Use the form below to filter for articles containing certain key words. Use the calendar on the right for articles published during a certain Month, Year.

Notes from the Senate

June 28, 2019

By State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville


As I look back at the 2019 Session and review both legislation and the FY 2020 Budget, I still see bills I want to discuss and also pass on information about budget items that you may find of interest. So, here is an accumulation of areas that may not constitute a whole column but are important.


--HB 525-Reconstitutes the Georgia International and Maritime Trade Center as the Savannah Convention Center and designates the trade center to be a public corporation and an instrumentality of the State while the principal office and operations center will be in Savannah. Changes the make-up of the Board to give the governor 6 appointees and the local legislative delegation appointive power for 3 appointees along with the presidents of the Savannah Economic Development Authority and the Savannah Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. Will be operated much like the World Congress Center in Atlanta.

--$13.7 million in bonds to fund the expansion of the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center

--$300,000-to the Department of Economic Development for the Ga. Council for the Arts to establish a facilities grant program for local arts organizations... requires local match

--$150,000 to restore visitor information center grants in rural areas...requires local match

--$50,000 for facility improvements for the MLK Jr Center for Nonviolent Social Change


--HR 346-Names a number of bridges and roads for Georgians including five nursing students from Georgia Southern University who were killed in a tragic highway accident on I-16 in Bryan County on April 22, 2015. The bridge over I-16 at U.S. 280 at Exit 143 will be named "The Georgia Southern Nursing Angels Memorial Bridge" in honor of Caitlyn Baggett, Morgan Bass, Emily Clark, Abbie Deloach and Catherine McKay Pittman.

--SR 67-Also names a number of roads and bridges for Georgians including an interchange at I-20 and U.S. 221 in Columbia County for retired Senator Bill Jackson and the bridge at Lee Street over I-20 in Fulton County for Henry "Hammering Hank" Aaron.


--$2.0 Billion for DOT for Roads and Bridges in the FY 2020 Budget

--$1.0 million increase for Airport Aid

--$121,413 to DOT for one waterway assistant program manager position to support the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project

--$221,882-to DOT to increase bridge inspections for state-owned railroad assets

-- Item No. 345.2 in the FY 2020 Budget directs DOT to conduct an assessment of roads and bridges in state parks as well as driveways and decel lanes at public schools and report back to the Appropriations Committees.   


The Legislature has over the years been a staunch supporter of public libraries and furnished the state portion of construction and renovations of many libraries across the state utilizing a priority list provided by the State Library Board. Additionally, funding has been developed in the Legislature for Maintenance and Repairs, Technology and Repurposing of Facilities. And this Session, new funding was appropriated for books and reading materials.

The Senate Leadership has always supported funding for local public libraries and has advanced the belief that local libraries should be the center of community activities for all ages.


--$197,745 In FY 2020 Budget for increase in New Directions Formula funding based on an increase in state population

--$544,761 in the FY 2020 Budget added by House and Senate for an increase of $0.35 per capita for books and materials for libraries

--$2.63 million in bonds to fund Technology improvements in public libraries statewide

--$3.0 million in bonds for Major Repair and Renovations in public libraries statewide per a priority list

--$1.49 million in bonds for repurpose grants for these libraries: Westtown, Phase I, Woodbine, Statham, Swindle, Bowman, Richmond Hill and statewide.

--$415,000 in bonds for design, construction and equipment for expansion of the Auburn Branch Library

--$1.04 million in bonds for design, construction and equipment for expansion of the Kinchafoonee Regional Library, Georgetown.

--$1.9 million in bonds for the design, construction and equipment for major renovations and expansion of the Watkinsville Library

--$900,000 in bonds for the design, construction and equipment for the renovation of the Okefenokee Regional Library, Baxley.

--$1.81 million in bonds for the construction of an addition in the Cusseta-Chattahoochee Library, Cusseta

State assistance for libraries, renovations and construction is matched by local governments and limited to $2 million.

Full transcripts of bills may be found at . Simply type the bill number into the box at the top left-hand corner of the screen and specify if it is in the House or the Senate. The FY 2020 budget (H.B. 31) may be found at As always, I welcome any questions you may have.

I may be reached at

234 State Capitol, Atlanta , GA 30334

(404) 656-5038 (phone)

(404) 657-7094 (fax)

E-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Or Call Toll-Free at

1-800-367-3334 Day or Night

Reidsville office: (912) 557-3811

raymoniaJune 28--  A recent drug raid in Vidalia targeted the Raymonia Apartments and, in addition to crime, residents of the complex say they are suffering from unhealthy environmental conditions in their apartments.

One resident, who asked not to be identified for fear of eviction, said she had to sleep in her car one night because the mold in her apartment made her sick and that some of her neighbors are experiencing the same problems.

Vidalia City Manager Nick Overstreet contacted the management company in Teaneck, New Jersey last month, "We contacted the Aspen Company about the concerns the residents have at Raymonia.  We told them we've had a lot of complaints about the living conditions and the criminal activity that has been taking place over there in recent months.  We told them we expect them to make some improvements and they have asked us for some time in doing that.  We certainly will work with them, but at the same time we want to make sure our citizens are living in appropriate conditions.  As a city we can't do a whole lot, but we can encourage the owners to be doing what they are supposed to be doing."

Abe Derhy is the manager at the Aspen Company and told us he's aware the complex "has challenges" and that he "will try to be more proactive" in addressing the problems at Raymonia.

The company is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau which gives it a "C" rating and reports another complaint about low income housing which the company manages in Moultrie.

Both the Georgia Department of Health and the Georgia Office of Consumer Protection say there's nothing they can do to force the company to fix its property, however, the consumer office says Georgia Legal Aid Services can provide free legal help if the residents have a case and are willing to go to court for relief.

The Health Department provided the following information on mold.


Mold refers to many forms of fungi that are found naturally in the environment in places such as soil and on dead and decaying matter. It comes in a variety of colors, such as green, black, white, brown and orange. It appears fuzzy or in slimy streaks. There is often a musty or earthy odor around molds.


Some molds release tiny spores, just as some plants produce seeds. They need moisture and a food source. Indoors, mold spores move through the air and settle on surfaces. When mold spores land on a damp spot, they may begin to grow and multiply.

Good food sources for molds are cloth, wood, wallboard and insulation, but molds can grow on almost anything. When there is a wet surface or material that is not dried or discarded promptly (for example, water discharged from a burst pipe), molds can grow within 24 to 48 hours in the area.


Mold does not affect all people, however certain people may be sensitive to mold, particularly those with allergies or asthma. Sensitive people may experience symptoms that include:

  • Runny nose
  • Scratchy throat
  • Itchy eyes
  • Sneezing, and in more severe cases, wheezing and coughing.
  • Skin rash and itching

If you think you have symptoms related to exposure to molds, you should see your doctor.


The key to prevent mold in your home is to control moisture, such as a leaking roof, and resolve that issue. However, there are some things you, as the renter, can do to help reduce the health effects from mold:

  • Keep the humidity level in the home below 60%, ideally between 30% and 50%.
  • Use exhaust fans or open windows to ventilate while cooking and showering.
  • Keep bathrooms dry and well ventilated.
  • Clean, dry or remove anything from your home that is water damaged within 24 to 48 hours.


  1. Fix plumbing leaks and other water problems as soon as possible.
  1. Scrub mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water.
  1. Dry all materials completely.
  1. When cleaning, consider the following:
  • Avoid breathing mold spores, getting it in your eyes, or on your skin.
  • Routine use of chlorine bleach is not necessary or recommended. Some situations may require it, however, so use good judgment to decide if you need it.
  • Consult a specialist if you are unsure about how to clean an item, if it is expensive, or if it has sentimental value. Specialists in repair and restoration of water damaged household items are commonly listed in phone directories. Look for specialists who are affiliated with professional organizations and be sure to check references.
  1. Note: Dead mold may still cause allergic reactions in some people, and therefore may also need to be removed.
  1. Absorbent materials may have to be thrown away if they become moldy. Mold can grow in the empty spaces of porous materials, so it may not be removed completely.

More information about clean-up and prevention is available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at and your county University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agent at (800) ASK-UGA1, and at


     More information for renters about mold, moisture problems, and the Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook can be found at
. This handbook is designed to address common residential landlord-tenant issues and defines the role of the landlord and tenant during these issues. Additional information is available from the Georgia Apartments Association at

     The Landlord-Tenant Hotline is no longer available to renters, however the hotline recommends using for additional information about renting in Georgia. Some areas may also be able to provide assistance through local housing code enforcement. Contact city or county officials to find out if there are housing codes applicable in your area.

By: Sen. Blake Tillery (R – Vidalia)

Every year, the first of July marks the beginning of a new fiscal year for the state of Georgia and the effective date of a number of laws that were passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor. Here are just a few I want to make sure were on your radar:

The following bills will take effect on July 1, 2019:

Senate Bill 18 allows physicians to partner direction with patients for direct primary care without being subject to insurance regulations. Under this idea, doctors may charge a subscription fee less than an insurance premium for an unlimited number of visits a month.  It’s a creative solution we’ve already seen implemented in parts of our district.  I’m eager to see how it helps us further tackle the issue of healthcare cost.

Senate Bill 115 helps to further tackle healthcare cost by allowing the Georgia Composite Medical Board to issue telemedicine licenses to doctors who do not reside in Georgia so long as they have a clean disciplinary record. This alternative to traditional medicine is great for folks who live a long way from a doctor and is another step we are taking to help increase access to care in rural Georgia.

House Bill 64, (Margie’s Law), requires doctors to notify you if your mammogram shows dense breast tissue, which can obscure the imaging and can also increase your risk of breast cancer. This is a bill that has been passed in a few other states and will very likely have a positive, life-changing impact on many women across our state, as it has in others.

House Bill 324 allows the limited cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes only. HB 324 authorizes just over nine acres of production in Georgia for a very select number of licenses. The bill also allows University of Georgia and Fort Valley State University, our state’s two land grant universities, to apply for federal licenses to grow and convert cannabis oil for research to answer questions about the benefits and harms such treatments may cause. Don’t confuse this bill with HB 213, the Georgia Hemp Farming Act, which became effective on May 10th and is awaiting Dept. of Ag rules or implementation.

Senate Bill 83 expands the option for public high schools to offer certain courses to include Hebrew Scriptures and the Old and New Testaments.

House Bill 59 allows children of active duty U.S. armed forces to enroll in any school in their attendance zone (county) even prior to establishing residency when their parents are resigned to Georgia by military orders.  This bill helps our military families settle into our communities, ensures they can pick their area’s best schools, and raises Georgia’s favor with the Department of Defense in preparation for the next round of Base Realignment and Closure.

House Bill 530 requires the Georgia Department of Education to provide a declaration of homeschooling to local school district but eliminates the egregious mandated “home inspection” found in some previous versions of this bill.

House Bill 218 recognizes college immediately after high school isn’t the right choice for all students.  This bill extends the time period students are eligible to receive the HOPE scholarship from 7 year post high school graduation to 10 years post-high school graduation. The bill gives even more time for students who serve in the military.

Senate Bill 60 requires the Department of Education to provide information for students participating in school athletics about the warning signs of cardiac arrest. it requires that a student be removed from participation in athletic activities for signs of cardiac issues, such as passing out or fainting, until a medical professional gives them the go ahead to return to play. We all know how brutally hot Georgia weather can be and want to ensure our athletes are listening to their bodies.

Senate Bill 6 prohibits the use of drones around prisons or jails without warden permission. We had creative citizens using these to drop contraband into jail yards.  With 11  prisons in our district, this is a big deal here.

House Bill 193 allows banks to offer promotional raffles to be held in exchange for depositing money into a savings account.  With individual savings at near record lows, let’s promote saving for a rainy day anyway we can.

Senate Bill 9 criminalizes “sexual extortion”- coercing an individual into sending nude images, videos or any electronic communication of the individual engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

House Bill 281 increases the penalties for conviction of pimping or pandering.

Last but certainly not least, the 2020 Budget, also known as House Bill 31, begins July 1st and will include a $3,000 pay increase for Georgia's teachers and other certified school personnel including counselors, social workers, psychologists, special education specialists and technology specialist. Allocated in the budget is also a 2% salary increase for assistant teachers and funds to adjust the state base salary schedule to increase salaries for certified Pre-K teachers and certified employees by $3,000. We know that an investment in teachers is an investment in our future and feel that this is a positive step forward in giving teachers the incentive they need to continue their profession. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication, I hope you all have a wonderful 2019-2020 school year!

If you are interested in looking up any other bills to see their status, or when they will become effective, you can do it by going to and typing in the bill number in the top left hand corner. Once there, it will take you to the bill’s page. Under “status history,” you will see what the latest action on the bill is. If it’s been signed, it will also give you an effective date. Senate Bill 25, the first bill to be signed into law this past session, is a good example:

As always, please let me know if there is anything else I can do for you or if you have questions about other bills. It is a pleasure to serve you under the Gold Dome.

June 27--  The Vidalia Rotary Club installed its new President, club officers, board members and committee chairpersons at a luncheon meeting Thursday at Hardware Pizza in Lyons.

rotarysteveangieSteve McComas, Chief Financial Officer at Pineland Telephone Cooperative, succeeds Angie McDaniel of Oxford Industries as President.  He challenged club members to continue the momentum of community and international service generated under Angie's leadership.

rotary2019boardRotary leaders for the new club year are (L-R) Sergeant-at-Arms Zack Fowler, Vice-President/Secretary Angie McDaniel, Club Service Co-Chairperson Donya Hilton Wood, Grants Chairwoman Kathryn Roseen, Treasurer Tres Herin, Alzheimer's Fund Co-Chairperson Elaine Simpson, Public Relations Chairwoman Teresa Coleman, President Steve McComas, Youth Services Chairman Chad Ritchie, Membership Co-Chair Larry Calhoun, Community Service Co-Chair Mac Jordan and Alzheimer's Fund Co-Chair Travis Absher.  Not pictured President-elect Jake Cleghorn, Membership Co-Chair Blythe Wilcox and Club Service Co-Chair Garrett Wilcox.

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

June 28--  Students in the third through eighth grades in Montgomery County will be taking a new agriculture education course when they return to school in August.

