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April 30-- Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin selected Deputy Mickey Moore as the Montgomery County Sheriff Office’s Employee of the Month for April 2018. Deputy Moore has 35 years of experience in law enforcement and has been employed by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office since June of 2016. He is currently assigned to the Montgomery County School System and serves grades K-12 as the School Resource Officer.

 In additional to being a Certified School Resource Officer, Deputy Moore is also a Certified Paramedic and oversees all medical training for the Sheriff’s Office staff.

Recently Deputy Moore was instrumental in saving a young child’s life at the Elementary School by performing emergency first aid until EMS arrived when the child suffered a severe allergic reaction. The child’s parents and school personnel thanked Mickey for his quick response to this life-threatening incident and reported that the child has fully recovered.

 Sheriff Maybin stated, “Mickey is a loyal and dedicated employee who is an asset to our office operations and I want to congratulate and thank him for all he does to keep our schools safe as well as patrolling our county.”  

mcocmickey1Sheriff Maybin presented Deputy Moore with a gift certificate to J&B’s Restaurant (courtesy of a Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office supporter).

April 30--  For the second time in two months, a judge in Treutlen County has thrown out of court allegations by the same citizen against a sitting county commissioner.

Monday morning Probate Judge Shawn Rhodes refused Ronald Strickland's request to disqualify District Two Commissioner Homer Rivers from running for re-election in the upcoming primary election.

Last month Magistrate Mary Jo Buxton found no probable cause to issue a misdemeanor warrant against Rivers after Strickland claimed he violated his oath of office by doing work for the county sheriff.

At the Monday hearing, Strickland made the same argument.  Judge Rhodes said he had no authority to overturn the earlier ruling nor any legal authority to disqualify Rivers from seeking office.

April 30--  The Vidalia chuck wagon team "Skillet & Spurs" won the overall judging in this year's Vidalia Onion Festival "Chuck Wagon Cook-Off" during two days of competition at the campsite on Airport Road.

skilletswSkillet & Spurs members are (L-R) Phyllis Frederick, Cindy, Troy and Austin Reddick.

The teams were judged in seven categories.

Meat –                 1st – Hart Bar D-Cottondale, FL

                                2nd-Skillet & Spurs-Vidalia, GA

                                3rd-The 187 Chuckwagon Co.-Gastonia, NC

Beans-                  1st-The 187 Chuckwagon Co.-Gastonia, NC

                                2nd-Skillet & Spurs-Vidalia, GA

                                3rd-Hart Bar D-Cottondale, FL

Potatoes-            1st-Skillet & Spurs-Vidalia, GA

                                2nd-Hart Bar D-Cottondale, FL

                                3rd-Double X-Jenkinsburg, GA

Bread-                  1st-Hart Bar D-Cottondale, FL

                                2nd-The 187 Chuckwagon Co.-Gastonia, NC

                                3rd-Skillet & Spurs-Vidalia, GA

Dessert-               1st-Double X-Jenkinsburg, GA

                                2nd-Skillet & Spurs-Vidalia, GA

                                3rd-Hart Bar D-Cottondale, FL

Onion Dish-        1st-Skillet & Spurs-Vidalia, GA

                                2nd-Hart Bar D-Cottondale, FL

                                3rd-Grumpy’s Grub-Rome, GA

Wagon/Camp-  1st-Skillet & Spurs-Vidalia, GA

                                2nd-Hart Bar D-Cottondale, FL

                                3rd-Grumpy’s Grub-Rome, GA

Overall Champion – Skillet & Spurs – Vidalia, GA

chuckAccording to Cook-Off Director Brian Frederick, five teams from three states competed this year including Skillet & Spurs, Hart Bar-D from Cottondale, Florida; Double-X from Jenkinsburg, Georgia; The 187 Chuckwagon Company from Gastonia, North Carolina and Grumpy's Grub from Rome, Georgia.

By State Representative Greg Morris, (R-Vidalia)

One characteristic of the 2018 Session was the high number of retirements from the Republican caucus. In particular, there were 12 committee chairmen who are leaving which is an unusually high number. Even I was a little surprised at the current length of service in the Legislature. Less than 1 in 5 House members have served over 15 years and 7 years is the average term of a State Senator currently. I will mention the most significant retirements with policy implications for the future and for me personally.

Rep Earl Ehrhart, R. Powder Springs. When elected in 1988, Earl was one of less than 40 Republicans in the House. As Earl retires, there are 118, and he deserves a great deal of credit for the change. Combative and testy, Earl is the kind of fellow that loves a fight and nothing pleased him better than combat against a liberal idea or individual. A firm believer in free market economics Earl was a tireless fighter for the independent business owner and fought over regulation by the state government. He himself is a successful business owner. Earl is a single Dad who raised 2 boys alone while serving in the Legislature one of which is a Marine pilot. As Chairman of the Appropriations Committee on Higher Education , Earl kept liberal University officials in line. The budget can be a weapon like a baseball bat, and Earl wasn’t scared to use it. Earl was a great help to me with advice on business decisions when Daddy died.

Rep. Brooks Coleman, R. Duluth. An irrepressible ball of energy with a passion for Roy Rogers memorabilia, Brooks has chaired the House Education Committee since 2005. Most of his tenure there has been very controversial. The Great Recession causing the austerity cuts and furlough days, the balance between school choice and support of traditional public education and the debate over Common Core made for a stressful committee. In fact, Brooks had two heart attacks and bypass surgery during this time that I don’t think could be blamed on a poor diet alone. Brooks was a retired educator and knew his subject cold. His committee was run with fairness to both sides of the issue and I had complete confidence in his integrity. He took time to patiently explain the education bills to those of us a little slow to understand, and he never left out any important details. It will be interesting to see who the Speaker appoints as his replacement for this critically important post for Georgia’s future.

Rep. Paul Battles, R. Cartersville. God has always provided a good Christian friend to rely on spiritually while in Atlanta. For the first ten years it was Methodist minister Len Walker from Loganville. For the past eight it has been Paul. You do get closer to your seatmates on the floor, and sitting next to Paul has been a blessing. A retired banker and lay minister, Paul has that gentle nature that some of the rest of us who don’t have it, envy. My seat on the floor is actually between Paul and Earl Ehrhart that I mentioned earlier. I would joke that it was like sitting between Billy Graham and Darth Vader. I remember after one liberal speech from the well, Paul said, “I didn’t agree with a word he said, but he did a good job getting his point across.” Earl leaned over to me and said” One of us ought to baseball bat that liberal ‘#^%*!” It is that nature of Paul’s that I needed as an example of how a Christian conducts himself no matter what the situation is. I will miss our daily critique of the Chaplain of the Day (always positive) and his friendship during the Session.

April 30– Meadows Health has received an “A” in the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade released by The Leapfrog Group, a Washington D.C-based organization aiming to improve health care quality and safety for consumers and purchasers.

mrmcsafetyLeapfrog gives grades of A, B, C, D and F to hospitals based on their performance in preventing medical errors, infections and other harms. Only 15 hospitals in Georgia earned an A. Nationwide, 750 hospitals earned an A, the top score.

“We are very proud of this score. It reflects the hard work and dedication of all our of our physicians, nurses and other team members as well as our board and our leadership group who are committed to delivering a truly remarkable experience for each patient,” said Meadows Regional Medical Center President & CEO, Alan Kent. “This “A” recognition emphasizes the great strides we take in providing the highest quality of care to our community and the surrounding area.”

Meadows Health also received the Healthgrades 2017 Outstanding Patient Experience Award, been named a Three-Time Reuters 100 Top Hospital, and recognized as a 100 Great Community Hospital by Becker’s Hospital Review.

Meadows Health continues to strive for excellence in areas covered by the Leapfrog report. To see Meadows’ full grade, and to access patient tips for staying safe in the hospital, visit www.hospitalsafetygrade.org.

April 28—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.4 29 18 Onion Eating Group

There were three winners in the age 11 and under category, Ryker Myers , Aiken Johnson and Layla Sikes. They all ate two onions each in three minutes. 4 29 18 Ryker Myers 11 Under4 29 18 2 of 3 way tie ages 11 and under

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First place in the age 12 through 16 category went to Toombs County High School junior Lilliann Pittman who ate four onions against four other competitors. Lilliann has won the competition for the third time and the second year in a row. 4 29 18 Lilliann Pittman4 29 18 Jonathan Flowers Winner Onion Eating 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the 17 and up age category Jonathan Flowers of Dexter, Ga. took the top honors eating six onions. With the win Flowers won a trophy and $100 in cash.

April 30--  Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits reports the following arrests.

McCoy, Connor Dakota - W/M 20 YOA/ 100 Pine Mountain Dr. Vidalia, Ga. / Warrant Served (Toombs Co. So.)

Tarver, Dustin Corbin - W/M 22 YOA/ 243 Azalez St. Vidalia, Ga. / Warrant Served (Toombs Co. So.)

Sikes, Sheree Anne- W/F- 38 YOA- 402 Madison St. Vidalia, GA- Warrant Served (Toombs Co SO)

Bowles, Peggy Laverne- B/F 44 YOA/ 406 Ward St Vidalia, Ga./ Seatbelt Violation, Driving While License Suspended, No Proof Of Insurance

Wooden, Sheena Latricia- B/F 27 YOA/ 213 Dexter St Vidalia, Ga./ Hit & Run- Property Damage Or Injury, Driving While License Suspended, Warrant Service

Butler, Blake A - W/M 31 YOA/ Homeless Vidalia, Ga. / Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense

Steptoe, Susan- W/F- 59 YOA- 243Azalea St. Vidalia, GA- Aggravated Assault/Burglary

Morris, Corinthians Ann- B/F 40 YOA/ 404 Smith St Vidalia, Ga./ Simple Battery (FVA)

Carroll, Cameron Joe- W/M 19 YOA/ 155 W Roosevelt Ave Lyons, Ga./ Possession Of Controlled Substance

Love, Dustan Brian- W/M 20 YOA/ 511 Buck Rd Vidalia, Ga./ Possession Of Controlled Substance

Gaddy, Raynard- B/M 31 YOA/ 208 Lively St Vidalia, Ga./ Possession Of Controlled Substance

Clark, Amanda Michelle-W/F 29 YOA/ 6629 Hwy 135 Mt. Vernon, Ga./ Possession Of Controlled Substance, Possession Of Marijuana Less Than Ounce

Kirkland, Cody Walter-W/M 28 YOA/ 3100 Montgomery St Savannah, Ga./ Possession Of Controlled Substance

Moss, Charles B/M 38 YOA/ 614 Peachtree St Sandersville, Ga./ Open Container

Cornish, Jestin Charles- B/M 19 YOA/ 517 Martin Luther King Avenue Vidalia, Ga. / Theft By Shoplifting 1st Offense

Smith, Evan Ray - W/M 22 YOA/ 105 Buckeye Rd Twin City, Ga./ Possession Of Marijuana Less Than Ounce, Driving While License Suspended, No Proof Of Insurance, Tail Light And Tag Light Requirements

Page, Sean Michael- W/M 41 YOA/ 1361 HWY 221 N Mount Vernon, Ga./ DUI 1ST Offense, Failure To Maintain Lane

Swain, Cody Shawn-W/M24 YOA/ 482 Pineland Cir Soperton Ga./ DUI 1ST Offense

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Amber Braddock, Lyons, DUI, improper use of center turn lane, possession of drug related objects

Christian Conley, Lyons, DUI, possession of drug related objects

Jesus Ortiz, Lyons, theft by receiving stolen property

Larry Cash, Lyons, giving false name/address/birth date to officer

Michael Higgs, Lyons, Warrant served

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Scottie Allen, Lyons, Obstruction of Police Officer

Jeremy Carter, Lyons, probation violation

Kelly Carter, Soperton, burglary, aggravated assault

Darin Giles, Vidalia, DUI, speeding

Terrell Harris, Wadley, probation violation

Michael Harvey, safety belt, driving while license suspended/revoked

John Houston, Savannah, probation violation

Kevin Hudson, Lyons, probation violation, possession of drug related objects, obstructing police

Roderick McCloud, Vidalia, driving while license suspended/revoked

Ronald Morgan, Lyons, DUI, open container, safety belts, reckless driving

David Munford, Jr., Tifton, probation violation

Jeremy Pittman, Uvalda, probation violation

Charles Willis, Jr., Vidalia, failure to appear

Glenn Woods, Swainsboro, failure to appear

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

04/19-Russell Cardell Sweat, Lyons, Felony Probation Violation

04/19-Ricky Deneil Jackson, Vidalia, Tag Light Violation, Possession of Marijuana <1oz.

