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January 31-- Attorney General Chris Carr today announced a settlement with Colorado-based The Western Union Company, resolving a multistate investigation which focused on complaints of consumers who used Western Union’s wire transfer service to send money to third parties involved in schemes to defraud consumers. In addition to Georgia, 48 states and the District of Columbia participated in this settlement. 

“Criminal scam artists are adept at developing all kinds of schemes to convince consumers to wire them money,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “We want to do everything we can to protect our consumers from these malicious practices, and our involvement in this settlement with other attorneys general is a big indicator that Georgia will stand firmly against these activities in any form.”

Consumers who receive solicitations from strangers promising big winnings should toss those letters in the trash, delete the e-mail or hang up the phone. And, consumers who meet someone online should always be cautious about wiring money, particularly if meeting in person has never taken place. Often times, schemes include the following scenarios:

  • Lottery and contest scams in which consumers are told they have won a large sum of money but must first wire money to pay required taxes or fees before receiving their winnings;
  • Loved one scams in which a consumer believes his or her relative or close friend is in immediate danger and needs money right away;
  • And, romance scams in which someone poses as a love interest and then soon begins asking consumers to send money for various reasons, such as medical emergencies, car accidents, muggings, emergency travel and more.

The settlement requires Western Union to develop and put into action a comprehensive, anti-fraud program designed to help detect and prevent incidents where consumers who have been the victims of fraud use Western Union to wire money to scam artists.

That anti-fraud program, which Western Union has agreed to evaluate and update as warranted, includes the following elements:

  • Anti-fraud warnings on send forms that consumers use to wire money;
  • Mandatory and appropriate training and education for Western Union’s agents about fraud-induced wire transfers;
  • Heightened anti-fraud procedures when warranted by circumstances such as increased fraud complaints;
  • Due diligence checks on Western Union agents who process money transfers;
  • Monitoring of Western Union agent activity related to prevention of fraud-induced money transfers;
  • And, prompt and appropriate disciplinary action against Western Union agents who fail to follow required protocols concerning anti-fraud measures.

Western Union has also agreed to pay a total of $5 million to the states for the states’ costs and fees.

In addition to this settlement with the states, Western Union also settled claims related to fraud-induced transfers with the Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Department of Justice that was announced on January 19, 2017. As part of those related settlements, Western Union has agreed to pay $586 million to a fund that the Department of Justice will administer to provide refunds to victims of fraud induced wire transfers nationwide, including Georgia victims. 

More information about this settlement is available here.

In addition to Georgia, the following participated in the settlement: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia.

January 29--  Seven couples danced to raise money for the United Way in this year's "Dancing For the Stars."


(L-R) Dr. Marc Bisseck and Melanie Lewis, Morgan and Martin Diaz De Leon, Gail and Jimmy McNeely, Regina and Dr. Michael Williams, winning couple Brandy and David Sikes, Jackie Ayeni and James Stokes and Charleen and Marshall Norfleet.

United Way Executive Director Patricia Dixon says the event raised $10,000 in contributions from those attending the show at Hawk's Point Golf Course in Vidalia.  She also reports it garnered another $15,000 from women who joined "The Power of the Purse," an organization of 237 area women who this year raised a record $136,100.00 for the United Way of Toombs, Montgomery and Wheeler counties.  Membership chairman Lucy Whigham says that's a new record for annual contributions.

dancesikes3Brandy and David Sikes, new chairman of the Toombs County Commission, said they were proud to be part of the fundraiser and thanked the United Way for its support of more than 20 area community service organizations.

January 28-- Robert Toombs Christian Academy is proud to announce that Hope Denmark is the 2017 Star Student. Hope is the daughter of Melvin and Michelle Denmark.  She is a member of Beta Club, National Honor Society, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Hope is a member of this year’s Toombs Montgomery Youth Leadership Program and Meadows Medical Staff Youth Advisory Board.

During her high school career, Hope has participated in spirit cheerleading, competition cheerleading, basketball, softball, soccer, and track.  She was the state champion in the 200m dash, the triple jump, and the 1600m relay; she was the state champion twice in the 100m dash.


Hope has selected RTCA English teacher, Mrs. Ann Smith, as her Star Teacher. Hope chose Mrs. Smith because of Mrs. Smith’s tireless devotion to the students and to RTCA. Hope believes that Mrs. Smith’s perseverance in preparing the students for college success has challenged the way the students view the world, each other, and themselves.

After graduation, Hope plans on attending college to pursue a degree in Sports Management or Exercise Science as a preliminary to obtaining a doctorate in Physical Therapy.

January 28--  Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits reports the following arrests.

James, Rebekah Denise - W/F 40 YOA/ 508 Vann St. Vidalia Ga./ Theft By Shoplifting (Felony)

Joiner, Harvey - W/M 40 YOA/ 183 Marvin Church Rd. Lyons Ga./ Warrant Served (Middle Ga. Probation)

Diaz, Chelsie Leigh - W/F 25 YOA/ 30 Williams F. Stanfield Rd. Collins, Ga./ Theft By Shoplifting 1st Offense

Ramos, Ashley Lawrence - W/F 29 YOA/ 214 East Clifton Ave. Lyons, Ga./ Theft By Shoplifting 1st Offense

Pearce, Alexander David- W/M- 24 YOA- 166 Sandisfireld Dr. Sharpsburg, GA- Theft by Shoplifting (Bench Warrant)

Alvarado, Jennifer A- W/F- 35 YOA- 310 E. Adams St Mount Vernon, GA- Driving While License Suspended Or Revoked

Calloway, Diamond Devonne- B/F- 24 YOA- 298 E Wesley Ave Lyons, GA- Simple Battery/ Give False Name, Address, Birthdate To LE Officer

Freeman, Charles- B/M- 29 YOA- 1503 E First St. Rm. 450 Vidalia, GA- Giving False Name, Address, Birthdate to LE Officer

Clay, Charlie Allen- B/M- 53 YOA- 334 Bob Sharpe Rd. Vidalia, GA- Aggravated Battery (Fel)

Stinson, Jaqwun Elijah- B/M- 19 YOA- 3871 Northside Apt. L2 Macon, GA- Possession of Marijuana Less Than Ounce/Obstruction of Leo (Felony)

Marshall, Jordan- B/M- 19 YOA- 12229 Southwest 203 Street Miami, FL- Possession of Marijuana Less Than Ounce

McDuffie, Callie L. – W/F- 20 YOA- 204 E. First St. Rm 20 Vidalia, GA- Theft of Lost or Mislaid Property

Howard, George Rodney- B/M- 29 YOA- 311 Mockingbird Way Alamo, GA- Possession of Marijuana Less Than Ounce


January 27-  "The Senate In A Minute" is an update on the Georgia General Assembly from State Senator Blake Tillery of Vidalia.

