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April 30--  The Stage at City Park in downtown Vidalia exploded with southern rock Saturday night as Atlanta's "Blackberry Smoke" gave fans the show and music for which they have become famous. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

lanceconcertLumber City's Lance Stinson was among the acts opening the Vidalia Onion Festival concert.

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April 30--  Twenty-seven contestants in three age categories competed Saturday at the Vidalia Lions Club  "World Famous Vidalia Onion Eating Contest" held under the pines on Airport Road on the Arts and Crafts stage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hokepoeHoke Poe, a sixth grader from Jefferson, Georgia won first place among 12 competitors in the age 11 and under category.  He ate five Sweet Vidalia Onions in three minutes.  

 

 

 

 

 

lilliannFirst place in the age 12 through 16 category went to Toombs County High School sophomore LiliAnn Pittman who ate eleven Sweet Onions to edge out four other competitors.  LiliAnn also won the contest two years ago when she ate five.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

devinThere were nine competitors in the 17 and up age category and 19-year-old Devin Johnson of Vidalia took top honors eating 15 Sweet Vidalia Onions.  Lion Tracey Clark presented the winning trophy and $100 to the winner.   

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April 28--  The Vidalia rock band "Indulgence" opened the Vidalia Onion Festival for its hometown Friday evening on "The Stage at City Park."   Afterwards, Vidalia Mayor Ronnie Dixon welcomed the crowd and thanked the Onion Festival Committee prior to the main show by the Atlanta band "Crystal Clear" and the fireworks show.

For a complete lineup of weekend events, go to www.vidaliaonionfestival.com.

April 28--  A Reidsville teenager was seriously injured late Thursday afternoon in a Toombs County wreck.

truckwreckaprilAccording to Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight, 16-year-old Christen Medders was airlifted to a Savannah hospital and is listed in critical condition.

Officers say his vehicle overturned at the intersection of Highway 280 and Mt. Moriah Road East and hit two trees.

An investigation is being conducted by the Toombs County Sheriff's Office and the Georgia State Patrol.

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April 27--  The Children's Parade stepped off down Meadows Street late Thursday afternoon in downtown Vidalia as the 40th Annual Vidalia Onion Festival got underway. 

 

 

 

 

 

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The kids marched to "The Stage at City Park" where entertainment was provided by local dance groups.

 

 

 

 

Kids with the best costumes based on the Zootopia movie won some cash and certificates.  A free showing of the movie followed.

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April 27-- The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) announced today that the unemployment rate in the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha region in March was 5.9 percent, down five-tenths of a percentage point from 6.4 percent in February. In March 2016, the rate was 6.6 percent.

The rate declined because more people became employed as the labor force continued to grow and employers laid off fewer workers.

The number of employed residents increased by 661 to 110,147, as the labor force grew by 86 to 117,073. The labor force consists of employed residents and those who are unemployed, but actively looking for jobs.

The number of initial claims for unemployment insurance, a measure of new layoffs, declined by 110, or 13.7 percent, to 695. Most of the decrease came in construction and manufacturing, along with health care and social assistance. Over the year, claims were down by 255, or 26.8 percent, from 950 in March 2016.

Metro Gainesville had the lowest area jobless rate at 4 percent, while the River Valley region had the highest at 6.1 percent.

Meanwhile, Georgia’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate for March was 5.1 percent, down from 5.3 percent in February. It was 5.5 percent in March 2016.

Job seekers and employers are encouraged to use GDOL’s online job listing service employgeorgia.com to search for jobs or recruit new employees. In March, 1,091 new job openings in the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha region were posted on Employ Georgia. Throughout the state, 85,055 new job openings were posted.

Local area unemployment data are not seasonally adjusted. Georgia labor market data are available at dol.georgia.gov

April 26--  Thirty-seven art students from Vidalia High School and Robert Toombs Christian Academy spent part of Wednesday decorating sidewalks on Meadows, Church and Jackson Streets in downtown Vidalia with chalk art to welcome guests to this weekend's 40th annual Vidalia Onion Festival.  The art will be judged and prizes awarded to the top three artists.

vhsartKayijeah Victoria is a sophomore art student at Vidalia High School.

artmckenzieMcKenzie Harper is in the art class at RTCA.

April 26-- -Robert Toombs Christian Academy participated in the Toombs County Relay for Life program this year to raise money for the American Cancer Society.  The newly formed RTCA Student Government Association took on the responsibility of fundraising and promoting the RTCA team.

Teams from around Toombs County met in Booster Stadium to celebrate everyone’s accomplishments.  The event began with a cancer survivors' walk and followed by a caregivers' walk. During the event members from various teams walked to show their support for finding a cure for cancer. 

The theme for this year’s event was "Games" and RTCA chose the television game show "Minute to Win it".  RTCA decorated the tent with clocks and stop watches and had several games for people to play.  RTCA sold barbecue plates to also help raise money at the event.  Middle School SGA students Maggie Standard, Andrew Tuck, Walker Moncus and Bradlan McDonald, along with Seniors Kailee Williamson and Maegan Sager helped set up the tent, ran the games and walked the track for the first half of the event. High School SGA members Drew Fowler, Roya Adkins, Baylee Williamson, Rose Bishop, Wil Duvall, Evan Venable, Kate Sullivan, and Ansley Scott finished out the night for the RTCA team.

rtcarelay17The event included a "Battle of the Schools"—The school that raised the most money would receive a trophy and recognition. RTCA won the battle with a total of $4,634.00.  RTCA thanks all those who contributed and helped either by working the tent, baking goodies to sell or just making a contribution.  Everyone’s hard work was greatly appreciated.

Front Row (L-R): Walker Moncus, Andrew Tuck. Back Row (L-R): Maggie Standard, Bradlan McDonald and Mrs. Findley, SGA Advisor and RTCA teacher

RTCA is only $400 away from the school’s goal of $6,000 and from being named a "Gold" team.  Contributions are still being accepted.  RTCA is in it to win it - let's beat cancer!!!

 

April 26--  Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits reports the following arrests.

Whitfield, Dorinda L. - W/F 30 YOA/ 883 Allen Dr. Vidalia, Ga. / Warrant Served (Middle Ga. Probation)

Williams, Christopher A. - W/M 19 YOA/ 302 Fowler Rd. Mt. Vernon Ga./ Two Counts Sale Of Methamphetamine

Moore, Willie C. Jr. - B/M- 50 YOA- 501 McIntosh St. Vidalia, GA- DUI-1st Offense/Driving With Expired Tag/Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (First)/Failure to Obey Stop/Yeild Sign

Brantley, Jamel- B/M- 22 YOA- 410 Randolph Dr. Apt. 5C Vidalia, GA- Possession of Marijuana Less Than Ounce

Stewart, Chandler Kyle - W/M 18 YOA/ 2899 Ceadar Crossing Rd. Vidalia, Ga./ Driving While License Suspended Or Revoked

Channel, Caroline - B/F 54 YOA/ 724 W Seventh St. Vidalia, Ga. / Warrant Served (Fayette County Probation)

Lanum, Jeffery David- W/M- 26 YOA- 2543 GA 15 Hwy Vidalia, GA- Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense (Citation)(MISD)

McDaniel, Bonnie Colleen- W/M- 43 YOA- 902 Pinehill Rd. Soperton, GA- Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense (Citation) (MISD)

Salem, Shaniqwa Kwamae- B/F- 26 YOA- 1208 Easter Dr Apt 6 Vidalia, Ga- Theft By Shoplifting-2ND Offense

Heard, Crystal Joy-B/F- 19 YOA- 504 W. Second St. Vidalia, Ga- Theft By Shoplifting 1St Offense

April 25--  For 16 years, the five-man band called "Blackberry Smoke" has been making music and doing shows all over from their home base in Atlanta. 

They are in Vidalia this Saturday night for the Vidalia Onion Festival concert on "The Stage at City Park".

bs1" We play anywhere, anywhere that's got a power outlet," says Charlie Starr, their lead singer and primary songwriter, "My Dad is a guitar player-singer, Bluegrass, and I don't have a memory where he wasn't playing and singing, I mean from the cradle, and I think I just got it honest."

The band is what you might call southern rock in the tradition of Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Skynyrd was influenced by the same stuff that we love like blues, gospel, rock and roll, country and jazz.  Bands like Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers were very free musically and weren't trying to fit into any box and we're a band that's also enjoying that kind of idea," Starr said.

