Category Archives: FRONT

EMA to residents: Prepare for more flooding

Officials tell residents to brace for impact as the Satilla overflows its banks once again later this week. (Click for latest chart)
Officials tell residents to brace for impact as the Satilla overflows its banks once again later this week. (Click for latest chart update)

The Brantley County Emergency Management Agency is cautioning the public to prepare for yet another Satilla River flood this week as waters cross flood stage on Tuesday and surpass several historical records.

According to National Weather Service predictions, the Satilla will jump from its current level of about 11.3 feet up to flood stage – 13 feet – between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning based on readings from the river bridge in Atkinson.

And the waters won’t stop there, officials said.  NWS reports predict the river will increase to 14.8 feet by the weekend – a nearly six foot increase in a week.

The near 15 foot waters are not as high as the flooding from last month, but will still be the thirty-third highest flood water recorded in the last century – though this is well below the 27 foot flood water record in 1929 and still labeled as minor flooding by NWS standards.

BCDA member in Atlanta as house burns

Firefighters converge on the residence of Linda Marion in downtown Nahunta today
Firefighters converge on the residence of Linda Marion in downtown Nahunta today

Firefighters were called to the residence of former Brantley County Board of Education and current Development Authority member Linda Marion today about 3 p.m. when her residence burst into flames.

Officials told the Brantley Enterprise that Marion is in Atlanta and no one was inside the house. Witnesses say the fire started on the front porch, then flames climbed to the ceiling and into the attic of the fat-lighter frame work of the residence, where it quickly spread to consume the entire house.

Neighbors said they rushed inside to search for Marion before the flames had spread, unaware that she was not home at the time of the fire and made it out as the smoke started to fill the inside.

Multiple departments responded to the fire and no injuries have been reported.

The blaze forced the closure of a portion of Hwy. 301 South starting at the Hwy. 82 intersection and extending south a quarter mile to make room for several emergency and utility vehicles that came in to try to stop the fire.

Witnesses and family friends confirmed that Marion had been notified of the blaze and said that she had lived in the home for upwards of 40 years.

More details will be posted when available.

Bacon defeats Brantley in Saturday scrimmage

DSC_0074Stopping power was on the Herons’ side Saturday, but speed was not when they took on the Bacon County Raiders in a pre-season scrimmage that led to a 39-28 Raider victory.
The Raiders were the first out the gate with a strong push that netted them two successive touchdowns early in the first quarter, but the Herons began to get their beaks wet later when James Morgan took the ball in to narrow the gap 13-7 before the buzzer following the extra point by Mikel Collins.
Bacon continued the push using speed to their advantage in the second quarter and breaking away once for another touchdown and expanding their lead to 19-7. While the Raiders held off scoring in the first half, the Herons were also successful holding down yardage on the handful of through-the-middle plays attempted by Bacon to limit scoring.
Brantley stormed out of the gates in the third quarter thanks to Aaron Cerda who made a touchdown run from downtown only 11 seconds into the half bringing the score to 19-14 Raiders but Bacon County wasn’t ready to give up just yet and did the same less than a minute later expanding their lead once again 26-14.
Bacon hit the ground running again in the fourth expanding the lead to 33-14 with 10:30 left in the game but a strong play by Tristan Yeomans a couple of minutes later was enough to net the Herons 21 points.
Just seconds shy of the two minute warning Bacon demonstrated their skills once again taking the ball into the end zone extending their score to 39 points but Brantley County’s Bryan Sloan answered the challenge immediately afterward taking the ball in for the final score of the game at 2:03.
The game ended with a 39-28 victory for the Bacon County Raiders as a team but also a victory for Brantley’s special teams with Brantley making all extra point attempts in the game – something Bacon rarely accomplished throughout the competition missing numerous attempts at the goal posts.
The Saturday game was a make-up for the scheduled Friday game which was post-poned due to inclement weather and flooding.

Power knocked out on Calvary Church Road

trash truck
A utility pole is pinched between the cab and rear portion of the trash truck (Photo by Chris Buchanan)

The Brantley Enterprise has learned that power was knocked out by a county garbage truck which struck a power pole along Calvary Church Road this morning. The accident also knocked out power along High Bluff Road, according to residents. According to reports the truck overturned and law-enforcement officers, fire and EMS responders at are the scene of the accident now. We’ll follow up with more details as they are available.

Waynesville residents call for traffic light

1 TrafficLight1Waynesville resident Jesse Mobley said that he had long believed there needed to be a red light at the intersection next to Waynesville Primary School but it wasn’t until the first week of school that the cause really took a front row in his priorities.

That’s because in addition to almost getting hit himself more than once while trying to drive across to drop off his child, he was unfortunate enough to watch helplessly from the nearby gas station this week as a fell parent’s pickup truck was nearly destroyed by a semi-truck and was knocked across four lanes of traffic he said.  The driver came out with relatively minor injuries as he understood it but Mobley said he knew that if something wasn’t done to remedy the cause, the next driver may not be so lucky.

Since then, Mobley has taken a bottom-up approach along with several members of the community to build support through social media for a traffic light at what many are calling one of the most perilous intersections in the county.

On Saturday, Mobley started a social media group detailing the cause.  With the help of several Waynesville residents that group has surpassed 2,000 following with numerous people commenting in agreement that something must be done.

“This is something that is really needed! Both my boys went to this school and I know personally how dangerous this intersection is,” Lajuan Stoddard said on Facebook to the Enterprise on Tuesday.

And many more have commented directly to Mobley’s page simply called Traffic Light for Waynesville Primary.

“I live off of Browntown Road and it’s hard for me to get out at times. So I’m all for a red light going up there,” group member Nikki O’Neal said.

And parents aren’t the only ones with concern.

“I am one of those bus drivers that have to cross right there with a loaded bus,” Jean Williams said. “This will help very much to get us across safely.”

The comments have continued to flow in since Saturday and as they do, Mobley’s plan is beginning to take shape.

For him and many that have joined in support, the first goal is community awareness, then comes some of the more official means of making the process grow.

Mobley told the Enterprise this week that he hopes to grow a strong community base for the project so when the time to sign petitions and other items comes up, he can rest assured that the community will take part.

“So far it’s been a pretty good turnout,” he said. We’re getting a ton of people and the activity has been amazing.”