This week concluded Legislative Days 5-8 (but our third week in Atlanta…hence the term “40 days and 80 nights!”). Governor Deal’s FY 2018 budget proposal has now taken shape. The $25 billion package includes a 20 percent pay raise for state uniformed police officers (bringing their pay to approximately $46,000 a year), 2 percent increase to the teacher pay schedule, and fully funds both the Employees’ Retirement and Teachers’ Retirement Systems.

Several projects currently listed in the governor’s budget proposal directly relate to District 19. Three Georgia Department of Transportation projects were just announced this month totaling over $7.1 million. I am happy to see our district receiving the necessary funds needed to maintain our roads, improve safety, and promote commerce necessary to grow jobs.

A plethora of other bills were also introduced this week. Some of those relating to items I have heard discussed back in the district include:

·         expanding those allowed to conceal carry without permit (former out-of-state police officers)

·         limiting the cost of hunting and fishing licenses (lock in cost of license when you first buy)

·         changes to the current tire disposal fee many of us pay when buy a new set of tires

·         a “Destination Resort” bill, which would basically allow casino gaming;

·         a bill increasing the percentage of lottery revenues that must go to the HOPE scholarship (currently approximately 25 percent of revenues go to HOPE)

·         A bill allowing a 90 percent state income tax credit for donations made to certain rural hospitals (including Appling Hospital, Jeff Davis Hospital, Liberty Regional, Meadows Regional, and Wayne Memorial)

These bills, along with many others, now begin the committee vetting process, as my colleagues and I will attempt to fine tune these and other legislative priorities I’ve previously discussed. If you have ideas, issues, or concerns about these or others, I invite you to contact me quickly.

Please keep our neighbors in Southwest Georgia in your thoughts and prayers. The destruction and hurt that region is feeling from the violent storms over the past week cannot be understated. We are lucky to live in a state that cares about its citizens no matter where they live. The amount of support their region is receiving from across our state and nation is proof that we are capable of coming together in trying times, a lesson that should be applied in all aspects of our lives. President Trump has already called Governor Deal twice to offer his help as well.

Many local groups and individuals have begun their visits to the Capitol. If you are ever going to be in town, please stop by my office. I would love the opportunity to talk to you and hear your comments and concerns. You’re the reason I’m here and it’s always great to see home folks. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you under the Gold Dome.

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.> .

January 27--  Scammers never rest and Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight is alerting you that a scam which has been employed before has been tried again in Toombs County.

A caller calls a grandparent and tells them their grandchild has been hurt or is in jail and needs money as soon as possible.  They make it sound like an emergency that requires your immediate attention.

Sheriff Kight says this is a scam.  Do NOT give them money or personal information.  Hang up!

January 27--  A Washington lobbyist says Georgia is well positioned to have influence on farm issues in Congress.

Bob Redding addressed area farmers in Lyons as keynote speaker for the annual agricultural forecast sponsored by the University of Georgia. Toombs County Extension Service Agent Jason Edenfield welcomed the crowd to the Toombs Agri-Center.


"Everyone I talk to in agriculture is very excited.  Georgia is well placed with the nomination of Governor Perdue as Secretary of Agriculture.  He knows farming and we're looking forward to his hearing and moving forward.  

"We're also excited because we now have a Georgian (Zippy Duvall) as American Farm Bureau President.  Don't underestimate the importance of that to the commodities and the programs represented in this state as someone who can speak for us at hearings and that sort of thing.  That's a great place to be," Redding said.

Redding is hopeful the new administration will support reforms to the guest worker program to make it easier for farmers like those in the Vidalia Onion business to get labor when they need it.

"We're hopeful.  We have two tracks.  The legislative track where the President wants an immigration reform package and there will be something moving in the House we hope soon. 

"The other piece has to do with what the administration can do now.  That has to do with reform of the guest worker administrative regulations.  The Bush team did it, but it was repealed during the last administration and we would like to see that in some form back.  We want to see the Trump administration move soon in the Department of Labor on those guest worker regulations," he said.

Redding also told the farmers a bill has been introduced to move oversight of the guest worker program from the Department of Labor to the Department of Agriculture.

January 26--  Toombs County Middle School has announced its "Students of the Month" for December.


Jessica Harter, Zion Polke, Kaliegh Braddock, Deven Harrison, Rebecca Herndon, Mauricio Leon, Zicurria Anthony, Treyvion Badie, Rebecca Dominguez, Rosalinda Montes, Jalob Mathis, Taylor Crawford, Blake Hall, Lizbeth Gasper Leon, Michael Pablo-Castanon, Ava Williams.  Not Pictured: Johnathan Lopez.

January 26-- The Georgia Department of Labor  announced today that the unemployment rate in the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha region in December was 6.6 percent, up three-tenths of a percentage point from 6.3 percent in November. In December 2015, the rate was 6.5 percent.

The rate rose as the number of unemployed residents, labor force and number of new layoffs increased.

There were 443 more unemployed residents and the labor force grew by 806 to 118,521.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 rose by 551, or 37.8 percent, to 2,007 in December. Most of the increase came in administrative and support services, along with manufacturing and construction. Over the year, claims were down by 249, or 11 percent, from 2,256 in December 2015.