Their latest album debuted at Number One on the country charts and Number Seven on the rock charts and included a cut with Gregg Allman,

"We met Gregg a few years ago doing some shows together.  He looms large in our music and it was really cool to become friendly with him.  When we started recording that song on the new album called "Free on the Wing,' I said this sounds like a Macon, Georgia kind of song and I thought it would be really cool if Gregg Allman would sing on it.  The next step was to ask and after hearing the song he said he'd do it.," Starr recalls.

The band averages 250 shows a year and has just returned from a 12-country, six-week concert tour of Europe where Starr says music overcame all the language barriers, "People that come to our shows are happy and come to have a good time.  It doesn't matter what language we're singing in.  They feel it and they have fun," he says.

Advance tickets are on sale at Vidalia City Hall and the Vidalia Onion Museum and may be linked to buy online at www.vidaliaonionfestival.com.

bigboyApril 25--  "Big Boy" is a two-year-old American Bulldog mix at the Vidalia Animal Shelter.  Manager April Braddy says he is very laid back and good with other dogs and with people and needs a family to call his own.

During the month of May, the Shelter's adoption fee has been reduced from $45 to $20.  Call April at 537-8866 for info on adopting "Big Boy" or any of the other dogs and cats at the Shelter. (Courtesy Vidalia Veterinary Clinic)

April 25-- Twelfth District Congressman Rick Allen issued the following statement on the Senate’s confirmation of former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue as Agriculture Secretary:

“I congratulate Sonny Perdue on his confirmation to serve as Agriculture Secretary. As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, I look forward to working with him to advance the needs of our farmers and the industry as a whole. I am confident he will be a champion of rural America.”

April 24--  A Vidalian is the new chairman of the 12th Congressional District Republican Party.

buckmoonDelegates from the district's 19 counties elected Buck Moon, Jr. to the position at a party convention Saturday.

"As chairman, I'm sort of the chief volunteer.  I try to coordinate between the county-level politics when we choose a Republican candidate to make sure we're doing everything we can to continue to expand the reach of the Republican Party and that we are growing in an effective way.

"In the 12th District not too long ago we were sort of a purple district.  We had John Barrow as our representative and we had several state representatives and state senators who were Democrats.  Now we have 17 state representatives who are in some part of the 12th District and 13 of them are Republicans.  Of the seven state senators in our district, all but one of them are Republicans and we want to continue doing that," Moon said.

Moon encourages citizens to get involved in the political process and invites them to the local Republican Party meeting the first Tuesday of every month at 6:30 p.m.at Chatters in Lyons.

"I got started in politics at a very young age because my parents didn't like it that we had Democrat control of our area and wanted to get involved.  At five years old, I was sticking labels to envelopes and going door to door for candidates.  That's what it takes to make change is to go out and work for someone you believe in and to continue to work even if you're not successful initially," he said.

 

April 24-- Leaders from Trane in Vidalia recognized seven Vidalia Trane employees and an eighth employee who works in the Macon Trane office for completing the Team Leader Development Program, a rigorous professional education program. 

A ceremony led by plant manager Richard Peterson and training leader Erika Basham was held at the plant to honor the 2017 graduates for their leadership and commitment.

traneleadersVidalia-based graduates (front row, L-R) are Carrie Barrho, continuous improvement educator; Graciela Sanchez, team leader; Jen Meadows, team leader; Deborah Morgan, team leader at the Macon Trane office and training leader Ericka Basham; (back row, L-R) Faye Sipp, team leader; Latara Gibbons, team leader; Lashanda Gardner, team leader; Jose Narvaez, production leader.

 

 

April 24--  Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

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April 24--  Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

04/18     Levy Billy Jack Harvill                       Mt. Vernon, Ga.                   Arson -1st

 04/18     Ricky Ned Sikes                                Vidalia, Ga.                           Trafficking Methamphetamine

04/19     Shaun Demetress Brown                    Vidalia, Ga.                           Battery (Family Violence), Criminal Damage to Property

                                                                                                                                2nd (FVA), Cruelty to Children-3rd

 04/19     Latyal Michelle Moye                        Mt. Vernon, Ga.                   Probation Warrant Served

 04/20     Michael Brandon Harvey                  Vidalia, Ga.                           DUI, Open Container, Improper Stopping on Roadway

 04/23     Noel Sanchez                                       Dublin, Ga.                         Driving While Unlicensed, Speeding

April 22-- Three dental hygiene students from Southeastern Technical College were recognized at the 2017 Thomas P. Hinman Dental Meeting in Atlanta..

stchinman17(L-R) Jennifer Chapman of Hazlehurst, Bridget Wright of Hazlehurst, and Chastaine Daniels of Lyons were named Hinman Scholars and received $1,000 scholarships.

 “These students are very deserving of this honor,” said Jennifer Gramiak, program director for STC Dental Hygiene.

The students were chosen as Hinman Scholars by the dental hygiene program faculty and received their scholarships at Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center.

The Hinman Dental Society of Atlanta's board of trustees provided the scholarships, as well as hotel rooms for the scholars prior to the event.

The 2017 meeting was the 105th meeting of the Hinman Dental Society of Atlanta, which has been giving scholarships to dental hygiene students since 1989.

 

April 22-- Ms. Sandy Roberts of the Salvation Army in Vidalia delivered blessing bags to the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office as a way of showing support of law enforcement officers.

salarmymocoSheriff Doug Maybin, Chief Deputy Ronnie Bivins and E911 Dispatchers Angela Roberson and Melinda Williams accepted the bags on behalf of the Sheriff's Office staff and appreciate the prayers and support of our community.

methmocoApril 22-- On Tuesday, April 18th, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office received a call from Buzzy’s Convenience Store in Uvalda regarding counterfeit currency.

When investigators arrived at the scene, an interview of the suspect led to the search of his vehicle where 50.9 grams of Methamphetamine was found.

Ricky Ned Sikes of 1372B Taylor Springs Road, Vidalia was arrested for trafficking Methamphetamine. He is currently being held in the Treutlen County Jail awaiting a bond hearing.

Okefenokee NWR Access Limited Due to Wildfire

Folkston, GA… At the Main Entrance to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge near Folkston, structural preparations have begun in anticipation of the West Mims Fire moving east through the swamp. The lighting-caused fire was reported on April 6, 2017, approximately 2.5 miles northeast of Eddy Tower in the southern portion of the Okefenokee. The Chesser Island Boardwalk and Chesser Island Homestead will be closed to visitors until further notice.  

In addition to the facilities closures, the Wilderness Canoe Trail overnight stops are closed to ensure visitor safety. The Richard S. Bolt Visitor Center and Okefenokee Adventures are operating as normal at this time; however, closures may be put in place if necessary.  The west side of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, including the Suwannee River Sill and the Stephen C. Foster State Park are currently closed to all visitor access. 

Due to the ongoing nature of fires within the Okefenokee and the uncertainty of what the fire situation will be this summer, refuge personnel have determined that the 2017 summer camps will be cancelled. The refuge appreciates the community support for educational programming and we encourage interested visitors to follow the refuge Facebook page for programs that may be scheduled in the future.    

For more information regarding the West Mims Fire closures, visit the Inciweb site for the West Mims Fire at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5153/  and follow the Okefenokee Facebook page at www.facebook.com/okefenokeewildliferefuge.

gapowerlinemenApril 21--  Linemen from Georgia Power Company paid a visit to Sally Meadows Elementary School in Vidalia Thursday as part of the company's "Lineman Appreciation Week."  The linemen discussed electricity and safety with second graders and explained what a lineman does.

Area Manager Tray Leslie described the company's linemen as "heroes" who work 24/7 to keep customers supplied with power even amidst storms and natural disasters.

April 21--  An insurance company says it will not cover former Vidalia political consultant Jim Collins for alleged child molestation.

In a statement filed this month in Toombs County Superior Court, Country Mutual Insurance Company says a homeowners insurance policy issued to Collins for property at 2100 Ross Way in Vidalia provided liability coverage in the amount of $100,000 per occurrence.  However, it notes coverage only applies to accidents and excludes sexual misconduct or molestation.

Matthew Stanley of Vidalia filed a civil suit against Collins in November, 2015 alleging he was molested by Collins from 1996 to 2002 when Collins led the Youth Program at the Vidalia First Baptist Church.  The suit was filed under provisions of the Georgia Hidden Predator Act and seeks to recover monetary damages from Collins.