From there, Mobley said he plans to take his actions forward to local county and state officials to see what else can be done.

Mobley said that he has already made an open records request to the Georgia Department of Transportation to get any traffic studies or statistics available for the stretch of road.

This isn’t the first attempt to get a light at the intersection with the county commission first attempting the move after successfully getting a light in Atkinson according to former county commission chair Ron Ham.

“We went down this road when I was Chairman. Went all the way to the Capital,” he said. “Mike Edgy and I met with the Department of Transportation Commissioner who reports directly for the Governor.”

Ham said that it was a major priority but the problem was that the commission could never get the necessary traffic counts to get the GDOT to agree to the item.

Mobley said he hopes starting with the community first may be enough to make it go through this go-around.

Despite many of the people involved being residents of Waynesville or surrounding communities, Mobley said that he doesn’t see the lack of a traffic light on the major area highway as merely a community problem.

Since the road is the main connector between several communities further west and Brunswick, the possibility of an accident is a concern for anyone that passes that way.

Despite a growing opinion in the area that a light is needed at the intersection, Mobley said that he didn’t expect a change overnight and that the right reports and paperwork would need to be filed before anything could happen.

“This is kind of a slow process; we can’t rush it,” he said. “We can’t have a mob mentality.”

In the meantime drivers on the road can help by remembering that cars planning to turn off of either Old Waynesville or Browntown roads should yield to traffic coming directly across in either direction.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/groups/wpstrafficlight/.

The group currently has a goal of 3,000 members by Friday.  But as the group has grown the goal has had to be revised several times.

Canine ‘Jerry Lee’ introduced to deputies

1 Canine1
Jerry Lee, left, spends some time getting to know his new partner in crime – fighting – Mark Gibson outside Brantley County Sheriff’s Office, Friday. While visiting Lee also showed off some of what he’s already learned before heading back for more training in Alabama. Lee will be the department’s first canine unit. (Photo by Chris Buchanan)

At 91 pounds, Jerry Lee will be the smallest officer in the history of the force when he joins the Brantley County Sheriff’s Office later this year.

But criminals on the lamb shouldn’t let his size fool them because he’s also the fastest on foot and good at sniffing out crime.

That’s because Jerry Lee is a 16 month old German Shepherd that the department hopes will play a major role in catching criminals in the county in the years to come in drug busts, tracking criminals and even apprehension.

“They call him a patrol dog, it kind of covers all the bases,” Sheriff Jack Whisenant said. “And in some cases where we have somebody that will run from us, the German Shepherd will be with his assigned handler on the job during the day and if somebody runs then he’ll be right there to track.”

Lee will tentatively take his position alongside his partner Deputy Mark Gibson in January according to Whisenant who brought him to Brantley for a brief visit from his extensive training in Alabama.

“[Gibson] has been with us in Brantley County for several years and  had been in law enforcement for a while,” Whisenant said. “He shows a love for the dog; a passion for the canine work and he’s in well-enough shape to keep up with the dog.”

Whisenant said that the young canine is already on his way with only a month of training under his belt.

According to a trainer from K9 Specialty Services of Alabama, Jerry Lee started out life as a family dog that was donated to the program but the young pup showed just what he was capable of already during the demonstration Friday where he was able to sniff out planted drugs and other items.  The soon-to-be officer also showed off some of his takedown skills on a deputy from a neighboring county – who was wearing a specialized padded sleeve at the time.

At nearly 100 pounds relatively early in life, Lee is already large for his breed and is expected to grow to 120 pounds as he gets older. The young canine already has a commanding presence and is more than large enough to take down a full grown perpetrator with Lee being 30 inches tall at the shoulder.

Whisenant said he hopes the dog’s size will be as much a deterrent to crime as the dog’s actual skills though those won’t be lacking either.

If a person decides to give chase, however, the introduction of Lee to the force will mean a more immediate canine response compared to waiting for neighboring counties’ canine units to respond.

“Response time is the biggest thing,” Whisenant said. “Ware C.I. [Correctional Institute] has always been real gracious about letting us use their dogs; they’ll come and help us with drugs or tracking either one, but the time it takes them to saddle up and get here from wherever they might be [can take] 30 minutes, 45 minutes an hour.”

Whisenant said that this works well if the department is able to set up a perimeter to keep the criminal in check, but with the landscape of Brantley County, keeping a strong guard line isn’t always possible.

“If we have a dog there within minutes, it lessens the chase,” he said.

That response time is also useful if an officer suspects drugs in a traffic stop since Lee’s nose can lead to probably cause for a search.  That could mean more drug arrests and the utilization of more traffic checkpoints in the future.

Lee will also be useful in-house for the Brantley County Jail, Whisenant said.

“[Lee] will be a big asset,” the sheriff said. “If we have a jail riot and we have to go in a pod with 20 inmates that are fighting, it will take one dog to put them all on the wall where it might take 10 guys to break up a fight.”

Whether it be in the woods, on the road or in the jail Lee’s ready to take a bite out of crime in Brantley.

But Whisenant cautions anyone being trailed by the young deputy not to fight back when he eventually does catch them. Because as a deputized canine, attacking Lee would not only be unwise, it would carry with it the penalty of attacking a law enforcement officer.

Despite having the ability to take on the criminal element in the county, Lee has been described as a very social dog and Whisenant said he hopes to have him coming to the schools and several other county events to meet the public once he takes office in January.

The sheriff’s office is also considering the inclusion of two bloodhounds in the canine unit that will help with tracking those who decide to run in the county but for now Lee is the only planned fully-fledged patrol dog on the force.

Slight millage rate reduction may be costly for BOE

A slight dip in the board of education millage this year may not save tax payers a huge amount of money for the coming year, but it will likely cost the school system about $90,000 officials told the Enterprise this week.

The board approved the millage at Monday’s regular meeting at 17.983 mills for maintenance and operation of the school system plus a .53 mill bond retirement for a grand total school board millage of 18.513.

But the operating millage actually dropped from 18 mills the previous year and that slight drop has been roughly estimated to cost the county nearly $100,000 in taxes for the coming year according to assistant superintedent Read Carter.

The move was a requirement, Carter said, who explained that the equation used to figure the school board’s maximum allowed millage dropped that amount slightly since last year.  Going any higher would require approval from the state legislature.