Metro Gainesville had the lowest area jobless rate at 4.2 percent, while the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha and River Valley regions had the highest at 6.6 percent.

Meanwhile, Georgia’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate for December was 5.4 percent, up from 5.3 percent in November. It was 5.5 percent in December 2015.

Job seekers and employers are encouraged to use the GDOL’s online job listing service, to search for jobs or recruit new employers. In December, 555 new job openings in the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha region were posted on Employ Georgia. Throughout the state, 57,920 new job openings were posted.

January 26--  A man whose first job after high school was welding has been teaching his craft for years at Southeastern Technical College in Vidalia and this year is the school's "Instructor of the Year."

stccrumplerMichael Crumpler (right) with STC President Larry Calhoun was named in ceremonies Tuesday night.

"This is my fourth time being nominated.  As I get older and think about retirement, it is good to have this honor especially because it is given by our peers, our peers choose us, and it's special having my wife and daughter present.  My daughter is graduating this year from our technical college," he said.

Crumpler is proud that over the years he had helped his students find a career, "My students have run the gamut from ex-convicts coming in saying 'I guess my life is pretty much over and can you do anything to help me?' I tell them absolutely that we can teach you a trade that's going to benefit you for the rest of your life.  I've had single parents, women and even a handicapped student paralyzed from the waist down and he got his diploma and all of his welding certifications.  Just seeing their faces light up when they actually learn that skill and knowing all that is made possible through a technical education, that is why I do what I do every single day.  Welding is my trade and I absolutely love it."

Welding is also lucrative and Crumpler says it's a wide open market for future students.

"The American Welding Society tells us right now that the average age of welders in the United States is 58 years old.  As these guys and gals seek retirement, our industry is going to experience a labor shortage like there's no tomorrow.  Our industry pays really, really well and companies are willing to pay the wages.  That alone is encouragement that they can come to a technical college, give me about a year to a year-and-a-half of their life, learn a trade and a lot of times they can start through a union making $36 to $37 an hour," Crumpler notes.

Crumpler will compete in regional competition and nine regional winners will be judged statewide in April.


January 24--  Four students from  Vidalia High School took part in the school's first "Poetry Out Loud" competition sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.

vhspoetryThey are (L-R) Natavjia Townsel, Jariyah Williams, Landon Lindsay and Melodie Herndon.

Freshman Jariyah Williams won the competition and advances to regional competition at the Telfair Center for the Arts in McRae Saturday, February 18.  The winner will take part in state competition for a chance to compete in the national finals in Washington, DC.

According to Beverly Rivers at Vidalia High School, "Poetry Out Loud is a fun and unique way to introduce students to poetry; the contest creates lifelong lovers of poetry and creative writing; it builds self-confidence, helps to develop social and emotional maturity, and offers an opportunity for all students grades 9-12 across the nation to succeed regardless of personality or learning style."


January 25--  A native of South Africa is Southeastern Technical College's top student.  Curt Peters was selected from a field of nine nominees Tuesday night during the 2017 "Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership" ceremony on the Vidalia campus.

In 2005 he and his wife arrived at Kennedy Airport in New York with all of their worldly possessions in six suit cases.

"America has been so good to me.  I don't know if I can ever repay that, but I will definitely try.  What you give to the community is what you are going to get out of it to a great extent," he said.

Peters is on the verge of obtaining his Associate of Science degree in Nursing, "I've always cared about people.  My father worked in healthcare.  I never thought I would be able to reach that.  It always seemed unobtainable to me, but that's another thing STC has given me, the ability to reach that dream to work in healthcare.  It's not too lofty a dream for me to reach, it's within my grasp."

"It gave me the opportunity to learn skills and develop talents I didn't know I had.  It gave me the motivation, the support I needed and the love to grow in what I wanted to accomplish," he said.

stcgoal17STC President Larry Calhoun (left) made the presentation and congratulated the finalists for the award including (L-R) Hal Wilson, a former Georgia State Patrol trooper from Swainsboro now studying nursing; GOAL winner Curt Peters; Emily Blanchett, a cosmetology student from Collins and Army veteran Matthew Tracy of Vidalia who plans to become a welder.

The college also named longtime welding instructor Michael Crumpler as its "Teacher of the Year" and his comments will be posted in an upcoming story.

January 24-- Montgomery County Elementary School celebrated the accomplishments of the first semester Students of the Month.

Each month one student per grade level is chosen as the Student of the Month. In order to be nominated as the grade level Student of the Month, the student must follow all aspects of the Eagle Code. The Eagle Code, S.O.A.R, is Striving to do their best, Own their actions, Act safely, and Respect themselves and others.

During the celebration, students received their certificates and enjoyed a special treat of pizza and other goodies with their parents/guardians.

We are extremely proud of each of these students and look forward to our next celebration. We have lots of students who are “S.O.A.R.”ing and are excited about the many positive things they are doing!!!


First Semester Students of the Month:

Pre-K – Jordyn Brown, Haley Sikes (Not Pictured), Ayla Hardeman, and Eden Malpere

Kdg – Taliyah Jackson, Cindy Carreon, Ramon Garcia, and Logan Weed

First – Sha’Mara Blount, Kadan Williamson, Marcey Messex, and Landan Carey

Second – Kevin Medrano, Calli Rodgers, Kim Renfrow, and Neal Powell

Third – Jamia Wesley, Berenice Ramos, Hannah Youngblood, and Evan Hardeman

Fourth – Jakobe Mobley, Joanna Pantoja, Paris Ann Thornton, and Emily Morrison

Fifth – Dulce Santiago-Cervantes, Daniel Garcia-Sanchez, Akilah Melvin, and Herberton Lopez-Lugo (Not Pictured)

January 24--  A man injured in a traffic accident two weeks ago has died.

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports 47-year-old Petty Todd Scott of Lyons died Monday night at Memorial Hospital in Savannah.

Scott was on a motorcycle that collided with a vehicle driven by Anthony Cal Herrington of Baxley January 11th at the intersection of Highways One and 15 south of Lyons at John's Country Junction.