The company says it is not obligated to provide coverage nor defense of the claims in the case.

It is asking Superior Court Judge Kathy Palmer to issue a summary judgement supporting the company's position.

April 20-- Attorney General Chris Carr today announced an addition to Georgia’s program of reciprocal recognition of firearms licenses from other states. Legislation initially passed in 1996 allowed Georgia to grant this privilege to citizens of states which recognized Georgia firearms permits.

The state of Virginia has determined that it will honor Georgia firearms permits for Georgia license holders 21 years of age or older.  Therefore, effective immediately, Georgia recognizes firearms permits issued by Virginia.

With this revision, Georgia now reciprocates in recognizing firearms licenses with the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia*, West Virginia, Wisconsin* and Wyoming.

As always, Georgia firearms permit holders should familiarize themselves with the individual requirements and limitations on firearms permits in any of the reciprocating states where they wish to exercise their rights.

*Virginia and Wisconsin recognize only those Georgia licenses issued to persons 21 years of age or older; Georgia recognizes all Virginia and Wisconsin licenses.  

April 20-- The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) announced today that the state’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate decreased to 5.1 percent in March, down two-tenths of a percentage point from 5.3 percent in February. This is the lowest the rate has been since December 2007, the beginning of the Great Recession. In March 2016, the unemployment rate was 5.5 percent.

“The rate dropped as we saw more than 19,000 people become employed and Georgia employers continued to create jobs,” said State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. “While the monthly job growth was stronger than our three-year average for March, our over-the-year job growth of 131,000 is the best for this period since 2000.”

The number of employed workers increased by 19,093, as the labor force grew by 9,627 to 5,020,332. The labor force consists of employed residents and those who are unemployed and actively looking for jobs. The growth in the labor force led to an increase in the state’s labor participation rate of one-tenth of a percentage point to 63.1 percent.  The labor participation rate is the percentage of all Georgia residents at least 16 years old who are in the labor force.

There were 9,500 new jobs in March, representing a 0.2 percent growth rate, which increased the total job count to 4,466,100. The growth outpaced the average February-to-March increase of 9,300 for the previous three years. Most of the gains were in construction, 4,700; professional and business services, 2,600; trade, transportation and warehousing, 1,800; information services, 1,400; leisure and hospitality, 1,200; financial activities, 900; and education and health services, 600. The job gains were offset somewhat by losses in government, 1,800; other services, such as repair and maintenance, 1,000; and manufacturing, 800.

Over the year, however, 131,000 jobs were added, a 3 percent growth rate from March 2016. The national growth rate was 1.7 percent. Job gains were made in professional and business services, 29,300; leisure and hospitality, 25,800; trade, transportation and warehousing, 18,900; education and health services, 17,300; government, 14,900; construction, 11,200; financial activities, 9,700; information services, 2,900; and manufacturing, 1,600. Other services lost 1,300 jobs. 

The number of initial claims for unemployment insurance, a measure of new layoffs, rose by 712, or 2.9 percent, to 25,019 in March. Most of the increase was due to temporary claims filed in manufacturing.

Over the year, claims were down by 2,963, or 10.6 percent, from 27,982 in March 2016, with administrative and support services and manufacturing and construction accounting for most of the decline. 

Employ Georgia, the GDOL’s online job listing service at employgeorgia.com, showed 85,055 new job postings statewide for March.  

April 19--   A Toombs County jury has returned a guilty verdict in a 15-year-old murder case that happened in Swainsboro.

In April, 2002 Emily Pestana-Mason, an English professor at East Georgia College, was murdered in her home.  After deliberating two-and-a-half days, the jury convicted Phillip Scott Kirby, Sr. of Swainsboro for the killing.  The case was tried in Toombs County after a change of venue motion was requested by the defendant and approved by Judge Kathy Palmer.

Kirby had previously met Mrs. Mason when he visited her home to repair a water heater.  He returned a couple of weeks later when authorities believe he cut her throat during a rape attempt.

kirbysentenceKirby (far right) with his attorney Matthew Hube.

District Attorney Hayward Altman says DNA testing was key to solving the crime.

"We had a hair that was located under her leg inside of her pants that only the person standing over her when they committed the act could have placed  there.  In her fight for her life, she had pulled out a hair by the roots and that enabled us to go forward.  The DNA came back to match him.  That basically eliminated her husband who had been arrested earlier as a suspect," the DA said.

The husband, Dr. Walter Mason, also a professor at East Georgia, read a victim's statement to the court and later said, "I'm just glad it's over."

After killing Mrs. Mason, the DA says Kirby committed an armed robbery at a convenience store where he attempted to rape the clerk and later was convicted of another armed robbery for which he got 15 years without parole.

During incarceration a DNA swab was taken from him which matched the hair found on Mrs. Mason's body.  He was arrested for the Mason murder the day he left state prison.

The DA commended the Toombs County jury, "I have great respect for that jury.  The worked extremely hard on a complicated case and arrived at the right results,' he said.

At two p.m. Wednesday, the jury told Judge Palmer it was split 11 to one on a verdict but said it was not "hopelessly" deadlocked.  It returned an hour-and-a-half later with an unanimous guilty verdict.

Jackie Holdier of Vidalia was the jury foreperson, "At times it was very stressful.  I believe the tension level was very high.  It was a difficult decision no one wanted to have to make. I prayed about it a lot and there were several of us who prayed about it.  It wasn't a decision I took lightly because we were making a decision about someone's life," she said.

The jury found Kirby guilty of malice and felony murder and Judge Palmer sentenced him to life in prison.

His lawyer said they will appeal the verdict.

 

April 19--  The Montgomery County School System honored its Special Education Teacher of the Year and its Special Education Support Person of the Year at the monthly meeting of the county school board.

The school system's Special Education Director Audrey Walters (Left in Photos) made the presentations.

samsappSam Sapp is in his third year teaching special education students, "I chose the field because it was where I thought I could make the biggest impact as a teacher and mentor to these children.  It was my calling from the moment I went to school to Mercer.  As I went through college and I learned about disabilities and accommodations and all, it was something I strongly wanted to be part of and I want to retire doing the same job as I am now."

Sapp works with 27 special ed students at Montgomery County High School and has every confidence in their ability to succeed, "Any child that was diagnosed with a disability was kind of cut short or not given a fair chance, but that's where inclusion and accommodations come into play.  It's awesome to see that with the right accommodations, that the kid can be equal and as successful as any other kid in that room."

The Special Education Support Person of the Year is Nell Moore who goes by "BB" and is a para-professional at Montgomery County Elementary School.

nellmoore"They're going to do a lot better than they think they can do and better than a lot of people think they can do.  They are children who need that extra little nudge or maybe just a hug and that light goes off and you see it in their eyes.  Me, personally, I had a special ed child and I know how she had to struggle and I hate to see children have to struggle like that, so it's just in my heart," she says.

Mrs. Moore has been working in the school system for 25 years and has seen improvements in the education of special ed students.

"They have more opportunities and with inclusion in the classes they are not set aside as much and I think the kids accept them better," she observed.

 

April 18--  The Toombs County Sheriff's office continues its crackdown on people who allegedly want to have sex with children.

coledowdAccording to Sheriff Junior Kight, the latest arrest is that of 19-year-old Anthony Cole Dowd of Lyons who is charged with Enticing a Child for Indecent Purposes and possession of marijuana.

A news release from Sheriff Kight said, "The purpose of this investigation was to arrest those who are willing to exploit children by purchasing or soliciting sex with a minor, and the recruitment of victims of child sex trafficking. The investigation specifically targeted persons who communicate with children on-line and then travel to meet them for the purpose of having sex.  On-line child predators visit chat rooms and websites on the internet, find children, begin conversations with them, introduce sexual content and arrange a meeting with the children for the purpose of having sex.  The children these predators target are both boys and girls." 

FAST FACTS: The West Mims Fire is currently 21,308 acres and 3% contained. 265 personnel are assigned to this incident. Equipment resources include 6 helicopters, twenty five engines, 5 dozers, thirty six tractor plows and 1 hot shot crew.

Current fire situation: The lighting-caused fire was reported on April 6, 2017, approximately 2.5 miles northeast of Eddy Tower and is currently located within the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, John M. Bethea State Forest, and Osceola National Forest. A Georgia Forestry Commission Type 2 Incident Management Team is assisting in managing the fire with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Forest Service, and U.S. Forest Service.