The decrease in funds represents a 1.07 percent net decrease in local tax money of about $60,226 plus a loss in equalization from the state. It also represents the first decrease in local tax dollars in the school board budget from one year to the next since 2010 when the local contribution dropped by $90,968.

Current school taxes pay $5,591,771 of the overall budget with the state picking up the remaining $20,198,588 of the overall budget. Another $589,652 will come from other sources.

For the coming year instruction will make up the largest part of the overall budget with $16,931,634 of the total budget.  Distant second and third are maintenance and operations and student transportation respectively which together make up over $4.5 million of the total budget.

At $63,966, professional learning makes up the smallest budget area.  A $167,753 tax collection fee will also be taken out of school system revenues to cover the actual collection costs by the tax office.

Though the numbers are finally starting to come in for the school board budget and millage the existence of an operating fund balance for the end of  the fiscal year is still not quite as certain.  Kerry Mathie brought up at the meeting that the fund balance numbers from one month to the next dropped from over $1.6 million on paper to being $400,000 in the red in this month’s report.

But Carter said the numbers were incomplete and that, despite the seemingly dire drop, the negative balance does show up until all the final numbers are plugged in.

The school board ended last year with a $16,000 negative fund balance last year but Carter said he was hopeful that the balance could be positive once again this year.

The school board will finalize its millage at a called meeting on Thursday, Aug. 29 at 6 p.m. at the board of education offices.

The school board also agreed to once again make payments to the Three Rivers Library Group after several months of questioning as to what the group actually provides.  As it turns out, those funds were less for the group itself and more for the local Brantley County Library which falls under its umbrella.  Tight budget constraints for the year coupled with the loss of one county in the library system had pushed the local library’s dues up for the year and library officials had previously stated that the loss of the school system’s estimated $2,500 annual contribution would have been particularly hard.

The school system’s decision to possibly pull out of a partnership spanning over a half century came when the officials at the head of the TRRLS couldn’t easily explain what they still provided to the school system with the bookmobile no longer in service.  The local representatives of the Brantley County Library came to multiple meetings recently to help fill in those gaps and demonstrate their benefit to county students.

A third of the night’s action items also dealt with state mandated updates to several board policies as often occur in the first months of school.  A total of nine items passed second readings including equal opportunity employment, professional personnel recruitment, awarding units of credit and acceptance of transfer credit and grades, professional learning opportunities, harassment, drug-free workplace, the federal family and medical leave act, concussion management and  professional personnel evaluation – the latter of which was rescinded in lieu of the new policy.

In other business, the board:

•  Approved the purchase of Spanish textbooks for the coming year.

•  Approved a class-size resolution that would allow the schools to increase class sizes beyond typical state requirements.

•  Approved an Airforce Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps fundraiser.

•  Approved grocery, paper and produce bids for the school nutrition program.

•  Approved the purchase of an air conditioning unit for Brantley County High School.

•  Voted to go out for bids on bus engine repair or replacement for several school buses.

County OK’s slight reduction in tax millage rate

The regular monthly Brantley County Board of Commissioners meeting began Thursday with a called meeting to reconsider the 2014 budget and proposed millage rate, followed by a public hearing for the amendment of an ordinance to include the incorporated area of the county in the Brantley County special public safety user fee, followed by another public hearing to obtain public input on an EIP grant.

The board approved a slight reduction in the millage rate — down to 15.27 from15.49 in the unincorporated area and from 17.98 to 17.97 — and county manager Carl Rowland said the cut might have been more except for uncertainties in tax collection procedures brought about by changes such as that to the ad valorem tax.

The commissioners unanimously approved an amendment to the newly named Brantley County Emergency Medical Service Operation and Maintenance Special District fee which will now include the incorporated ares of Hoboken and Nahunta, bringing the cities into the plan which was previously paid by residents of the county only.

In the past year county residents began paying a $20.53 tax per parcel, excluding cemeteries, and an additional $75.70 for any residential or commercial structure on the property. Properties of 20 acres or more with no structures on them would also be charged the $75.70 rate.

Nahunta Mayor Jeffrey Lee, city manager Tom Wirth and city council member Crystal Johns were in attendance at the public hearing to voice their concerns and ask questions of the commission.

The EMS has previously been operated by using general funds from the county and collected user fees. Commissioners began reviewing the public safety user fee last year after being advised by ACCG that the commission should take a look at the fee which was appropriate for all property owners to share and to be fair. A state comprehensive plan was adopted in 1999 for applying fees to all properties, according to commissioner Mike Edgy.

“The cities are not paying any more. They are paying the same as everyone.  Most all property owners will see a break in taxes with the millage rate reduction and because of the millage decrease it should balance out and save some money,” Edgy said.

The new operation and special district fee should generate roughly $58,000, according to county manager Carl Rowland.

Another agenda item, the Special Event Ordinance, became a topic of interest after commissioners began receiving phone calls from residents complaining about the noise produced at an event held earlier in the year attend by approximately 7,000 people.

The county’s noise control ordinance and special event ordinances were amended and approved consecutively since special event times for open and close should coordinate with noise control ordinances. The board limited event times to 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. and the limitations will include all events held in the county.

“We’re protecting people every weekend not just during special event weekends,” commissioner Brian Hendrix said.

In other special event discussion commissioners approved for the county manager, the county clerk and the sheriff to work out a fee structure for special events with a minimum fee of $100 taking into consideration the estimated attendance and the type of event.

This also comes as a result of an event recently held that tied up county resources with EMS and law enforcement having to respond to the event.

“A pre-application meeting would give rough estimates of what was needed and will help develop internally some scale,” said county manager Carl Rowland

Commissioners agreed that a pre-application process would determine how much security, crowd maintenance, deputies and EMS would be needed.

After months of stalling, county commissioners unanimously approved the airport relocation of power lines. One word in the contract with the EMC was holding up the progression and the contract was reworded with commissioners agreeing to guarantee that Brantley County will pay for total costs of converting overhead lines to underground lines not to exceed $588,746 should a dispute arise. The bulk of the funds to pay the EMC are being provided by GA DOT and Federal Aviation, according to commissioners.