Sheriff Kight expressed his deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Mr. Scott.

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




January 24--  Three students from Robert Toombs Christian Academy in Lyons competed in the GISA All-Select Band and Chorus competition at Mount Paran Christian School in Kennesaw.

rtcaband(L-R) Carson Burton played trumpet, Shelby Thomas sang alto, and Cody Masterman-Smith played percussion.  Miss Christina Trowell, RTCA's band and music director, said "“I am very proud of these three students and all they accomplished this weekend. I hope they bring their excitement back to the others in RTCA’s music program."


January 24--  Logan Lawrence has been interested in the political process ever since he was a middle school student at J.R. Trippe Middle School in Vidalia.

Now he's a pre-law student who voted for Donald Trump in November and vowed he'd attend the 45th President's inauguration if Trump was elected.

Over the weekend he kept the promise he'd made to himself and was on the National Mall when the President took the oath and addressed the nation.

"I don't think in my 21 years on this earth I have ever been so proud to be an American.  To be in attendance at a ceremony so rooted and steeped in tradition and in our history as a nation, that's a beautiful thing, but I looked around at the people and there were people from all walks of life, all religions, all ethnic backgrounds, all national origins, all sexual orientations and for once I felt that the people who were there were on one united front," he said.

logan1It wasn't long, however, before Lawrence was facing an angry crowd which had come to discredit Trump's presidency.

"We were leaving the inauguration and walking down the street and were met by protestors, by people who don't agree with what we were there to witness.  Tear gas was thrown, smoke bombs were flying and someone threw a rock in my direction and almost hit me. 

"You're not supposed to go out and destroy businesses and hurt people. It devalues the message they're trying to send when they're going out and stealing televisions and breaking windows.  I saw about a hundred people in D.C. chase an old couple and one of the men in the group hit the old man in the back of the head and the old man fell down on the ground, defenseless," Lawrence remembers.

Saturday's parade by women was more peaceful, but Lawrence observed, "Albeit their message was not clear, I give them merit for showing up and standing up for something they believe in, but I think the displays of disrespect for the President which I saw were utterly disgusting.  I mean you had Madonna on stage saying she was going to blow up the White House.  That's a Class E felony and she needs to be charged and arrested."

logan2Lawrence interviewed some of the protestors about their cause(s) and found their answers ambiguous, something that was later reinforced when he talked with a family member who had watched the demonstration on television.

"She called me and said she was confused and didn't understand the purpose of the march.  I said there were lots of different groups of women there and they all had a different agenda.  They were all calling for change and more rights, but they had no clear answer when you asked them what they wanted.

"My aunt's response was 'What rights do these women not think that they have.  I can vote when I want, I can get a job whenever I want, I can do whatever I want to in this nation.  I could be a little underpaid, but they need to look to women of other countries and the situations they live in where they can't  leave their home without their husband's permission, they can't drive a car and can't vote.  American women are the most entitled women in the world."

Lawrence graduated from Vidalia High School two years ago and is an undergraduate at Armstrong State University in Savannah with plans to attend law school at either the University of Georgia or American University in Washington.

(Photos Courtesy Logan Lawrence)



January 23--  Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

 1/17       Jeffrey Scott Adams                        Scotland, Ga.       Drugs Out of Original Container

 1/17       Byron Jerrel Shinholster                 Uvalda, Ga.         Warrant Served

 1/20       Tony Orlando Burch                        Uvalda, Ga.         DUI, Driving w/Suspended License, Speeding

 1/22       James Albert Haygood                    Uvalda, Ga.         Battery (FVA)

January 23--  Schools are closed today in Toombs and Montgomery Counties due to bad road conditions caused by this weekend's rain.

Meanwhile, Toombs County manager John Jones issued the following information on road conditions.

"The storms that have passed through our state this weekend has caused numerous flooding and road hazard situations throughout the state, including Toombs County. Various local government agencies have been surveying potentially hazardous areas. We currently have several roads that are temporarily closed and the possibility exists that there could be more until the rains and flooding recedes.

"Eight roads closed pending repair are Curry Road, the intersection of Curry Road and the Lewis Nail Road, Toole Road, Roderick Clifton Road, Alex Hardwick Road, J. L. Thompson Road, Levy Cave Road and the dirt portion of the Glenn James Road.  The county hopes to have these roads reopened by Thursday.

"Currently we are assessing the damage that has been to our road system and placing the appropriate warning and/or close signs on the roads as conditions dictate. As soon as conditions allow, the Toombs County Road Department will begin the process of repairing the damage and returning the roads to their normal condition as soon as possible. We ask that everyone be patient during this process as we perform the repairs in a safe and efficient manner that will allow our citizens to have safe passage to their homes and jobs.

"Chairman David Sikes noted, “Our first concern is the safety of our citizens and insuring they are safe in their homes. As we evaluate the damage caused by the storm, we encourage our friends and neighbors to use their best judgment when traveling for the next few days.”

"Should any citizen notice a hazardous road condition caused by the storm, please report that directly to the Commissioners’ office at 912-526-3311 or after hours to 911."

Janaury 23--  Two Georgians are in President Donald Trump's cabinet and former state Senator Tommie Williams of Lyons worked with both men during his 18 years at the state capitol.

Congressman Tom Price is heading Health and Human Services and former Governor Sonny Perdue will be the Agriculture Secretary.

Senator Williams was the majoriy leader in the Senate when Perdue was governor.

"Sonny is one of the smartest guys I've know.  Most people don't know he is a veterinarian, so he's really Dr. Perdue.  He grew up on a farm and his daddy was a truck farmer.  They harvested vegetables and sweet corn and hauled it to the market and peddled it and not too many people have done that," he said.

"He'll do a great job.  He understands agriculture.  He's been in the grain business for a long time.  He trades internationally on the Chicago market.  He knows farming, he's a conservative and did a good job in Georgia.  I'm tickled to death for him," the Senator said.