School Superintendent Hugh Kight believes it's important for them to understand the importance of agriculture and how it works, "In the rural area we live in, agriculture plays a big part and we want kids to understand that corn comes from fields and not Walmart."

The school system is one of 20 in Georgia to get a grant for this pilot program and Montgomery County is also partnering with Lowe's for a class in horticulture, "We think it's very important they understand about the agricultural process.  We also have a grant from Lowe's for a small greenhouse at our elementary school.  We applied for the state grant and were chosen as a pilot school and are very excited about that," Kight said.

The school has hired a former Montgomery County High School valedictorian, Lauren Braddy, a graduate of Abraham Baldwin College, to teach the class, "She was real big in FFA and we're proud to have her," the superintendent said.

Bricks 'R Us

The Montgomery County school system wrapping up a fundraising effort for money to improve athletic facilities.  Superintendent Kight says you can sponsor a brick with your name on it and it will be used to build a "Wall of Fame" at Brogdon Field where the Montgomery County Eagles play football.

"We have a private donor who's going to match it if we can get to $25,000 so we can do some athletic facility upgrades," Kight noted.

The campaign needs $3,000 more by the end of June to meet the match and you can buy a brick online, "You can pull up our website, the Montgomery County schools website, and order a brick without having to leave the house," the Superintendent said.

Here's a link to order:

June 27--  The area's Junior ROTC regiment hosted a summer camp for middle school students last week.

Cadet Lieutenant Colonel Chayton Tippett from Vidalia High School is the new commander of the Thunderbolt Regiment, "We kind of showed them what we do here with our Raider program and our obstacle courses and gave them some leadership classes.  We gave them an introduction to our program so when they come in after middle school they'll have a head start."

jrotccampCadet Lieutenant Colonel Tippett and camper Ryker Hyers.

The new regimental commander hopes to attend The Citadel and says Junior ROTC's Raider program has helped him in high school, "We're more of a family,  We work together and we sweat together, sort of like a football team.  We all work together closely on the staff to make sure the program runs smoothly so all the kids are straight.

One of the campers, Ryker Hyers from J.R. Trippe Middle School, says camp was fun and taught him about teamwork, discipline and leadership.

The Thunderbolt Regiment is headquartered at the Southeast Early College and Career Academy in Vidalia and includes students from Vidalia High School, Toombs County High School, Montgomery County High School and Treutlen High School.

June 26--  The Vidalia Police Department reports the following arrests.

Thompson, Tekesha – B/F – 28 YOA- 708 Mike St Vidalia/Suspended License 2nd/ Stop Sign Violation/ No Insurance

Saldana- Delagadi, Jose Martin-W/M - 44 YOA/812 Scott Drive- Vidalia /Operating Unauthorized Vehicle with Flashing Blue Lights/No Drivers License

Walls, Shantay- B/F-20 YOA/ 1208 Easter Dr Apt. 26- Vidalia/ Criminal Trespass

Palmer, Travis Dennon- B/M-28 YOA/1364 Rice Shire Rd.- Rigeland , S.C./ Criminal Trespass/ False Information to LE/ Warrant Served

De Jesus,Lucero-W/F-30 YOA-10 North Ralph St, Claxton Ga No Drivers License

Brannen, Christa Gail- W/F- 26 YOA- 502 John Todd Rd Claxton, GA- Possession of Methamphetamines/Possession of Drug Related Objects

Fields, Alexander Blake/ W/M- 19 YOA/ 1202 Old Donald Anderson Rd. Lyons, GA/ Aggravated Child Molestation (State Warrant)

Brewer, Ben Kevin- B/M 24 YOA/ 2104 S. Smalley Dr. Vidalia, GA- Warrant Served (Toombs County SO- Probation)

Brown, Quiesha D’Eaugera- B/F- 26 YOA- 213 Oak St. Vidalia, GA- Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense/Criminal Trespass/Give False Name, Address, Birthdate to LE Officer

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Dillon Phillips, Lyons, warrant served

Michael Robinson, Lyons, warrant served

David Anderson, Lyons, shoplifting

Romeshia Muncie, Vidalia, hands free law, driving without license on person, driving while license suspended/revoked

Tiffany Rowlee, Panama City, DUI Child Endangerment, Dui, failure to dim headlight

Candice Carter, Baxley, DUI, possession of drug related objects, traffic violations

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Heather Adams, Lyons, traffic violations

Raul Benito, Vidalia, DUI, theft by taking, driving unlicensed

David Bohannon, Uvalda, criminal damage to property

Tyshawn Calloway, Statesboro, probation violation

Brittany Cook, Vidalia, perjury

Shyheim Cooper, Vidalia, probation violation, possession of firearm by convicted felon

Alton Covington, Lyons, DUI, laying drag

Jose Esparza, Lyons, hold for Chatham Co

Savalas Harden, Claxton, fleeing police officer, possession of firearm by convicted felon, obstruction, traffic violations

Lamanda Lewis, Vidalia, fraud in obtaining public assistance

Jasmine Oglesby, Metter, fraud in obtaining public assistance

Sidney Parker, Bladenboro, NC, driving while license suspended/revoked

Sheldon Phillips, Reidsville, theft by taking, burglary, failure to appear

Derek Sanders, Vidalia, driving while license suspended/revoked

Marquise Simkins, Vidalia, probation violation

Dollie Smith, Vidalia, bond revoked

Tayniesha Smith, Vidalia, DUI, traffic violations

Harold Wynn, Reidsville, probation violation

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

06/15-Timothy Brian Conner, Vidalia, Aggravated Assault, Criminal Trespass, Possession of Firearm During Commission of Crime

06/16-Britt Michael Brannon, Vidalia, Theft by Taking

06/17-Heather Nicole Edmondson, Collins, Forgery-4th

06/18-Bailee Morgan McDaniel-Soperton, Burglary-1st, Theft by Taking (Felony), Theft by Taking (Misdemeanor)

06/19-Jeremy Shawn Forehand-Baxley, Felony Probation Violation

6/21-James Ray McGee-Lula, Ga., Banks County Warrant Served (Failure to Register as Sex Offender)

06/21-Abegail Janine Bennett, Uvalda, Cruelty to Animals

06/21-Michael Dillan Lowther, Mt Vernon, Theft by Taking

06/21-Chelebric Ajene Onnic Lee, Ailey, Battery, Criminal Damage to Property-1st

06/22-Michael Chase Coleman-Mt Vernon, Possession of Marijuana <1oz., Open Container, Possession of Drug Related Objects

06/22-Chad Edward Coleman, Vidalia, Open Container, Possession of marijuana <1oz., Possession of Drug Related Objects

06/22-Elizabeth Raven Giles, Mt Vernon, Possession of Marijuana <1oz., Possession of Drug Related Objects

06/23-Ron Monroe-Sandersville, Public Drunkenness, Criminal Trespass, Fleeing Attempting to Elude, Driving w/Suspended License, Possession of Drug Related Objects, Possession of Marijuana <1oz., Terroristic Threats and Acts (x3), Theft by Receiving Stolen Property, Misdemeanor Obstruction of Officer, Giving False Name, Interference w/Government Property, Felony Obstruction of Officer

June 27-- - Congressman Rick W. Allen (R-GA-12) held a telephone town hall Monday night to answer questions from residents of Georgia's 12th District.

Congressman Allen gave an update on the Democrats’ spending bills for Fiscal Year 2020, President Trump signing critical disaster relief funding for rural Georgia into law, the House of Representatives’ efforts to provide more flexibility for individuals to save for retirement, immigration, the border crisis, and more.

For those who were unable to participate in the call, here are some of the highlights: 

Reggie from Baxley asked about generic drug pricing

Congressman Allen: “Just a little update on that-- on May 16 of 2018, President Trump and Secretary Azar outlined their drug pricing blueprint and their four strategies for reform... One is to improve competition, lower out-of -pocket cost, [and] enhance negotiations and incentives for lower list prices. The plan is going to make negotiation more effective than it is today in the retail drug program part D and bring negotiations to where it doesn’t exist in physician administered drugs part B. In part D we’ll be giving Medicare plans the same negotiating power that private sector plans already have and we know that this approach  works and the reason for the competition is there are drug companies that when they’re patented – that when they lose their patent rights, then we get these generic drugs and these companies that develop the generic drugs are being bought by big conglomerate pharmaceutical companies and then they raise the prices and what we got to do there is raise competition, make sure there is competition to keep those generic prices low. Again, the President and the Congress are working to get this done and I hope to see something done on this very shortly. Thank you, Reggie, for that question!”

Daniel from Reidsville asked about tariffs

Congressman Allen: “
Yes sir, you know I’m ready to get that done... And, I know you are too. Yes, it’s affected products all across the country. Every time I see the President we talk about it and he has provided some funding to the farming community because the Chinese target our farmers... it was inevitable [that] something had to be done about it. China was dumping and stealing our intellectual capital. It had gotten completely out of hand and the President promised he would take this on while he was running, and I’ll tell you promises made, promises kept. I had hoped [in] March we were going to get this thing done. It looks like it’s going to extend a while longer…I’m just hoping their leadership will wake up and say, ‘OK let’s do the fair thing. Let’s get these trade negotiations finalized.’ We had a deal and then the Chinese backed out of it and I don’t know why they did that, when they’re taking on additional pain. It’s unfortunate and difficult to deal with but something had to be done. I appreciate you hanging in there with us.”

Chris from Vidalia asked about illegal robocalls

Congressman Allen: “Y’all, I’ve heard quite a bit about unwanted phone calls…That’s why we just ran that poll question… You know I want to get a feel for the district. I am very supportive of this legislation. We’re going to do our best to stop it.” 

Wade from Dublin asked about cutting foreign aid spending

Congressman Allen:I mentioned earlier I had an amendment on the floor to cut 1% out of foreign spending last week, specifically $560 million.  I couldn’t get democratic support to get that amendment passed. I mean 1%, can you imagine? And yes, we need to help our local folks.

Ruth asked about enforcing the immigration laws 

Congressman Allen: “We have the first President that has demanded that we enforce those laws. When we began enforcing those laws, there was a lot of criticism about the way it is supposed to be handled. Our big problem is this: if someone touches our border, our land, the United States of America, illegally they automatically under the law have rights. And of course, there are lawyers that are coaching these people on what to say and they ask for asylum or either refugee status. They then have the right to appear before a judge and that judge will give them a court date. I will tell you, with the amount of illegal immigration we have sustained, I don’t know how long it will take to hear these cases. It’s a substantial amount of time. So, what do you do with the people after that? You basically release them into the country. We’re out of holding space for example. So you release these families into the country and you expect them to show up for their court date… But that’s what we’re up against. We have people, members of Congress, members of this body that want open borders. I’ll tell you this, in states like California and other states, they’re voting… It’s sad. It has to be stopped... The President is getting no support on this from the Democrats and it’s a sad state for our country.”

If you would like to sign up for the next telephone town hall, please sign up here. If you would like to learn more about the work Congressman Allen is doing in Washington and for the 12th District, please sign up for his weekly e-newsletter here.


June 26--  An escrow fund has been set up to hold donations from citizens interested in bringing golf back to Vidalia.  The city has been without a golf course for the last two years.

At a meeting Tuesday night in the former clubhouse of Rocky Creek Golf Course, fund raising campaign spokesman Michael Kay reported more than 60% of the $500,000 goal has been pledged and that Vidalia attorney Tom Everett has established an escrow account to manage contributions. 

The campaign deadline is July 31 and Kay said if the goal is not met by then, the money will be returned to donors.  He expressed optimism that the campaign will succeed and said a corporation with a governing board of directors will  be formed to oversee rebuilding  nine holes at the former Rocky Creek course in the next 12 months.

For information on the campaign, contact fund raising committee chairman Les Ramsey at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

June 26--  This is the fifth year WinShape Camp has come to Vidalia and some 400 kids are taking part in the week long day camp operated by Chick fil A at sites throughout the country.

Marissa Brown is a camp team leader and says the camp held at Sally Meadows Elementary School is made possible through community support, "The generosity of this community is absolutely remarkable.  We've seen so many businesses come in and provide support and we have a lot of churches breaking down denominational walls by saying that we want to be a part of this and influence kids lives because they are our future leaders."

A camper who's been coming to WinShape in Vidalia since it started is fifth grader Kingston Ryals, "I was saved at WinShape camp my second year.  I used to be like, yes, God is a good person, but I really wasn't involved in church.  Now I'm more involved and I'm getting to know God even more and I'm reading his word almost everyday.  I think it's brought me closer to God in general."

Kingston also believes WinShape has helped him influence others,"I used to have some friends who didn't believe in God.  I told them about his Word and now they're Christians.  The camp is an amazing foundation to help kids get to know God better."

Because of experiences like Kingston's, Marissa Brown says WinShape has a ripple effect in the community, "The whole point of WinShape is the volunteers stay here and the kids stay here and they get to build a relationship, it's like a mentor opportunity for these volunteers to invest in these kids' lives.  These kids get to come to camp and have fun and be themselves.  They learn about the gospel and also learn character skills and how to work as a team.  I actually believe it does change lives because it changed mine when I was in college."

June 25--  Three area elementary schools are among 20 in Georgia named for a pilot program in agricultural education for students in kindergarten through the fifth grade.

Montgomery County Elementary School, Wheeler County Elementary and Appling County Elementary schools were selected by the Georgia Department of Education.

The State Board of Education approved standards for the new course at its meeting this month.

The new standards are a direct result of Senate Bill 330, legislation passed in 2018 which provides for a pilot program to develop and implement agricultural education in elementary schools.

“I’m thrilled about this work and the opportunity to add agricultural education at the elementary level,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “At the upper levels, our kids have a chance to learn the business and practice of agriculture, but now we can begin to build that understanding for our younger students in an age-appropriate way.”

State Sen. John Wilkinson, a former FFA program manager and agricultural education teacher and current chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs committee, sponsored the legislation.

“Food doesn’t come from the grocery store,” Sen. Wilkinson said. “Four or five generations removed from the farm makes it hard for students to understand where their food really comes from. This new program will help kids understand the powerful impact of agriculture on the prosperity of our state.”

Georgia Rep. Terry England, a member of the House Education and Agriculture and Consumer Affairs committees as well as Appropriations chairman, added:

“I feel it’s important that kids understand where food, shelter, and fiber come from. This is a step in the right direction.”  