The only contentious discussion resulted in a split vote with chairman Charlie Summerlin breaking a tie, voting not to reimburse the Development Authority expenses for land clearing at the industrial park.

Development authority executive director Richard Thornton was put on the spot when questioned about the authority’s assets. Thornton estimated that the Development Authority had about $175,000 in assets  Discussion ensued about whether the reimbursement was taking resources from the road department and county. Thornton explained that only about $17,000 of that was operational funds that were usable.

“That $175,000 should be taken and a spec building put on that property, ” said Summerlin.

Edgy disagreed reminding the commission that the Development Authority had just recently started receiving part of the millage and the money should continue to be banked to build up money to help fund a future possible natural gas line location, a railroad spur or large industry.

” (Atlanta’s) saying we need something more than $175,000,” said Edgy.

Edgy pointed out that Brantley had lost two large industries including a food packing plant because  to not having natural gas.

“We need to hunt the little businesses before the big guys come along. We need to help the little people,” said Summerlin.

“I understand that but we’ve had that for years and look what we got. I am a small business and I appreciate that,” said Edgy.

“Big business employs people and helps with the millage and we have cut about as much as we can,” said Edgy.

The vote was 3-2 with commissioners opting for the development authority to reimburse the county for expenses. Commissioners Mike Edgy and Brian Hendrix voted for the county to cover Development Authority land clearing expenses  and Skipper Harris and James Spradley voted to have the DA repay the expenses with Summerlin breaking the tie.

The 2012 audit was approved.

In other business, commissioners:

* Appointed Lori Logan to the Recreation Advisory Committee, Lois Vassilion to the animal control board,

* Listended to Barry Rowell of the Forestry Commission give his annual report.

* Hired Alton Cribb as the dog control officer.

* Tabled action on changes to the hazardous mitigation plan resolution  Suggestions included changing the resolution to include the words flood plain instead of flood prone in the document. The county attorney will take under review.

*Authorized the chairman to execute the CDBG-EIP grant application for Southern Ionics, and approved a resolution authorizing preparation and submittal of the CDBG-EIP grant application for Georgia Metals. Bids were also approved for roadway construction to begin at the Southern Ionics location since the six-week roadway project was set to start Wednesday.

*Approved the purchase of a lawn mower from Dixie Chopper to mow county properties including the airport.

*Added Fort Mudge to the paving priority list. The list consists of the completed portion of Waynesville Road East, the completed portion Buster Walker Road, partially completed Boots Harrison Road, Raybon Road East, Baker Creek Road, Saddle Club Road, Knox Road South End, Britt Still Road, Albert Gibson Road and Williams Road

*Approved the annual contract with Traylor Business Services to continue performing personal property audits. The contract was up for renewal Sept. 5

Signs call for ‘Justice for Edith’

Signs posted along Brantley roads with an eye-catching tiffany blue ribbon garner attention from passersby begging the question “Justice for Edith?”

The campaign-type signs have a local tie and serve as a reminder regarding the death of Edith Carole Strickland Sheffield. Sheffield was the daughter of Nahunta residents the Rev. Marshall and Vera Strickland, and was murdered Jan. 18 under tragic and unexplained circumstances.

Sheffield’s homicide is unsolved but investigators still hope for a break in the case after she was killed and her body was found a day later in the charred remains of her home that she shared with her husband.

On Jan. 18, at approximately 6:36 p.m. Coffee County 911 received a call in response to a house fire on Bowens Mill Road near Broxton. The fire resulted in extensive damage to the two-story residence.

The initial investigation revealed that one of the people residing at the house had not been located. The Coffee County Sheriff’s office requested the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the State Fire Marshall’s Office step in. The scene was processed and Edith’s remains were discovered in the debris. Autopsy results revealed her death was by gunshot and not a result of the fire.

“Justice of Edith” is a community awareness campaign honoring Edith’s memory supporting family and friends waiting for healing and answers as law enforcement personnel continue to work for justice in the homicide investigation.

Tiffany blue was Edith’s favorite color and it’s use on signage indicates her vibrancy and zest for life. The color also serves as an expression of sadness over losing a dear friend loved by many according to campaign organizers who have established a social media presence in her honor and as a form of community support.

Edith worked at a Coffee County bank and was a respected member of the community with friends throughout the community.

“There are no words that can heal our hearts, our prayers are for justice. It is hoped the campaign will be a source of community support,” said campaign organizers.

A ribbon campaign launched in Douglas on June 18 with a blue balloon release to signify the five-month anniversary of the arson and murder that took the life of Edith. Signs are prominently displayed in Douglas on main thoroughfares such as Ward Street, Madison Avenue and Peterson Avenue.

The signs have also begun to appear in Brantley County in part because of her family’s ties to the community.

Sheffield’s family and friends, in their efforts to remember her, received permission to place two large billboards in downtown Douglas with the “Justice for Edith” logo and the GBI tips hotline telephone numbers.

The homicide has not gone unnoticed by state officials.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal issued an executive order establishing a reward for any information leading to the identification, apprehension and conviction of a person or persons responsible for her murder, according to a July 10 account in the local Douglas Enterprise newspaper.

Along with the billboards, organizers have asked commercial businesses, family and friends to display blue ribbons on the 18th day of each month until the homicide investigation is brought to a successful conclusion.

Moore than Graphics in Douglas has a selection of promotional materials available to people wanting to support the campaign and Edith’s family. A Facebook page Paint the Town Blue for Edith has also been designated.

Anyone with information about the death of Sheffield should call GBI Special Agent Russell Mansfield at 912-389-4103.

School board upholds coach’s termination amid inappropriate touching allegations

Former baseball coach Keith Mobley was fired after allegations from students that he had inappropriately touched one and flirted with others.  The BOE upheld the termination Thursday.
Former baseball coach Keith Mobley was fired after allegations from students that he had inappropriately touched one and flirted with others. The BOE upheld the termination Thursday.

The Brantley County Board of Education upheld the termination of baseball coach Keith Mobley late Thursday night after a nearly 12 hour hearing into allegations that he inappropriately touched a female student and had not observed proper teacher-student boundaries with others.

Mobley spent much of Thursday afternoon defending himself against allegations that he touched the student — allegations which led to his dismissal from his job at the school as both coach and teacher.