Senator Williams was a colleague to Tom Price in the Georgia Senate.

"The interesting thing about Tom that impressed me was that he memorized the rule book and he did the same thing when he went to Washington.  When you know all the rules, it impresses me.

"Of course he's an orthopedic surgeon and is extremely bright.  You don't get much past him.  They won't pass a bill to replace Obamacare that they are going to have to pass and then figure out what it means.  He'll know what it means when they put it on the table and he's probably the most capable person in Washington to solve that issue," Senator Williams believes.


January 20-- Mrs. Brown’s 1st grade class at Toombs Central Elementary got a chance to experience some really “COOL” Science fun!

Dr. Letty Peterson visited the class and performed several experiments involving solids, liquids and gases. The 1st graders enjoyed "crunching" on yummy marshmallows that had been instantly frozen by liquid nitrogen.

They also enjoyed watching the liquid nitrogen turn to a vapor and evaporate as Dr. Peterson poured it onto the floor. Mrs. Brown and her 1st graders thank Dr. Peterson for sharing her time and knowledge with them!

letty2Dr. Letty Peterson, Ian Barton, Gracelyn Bratton, Sarah Conner, Noah Gordy, Tyson Hart, Dannah Morris, Lane Morris, Bryson Mosley, Presley Neesmith,Top Peterson, Kallie Rollins, Rayne Sears, Lily Tatum, Raina Ward, and Destiny Williams.

January 20-- Danny Hall, a member of the Montgomery Sharpshooters, Camp 2164 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, donated his personal collection of two series of books from The Archive Society to the history department of Vidalia Heritage Academy’s Upper School.

One of the series, Confederate Military History, contains 16 volumes of the writings from the leaders in each of the southern states in the Confederacy, while the other series provides the memoirs and recollections of various Confederate Generals.

These two historical series will be added to the Heritage Library as valuable primary sources of the writings of those individuals directly involved in the War Between the States.

sonsbooks Danny Hall with VHA Middle School students, Mason Powell and Jordan Powell.

January 20--  State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville provides info on Governor Deal's proposed 2017 amended budget.


The Governor's proposed FY 2017 amended budget totals $24.345 billion after amending in $606.2 million in this budget.  Of this total, $108.7 million is Motor Fuel Tax increase based on new excise taxes increased interest and other HB170 fees added to collections for a total appropriation of $1.92 billion.  Lottery appropriations were flat for a total appropriation of $1.07 billion for the FY 17 year.  Altogether the state budget is based on a tax revenue growth rate of 3.2% over FY16 actual collections.


  • $111.1 million-Midyear adjustment for enrollment growth
  • $3.5 million-Development of an assessment for K-3 math and reading curriculum to support new approaches to teaching
  • $2.3 million-For new Georgia Center for Early Language and Literacy at Georgia College and State University for teacher training
  • $16.7 million-Increased funding to meet student demand for Move On When Ready college enrollment program for high school students
  • $1.8 million-For REACH Scholarship Program (follows middle school students to college)


  • Match $24.9 million in Federal funds with $11.5 million in Tenet Settlement Funds for private deemed and non-deemed hospitals under the Disproportionate Care Trust Fund for indigent care
  • State Health Benefit Plan--$126 million add for changes in the membership, utilization and medical trends
    • Add $7.2 million for a 2.5% increase in employee premiums in non-Medicare Advantage plans already effective Jan. 1, 2017.
    • Add $5.2 million for a $20 premium increase for Medicare Advantage premium plan members effective Jan. 1, 2017.


  • $6.0 million for 250 additional slots for the New Options Waiver and Comprehensive Waiver Program for the developmentally disabled
  • $6.1 million for supportive housing for mental health consumers with severe and persistent mental illness (SPMI)


  • $13.4 million for continuing design, development and implementation of the Integrated Eligibility System technology
  • $28.6 million state funds to match $4.1 federal funds for increase in out-of-home care utilization


  • $10 million for one-time funding to implement Enterprise Systems Modernization System
  • $500,000  for telehealth equipment and maintenance


  • $2.2 million for 2020 Census collection
  • $15.0 million for Regional Business Assistance grants (REBA)
  • ONEGEORGIA projects
    • $50.0 million for new Georgia Cyber Range in Augusta
    • $26.5 million for Edge and Equity competitive Economic Development grants
    • $3.5 million for infrastructure for Hutchinson Island bulwark in Savannah
    • $3.0 million for work on the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center


  • $17 million for contract to implement Electronic Health Records to comply with federal 340B Program Eligibility
  • $10 million for Increase in  Hepatitis C treatments
  • $5.9 million for rising costs of generic prescription drugs  
  • $2.1 million for rising HIV medication costs


  • $10.0 million for Forestry Commission for new equipment for firefighting
  • $1.6 million for DNR Law Enforcement communications equipment
  • $15.0 million for Forestland Protection Act Grants reimbursements
    • $2.0 million to eliminate remaining FY 1997-99 ERS delinquency payments for Local Tax Officials Retirement and FICA Program and
    • $1.5 million for motor vehicle registration and titling
    • $10.0 million to replenish Governor's Emergency Fund
    • $8.9 million for Hazardous Waste Cleanup activities-DNR Hazardous Waste Trust Fund, Adds $2.5 million for Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites.

The full Governor's FY 2017 Amended Budget can be found at under "Budget Reports."

January 20--  Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits reports the following arrests.