04/20-Marcus Treshon Kelly, Mt Vernon, Felony Probation Violation

04/20-Spencer Marion Boykin, Jr., Mt Vernon, Failure to Maintain Lane, DUI, Obstruction of Officer

04/20-Sonny Moore, Uvalda, Contempt of Court

04/20-Treavante Devon Reed, Uvalda, Simple Battery (FVA)

04/21-Jesse Aaron Musselman, Vidalia, Battery (FVA)

 

leonaApril 28--  A beautiful day for the 41st Annual Vidalia Onion Run included "Old Glory" crossing the finish line borne by the First Sergeant of the Thunderbolt Junior R.O.T.C. Regiment, Sergeant First Class Leona Brooks, U.S. Army (retired).  The regiment includes cadets from four area school systems, Vidalia, Toombs, Montgomery and Treutlen counties.

kaileyVidalia City Council member Kailey Dees did a great job filling in as Race Emcee for Charles Andrew who has become an integral part of the annual run but who could not be here this year.

April 27-- Kelly Guthrie Raley has been teaching for 20 years and currently educates kids at Eustis Middle School in Lake County, Florida. Last month she was named the 2017-18 Teacher of the Year

The day after the horrific shooting that took place at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, she posted a   rant on Facebook   that has since gone viral. In the post, she talked about parental responsibility, compassion, and respect...and more than 823,000 people have "liked" the post and agreed with it, while more than 649,000 have shared it with others.

Here is what Mrs. Raley had to say:

" Okay, I'll be the bad guy and say what no one else is brave enough to say, but wants to say. I'll take all the criticism and attacks from everyone because you know what? I'm a TEACHER. I live this life daily. And I wouldn't do anything else! But I also know daily I could end up in an active shooter situation.

Until we, as a country, are willing to get serious and talk about mental health issues, lack of available care for the mental health issues, lack of discipline in the home, horrendous lack of parental support when the schools are trying to control horrible behavior at school (oh no! Not MY KID. What did YOU do to cause my kid to react that way?), lack of moral values, and yes, I'll say it-violent video games that take away all sensitivity to ANY compassion for others' lives, as well as reality TV that makes it commonplace for people to constantly scream up in each other's faces and not value any other person but themselves, we will have a gun problem in school. Our kids don't understand the permanency of death anymore!!!

I grew up with guns. Everyone knows that. But you know what? My parents NEVER supported any bad behavior from me. I was terrified of doing something bad at school, as I would have not   had a life until I corrected the problem and straightened my ass out. My parents invaded my life. They knew where I was ALL the time. They made me have a curfew. They made me wake them up when I got home. They made me respect their rules. They had full control of their house, and at any time could and would go through every inch of my bedroom, backpack, pockets, anything! Parents: it's time to STEP UP! Be the parent that actually gives a crap! Be the annoying mom that   pries   and knows what your kid is doing. STOP being their friend. They have enough "friends" at school. Be their parent. Being the "cool mom" means not a damn thing when either your kid is dead or your kid kills other people because they were allowed to have their space and privacy in YOUR HOME. I'll say it again. My home was filled with guns growing up. For God's sake, my daddy was an 82nd Airborne Ranger who lost half his face serving our country. But you know what? I never dreamed of shooting anyone with his guns. I never dreamed of taking one! I was taught respect for human life, compassion, rules, common decency, and most of all, I was taught that until I moved out, my life and bedroom wasn't mine...it was theirs. And they were going to know what was happening because they loved me and wanted the best for me.

There. Say that I'm a horrible person. I didn't bring up gun control, and I will refuse to debate it with anyone. This post wasn't about gun control. This was me, loving the crap out of people and wanting the best for them. This was about my school babies and knowing that God created each one for greatness, and just wanting them to reach their futures. It's about 20 years ago this year I started my teaching career. Violence was not this bad 20 years ago. Lack of compassion wasn't this bad 20 years ago. And God knows 20 years ago that I wasn't afraid daily to call a parent because I KNEW that 9 out of 10 would cuss me out, tell me to go to Hell, call the news on me, call the school board on me, or post all over Facebook about me because I called to let them know what their child chose to do at school...because they are a NORMAL kid!!

Those 17 lives mattered. When are we going to take our own responsibility seriously?"

April 27--  Here are the winner's of Thursday's  Vidalia Onion Festival Children's Costume Contest on "The Stage at City Park"  in downtown Vidalia. Thanks to Kellie Murray at Vidalia City Hall for compiling them for us.

grop0to3

Age Group 0-3
Best Overall – Wyatt Payne, Son of Jennifer Payne

Most Onion Festive – Mary Carlyle McKinney, Daughter of Cindy Williams

Most Creative – Maddie Moseley, Daughter of Bailey Dixon and Lane Moseley

 

 

 

group4to7Age Group 4-7

Best Overall – Alex Alvarado, Son of Christine Alvarado

Most Onion Festive – Sofia Laubacker, Daughter of Sara Laubacker

Most Creative – Jack Laubacker, Son of Sara Laubacker

group8to12Age Group 8-12

Best Overall – Noah Morrison, Son of Crystal Morrison

(There was only one contestant in this age group)

 

 

 

 

 

groupcreativeGroup Category

Best Overall – Paisley & Nettaley Coursey, Children of Dilan and Megan Coursey

Most Onion Festive – Tripp Moon, Son of Mary Moon &

                                             Mary Carlyle McKinney, Daughter of Cindy Williams

Most Creative – Jude Edge, Son of Ashley & Justin Edge &

                                  Marissa Porter, Daughter of Ashley & Jeffrey Porter &

                                   Kenzileigh Porter, Daughter of Amy & Jason Porter

Sweetest Sprouts Category

Willow & Noah Morrison, Children of Crystal Morrison

Cutest Group Category

Coursey’s Chicken Coop, which consisted of Paisley & Nettaley Coursey, Children of Dilan & Megan Coursey

 

diamondApril 27--  This is "Diamond," a young female pup at the Vidalia Animal Shelter.  Manager April Braddy says she is very good with people and other dogs and deserves a loving family. 

For information on "Diamond" and the other dogs looking for forever homes, please call April at 537-8866.

(Courtesy - Altama Animal Clinic)

April 27-- Secretary of State Brian Kemp reminds Georgia voters that advance in-person voting for May 22’s General Primary and Nonpartisan Election will begin Monday, April 30, 2018.

“Early voting is a great option for busy Georgians,” said Secretary Brian Kemp.  “Local election officials work tirelessly to ensure that it runs smoothly all across the state, so please encourage your family and friends to head to the polls and make their voices heard in these elections.”

Information on early voting locations and hours by county is available on the Elections Division's website. Voters can also use the office’s “My Voter Page” or download the “GA SOS” app to check registration status, view a sample ballot, find their voting location, or request a paper absentee ballot. Absentee ballots should be requested well in advance of the May 18, 2018 deadline to vote by mail in the General Primary and Nonpartisan Election.

Election Day is May 22, 2018, and polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Georgians can reference other important dates for the 2018 election cycle on the office’s website.

April 26--  With primary elections coming up next month, incumbent State Representative Greg Morris of Vidalia is warning conservative voters not to become complacent when it's time to vote.

"We have sixteen members of the Republican caucus who have retired this year and twelve of them were committee chairmen.  Of the 26 contested Republican primaries, it's my understanding that Hillary Clinton carried eight of them.  We're going to be fighting hard to retain those seats so we can continue to have a conservative agenda in the legislature and not go backwards.  We don't want to take for granted the success we've had for conservative values in the last decade or so," Morris said.

Morris is serving his tenth term in the House and is being challenged for the third consecutive time in the May 22nd Republican primary election by Lee Burton of Toombs County.

morrisrotaryVidalia Rotary President Tres Herin (L) welcomes Representative Morris.

He told Vidalia Rotary Club members he's proud the legislature cut personal and corporate taxes this year, "The impact is going to be huge and should save Georgians some $5 billion in the next five years.  I was very pleased we were able to drop the income tax rate for the first time since 1937 and the corporate tax rate for the first time since the 1960's.  It was a historic session when it came to tax cuts."

Representative Morris also noted that for the first time since 2002, the state is paying its full share of funding to school systems around the state, "Because the overall economy in Georgia is good, we were able to fully fund the state's share and it will mean more than a half-million dollars to our local school systems," he said.

 

April 26--   Arrests have been made in connection with murder of a Dodge County couple. On April 25th, law enforcement officers served arrest warrants for murder on Gary Pennamon, 17, Kojak Thomas, Jr., 19, and a 16-year-old male, all of Eastman. Also charged with murder was a 16-year-old male from Chester. Alijah Shamir Pennamon, 19, of Eastman, was charged with one count of theft by receiving stolen property.  Additional charges are expected.

On Wednesday morning, April 25, 2018, a Dodge County Sheriff’s Office Deputy conducted a welfare check at the residence of Everett and Jain Williams located on Chester-Alamo Highway in Chester. The deputy discovered Everett and Jain Williams inside, deceased with suspected gunshot wounds. It was also determined that property was missing from the residence. The welfare check was requested by a neighbor who had not seen the Williams since Sunday, April 22nd. The Dodge County Sheriff’s Office requested the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) assist in the investigation.

An autopsy is scheduled today at the GBI Crime Lab in Macon.

The Eastman Police Department, Georgia Department of Community Supervision, Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, Oconee Drug Task Force, Ocmulgee Drug Task Force, Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Georgia State Patrol also assisted in the investigation

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the GBI office in Eastman at 478-374-6988 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

April 26-- The Toombs County Sheriff’s Office wants to make the public aware of continuing phone scams.

These scams include phone calls concerning taxes, jury duty, and citations. The caller identifies themselves as the Sheriff’s Office, IRS, or a police department normally. The caller states that if you do not make a payment over the phone immediately you will be arrested. Or, that you have a warrant for your arrest and you must make an immediate payment over the phone to keep from being arrested.

Law enforcement will not call and advise you that there are warrants for your arrest. Nor do they take any payments over the phone. Do not give any information over the phone. If you have any questions please call your local law enforcement agency.