The hearing began at 9 a.m. Thursday and continued through 8:30 p.m. with testimony from witnesses who said the coach did inappropriately touch a student and others who said he did not.

Several other character witnesses said it would not be in Mobley’s character to do so, but it was the school board’s decision that had he followed earlier rules set in place after a previous incident a year before, there would have been no question.

As it turns out, a report was also lodged against Mobley in October of 2011 for similar complaints.  The complaint led to a “letter of concern” from the previous principal that required that Mobley not allow any students – particularly female – into his room alone and to generally be aware of the possible perception of any relationship by other students.

In the year that followed that letter, students were observed in at least two situations not following this rule – one where a female student was alone with Mobley in his classroom and the latter of which ultimately led to the decision to fire him.

In her testimony, the high school student who was with him in the equipment room in April of this year said that Mobley had inappropriately placed his hand into her shorts while checking a leg injury she had received in a vehicle accident.

The girl had long been coming to Mobley to check the injury but that day she said his motive changed.  She also said that Mobley had told her she could undress in the dugout at one point and had poked her in the buttocks with an umbrella at another.

Later, while back in class, the girl said that Mobley had pushed money into the side of her shorts while she was sitting in a chair in his class.

But Mobley denied the allegation and said that he had checked her knee that day just as he had many times before at her request.  The girl had moved from weight training to his classroom for several months per a note giving her permission from coach Clint Cannon after her injury and Mobley’s defense said that he had been checking the injury often to know when she was ready to go back to the other class.

Mobley said that the money in question was being given to her for working at the field refilling the concession stands and doing other odd jobs at her request. As for where he placed the money, Mobley said he never slid it up the girl’s shorts, but said that he placed it on her leg when she refused to take the money.

Mobley said he often paid students for working in the stands and this was no different. And despite her alleged concerns, Mobley’s defense pointed out that she continued to come to his class for some time until her friend went to another teacher to report the issue.

As for the first time he was alone with a student after receiving the directive, Mobley said that occurred when the bell rang and all other students in the room left except for one other girl who wanted him to talk to him about an ankle injury – a common request for him as a coach and the main person who taped up football players at local games.

At that moment assistant principal Caroll Ann Gill walked by and observed the girl in the room and reported to Coach Nehemiah Cummings to check if she was a student.

Gill said in her testimony that she had been on alert after a previous administrative investigation where 15 of 20 people she interviewed file negative statements regarding Mobley.  Some of the group said that they had at least seen Mobley involved in some flirtatious actions with students – all female.  Gill said she stressed that they tell her what they knew and not what others may have said in class before getting each to file statements.
Despite these statements the item never went further than the letter of concern under previous principal Randy Yonz and former superintendent Drew Sauls and Mobley was not aware that the letter was even still on file after alledgedly being assured that the item would disappear after that year by previous administration.

But Mobley’s defense council said that an overarching theme to all the claims current and former were that they were unsubstantiated and that Mobley had abided by the rules set forth in the letter from Yonz – though admitting that they were extremely vague.

Mobley’s representation also pointed out that the school system only brought three witnesses out of all those that allegedly had witnessed actions by Mobley to take the stand lessening the credibility of the decision by the superintendent.  He also pointed out that Mobley voluntarily submitted himself to a Georgia Bureau of Investigations investigation which, he said, a guilty man would not do.

Meanwhile other students, members of the community and faculty at the high school – some knowing Mobley for almost all of his life – said that the actions described simply did not match the person they knew and many said that they still trusted Mobley with their children regardless of the allegations.

But at least a handful of the administration including superintendent Anthony Smith, Principal Bert Smith and Assistant Principal Carol Ann Gill each stood behind the initial decision to fire Mobley.

Ultimately, the board of education did the same with a unanimous decision at about 9 p.m. spending only about 30 minutes in executive session compared to several hours after a previous personnel hearing.

OTC, ATC to merge in July 2014

Okefenokee Technical College and Altamaha Technical College will combine next year
Okefenokee Technical College and Altamaha Technical College will combine next year

The State Board of the Technical College System of Georgia has given unanimous approval for TCSG Commissioner Ron Jackson to initiate the process to merge Altamaha Technical College (ATC) and Okefenokee Technical College (OTC).

The board voted to consolidate the administrations of the two colleges during their monthly meeting at the TCSG headquarters in Atlanta on August 1.

The merger is expected to be accomplished by July 1, 2014.

The board also approved Jackson’s recommendation of Glenn Deibert, the current president of Okefenokee Technical College, to be the president of the merged colleges, effective July 1, 2014. Deibert will lead the process over the coming year, working in close collaboration with the acting president of Altamaha Technical College, Lonnie Roberts, and the faculty and staff of both colleges to ensure a smooth transition throughout the consolidation process.

Altamaha Technical College, which has its main campus in Jesup and branch campuses in Baxley, Brunswick, Hazlehurst and Kingsland, and Okefenokee Technical College, with a main campus in Waycross and a branch in Alma, together enrolled 4,326 students in credit classes last year.

There were 33 TCSG colleges in 2009. Since then, the system has used mergers as a way to reduce some administrative costs while creating larger, more efficient colleges. Today, there are 24 TCSG colleges.

Once the ATC – OTC merger is complete, the system will have merged 19 colleges into nine, resulting in 23 technical colleges statewide.

As the previous mergers have shown, students at ATC and OTC should experience little change in the day-to-day operation of their campuses. They will, however, gain from the benefit of a regional college that is more efficient financially and makes better use of shared instructional and technical resources among its campuses.

No campuses will be closed and the colleges’ other programs, including adult education, continuing education, and customized workforce training for business and industry, will continue as before. “The foremost goal of a college merger is to ensure that our students receive the very best training on campuses that are financially stronger and make the most efficient use every available education resource,” said Jackson.

Duplication of administrative roles could lead to several executive jobs being eliminated through attrition, reassignment, or a reduction in force.

Jackson also emphasized the importance of including the colleges’ local boards of directors and the community and regional stakeholders in each step of the merger. “An essential key to the success of this merger is involving the colleges’ strongest supporters throughout the process,” said Jackson.

The boards of directors at ATC and OTC will be asked to recommend a new name for the college. They will also work together on a plan for an eventual combined board of directors.

