical college system does, it makes great people.

STC President Larry Calhoun also spoke to the assembled crowd, commending the students for their dedication to their studies and the donors for their contribution to education.

“Congratulations to all the recipients,” said Mr. Calhoun. “I would charge you to use your ability that you have to excel at what you’re doing and not just to make your life easy.”

Much of the funding necessary to create these scholarships came from the STC Foundation’s 2016 Annual campaign (The RIDE), which generated over $90,000 to support the technical college. The STC Foundation has already committed to increase the total number of scholarships awarded in 2017 to 40 students.   

February 7-- On Thursday, February 2, Rooney Kea was honored by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Kea has been in the SCV for 22 years and during that time he has served as the Commander of two different Camps, Brigade Commander, and Commander South (a state level office).

rebsGeorgia Division Commander Scott Gilbert (R) and 6th Brigade Commander Bob Whitaker (L) presented Kea with a plaque that acknowledged his efforts. The local Camp, the Montgomery Sharpshooters, presented Kea with a Commander Ribbon for his years of service in that position. Kea’s wife, Shelby, was also given a gift and a bouquet of flowers for all the work that she has done on behalf of the Sharpshooters.

The SCV is a heritage organization's missions are to honor the good name of the Confederate Soldier and to see that the true history of the South is presented to future generations. The Montgomery Sharpshooters meet the first Thursday of each month at 7:00 p.m.

Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office reports the following arrests:

 1/23       Mason Lane Ussery                         Vidalia, Ga.                        DUI, Failure to Maintain Lane

1/23       Laquintez Walker                              Vidalia, Ga.                        Theft by Taking, Armed Robbery, Pointing Gun at

                                                                                                   Another, Possession of Firearm During Commission of

                                                                                                   Crime, Possession of Firearm by Person Under 18 yoa

1/23       Saviyah Javioun Brantley                 Vidalia, Ga.                        Armed Robbery, Theft by Taking

1/24       Donnie Ralph Powell                       Vidalia, Ga.                        Possession of Methamphetamine, Possession of

                                                                                                                   Marijuana

1/24       Christopher Gaffney                        Lyons, Ga.                          Warrant Served – Deposit Account Fraud

1/25       Herschel Van Thompson IV           Mt. Vernon, Ga.                 Disorderly Conduct, Cruelty to Children-3rd, Aggravated

                                                                                                                 Battery

 1/27       Henry Lewis Brown                         Warner Robins, Ga.          Probation Warrant Served

 1/28       Tiger Roberson                                 Mt. Vernon, Ga.                 Theft by Taking (x2), Entering Auto to Commit Theft

                                                                                                    (x3)

 1/29       Connie Joy Greene                          Rincon, Ga.                        Items Prohibited for Possession by Inmates

 1/30       Jenny Eunice Johnson                     Mt. Vernon, Ga.                 Driving w/Suspended License, Tag Light Requirement

 1/30       Jack Clayburn McCleod, Jr.           Mt. Vernon, Gal.                Deposit Account Fraud (x3)

 2/01       Nikita Lee Turner                           Mt. Vernon, Ga.                 Child Support Warrant Served

 2/01       Jeanine Bridgette Sherid                Mt. Vernon, Ga.                 Obstruction of Officer, Cruelty to Children – 1st

 2/01       Julie Davis                                        Uvalda, Ga.                        Child Support Warrant Served

 2/01       Thomas Steven Funderburk           Reidsville, Ga.                   Possession of Methamphetamine

 2/03       Kenneth Griffin                                Vidalia, Ga.                        Theft by Taking

 2/03       Donny Wayne Braddock                Uvalda, Ga.                        DUI, Failure to Maintain Lane, Driving while Unlicensed,

                                                                                                  Open Container

2/04       Dalvin Devante Mobley                  Collins, Ga.                        Possession of Marijuana <1oz., Speeding

February 7--  Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

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February 7--  The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office released news about a meth bust last week in Mount Vernon.