April 24--  The Georgia Department of Transportation says there are 70 parcels of property that will be impacted by a U.S. Highway One bypass west of Lyons.

The department is preparing to start buying right-of-way for the project and Tuesday brought maps to Southeastern Tech in Vidalia for review by property owners.

Officials say construction will start near Santa Claus and work its way northwest where it will cross Highway 280 between the Vidalia onion warehouse and the Ezra Taylor Road, then cross Highway 292 to the east of Paul Thigpen Chevrolet and continue in a northeasterly direction to Highway One near the Chicken of the Sea industrial park.

Lyons Mayor Willis NeSmith has mixed emotions about bypassing the downtown area, "It will hurt some, but I think we'll actually see some benefit from it, too with more traffic from the north and south on U.S. One.  It will be putting traffic on both Highway 292 and 280, so they'll be able to come in and spend money in our restaurants and everything so I think we'll see that benefit.

"The thing we're not liking to see is all these homes that are having to be bought out that have been in families for a long time.  It's just a shame seeing that nothing can be worked out for some of these homes that have been in families for generations and that will be done away with.  I can imagine there's a lot of sentimental value in that  with people and I hate to see that happen with these families," Mayor NeSmith said.

Toombs County manager John Jones says the bypass will have an impact on infrastructure planning, "The design of the road and its off-ramps and on-ramps will impact planning, probably more in the cities than in the unincorporated parts, but certain parts will be more conducive to certain types of developments and the infrastructure will have to be planned for those developments.  It's going to lead to retail developments for sure," he said.

Unofficial estimates at the session were that construction could start as early as 18 months from now. 

 

April 24--  A twister is believed to have moved through parts of west Vidalia early Monday evening, however, there were no injuries nor major damage reported.

treedownSome trees were down in a residential neighborhood north of Parkway Drive, Dot Foods had some damage to the rear of its building off Highway 292 and Vidalia High School suffered some roof damage.  The new school building which is being constructed next door had no damage.

April 24-- The Montgomery County Tax Offices have relocated to the building formerly occupied by the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) and National Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) in Mount Vernon.  The building is located directly behind the Montgomery County Health Department.  The address of their new location is as follows:

taxofficeMontgomery County Tax Commissioner’s Office, 303 South Richardson Street, Mount Vernon, Georgia, Phone:  912-583-2571

Montgomery Tax Assessor’s Office, 301 South Richardson Street, Mount Vernon, Georgia, Phone: 912-583-4131

April 24--  Toombs County High School Principal Barry Waller is inviting members of the community to an information meeting on a new "Personalized Learning Program."

"Toombs County Schools are implementing a Personalized Learning Program (PLP) which is a non-traditional virtual learning experience available for students in grades 6 thru 12. This program is designed to help parents and students in our area take ownership of their education.

"The goal behind the PLP is to ensure each student in our area has the potential to be reached. Toombs County Schools' vision for personalizing education is to be innovative while providing leading edge educational opportunities. 

"Toombs County Schools will be hosting an informational meeting for the community on Thursday, May 3rd at 6:30 pm at Toombs County High School. We are inviting anyone who has an interest in more information to attend."

April 23--  The confluence of Orange Crush Weekend on Tybee Island over the weekend and National Cannabis day last Friday led to 288 arrests by law enforcement officers patrolling Interstate Highway 16 in Treutlen County.

About 15% of the arrests were for drugs, mostly marijuana.

According to Treutlen County Sheriff Tommy Corbin, his deputies and Georgia State Patrolmen made 40 drug arrests following traffic stops on the Interstate.  Included were a felony arrest for possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, three for possession of ecstasy with intent to distribute, three felony charges for marijuana possession and 33 misdemeanor cases for possession of marijuana.

Officers charged 192 motorists for speeding, two for DUI, five for suspended licenses and 49 others on various other charges.

traviswilliamsSheriff Corbin also reports the arrest last week of Travis Wheeler of Truetlen County for felony possession of methamphetamine who was out of jail on bond for a previous meth charge.  Officers seized nearly three ounces of meth, the sheriff said.

 

 

April 23--  A Vidalia man and woman are being charged in connection with the death of an infant.

TASHASIKESHAYESVidalia police say 27-year-old Tasha Lynn Sikes and her boyfriend, 26-year-old Jason Vernon Hayes of 704 Second Street, are charged with cruelty to children in the death of Sikes' four-month-old baby boy.

Police were called to the woman's room at the Royal Inn in Vidalia early on the morning of Tuesday, March 6.  Police report the woman was sitting in the doorway crying when they arrived to find the baby laying on the bed turning blue.  Sikes told police he was okay when she fed him about two a.m., but that he suffered from encephalitis since birth and she had planned to take him to a doctor later that day for treatment of a cold and cough.  She asked the motel front desk to call for help when she found the baby not breathing about 7:15 a.m.

According to a police report, the baby's 18-month-old brother was in a playpen in the room and appeared to be in good health.  He was turned over to the Department of Family and Children's Services.

Police are awaiting results of an autopsy report on the infant.

Meanwhile, police say the two are being held without bond at the Toombs County Detention Center in Lyons.

April 23-- The City of Vidalia Fire Department thanks Lowe's of Vidalia for its continued investment in the local community through it's participation in the Community Partnership Program.

Lowe's has donated 300 smoke detectors to be installed in the homes of Vidalia residents by the City of Vidalia Fire Department.

firedetectors(L-R) Vidalia Fire Chief Brian Sikes, Lowe's Human Resource Manager Kim Willis and Sales Manager Heath Palmer.

This support will help prevent and mitigate the effects of fires on both life and property, which is the primary purpose of the partnership program and a great benefit to the residents of Vidalia.

If you are a business owner and would like more information on the Community Partnership Program, or if you are a resident of the City of  Vidalia and would like free smoke detectors installed in your home, please contact the Vidalia Fire Department at (912) 537-4388 

April 23--  Mercy Ministries in Lyons is again offering free dental care for qualified patients.

A grand opening was held last Thursday for an in-house Mercy Dental Clinic, according to Executive Director Carly Benton, "A year ago I sat down with our staff and they told me we had a hundred of our 500-plus medical patients on a waiting list for dental care and that it was taking at least six months for a referral to be seen.  These are folks with abscesses who were living on antibiotics because they had an infection in their mouth, folks with cracked, broken and rotted teeth that needed to be extracted, and they were sitting on a waiting list and we said something has to be done."

The new clinic came about when Vidalia dental surgeon Dr. Ronnie Mosley stepped forward because of, "The need that I see everyday in my life dealing with patients and so many of them are in circumstances where they don't have any resources.  I learned of this and decided it was going to be what I do for sharing and caring for people in need.  Dental diseases are way under treated and unappreciated.  They are as much a disease as heart disease or any other human illness and I approach is that way," he said.

mercydental2Carly Benton (left) presents a plaque that is displayed in the clinic in honor of Dr. Mosley's mother, Ann Martin Mosley, to Dr. Mosley and his wife, Linda.

Four other area dentists are volunteering their time seeing patients at the clinic including Dr.'s Jennifer Barrett, Travis Garnto, Hugh Jordan and Kacy Morris.

One of their patients is as retired police officer who spoke at the grand opening and asked for community support, "This is one of the most wonderful things that has happened to this area.  I'm from Soperton and there's nothing like it in Soperton and there's nothing like it in Dublin or around.  I'm so blessed to be able to come down and be part of the Mercy Medical Clinic and  Dental Clinic.  All of y'all with a pocketful of money, donate it to this fine organization.  There are a lot of people just like me who need help and they don't have anywhere to go to get help except here," he said.

The dental clinic partners with the Dental Hygiene program at Southeastern Tech for patients' X-rays and gets volunteer clinical assistance from Anna Baird, Hunter Byrd, Diane Lockley, Christine Rathod and Janice Sammons.

For more info on the grand opening and "The Mercy Ministries," click on this link for a blog filed by Casey Hutcheson, Development Director. 

https://www.themercyministries.org/single-post/2018/04/20/Mercy-Dental-Clinic---Grand-Opening

 

 

April 20-- Thursday night the 14th year of the folk play, Tales from the Altamaha, opened at the Blue Marquee Theater in Lyons.

talesThis year's play is about the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) bringing electricity to Toombs County in the early 1900's and according to Director Rick Berry, the play has been a different play every year for its entire run. "Colonel Sharp wrote hundreds of stories and each year we do a different set of stories" said Berry.

Additionally, Berry credited playwright Lori Jo Upchurch for weaving the stories together into the play. Berry added, "Anyone who hasn't yet seen these plays is missing something right here in their own back yard."

After opening night, the reception from the audience was once again, positive and encouraging with dozens of audience members interviewed echoing each other by responding with, "it is great," "I've enjoyed every minute of it," and "I'll be back!"

Tales from the Altamaha continues through April 28th and more information can be found at http://www.vidaliaonionfestival.com/events-schedule/

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

Sikes, Tasha Lynn- W/F- 27 YOA- 705 E. First St. Room 135 Vidalia, GA- Cruelty to Children

Hayes, Jason Vernon- W/M- 26 YOA- 704 Second St. Vidalia, GA- Cruelty to Children

McCray, Brian Marquell- B/M- 28 YOA- 201 Jerriel St. Apt. 10 Vidalia, GA- Warrant Served (Parole)

Kelley, Markus Treshon- B/M- 22 YOA- 121 W. Robinson Dr. Vidalia, GA- Warrant Served (Montgomery Co SO- Probation)

Mathis, Franshesta Shanta - B/F 33 YOA/ 311 Epstein St. Vidalia, Ga. / Warrant Served (Toombs Co So.)

Mendoza, Susan Williamson- W/F- 45 YOA- 334 McNatt Fall Rd. Uvalda, GA- Theft of Lost or Mislaid Property

Williamson, Robert Earl- W/M- 53 YOA- 334 McNatt Falls Rd. Uvalda, GA- Theft of Lost or Mislaid Property/Theft by Shoplifting 2nd Offense

Williams, Justin Steven- B/M- 28 YOA- 118 B Fairground Circle Apt B Soperton, GA- Warrant Served (Probation-Lyons PD)

Isaac, Sholo Cumacumba- B/M- 39 YOA- 1800 N. Maple Dr. Vidalia, GA- Give False Name, Address, Birthdate to LE Officer/Warrant Served (Probation- Toombs County SO)

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Kayla Willis, Vidalia, possession of methamphetamine and drug related objects, DUI, no brake lights, expired tag, driving with expired license

Efrem Bailey, Lyons, possession of drug related objects

Boydaisha Davis, Baxley, DUI

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Tracy Arnold, Jr., Baxley, speeding, driving while license suspended/revoked

Malcolm Bray, Vidalia, failure to appear

Ethan Conner, Uvalda, operating watercraft under the influence, operating vessel without lights, child endangerment

Stewart Foster, Chauncey, probation violation

Joshua Griffin, Vidalia, operating watercraft under the influence, operating vessel without lights, child endangerment

Nolan Hitchcock, Uvalda, operating watercraft under the influence, operating vessel without lights, child endangerment

Donny Love, Reidsville, speeding, driving while license suspended/revoked

Lynn Matthews, Belvedee, TN., DUI, speeding

Tyriece Starks, Vidalia, driving unlicensed, stop signs/yield signs

Georgia Stewart, Claxton, probation violation

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

04/11-Bryon Terrel Shinholster, Uvalda, Forgery-4th, Burglary-2nd, Theft by Receiving Stolen Property, Possession of Drug Related Objects

04/13-Uriah Chukwuemeka Jackson, Alamo, Giving False Information, Possession of Marijuana <1oz.