Altamaha Technical College currently serves Appling, Camden, Glynn, Jeff Davis, Long, McIntosh and Wayne counties. Okefenokee Technical College serves Bacon, Brantley, Charlton, Clinch, Pierce and Ware counties.

History of the TCSG mergers: On July 1, 2009, Chattahoochee Technical College, North Metro Technical College and Appalachian Technical College merged and became the new Chattahoochee Technical College; West Central Technical College and West Georgia Technical College formed the new West Georgia Technical College; Coosa Valley Technical College and Northwestern Technical College became Georgia Northwestern Technical College; and Southeastern Technical College and Swainsboro Technical College merged into the new Southeastern Technical College.

On July 1, 2010, Griffin Technical College and Flint River Technical College joined as Southern Crescent Technical College; and Valdosta Technical College and East Central Technical College became Wiregrass Georgia Technical College.

On July 1, 2011, Sandersville Technical College and Heart of Georgia Technical College merged and became Oconee Fall Line Technical College.

On July 1, 2013, Central Georgia Technical College and Middle Georgia Technical College merged as the new Central Georgia Technical College.

About the TCSG: The 24 colleges of the Technical College System of Georgia offer affordable education and excellent training in more than 600 certificate, diploma and two-year associate degree programs. Students of all ages take advantage of outstanding instructors and hands-on learning with state-of-the-art equipment to gain the skills needed for today’s in-demand jobs.

In 2012, the TCSG colleges delivered 2.8 million credit hours of instruction to more than 170,000 students. The TCSG is online, too, serving 85,000 students through the system’s Georgia Virtual Technical Connection. TCSG students enjoy the benefits of Georgia’s HOPE grant and scholarship and the federal Pell grant, which will pay for a significant portion of a TCSG education.

In addition, the TCSG Office of Adult Education delivered a variety of programs to 78,000 adult learners in 2012 and almost 18,000 of those students earned their GED credential.

Another part of the TCSG, the internationally recognized Quick Start program, provided customized workforce training to almost 58,000 employees of new and expanding companies in Georgia in 2012.

For more information about the TCSG and links to a technical college in your area, go to HYPERLINK “https://tcsg.edu/../../” www.tcsg.edu

McCarty up to task of 4-H resurrection

Alana McCarty will oversee the new Brantley County 4-H Club
Alana McCarty will oversee the new Brantley County 4-H Club

Resurrecting the long-dormant 4-H program is a tall order for one person, but longtime resident and extension office resource manager turned 4-H director Alana McCarty is up to the task.

McCarty was recently appointed to the new position this summer and will be heading into classrooms this fall to introduce a new generation to a program with equally strong ties to the region.

McCarty is a graduate of Brantley County High School’s class of 1981 and she has raised three boys – the oldest of which – Randall McCarty – is now a teacher at Brantley County Middle School.  She has also worked as resource manager for the extension office for eight years before taking on this additional duty.

McCarty said she is ready to get to work but described the new job as both exciting and daunting.

“There’s some aspects that are the same but it’s basically a clean slate because I’m having to learn form the bottom because I just helped with Jessica Yergen who was the 4-H program assistant when I came into the extension office,” she said.

At that time, McCarty also said that she was involved in some aspects of the program such as summer camp but the introduction to the classroom is new territory for her.

The new 4-H program leader said she’ll be starting this year going into fifth grade classrooms and will soon expand to sixth.  Future goals are to re-establish 4-H clubs in both the middle and high schools.

While new to the position, McCarty said she’s no stranger to 4-H having gone to camp Rock Eagle growing up.  But with the introduction of several new camps and even more areas of focus for the program, she admits it has changed over the years – even in the few years that the program has been absent from Brantley County in any total capacity.

The more traditional volunteer-led equine, marksmanship and archery events will be available as well as numerous other programs – not all in the traditional agricultural or home economics areas focus areas – to meet the interests of over 168,000 members across the state. And that will also include home-schooled students with the introduction of home-school club meetings. So Brantley’s 4-H will be looking for volunteers to help facilitate many of these programs locally where there’s interest.

“The parents are more than welcome to help in any way they want,” she said. “We have a volunteer program where they come in and do a chaperone video training and fill out some paperwork to become a volunteer.”

McCarty said any kind of help would be appreciated.

McCarty will soon be known as the “4-H Lady” she said, but it’s not a far cry from a popular title she had in her previous experience with the Brantley County School System as lunch room manager or “lunch lady” at Hoboken Elementary for two years and high school lunch room manager for four.  McCarty said many of the kids –  now older – still know her by the title to this day.

And at some point, she also hopes to be teaching some of  her own – a handful of grand-children that will soon be coming up through the the program as well.

“I’ve been in the system and raised my children here,” she said. “I love Brantley County, my family is here.”

GBI sends human skull to crime lab

A car turns off Georgia Highway 110 onto Yellow Pine Road in this photo from Google Maps street view
A car turns off Georgia Highway 110 onto Yellow Pine Road in this photo from Google Maps street view taken near where a human skull was found by hunters Tuesday

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation told the Enterprise Wednesday that a human skull found near Atkinson has been sent to the state crime lab for identification, and forwarded to a bone specialist for further scrutiny.

Mike McDaniel, special agent in charge of the Camden County office of the GBI, said not many details are available until after the crime lab finishes its work.

McDaniel said members of the Brantley County Sheriff’s Office and volunteer fire departments are at the scene today searching for more skeletal remains.

He said the crime lab report will give officials more information about the sex and race of the victim and might provide a firm identification if the DNA matches someone on a missing persons database.

The GBI also is asking if anyone knows of any missing persons in the immediate area and anyone with information can all the BCSO at 912-462-6141 or the GBI office at 912-729-6198.

McDaniel said the skull was found by hunters Tuesday who called the sheriff’s office, who in turn called the GBI.

The skull was not the only skeletal part found, but McDaniel did not give out any details in the interest of preserving the integrity of the investigation.

Currie quits in protest of DA appointment

George Barnhill, right, was recommended by Currie to take over the DA post, but the governor chose someone else with less experience — a lot less, according to former DA Rick Currie
George Barnhill, right, was recommended by resigning DA Rick Currie to take over the DA post, but the governor chose someone else with less experience — a lot less, according to  Currie

Former Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney Rick Currie has announced he is leaving the office in protest of the governor’s appointment to fill his post.