Mckinney, Christopher M-B/M- 33 YOA- 403 W. Toombs St, Vidalia Ga- Loud Music From Vehicle/Driving While License Suspended Or Revoked/ Willfully Obstruction Of Police Officer Simple/Verbal/ Warrant Served

Agustin Lopez, Juan Carlos- W/M- 36 YOA- 1222 Orange St Lot E1, Vidalia Ga- No Driver’s License (30 Day Resident Requirement)

Robinson, Schannon Raven- B/F- 30 YOA- 153 Daniel Road, Vidalia Ga- No Insurance 1st/ Expired Tag

Jimenez, Michelle Lee- W/F- 33 YOA- 1290 Cedar Crossing-Vidalia Rd. Vidalia, GA- Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense

Lowe, Derrick E. - B/M- 49 YOA- 120 Jack Blount Rd Vidalia, GA- Simple Battery

Bell, Russell- B/M- 57 YOA- 111 W Jenkins St. Vidalia, GA-Criminal Trespass

Jones, Delwyn Lavelle- B/M- 52 YOA- 205 S Monroe St. Lyons, GA- Driving While License Suspended Or Revoked/ Moped- Helmet Required/ Willfully Obstruction Of Police Officer Severe/forceful/ Give False Name, Address, Birthdate To LE Officer/ Possession Of Drug Related Objects/ Warrant Served/ Recovered Property

Beasley, Zonnie- B/F- 21 YOA- 102 W Ninth St. Vidalia, GA- Warrant Served (Wrightsville PD-Probation)

Beasley, Benita Nichelle- B/F- 37 YOA- 410 Randolph Dr. Apt 6A Vidalia GA- Driving While License Suspended Or Revoked

Anthony, Curtis Antonio- B/M- 29 YOA- 601 Montgomery St. Vidalia, GA- Vidalia Probation Warrant

January 19--  The one thing the Georgia General Assembly must do is pass a balanced budget and that work has begun according to State Representative Greg Morris of Vidalia.

"I think the budget is sound overall.  That's what we've been doing this week is taking a look at the mid-year budget and the 2018 budget.  The official budget starts in the House and that's where the focus has been," Morris reports.

Governor Deal is proposing a $25 billion budget which includes a two percent pay raise for teachers and state employees.

Representative Morris says the state's economy overall is in good shape and that is reflected in the budget.

"Georgia's economy continues to grow at a steady rate.  Four percent growth is what we're putting in the upcoming budget the governor has proposed.  The budget has no tax increases, it's balanced and limits debt and preserves our Triple-A bond rating.  Georgia is in a very good position economically as a whole.  There are some rural areas of the state which haven't grown and hopefully we can work on some of those issues, but overall, the economic condition of the state is positive," he says.

Representative Morris believes the new session of the General Assembly will include some issues which didn't make it last year including medical marijuana, religious freedom laws and casino gambling.

He and other lawmakers are waiting on the Governor to initiate some action regarding failing schools following last Fall's rejection by voters of a constitutional amendment which would have allowed the state to take over troubled schools.

"Of course he is disappointed that his plan didn't pass.  We don't have the details of his "Plan B," but it's going to be a legislative solution, not a constitutional solution.  He mentioned in his "State of the State" address  that there are more troubled schools than before on the list and they are primarily growing in the elementary schools across different parts of the state.  So the problem hasn't gone away, but we don't have specifics on what he intends to do," Morris stated.

January 19--  On Friday, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. 

NewsTalk WVOP, AM 970 and FM 105.3, will provide live coverage from the U.S. Capitol starting at 11:06 a.m.  Mike Pence is expected to be sworn in at 11:46 a.m. and President-elect Trump at 12 p.m.

January 19-- The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) announced today that the state’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate increased for the fourth consecutive month to 5.4 percent in December, up one-tenth of a percentage point from 5.3 percent in November. In December 2015, the unemployment rate was 5.5 percent.

The rate rose as the state’s labor force grew and the number of new layoffs increased. 

“Jobseekers continue to join the labor force amid a growing level of confidence that they’ll be able to get a job and we’re seeing more people move to Georgia,” said State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. “While those jobseekers are searching for work, they’re counted as unemployed, which often leads to a slightly higher unemployment rate. And, we did see an increase in new layoffs, but many of them were seasonal and temporary.”

The labor grew by 22,420 to 4,993,859 in December. During that time, the number of unemployed increased by 6,908 to 270,894. The number of employed workers increased by 15,512 to 4,722,965.  Georgia’s labor force has grown by 209,436 since the first of the year, with 101,093 of that number coming in the last four months.  

While Georgia’s labor force continued to grow in December, the state’s labor participation rate climbed to 62.9 percent, its highest level in three-and-one-half years and the second consecutive month it has exceeded the national rate. The participation rate is the percentage of the state’s or nation’s population 16 years of age or older who are in the labor force.  The nation’s participation rate in December was 62.7 percent.

January 19-- Last night President-elect Donald J. Trump tapped former Georgia Government Sonny Perdue to serve as the country's next Secretary of Agriculture. In response, the Georgia Republican Party issued the following statement:

"Sonny Perdue is committed to our farmers, small business owners, and rural communities," said Georgia Republican Party Chairman John Padgett.  "While in office, Gov. Perdue worked tirelessly to strengthen Georgia's economy by supporting our agriculture industry. I have the utmost confidence that his experience as a veterinarian, lawmaker, chief executive, and agribusiness giant will serve him well as he leads the U.S. Department of Agriculture. We are so proud of Sonny and wish him all the best as he takes on this important role in the Trump Administration."

Governor Sonny Perdue is the second Georgian tapped to serve in President-elect Trump's cabinet. In November, Congressman Tom Price (GA-6) was appointed by Trump as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

January 19--  The new chairman of the Toombs County Commission and two incumbent commissioners took their oaths of office at the first meeting of the Commission in the new year Tuesday evening in Lyons.

After the oath, Chairman David Sikes said, "I never served in our nation's military and I've often regretted that.  As I grew older, I asked myself how can I best serve the citizens of the United States.  So, I threw my hat in the ring to be able to serve you politically, serve you wholeheartedly and to serve you with a humbleness and ability to give everything I have back to you.  I take it very seriously and am very honored that you would give me this opportunity.  It is a big deal to me and my family.  You guys are now my family and I will work everyday day to the best of my abilities to exude that with your best interests in my heart. I will serve you with all that I can."

sikesoathToombs County Probate Judge Larry Threlkeld swore in Chairman Sikes with his wife, Brandy Sikes, holding the family Bible.  He also swore in Commissioners Wendell Dixon and Darriel Nobles.  Dixon will serve on the landfill and public safety committees while Nobles will work on the landfilll and recreation department committees.