June 24--  A Toombs County grand jury has indicted seven people apprehended during a drug and gang raid in Vidalia.

Middle Judicial Circuit District Attorney Hayward Altman says he reconvened the grand jury five days after the raid to keep local streets safe, "Because of the intense investigation which had taken place, we wanted to make a point on behalf of the citizens of Toombs County to get these individuals indicted quickly.  Also, we did not want them to have the opportunity to get back on the street again with bonds or anything like that.  We want to make sure we could protect the citizens of Toombs County.  They will have bond hearings later on, but our position will be to oppose bond for individuals in these cases."

The District Attorney says two of the people charged were already in custody at the time of the raid for probation violations.  He says he will seek indictments against Andre Jackson and Deltinaud Toussaint later.

"They'll subsequently have a probation revocation hearing based on events which took place the day of the raid.  We're expecting additional individuals to be arrested and other charges coming forward as well," Altman said.

Meanwhile, the DA expects those arrested will also face federal charges, "The investigation is ongoing.  As we identify other people, they will be arrested and it's my expectation that federal grand jury will hear the facts and indictments will be handed down there."

Those indicted are:

Stacy Tobler for trafficking in Ecstasy, Cocaine and Methamphetamine.

Alonzo Roberts, Jr. for trafficking in Ecstasy and Cocaine, possession of Methamphetamine with intent to distribute and theft by receiving stolen property (firearm).

Laporshia Canty and Ozell Johnson for trafficking in Ecstasy, Cocaine and Methamphetamine, possession of Heroin with intent to distribute, criminal use of a Glock 9mm pistol with a removed serial number.

Frederick Cooper, Roderick Johnson and Lanard Wallace for possession of Cocaine with intent to distribute.


June 24--  High winds accompanied a late afternoon thunderstorm in the Grossman Drive area of Vidalia last Thursday afternoon and dropped several hardwood trees in the neighborhood.  The damage in these photos is in the back yard of Barbara and Chunk Reid.



June 24-- Paul Anderson Youth Home (PAYH) in Vidalia is extremely pleased to announce the appointment of Ken Vaughn, Colonel, U.S. Army (retired) as its new Chief Operating Officer.

payhcooKen served 32 years in the U.S. Army and has had extensive experience in planning, operations, and training. He also commanded in combat as a Lieutenant Colonel in Baghdad, Iraq in 2005. Ken worked and lived for a year and a half in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he developed the military history curriculum for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of the National Guard Command and General Staff College.

With degrees in history from the University of Georgia and a masters degree in marriage and family therapy from Capella University in Minneapolis, Minnesota, coupled with the leadership skills developed in the Army, Ken brings a unique skillset to PAYH.

“I have prayed for some time for God to give me a new mission that I might be His instrument, and I absolutely believe that His providential hand has led me to PAYH. I am humbled and blessed to be working with such fine people to help set the conditions for miraculous transformations to happen in the lives of the young men who reside here at our home.”

Ken has life-long experience volunteering with young people, including church groups, mission trips, scout groups, and Big Brothers, and has also taught mountaineering and rappelling, map reading and land navigation, and sailing. After retiring from the Army in 2012, he became a marriage and family therapist so he could  help military families. Because he had experienced the effects of combat and returning home afterwards, God called him to help soldiers reintegrate into their families and communities.

Ken and his wife Holly come to PAYH from the Isle of Hope in Savannah; they savor traveling together both in the US and abroad.   Ken enjoys all sports, especially Georgia Bulldog Football, playing roller hockey, sailing, and riding his Indian Springfield motorcycle.

The Vaughns are actively involved in Christ Church Anglican in Savannah where he directs the Sheepdog Ministry. He also has his own personal ministry called “Riding for the Nazarene,” an annual, long-distance motorcycle ride that benefits Voice of the Martyrs, a charity which provides direct relief to persecuted Christians worldwide.

For many years Ken has been aware of the PAYH, because his best friend’s son graduated from the program. Ken saw firsthand how the life’s work of Olympic gold medalist and World Champion weightlifter Paul Anderson and his wife Glenda had been God’s impetus for a miraculous transformation in a Savannah family.

June 23--  State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville summarizes the list of new Georgia laws going into effect July 1.


Every legislative bill or resolution either has an effective date which can be upon signature of the governor or a date certain or automatically becomes law at the beginning of the Fiscal year July 1. Sometimes an effective date is set in the future to allow time for certain actions to take place in writing regulations or for tax purposes, for example.

So, here are some of the bills passed in the last General Assembly that will become part of the Georgia Code on July 1.

--HB 490-Raises the amount a financial institution can provide a family member for funeral and other last illnesses for a deceased who did not leave a will. Presently that amount is $10,000 but would be increased under HB 490 to $15,000 but shortens the time a family has to apply from 90 to 45 days.

--SB 60-Requires guidelines be established and materials provided for students participating in interscholastic athletic activities about the warning signs of cardiac arrest. Also requires schools to hold informational meetings on the warning signs and requires a student be removed from participation in athletic activities for signs of cardiac issues.

--HB 12-Requires public schools to post a widely visible sign with a 24/7 phone number to report child abuse

--HB 530-Requires schools to report to DFCS parents who have withdrawn children from school and not filed an "Intention to Homeschool." Declaration.

--SB 138-Provides a free initial license plate and annual revalidation decals to first responders disabled in the line of duty and exempts them from TAVT transfer fees for vehicle valued at less than $50,000. Also creates a special license plate to support the Sickle Cell Foundation.

--HB 183-Clarifies that a property taxpayer who does not return taxes for one year but paid them for a previous year will be determined to have paid them at the same value. Also, a taxpayer has a right of appeal regardless of whether they filed to return real property.

--HB 456-Expands the exclusion of a finance report by local governments to eliminate the report by communities with under $500,000 in expenditures.

--HB 62-"Margie's Law" requires health care facilities conducting mammograms to notify patients that their mammogram reveals dense tissue which may obscure tumors.

--HB 218-Extends eligibility for HOPE Scholarship to 10 years after high school graduation and clarifies that military duty does not count as non-enrollment.

--HB 63-Health benefit plans would be required to exclude step therapy protocol if provider submits justification and supporting documentation.

--SB 167-Spells out specific requirements of DFCS that the court must consider when determining if the DFCS response was complete and appropriate to placement of a child. Allows the court to excuse DFCS from being required to consider a relative for placement of the child if the relative fails to express an interest.

--HB 118-Changes current law on the offense of "transmitting false public alarm" for offense to "making an unlawful request for emergency services assistance" to combat false 911 calls and requests.

--HB 228-Raises minimum age to get married to 17 years from the present 16 years. Limits age difference of the two with a minor to 4 years.

--HB 281--Increases the penalty for pimping and pandering

--HB 282-Increases the length of time law enforcement must retain evidence in a sexual assault case that would help identify the assailant.

--HB 543-Allows the Court to declare an individual an "equitable caregiver" and confers some rights to that individual.

--SB 72-Updates the Hunting and Fishing Code and removes the requirement for a hunting license to hunt a Wildlife Management Area. Gives DNR Board authority to extend bow hunting deer season to end of January. New bag limit is 12 of either sex. Removes dual area state season for deer.

--SB 99-Allows hunting and fishing license applicant to donate body organs similar to driver's license procedure.           

--HB 223-Clarifies that pesticides applied in accordance with specified instructions do not require notification of EPD.

--HB 382-Update of Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act allowing DNR to retain an administrative fee.

--SB 6-Prohibits the use of drones around prisons or jails that are used to transmit contraband or take photographs of the facility.

--SB 31-Provides addition to exemption from liability by law enforcement in an emergency situation to include the removal of a trapped pet in an auto.

--HB 226-Extends the present 1.5% surcharge on each traffic citation to continue funding for the Georgia Driver's Education Commission until June 30, 2022.

--HB 339-Creates several new license plates including Alabama A&M University, a plate promoting autism awareness, a plate honoring Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and a special plate for the Georgia Aquarium.

--HB 459-Requires local school boards to submit to the Department of Public Safety the name and driver's license number of school bus drivers to determine if they are still qualified to drive.

--SB 177-Requires local bills revising the districts of county boards of commissioners, all boards of education and municipal governing authorities to submit plans to the Legislative Reapportionment Office prior to introduction or have that office draw the plans.

--HB 324-Legalizes the growing, manufacturing and dispensing of low THC oil, Medical Marijuana.

--SB 73-Allows the Clerk of Court to deduct the present $5.00 assessment of the diversion or pretrial intervention fee and remit to the Peace Officers' Annuity and Benefit Fund.

--HB 319-Allows a Firefighters' Pension Fund members' death benefit to be paid to his or her estate if there is no living or named beneficiary.

Full transcripts of bills may be found at . Simply type the bill number into the box at the top left-hand corner of the screen and specify if it is in the House or the Senate. The FY 2020 budget (H.B. 31) may be found at As always, I welcome any questions you may have.

I may be reached at

234 State Capitol, Atlanta , GA 30334

(404) 656-5038 (phone)

(404) 657-7094 (fax)

E-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Or Call Toll-Free at

1-800-367-3334 Day or Night

Reidsville office: (912) 557-3811

June 21--  Last November Toombs County voters approved the Sunday sale of alcoholic beverages in the county and this month the Toombs County Commission passed a county alcohol ordinance authorizing Sunday sales starting July 1.  Convenience stores and restaurants in the unincorporated parts of the county may sell alcoholic beverages starting at 11 a.m. on Sundays.

The county law regarding Sunday sales is the same as those adopted earlier by city councils in Vidalia and Lyons, according to County Manager John Jones.

Jones informed commissioners that Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax collections for the year are up 9% and county operating costs are 3% under budget for the first five months of the year.  He's also hopeful the county's subsidy of the 911 Center will decrease this year due to an increase in collection of 911 user fees.

In actions at its June meeting:

*  The Commission reappointed Danny Foshee to the Toombs County Hospital Authority and named Gray Meredith to succeed Sam Polk and Celeste Robison to replace Marsha Moore.

* The Beattyville, Kentucky firm of Kellwell Food Management was awarded a contract to provide food service at the Toombs County Detention Center for a cost of just under $2 per meal.

* A contract was renewed with Corporate Health Partners to provide wellness services to county employees.

* The Commission expects state approval soon of its plan to develop an additional 40 acres at the county commercial and demolition landfill.

* Preparations are underway for the 2020 U.S. Census which starts April 1.

June 21--  A woman facing animal cruelty charges in Montgomery and Candler counties wants a multi-million dollar settlement because of her arrest.

angelapowellmcshoAttorneys for Angela Powell of Ailey have notified both counties as well the City of Metter and the Georgia Departments of Agriculture and Revenue that she wants $3 million plus attorney's fees as a settlement, otherwise, they plan to file a lawsuit to seek damages.

Powell attracted national attention in January because of conditions in her German Shepherd breeding kennels in Higgston and Metter.  Animal rights groups assisted law enforcement in examining and removing 167 dogs in Candler County and 91 in Montgomery County whom officials claimed were living in mud, feces and urine.  Three of the dogs in Candler County had to be euthanized.

Powell's Savannah attorneys claim officials were negligent and deprived Powell of her dogs "which she cared for properly."   Powell claims she suffered physical and emotional trauma and financial injury because of actions taken by officials.

She alleges she was improperly arrested, detained and prosecuted for alleged cruelty to animals and investigated for fraud by the Departments of Agriculture and Revenue.

Montgomery County Manager Brandon Braddy says the county has taken the notice under advisement but has no comment due to pending litigation.

Candler County Attorney Kendall Gross told the Metter newspaper the county responded to the notice by denying any liability or responsibility and has no further comment.

June 20-- Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the presence of a World War I memorial cross on public land in Maryland does not violate the Establishment Clause, and that in fact, destroying the nearly century-old memorial “would not be neutral and would not further the ideals of respect and tolerance embodied in the First Amendment.”

This ruling impacts monuments all across the nation – including a 12-foot cross dedicated to a messenger who fell while delivering a message between Union generals found along the trail of the Chickamauga Battlefield in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, and a stone cross honoring Georgia’s own World War I veterans that sits on a median between two streets in Augusta, Georgia.

“We strongly believe that memorials like this one do not violate the Constitution and should be protected and preserved,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “Today’s ruling is a great win and provides helpful guidance as we continue working to protect these kinds of memorials all across the nation, including ones in Georgia.”

Last year, Attorney General Chris Carr joined a bipartisan group of 30 states in fighting to protect a 93-year-old memorial honoring World War I veterans as part of a case with much broader implications for the First Amendment. The plaintiffs in the case had asked a federal court to order that the memorial be destroyed or revised because it bears the shape of a cross. The coalition urged the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the lower court’s ruling that the memorial violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution and provide greater clarity about how the Establishment Clause applies in challenges to such monuments.

June 20--  The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has provided more information regarding Wednesday's drug and gang raid in Vidalia.

Approximately 100 law enforcement personnel from local, state, and federal law enforcement executed multiple search warrants in Vidalia, Toombs County. The warrants were the result of an ongoing multi-agency investigation into drugs, gangs, and guns. Ten search warrants were executed in and around Vidalia, with an eleventh being executed simultaneously in Riverdale, Clayton County. Eleven people were arrested.

gangcar2Various types of illicit drugs, US Currency, and firearms were seized, along with several vehicles, including a Dodge 3500 dually truck and two luxury vehicles (Maserati and Bentley).

Approximately 40 oz. of suspected crack/cocaine, 74 oz. of ecstasy, 13.5 oz of methamphetamine, 21 ounces of Xanax, 3.5 oz of heroin, 6 pints of codeine, and 130 oz. of marijuana rounded out the bulk of illicit drugs.

ganggunsSeven handguns, five rifles, and one shotgun, along with multiple high capacity magazines and numerous rounds of rifle ammunition were also seized.

The investigation was initiated by the Toombs County Sheriff’s Office in partnership with the GBI’s Southeastern Regional Drug Enforcement Office and the Middle GA Judicial Circuit DA’s Office. Agencies including the Georgia Department of Community Supervision, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Safe Streets Task Force, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the United States Attorney’s Office (Southern District) subsequently joined the investigation and participated in Wednesday’s effort. Additional support was provided by the Lyons Police Department, the Treutlen County Sheriff’s Office, the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, the Georgia State Patrol and the United States Postal Inspection Service.