Currie resigned in May and assistant district attorney George Barnhill was named acting DA until one could be appointed.

Meanwhile, Currie was named a special assistant district attorney for the circuit to aid in the preparation of cases and to assist younger attorneys.

” I also had several cases that I was preparing to personally try  —  including Craig Thrift who is charged with the murder of his cousin, Terry Rouse, in 1991,” Currie said.

But all that has now changed after Currie told the Enterprise that he could not continue to work with the DA’s office after Gov. Deal appointed former assistant DA Bradley Collins to fill his seat.

Rick Currie
Rick Currie

“After dedicating more than 32 years of my life to the Waycross DA’s Office, to actively prosecuting criminal cases and to protecting the rights of victims in the Waycross Judicial Circuit, I can no longer have any association with this office due to the appointment of Bradley Collins,” Currie said.

“I cannot, nor will I, serve under him.  I do not respect him or his trial experience, and I don’t have any faith in his ability to effectively perform the duties of District Attorney,” the former DA said.

Currie retired May 31 after 32 years in the district attorney’s office including almost five terms of service as the district attorney of the Waycross Judicial Circuit.  As DA, he took the lead on almost every major murder case tried in the six counties of the Waycross Judicial Circuit, and successfully tried six death penalty cases, four of which were given a sentence of death.

“Additionally, I have also resigned my position on the State’s Commission on Family Violence, to which I had been appointed by Governor Deal in November 2012,” Currie said.

“I do not understand this appointment.  I am completely shocked and devastated.  Gov. Deal has appointed someone with very little experience.  I know that Bradley Collins is not ready to be district attorney and is not prepared and qualified to lead a prosecution team of 8 assistant district attorneys,” the former DA said.

“It is no secret that I favored the appointment of my  Chief Assistant District Attorney George Barnhill.  George served as my chief ADA for almost 20 years and had 27 years experience as a felony criminal prosecutor.”

But his support for Barnhill did not hold much sway with the governor.

“Apparently, my letter of support for George was totally ignored.  Instead, Deal appointed Collins who has only tried four cases during his two-year tenure as an assistant DA in Waycross,” Currie said.

“His track record is mixed at best.  He only won 50 percent of his cases — that’s two.  And, one of the cases he won, he actually wanted to dismiss and I had to make him try it.”

Currie said he no only has left his post at the DA’s office, but he plans to fight the appointment.

“Rest assured that I will do everything in my power to re-establish proper and effective prosecution in the Waycross Judicial Circuit in next year’s election.”

Currie’s words fly in the face of a glowing review of Collins short career as assistant DA which appeared in an area daily newspaper.

“Collins, as assistant DA at the Waycross office under Currie, built a strong resume in a short time, winning convictions in several criminal trials in Ware County and Brantley County, as well as other counties in the circuit,” is the way a story without a byline described the newly appointed DA in the Waycross Journal-Herald’s Friday edition.

But Barnhill apparently disagreed, firing Collins in late June.

“George fired him and I would have fired him,” Currie said.

CSX gives to OTC Foundation

Phil Logan (right), CSX Transportation terminal superintendent for the Waycross Rice Yard, and Jake Hunter (left), assistant terminal superintendent, recently met with Okefenokee Technical College President Glenn Deibert at OTC to present a check in support of OTC students and programs. The check presentation was made in front of the locomotive that CSX helped relocate.
Phil Logan (right), CSX Transportation terminal superintendent for the Waycross Rice Yard, and Jake Hunter (left), assistant terminal superintendent, recently met with Okefenokee Technical College President Glenn Deibert at OTC to present a check in support of OTC students and programs. The check presentation was made in front of the locomotive that CSX helped relocate.

Phil Logan, CSX Transportation terminal superintendent for the Waycross Rice Yard, and Jake Hunter, assistant terminal superintendent, visited the Okefenokee Technical College campus recently where Logan made a donation on behalf of CSX to the OTC Foundation. Deibert accepted the check on behalf of OTC Foundation Chair Larry Paulk and thanked CSX officials.

Also attending the presentation, but not pictured, were Craig Camuso, regional vice-president for Community Affairs; Peggy Smith, manager of Community Relations and Safety; Cindy Tanner, OTC Foundation Executive Director; and A. A. (Gus) Karle, community advocate, retired CSX terminal superintendent and former OTC Foundation trustee.

According to Tanner, CSX has been a generous supporter of Okefenokee Technical College for many years.

“We are most appreciative to CSX for this substantial gift, which will be used for student scholarships and program support,” said Tanner.

“We look forward to the visit from Camuso and Karle each year, not only to visit with them, but also to replenish our scholarship funds in order to promote student success and workforce development. We are also grateful for the financial and in-kind support provided by CSX for OTC rail programs. Relocating a locomotive was a huge undertaking, and we thank those involved for their many contributions.”

The check presentation was made in front of the locomotive that CSX helped relocate. For information about OTC and its programs, visit okefenokeetech.edu or call (912) 287-6584.

Stabbing suspect charged with Whited death

suspect victim
Raymond Brasiel, left, already being held in Glynn County jail on the murder of Bobby Lee Jenks and the stabbing of Mickie Jenks Friday, has now been charged with the murder of Amber Whited, right.

A man charged with the murder of one and the stabbing of another Friday has now also been charged in the death of a missing Sterling mother of two Amber Whited as well, according to the Glynn County Police Department.

Raymond Brasiel was already being held in the Glynn County jail on murder and assault charges.

Officials also said they had a suspect in custody who had not been charged, leading many to suspect  Brasiel, who is charged with killing Bobby Lee Jenks Friday and stabbing Mickie Lee Jenks several times. He was arrested shortly thereafter.

GCPD investigators discovered the body believed to be Whited’s after they had just interviewed relatives of Brasiel and were driving past the intersection of Georgia Highway 99 and Bladen Road when they saw what appeared to be a freshly made trail into a heavily wooded area.

That’s where they found the body matching the description of Whited.