Vice Chairman Jeff McCormick will serve on Roads and Bridges and the public safety committees while Commissioner Alfred Cason will be on the Road and Bridges and Recreation Department committees.

The Commission heard departmental reports from the county sheriff, EMS Director, Volunteer Fire Department Chief and the State Court Judge.

Sheriff Junior Kight expressed concerns about overcrowding of the county jail, increased pay for his jailers and deputies and the increasing dangers law enforcement officers face.  He noted there we five homicides last year in the county and reported Toombs 911 received nearly 47,000 calls in 2016.

EMS Director Drew James reported the ambulance service handled 7,402 calls last year.  He is planning on conducting a second edition of the EMS Youth Academy soon for young people ages 14 to 17.

County Volunteer Fire Chief Johnny Moser said he hopes to open a new fire station in 2017 to serve residents just south of the Vidalia city limits in an effort to provide better coverage and improve the department's insurance rating in that area.

firecptsHe also promoted two volunteer firemen, John Hays (left) and Robert Tillman, from the rank of Lieutenant to Captain.

State Court Judge Tommy J. Smith briefed the Commission on the organization of the state court system, the local case load, the resources used and the revenues generated by the Toombs County State Court.

Toombs County Development Authority Executive Bill Mitchell reported an upcoming meeting with a solar company which is looking for 1,500 acres in the southern part of the county.  It plans to install solar panels and sell electricity to Georgia Power, he said.

The Commission appointed Sam Polk to the Toombs County Hospital Authority and re-appointed Authority members Jeremy Joyner and Powell Collins.

It also renamed Howard Kaufold as county attorney.

The Commission voted to spend $7,140 for a year-long contract to maintain heart monitors in county ambulances and granted $19,405 to buy 25 security cameras at the Toombs County Detention Center.

The February meeting of the Commission will be delayed from February 21 to February 28 so commission members may attend a legislative day at the state capitol sponsored by the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia.

January 18--  The Vidalia Onion Festival Commitee issued an announcement Wednesday regarding this year's Vidalia Onion Festival Concert.

"Headlining the 40th Annual Vidalia Onion Festival is the southern rock band, Blackberry Smoke.


"Blackberry Smoke has evolved from rough-edged club act to arena-ready rock 'n' roll juggernauts, while steadily extending and expanding the Southern rock tradition. Since the group’s formation in 2000, the 5-piece band has never shied away from hard work, playing more than 250 shows a year and building an ever-expanding audience on the strength of its live shows. In addition to winning fans and friends throughout the United States, they've toured Europe multiple times and performed for the first time ever in Australia in 2016 to sold-out crowds.

"This past October, the band released their sixth studio album, Like An Arrow, which features special guest Gregg Allman on the album's closing track. In addition to receiving widespread critical acclaim, the album debuted at No. 1 on both Billboard’s Country Albums and Americana Albums charts. It also reached No. 3 on Billboard’s Rock Albums chart.

"In addition to this success, the band has had music featured across film, television and video games, including recent placements on CBS's NCIS: New Orleans and EA Sports’ Madden NFL 16. Moreover, the band has performed on the BBC’s “Later…with Jools Holland, The Tonight Show and Conan and toured with and befriended idols such as Gregg Allman, The Marshall Tucker Band, ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd and George Jones. For more info on Blackberry Smoke, visit, like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter and Instagram @blackberrysmoke.

"Opening up for Blackberry Smoke, is Lumber City’s own Lance Stinson. Lance has been influenced by a variety of music legends like Keith Whitley, George Jones, and Waylon Jennings. Lance also grew up listening to rock legends like Def Leppard and Poison. This variety of music has combined to give him a taste for what he calls “kick-in-the-teeth country”. He has opened for many big names in country music, including Randy Houser, Travis Tritt, Luke Bryan, Brantley Gilbert, Darryl Worley, and Lee Brice, among many others. That experience and his talent has led him to Nashville and his road to success. For more information visit

"Taking the stage prior to Lance, will be BEAU + LUCI, the “flower children with rock ‘n’ roll souls.” Hailing from the swamp lands of southern Georgia, raised on a heavy blend of rock-and-roll and blues and classic country, these two sisters mine their rich musical heritage to dream up an extraordinary timeless sound. Heavily influenced by the Allman Brothers, Fleetwood Mac, Emmylou Harris, and Johnny Cash, with their undeniable approach to storytelling steeped in ageless spirituals, blues, and classic rock, BEAU + LUCI captivate souls from all walks of life.

"Kicking off the day will be Salazar. The Boys of "SALAZAR" have only been together a short time. In that short amount of time Salazar has been blessed with great success. Driven by their unique sound and energy, on and off the stage, they have quickly established their own brand of music. From their "in your face" "guitar driven" "party songs" their SALAZAR inspired ballads...these guys love to put on a show!  They also have original music written and recorded and are currently working on an album.

"The concert will take place at the Stage at City Park, Highway 280 and Durden St on Saturday, April 29th with music starting at 5pm. Advanced tickets are available for $15 online at These advanced tickets are refundable if the event is cancelled due to inclement weather.  Tickets will also be available at the gate on the day of the concert. For more information, please contact the Vidalia Convention & Visitors Bureau (912-538-8687 or"

January 18-- Jessica Coleman has been selected as Lyons Upper Elementary School’s Teacher of the Month for January.

She is from Warner Robins and has 3 younger sisters. She graduated from Warner Robins High School in 2003 and got her degree in Education from Middle Georgia State University in 2007.  Mrs. Coleman taught 4th grade in Houston County for 6 years. She married her husband, Barry, almost 4 years ago and then moved to Toombs County. She’s been at Lyons Upper Elementary since then.