Planned action: Strategic firing operations will be conducted as conditions allow to bring the fire out to established containment lines. Crews will monitor and patrol for spots across containment lines and will work to contain any spots with ground and aerial resources. Crews used ground and air support operations to contain a spot that crossed GA/94 and utilized strategic firing operations to keep fire within the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge boundary. Crews will work to strengthen and hold control lines near Council Road, Turkey Nest, and Cypress Creek to allow them time for further prep lines to the north.  Areas outside of the Swamp Edge Break will continue to be monitored in order to allow for effective mop up operations. 

Additional operations include implementing structure protection mitigation at Stephen C. Foster State Park as well as fire line preparations around three historic cabins within the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and around facilities on the east side of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Assessments were completed for private structures on Hwy. 177 yesterday to include areas in the community near Council and Fargo. Other operations include preparation around other resources values at risk, which includes endangered Red-cockaded woodpecker habitat on interior islands within Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

In addition to fire line operations, personnel have been preparing citizens in the surrounding communities of the current and potential impacts of the West Mims Fire. A community meeting was held on Monday at the Fargo Charter School for approximately 40 citizens, elected officials, and cooperators. The Incident Commander and several cooperators gave an overview of the fire situation, fire weather, current operations and strategic plans. The Clinch County Emergency Management Agency, in conjunction with other partners have been preparing citizens by providing them tools to aid them in potential evacuations. The “Ready, Set, Go!” initiative is being used as an educational tool to advise citizens within the community of ways in which they can prepare their homes and their families for potential evacuations.

Fire weather: A stable air mass will result in increased smoke concerns in the late evening and early morning for adjacent communities and roadways.  Warm and dry conditions will persist with winds shifting out of the east/southeast with maximum temperatures reaching close to 90 degrees.

Restrictions and closures: FL2/GA94 from the agricultural check station at the GA/FL line to U.S. 441 in Fargo will be open from 10:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m.  

The Wilderness Canoe Trail overnight stops within the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge are closed. Day-use canoeists and guided boat tours will still be able to access the trails.  

A burn ban is in place within the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, including Stephen C. Foster State Park. The ban includes fires at designated campsites and charcoal grills.   

April 17-- Members of Vidalia Heritage Academy’s Archery team served at the Toombs County Special Olympics last Friday at Buck Cravey Field.

The students enjoyed cheering for the athletes and helping them in the Softball and Tennis Ball Throw events.

vhaolympics(L-R) Christopher Scoggins, Macy Todd, Bailey Zeigler, Savannah Scoggins, Elliot Sammons and Lauren Adams

It is the mission of Vidalia Heritage Academy to equip students spiritually, intellectually, and physically, to love God and serve Him as Christ’s Ambassadors in the world.

April 18--  Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits reports the following arrests.

Atkins, Denarius-B/M-26 YOA- 405 Peachtree St Vidalia, Ga- Burglary, Kidnapping, Simple Battery (FVA)

Davis, Rebecca Lynn- W/F- 48 YOA- 108 Mauldin St Baxley, GA 31513- Theft By Shoplifting-1st Offense

Walker, Destiny Michelle - W/F/ 21 YOA/ 3387 Old River Rd. Uvalda, Ga. / Theft by Shoplifting 2nd Offense

Burley, Andrae Devon- B/M- 33 YOA- 504 Madison St. Vidalia, GA- Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (First)

April 17--  Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

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April 17--  Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

04/10     Lodus Theron Tharpe                         Mt. Vernon, Ga.                   Burlgary

04/10     Johnny L. Magic                                  Stone Mountain, Ga.          Possession of Marijuana <1oz.

04/12     Valerie Amber Cobb                           Adrian, Ga.                           Driving w/Suspended License, DUI/Drugs, Failure to

                                                                                                                       Yield to Authorized Emergency Vehicle, Leaving the

                                     Scene of Accident, Failure to Report Accident, Failure to

                                     Maintain Lane

April 17--  Three local schools are among 74 in the state which the Georgia Department of Education says no longer need special state scrutiny.

Montgomery County Elementary, Montgomery County Middle School and J.R. Trippe Middle School in Vidalia are no longer on the state's "Focus" list because they have closed the gap between the schools' lowest performing students and the state average performance standards.

In Montgomery County, School Superintendent Hugh Kight reacted by saying, 'We're very excited about that.  They based that on your students' growth and improvements on the standardized testing.  We came off a year early and we're going to move forward.  I appreciate the leadership of our principals and our teachers and I feel good about what's going on right now."

In Vidalia, Sandy Reid is in her first year as principal at J.R. Trippe Middle School, "Everyone is on a more level playing field as far as the standards are concerned," she said.

"It effects the school in several ways.  For one, it's recognition that the teachers and administration have put in the amount of time required for curriculum improvement and intervention for students who were at risk.  In the past there has been a certain amount of money that came along with being a Focus school and we will be impacted financially because we will no longer receive that money.  Fortunately, we have put things in place that can be sustained without the extra money," she said.

Other schools in the region removed from the list are Jeff Davis Elementary School, Wilcox County High School, Bacon Elementary School in Wayne County and the Moore Street School in Dublin.

One Hundred sixty-nine other schools are still on the list.

April 14--  Members of the Toombs County High School Fellowship of Christian Athletes made an Easter visit to pre-kindergartern students at Lyons Primary School and Toombs Central Elementary School.

easterlps

They shared with the students the story of the resurrection of Jesus. The students used Easter eggs filled with certain objects to tell of God’s love for them and how he sent his Son to save us from our sins with his death and resurrection.

The students also provided the Pre-K students with candy-filled, glow-in-the dark Easter eggs. The FCA members and Pre-K students did an incredible job and began and early celebration of Jesus with joy and excitement!

eastertcentral

April 14--  Toombs County School Superintendent Richard Smith furnished minutes from the school board's April meeting Thursday night.  Here are excerpts.

During the Superintendent’s Report, Mrs. Carmen Roberts announced the local winners of the Young Authors’ Writing Contest. They were Dax Nobles, Dean Morrow, Tabitha Fields, and Brooke Morris. Congratulations to these students on their outstanding work!

Mrs. Theresa Standard and her FCCLA students were present to inform the board of the activities they have taken part in this school year and to share the results from State Competition. Congratulations to everyone who placed at state and best of luck at nationals!

Mr. Smith informed the board that TCHS has received a $9400 grant to offset transportation cost with the Move On When Ready program. He also shared the following dates and events with the members and encouraged them to attend as many as possible:

*Senior Prom Walk, Saturday, April 15th

*FY2018 Comprehensive Needs Assessment Meeting, Thursday, April 20th at the Ag Center, 6:00 PM

*Graduation, Saturday, May 13th at Booster Stadium, 8:30 AM

*Annual Retirement Breakfast, Tuesday, May 16th at the Ag Center

On a motion by Mr. Grimes, seconded by Mr. Akins, the board approved the following personnel recommendations:

Employment Recommendations:

Brittany Johns, Lisa Bishop, LaPortia Pitts, Teachers, LPS;

Angela Waller, Patricia Clark, Amanda Hudson, Teachers LUES;

Crystal Gail Paulk, Teacher, TCES,

Sergio Arrequin, Marion Brian, William Morris, Lindsey McElroy, Teachers, TCMS; Katie Horton, Monica Garrett, Kevin Pych, Teachers, Joseph Depenhart, Assistant Principal, TCHS;

Pamela Harrell, Food Service Worker, LPS; Pat Powell, Food Service Worker, TCHS.

Retirement: Kay Summerset.

Resignations: Stephanie Lawless, Marcella Alexander, Deanna Stoddard, Laken Rodgers, Jessica Downie, Kyle Redmond, Sam Hicks, Jimmy Price, Sam Rodgers, Brent Coleman, and Meagan Hayes.

Transfers: Kip Hart, TCHS Science Teacher; Laberton Sims, Part-time TCHS Assistant Principal.

Supplemental Duties; Matt Parker, TCMS Golf.

Prior to the vote, Mr. Holland expressed his concern with someone nearing the end of their career and seeking employment in the Toombs County School District for the purpose of gaining social security benefits. He stated his comment was not against anyone but he asked we make sure when we hire someone they are coming for the right reasons, which is to help students.

April 14-- Since the War for Southern Independence began and ended in the month of April it is often referred to as Confederate Heritage Month.

During April, the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) mark the graves of Southern soldiers. By doing this the SCV members are fulfilling part of their charge by “honoring the good name of the Confederate Soldier”.