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 20--  A 2014 graduate of Vidalia High School is among those urging Governor Nathan Deal to sign a bill passed by the Georgia legislature requiring state colleges and universities to treat students of all political persuasions equally when it comes to their rights of assembly and free speech on campus.

logantestimonyLogan Lawrence is currently a senior at the University of Georgia and testified in favor of the bill before the House Judiciary Committee, "I have come to realize that the university is inconsistently applying vague or ambiguous speech policies to student organizations which are actively trying to represent themselves on campus.  In many case they are favoring student groups which are interrupting invited speakers and really standing in the way of fostering intellectual diversity in higher education which is the sole purpose of a university."

Based on data gained through Freedom of Information requests Lawrence filed with the university in January, "It does seem there have been instances within the past year where liberal progressive student groups have been been allowed to hold events that are critical of conservatives without registering those events with the university and without being asked to disperse or leave.  They've also been allowed to hold these events outside of what the university would consider free speech zones without any type of sanction or formal reprimand by the university," he reports.

Lawrence says he was proud to testify before lawmakers opposing student censorship at the University of Georgia,"What this bill will do is that, when a student group or an individual attends an event where the speaker has been invited by another student group and they proceed to shout down the speaker or to attempt to shut the event down, the university is going to place disciplinary action upon that student or upon that student organization for interrupting an invited speaker," Lawrence said.

The bill was sent to Governor Deal in early April and he has 40 days to decide if he will veto it.

April 19--  A bill is awaiting Governor Nathan Deal's signature which would require the University System Board of Regents to insure students and speakers of all political persuasions are provided equal treatment on the campuses of state colleges and universities.

One of the college students who testified in support of the bill before the state senate's Judiciary Committee is Vidalia High School graduate Logan Lawrence who is currently attending the University of Georgia.

You can hear his take on the University's treatment of conservative students when he is a guest Friday morning on the Southeast Georgia Today morning show at 8:05 on NewsTalk WVOP, AM 970 and FM 105.3.logantestimony

April 18--  Woody Folsom Dodge in Vidalia made a $3,000 donation to local law enforcement departments and firemen.

Manager Steve Hutchinson said, "We saw fit to donate some money back to our first responders to say thank you for keeping our community safe and for keeping care of our community for us."

Donations were made to the Vidalia police and fire departments, the Toombs County Sheriff's Office and the Lyons Police Department.

woody(L-R) Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight, Steve Hutchinson and Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker.

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker noted, "You know in the environment we live in today, these officers don't get enough praise for what they do and when you get individuals or businesses to come forward to show appreciation, it means a lot to them."

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight echoed Chief Walker's remarks, "Our budgets are very small and we don't have a lot of money to buy equipment, so when you have people like this come forward, it really helps us buy something that we otherwise couldn't afford."

April 18--  A proposed county ordinance establishing a Code of Conduct for members of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners has been tabled.

Commissioner Chad Kenny recommended the ordinance at the commission's March meeting to establish standards of decorum for county commission meetings.  He had been called a disparaging name at an earlier meeting by Commissioner Greg Palmer.

At Monday's April meeting, Palmer publicly apologized for his language and then made a motion to table Kenney's proposal.  The board voted to approve Palmer's motion with only Kenney voting against it.

In other actions, county manager Brandon Braddy informed the commission he expects relocation this week of the county's Tax Commissioner's office and Tax Assessor's Office to the renovated county building at 301 South Richardson Street.

The board awarded a contract for $16,291 dollars to H.T. Construction for new roofs on the county's health department and road department buildings.

It also voted to join in a class action lawsuit being brought by an Athens law firm against contributors to the opiod epidemic in the state.  There is no cost to the county in joining the lawsuit. 

April 17-- According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease cost Georgia approximately $40 billion each year. Also, chronic disease impacts the productivity of Georgia employers and schools.

In 2016, Meadows Regional Medical Center completed its most recent comprehensive health care needs assessment. This involved community interviews using surveys and focus groups. We also reviewed state and county demographic profiles, health related behaviors, health resource utilization, as well as our region’s health status and outcomes.

Rates of death from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and stroke were higher than the state rates. Our assessment supported a need for a comprehensive regional chronic disease management program that provides integrated services to improve access to quality care, decrease health care costs and ultimately improve quality of life.

   To address the need for chronic disease care, Meadows Regional Medical Center received a $900,000 federal grant to develop partnerships to provide care coordination, telemedicine and specialty care services, as well as community health education over the next three years. Three goals of the Meadows grant program include:

  1. Strengthen local infrastructure within 3 health care organizations to improve coordinated care for patients in poor control of chronic disease with a special focus on Diabetes, Hypertension, and Heart Disease.
  2. Increase Chronic Disease Care Management through patient and health care provider education.
  3. Decrease disease morbidity and improve general health status of patients with chronic disease.

Focused activities to achieve the program goals will include, expanding a telemedicine program for access to endocrinology, behavioral health, neurology and other specialty providers, expansion of a specialty care network to help patients obtain dental, eye and foot care, as well as expansion of prevention education for diabetes, healthy lifestyles management, and prevention of heart disease. Health care providers within the region will also be offered an annual web-based professional training with continuing education credits to update them on current disease management guidelines and tools.

Community classes on diabetes education, as well as heart health and blood pressure management will be offered monthly, free of charge, at the Meadows Wellness Center. For more information contact the Meadows grant program director, Dr. Susan McLendon at 524-4000.

April 17--  An oversight regarding scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test has resulted in the naming of a new STAR Student and Teacher this year at Vidalia High School.

The Professional Association of Georgia Educators sponsors the annual competition based on the highest SAT score of students in the top ten percent of their class.

According to Vidalia High School Principal John Sharpe, " For Bryce Spivey, perhaps we can add a few more personal qualities to the definition this year, such as patience, composure, and grace."

Justin “Bryce” Spivey is the 18-year-old son of Keith and Julie Spivey of Vidalia and a senior at Vidalia High School. 

As a junior, he had a very impressive score on the SAT test.  It was high enough to help him be admitted to UGA in the Early Action period and was the highest at Vidalia High School for his senior class, but that was only learned later.  He took the test again as a senior and still earned a strong score, but lower than his first. 

This second score was incorrectly evaluated for STAR student at Vidalia High School and another student, Aliza Velazquez, was at first named STAR student for 2017-2018.

 So how does a STAR react when an error that affects him is revealed?  Bryce calmly responded with a smile that he thought he was the Star Student and he reacted with empathy and understanding that mistakes can be made, but he was happy that the error was corrected.

  brucespiveyBryce chose as his STAR teacher Ms. Emma Salzer.  She began teaching at VHS in 2004 and is now semi-retired.  Ms. Salzer taught Bryce in 9th grade Accelerated Coordinate Algebra/Geometry.  She recalls him as not only gifted mathematically but also confident to take on challenges.

The two were recognized at the Regional STAR Student/Teacher luncheon at Georgia Southern University.

April 16--  Last week the Georgia Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving honored the Lyons Police Department for its efforts in fighting drunk driving.

madd2018In a ceremony at Cobb Galleria in Atlanta, Lyons Police Sergeant Matthew Lynn (left) was named MADD's "Police Officer of the Year," the fourth time he has won the award, and for the third time, Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker was on hand to accept the MADD award recognizing the Lyons Police Department as the  "Law Enforcement Agency of the Year."

By State Representative Greg Morris (R- Vidalia)

Food Stamps/Welfare Reform. President Trump signed an executive order last week directing federal agencies to increase work requirements for people on welfare programs ,including food stamps. Apparently the President is considering Georgia’s work requirements for able bodied food stamp recipients in place since 2016. Georgia now requires able bodied adults without children that get food stamps to work at least 80 hours a month. We have been phasing in the program, first with 3 counties. At this time 66 0f Georgia’s 159 counties are included. Next year all 159 counties will have implemented the program. If the federal government adopted the program much of the credit will go to former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue who is now in President Trump’s cabinet as Secretary of Agriculture. . Reputable sources in Washington say that Perdue has emerged as the President’s favorite cabinet member and is trusted completely on ag and trade matters. They do have similarities in personality that might account for that synergy. I had lunch with Secretary Perdue at the Capitol the last week of the session with fellow rural caucus members. During the discussion on broadband the mention of a large telecommunication company turned the top of his head that slightly purple color that meant he was not pleased. (I had seen that sudden coloration more than once when he was Governor). He proceeded to recount how he had kicked them out of his transition office, and again at the Capitol later in his term. In other words, when Gov/Sec. Perdue hates you, you stay hated. His mantra as Governor was that the government was created to serve the people not the other way around. That is why “Sonny” is going to be a friend to taxpayers all over the country by leading the fight for food stamp reform.

Savannah Port. Our port set a new record for the fiscal year to date growing 9%, which translates to 255,786 more containers from July to March. The total amount of containers was an amazing 3.08 million. Even more startling was a 15.4% increase in intermodal rail volumes. 318,454 containers were transported over rail. The primary growth strategy for the future of the port is rail, however. The new Mason Mega Rail Terminal when completed will increase container carried by rail instead of trucks from 500,000 to 1 million. Apparently, each round trip container moved by rail to the inland ports, offsets 710 truck miles on Georgia’s highways. The Brunswick Port also had impressive growth. Brunswick handled 66,144 cars, trucks and tractors. Forest products moved through Brunswick totaled 112,728 tons.

Opioid Crisis. Georgia is one of thirteen states receiving the highest mark from the National Safety Council for taking action to reduce opioid overdoses. Georgia had 918 overdose deaths from opioids in 2016. Georgia now has a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program that helps eliminate duplicative prescribing and overprescribing of controlled substances. The Legislature last year codified a rule by Gov. Deal that allowed naloxone to be dispensed over –the –counter by pharmacist across the state. Naloxone is a drug that many EMTs and police officers carry that can reverse overdoses. Most of us know someone who has struggled with this addiction. Georgia is making positive steps to help save lives.

April 16--  Former State Senator Tommie Williams of Lyons and his family are moving to Rome, Italy where he will represent the United States in the World Food Program sponsored by the United Nations.

tommiewilliamsWilliams was appointed to the job by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue with whom he worked in the Georgia Senate while Perdue was governor.

He and his family expect to move in mid-summer, meanwhile, he'll be spending time at the Agriculture Department in Washington learning the job, "I'll be working with the World Food Programs domiciled in Rome to be an agricultural counselor and look at how they are spending U.S. funds and reporting back to Sonny Perdue's office and the United Nations on the world food programs and how they are facilitated.

"It's really a mission to feed starving people around the world.  Some of it is from famine and drought in third world countries which don't have secure governments and abilities to feed themselves and some is in war torn areas where people are left destitute from war.

"I'll be taking a lot of educational trips to third world countries in places where there are actually boots on the ground," he said.

April 14-- The Robert Toombs Christian Academy Chapter of the National Honor Society held its 2018 Induction Ceremony on Wednesday, April 11th in the RTCA gym.