The following subjects were arrested during the operation:












The investigation remains ongoing and additional arrests are anticipated. Anyone with information pertaining to this case encouraged to contact the GBI Southeastern Regional Drug Enforcement Office in Metter at (912) 685-5345.

June 19--  Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies executed search warrants at nine residences in Vidalia Wednesday morning culminating a two-year investigation of gang-related crime in the city.

According to Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight, "I'm hoping this will accomplish bringing our streets back safe again in Vidalia and slow down or stop these drive-by shootings and also slow this gang activity down."

Seven people were arrested during the searches and Sheriff Kight says a large amount of guns, ammunition and drugs were confiscated.  Two other suspects had been arrested prior to the raids.

District Attorney Hayward Altman coordinated the multi-agency deployment after being asked to assist by Sheriff Kight and he echoed the sheriff's hopes, "We're hoping to basically makes the streets of Vidalia and Toombs County safer and make sure these individuals can do no harm to people and shut done some of the violence which is occurring.  We know how dangerous these individuals are.  This is drug activity plus gang activity."

gangsquadLaw enforcement officers in an armored vehicle searched three units in the Raymonia Apartments on Easter Drive in Vidalia.

gangsheriffDeputies from the Toombs County Sheriff's Office controlled access at the entrance to the complex.

Federal officers from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) along with the GBI Drug Task Force and the Toombs County Sheriff's Office fanned out to hit each of the nine locations at the same time.

Officers searched Apartments 44, 66 and 27 at the Raymonia Apartments, 170 Hannah Lane, 906 Fifth Avenue, 602 Thompson Street, 705 West Street, 701 Fifth Avenue and 2620 Cadillac Drive.

District Attorny Altman says he intends to convene a grand jury to consider various charges against the nine suspects who are in custody at the Toombs County Detention Center in Lyons.

Stacy Tobler Andre Jackson Ozell Johnson, Jr.
Deltinaud Toussaint Alonzo Roberts Laporshia Canty
Frederick Cooper Roderick Johnson Lanard Wallace

June 19--  A two-week push is underway to fund reopening of nine holes at Rocky Creek Golf Course in Vidalia and bring the sport back to the Sweet Onion City.

A group of nearly 30 people met at the closed course Tuesday night and agreed to spearhead an effort to raise $500,000 and capitalize a corporation whose board of directors would direct the rebirth.

Those attending pledged $293,000 to jump start the fund drive and thanked the current owner of the property, Monroe Goss, for his agreement to lease the course for one dollar for 20 years.

"I felt like the need is there, the demand is there and I feel like it's a great opportunity for the community, that's the bottom line. I've had so many people call me about it wanting updates and saying I don't know why we can't have golf in Vidalia.  I think the approach we're taking where we can get in at a minimal cost with me doing a lease is just a great opportunity."

Vidalia has been without a golf course for nearly two years and Goss believes that's not a good thing for the community's quality of life and future economic development, "From the standpoint of economics, family life and all the way around, if you're going to be a successful, thriving community, you need to have golf.  You don't need people leaving the city of Vidalia and going somewhere else to play golf.  You need to do it right here at home," Goss observed.

June 19--  Free professional help is available to victims of sexual assault in southeast Georgia.

The Refuge Sexual Assault Center in Vidalia opened in February after officials noted 66 cases of sexual assault during one year in the seven-county area surrounding Vidalia.

Registered Nurse Heather Williams is the Center Director and says victims ages 12 and up receive immediate and long term assistance after an assault.

"The first person who comes in to play is the advocate.  That person is dedicated to that victim to help them literally in any way they need.  They are the person who comes in contact with them first, be it at the hospital with law enforcement or here at the Center.  They help answer questions and talk them through the entire process.  They are an emotional support person.

"The second person they're going to meet is the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner.  That nurse is going to do an interview to find out exactly what happened and then we're going to do a forensic exam to collect evidence from that person's body or clothing, or both, to help law enforcement proceed if that's the direction the case needs to go.

"We also have a counselor or therapist who is able to help mend the mind after the process and it could be days after or it could be years after," she explained.

Seanna Jones provides free counseling to victims,"We take some time to get to know one another and find out what your strengths are and what areas you are having difficulties and challenges with.  Sometimes a client will have a partner they're having issues with due to domestic violence or sexual assault in the past and we're able to provide counseling for that, too."

Jones says the consequences of sexual assault can hurt a victim's relationships with others, "Sometimes we're not aware of how we are treating other people and how we are perceiving what other people do.  We may have problems keeping a job, handling normal stress of a normal work environment or handling family stress.  Having things that are unresolved can make these everyday life situations a lot more difficult to deal with."

The Center conducts weekly support group meetings for female sexual assault victims ages 18 and older and provides free one on one counseling to victims ages 12 and up who have experienced sexual assault or domestic violence.

If you need help, call Seanna at 912-216-3863 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

June 19--  The veteran incumbent council member in Vidalia's Fourth Ward has chosen not to seek re-election.

lisaLisa Chesser issued a statement Tuesday night.

"The decision to seek re-election each term has come after thoughtful consideration and a lot of time in prayer. I have had the honor and privilege to serve for 12 years! That’s almost a quarter of my life and my how the years have flown by! Initially, my hope was to be able to serve for two or maybe three terms; perhaps until my children graduated high school and I am blessed to have seen that happen.

The tremendous honor serving as the Ward 4 councilwoman has allowed me to be a part of Vidalia’s strong tradition of leadership and progress. I am humbled to have had the opportunity to work and give back so that we can make Vidalia a community where our children will want to return after college to work and raise their families.

I have chosen not to seek re-election for a fourth term and I am blessed beyond anything I could have asked to have been able to serve in this capacity. There aren’t sufficient words to express the gratitude I have for the citizens who have allowed me to serve, those I have had the pleasure to serve with and for my supportive husband and family."

So far one person has qualified for Chesser's seat.  Vidalia native Logan Lawrence has announced his intentions to run in the November 5th election.  He graduated from the University of Georgia in 2018 with a degree in political science and recently returned home after completing an internship at the White House.

June 18--  In an attempt to educate the public about the dangers of South Georgia's high heat and humidity this summer, and public safety in general,  the Vidalia Fire and Police Departments are partnering with Toombs-Montgomery County EMS to hold "Beat the Heat" community safety events in June, July and August.

beattheheat(L-R) VFD Fire Captain Matt Ragan, Toombs-Montgomery EMS Responder Jeff Glaser, Toombs-Montgomery EMS Director Drew James, VPD Major Roger Callaway, VFD Fire Chief Brian Sikes and VPD Corporal Lindsey Reddish. 

Vidalia Fire Chief Brian Sikes says emergency vehicles will be on display at the events with free blood pressure checks and a chance to win a free bicycle with helmet plus car seat inspections and free bottles of water.  The Georgia Department of Transportation is providing "See and Be Seen" armbands and the Georgia Department of Public Health is providing Window Clings-Temperature for kids in cars.

The first event is at Chick-fil-A in Vidalia Saturday, June 29 from one till four p.m.

The second event is Saturday, July 20 from ten a.m. till two p.m. at Lowe's in Vidalia where the Governor's Office of Highway Safety will provide a Car Rollover Simulator and a DUI/Drunk Google Simulation.

The third event is Saturday, August 17 from ten a.m. till two p.m. at Walmart in Vidalia including a Bike Safety Rodeo courtesy of the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Chief Sikes says some of the topics the campaign is focusing on include heat-related problems for the body, senior citizens, pets, fireworks, grilling, outdoor camping, home and bike safety, drinking and driving, texting and driving and seat belt safety.

June 18-- Southeastern Technical College (STC) Foundation is now accepting scholarship applications for Fall and Spring semesters. The deadline to apply is Thursday, July 18, 2019.

 Any student enrolled at STC for the Fall 2019 semester is eligible to apply. Students who complete one application will be considered for all scholarships he or she is qualified to receive. The scholarship application and a full listing of all scholarships available can be found on the Southeastern Technical College website at

 The completed scholarship packet, including the application, acceptance letter/proof of registration, letters of reference, and transcript, must be received by deadline - no exceptions.

 Completed scholarship packet can be mailed or hand delivered to: Blythe Wilcox, Executive Director for Institutional Advancement, Southeastern Technical College, 3001 East First Street, Room 127, Vidalia, GA 30474.

 For more information on Foundation scholarships offered at STC, visit or call 912-538-3100 or 478-289-2200.

June 18--  An estimated 350 employees at the Valmiera Glass Plant in Dublin were notified yesterday that the plant is closing and that they are being laid off.

According to WMAZ-TV in Macon, a separation notice to employees said the company has suffered a financial downturn and a loss of revenue and was closing Monday.

Valmiera Glass released a statement Tuesday morning saying attempts to find an external investor for one of their operations failed on Sunday.

As a result, Valmiera's mother company in Latvia filed for legal protection proceedings on Monday. Due to the Latvia proceedings, financial support for the Dublin plant from the mother company is no longer available.

The rest of the statement reads as follows:

"Respectively the company was forced to stop its Phase II Fiberglass furnace operation effective immediately today, June 17th at 2.30 p.m. More than 350 employees were laid off Monday.

In addition, the company filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11 in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia on June 17th at approximately 8 p.m.

The company intends to continue to operate its Phase I Needle Mat division in the ordinary course of business while it formulates its reorganization plan around this profitable side of its business."


June 18-- Coastal Plains in Vidalia is a public charter high school with a statewide attendance zone, meaning any Georgia student age 14 to 20 may attend tuition free. Students who complete the necessary classwork then earn an accredited Georgia high school diploma. This is not a GED program.

Classes are held at the Southeastern Early College and Career Academy on Pete Phillips Drive in Vidalia.

Coastal Plains is a second-chance high school, designed to meet the needs of a variety of students. For some students, traditional high school classes are not a good fit. Some students have full-time jobs. Others must balance school with caring for a child. Still others gave up on school at some point, but now see the value of obtaining a high school diploma. Some students may want to attend to gain credit advancement and graduate at your own pace. Some may want to graduate early.

To help students succeed, Coastal Plains offers numerous advantages. The school uses a blended classroom.  Here, a student works at his or her own pace on the computer with a certified teacher in the classroom at all times. The classrooms have a maximum 15:1 student-to-teacher ratio, which is much lower than a traditional classroom. The smaller classes allow more individual attention for each student. Another advantage is that attendance is flexible, allowing students to come to classes at a time that works for them. Classes are held Monday through Thursday, from 4-9 p.m., and run year-round, so students can enroll anytime throughout the year.

Not only does the Coastal Plains model allow students great flexibility, it provides each student with a tremendously strong support system. All students are paired with a mentor, a counselor, a graduation coach and, if needed, a tutor. These professionals help ensure that each student stays on track and has all the support needed to finish school and obtain a high school diploma.

Coastal Plains Education Charter High School campuses are designed not to compete with local schools, but rather to complement them. Each of the school boards in the counties where Coastal Plains sites are located has entered into a partnership with the school, and the superintendents of each of the school systems will serve on the Coastal Plains governance board.

For more information on Coastal Plains Education Charter High School, contact Site Directors, Kim Alexander, (912) 326-1228 or Denis Watkins, (912) 293-0625 or contact Ricky Rentz, executive director, by phone (912)399-0985 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; or visit the Coastal Plains website: for the online registration or call our office from 10:00 AM to 8:00PM for more information.

June 17--  A nursing home in Metter will receive more frequent inspections and monitoring after being named in a U.S. Senate report.

Pleasant View Nursing Home is one of nine nursing facilities in Georgia singled out in the report for "substantially failing" to meet required care standards and resident protections afforded by the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Pennsylvania’s U.S. senators, Democrat Robert Casey and Republican Pat Toomey, released the list of  facilities in the report.

The two “believe that the list of  "Special Focus Facility" candidates is information that must be publicly available to individuals and families seeking nursing care for their loved ones,’’ the report said. Their goal, it said, is to provide families “with the transparency and information they deserve when choosing a home in which to entrust the care of a loved one.’’

Nine Georgia nursing homes are on the list as “candidates’’ for SFF status.

They are: East Lake Arbor in Decatur; Pleasant View Nursing Center in Metter; Westminster Commons in Atlanta; Brentwood Health and Rehabilitation in Waynesboro; PruittHealth in Blue Ridge: Northeast Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation; LaGrange Health and Rehab; Windermere Health and Rehabilitation Center in Augusta; and Clinch Healthcare Center in Homerville.

Kathy Floyd, executive director of the Georgia Council on Aging, said Friday, “the facilities on the larger list have a ‘persistent record of poor care’ and should be publicized. More transparency for consumers is rarely a bad idea.’’

June 17-- Four members of a Texas family have admitted taking part in an elaborate scheme to fraudulently obtain multiple Masters Golf Tournament tickets. 

Stephen Michael Freeman, of Katy, Texas, pled guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud in proceedings held in U.S. District Court in Augusta, said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. In addition, Freeman’s parents, Steven Lee Freeman and Diane Freeman, of Helotes, Texas, and sister, Christine Oliverson, of San Antonio, Texas, also entered guilty pleas to Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

In pleading guilty to the charge, Stephen Michael Freeman agrees to a sentence of 36 months in federal prison and has paid community restitution of $157,493.70. At sentencing, the court may accept or reject the plea agreement. Steven Lee Freeman and Diane Freeman agreed to pay community restitution of $59,000 each, and with Christine Oliverson, are subject to sentencing by the court.

“These profiteering con artists thought they had succeeded in hijacking the Augusta National’s generous ticket lottery system to satisfy their own greed,” said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. “The vigilance of the Augusta National staff and the investigative acumen of the FBI ferreted out the fraud, ensuring justice is served to these cheats for the federal crimes they committed.”

The defendants admitted in court that they used names and addresses from a purchased bulk mailing list to create multiple fraudulent accounts in the Augusta National Golf Club’s online ticket application system. All this occurred without the knowledge or permission of the individuals whose identities were used.