The Montgomery Sharpshooters, the local Camp of the SCV, mark the graves of Confederate soldiers in Montgomery, Treutlen, and Wheeler Counties.

rebkidsPictured are Luke and Savannah Smith and Ace Stringfellow. Luke and Savannah are the children of Camp member Joseph Smith and Ace is his nephew. The children are marking the grave of 1st Lt. John Laughlin Mathews, Sr. of Company E 61st Georgia Infantry in the Galbreath Cemetery in Montgomery County.


April 14-- Savannah author Nancy Brandon announces the publication of her second novel, “Show Me a Kindness.”

The story, set in Vidalia when the namesake onion was discovered during the Great Depression, follows Marthanne Hendrix as she realizes another personality, Oma, inhabits her body and as she desperately hides her mental illness to avoid confinement to an asylum.

nancybrannonBrandon has ties to Vidalia through her aunt and uncle, Nancy and Tom Peterson, and has visited the area during family reunions.  Her research for the novel included visits to the Vidalia Onion Museum, with local historian Mose Coleman and to the Ladson Genealogical Library.  She signed the book for Vidalia Rotarians this week and told them she has been working on it for the past three years.

Brandon will celebrate the book’s release and its connection to the onion with two events.

A book signing will be held during the Vidalia Onion Festival from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Apr. 29 at the Vidalia Onion Museum, 100 Vidalia Sweet Onion Dr.

A book talk, “Vidalia: Making a Place in Popular Fiction,” and a reading will be held at 5:30 p.m. on May 18 at the Vidalia-Toombs County Library, 610 Jackson St.

Her inspiration for “Show Me a Kindness” was Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker’s autobiography, “Breaking Free: My Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder,” which describes his life with the condition formerly known as multiple personality disorder.

Brandon’s first novel, Amazon Kindle bestseller “Dunaway’s Crossing” (Lake Union) was the finalist for the 2013 Georgia Author of the Year Award. Set in rural Georgia in 1918 during the Spanish influenza pandemic, the plot draws on Brandon’s great-grandparents’ move from Hawkinsville to the country to avoid contagion.

A graduate of the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in English education, Brandon received a master’s degree in English from Georgia Southern University and returned to the University of Georgia to earn a Ph.D in English education. She has taught English at Armstrong State University for 24 years.

Brandon is a frequent contributor to Savannah magazine. She has served as a judge for the Georgia High School Association’s state literacy competition and is an advocate for DEEP Center, a nonprofit that supports young writers. She was awarded the Arthur M. Gignilliat, Jr. Professorship at Armstrong State University in 2004 for her proposal to enhance teaching and learning at the university and to enhance Armstrong’s connection to the community. The university’s Student Government Association presented her with the H. Dean Propst Outstanding Faculty Award for 2005-06 and she was named Teacher of the Year in 2006 by the Georgia Council of Teachers of English.

She has written guest blogs for The Writer’s Guide to E-Publishing and for romance novelist Mimi Barbour. Brandon is a member of the Georgia Council of Teachers of English, the Georgia Writers Association and the Indie Book Collective.

April 14-- The Crusader Spirit Band held its first ever concert at the Robert Toombs Christian Academy gym Monday night.

The concert was composed of music from “Chorales No. 1, No. 2, and No. 4” by Brian Balmages, “Talons of Fire” by S. Feldstein & L. Clark, “ Above and Beyond” by James Swearingen and “Alpha Squadron” by Greg Hillis.

rtcaspiritbandFront Row (L-R): Hunter Brotman - Flute, Hunter Coley - Alto Sax, Carson Burton, Trey Brant and Shelby Thomas - Trumpet.

Back Row (L-R): Cody Masterman-Smith, Kaine Parham, Hayden Wiggins and Nelson Thigpen - Percussion.

RTCA Music Director Christina Trowell directs the Spirit Band.

April 14--  Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits reports the following arrests.

Brownlee, Ernest Maurice-B/M- 34 YOA- 706 Loop Road Apt. 705 Vidalia, GA- Loud Music From Vehicle/ Driving While License Suspended Or Revoked

Clifton, Sonya Kay- W/F- 40 YOA- 225 Rushing Drive Lyons, GA - Driving While License Suspended Or Revoked 2nd ; Warrant Served (Lowndes Co)

Cobb, Valerie Amber- W/F- 38 YOA- 507 S. Broadfoot Blvd Vidalia, GA- Driving While License Suspended Or Revoked 1st, Driving Wrong Way On A One Way

Toole, Michelle- W/F- 30 YOA- 363 Fiveash Rd Lyons, GA- Theft By Shoplifting 1st Offense

Gaffney, Antonio - B/M 35 YOA-801 Thompson Ext. St. Vidalia, GA-Possession Of Controlled Substances (Felony)

Smith, Tayneshia Chivon-B/F 33 YOA-704 Stuart St. Vidalia, GA-Failure to Obey Person Directing Traffic/Providing False Information to Police

Crawford, Mahalika Keanna-B/F 32 YOA–315 W Toombs St. Vidalia, GA-Theft by Shoplifting 3RD Offense/Warrant Served (Vidalia Probation/Toombs County)

Brown, Ravin-B/M 34 YOA-161Apache Ln. Lyons, GA-Probation Violation (Middle Georgia Probation)

Slovak, Joshua James W/M- 25 YOA- 900 Aimwell Rd Vidalia, GA- Warrant Served (Vidalia Bench Warrant)

Brown, Willie James- B/M 46 YOA- 300 Jerriel St Apt A Vidalia, GA- Possess Methamphetamines w/Intent to Sell/ Distribute-Failure To Use Signal Turns

Sanders, Octavius Devon- B/M 25 YOA- 942 N Circle Dr. Vidalia GA- Theft By Shoplifting

Perez, Jesus Alejandro- W/M-30 YOA- 4116 Jeb Court Collins, GA/ No Driver’s License/ No Proof Of Insurance/ Speeding 16-20 MPH

Villegas, Maria A- W/F- 37 YOA- 54 Stetson St Reidsville, GA/ No Driver’s License

Skinner, Lonzo Jr-B/M- 26 YOA- 203 Tommie Dr Vidalia, Ga- Too Fast For Conditions/ No Driver’s License/ Open Container

Govan, Andre B- B/M- 32 YOA- 809 E. Fifth Street Vidalia, Ga- Simple Battery/ Cruelty To Children    

Swain, Jason Eden-W/M- 39 YOA-1864 Anderson Circle Lyons, Ga 30436- Theft By Shoplifting 1st Offense/ Theft By Deception

theresastandardApril 12--  "Lead2Feed" is the national outreach program of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America and Toombs County High School's Theresa Standard is the program's "Teacher of the Week" for leading the Bulldog chapter to 18 ribbons this year compared to three last year.

April 12-- The Toombs County High School FFA Senior Forestry Team placed 3rd in the Area IV FFA Forestry Career Development Event at Bulloch County Saddle Club in Statesboro on April 11.

The Forestry Career Development Event allows students to demonstrate their knowledge in diagnosing forest disorders, managing forests and forest inventory and applying approved silviculture practices. Individual team members placing were Jeffrey NeeSmith and Brittney Beckum – 2nd in Forest Management, Brittany Higgs – 2nd in Forest Disorders and Jackie Swaringim – 2nd in Tree Identification. Other team members participating were Austin Adams, Justin Lowe, Chasity Denmark, Stormy Knight, Gerry Perez, Karlie Wright, Gage Clark and Tanner Hattaway.

tcffaL-R: Gage Clark, Austin Adams, Jeffrey Neesmith, Tanner Hattaway, Brittney Beckum, Karlie Wright, Justin Lowe, Brittany Higgs, Stormy Knight, Jackie Swaringim, Chasity Denmark, Gerry Perez.

FFA is a national organization of over 600,000 members preparing for leadership and careers in the science, business and technology of agriculture. FFA is an integral part of the agricultural education program in public schools. The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.

Joey Montford, Mark Montfort and Tyler Outen are the Toombs County High School FFA Advisors. The Forestry Career Development Event is sponsored by the Georgia FFA Foundation.

                                                                             

April 12--  Today is the official shipping date for this year's crop of Sweet Vidalia Onions.