The RTCA chapter of the NHS was established in 2004 with ten new students added to the list of members this year. This year’s inductees were Sophomores Landon Botelho, Hunter Brotman, Kaitlyn Corner, Riley Corner, Tanner Jackson, JJ Jones, Mikayla Manning, Madison Moncus, Sam NeSmith and Fernando Zayas. Each of these students pledged to maintain a high scholastic standing, hold an untarnished character, courageously be a leader and volunteer their services to others.

Alumnae Kailey Dees (2005) was the guest speaker and spoke to the students about scholarship, leadership, service and character. One of Kailey’s favorite quotes comes from the late Coach John Wooden which says, “be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because character is what you really are; while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”  She emphasized that there is no fast track to building character other than choosing to study harder, step up to the plate, serve others, and do what is right. Lunch was served to the new inductees, their parents, and all other NHS members. Mrs. Ann Smith, High School English teacher, is the advisor for the National Honor Society.

rtcahonorsocietyPictured L-R: Front Row: Hunter Brotman, JJ Jones, Mikayla Manning, Riley Corner, Kaitlyn Corner, Madison Moncus

Back Row: Landon Botelho, Sam NeSmith, Fernando Zayas and Tanner Jackson!

April 13-- The two young ladies heading this year’s Vidalia Onion Festival Queen’s Court were guests today on the Vidalia radio talk show, Southeast Georgia Today, on NewsTalk WVOP, AM 970 and FM 105.3.

Miss Vidalia Onion Megan Dukes and Teen Miss Madison Sharpton discussed this year’s Vidalia Onion Festival Pageant, sponsored by the Vidalia Charter Chapter of the American Business Women’s Association, and their plans for participating in the upcoming 41st annual festival.

queensradio(L-R) Megan Dukes, Madison Sharpton, show co-hosts Chester Proctor and Jeff Raiford, ABWA’s Kerilynn Nestre, pageant organizer.

April 12--  The Georgia Department of Education announced Thursday that Vidalia High School is one of 56  schools in the state to earn the designation as an Advanced Placement Honor School.

School Principal John Sharpe says being named an Advanced Placement Challenge School means students who take the courses will be better prepared for college academics.

"It is very, very difficult and students who can pass advanced placement exams are going on from Vidalia High school and doing well at whatever university they go to.

"It means we're giving kids the opportunity to take the most challenging curriculum.  Advanced placement is recognized nationally as being the most rigorous curriculum that kids can take in high school.  Teachers have to be trained to teach these classes and at the end of the year students are given a national test and if they score high enough they can receive college credit.

"We offer all four content areas.  In English students can take literature and language, they have a change to take calculus in math, they can take physics or chemistry in science and in social studies they can take European history and U.S. history," he said.

Sharpe also thanked members of the school's academic booster club for providing students with incentives to do well on the tests and says the payoff comes when they get to college.

"We've had several students over the past several years who have done well on the calculus and they have gone in and are excelling at Georgia Tech right now because of their math background," he noted.

 

April 12--  Completion of the new Vidalia High School is almost a month ahead of schedule and school officials could get the keys by the end of May.

Architect Mike Parker briefed school board members at their monthly meeting Tuesday night and congratulated them on their timing.  According to Parker, the decision to build the school two years ago probably saved the school system more than $2 million in construction costs.  He said the $28 million cost of the building would be more than $30 million today due to rising construction costs.

Parker also reports security at the new school will be limited to two entrances which will be controlled.

"The new school had security in mind when we were laying it out because we minimized the amount of access through main entries for students and the public.

"We have camera systems and intrusion systems and we also took into account the layout of the building itself.  For example, if there's a light lock down where the teachers have their doors shut most all of the time, you don't get into that classroom.  First of all you have to come through the building security checks, then you have to get buzzed into the student population area, then you have to get into the classroom wings which are monitored and then to the teachers' classrooms which are locked and monitored.  So, there are multiple areas of security which were considered.

"Now, you don't want it to seem like a prison or something that is not inviting.  That's the reason we have the public spaces like fine arts, the cafeteria and gymnasium all congregated in one area and monitored when necessary and can be closed off and used individually," he said.

According to Parker, no one can enter the school without approval, "There is electronic hardware on the door and when they come through the door, there is a receptionist there who can see you and touch a buzzer to allow you in.  When you ask can I go to another area, they can verify if you have access.  You will sign in and there's another electronic door which can be opened to give you access to another part of the school."

The school board took the following actions:

sdmchess2

 

*It recognized the J.R. Trippe Middle School Chess Team which took first place in all of its Chess Meets this year.

Front Row: Landry Wheeler, Om Javeri, Alan Johnson

Back Row: Mike Lisenby, Sandy Reid, Haley McKie, Dottie McDaniel, Peyton Corbett, Ah'Melion Jones, Olivia Taylor, Conner Higgs

*It agreed to purchase a new bus for special education students from Yancey Bus Sales for $125,000.

*It set non-resident tuition at $200 for next school term, the same as this year. 

The board also went into executive session to consider selection of faculty and staff for next school term.

April 12-- The Toombs County High School FFA Forestry Team placed second in the Area IV FFA Forestry Career Development Event Tuesday at the Bulloch County Saddle Club in Statesboro.

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.

ffaforestryTeam members include  (L-R) Makensey Grimes, Austin Adams, Karlie Wright, Darby Roberson, Emma Creamer, Lexie Martin, Mackenzie Cook, Madison Hall, Kevyn Perez, Michael Denmark, and Logan Williamson.

The team qualified for the state competition on April 19, 2018 in Swainsboro.

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--  U.S. Congressman Rick W. Allen released the following statement after Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (WI-01) announced that he would not seek re-election when his term concludes at the end of this year.

“Speaker Ryan has served the American people and Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District with integrity and honor. I fully support his decision to put his family first and I know that God will bless his decision to do so. I wholeheartedly appreciate all that he has done for me and for his service to our great country. By developing the “Better Way” agenda, rebuilding our military, and passing the largest comprehensive tax reform in over 30 years, Speaker Ryan will leave a lifelong legacy that we will never forget. He will be sorely missed by all.”

April 12-- The Robert Toombs Christian Academy Board of Directors is proud to announce that Travis Absher has been named Head of School. Mr. Absher is currently Assistant Head of School at Tattnall Square Academy and will not begin his duties at RTCA until June 1st.

On accepting his role as Head of School, Mr. Absher says, “I am very excited to be part of the RTCA family and serve all of the wonderful people that make up the school community. RTCA has a great reputation of providing an exceptional experience, including strong academics and a family atmosphere that are second to none. Providing our children with a Christian atmosphere that is both challenging and safe is the ultimate goal for all parents.

Mr. Absher graduated from Montgomery County High School in 2000 and received his Bachelor’s Degree from Georgia Southern University. He then went on to receive his Master’s and Specialist Degree in Educational Leadership from Georgia College and State University. Mr. Absher has been a teacher and coach at Bulloch Academy, Randolph Southern School and Frederica Academy. He has been at Tattnall Square Academy since 2013 and is the Assistant Head of School, Director of Facilities, Director of Curriculum and Special Projects.

Board Co-Chairman Mark Alexander says, “We are very excited to have Mr. Absher at Robert Toombs Christian Academy. He has been associated with Georgia Independent School Association throughout his career and comes highly recommended from the GISA association. We are excited to have Travis and his family join the RTCA family and look forward to working with Travis for many years to come.”

absherfamilyMr. Absher and his wife, Courtney, have been married for four years. They have twin sons, Cannon (left) and Cason, who turned two years old at the end of January.  “I look forward to returning home and serving the people of such a wonderful community. I am eager to work with the school faculty, administrators and Board of Directors to carry out the school’s mission and help impact the lives of as many young people as we can,” states Mr. Absher.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Atlanta Field Trip

On Friday, March 30th, Robert Toombs Christian Academy’s Biology II and Anatomy classes took a field trip to see in person what all they have been studying in the classroom. They traveled to Atlanta to visit the Georgia Aquarium and the Bodies Exhibit.

Sadie Moser, a Senior in Biology II, said “it was great to be given the chance to see the things we have learned about in class be brought to life at the aquarium.”   Zack Pendergrass, a Senior at R.T.C.A., said that “going to the Bodies Exhibit was a wonderful experience. I found it very interesting how we were able to see examples of actual bodies and the parts that make it function. Taking this trip has helped me and my classmates get a better picture of how the little parts of the body we learned about in class affect the bigger parts of the body.”

Mrs. Lampp, Biology II and Anatomy teacher accompanied the students.

rtcaatlantaPictured L-R:  Front Row: Katelyn Sanders(Alumni), Reece Mixon, Sadie Moser

Middle Row: Kara Sanders, Mrs. Lampp, KD Frost, Anna Stanley, Tye Lewis, Jackson Jones, Dylan Mulling, Rachel Mead, Kayla Blackshear, Zack Pendergrass, Robert Brown, Brandon Mainer, Torrey Patterson

Back Row: Landon Dukes, Sterling Damron, Heath DeFee, Makenzie Harper, Shelby Thomas

April 12-- Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta welcomes six-time GRAMMY Award winning artist Amy Grant on Saturday, April 14 as the second performance of the 2018 Flash Foods/Circle K Summer Concert Series.

You can win free tickets to the concert by listening to Your Favorite 98Q (97.7 FM) in Vidalia.  Bob Roberts and the "Q-Morning Crew" will announce winners Thursday morning at 7:45 a.m. right after "Sportstime."

“It’s always a treat to provide Saturday night concerts to our guests,” said Adam Floyd, public relations manager. “And with Splash Island Waterpark open as well, it’s going to be a full day of excitement at the park.”

Amy Grant is a celebrated artist best known for hits such as "El Shaddai" and "Baby, Baby." She was the first Christian music artist to have a platinum record, and has since received six GRAMMY Awards, 26 Dove Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a star on the Music City Walk of Fame.

Splash Island Waterpark is open every Saturday and Sunday in April, featuring Ohana Bay, the waterpark’s new expansion of seven waterslides, additional shaded seating and a family bathroom.

Admission to 2018 concerts, Splash Island Waterpark and the new MEGABUGS! Adventure Encounters is included with a 2018 Season Pass. Visit WildAdventures.com for show times and park hours.

2018 Season Passes are on sale for $20 off the normal price until Sunday, April 22. Guests who purchase and redeem their Season Passes by Sunday will also receive up to four Bring-A-Friends.

2018 Season Passes can be purchased by calling (229) 219-7080 or by visiting WildAdventures.com. Church Group rates and discounts are also available.

April 10--  The Lyons city council held a called meeting Monday night and agreed to move forward with a multi-million dollar loan from the Georgia Environmental Financing Authority.

City manager Jason Hall reports the city will be able to draw up to $14.8 million to upgrade its two wastewater treatment plants.

"We only have to borrow what we use, so as we begin the project, we will take draws out of that loan similar to a construction loan and at the end of the project the entire loan will start its repayment process.

"The maximum amount we can pull out of that loan is $14.8, but we all know we want it to come in well under that and that's why we went with this design-build process.  This is a good way to approach it so we can sit down with the contractor and the engineer at the same time and really look at what our options are," he said.

Earlier bids on the project were in the $17 million dollar range and prompted the city to look at other ways of finding an affordable solution. In the process, they talked with city officials in Valdosta.

"The City of Valdosta was one of the first cities to do a design-build process several years ago when they were under duress from a failing plant.  It was a quicker way for them to get the project built and it saved them some money at the end of the project," Hall said.

The city manager hopes the city will be able to identify a builder by this summer to expand capacity at the city's north plant and to renovate the east plant.