When any applications received notice of ticket awards via the email addresses provided for them, Stephen Michael Freeman or others acting at his direction, would create fake identification documents including driver’s licenses, utility bills and credit card statements to persuade the Augusta National to change the winner’s mailing address to one that was under control of the conspiracy. Once the defendants received the tickets at those addresses via U.S. Mail, they would then resell the tickets at a substantial profit. Also, in some cases in which the recipient’s address was unchanged, one or more of the defendants would visit the recipient’s home to persuade them, sometimes with modest payment, to turn over the tickets by claiming they had been sent to the wrong address by mistake.

“This scheme was designed to profit from the resale of tickets, but in the process, it also would have denied legitimate citizens a fair chance to obtain tickets to a prestigious golf tournament,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “We hope that this case sends a message that the FBI will make it a priority to investigate these cases, and if you get caught, you will pay the price.”

June 17-- Petty Officer 2nd Class Antonio Ramirez, a native of Lyons, is participating in the Baltic Operations naval exercise with 18 other nations.

Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Theodore Quintana
“I've never participated in anything like this yet in my career,” said Ramirez. “It’s a great opportunity to pick up more leadership skills and just see the world. This is the first time I’ve been to Germany.”

The exercise continues throught June 21, includes sea, air and land assets and is designed to improve training value for participants, enhance flexibility and interoperability, and demonstrate resolve among allied and partner forces in defending the Baltic Sea region.

Ramirez is an aviation electronics technician attached to Helicopter Sea Squadron 28 (HSC-28) based in Norfolk, Virginia. The squadron operates the MH-60S Seahawk and deploys with units of the Second, Fifth and Sixth fleets.

“I do aviation troubleshooting and help keep the helicopters flying during the exercise,” Ramirez said.

Allied nations with ships and forces participating in BALTOPS 2019 include Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. NATO partner nations Finland and Sweden will also participate in the exercise.

Serving in the Navy means Ramirez is part of a world that is taking on new importance in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.

“The Navy has truly broadened my horizons," Ramirez said. "I’ve gotten to meet new people, some of the nicest people in the world. Some of my best friends I've met in the Navy. I look at my service as protecting our lifestyle and life back home. I’m protecting my family.”

June 21--  The Vidalia Police Department reports the following arrests.

McLelland, Anthony-B/M 51 YOA-Warrant Service- 1503 E First Street Room 451 Vidalia Ga.

Lewis,Freddie-B/M – 33 YOA- 511 Lydia St Vidalia, Ga. Battery-Interference 911-Aggravated Assault

Dotson, Robert Lee- W/M -71 YOA- 196 Bear Trail Rd. Soperton, GA- Criminal Trespass, Willfully Obstruction of Police Officer Simple/Verbal (State Warrant)

Baddie, Willie Lee- B/M- 57 YOA- 903 North Circle Dr. Vidalia, GA- Battery (FVA)

Willhite,Kelly Jess-W/M-44 YOA-3500 Ga Hwy 135 Ailey-Driving While License Suspened 2nd

Telfair,Alejandro De Jesus-M/M-22YOA-509 Winona St Vidalia-Battery

Watts, Brandon Matthew-B/M-22 YOA-862 Fire Lane Rd. Ailey, Ga. – DUI (Less Safe)/ Following to Closely.

Seidel,Debra Ann-W/F-55 YOA-1804 Aimwell Blvd Vidalia-Simple Battery

Titus,Kelly Jean—W/F-39 YOA-724 Mike St Vidalia-Theft By Shoplifting 1st Offense

Mason, Candy Lola-B/F 51 YOA-505 East Sixth Str.- Aggravated Battery (FVA)

Beasley,Eddie Leeshaun-21 YOA-213 E Grady Ave. Lyons- Warrant Served - Criminal Trespass

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Jamie Warren, Soperton, driving while license suspended/revoked, expired tag, traffic vioilations

Alexander Brewton, Lyons, warrant served

Katrina Jones, Lyons, possession of a controlled substancel

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Johnny Beasley, Lyons, battery - family violence

Zonnie Beasley, Vidalia, speeding, driving while license suspended/revoked

Jessica Brown, Lyons, burglary, theft by deception and receiving stolen property, obstructing police

Calem Campbell, Lyons, obstructing police

Charlie Clemons, Vidalia, probation violation

David Jackson, Reidsville, probation violation

Coy Maness, Reidsville, probation violation

Kelsi Oliver, Lyons, theft by deception and receiving stolen property

Anthony Pittman, Vidalia, financial transaction card fraud, six counts

Latasha Tompkins, Vidalia, driving while license suspended/revoked, safety belt

Richard Ward, Lyons, possession of marijuana and drug related objects

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

06/11-Joshua Landis Burns, Ailey, Child Support Warrant Served

06/12-Deandre Rasheen Wicker-Soperton, Driving w/Suspended License, Leaving the Scene of Accident, Giving False Information

06/15-Jeremy Derek Brooker, Ailey, Felony Probation Violation, Bench Warrant Served

06/15-James Todd Moxley, Vidalia, Driving w/Suspended License

June 17--  The Vidalia school board approved the school system budget for the new fiscal year at its June meeting.

The fiscal year 2020 budget of $36.8 million is about $200,000 more than this fiscal year.

The board also accepted five resignations and approved one new hire.

Among the resignations is that of Tim Quigley who has been the Vidalia High School band director for the past 26 years.  Other resignations were from VHS teacher Carl Faircloth, J.R. Trippe Middle School teacher Hunter Spivey, and teacher Emilee Roberts and paraprofessinal Jacqueline Rorick, both from Sally Meadows Elementary.

The board approved the hiring of Amy Whited to teach at J.R. Trippe Middle School.

The school system is buying 75 desktop computers for the elementary school.  A bid of $47,250 was approved from HP, Inc.

June 17--  Work should begin soon to upgrade Faison Park in Lyons.

At a called meeting, the Lyons City Council awarded a bid of $147,897.60 to McLendon Enterprises of Toombs County for resurfacing and parking lot reconstruction at the park.

Earlier, the council renewed the contract of city court Judge Paul Cook and gave him a raise to $750 a month.

June 17--  A request to renew federal funding for a local after-school program for at risk kids has been denied.

For the last eight years in the Toombs County school system and the last five years in Vidalia city schools, Toombs County Family Connection has administered a $3.5 million 21st Century Learning Center grant which provided after-school and summer activities for 300 kids.

Toombs County Family Connection Director Paige Williamson says the grant will be reapplied for in November, but in the meantime, "The plan now for each of the school systems is to sustain the program for the next year by operating on a bare bones budget.  We are actively talking with our churches and with individuals and partners in the community and we've also written for a couple of grants.  The schools are also willing to help us somewhat to sustain the program for a year."

Toombs County School Superintendent Barry Waller reports the Toombs County school board has given him authority to allocate up to $75,000 for the one year effort.

In Vidalia, School Superintendent Dr. Garrett Wilcox says the Vidalia board is also supportive and will come up with a number to help sustain the program.

"What we have created and the culture we have created in our after-school programs for the last eight and five years is really remarkable.  It's something we've invested heavily in and the thought of losing that for even a year is really devastating," Williamson said.

For information on how you can help with the bare bones budget for a year, call Paige at 245-2542.

June 15--  Vidalia firemen responded to 30 calls in the month of May.  More than half of the calls were false alarms according to Fire Chief Brian Sikes.

1- Smoke/Odor Removal

1-Electrical Fire

2-Kitchen Fires

2-Building Fires

1-House Fire

1-Vehicle Fire

3-Vehicle Accidents

3-Grass Fires

16-False Alarms

June 14--  At the close of business Friday, the City of  Vidalia had received 18 applications to succeed Chief Frank Waits as chief of the Vidalia Police Department.

City Manager Nick Overstreet said if any more are received which are postmarked by today's deadline, they will be added to the list of applicants.

He says the applications will be reviewed to decide which applicants will be interviewed by the city council and "we'd rather have a selection made sooner rather than later."

June 14--  The Vidalia Police Department reports the following arrests.

Seidel, Debra Ann- W/F- 55 YOA- 1804 Aimwell Blvd. Vidalia, GA- Warrant Served- Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (First)/Failure to Obey Stop/Yeild Sign

Lawrence,Joanna Leigh-W/F- 46 YOA- 174 Bobcat Rd, Glenwood-Driving While License Expired

Barwick,John David-W/M-48 YOA-3123 Ga 15 Hwy Lot 23 Vidalia-Warrant Service

Lockhart, Nicola JaQueena –B/F – 26 YOA – 806 Debbie Circle, Warrant Served (State Warrant)

Moore, Shelley – W/F – 27 YOA – 1411 S Cheney Dr. Vidalia, Ga. / Possession of Marijuana

Forrest, Patrick- B/M- 39 YOA / 408 Dickerson Dr. Vidalia, GA- Expired Tag, No Driver’s License (Bench Warrant)

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Stacy Tobler, Vidalia, fleeing to elude felony; possession of cocaine and marijuana with intent to distribute; trafficking in methamphetamine and cocaine; sale, manufacture and delivery of ecstasy; possession of drug related objects; controlled substance not in original container; open container; DUI, traffic violations

Barbara Coleman (Frost), Lyons, driving while license suspended/revoked

Amanda Foskey, Uvalda, warrant service

Tyler Bowen, Lyons, possession of marijuana, seatbelt

Michael Tyson, Lyons, battery, kidnapping

Krista Brown, Lyons, DUI, possession of marijuana and drug related objects, removing/affixing license plate to conceal identity of vehicle

Samantha Edwards, Vidalia, DUI, traffic violations

Joey Foskey, Lyons, warrant served

Matthew Arnold, Vidalia, possession of marijuana, hands free law

Hollis Bryant, Lyons, DUI, traffic violations

Antonio Aoneli, Lyons, sale, manufacture and distribution of cocaine

Gabriel Espinosa, Lyons, DUI, tail light

Sonia Harvey, Vidalia, criminal trespass, possession of controlled substance, controlled substance not in original container, crossing guard lines with prohibited items

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Stephanie Aruizu, Lyons, No insurance, no registration or license plate, traffic violations

Jessica Brown, Lyons, possession of drug related objects

Kobe Clark, Vidalia, probation viiolation

Darrell Collins, Jr., Lyons, deposit account fraud, bad checks

Tracy Foreman, Jr., Vidalia, trafficking illegal drugs; purchase, possession, manufacture, distribution and sale of controlled substance and marijuana; possession of firearm/knife during commission of certain crimes

Doyle Fuller, Lyons, probation violation

Angel Martinage, Hazlehurst, possession of drug related objects and controlled substance with intent to distribute with 1,000 feet of housing project

Jeremy Pittman, Vidalia, possession of firearms by felon/probationer, possession of drug related objects, obstruction

Quida Reynolds, Smyrna, failure to appear

Jeffery Scott, Vidalia, theft by taking; purchase, possession, manufacture, distribution and sale of controlled substance; possession of drug related objects


June 14--  Earlier this week, the House of Representatives began consideration of H.R. 2740, a Fiscal Year 2020 spending package for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Defense, State and Foreign Operations, and Energy and Water Development.

U.S. Congressman Rick W. Allen (R-GA-12) offered an amendment to H.R. 2740 to reduce State and Foreign Operations spending by one percent, which will be taken up for a vote next week.

We are nearly six months into the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, and here we are debating amendments to an almost $1 trillion minibus – $176 billion above current budget caps –  without even a glimpse of a Fiscal Year 2020 budget proposal from House Democrats.

You might ask; how did we get to this point? Well, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are operating on the premise that an increase in defense spending justifies increases in non-defense spending across the board.

Now and always, strengthening our defense should remain priority number one, but providing more than twice as much additional funding in Fiscal Year 2020 for non-defense programs as for defense programs is simply irresponsible.

Additionally, if Congress does not come to a budget cap agreement, these spending levels would lead to sequestration, which would be devastating to our military. Folks, as a former business owner and someone who has experience operating within a budget, I am appalled by the lack of fiscal responsibility being shown here today.

With an almost $22 trillion national debt, this minibus is a complete disservice to our country and our fellow Americans. If we wish to avoid passing an insurmountable debt along to future generations, we must act immediately to tighten the purse strings on Washington’s spending habits.

My amendment today is simple – it would reduce State and Foreign Operations spending by 1% for Fiscal Year 2020. Democrats increased this division by $2 billion, bringing foreign non-defense spending to a whopping $56 billion. If you do the math, my amendment would cut $560 million.

Even with my one percent cut – this division would STILL increase spending for Fiscal Year 20 compared to Fiscal Year 19.

So in my mind, my Democratic colleagues should support my amendment as they will still be spending a lot more of your hard earned money, just a bit less than they intended. It is not my intention to cut funding going towards our critical ally Israel. And while our diplomatic efforts abroad are necessary, it is equally as important that we take a hard look at the balance sheet and make appropriate cuts wherever possible.

Also – just to be clear, it was my goal to offer an amendment to reduce spending by 1% across all branches in this minibus spending package, with the exception of defense. However, House Democrats blocked this effort – continuing to promote out-of-control government spending and neglecting our national debt crisis, and only ruled this amendment in order.

Mr. Speaker, I am the proud grandfather of thirteen grandchildren and I believe it is my duty to do everything in my power to avoid placing a $22 trillion – and rising – burden on their backs. I urge my colleagues in this body to support my amendment today and take a small step towards bringing fiscal responsibility back to Washington. And with that, I reserve.

June 14--  A Toombs County jury deliberated for nearly two-and-a-half hours Thursday and ended a four-day trial with not guilty verdicts on eight counts of child related sexual molestation charges against 38-year Marc Bamberg of Vidalia.

bambergHe had been indicted for sex with a girl under age 16 and a boy under age ten and faced charges of aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, child molestation and enticing a child for indecent purposes. 

Bamberg's defense attorney, Mitch Shook of Vidalia, said, "The jury that was seated to try this case I believe was a jury that was able to put the emotion of just hearing the allegations behind them and objectively look at evidence and make a determination based on the evidence and what they heard in that courtroom and not on any preconceived notions they might have thought before they came in the courtroom.  The word verdict means speak the truth and I believe that's what happened here."

Shook also cautions, "The presumption of innocence is always there.  Unfortunately, when people hear these charges, they hear words like child molestation and the mere words themselves evoke people's emotions.  When people start thinking emotionally about the charges, it tends to cloud their judgement and ability to logically look at things and understand that the presumption of innocence is still there.  A lot of people who are charged with these type of offenses start behind the eight ball and that's not what the constitution says should happen."