Toombs County onion farmer R.T. Stanley, Jr. says his folks started packing right after midnight and are ready to hit the road today, "We're going to be sending them all over the country.  Right now to start with it's mainly up the East Coast with our first onions and then later on in the season we'll start shipping out west.  We're in full swing right now.  The crop looks real good and I think we're going to have good yields."'

onionworkersVidalia Onions are a multi-million dollar crop and, according to Stanley, this year's crop could be special.

"I would have to rate it as a bumper crop as of right now, but you know we can have a lot of things happen like disease pressure or sour skin or something like that happening to them like a few days ago when we were worried about a hail storm.  Us farmers have learned you can't count on a bumper crop until you get them harvested, in the house and sold," he said.

By the time the Vidalia Onion Festival starts in about two weeks, Stanley says there will be plenty of onions for everybody,

"This is going to work out fine.  We'll have plenty of onions for everybody and they can get all they want, even up to the truckload," he said.

 

 

April 11--  The Vidalia Onion Festival Committee presented this year's Onion Festival T-Shirt to city officials at Monday night's Vidalia City Council meeting.

festsirts17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(L-R) City councilwoman Lisa Chesser, Mayor Ronnie Dixon, councilwoman Kaylie Dees, councilman Eddie Tyson,

Mayor Pro Tem John Raymond Turner and councilman Cecil Thompson.

The festival starts Thursday, April 27 and continues through Sunday, April 30. 

The complete festival lineup is at www.vidaliaonionfestival.com

April 11--  Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

04/05     Daniel Trevers King                             Ailey, Ga.                              Parole Violation (Violation of Sex Offender Conditions)

04/07     Tyra Lena Dyer                                   McDonough, Ga.                 Driving w/Suspended License, No Valid Insurance,

                                                                                                                        Speeding

04/09     Kristen Nicole Shinholster                  Mt. Vernon, Ga.                   DUI, Loud Music

 04/09     Luke Michael Wilkes                          Uvalda, Ga.                          DUI<21, Reckless Driving, Laying Drag, Possession of

                                                                                                                         Alcohol <21, No License on Person

04/09     Gary Ford                                              Lyons, Ga.                            Aggravated Battery, Battery

 

mollette By Dr. Glenn Mollette

 Easter is almost here and we need it bad.  

 People throughout the world celebrate Easter differently just like people celebrate Christmas differently. When I was a little boy I remember Easter egg hunts at my Grandma and Grandpa Hinkle's place. They had lots of yard and egg hiding places and a lot of grandchildren to look for them. I was lucky if I found one or two eggs with all the competition. People still hunt for Easter eggs and look forward to an Easter basket. There are a couple of chocolate factories in our town and it's a home run week for them filling up Easter baskets.

 Most Christians around the world will celebrate Easter in Church. Easter is the prime time Sunday of the year for the church. If a church cannot get a crowd on Easter then there will not be any crowds the rest of the year.

 Easter is the Sunday when most churches have to bring out the folding chairs and park on the side of the road, the grass or down the way. By and large more Christians will dress up a bit more for church on Easter.  Some people will have a new dress or suit or kids will have a new Easter outfit to wear. Or, if they don't always dress up for church some will make an effort to dress just a bit better than usual because it's Easter. Please do remember though if it's a good church they are glad you are there regardless of how you can afford to dress!

 I served a number of congregations over the years and I loved Easter but was always really glad when it was over. The average minister has about 20 -25 minutes to hit a home run and round the bases before the average attendee totally zones out or starts eyeing the exit door. The message is much the same year after year - the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Christmas is about the birth of Jesus for the Church, Easter focuses on Christ's resurrection from the grave. In reality it shouldn't take an ingenious sermon to stir church people about a man who the Bible says overcame the grave and appeared to a number of people. Yet, every year it seems that clergy find a way to bore people with how they present the greatest story ever told by how they tell the story.

 Christian people around the planet stake their lives and eternal destinies on the message of Easter - the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The New Testament time and time again reiterates this part of the Bible story, "He is risen!"

 A dead Jesus takes all the air out of Christianity. If Jesus never arose from the grave then Christianity is just another organization meeting together every week and doing some nice things along the way. The church with a dead Jesus would still be a religious not for profit 501©3 but it would be a very dead religion.

 There is so much sadness already in the world today. The world is hurting all over. From another horrible school shooting just this week at San Bernardino to a multiple number of murdered Christians reportedly bombed by Islamic State in Egypt. There is horror in Syria and growing tensions between Russia, Iran, North Korea and the United States.   Fifty million plus Americans struggle every day in poverty. The hospitals and nursing homes are filled with people battling for their health and a little more life. The world is filled with worry. We worry about tomorrow. We worry how will we exist and we worry about our families and loved ones. We fret over a lot of stuff and often it is stuff we can't change or never fix. We carry too much baggage with us and often we cannot remember what is in the baggage. One of the richest people in the United States is in the storage unit business. Everywhere I travel today I see more and more storage units popping up because we prize our junk so much. We store it up and someone else will often have to throw it away when we die.

 Easter is about hope. Easter is about peace. Easter is about a new life and a second chance. Easter is about bringing focus and meaning to this life and this world.

 The Bible in John chapter 20 reports that Mary Magdalene saw Jesus on the first day of the week after his resurrection outside the entrance to the garden tomb. She ran to the disciples reporting, "I have seen the Lord!" Later that evening Jesus appeared to his disciples and said to them, "Peace be with you." He then showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.  For the second time Jesus said, "Peace be with you."  Later the disciples would report to one of the doubting disciples by the name of Thomas, "We have seen the Lord!"  Thomas didn't believe it but later would see Jesus with his own eyes and touched the nail prints in his hands exclaiming, "My Lord and my God!"

 The early followers of Jesus were filled with such peace and internal strength that their lives would never be the same again. They were so convicted internally about Jesus they would literally suffer and in many cases die for their faith.

America and really our world truly need a song to sing, a bell to ring and a hero to follow. Great people stand and fall and we all come and go. The message of Easter and a living Jesus continues to give hope, peace and strength to people around the world. This year not much has changed as once again, we need it really bad. 

Glenn Mollette is a syndicated columnist and author of eleven books. 
He is read in all fifty states.  Visit   www.glennmollette.com 

Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..   Like his facebook page at www.facebook.com/glennmollette

April 10--  Eight new police officers took oaths of office at the April meetng of the Lyons City Council.

Toombs County Probate Judge Larry Threlkeld swore in Captain Geoffrey Parker, Sergeant Andrew Britton and officers Shannon Cranford, Justin Galbreath, Deedee Hackle, Christian Hadaway, Kevin Mathis and Tim  Sullivan.

The council also approved a lease with Hub Communications for space on the city's four water towers and agreed to annex 199 Jefferson Street Extensioin into the city.

April 10--  The murder trial of two defendants accused of murder in the death of former Montgomery County Sheriff Ladson O'Connor is being moved from Montgomery County to Bleckley County.

Superior Court Judge Sarah Wall granted a change of venue motion filed by attorneys for Jim Lowery and Dixie Best.  The two led lawmen on a two-county police chase June 30, 2015 which resulted in a wreck which killed Sheriff O'Connor.

After reviewing surveys which were sent to potential jurors in Montgomery County, Judge Wall ruled that an impartial jury cannot be obtained to try the case in Mount Vernon.  She said extensive media coverage and small town talk has led many to opinions regarding the guilt or innocence of Lowery and Best.  She also noted Sheriff O'Connor was well-known and that many potential jurors either witnessed his funeral procession or attended the service.

The trial is scheduled to start Monday, May 1 at the Bleckley County courthouse in Cochran.

 

April 7-- To encourage young readers, Goin’ Postal is teaming up with the RTCA library to reward RTCA elementary students who read 175 books.  Any student that reaches this goal will receive $100 from Goin’ Postal.

rtcareadingHere Frank Champion is presenting the first $100 check to first grade reader Brantley Black. To date, Brantley has read over 200 books this year. 

Brantley is the son of Benjamin and Tiffany Black. RTCA thanks Goin’ Postal for encouraging our young students to read.

mchsground

April 7--  Civic and school officials were on hand this morning for the groundbreaking of the new Montgomery County Middle/High School across from the current school in Mount Vernon.  McDonald Construction Company of Vidalia has a $13.8 million contract to build the school which is expected to be completed when school starts in 2018.

April 7-- In Savannah, Brunswick, Augusta, Waycross, Statesboro, Dublin, and throughout the Southern District of Georgia, citizens are being targeted and harassed with phone calls threatening prosecution for the failure to comply with jury service in federal and state courts, and also for the failure to pay federal income taxes.  These phone calls are happening nationwide and they are a scam.