The 30-year loan has an interest rate of 2.67% and will be repaid using revenues generated by the water and sewer department.

April 9--  The City of Vidalia is considering imposing new fees to help pay for city services

At its meeting Monday night, the city council took under consideration proposals for an annual fee for owners of alarm systems and another for a technology fee to be collected in city court.

The city says firemen and policemen answered nearly 8,000 false alarms in the past six years and it wants to charge alarm system owners a $10 a year registration fee to offset the cost of responding.  Council members Kailey Dees and Greg Johnson said they could understand the need for an initial registration fee, but not for a fee every year thereafter.  The measure was tabled for future consideration.

The council also tabled a suggestion that the city court be allowed to collect a technology fee for each conviction in the court.  The fee would be earmarked for the technology needs of the court and the administration of justice in the city.

The council approved changes to traffic fines in the city for 16 offenses including driving under the influence.  The first offense will cost you $1,300, the second $2,300 and the third $4,300.  It also added a $3,000 fine for the third offense of driving while your license is suspended or revoked and a $1,300 fine for the second offense of driving with a suspended, revoked or cancelled vehicle registration.

After experiencing social media criticism about operations of the Vidalia Recreation Department, City Manager Nick Overstreet told the meeting  the department is in transition due to new leadership and promised it will be better in the future.  Citizen Toby Washinger told the council fences on  four fields at the Ed Smith Recreation
Complex need work and that the fields at the Ezra Taylor Complex need improvement so teams can use them for practice.

Citizen Kay Stafford inquired about the role of the Recreation Department Board and was told by Councilwoman Kailey Dees the board needs to write a set of by-laws defining its functions and responsibilities.

Stafford, as he did at the last council meeting, again complained about the lack of progress in repairing six streets damaged by Hurricane Irma last September and was again told the city is awaiting federal money to help pay for the repairs.

City manager Overstreet is frustrated with FEMA's bureaucracy and reported the latest hurdle is its claim that one of the damaged streets, Lewis Street, is listed on the federal road inventory as a federal street and it's up to the city to prove otherwise.

Stafford's reply, "Dealing with the U.S. government, if nothing happens in the next 60 to 90 days, go to the contingency fund, make the repairs and be done with it.  That's my recommendation!"

Stafford, a former city councilman, also complimented the Vidalia Fire Department for its quick response and professionalism regarding a kitchen fire in the home of a lady in his neighborhood.

festtshirtVidalia Onion Festival Chairman Josh Giles (left) presented this year's Festival T-Shirt to Vidalia Mayor Ronnie Dixon (right) and to Mayor ProTem Raymond Turner.

April 9--  Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits reports the following arrests.

Powell, Marcus Dwayne-B/M 37 YOA/ 705 E First St Room 109, Vidalia Ga 30474/ Giving False Name To LEO/ Driving While License Suspended Or Revoked 1st/ Stopping Standing On Roadway/ No Insurance 1st / Operating A Vehicle While Registration Is Suspended, Canceled Or Revoked

Clark, Melvin-B/M 50 YOA/ 406 Adams St Apt A, Vidalia Ga/ Theft By Shoplifting (1st offense)

Moore Jr, Larry Jay- W/M 23 YOA/ 6456 Hwy 1 S, Lyons Ga/ Loitering Or Prowling

Perez-Lopez, Sue Edra- W/F 51 YOA/ 295 Long Pond Rd, Reidsville, Ga./ Warrant Served (Barnesville Police Dept.)

Hester, Trevor Vincent- W/M 22 YOA/ 2315 Hwy 56 E, Lyons Ga./ Theft By Shoplifting 2nd Offense, Possession Of Marijuana, State Warrant VPD ( Battery)

Rowland, Austin Heath- W/m 22 YOA/ 705 Donovan St Apt C, Vidalia Ga/ Theft By Shoplifting 1st Offense

Jones, Cierra - B/F 23 YOA/ 705 Donovan St. Vidalia, Ga. / Theft by Taking (Felony)

Mills, Christina Ann- W/F- 39 YOA- 111 James Clark Rd. Vidalia, GA- Warrant Served (Toombs Co. SO-Bench)

Allen, Amanda Michelle W/F 31 YOA/ 4765 Hatch Pkwy N Baxley, Ga 31515/ Disordely Conduct

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Julie Moody, Vidalia, DUI, possession of methamphetamines, marijuana, controlled substances and drug related objects

Kameron McLemore, Vidalia, possession of marijuana, carrying concealed weapon, possession of a firearm/knife during commission or attempt to commit a crime, obstructing an officer

Karle Clark, Uvalda, DUI, failure to maintain lane

Tyler Kight, Vidalia, possession of marijuana

Leopoldo Morales, Vidalia, possession of marijuana

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Marc Bamberg, Vidalia, Aggravated Child Molestation

Orbey Gibbons, Vidalia, probation violation

Charles Graham, Jr., Lyons, battery, family violence

Bruce Moran, Vidalia, DUI, failure to maintain lane, driving while license suspended/revoked

Lawrence Patrick, Vidalia, disorderly conduct

Tyler Lee Reese, Baxley, speeding, driving while license suspended/revoked

William Taylor, Lyons, probation violation

Wanda Toler, Soperton, probation violation

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

04/02-Gary Leonard Butts, Moultrie, Theft by Taking, Burglary – 2nd, Driving w/Suspended License, No Tag, Concealing the Identity of a Motor Vehicle

 04/03-Jessica Renee Miller, Augusta, Felony Probation Violation

 04/04-Trenton Ray Fisher, Jr., Afton, VA, Nelson County, Virginia warrant served

 04/04-Brandon A. Moore, Adrian, Child Molestation, Enticing a Child for Indecent Purposes, Sexual Exploitation of Children, Electronically Furnishing Obscene Material to Minors

 04/05-Antonio McRae, Lumber City, Possession of Marijuana <1oz., Speeding, Child Restraint Violation

 04/06-Otis Lee Peeples, Mt Vernon, Misdemeanor Probation Violation

 04/06-Edwin Heath Boney, Higgston, Felony Probation Violation

 

 

 

By State Representative Greg Morris, (R-Vidalia)

I have now served through 20 Legislative Sessions, most of which started out with high hopes only to end with less than I had hoped for. Happily, I can report the 2018 Session ended with more positive results than any in recent years. Here are some highlights.

FY 2019 Budget. H.B. 684 set a revenue estimate of 26.2 billion. 90% of the new revenue (1.2 billion) is consumed by education as well as health and human services expenses. Specifically,742 million(60%) is budgeted to fund K-12 and higher education. 359 million(29%) is budgeted for health and human services. 127 million (10%) in the remaining new funds is appropriated to public safety, economic development and general government agencies as well as debt service.

Tax Cuts/H.B. 918. Thanks to President Trump’s tax cuts passed in December 2017, the Legislature passed tax cuts on the state level that will save Georgia taxpayers an estimated 5 billion dollars over the next 5 years. This bill decreases the income tax rate from 6% to 5.75% effective tax year 2019. H.B. 918 doubles the standard deduction to $4600 for a single taxpayer and $6000 for a married couple filing a joint return effective tax year 2018. The bill also includes a provision to lower the individual and corporate rate further to 5.5% in 2020. I was proud to support this measure that keeps more taxpayer money where it belongs. In the pockets of taxpayers.

Education. Higher revenue estimates late in the budget process brought really good news for K-12 education. 166 million was added to the 2019 Budget to fully fund the QBE formula for Georgia school systems for the first time since 2003. Each school system in our area will receive a much needed increase in funds to supplement their budgets. The 2019 Budget included over 361 million to help fund the Teacher Retirement System and increase its stability. The bond package in the budget also includes 16 million in funding for school security grants.

Distracted Driving/ Cell Phones. H.B 673 passed along the lines I mentioned earlier. This bill prohibits the holding or supporting a wireless telecommunication device while driving. Texting, watching videos or recording videos are prohibited just like talking if you are holding or supporting the phone. The fines are $50 for the first offence, $100 for the second, and $150 for all subsequent offences. There is a one, two and three point assessment against your license for each successive offense. Utility service providers, law enforcement, and first responders are exempt while on duty. I voted no on this bill because I still think as it is written the law cannot be enforced fairly. Nevertheless, this will be the law upon Gov. Deal’s signature.

Rural Broadband. First let me say the Legislature did not pass any bill that would increase or create new taxes/fees for satellite or cable TV, streaming services like Netflix, or music downloads etc. In a later report I will explain how S.B. 402 helps create the “framework” to encourage the deployment of rural broadband services. This session did not provide a funding mechanism to increase access to more broadband connectivity.

Gun Control. Thank you for your many emails and calls voicing concerns that the recent calls in the national media for gun control measures might pass in Georgia. I can report that no gun control measures were considered, much less passed. Georgia remains one of the top 2nd Amendment protectors in the nation.

April 9--  Georgia school systems will have more money to work with in their fiscal year 2019 budgets thanks to an increase in state funding.

Due to an estimated $194 billion dollar increase in state revenue, Governor Nathan Deal announced the state will be able to fully fund its share of funding in the new fiscal year.

Toombs County School Superintendent Richard Smith reports the Toombs County school system's budget will get a boost of $310,619 which will help it offset the local share of an upcoming 4% increase in the Teacher Retirement Fund.

In Vidalia, School Superintendent Dr. Garrett Wilcox says the increase of $246,339 will provide a cushion against rising costs without having to resort to steps which impact school staffing.

"The biggest thing that has been the most difficult to manage, along with austerity cuts, is that our expenses continue to climb and most of that is tied to benefits and insurance just like businesses in our community.  As our revenues continued to go down, our expenses continued to go up and that led to furloughing teachers several years ago.  We cut some positions over the years and thank goodness we've been able to put some of them back. but it's been pretty dramatic on all of our school systems," Dr. Wilcox said.

"For the past several years, most of our school systems have had to run deficit budgets.  We've been fortunate enough to maintain some fund equity over these years, but this will help us offset the next deficit budget at least by nearly $250,000.  It's really a blessing.  We've been working at our budget for the past month staring at another deficit and trying to decide what cuts to make to lessen the impact of that on our fund equity.  We're just grateful for the turnaround in the economy and grateful to the governor for allocating those funds back to us," he said.

The Treutlen County school system is getting an additional $119,332 and the Montgomery County school system will get a plus up of $93,912, according to the school superintendents in those two counties.

 

2018 QueensApril 9-- The 2018 Miss Vidalia Onion Pageant took place Saturday April 7, 2018 in the auditorium of Southeastern Technical College and this year more than 70 young ladies from ages 0 – 21 participated in the competition.

Front row, L-R:  Little Miss Chloe Morris, Baby Miss Lara Lee Marsh and Teeny Miss Ashtyn Hartley.

Back row, L-R: Junior Miss Starlee Kaeck, Teen Miss Madison Sharpton, Miss Vidalia Onion Megan Dukes, Young Miss Jordie Grace Kight and Tiny Miss Preslie Mosley.

Crowned as this year’s Miss Vidalia Onion was 18 year old Megan Dukes, a Freshman at Ogeechee Tech. Dukes not only won the crown overall, but she also cleaned up by winning Miss Congeniality, Miss Photogenic, and Best Interview.

“I was so honored and when I won best interview I was like ‘Oh my goodness, thank you!’ and when they called my name to win, I felt it was a dream come true. I get to represent my wonderful community and I am so excited,” commented Dukes.