June 14--  A Vidalia man was killed Wednesday night in a wreck in Montgomery County.

According to the Georgia State Patrol, 67-year-old Jim Beckham was killed instantly when his pickup truck collided head-on with a log truck on Highway 280 between Vidalia and Mount Vernon.

Georgia State Patrol Sergeant First Class Eric Wilkes says for some undetermined reason Beckham, who was traveling west, veered across the center line and collided with the oncoming truck heading east.

He said the driver of the log truck, Jerry Powell of Glenwood, was only slightly injured.

June 14-- Meadows Regional Medical Center has received the Mission: Lifeline® Silver Receiving Quality Achievement Award for implementing specific quality improvement measures outlined by the American Heart Association for the treatment of patients who suffer severe heart attacks.

      Every year, more than 250,000 people experience an ST elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), the deadliest type of heart attack, caused by a blockage of blood flow to the heart that requires timely treatment. To prevent death, it’s critical to restore blood flow as quickly as possible, either by mechanically opening the blocked vessel or by providing clot-busting medication.

      The American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline program’s goal is to reduce system barriers to prompt treatment for heart attacks, beginning with the 9-1-1 call, to EMS transport and continuing through hospital treatment and discharge. The initiative provides tools, training and other resources to support heart attack care following protocols from the most recent evidence-based treatment guidelines.

      Meadows Regional Medical Center earned the award by meeting specific criteria and standards of performance for quick and appropriate treatment through emergency procedures to re-establish blood flow to blocked arteries in heart attack patients coming into the hospital directly or by transfer from another facility.

      “Meadows Cardiovascular Team is dedicated to providing optimal care for heart attack patients,” said Travis Roose, Meadows Assistant Vice President of Cardiovascular Services. “We are pleased to be recognized for our dedication and achievements in cardiac care through Mission: Lifeline.”

      “We commend Meadows Regional Medical Center for this award in recognition for following evidence-based guidelines for timely heart attack treatment,” said Tim Henry, M.D., Chair of the Mission: Lifeline Acute Coronary Syndrome Subcommittee. “We applaud the significant institutional commitment to their critical role in the system of care for quickly and appropriately treating heart attack patients.”

June 12--  The City of Vidalia is trying to stop the wife of it's fired police chief from commenting on his separation.

City Attorney Justin Franklin sent a letter to former Chief Frank Waits' local attorney asking him to have Pam Waits remove her Facebook posts about city council members and City Manager Nick Overstreet and to refrain from making any further comments.

The letter to attorney Mitch Shook claims the chief's wife is considered the Chief's agent under provisions of his separation agreement which prohibits "the parties and their agents" from making any disparaging remarks regarding the other party or their agents.

In response, Pam Waits said, "I refuse to comply. I am a citizen, I pay my taxes, and I vote. With the perseverance of our news reporters, I think everyone knows by now that city officials have lied to their constituents trying to sully Chief Waits reputation and it backfired. But as long as they continue to assault my husband’s integrity after everything he’s done for them and this community 24/7/365, 14 years! They are the ones disparaging the city, they do not need my help."

The city paid Chief Waits a $90,623 settlement after it violated its own personnel policies regarding employee terminations.

The chief's latest performance reports by the city manager gave him high marks and his wife believes his firing had more to do with what he was costing the city in medical bills.  The city self-insures employees up to $40,000 a year and the chief's medical bills the last three years have cost the city $120,000 plus monthly premiums, according to information provided in response to a freedom of information request.

The city refused a request for correspondence from the city manager to the city attorney regarding Mrs. Waits, citing attorney-client privilege.

Meanwhile, Chief Waits has been honored by the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police with a Life Time Membership for his service to law enforcement.

Frank V. Rotondo is the Association's Executive Director, "In Frank Wait's case, he had 18 years as CEO with two different agencies (Vidalia and Kingsland) and basically made a difference in both of those agencies to the very positive sense and the board recognized that.  Regretfully, he's no longer the Chief of Vidalia, but he has a total commitment from the membership of being an outstanding police chief and an excellent board member."

June 13-- The Southeast Early College and Career Academy (SECCA) in Vidalia partnered with Southern Nuclear to host a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Camp for 20 area middle school and high school students.

Nora Swanson with Southern Nuclear says the camp may spark student's interest in a career in energy, "The great thing about teaching these skills is if they come to work for us, great, we know they have a really great foundation, but it's also about economic development.  They're going to be successful in their communities and if we build a skilled workforce, there's nothing that can stop us."

We asked the students for their thoughts on the camp.

Logan Williams starts the ninth grade this year at Toombs County High School, "It was a fun activity to do and they teach you a lot of skills here.  I liked the teachers and how helped us to build stuff."

Anovia Vann attended the camp last year and is back again. Even though she plans to be a nurse, the incoming freshman at Vidalia High School says the camp is valuable, "It helped me with other people and teamwork and how to use my mind for critical thinking."

A soon-to-be eighth grader at J.R. Trippe Middle School in Vidalia, Landry Wheeler, says "I'm learning about many different machines and technical things and I'm also making a lot of friends," and regarding the camp visit to Plant Hatch, "It was a really unique experience.  I really loved seeing how all that stuff works," he said.

Southern Nuclear is starting a class at SECCA in the coming year to attract young people to careers in energy.


The campers visited Plant Hatch where they were greeted by the Hatch Nuclear Professionals Panel in the center of the photo (L-R) Larry Allen, Joel Rodriguez, Trahmillia Clark, Savannah Thompson, Lester Sanchez and Josh Brown.

Campers from J.R. Trippe Middle School are Landry Wheeler, Alan Johnson, Hunter Loosbery, Blake Jones, Justice Cook,Sopie Cabe, Meghan Orate-Leon, Jada Clements and Anova Vann; from Toombs County Middle School Logan Williams, Adam (A.J.) Boyd, Latavia Cook, Renasha Cook, Daniel Horne and Trenton Corbitt; from Montgomery County Middle School Aidan and Declan Harbuck, Damon Jones and Landon Palmer and from Treutlen Middle School Daryl (D.J.) Smith.

June 11--  A Cedar Crossing man has entered a guilty plea in connection with a murder which occurred on Halloween, 2015.

STEVENPITTMANSteven Cody Pittman was 24 years old when he shot and killed 55-year-old George Nash, Jr. in the man's yard near Uvalda.  At the time of the crime, Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reported Pittman was out on pass from a drug rehab center in Dodge County.

He had been indicted by a Montgomery County grand jury for murder and armed robbery, but May 31, three years and seven months after the crime, he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter. 

Judge Howard Kaufold sentenced Pittman to five years in jail followed by 15 years probation and a $5,000 fine.

June 11--  The City of Vidalia fired its police chief in the aftermath of a murder at a Vidalia men's store.  The termination came after three members of the city council conferred with the District Attorney and made a supposition that the crime might not have occurred had authorities checked the background of the alleged killer when they had him in custody and two other instances when he was the subject of Vidalia Police Department investigations.

This week Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight issued a news release revealing his department had checked the background of Tyrone Burns, Jr. when he was booked into the Toombs County Detention Center when he was arrested on a misdemeanor criminal trespass charge.  The background check revealed no outstanding warrants against Burns in Florida where he had violated a court order to live with his father while undergoing mental health and substance abuse treatment.  With no grounds to hold Burns for authorities in Florida, he was released on bond.

News Release From Sheriff Junior Kight

"On June 10, 2019, Sheriff Alvie Kight issued a press release due to recent inquires concerning the release of Tyrone Burns from the Toombs County Detention Center on September 30, 2018. The inquiry that Sheriff Kight is addressing is whether Burns had outstanding warrants or holds that would have required the Toombs County Detention Center to maintain custody of Burns.

"Toombs County Detention Center’s standard operating procedure is to conduct a background check of an inmate through NCIC and GCIC when an inmate is arrested and brought into the detention center. On September 28, 2018, at approximately 11:30 A.M., Tyrone Burns was brought into the detention center after being arrested by the Vidalia Police Department for Criminal Trespass (Misdemeanor). On September 28, 2018, at approximately 3:11 P.M., detention center staff conducted a background check on Burns. At that time, the information that came back from the background was that Burns had a Protection Order issued in the state of Florida. This Protection Order was put in to effect by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office in Florida. The Protection Order states only that Burns is not to have any form of contact with a female whose identity cannot be released. It is presumed that this female resides in Manatee County, Florida due to the Protection Order being issued in that county. Additionally, the background check produced a warning identifying Burns as a violent offender and/or a serious threat to law enforcement officers. The warning also advised to use extreme caution when approaching Burns.

"A warrant for Burns for Criminal Trespass was received from the Vidalia Police Department. Burns had a first appearance hearing with Toombs County Magistrate Judge Debra Sanders and received a $2500 property bond. On this same date Burns bond was fulfilled by “All Out Bail Bonds”. Based upon the information provided in the background check, the Toombs County Detention Center had no legal standing or reason not to release Burns from custody of the detention center. This information concerning Burns was verified after receiving verification from an audit request through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC).

"On November 17, 2018, Burns was arrested for Murder by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations and transported to the Toombs County Detention Center. A second background check through NCIC and GCIC provided the same information as the background check conducted on September 28, 2018."

June 11--  A Lyons man has been convicted for sex crimes with a 14-year-old girl.

rodneyleelaneChief Assistant District Attorney Tripp Fitzner says 39-year-old Rodney Lee Lane of 115 West Grady Avenue in Lyons was convicted Tuesday in a bench trial before Judge Kathy Palmer in Toombs County Superior Court. 

He was found guilty of aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, sexual battery and child molestation.

The prosecutor said Lane victimized the girl who was the daughter of his girlfriend who lived in the same house with him and his wife.

Judge Palmer sentenced Lane to life in prison with 25 years to serve before he eligible for parole.

bambergAnother sex crime case is also underway this week in Toombs County Superior Court. 

A 38-year-old truck driver from Vidalia, Marc Bamberg, was indicted for sex with a girl under age 16 and a boy under age ten and is facing charges of aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, child molestation and enticing a child for indecent purposes. 

Judge Robert Reeves is presiding over the jury trial. 

June 11--  Beginning Fall semester, James Earl Yearty will lead Southeastern Technical College’s (STC) new Computer Numeric Control (CNC) program.

stcyearty1With more than 30 years in the industry, Yearty comes to STC from Husqvarna. “After this long in the industry, I felt ready to help new incoming CNC machinist into the trade,” said Yearty.

STC President Larry Calhoun, said “We are seeing a significant increase in the need for employees with advanced manufacturing skills in our area, as well as state and nationwide. Due primarily to the retirement of ‘baby boomers’, the return of manufacturing operations to the U.S., and the increased complexity and computerization of equipment, current and future prospects for well-paying careers in these occupations are bright. STC’s new Computer Numeric Control program is specifically designed to prepare individuals for careers in high-tech manufacturing. We are especially grateful to our area industry partners for their ongoing support of STC as we work together to bring this program to its full potential.”

Yearty has already been meeting with industries in our communities.

“As industry has changed in the last 20 plus years, there has also been a giant leap in technology and how products are produced globally, and with manufacturing being brought back into the United States at a high rate, there is a need to train a new workforce in the CNC industry to keep up with the growing demand of workers needed to fill open positions,” said Yearty. “With over 20+ local openings for CNC operators in our service area, Southeastern Tech plans to fulfill the need of a skilled and trained workforce to help with the growing need of job openings.”

A technical certificate of credit (TCC) in Basic CNC Technician allows graduates the ability to gain employment as entry level CNC Machine Tool Technicians. Machinists set up and operate a variety of computer-controlled and mechanically controlled machine tools to produce precision metal parts, instruments, and tools. This TCC also provides hands on training for similar occupations in this field.
Applicants to the CNC program must be at least 16 years of age and earn a minimum of 24 credit hours in the program. Dual Enrollment high school students who meet the age requirement are eligible for this program of study. The curriculum outline is six classes, made up of: Blueprint for Machine Tool, MachineTool Math, CNC Fundamentals, CNC Mill Manual Programming, CNC Lathe Manual Programming, and CNC Practical Applications.

Students will train on HAAS vertical machinery and a CNC lathe. STC has plans of adding additional state-of-the-art equipment in the near future.
When Yearty originally enrolled in college, electronics was his plan, but those classes were full. The dean proposed that he take a class in the machine shop, something he knew nothing about, until a seat became available in electronics. A few weeks passed and Yearty never looked back. By that time, he had become interested in machining and continued on to complete the program.

Upon graduation, Yearty went to work for Wade & Son’s Machinists & Welders in Macon, Ga, then into tool & die with Lithonia Lighting as a machinist and toolmaker, and later into a CNC machinist. After 27 years, Yearty employed with Husqvarna until that plant closed. He and his wife Sherry have three children and two grandchildren.

Anyone interested in the CNC program is welcome to visit one of our career counselors or call 478-289-2200 or 912-538-3100 for more information to get started on a new career in CNC today!

June 11--  According to the Daily Report at LAW.COM, Rick Thompson of Toombs County, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia from 2001 to 2004, has surrendered his law license. 

He's currently serving a three-year prison sentence after being convicted of two felony counts of aggravated stalking of a former girlfriend at St. Simons.  He was given two consecutive ten-year sentences with 17 years on probation.

June 10--  Friday is the deadline for applicants to apply to be the new police chief in Vidalia.

At its June meeting Monday night, City Council member Kaily Dees thanked members of the department for their service to the city and read a statement on behalf of the council regarding the council's vision and expectations from the person who is hired to succeed Chief Frank Waits.

"The City of Vidalia has a strong history of having visionary leaders.  The expectation of this governing body in search of our next police chief is no different.  Our ideal candidate not only represents a vision for the department, but also embodies professionalism, leadership, trust and integrity, both in and out of uniform.  The new chief's vision and passion for the department and the community are critical due to constantly evolving criminal activity.  Our citizens and the men and women in uniform deserve a chief who is proactive with our community's safety as their top priority.  The relationships that our new chief will form with neighboring law enforcement agencies will prove vital to our area's ability to combat crime and be on the cutting edge of crime prevention.  As the city of Vidalia evolves, so does its citizen's needs.  We expect the best for our citizens and that is exactly what our citizens will receive," Dees' statement said.