In the calls, citizens are pressured to immediately provide money and confidential data, potentially leading to identity theft and fraud. These calls, which threaten citizens with fines and jail time if they do not comply, are fraudulent and are not connected with the federal and state courts, or with the IRS.  Any phone contact by legitimate court officials or with the IRS will not include demands for the immediate transfer of money or requests for Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, and any other sensitive information. 

Persons receiving such fraudulent calls should not provide the requested information, and should notify their local law enforcement agency or the FBI immediately.  Federal, state and local law enforcement officials are actively pursuing these crimes in an effort to bring fraudsters to justice and to prevent the further victimization of innocent citizens.  

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

Mireles, Maria Felicitas- H/F- 35 YOA- 2751 Rod Strickland Rd. Reidsville, GA- Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense (Citation) (MISD)

Reyes, Ismael- H/M- 47 YOA- 2751 Rod Strickland Rd. Reidsville, GA- Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense (Citation) (MISD)

Adams, Markeem- B/M- 18 YOA- 1105 W. McKinnon St. Mt. Vernon, GA- Public Indecency

Dismuke, Roger- W/M- 58 YOA- 213 Harold Sasser Rd. Lyons, GA- Possession of Marijuana Less Than Ounce

Canty, Gary Lee- B/M- 51 YOA- 212 Patrick St. Vidalia, GA- Theft by Shoplifting 2nd Offense (Citation) (MISD)/Possession of Marijuana Less Than Ounce

Hughes, James Russell - W/M 44 YOA/ 182 Chambers Rd. Uvalda, Ga./ Warrant Served (Parole)

Murphy, Malcolm Jamar- B/M- 29 YOA- 186 Almond St. Ailey, GA- Disorderly Conduct

Hendershot, Wyston Mark- W/M 38 YOA/ 200 E. Amberwood Dr. Vidalia, Ga. /Theft by Taking (x4)

Hurst, Nancy - B/F 41 YOA/ 503 Atlanta Ave. Vidalia, Ga. /Aggravated Assault

Harrington, Malique Rheem- B/M- 17 YOA- 724 E. Seventh St. Vidalia, GA- Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense (Citation)(MISD)

McDonald-Friend, Alexxis C. - B/F- 19 YOA- 724 E. Seventh St. Vidalia, GA- Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense (Citation)(MISD)

White, Shontavia Lamar- B/F- 23 YOA- 171 Mimosa Drive Lyons, GA- Criminal Attempt to Commit Armed Robbery

Saylor, Ray Edward- B/M- 27 YOA- 4510 Lafayette St. Fort Wayne, IN- Warrant Served (Kosciusko Co SO- Bench)

Porter-Saylor, Shyra Denise- B/F- 32 YOA- 4510 Lafayette St. Fort Wayne, IN- Warrant Served (Kosciusko Co SO- Bench)

 

 

April 6--  The high winds associated with storms moving through Georgia this week caused some damage at Vidalia Heritage Academy in Vidalia.

According to Headmaster Jeff McCormick, wind early Monday rolled back a portion of the roof on the upper school at the corner of 2nd and Durden Streets.  There was some water damage in the classrooms below the roof, however, the good news is students are on Spring break this week so there was no disruption of classes.

He expects repairs will be made shortly and classes will resume Monday as scheduled.

Meanwhile, Toombs County Emergency Management Director Lynn Moore says there's no truth to a TV report Wednesday night that a tornado touched down in Santa Claus.  Despite the wind, rain and ligthning overnight, he reports no significant damage that he's aware of in Toombs County.

April 5--  The man accused of a murder fifteen years ago in Swainsboro will be tried starting next week in Toombs County Superior Court.

According to court officials, a change of venue has been granted for the trial of Phillip Scott Kirby, Sr. who is accused of killing East Georgia State College Professor Emily Pestana-Mason in 2002 at her home in Swainsboro.  He was indicted for the murder in 2015.

Selection of jurors from Toombs County will begin Monday morning at the Toombs County courthouse in Lyons with Middle Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Kathy Palmer presiding.

 

Toombs County Sheriff’s Office Targets On-line Child Predators and Victims of Child Sex Trafficking

April 4--  Sheriff Alvie Kight advises that a proactive undercover investigation coordinated by the Toombs County Sheriff’s Office lead to the arrest of 30-year-old Justin Tyler Wyant of Erwin, North Carolina Tuesday.  The one day operation targeted on-line child predators and those who traffic children in the sex industry, to include those that are willing to pay to have sex with a child.  Wyant was arrested and charged with Enticing a Child for Indecent Purposes.  This was a proactive effort centered in Toombs County, GA.  Wyant was located in a local motel in Vidalia for working purposes when the arrest was made.

The purpose of this investigation was to arrest those that are willing to exploit children by purchasing or soliciting sex with a minor, and the recruitment of victims of child sex trafficking. The investigation specifically targeted persons who communicate with children on-line and then travel to meet them for the purpose of having sex.  On-line child predators visit chat rooms and websites on the internet, find children, begin conversations with them, introduce sexual content and arrange a meeting with the children for the purpose of having sex.  The children these predators target are both boys and girls. 

The Toombs County Sheriff’s Office participates and assists the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit (CEACC) and the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. The Georgia ICAC Task Force is comprised of 200+ local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, other related criminal justice agencies and prosecutor’s offices.  The mission of the ICAC Task Force, created by the U. S. Department of Justice and managed and operated by the GBI in Georgia, is to assist state and local law enforcement agencies in developing an effective response to cyber enticement and child pornography cases. This support encompasses forensic and investigative components, training and technical assistance, victim services, prevention and community education.

 The ICAC Program was developed in response to the increasing number of children and teenagers using the internet, the proliferation of child pornography, and the heightened online activity by predators searching for unsupervised contact with underage victims. By helping state and local law enforcement agencies develop effective and sustainable responses to online child victimization and child pornography, the ICAC program delivers national resources at the local level.

April 4--  A standing room only crowd showed up at the Vidalia Municipal Annex Tuesday night to oppose a zoning change which would have introduced low income housing to their neighborhood.

zoningcrowd

Former Vidalian Drew Read is attempting to sell ten acres of land at the corner of Rocky Creek Road and Amberwood Drive to a Savannah developer who needs a zoning change in order to build 40 to 50 units in what is described as a cottage patio configuration.

A partner in the proposed project, Curry Wadsworth of Athens, says the project would be for low income citizens ages 62 and above.  However, after viewing the location for the first time before the meeting, Wadsworth said he could understand neighborhood opposition.

"I would stand right here and be with the group.  I don't necessarily mean that I would oppose it because if I saw that it is smaller, flat aparrtments for 62 and older an I could be assured it would be a nice development, I would not be opposed to it, but given the information that the community has been given, I can see how they would be opposed to it," Wadsworth said.

The Planning and Zoning Board voted to turn down the rezoning request and will send its recommendation to the Vidalia City Council for approval.

After the meeting, Wadsworth said there may be other locations in Vidalia which are properly zoned and could be developed to meet what he says is a real need for affordable housing.

"You need a decent, safe, energy efficient-place to live across the country.  The real estate and housing markets for quality housing are going up and there's no place for people who are on fixed incomes or lower incomes for people just starting out.  Everybody needs affordable housing, particulary for our senior citizens.  It's a real problem across the country and Vidalia is just one place," he said.

April 4--  State Senator Blake Tillery of Vidalia reports on the final week of this year's Georgia General Assembly session.

"The 2017 legislative session is now over and I am looking forward to returning home to friends and family. After three long months of voting and debating I feel like a fighter that has gone 15 rounds. My first session under the Gold Dome was a learning experience and to truly do justice to all that occurred, I can’t follow my usual “Senate in a Minute” format. There’s just too much to share.

"We adjourned “Sine Die,” which means to adjourn with no specific date to come back, on Thursday night (really Friday morning) at about 1 a.m. I had the last bill that was debated for the session and saw a number of parliamentary maneuvers, friends working with me and foes working against me as it came down to the wire. To say it was a learning experience would be an understatement. I will tell you more about that bill in future updates as well as about the 2 other bills I was able to get passed in my first session.

"Now that session is over, it would make sense that things would slow down. However, I now have to catch up on all the work that has been stacking up at my law firm, my wife and I are going to celebrate our one year anniversary this next month, and I want to get around to all the local hangouts to share what happened with you and find out what your thoughts are about the session.