Megan has been competing in the Miss Vidalia Onion Pageant from the early years of her life and the former Miss Junior Vidalia Onion had some advice for other young ladies who keep trying, but can’t seem to get the crown by saying, “The crown doesn’t make them a winner. Every girl out there is a winner for getting out there and competing. I want them to know that they are winner no matter what.”

What was formally known as Junior Miss Vidalia Onion was changed to Teen Miss Vidalia Onion because of added categories, something that Pageant Director Kerri Lynn Nester says really paid off. Fifteen-year-old Madison Sharpton not only won the overall crown, but was also awarded Miss Photogenic and Best Interview. In response to the win, Sharpton said, “Honestly I could not believe it. All of the girls were so beautiful and I’m very thankful and very honored.”

In response to the most difficult part of getting ready for the competition, Sharpton said it was “the interview, I was very nervous about interview.”

In order of the competition, below are the results from each category.

Baby Miss

Ruby Lace Pinckard - Third Runner-Up

Ivylyn Varnadoe – First Runner-Up

Lara Lee Marsh – Miss Photogenic and the Overall Winner

Braelyn Matthews – Second Runner-Up and People’s Choice

Brinlee Green – Fourth Runner-Up

Teeny Miss

Hadley Hobbs – First Runner-Up

Ashtyn Hartley – Miss Photogenic and the Overall Winner

Charli Monroe – Second Runner-Up

Kennedy Williamson – Fourth Runner-Up

Penelope Harper – Third Runner-Up (not pictured)

Raegan Harvill –People’s Choice (not pictured)

Tiny Miss

Tilly Baker – Second Runner-Up

Preslie Mosley – People’s Choice and Overall Winner

Dani Lynn Williams – Miss Photogenic and First Runner-Up

Peyton Lann – Third Runner-Up

Little Miss

Evelyn McCoy – People’s Choice and Miss Photogenic

Jansley Odum – First Runner-Up

Chloe Morris – Overall Winner

Anniston Hartley – Second Runner-Up

Raegan Corbett – Third Runner-Up

Young Miss

Anzley Bryant – Third Runner-Up

Sailor Kate Monroe – Miss Photogenic and First Runner-Up

Jordie Grace Kight – People’s Choice and Overall Winner

Annalee Bellew – Second Runner-Up

Hailey Burton – Fourth Runner-Up

Junior Miss

Melea Pittman – Third Runner-Up

Jimma Carroll – First Runner-Up

Starlee Kaeck – Overall Winner

Kaytlyn Crapps – Second Runner-Up

Kensley Davis – Fourth Runner-Up

Abigail Hutto - Miss Photogenic

Teen Miss

Tabitha Bailey – People’s Choice

Cealy Shiver – Third Runner-Up

Peyton Zimmer – First Runner-Up

Madison Sharpton – Miss Photogenic, Best Interview and Overall Winner

Brooke Mobley – Miss Congeniality and Second Runner-Up

Zayna Taylor – Fourth Runner-Up

Miss Vidalia Onion

Hannah Herndon – Third Runner-Up

Bryn Coleman – First Runner-Up

Megan Dukes – Miss Congeniality, Miss Photogenic, Best Interview and Overall Winner

Natalie Barber – Second Runner-Up

Angel Robertson – Fourth Runner-Up

Mahaylee Grace – People’s Chocie

April 7--  The Toombs County Development Authority, on behalf of Toombs County, is currently accepting pre-applications for low interest funds under the Revolving Loan Program. 

Successful applicants will have demonstrated new job creation/retention, private capital investment, and provision of jobs to low and moderate income persons. Funds must be used only in the corporate limits of Toombs County.

Eligible activities include: acquisition of real property; acquisition, construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, or installation of buildings; infrastructure, site improvements, and utilities; and commercial or industrial buildings or structures and other commercial or industrial real property and improvements. 

Ineligible borrowers include passive income companies, lending and investment institutions, unregulated media, speculative ventures and charitable organizations.

To obtain a pre-application and to learn more about program requirements and eligibility, individuals may contact Michele Johnson at 912.537.4466 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

By: Sen. Blake Tillery (R – Vidalia)

The 2018 session of the Georgia General Assembly is now complete.  While I’m sure there are things we have made worse, as a whole, I believe this session was a net positive. I will recap the changes to law we all must now live by after the Governor gets his say (remember, its not law until he signs it!), but for now I’d like us to take a look back to the early days of this year’s convening of the General Assembly: 

January - Two topics dominated the calls from back home during January – the relocating of Confederate monuments and the moving of CTAE classes to the Technical College System. Neither of these things made it any further than rumors. A third topic, a renewed focus on rural Georgia due to the House of Representative’s Rural Study Committee, did not quickly materialize and many, including myself, thought the committee’s ideas would fail to reach any substance. January seemed to start slowly, but in retrospect this was only because the cannons were being loaded.

February - The Senate became focused on finding a solution to two issues plaguing vastly different areas of Georgia: metro traffic and rural broadband. The Senate plan for metro traffic included a rebranding of MARTA and a forced unification of the various transit providers in the metro Atlanta area. Senator Brandon Beach made a point by getting on a bus in Marietta and attempting to reach Gwinnett County. The normal ½ drive took him over 4 hours and he had to use 3 different transit agencies with 3 different fares and ticket systems. On the rural front, Senator Steve Gooch developed a plan to use interstate right-of-ways to deploy fiber optic cable necessary for the fastest internet speeds throughout Georgia. His plan ingeniously could be accomplished at no cost to the state. I immediately rolled my ideas from rural broadband into his plan and began working to pass this initiative. In this process, certain telecom companies began a push to reduce the cost of small cell (5G) technology deployment in Georgia cities. At first, I was very interested in this idea too, but soon realized this push was only to reduce the cost for these companies to do business in dense urban areas. When the big telecom companies could show me no plans to deploy these small cells in Senate District 19, I voted against them and renewed my efforts for statewide fiber optic cable deployment.

March - March brought us through the halfway point of session and through the all-important cross-over day. The Senate began focusing exclusively on House legislation. The first bill we dealt with was the $1 billion tax cut for all Georgians. This bill reduced the top state income tax percentage from 6 percent to 5.75 percent this year, then to 5.5 percent next year, along with a doubling of the state standard deduction for all filing statuses. I firmly believe this will be the most-discussed action of the year. This bill received some national attention late in its vetting after the Senate struck the “Delta tax break” on jet fuel. After one week, the media hype surrounding this issue passed and focus returned to other House legislation.

Last week - Three house bills received substantially more media attention than all others: the Hidden Predator Act, Distracted Driving, and the State Budget. I served on the committees where each of these bills were assigned, so needless to say, particularly when combined with the normal rush at the end of a two-year session, the pressure of March was incredibly stressful and unyielding.

The Hidden Predator Act of 2018 sought to extend civil liability to entities when their members or employees were involved in child molestation. In 2012, the criminal statute of limitations for child sexual abuse was extend to life, making it equal with murder. In other words, if someone ever commits child sexual abuse after 2012, they can be tried and put in jail at any point, forever. In 2015, the civil statute of limitations, or period by which one would have to file suit in order to recover money, which originally ran for five years after the sexual abuse (until the age of 23 for minors), was extended for a two-year period against the person who allegedly committed the child sexual abuse.  The 2018 version sought to again open that window, but this time against the entities (i.e. churches, clubs, or businesses) where the perpetrator worked or volunteered.  While the Senate had been willing to open up the statute against the perpetrator in 2015, the idea of holding the church or school responsible did not have enough support to remain in the bill. The Senate and House could not reconcile their versions of the bill by the end of session and this bill failed to make it across the finish line.

The distracted driving bill saw significant changes in the Senate as well. The House version included a first-time penalty of $300 for holding your phone in your hand while driving, even if not texting or surfing the web. Law enforcement testified that the only way they could enforce a “no texting” law would be if holding the phone in one’s hand was criminalized, as the officer could not differentiate between someone reviewing emails or dialing numbers for a call. The Senate reduced the first-time fine to $10, but subsequent violations would see greatly enhanced fines and penalties. Under the Senate version, the first-time offense will result in an adjudication of “Not Guilty” if the ticketed driver can present evidence to the Court of how they have taken steps to make their vehicle hands-free compatible. This bill passed and will become effective on July 1, 2018, if signed by the Governor.

Last but certainly not least, the State Budget, as always, was the biggest piece of legislation passed this year (though some have argued it’s second in importance due to the tax break!). While revenues for Georgia continue to climb, expenses are outpacing growth. As I have frequently discussed in this column, education and Medicaid are the two largest items of the state budget and their growth outpaces income growth. The FY 2019 budget included $167 million to fully fund the QBE formula for local school systems. With the FY 2019 budget and this new spending, education and healthcare now make up 80 percent of the entire state budget.

Other measures of note that passed the General Assembly this year include an expansion of medical marijuana to patients with PTSD and chronic pain (medical marijuana is seen by some as a solution to our opioid epidemic), 100 percent tax credit for donations to local hospitals (including Appling, Wayne, Jeff Davis, Liberty, and Meadows Regional), and Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund wich allows up to half of the sales and use taxes collected on outdoor recreation to fund individual grants to cities, counties, departments and agencies for the preservation of state and local parks across the state.

In closing, while I’m looking forward to being back at my law office in Vidalia for a while, I am so very grateful for the trust you place in me to represent you in Atlanta. I appreciate the interest you have shown again this year in actions that affect you. My door does not close because session ends. Please still feel free to contact me if my office can be of assistance to you. I look forward to seeing many of you in person very soon.

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

Harris, Khalil Marquin - B/M 23 YOA/ 512 Martin Luther King Ave. Vidalia, Ga./ Warrant Served (Toombs Co.)