"On Wednesday, February 1st, Chief Deputy Ronnie Bivins received a call from an Investigator from Telfair County stating that Thomas Funderburk, 32-year-old white male from McRae, Georgia, was staying at the Mount Vernon Inn and he was attempting to make a controlled drug buy with Funderburk through Facebook Messenger. Chief Bivins was also advised that Mr. Funderburk had an outstanding Felony Probation Warrant and asked if it could be served.

Chief Deputy Bivins and Investigator Justin Fountain went to the Mount Vernon Inn and talked with an employee who identified Mr. Funderburk from a photo. Upon searching the room that was registered to Funderburk and a female, he was found hiding in the bathroom and the warrant was served without incident.

funderburkdrugsAs Mr. Funderburk was being escorting from the room, several items of drug paraphernalia were noticed on the nightstand beside the bed and underneath the nightstand a small bag with a white substance and spoon was removed. Mr. Funderburk was arrested and charged with Possession of Methamphetamine and released to Telfair County for the Felony Probation Warrant served. He will answer for the Montgomery County charge at a later date."

February 6--  Groundbreaking for a new half-mile walking trail was held Monday afternoon at Partin Park in Lyons.

trail6feb17

According to Lyons Mayor Willis NeSmith, "This is another great addition.  It's going to be a beautiful walking trail and with a new pavilion we're building, it's another great asset to Parkin Park."

The new trail will connect to a mile-long trail in the park named for the late Mayor John Moore.

"He was always a big proponent for Partin Park and I think he would be very glad and pleased to see another nature trail is connecting to the trail named after him," Mayor NeeSmith noted.

The trail is being financed with a $99,000 state grant applied for on behalf of the city by Nancy Edge.  She says the project was a good fit because, "I really think we have a lot of community support and we were able to show that through our partnerships.  Also, the history of Partin Park and it's role in our community made them want to invest."

Gifted students at Toombs County Middle School are also contributing, according to their teacher Marsha Pierce, "The children are doing clean-up, they've done some research looking into what needs to happen and what we can do to make it better and they're doing community service to help prepare the way and get started with the project.

"It's about a better environment and about our community.  They need to get involved and know what's out here and they need to know it takes a lot of work to keep this going."

 

February 6--  The Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce welcomed its new board of directors and chairperson at its annual meeting.

Montgomery County native Ginger Morris succeeds John Koon who thanked chamber members for making 2016 a big year, "We've accomplished goals and we've been successful because of teamwork.  You wouldn't believe the people from big chambers and small chambers who come up to me and ask, 'How do you guys do what you do and accomplish what you do?'  Well I'll tell you, it's mostly because of people like you, the members, the volunteers and the ladies in the office under the direction of our president, Bill Mitchell."

JOHNGINGER1Ginger Morris presents the Chairman's Gavel Plaque in appreciation to John Koon's service.

Morris is a former principal at Sally Meadows Elementary School and believes education is the answer to creating the community's workforce of the future.

"My vision for the coming year is to make sure we exceed what John Koon did as chairman and to make sure my passion for education is met by hopefully helping to meet the workforce needs here and by growing leaders for the next generation.

"If you watch our chamber work, we're very cohesive, we get along and enjoy each others company.  Also, it's not about who is more important and what is your role, but more importantly it's about this community and what can we do together to make this a better place for everyone who lives here," she said.

Morris says it's a privilege to serve, "I think that's one, if not the most honorable thing that you can do, is to be of service to others.  I was taught that at home and also had great people around me growing up who instilled in me that servant leadership is what makes a community.  We are blessed to have many servant leaders here."

CHAMBERCHANGEThe new board includes Chair-Elect Brian Bishop, Executive Advisory Member Susan Taylor and members Blake Brown, Pat Dixon, Jennifer Evans, Dr. Charles Faulk, Tray Leslie, Nickie Muzafarov, Les Ramsey, Al Ross, Carol Stewart, John Tyson and David Yarbrough.