"Early in the evening on Sine Die, we heard about a fire on Interstate 85 that destroyed part of an overpass/bridge. While I am, and always will be a son of South Georgia, I hurt today for my friends in Atlanta. It will be months before it can be repaired. While we in Senate District 19 enjoy a life free of bad traffic, Atlanta doesn’t have that benefit. Just one more reason it’s better to call South Georgia home! Now traffic will be even worse. If you plan to go to a Braves game anytime soon, plan extra time for that issue.

"Thank you for the opportunity to serve you as your State Senator. Even though we are out of session, I am still here to help with problems, listen to your ideas, and work together for solutions that make Georgia better. I can’t wait for another legislative session representing you in the Georgia State Senate!"

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. <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> .

April 5-- The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office reports the following arrests.

 03/27     Hunter Oris Conner                             Mt. Vernon, Ga.                   Battery (FVA)

 03/27     Gene Barry Burch                               Jonesboro, Ga.                     Felony Probation Warrant Served   

 03/29     Frank Lee Hampton                           Ailey, Ga.                              Driving w/Suspended License

 03/31     Olivia Lee Knies                                   Uvalda, Ga.                          Theft by Taking

April 4--  Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

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April 3--  Sixteen people who have devoted six months to the Leadership Toombs-Montgomery program graduated last week.

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Front row: Cassie Joyner, Sara Brown, Jensie Smith, Betsy Rollins, Erika Tootle Shirley, Michelle Maybin, Lauren Howard, Brandon Boston, Jake Cleghorn, Laura Tiley, Blythe Wilcox (Program Co-chair), Nick Overstreet

Back row: Chris Keene, Michele Johnson, Frank Champion, Tray Leslie, Arren Moses, Garrett Wilcox (Program Co-chair)

Nominations are now being accepted for the next class,  If you are interested or would like to make a nomination, contact the Toombs-Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, 537-4466.

April 3--  A freshman at Vidalia Heritage Academy is the third place winner in this year's Georgia Voice of Democracy contest sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary.  Briley Brady won $500 in state competiton and $150 for winning the district contest.

Briley is a member of the VHA Harvard Model Congress team, the Key Club and the school's competition cheerleader squad and track team.  She also holds a Black Belt in Karate.  Her mother and father are Donna Jean and Brandon Braddy of Mount Vernon.

brileyvod(L-R) Shirely Curl of the Toombs County VFW Auxiliary, Briley and her dad, Brandon.

April 3--  Fifth graders at Sally Meadows Elementary School have graduated from this school term's Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) course.

At Friday's graduation ceremony, Vidalia City Manager Nick Overstreet urged them to resist peer pressure when they know something is wrong,

"It doesn't matter if you're ten, eleven, twelve or early thirties, whatever age you are in life, peer pressure is always going to be there and it's up to you to make the right decision.  It's up to you to make your life successful, because it's always going to be there.  Just always make the right decision and say no to drugs and alcohol and other things which may come your way throughout your life," he said.

High school students from Vidalia High School serve as role models for the fifth graders.  One of this year's role models is Nate McBride who is on his way to a football scholarship at the University of Georgia.

"It's definitely a blessing.  I love sharing time with the kids. Watching them grow is definitely a blessing and I love to be part of it," he said.

Overstreet advised the young students not to be afraid to ask for help, "If you ever do not feel comfortable about something you are experiencing, talk to someone. Tell them about it and I'm sure they will be willing to help you.  Don't try to deal with a situation on your own, there's always help."

And Nate McBride echoes the city manager's advice, "Always have that one friend you can talk to or that one grownup you can talk to.  It doesn't matter if it's your coach, your teacher, your pastor, your parents, your grandparents, it doesn't matter.  As long as you have someone you can talk to and get it off your chest, it doesn't matter, communication is the key."

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Students in each of the nine classes wrote DARE essays to wrap up the ten weeks of instruction. 

The overall winner is Dottie McDaniel.  Winners in individual classes are Andrew Velazquez, Jasie Cleghorn, Damaya Phillips, Zoey Alvarez, Kynzyerria McGee, Leyton Dunford, Ava Anderson and Sergio Nahuaca

 

April 2--  The assistant football coach and golf coach at  Pinewood Christian Academy was killed in a Toombs County  wreck early Saturday morning.

Fifty-five-year old Chuck Sumner of Statesboro and a native of Soperton was enroute to Hawks Point Golf Course in Vidalia where his Pinewood golfers were competing in the Indian Invitational Golf Tournament.

According to Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight, his vehicle ran off Highway 152 and through the fence of the Joe Kennedy State Farm and ended up in a field.

 

Once again, the American Business Women's Association gets everyone talking about the upcoming Vidalia Onion Festival, with the 2017 Junior Miss and Miss Vidalia Onion Pageants.  Saturday night at Southeastern Technical College in Vidalia was again the scene of another exciting night of pageantry as contestants from all over the area showed up with fans and family who packed the auditorium to find out which contestants would wear the 2017 crowns and represent the Sweet Onion City.

The night wasn't just gowns and crowns however as it kicked off with a stellar rendition of the Start Spangled Banner, performed by young Shannon Layne Dornan-Collins, who also performed another amazing selection later on in the competition.  After a brief welcome from ABWA President Angela Cook, former Miss Vidalia Onion (1999) Deidre (Hadden) Barnett took the stage and began the contest.

Between the competitions, giving contestants time to change into their next outfits, exciting entertainment by Emma Townsend, Kendria Bryant, Danni Thomson, Tesla Bivens, and Jayla Phillips kept the audience glued to their chairs, laughing and cheering. 

Also noteworthy, were the dapper young gentleman who were given the privilege of escorting the contestants during the evening wear competition. Two students from Vidalia High School, Lawson Paradice and Noah Stuckless, and a Senior from Robert Toombs Christian Academy, Hunter Partin represented their schools and the community well.

Following the Farewell Walk of Miss Bryne Coleman, the 2016 Jr. Miss Vidalia Onion, the contestants were brought out on stage and the auditorium hushed as the winners were announced and Miss Anna Beth Toole became the next Miss Vidalia Onion Queen.

Pageant Director and former Miss Vidalia Onion, KeriLynn (Knight) Nester was extremely pleased with the event and said, "I am so proud of the community and the support that we've had from our sponsors, our parents and all of our contestants. I'm looking forward to a great year."

The newly crowned Miss Vidalia Onion, Anna Beth Toole, says the toughest part of her pageantry career was believing in herself. "I was very insecure when I first started in pageants, and yes at times, it is hard to believe in yourself, but it doesn't matter if you have a crown on your head or not. You are who you are for a reason and I really learned that throughout pageants" said Toole.

The 2017 Junior Miss Vidalia Onion is 15 year old Swainsboro native, Sydney Dorsey who echoed Toole's sentiments about pageantry by saying, "you have to build up your confidence. That was the most important thing for me to do during my years of pageantry. It also helped me prepare for onstage interviews, which has helped me grow as well."

2017 Miss Vidalia Onion

Anna Beth Toole 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2017 Miss Vidalia Onion, Anna Beth Toole, is crowned at STC in Vidalia.

Miss Vidalia Winners 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(L-R) Jada Ussery (Miss Photogenic and 1st Runner Up), Anna Beth Toole (Miss Vidalia Onion and Interview Winner), Megan Dukes (People's Choice and 2nd Runner Up) Not Pictured: Carly Moore (Miss Congeniality)

 

Junior Miss Vidalia Onion

Jr Miss Winners

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(L-R) Brooke Mobley (People's Choice), Cealy Shiver (3rd Runner Up), Madison Sharpton (1st Runner Up), Sydney Dorsey (Jr. Miss Vidalia Onion), Ashton Shuman (Interview Winner and 2nd Runner Up), Hannah Herndon (Miss Photogenic and 4th Runner Up), Karlie Wright (Miss Congeniality)

 

April 1-- Dr. Cabe, Vidalia Women's Center, posing with two sets of twins he delivered on Wednesday at Meadows! 

twinsNever before in our history have we had two sets of twins delivered the same day!

Please help us in congratulating these families on the birth of their beautiful children. 

Girls parents - Shannon Lockhart & Victor Nails 
White bow- Alani Nails 
Pink bow-Aspen Nails

Boys parents - Joel & Megan King 
First boy from left - Judson King
Second boy on right - Jeb King