She said that knew she wanted to be a teacher when she was in 2nd grade. She enjoys working with young people and looks forward to seeing their successes. Congratulations Mrs. Coleman! 

colemanteacher(L to R): Mrs. Tabatha Nobles, LUES Principal; Mrs. Jessica Coleman, January Teacher of the Month; and Mrs. Rhonda Stone, LUES Asst. Principal

January 18--  Even though some sales tax revenue was down last year, the City of Vidalia ended the year with a surplus and expects more of the same in 2017.

According to city Finance Director Bill Bedingfield, "Revenue was pretty good.  It's not where we've been in the past.  We saw some downturn in local option sales tax and a little bit in the title ad valorem tax that people pay now on automobiles.  We saw that down a little bit from the prior year, but we knew that was going to happen sooner or later, but for the most part revenues have been pretty stable."

Local option sales tax collections were down about two percent last year and the transportation sales tax was down nearly the same percentage, however, Bedingfield says it's been a boon for the city.

"The T-SPLOST (Transportation Special Purpose Local Sales Tax) has been a tremendous help.  The projects we're doing now, Airport Road, Mose Coleman, Michael Collins and we completed Adams Street, that money has been fantastic to help us with those projects," he said.

Sales taxes are a key component of construction work in the city and the Finance Director notes that's help keep city property taxes low for the past 24 years.

"No property taxes have been used for any of these projects we talk about.  For example, the Pal Theater renovation, building the Amphitheater at City Park and the road projects are coming from sales tax revenue that's coming into our community from people who come here to shop, none of it is property tax," he said.

This year's general fund budget of $8.5 million is essentially the same as last year's and Bedingfield is confident about the city's financial condition.

"We're solid.  We came in under budget and we have a fund balance.  We're looking to have one again this year.  We presented a balanced budget to the council for 2017.  We don't have a lot of room in it and we feel confident we'll bring it in under budget and end the year with a solid fund balance.  That depends on if revenues continue to come in like they are.  We don't forecast revenues above the prior years," he said.

A bright spot is the more than 20% increase in hotel/motel taxes in 2016.  The tax rate increased from five to eight percent and brought in more than $365,000 to the city treasury, an increase of more than $70,000.


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







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

 1/10       Danielle Leona Brewton                 Vidalia Ga.          Criminal Damage to Property-1st, Criminal Trespass

 1/10       Shantell Latrice Williams                Vidalia, Ga.         Criminal Damage to Property-1st, Criminal Trespass

 1/13       Breanna Brankley                            Mt. Vernon, Ga.  Driving w/o License

 1/15       Dennis Paul Burkett                         Reidsville, Ga.    Obstruction of Officer, Disorderly Conduct, Public Intoxication

 1/15       Cedric Maurice Roach                    Mt. Vernon, Ga.  Following Too Closely, Driving w/Suspended License

January 16--  Led by the color guard from the Thunderbolt Junior R.O.T.C Regiment, Vidalia's second annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Parade included nearly 100 entries and retired Army Captain Carlos Ward, Senior R.O.T.C. instructor, says it was an honor to lead the parade, "It means a lot and the biggest thing I try to express to the kids is how much the community anticpates seeing them in parades and they make the community proud."



The "Community Men in Action" organization sponsors the parade and one of its founders, Greg Johnson, says "It's so important just to recognize the achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King and all the people who fought for civil rights for all people and all mankind.  We want to make sure we do that in rememberance of their efforts and their lives and the blood they shed so we can continue on the great effort of freedom for all."

The President of the Toombs County NAACP, Tracey Johnson, says the observance is an important reminder of work to be done, "It's very important that we continue to do this and remind people where we have come from and continue to work on the things we need to work on.  We need everybody to get in this boat and help us navigate America to be the country that it should be to each and every one of us."

Greg Johnson also thanked the Vidalia business community for supporting the parade, "This our second year and it's been really, really great thanks to a lot of merchants around town who have supported us.  I've been around this community a long time.  It's a caring and supportive community and we want to thank them for everything they've done for us."


January 16--  The Toombs County school board met last Thursday and re-elected Russ  Benton Vice-Chairman.  Here are excerpts from the minutes of the meeting provided by School Superintendent Richard Smith.

"During the Superintendent’s Report, Mr. Smith presented information to the board from Governor Deal’s State of the State Address earlier in the week as it related to education. The Governor announced he has budgeted a 2% pay raise for teachers in the state salary schedule. This is different than the way he proposed the funds last spring. If this happens, it will be the first salary scale raise for educators since the 2008 school year. An increase has also been proposed to the employer portion of the State Health Benefit Plan insurance premium. This will make the third straight year of an increase in the employer premiums."

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

Employment Recommendation: Greg Thompson, Bus Driver.

Retirement Notice for the end of the current year: Terry Conner, TCES Media Specialist; Dana Faircloth, LPS Teacher.

Resignations: Rachel Ford, TCHS Teacher; Lydia Stone, LPS Teacher, and Schlonda Phillips, TCHS Teacher, all effective at the end of the current school year; Casey Story, TCHS Food Service worker.




January 16-- Longtime Vidalia Recreation Department board member Karen Hilton was honored by the Vidalia City Council at its monthly meeting in January.  She's been a board member for 15 years and an active member supporting the swimming program of the Rec Department.  The council named Kathy Brown to succeed her.


(L-R) Vidalia Rec Department Director Tommy Sasser, city council member Eddie Tyson, Mayor Ronnie Dixon, city council member Lisa Chesser, Karen Hilton, council member Kaily Dees and Mayor Pro Tem John Raymond Turner.

The council heard reports from Tourism Director Alexa Britton that a concert is being planned for March 21 at Southeastern Technical College and from Onion Festical Chairman Dustin Booth that an act has been signed for the festival's concert Saturday night, April 29th.  He said an announcement will be made January 18 regarding the act's identity.

The council reappointed Vidalia attorneys Reid Threlkeld and Mackey Bryant as City Attorney and City Court Judge, respectively.

City manager Nick Overstreet reported the city will apply for a state grant this year for upgrades in the community around the old city swimming pool. 

He also said plans are being made for a city-wide clean-up day on Saturday, February 18.