February 4--  State Senator Blake Tillery of Vidalia provides an update regarding the current session of the Georgia General Assembly.

sentillerydeskThis week we saw two bills pass on the Senate floor. Senate Bills 70 and 85 will now go to the Georgia House of Representatives for consideration.

Now, I know you’re probably wondering what these bills mean for the people of District 19? These bills both have a direct impact on small business and rural hospitals.

SB 70 provides a three-year extension to the sunset date on hospital provider fees. As we all know, our rural hospitals do not see as many patients with insurance as hospitals in the big city and they can use some help in paying for indigent patient care. If this bill passes the House as well, the state will take the approximately $300 million collected by hospital provider fees and leverage it for a 2 to 1 match of federal dollars creating a pool of roughly $900 million which is all returned to hospitals for indigent healthcare cost. This bill was supported by all the hospitals in District 19 and was truly a no-brainer once you consider the $300 million collected from the hospitals originally is returned to them as well.

SB 85 essentially allows craft breweries to sale the product they are making on-site.  Right now, local breweries are required to contract with large distributors in order to get their product to consumers.  I don’t know of any breweries in our district, but the idea that they should be prohibited from directly selling what they are already making on their own property seemed a little unfair. 

The next few weeks will see us become much busier.  Please let me know if you see bills that you feel will affect our region. I look forward to all the legislation that will come before us and will continue to update you on what is happening under the Gold Dome! Thanks for the opportunity to serve you.  

Sen. Blake Tillery represents the 19th Senate District, which includes Appling, Jeff Davis, Long, Montgomery, Telfair, Toombs, Treutlen, Wayne, and Wheeler counties and a portion of Liberty and Tattnall counties.  He can be reached by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

February 3--  Howard Hill, the Citizen of the Year in Vidalia in 2014, will be buried Saturday. 

Friends were shocked and saddened this week when he died not long after a diagnosis for pancreatric cancer.  He touched many lives during his 26 years living in Vidalia and you can read a record of his outstanding and varied community service in the obituary section below.

An ambulance draped with a farewell sign in his honor is parked at Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia.

Howard was a member of the Meadows Regional Medical Center operating Board of Directors, where he held the position of Secretary, and served as a member of the Doctor Recruitment and Finance Committees.

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Howard proudly served as an active fire-fighter for the Higgston Volunteer Fire Department and previously for the South Thompson Volunteer Fire Department. He was an active member of the Montgomery County First Responders since 2003 and served as Chief.

 

February 2--  Vidalia police are alerting the public to a scam that has hit the community.

According to Police Chief Frank Waits, "We're having a spoofing scam.  That's where you'll receive a phone call and it will have the Vidalia Police Department as a caller ID number or it may be like the Altamaha Bank or the Mount Vernon Bank.  Ther're calling people and telling them they won money and things like that and they need their social security number, date of birth and things.  Our warning is do not give any of this information out.

"We have people giving their account numbers to their checking.  If you get a check in the mail and you have no reason to be getting it, why try to cash it.  Just be careful who you talk to.  If you see where the Vidalia Police Department is calling you, know we don't ask for personal information.  We'll ask can we come see you or ask you to come see us."

Chief Waits says so far one person was able to get to the bank and change their account number before the scammers got there, however, another person was not so lucky.  The chief notes that not only was the person victimized, but so was the bank.

If you have information on a scam or scam attempt, call the Vidalia Police Department at 537-4123.

February 2--  Three Vidalia High School seniors are recipients of $1,000 college scholarships from the Vidalia Rotary Club. 

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The scholarships were presented Tuesday to (L-R) Presidential Scholarship Winner Mary Claire Herin, Smitty Snell Scholarship Winner Anastacia Wood and Frank Moore Scholarship Winner Joshua Sowell.

February 2--  Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits reports the following arrests.