In actions at the meeting:

*  The council okayed $7,860 to Georgia State Sidewalks to do repairs to the sidewalk on the east side of Jackson Street from the intersection of Southeast Main Street to the end of the sidewalk on Center Drive.  It also agreed to prioritize and repair sidewalks in other parts of the city in next year's budget.

* Approved $6,000 to pay for the city's share of the Toombs County Comprehensive Plan.

* Gave property owner Richard Ward two weeks to take care of an abandoned pool on Laurel Drive or face it being filled in by a city contractor for $1,200.

* The county heard a report that local sales tax collections are all experiencing upward trends.

* City manager Nick Overstreet reports a Town Hall meeting will be held August 29 at the St. Paul A.M.E. Church.

By State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville.


Whether the issue is environmental regulations legislation, hunting and fishing seasons and bagging limits or issues involving water, land use and the coast, legislation in this arena always draws a lot of attention and many times conflicting views. The Department of Natural Resources is in charge of all of these areas including the management and operation of state parks and historic sites as well as hunting and fishing lands and wildlife areas.


--SB 72-This bill updated the hunting and fishing State Code. It removes the requirement for a hunting license for those hunting in wildlife management areas. Also allows the use of air guns and air bows in hunting big game in some instances. Alters the shotgun magazine and chamber limit in hunting deer and bear and removes the prohibition from baiting feral hogs. Removes the different northern and southern deer hunting zones and make the state mirror the southern zone.  

Gives DNR the ability to extend the archery deer season till Jan. 31 and increases the deer bag limit to 12 without regard to sex. Raccoon and opossum seasons are now statewide and DNR has the authority to remove the bear bag limit on state managed lands.

--SB 99-Hunters and fishermen can donate their organs after death by signing up when they purchase their hunting or fishing license similarly to the way citizens can sign up when getting their drivers license.   

--HB 201-Authorizes DNR to regulate anchorage areas and sewage discharge of live-aboard vessels in state waters. Authorizes a permit and allows the department to designate anchorage areas. Prohibits overnight stays on vessels without a permit. Live-onboard vessels must have a pump-out facility and marine toilet.  DNR Board has already published regulations.

--HB 223-Clarifies that application of pesticides when conducted according to labeling does not require notification of EPD. Also clarifies that EPD does not have to be notified of air emissions from decomposing animal waste deposited on farm grounds.

--HB 382-Amends the Outdoor Stewardship Act to allow for a 5% administrative fee to be paid to DNR out of the proceeds of the fund. Local governments applying for grants must be "Qualified Local Governments" as determined by DCA.

--HB 445-The "Shore Protection Act" changes the definition of dynamic dune field to conform with DNR's established definition. That boundary is to be 25 feet inland of certain markers on private property and 100 feet inland for public property. Gives DNR and Commissioner more waiver authority.

--HB 501-For a state not presently harvesting oysters, this bill was certainly controversial. Establishes the regulation and development of the commercial shellfish industry and give DNR regulatory authority for permitting and seasonal decisions.


--$55,000 For grants to Resource Conservation and Development Districts (RC&D)

--$300,000 for a regional nature educational facility at Chattahoochee Nature Center

--$100,000 for construction and trail build-out in Heard County trail

--$25,000 to DNR for raising sunken vessels causing navigational hazards in Lake Lanier

--$215,000 to EPD for agricultural water metering per SB 451 (2018)

--$134,000 to EPD for two environmental compliance specialist positions

--$109,000 to EPD for statewide water planning

--$9.5 million in bonds to The Environmental Finance Authority for the Federal State Revolving Fund Match, Clean Water and Drinking Water Loan Programs

--$2.5 million to EPD for Drinking Water Lab in Norcross

--$13.55 million in bonds to DNR for facility major improvements and renovations

--$4.0 million in bonds to DNR and the North Georgia Mountains Authority for major improvements s and renovations

--$500,000 in bonds to DNR for Americans with Disabilities (ADA) related improvements statewide

--$6.3 million in bonds to Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority for major repairs and renovations

--$1.0 million in bonds to The Soil and Water Conservation Commission for rehabilitation and maintenance of flood control structures statewide

--$5.0 million in bonds to Stone Mountain Memorial Association for renovation of roadways, storm water culverts and campground site pad at Stone Mountain Park  

June 7--  The mother of a Vidalia men's store manager killed during a robbery last November has filed a wrongful death complaint against the City of Vidalia and three other defendants named in the complaint.

Cathy Brandenburg is the mother of murder victim Brooke Joiner and the guardian of the dead woman's eight-year-old son.

The complaint claims the Vidalia Police Department twice had contact with the man accused in the killing, Tyrone Burns, Jr, and failed to investigate his status as a violent probationer from Florida.  It alleges an investigation would have required his immediate incarceration and that failure to do so led directly to the shooting of Brooke Joiner at R.J. Pope's Menswear.

In April, 2018, Burns was found mentally incompetent to stand trial by a Florida judge and was remanded to his father in Lakeland for supervision and to an outpatient mental health company, Centerstone of Florida, Inc. for mental health treatment and to another agency for substance abuse treatment. 

The complaint also names Burns, his father and Centerstone as defendants.  It claims Tyrone Burns, Sr. and Centerstone violated the Florida court order by failing to report Burns left Florida and their failure allowed him to roam the streets of Vidalia for months prior to the killing of Brooke Joiner.  

Cathy Brandenburg is seeking damages to compensate her grandson for his mother's death, to help raise him and for pain and suffering.  She is asking for a jury trial and that the defendants pay for attorney's fees and litigation expenses.

A Savannah law firm filed the complaint in Toombs County Superior Court Monday, June 3.  City Manager Nick Overstreet reported the filing on Friday, June 7 and said the city can't comment on pending litigation.

The case has already cost the City of Vidalia more than $94,000 when it violated its own personnel policies in an initial attempt to fire its police chief.

Chief Frank Waits' termination ultimatum came after members of the Vidalia City Council conferred with Middle Judicial Circuit District Attorney Hayward Altman concerning the police department's handling of the suspect in the R.J. Pope Men's Wear murder case last November. 

Suspect Tyrone Burns had been questioned by Vidalia Police about two weeks prior to the murder of store manager Brooke Joiner during an armed robbery.  He was questioned about a domestic violence altercation with his girlfriend and released when she was deemed  "an uncooperative witness" by police.

The domestic dispute was not the only contact Vidalia police had with Burns. On September 28, he was charged with a misdemeanor count of criminal trespass and booked into the Toombs County jail.  He was released on a $2,500 bond two days later.

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight says his office ran a check on Burns when he was booked into the jail and the national tracking system revealed no outstanding warrants on Burns in Florida nor anywhere else.

The complaint also reports Burns allegedly threatened to kill his ex-girlfriend and her kids at her home on Peacock Street in Vidalia on November 13, 2018, three days before he allegedly murdered Brooke Joiner.  The police report on the incident said he had left the house by the time police arrived to investigate the threat.

June 7-- Here are some of the front page stories from area weekly newspapers this week.

* A fire destroyed the home of Caritia and Nikki Birkheimer in the Wildwood Mobile Home Park in Higgston.  The fire killed the family dog and destroyed everything the mother and daughter owned.  Donations to help may be made to Caritia Birkheimer on Facebook, according to The Montgomery Monitor.

* The Treutlen County Sheriff's Office seized more than $4,000 and a handgun plus a pound of marijuana after a traffic stop on I-16.  The driver from Alabama and passenger from Savannah were arrested, according to The Soperton News.

*The City of Metter is considering options of how to make up a $460,000 shortfall in the city's fiscal year 2020 budget.  A decision has already been made to raise residential water rates by $8 and commercial rates by $19 starting in August, according to The Metter Advertiser.

* This weekend's expected rainfall is too late for the corn crop in Tattnall County.  Farmers says corn fields not under water pivots have been devastated by the May drought, according to The Tattnall Journal. 

* A Swainsboro woman identified as 28-year-old Jessica Reynolds is charged with two counts of cruelty to children after leaving her two young kids locked in a car at a residence in Richmond County.  Outside temperatures were above 100 degrees and one of the children was unconscious and covered with feces.  Both were taken by EMS to University Hospital in Augusta where they were treated and released, according to The Forest-Blade.

* The scheduled completion of the $1.7 million rehab of the dam on Appling County's Tara Lake, which was scheduled for completion in May, is delayed.  County officials say the wet Winter and the unseasonably hot Spring has delayed the project.  Meanwhile, the 50-acre lake remains dry, according to The Baxley News-Banner.

June 7-- On Tuesday, June 4, 2019, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Region Four Office was requested by the Lakeland Police Department to investigate an officer involved use of force incident.

Preliminary information from law enforcement agencies indicated that on June 4, 2019, at approximately 10:44 p.m., the Tri-County 911 center received a 911 call. The call was received from a Lakeland Police Officer reporting shots fired on Hwy. 221 S. in Atkinson County. 

Officers with the Pearson Police Department and Atkinson County Sheriff’s Office arrived on scene to find Roy Kyle Mathis, 48, suffering from gunshot wounds. Mathis was being transported from Lakeland, GA to the Coffee County Jail. As the transport vehicle entered Atkinson County, Mathis attempted to escape from the vehicle and an altercation between Mathis and the transport officer occurred resulting in the officer firing his weapon. Mathis was transported to Coffee Regional Medical Center where he was treated and later moved to Savannah Memorial for treatment.

No officers were injured in this incident.

Anyone with information or video of the incident is asked to contact the GBI Douglas Office at 912-389-4103.

The GBI will continue its independent investigation to determine what occurred during the incident.  When the investigation is complete, it will be turned over to the Atkinson County District Attorney's Office for review.

June 6--  U.S. Congressman Rick W. Allen (R-GA-12) issued the following statement today after President Trump signed H.R. 2157, the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act, into law – providing critical funding for farmers and ranchers who suffered devastating losses due to natural disasters, including Hurricane Michael and the 2017 late season freeze to blueberry and peach crops in rural Georgia. 

The bill included $3 billion for agricultural losses, including Hurricane Michael. 

“I applaud President Trump for reaffirming his commitment to rural America today by signing this long overdue disaster relief package into law,” said Congressman Allen. “I have been working tirelessly since the 2017 freeze and Hurricane Michael to support Georgia farmers and their critical operations.

The political stalemate led by Senate Democrats went on for far too long – and throughout this process, I repeatedly stressed the urgency of getting this disaster package signed into law.

With President Trump’s signature today, farmers and ranchers throughout rural Georgia can now focus their efforts on this crop year with the certainty of disaster relief on the way."

mollyJune 6--  Molly is a beautiful girl at the Vidalia Animal Shelter looking for a "Forever Home."

To learn about adopting Molly or other pets at the shelter, contact April Braddy, 537-8866.

(Courtesy Altamaha Animal Clinic)

June 6-- In the aftermath of an animal cruelty case in Higgston which drew national attention, area law enforcement and animal control officers got some expert training on the enforcement of animal cruelty laws in Georgia.

The seminar Thursday at Brewton-Parker College was hosted by the sheriffs in Montgomery and Candler Counties and the City of Metter Animal Control Office.

wilkinsAttorney Claudine Wilkins, founder of Animal Law Source, conducted the training, "I think knowledge is the key to everything.  If we educate local law enforcement on what they can and can't do in various animal cruelty cases, they're going to do it.  This is about lack of knowledge."

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin agrees, "It's good training and it's training some of these officers have never seen before," and he hopes the training will help in the prosecution of future animal cruelty cases, "For these animals in the county that have been neglected, these officers have got some training and they may be able to spot it now where before they weren't, it's definitely an asset."

According to Wilkins, there are laws on the books in Georgia that officers need to enforce regarding animal cruelty charges,"Local sheriffs, police officers and animal control officers have the state law behind them to charge a defendant with animal cruelty right now.  Our law was amended in 2014 and it's one of the better laws in the United States."

She also has advice for citizens who observe animal cruelty, "If it's a circumstance where an animal is about to die, you call 911 just like you would if you saw a child in front of you suffering.  You sometimes see neglect occurring over a period of time and if you have local animal control, you should call them, but when you see animal cruelty, 911 is the number one thing to do."

"The sheriffs or police certainly have to be involved and the biggest confusion I see is that they often think the Department of Agriculture involves themselves in animal cases.  They do but they only involve themselves in licensed facilities or pet dealers.  The truth of the matter is they're not a criminal arm of our law, it's the local jurisdictions which have to initiate the animal cruelty charges," Wilkins points out.

June 5-- Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner Mike Dover is proud to announce that Robert T. McCall, Jr. is now DOT’s District Engineer for the Southeast Georgia District.

dotengineer“Mr. McCall brings extensive knowledge of the Department’s programs and goals. His diverse background and talents, along with his training and education, will help him to successfully lead the Jesup District Office in meeting the needs of the citizens, businesses and visitors in this important economic development region of Georgia,” stated Mike Dover, Deputy Commissioner.

McCall was promoted to District Engineer effective June 1, taking over leadership of Georgia DOT operations in the 26 counties that comprise DOT’s District Five in Southeast Georgia. He succeeds Bradford Saxon, who was recently promoted to Director of Field Districts. 

McCall began his career with the Department of Transportation in 1992. His broad experience includes District State Aid Coordinator, District Traffic Engineer, and District Construction Engineer. Most recently, McCall served as District Maintenance Engineer and Assistant District Engineer in the Jesup office.  

“I am grateful and humbled to have been given this opportunity.  I look forward to continued work with the counties and municipalities in our district.  I hope that Georgia’s citizens find that our office provides a safe, efficient, and well-maintained infrastructure,” said McCall. 

As District Engineer, McCall is responsible for more than 400 employees and provides executive oversight for the ongoing programmatic operations and district activities on interstates and state routes in District Five.
McCall graduated from Georgia Southern University in June of 1992 with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering Technology. He is a native of Wayne County and lives in the City of Odum with his wife, Beth, and their children: 24-year-old Gabe; 21-year-old Carson; and 15-year-old Bo.

June 4-- More women will have access to breast cancer screenings in the Vidalia area due to a grant made to Meadows Health.