Bell, Carlton James - W/M 22 YOA/ 143 Pecan Dr. Lyons, Ga./ Burglary, Possession Of Drug Related Objects, Possession Of A Controlled Substance, Possession Of Tools For The Commission Of A Crime, Obstruct, Hinder Law Enforcement Officer

Palmer, Pamela - W/F 65 YOA/ 305 SW Railroad St Collins, Ga./ Hit & Run Accident


Cheley,Al Deshawn Jr. B/M 22 YOA/ 1125 Ga Hwy 152 Cobbtown, Ga 30420/ Speeding 16-20 MPH (Misd)/ No Drivers License(30 Day Resident Requirement) (Misd)

Ford, Elaine- B/F 58 YOA/ 508 West St, Vidalia Ga/ Driving While License Suspended Or Revoked(2nd), Driving With Expired Tag

Daniel, Malik Ramon- B/M 20 YOA/ 809 E Fifth St, Vidalia Ga/ Possession Of Marijuana Less Than One Ounce

Pearson, Elizabeth Norene- W/F 18 YOA/ 724 Mike St Vidalia Ga/ Possession Of Marijuana Less Than One Ounce

Battle, Danielle Marsha- B/F 19 YOA/ 1208 Easter Dr Apt 76 Vidalia Ga/ Possession Of Marijuana Less Than One Ounce

Gillis, L C - B/M- 61 YOA- 200 Morris St., GA- Theft by Shoplifting 2nd Offense

Gonzalez, Megan Alicia- W/F- 32 YOA- 207 College Ave Reidsville, GA- Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense

Bostic, Fondanius O’Brian- B/M- 22 YOA- 605 Orange St. Vidalia, GA- Warrant Served (Bench- Toombs County SO)

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Kyle Barnard, Collins, possession of marijuana, failure to stop at a stop sign

Emily Lightsey, Lyons, DUI, failure to dim headlights, headlights required, driving with no license on person

Brian Singletary, Augusta, driving while license suspended/revoked

Pablo Munoz, Lyons, possession of marijuana and a controlled substance

Christopher Smith, Lyons, possession of a controlled substance, possession of firearms by a convicted felon, possession of firearm and knife during commission or attempt to commit a crime

Bobby Rewis, Lyons, public drunkeness

Victory McCoy, Collins, DUI, possession of marijuana, failure to maintain lane, driving while license suspended/revoked

Kameron McLemore, Vidalia, possession of marijuana, carrying concealed weapon, obstruction of police, possession of firearm, knife during commission or attempt to commit a crime

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Jorge Avila, Tacoma Park, MD., Driving while license suspended/revoked

Martha Boatwright, Milledgeville, probation violation

Rodny Byrd, Vidalia, hold for Gwinnett Co Sheriff's Office

Franklin Coleman, Adrian, probation viiolation

Kevin Collins, Vidalia, speeding, driving while license suspended/revoked

Megan Flanagan, Uvalda, probation violation

Estevan Florez, DUI, speeding, open container passenger; possession, purchase, manufacture, distribution and sale of controlled substance

Jose Gonzalez, speeding, driving while unlicensed, DUI

Shelby Howell, Vidalia, reckless conduct

Kimberly Keairns, Uvalda, tampering/influencing a witness

Christopher Kemp, Lyons, identity theft, credit card fraud

Melvin Sharpe, Lyons, possession of firearms by convicted felon/probationer. burglary

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

03/27-Billy Joe Davis, Lyons, Felony Probation Violation

03/27-Rufus Herbert Fields, Uvalda, Forgery-4th

03/27-Dustin Corbin Tarver, Vidalia, Theft by Taking, Possession of Methamphetamine

03/27-Edison Young, III, Mt Vernon, Affray

03/27-Christopher Octavius Young, Ailey, Affray

03/27-Monica Nicole Young, Mt Vernon, Affray

03/27-Katie Marie Thigpen, Alamo, Felony Probation Violation

03/28-Joe Eurus Blair, Soperton, Theft by Taking

3/28-Melvin Dusty Sharpe, Lyons, Burglary-2nd, Possession of Tools for Commission of Crime, Criminal Trespass

03/28-Falon Denae Wooten, McRae, Disorderly Conduct

03/29-Joshua Logan Hall, Lyons, Bondman Off Bond

03/29-Schrone McClendon, Vidalia, DUI, Driving w/Suspended License, Passing in No Passing Zone, Open Container

03/29-Ronald Nelms, Lyons, Criminal Trespass

03/31-Orbey Lorenzo Gibbons, Vidalia, Seat Belt Violation, Too Fast for Conditions, Failure to Maintain Lane, Window Tint Violation, Improper Tag Display, Use of License Plate to Conceal, Driving on Wrong Side of Road, Hit and Run, Obstruction of LEO, DUI, Driving w/Suspended License

04/01-Sonny Moore, Uvalda, Disorderly Conduct, Obstruction of Officer

April 5-- Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said the Heart of Georgia Region posted a February with many critical job measures trending in the right direction even though some were down for the month.   

Butler noted the annual number of employed residents and labor force both rose, even as monthly numbers declined. Meanwhile, monthly unemployment claims dropped and the unemployment rate fell.    

“While some of the monthly numbers are down,” Butler said, “the Heart of Georgia Region is still doing well long term. The critical indicators are improving over the past 12 months. I expect the Heart of Georgia Region to have a strong year just like the rest of the state.”

In February, the number of employed residents in the Heart of Georgia Region area, at 112,504, was down by 638 over the month and up by 1,909 for the year.

The Heart of Georgia Region labor force ended February at 119,053. That number is down 1,086 over the month and up 757 over the past 12 months.

At the same time, the jobless rate fell to 5.5 percent from 5.8 percent last month. A year ago, the jobless rate was 6.5 percent. Areas served by Georgia’s 12 regional commissions had unemployment rates that varied from a low of 3.8 percent in the Georgia Mountains to 5.7 percent in the River Valley region.

In the Heart of Georgia region, initial claims for unemployment were down about 74 percent for the month and about 12 percent for the year.

The Heart of Georgia region includes Appling, Bleckley, Candler, Dodge, Emanuel, Evans, Jeff Davis, Johnson, Laurens, Montgomery, Tattnall, Telfair, Toombs, Treutlen, Wayne, Wheeler and Wilcox.

Employ Georgia, the GDOL’s online job listing service at employgeorgia.com showed 563 new active job postings in metro Heart of Georgia Region for February.

Visit dol.georgia.gov to learn more about career opportunities, Employ Georgia and other GDOL services for job seekers and employers and to connect with us on social media.

April 4--  There's a new speed limit on North Victory Drive in Lyons.

At the April meeting of the city council, the speed limit as you enter the city limits was increased from 35 to 45 miles per hour.  It falls to 35 miles per hour at the intersection with Page Lane and drops to 30 miles per hour on the section from West Oglethorpe Avenue to the Highway 292 intersection.

The council also approved two contracts.

DBM Construction of Toombs County will install a new metal roof on the Callaway Community Center in Partin Park for $17,500.

The city is purchasing a new pumper truck for the Lyons Fire Department.  A Florida firm, Fireline, Incorporated, submitted the low bid of $291,728.

April 4--  A Magistrate Judge has denied a request for a criminal warrant against a Treutlen County Commissioner.

After an hour-long probable cause hearing Wednesday morning in Soperton, Magistrate Mary Jo Buxton of Johnson County ruled there is insufficient evidence of criminal intent to bring charges against District Two Commissioner Homer Rivers.

Treutlen resident Ronnie Strickland requested that Rivers be charged with doing business with the county sheriff's office while in office.  A 1935 state law which created the Treutlen County Board of Commissioners made it a misdemeanor for elected county officials to do business with the county.

Strickland requested the warrant last month after attending a county commission meeting where he heard Commission Chairman Lance Hooks bring up the subject of Rivers doing business with the county.  He presented Judge Buxton with a list of 16 county checks made to Rivers Air Conditioning and Electric of Vidalia for work done at the county jail.

Rivers defended himself by telling the judge he was doing work for the sheriff's office before he was appointed to the Commission in August, 2016 and that he made that known to the board  before he was appointed.   He was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Commissioner Forrest Edge.  

Two Commissioners, Cashaunda Smith and Cali Hollis, testified for Rivers and confirmed the Commission had told him his company's work would not stop his selection as long as his prices were competitive with other heating and air contractors.

"I did my due diligence before accepting the appointment and now I feel like my honor and integrity are at stake.  I would not have accepted the position if I had known  this would happen," Rivers said.

Rivers testified his company had  billed the county $12,029.80 for 25 calls over a 31-month period.  He said another company billed the county $13,867 for 13 calls before his company signed a maintenance contract with Sheriff Tommy Corbin in October, 2015.  The sheriff testified he was unaware of the 1935 law, that Rivers' company did a good job, and there was no intent to break the law.  Rivers cancelled the contract after Chairman Hooks brought it up at the Commissioner's March meeting.

Strickland said public officials need to be held accountable and that the commission's approval of the situation did not make it legal.  However, Judge Buxton noted a provision in state law allowing a commissioner to do business with a county as long as "it is condoned by the Board of Commissioners."

After his appointment, Rivers ran for the office in a four-man race in November 2016.  Strickland's son, Kyle, also ran for the office and came in fourth place.  The November vote forced a runoff in December which Rivers won by one vote over Clint Brantley.  He is running for reelection in next month's primary.

 

April 4--  Vidalia Fire Chief Brian Sikes reports 22 calls in March.

4- House Fires 

2- Auto Fires 

5- Grass/Woods Fires 

3- Gas Leaks

7- False Alarms 

1- EMS Assist 

April 3--  Fifth graders at Sally D. Meadows Elementary School in Vidalia attended their graduation from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program taught each year by Corporate Dwayne Carpenter of the Vidalia Police Department.

Assistant District Attorney Tripp Fitzner encouraged the students to overcome peer pressure, "You have to start with the understanding that you can't make everybody happy, it's impossible.  If you surround yourself with the kinds of people who make fun of you for wanting to stay straight, for wanting to get good grades and for doing the right thing, then you need new friends.  I promise all of you that you can make friends who will make you better and not less because that is what friendship means," he said.

Seniors from Vidalia High School who serve as DARE role models attended the graduation including Reba Warnock who says being a role model is also good for her, "I think it adds pressures because they are all looking up to me.  They are looking at us as athletes, people in clubs and people who going to college on scholarships and they see that if we can do it, they can do it, all you have to do is be drug free," she said.

Role model Martasia Johnson remembers being the DARE program when she was a fifth grader at Sally D. Meadows, "It's made a really big impact on my life.  Being drug free and going before these fifth graders and them looking up to us and seeing they don't have to do drugs and feel peer pressure and stuff like that."

vpddareessayAt the end of the ten-week course, students compete in an essay contest about what they have learned. 

The overall winner this year is Aleah Ajoda, right, with DARE Officer Carpenter. 

Other individual class winners are Ryleigh Ellis, William Ellison, Jaylen Rhymes, Maniyah Phillips, Justin Willis, Gregory Shoats and Noah Harris.

April 2--  The Vidalia Police Department held its annual awards dinner to honor its top employees.

vpdofficerjpgThe Officer of the Year for 2018 is Corporal Christopher Morgan (right, with Police Chief Frank Waits) who is in his third year as a police officer. One of his additional duties is leading the Citizens' Police Academy.

"Whenever I first started with Vidalia, I couldn't have dreamed of being with a better department.  We're a state-certified department and we offer these programs to reach out to our citizens.  Every citizen who has come in has always left saying I never realized exactly what you do and they've gotten to meet us on a personal level and not just see us a person in uniform who has a badge.  It's just been a positive experience all the way around," he said.

Corporal Morgan worked as a state corrections officer in Reidsville and Glennville prior to becoming a Vidalia police officer, "It is a completely different side of the fence.  In Corrections you deal with rehabilitation and trying to correct behavior.  I find this job is just a lot of dealing with the citizens and trying to see how their day goes.  We see them at their best and we see them at their worst, but we just try to deal with each individual case as it comes," he observed.

"The beauty of this job is you never know what you're going to see.  I could be helping someone get into their house or get their child out of their car, or I could walk up on a major crime, you never know.  The hardest part of the day is mentally preparing yourself to deal with those things and you never know when they are going to happen," Corporal Morgan said.

Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits made awards to other department employees.

vpdemployeeRachel Clements is the Employee of the Year.

vpdrookieThe Rookie of the Year is Officer Nickolas Luke.

vpdsupervisoryChief Detective, Lieutenant Jimmy Sims, is the Supervisor of the Year.

 

 

 

 

vpdjohnsonThe Department also awarded a Citizen's Certificate of Appreciation to Saborris Johnson who volunteers to assist with traffic control each school day  at J.D. Dickerson Primary School.

vpdmcdonaldRetired Lieutenant Jack McDonald was recognized for his service to the Department from 1973 until he retired in 2002.