Wiese, Colleen-W/F 39 YOA-903 E. Fifth St, Vidalia, GA-Theft by Shoplifting 2nd Offense

Lewis, Carl Willie- B/M- 63 YOA- 104 Dogwood St. Glennville, GA- Financial Transaction Card Fraud (x2)

Powell, Carl Anthony- B/M- 31YOA- 11 Pendleton St. Baxley, GA- Warrant Served (Child Support)

Flores, David Grajales- H/M- 38 YOA- 303 Jerriel St. A1 Vidalia, GA- No Driver’s License/Unsecure Load

Sanders, Michael Laquelle- B/M- 37 YOA- 501 McIntosh St. Vidalia, GA- Warrant Served (Parole)

Edge, Cody Elijah-W/M-31 YOA- 2012 Cottonwood Street Vidalia GA- Theft by Shoplifting 2nd Offense

Salem, Galin Derron-B/M-17 YOA- 106 Everett Street Apt 3 Vidalia GA- Theft by Shoplifting 1st

Riner, Sheila Dawn- W/F 46 YOA- 166 Hutcheson Lane Lot 6 Vidalia, GA- Theft By Shoplifting (Felony)

Crawford, Kemasine Arthro- B/M 38 YOA- 800 Mosley St Vidalia GA-Aggravated Child Molestation (Felony)

Whitaker, Christine P- W/F 46 YOA- 219 Courtney Way Statesboro, GA- Warrant Served (Bench Warrant-Vidalia)

Walton, James Anthony-B/M 62 YOA-704 Fifth Ave. Vidalia, GA-Criminal Trespass/Simple Battery (FVA)/Warrant Served (Toombs County)

Patterson, Chatherine Martia-B/F 50 YOA-628 Fifth Ave. Vidalia, GA-Possession of a Controlled Substance

February 2--  Employees at Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia are celebrating a special year at the hospital and here's why according to Chief Nursing Officer Michelle Malone, "Everybody here at Meadows is proud of this accomplishment.  To go more than an entire year without a hospital-acquired infection is simply amazing.  It's unheard of today in hospitals and it's a national problem.

"We take it seriously.  We look at our data and have developed multi-disciplinary teams so that teams from various parts of the hospital. doctors, nurses, housekeeping, dietary and respiratory therapy, pharmacy and came to the table and took each one of these infectious conditions apart so to speak.  We looked at best practices from the American Hospital Association, the Center for Disease Control and what does the science say and what's worked the best at other facilities.  We have systematically implemented those across the entire hospital."

Meadows CEO Alan Kent believes its more important than ever to be alert because, "The world is getting to be a scarier and scarier place.  There are things out there that people didn't know of or didn't happen twenty years ago that are now part of the healthcare environment in doctor's offices and hospitals.  This is becoming more and more of a point issue nationwide and we've had a great opportunity to advance the practice of nursing and medicine to the benefit of our patients and the community."

Kent credits teamwork for making it happen, "The healthcare world is sort of late in coming to realize that every single thing has to be a team.  Doctors are part of the team, nurses are part of the team, environmental services and housekeeping are key parts of the team.  Everybody has to do this stuff together and it's just like any other team you know of in any sports or endeavor, one weakness can keep the team from succeeding, one player not doing their job.  That's what makes this more special is that we're recognizing the achievement of an entire team."

Nursing chief Malone says the bottom line of the teamwork is to make sure patients don't get sicker at the hospital.

"At Meadows, this is about patient health and patient safety.  They come to us already sick.  They don't need to get sicker while they are here.  We want them to get well," she said.

February 1-- Senator Blake Tillery of Vidalia announced today that three Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) projects were awarded to Senate District 19 in Appling, Liberty, Long and Wheeler Counties totaling over $7.1 million. 

“Maintaining and improving our infrastructure is a vital component of keeping our district safe,” said Sen. Tillery.  “Resurfacing roads and constructing bridges is crucial to bringing people and businesses to District 19 and promoting growth throughout southeast Georgia. It’s great to see this investment being made in our district and I look forward to supporting projects like these in the future.”

The award for Appling County, worth $2.1 million, will resurface SR 144 from SR 27 to the Oneway Connector.