Ursula Spence with Community Health Works presented a $10,000 check Tuesday, "At the Central Georgia Cancer Coalition we have several initiatives in the community.  One is to provide funding to hospitals in our area to provide breast cancer mammogram screenings and diagnostic breast cancer screenings for patients in our community who need it.  We're trying to bridge the gap and catch early signs of breast cancer rather than progressive signs," she said.

mrmccancergrant(L-R) Meadows Community Health Director Susan McLendon, Meadows VP for Medical Affairs Dr. Karen McColl, Meadows CEO Alan Kent and Ursula Spence, Community Health Works Director of Programs for Rural Health Works.

Funding of the cancer screenings for indigent patients is made possible by an increase in state funding to Community Health Works, "The funding comes from the master tobacco settlement through the Georgia Genera Assembly.  They increased our budget by 50% and with that we are able to bring these programs and funds to southeast and coastal Georgia where we haven't been in the past.  We're excited to bring this to the Vidalia area," Spence said.

The Chief Executive Officer at Meadows, Alan Kent, reports the funds will help the hospital improve health in the community, "This becomes an opportunity to push better healthcare out to our community by doing early cancer screening and prevention.  Partnering with Community Health Works and the Central Georgia Cancer Coalition helps us to put boots on the ground to make sure these services are available to people in our community.  We see this as part of the bigger picture of improving our community's health, not just providing health care."

June 4-- Georgia Right to Life (GRTL) today added its support to a nationwide campaign demanding that Netflix keep its pro-abortion Hollywood politics out of Georgia.

"These elites are hoping we'll value bucks more than babies," charged GRTL Executive Director Zemmie Fleck."They couldn't be more wrong. Georgia is solidly pro-life and we won't be bullied."

The movement was sparked by an announcement that the film entertainment giant will consider its "entire investment" in Georgia if the heartbeat bill goes into effect as scheduled on January 1, 2020.

"We hope this campaign will send the same message to other film industry companies that have made similar threats," Fleck added.

Ted Sarandos, Netflix's chief content officer, also said the company would work with the ACLU and others who have vowed to fight the law in court.

Robert Iger, CEO of Disney- one of the largest producers of children's entertainment-joined Netflix by threatening to leave Georgia as well.

"How utterly absurd. Mr. Iger apparently is not concerned about wiping out future children upon whom his business relies," Fleck added.

GRTL, an affiliate of Personhood Alliance, has joined in the campaign that encourages people to sign a petition opposing the move and asking signees to cancel their Netflix subscriptions. They also encourage recipients to ask their family and friends to do the same.

You can join the petition at

Currently, Georgia offers the entire film industry a 30% tax rebate, as well as a favorable business climate.

"We understand that Georgia reaps jobs and income from this relationship," Fleck said. "But shame on anyone who would trade a single innocent child's life for all the money in the world."

Each signature sends an email directly to Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix. To date, he has received more than 19,000 petitions.

June 4--  Registered Nurse Alicia Baker-Waring at Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia received the May DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses on Tuesday, May 28.

daisymay2019 jpg(L-R)  President & CEO Alan Kent; Assistant Vice President of Quality and Process Improvement Robert Lummus; Inpatient Director Blake Kirby; PCU RN Alicia Baker-Waring; Chief Nursing Officer Jeffrey Harden; Chief Operating Officer James Nixon; CMO/Vice President of Medical Affairs Dr. Karen McColl; Vice President of Physician Enterprise Mid McCain.

The Daisy Award was established in memory of J. Patrick Barnes, who died at 33 of complications of Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP), a little known but not uncommon auto-immune disease. The family noticed that during the course of Patrick’s illness the extraordinary care he received from nurses made a difference not only in his health but his personal well-being. The family wanted to recognize the extraordinary work nurses do daily while performing other duties involved in caring for their patients. The Daisy Award for Extraordinary Nurses is a nationally recognized award that is celebrated across the country. Recipients from Meadows become part of an elite group of professionals across the nation.

“Alicia is an extraordinary nurse,” said Jeffrey Harden, Meadows Chief Nursing Officer. “She is held in extremely high regard among her peers and the medical staff. I was honored to be able to recognize her with the National Daisy Award. She truly encompasses the daisy spirit and goes beyond the call of duty daily. Meadows is lucky to have nurses like Alicia on our team, serving our community.”

Nurse Baker-Waring has been employed with Meadows Regional Medical Center since 2017 and lives in Vidalia.

June 4--  There's little change in the Vidalia school system budget for fiscal year 2020 which starts July 1.

The budget of $36,859,907.10 is $213,072.07 more than the fiscal year 2019 budget.

Over half of the increase is due to pay raises including the state's decision to raise teacher pay $3,000 in the new fiscal year. 

Vidalia Finance Director Norma Croft says that will cost the local system $70,000 plus another $45,000 for a two percent pay raise for non-certified employees.  She also notes the hiring of a new assistant principal at Sally Meadows Elementary, a new history teacher at Vidalia High School and a behavioral specialist for the school system.

About half of the school budget is paid by state and federal sources.  Just over 20% of the budget is paid by local sources including property and sales taxes.

The budget includes a projection of nearly $6 million in reserve funds on June 30, 2020, the end of the fiscal year.  That's almost $1 million less than the amount at the end of this fiscal year.

No one attended Monday's public hearing on the budget.  Another will be held Tuesday, June 11th at four p.m. just before the school boards meets at five p.m. to consider final adoption of the budget.

June 4--  The Vidalia Police Department reports the following arrests.

Jones,Markell Anthony-28 YOA-1674 Mississippi Ave Soperton, Ga-Warrant Service

Corley,Derick Lewis-22 YOA -800 Sadie Galbreath Rd. Vidalia ,Ga.- Shoplifting

Dupree,Tavarius -18 YOA-Epstien Street, Vidalia, Ga.- Shoplifting

Bell,Russell-60 YOA-111 W Jenkins St Vidalia,Ga-Criminal Trespass

Rodriguez, Anthony Eugene- B/M-52 YOA-213 Peachtree Str.- Theft By Shoplifting, (State Warrant)

Stange, Nathaniel- W/M- 20 YOA- 120 Matts Way Douglas, GA- Theft by Shoplifting (Bench Warrant)

Edenfield, John- W/M- 20 YOA- 223 CV Mosley Blvd. Lyons, GA- Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (First)/Operate Motor Vehicle with No Tags/No Insurance 1st

Rigdill, Benjamin Gaynor-44-YOA W/M-430 Pendleton Springs Rd Lyons,Ga-No Proof Of Ins

Middleton, Shekinah – 23 YOA B/F – 809 E. Fourth Street Vidalia, Ga.- Theft By Taking

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Michael Gilman, Lyons, theft by taking

Ieshia Guyton, Statesboro, warrant served

Edwin Telesforo-Perez, Lyons, public drunkeness

Terry Blount, Vidalia, DUI, possession of drug related objects, windshield violation

Jim Lopez, Lyons, DUI, possession of a controlled substance, open container, traffic violations, willful obstruction of police officer

Carlos Berrum, Lyons, DUI, expired tag

John Taylor, Cobbtown, DUI, possession of marijuana, traffic violations

Michael Tyson, Lyons, battery, kidnapping

Francis Griffin, Lyons, warrant served

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Brittany Coleman, Vidalia, hold for Glynn Co Sheriff's Office

Dustin Corley, Uvalda, DUI

Timothy Durling, Lyons, probation violation

Tamiko Fragher, Sandersville, probation violation

Norris Kennedy, Santa Claus, no insurance

Brande Lewis, Lyons, battery - family violence

George Lewis, Lyons, battery - family violence

Hailey McCant, Vidalia, probation viiolation

Roosevelt McRae, Reidsville, probation violation

Johnny Mosley, Vidalia, DUI, open container, traffic violations

Joshua Raper, Uvalda, possession of marijuana; purchase, possession, manufacture, distribution and sale of controlled substance, driving while license suspended/revoked, traffic violations

Ryan Shaw, Vidalia, criminal trespass

Trenton Stephens, Lyons, probation violation

Chandler Stewart, Lyons, possession of marijuana; purchase, possession, manufacture, distribution and sale of controlled substance, reckless conduct, possession of firearm/knife during commission of a crime

Marcus Trull, Lyons, driving while license suspended/revoked

Cameron Williamson, Lyons, terroristic threats, intimidation acts

Robert Williamson, Uvalda, probation violation, terroristic threats, driving while license suspended/revoked

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

05/27-Christopher Gaines Spell, Uvalda, DUI

05/28-Analisha Morris, Soperton, Criminal Receipt of Good and Services Fraudulently Obtained

05/28-Kaitlyn Andrea Clark, Uvalda, Simple Battery (Family Violence)

05/29-Stephanie Roundtree, Lyons, Theft by Conversion

05/29-Justin Cowart, Uvalda, Possession of Drug Related Objects

05/29-Errol George Rickets, Ocklawaha, FL., Driving w/Suspended License

05/30-Bennie Gerord Wilson, Mt Vernon, Felony Probation Violation

05/31-Sharon Denise Pope, Lyons, Criminal Trespass

05/31-Valerie Parker, Augusta, Criminal Trespass

05/31-Cameron Demarcus Wooten, Glenwood, Warrant Served-Statesboro Police Department

June 3--  Five years ago this week, 49-year-old Chris Wiggins was shot and killed during an armed robbery at his convenience store in Santa Claus.

chriswigginsSince then the CrimeStoppers reward in the case has grown to $7,384 with another $2,000 pledged by a family member for information leading to an arrest.

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight hopes somebody will step up with what he calls the "missing pieces of the puzzle."

"You know money moves people a lot of the time.  When we started this case, we didn't have a lot to go on.  It was like putting a puzzle together with a lot of missing pieces.  We feel like there are some folks out there who have these pieces and we could put that puzzle together if they would just come forward.  This is a murder-robbery case and sometimes people are scared to speak out.  I hope that somebody's got it in their heart and that one of these days it will touch them and they'll come forward to give us the pieces we need to solve this case," Sheriff Kight said.

Chris' mother, Dale, keeps a jar on the counter in her store where customers still drop in change to help build the reward. 

"It's almost like everybody remembers when it happened. I've had I don't know how many people to ask me in the last few weeks, 'Have they heard anything, do I know anything?'  I say 'no,' but you know, we all know somebody out there knows who did it.  There were two people who went in the store that night and they've got friends and their friends have got friends, so there's no telling how many people know it.," she said.

No matter what, Mrs. Wiggins says she'll never give up, "Somebody's going to have to come forward.  It might be ten years from now, but I hope not. They might be scared to come forward, but I believe eventually somebody will."

Chris Wiggins would have celebrated his 55th birthday next week.

Anyone with information in this case is asked to call CrimeStoppers at 912-386-4480 or the Toombs County Sheriff's Office at 526-6778.  You do not have to give your name. 

June 3-- Senior adults from Toombs and surrounding counties gathered at the Toombs County Senior Center for the Second  Annual Golden Stars Senior Pageant. Two person teams from the Appling, Bulloch, Candler, Jeff Davis, Long, Pierce, Toombs and Wayne County Senior Centers participated in the pageant.


Each team took a turn on the stage dressed in their best as they were introduced by Action Pact's Deputy Director, Dr. Shelli Tyre, who acted as emcee. Dr. Tyre also shared information that the contestants had given prior to the pageant to let the judges learn a little about them. Some of the topics included their favorite Senior Center activities, if they had a childhood nickname, what they thought their best feature was, if they had a celebrity crush and what they would like to be remembered for. In addition, each couple was asked a different surprise question while onstage. Surprise questions included topics such as favorite food, favorite song, where would they like to travel and what is the best thing about growing older. All of the answers given carried themes of contentment, spirituality and wonderful senses of humor. It was a pleasure for the audience to glimpse each of the contestant’s personalities.

After all of the teams were introduced, they and the audience were entertained with a few classic songs led by the Action Pact performers. During this time the judges, who included Sandra Dowd – CASA, Jason Hall - Lyons City Manager and Kailey Dees – Vidalia City Councilwoman, took on the difficult task of selecting winners.

After much deliberation, awards were presented. First place was awarded to Ms. Valerie Slocum and Mr. Abe Leon Futch of Long County. Second place was awarded to Ms. Louistine Campbell and Mr. George Brumfield of Toombs County. Third place was awarded to Ms. Della Wilkerson and Mr. Willie Frank Thomas of Wayne County. An award was also given for Prettiest Dress to Ms. Valerie Slocum of Long County and Best Attire to Mr. George Brumfield of Toombs County.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming involved in Senior Center activities, please contact the Toombs Center at 912-537-0453.

June 3--  A rising eighth-grader at Robert Toombs Christian Academy in Lyons is one of 562 students from around the country who made it to the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee last week in Maryland.

colemastermansmithCole Masterman-Smith was a guest on Monday's Southeast Georgia Today morning show with Chester Proctor (left) and Jeff Raiford and explained the process , "They gave you sample tests of the Round One to practice on so you get the hang of it.  Of course, the words on the sample test were not on the actual test.  For Round Two, they gave you a study list and for Round Two the word you got that round was going to be on that list, no matter what."

"For Round Three and the finals, it was any word from the dictionary.  The way you study for that is you learn root words, prefixes and suffixes, anything like from Latin or Greek.  It mostly comes from that so you learn what they mean and definitions and you can ask if this root is in the word and if it means this," he said.

Even though Cole didn't make it to the final 50 spellers and the televised round this year, he's planning to try again next year, "I'm looking forward to trying again and I will definitely try harder this time and study more and know what to study.  This was just a great experience for me to learn how it works and I just want to try and get to the finals."

The Southeast Georgia Today Morning show is heard weekdays from 7:45 till 9 a.m. on NewsTalk WVOP, AM 970 and FM 105.3 FM and online at

Coming up Tuesday, the program explores the effects of marijuana.

Until babies started to be born without limbs, thalidomide was considered safe enough to be prescribed for morning sickness. Now, many dispensaries for medical marijuana are recommending cannabis for this purpose.

 After all, advocates for legalization have long claimed that “weed” is safer than tobacco or alcohol. The prospect of rich tax revenues—$1.3 billion in New York—is fueling the nationwide push to legalize recreational use.

 Join Chester Proctor and Jeff Raiford as they sit down with medical expert Jane Orient and discuss the adverse affects of marijuana at 8:05am, Tuesday, June 4th on WVOP 970 AM and 105.3FM