The contract awarded to Liberty and Long counties, worth $3.5 million, will address deteriorating pavement by resurfacing and completing shoulder rehab on SR 144 from the Tattnall County line to SR 119.

The anticipated completion date for the projects in Appling, Liberty and Long Counties is November 30, 2017.

The third contract, awarded to Wheeler County, will construct a bridge and approaches over Alligator Creek on CR 197. The project will cost approximately $1.5 million and the estimated completion date is March 31, 2018.

January 31-- U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today issued the following statement regarding the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to become the next justice on the Supreme Court. The Senate previously confirmed Gorsuch unanimously in 2006 for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, based in Denver, Colo.

“I have consistently said that the next Supreme Court justice should be someone who understands and values the Constitution of the United States of America, who will rule based on the law and who will not legislate through activist judicial decisions,” said Isakson. “I know that the president shares this view and based on his previous rulings, Judge Gorsuch shares the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s commitment to starting all constitutional analysis with the actual text of the Constitution. In addition, Judge Gorsuch’s distinguished service on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals provides vital, relevant experience for service on our nation’s highest court.

 “As I argued following the untimely death of Justice Scalia last year, the American people deserved to have a voice in the process of selecting our next Supreme Court justice by allowing the next president to select Justice Scalia’s replacement. That day has arrived and the American people have spoken. President Trump’s nominee deserves fair and thorough consideration and an up-or-down vote by the Senate, and I look forward to Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation process.”

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January 31--  An exclusive private golf course is under construction on the Ohoopee River between Vidalia and Cobbtown.

Vidalia Onion farmer R.T. Stanley, Jr. says he sold 2,142 acres of land on the Tattnall County side of the river to Michael Walrath of Long Island last summer.  He identifies Walrath as a multi-millionaire who made his fortune with Yahoo.  Walrath tells us he's not ready to speak publicly about the project but will be releasing more information later on what he's calling "The Ohoopee Match Club."

He's employed one of the world's current top golf course architects, Gil Hanse, to design the course.  Hanse built the course which hosted the Olmpics last year in Brazil.

Earlier Hanse talked about the Ohoopee project with "The Golf Channel."

matchclub

"The Ohoopee River runs through this site in Georgia near Vidalia where the onions come from.  Sand, great vegetation, live oaks, beautiful sort of scrubby vegetation underneath.  It's an interesting concept.  Mike Walrath, the owner, has looked to Jim Wagner and I to come up with a golf course whose principal use will be for match play, so hence, The Match Club.  The way people will play it will be through matches. They've asked us to come up with some really interesting half-shot holes and build a golf course that will be fun to play during a match as opposed to pencil and scorecard," Hanse said.

Hanse started clearing land late last year and expects the project to be completed this year.

Walrath has formed "The Ohoopee Match Club, LLC" and has filed with the Securities and Exchange Commision seeking $10 million in ownership investments.  The minimum contribution is $250,000 according to the filing.

R.T. Stanley says he understands plans are to build a 50-room lodge to accomodate affluent visitors and he expects we'll see a lot of flights in and out of Vidalia Regional Airport by visitors to the club.

January 31--  The former assistant baseball coach at Brewton-Parker College is the new Montgomery County Recreation Director.

Twenty-seven-year old Steve McLeod was hired by the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners at a called meeting Monday afternoon.  He was recommended by the county Recreation Board.

McLeod graduated from Montgomery County High School in 2008, holds Associates Degrees in Education and Business Administration from South Georgia College and will complete his Bachelors Degree in Business at Brewton-Parker this Spring.  He also played college baseball at both South Georgia and Brewton-Parker.

stevemcleod“The Board of Commissioners appreciates the Recreation Board’s efforts in searching for a candidate to lead the County’s recreation program”, says County Manager Brandon Braddy (right).  “I encourage parents and the community to get behind Steve to give him the support and encouragement to make the County’s recreation program a success for our youth and children.”