The body will be sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab to determine cause of death and make positive identification, officials said today.

map
Pin shows spot where body was found

Missing mom’s body may have been found

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(UPDATE: Two Glynn County Police Department officers had just interviewed relatives of a man seen in a security camera video at a business where Whited stopped after leaving her place of employment for lunch when upon leaving they found the a body of a woman matching the physical description of Whited in a wooded area just off Bladen Road. The man in the video, who also matched the description of a man seen leaving Whited’s vehicle with a flat tire alongside a Brunswick street, was identified and has already been placed into custody but has not been charged, officials said. His name has not been released.)

The Glynn County Police Department has reported investigators have  located the body of a deceased female in a wooded area off of Bladen Road at Georgia Highway 99 tentatively identified as Amber Whited, who has been missing since Tuesday.

Officers said the body will be sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab for an autopsy and positive identification.

The body, which was located approximately 50 feet off of the roadway in a heavily wooded area, has been tentatively identified as that of Whited, 22, who was reported missing on July 16.

Anyone saw Amber Whiteds’ white Honda Accord on Tuesday in Glynn or Brantley County is asked to contact investigator Marc Neu at 912-554-7816 or Resden Talbert at 912-554-7813.

The 22-year-old mother has been missing since Tuesday afternoon, when she left her place of employment for lunch. She was last seen getting in her car at the Harley-Davidson on Perry Lane Road in Brunswick. Whited’s car was found Wednesday afternoon on Martin Luther King Drive, in what the family says is a dangerous downtown neighborhood, about nine miles from work.

Friends and family have been actively searching the Brunswick area for clues that may lead to Whited.

Glynn County police say they were tracing her steps from the moment she left work to where she may have gone for lunch. Several people have been questioned involving Whited’s disappearance.

Brasiel charged in murder

Raymond Michael Brasiel
Raymond Michael Brasiel

A 20-year-old Waynesville man has been charged with murder and aggravated assault in the stabbing death of a 55-year-old Ternest Lane man and stabbing of a 50-year-old woman, also a Ternest Lane resident.

According to a Glynn County Police Department press release, officers responded at 3:30 a.m. to a call from a third Ternest Lane resident who reported a man and a woman she discovered on her front porch were asking for help, saying they had been stabbed.

But when officers arrived, they found that Bobby Lee Jenks had already died and Mickie Lee Jenks had suffered several stab wounds and was in serious condition.

Earlier reports that his body was found at the Jenks’ resident and she was found alongside the road near Golden Isle Racetrack were erroneous.

Officials said they have arrested 20-year-old Raymond Michael Brasiel of Waynesville, who has been charged in the murder and attack.

The investigation continues under the supervision of GCPD Investigator Marc Neu, who can be reached at 912-554-7816.

Murder, stabbing victims identified

Murder2 web
An unidentified law-enforcement official examines a mobile home where a body was reported discovered early this morning. (Photo by Chris Buchanan)

(Update: Unconfirmed reports indicate that a suspect  has been arrested in the investigation, and while a name has been mentioned, we won’t post it till we’re sure of it.)

The Brantley Enterprise has confirmed that a man is dead and a woman  was transferred by helicopter to a Savannah medical center after an incident on Ternest Road just off Post Road South this morning.

Brantley County Sheriff’s Department officials said the Glynn County Police Department is handling the case and a spokesman for the Glynn department said details remain sketchy.

But published reports indicate that Bob Jenks was found stabbed to death in a mobile home and Niki Tim was found with stab wounds as well and was air lifted to Savannah Memorial Medical Center.

Unconfirmed reports indicate that Tim  was discovered alongside Post Road near the Golden Isles Racetrack.

Officials say a suspect has been named and the case remains under investigation.

murder map sm

Fireworks in the rain

fireworks

Though plagued by clouds and the occasional thunderstorm, the Chamber of Commerce Fourth of July celebration drew a sizeable crowd last week for lots of fun, food and entertainment and those who braved the elements until dark got a rare treat — fireworks in the rain. And not just one display of pyrotechnics but two as another show was visible further over the horizon.

Sheriff to remove deputy from courthouse entrance

1BOC

The dedicated deputy at the county courthouse that was a point of contention only two years before is needed elsewhere, Sheriff Jack Whisenant said at a Monday budget hearing where he detailed his costs to the county commission.

Whisenant said that the deputy that was appointed to act as daily courthouse security by the previous administration will be put on the road but said that plans are already being put together to cover any security issues that may arise from  his absence.  Any security plan will have to be approved by the superior court before going into effect, he said, but the sheriff is required to have a plan in place.  Since deputies, he said, are already required on days in which the various departments hold court the main security issue will fall on the off-days.

To remedy this, Whisenant said that the county will be working with existing year budget moneys to provide structural security at the courthouse to make up for the loss of the deputy – particularly bullet proof glass at the court room windows.  Doors to the various departments will also now be closed and the doors reinforced so that no one will actually be able to enter the office without approval by the employees at the front desk.

The transfer of the deputy from the courthouse also played a major role in a $25,000 decrease in the courthouse budget since the deputy costs were added back to the sheriff’s office budget. Meanwhile a major restructure of the deputy hierarchy with the introduction of sergeants over the various shifts and the addition of a canine unit an additional drug investigator and a GCIC certified administrative assistant for the investigative division contributed to a $36,000 increase at the department.  As to whether the overtime budget will decrease remains to be seen and will be up to commissioners.

Whisenant said that he left that budget the same this year due to the loss of deputies at the start of his career as sheriff.  Deputies receiving training also had to have someone paid to take their place while they were out, he said.

The point brought commissioners to ask whether the sheriff’s office would be included in an upcoming county-wide study on pay to be implemented by the University of Georgia in the coming year.  Brian Hendrix said that he had noticed that deputies would often receive training in Brantley County and move to other counties.  Whisenant said they would be included and that there were pay discrepancies with new versus old employees that he saw as an issue that needed to be addressed.

Whisenant said he felt he would need the $100,000 overtime budget, but said that he would work with a proposed $90,000 budget if that was the will of the board.

However, the department did also make numerous budget cuts, he said, such as an $87,000 decrease the deputy line item, the elimination of a $25,000 part time deputy position, elimination of $5,000 in informant pay, a $2,000 decrease in uniforms, $8,000 decrease in the chief deputy line item, and a $5,000 decrease in telephone costs.

The department also uses gas cards through Lewis and Raulerson to buy gas instead of coming back to the county pumps to refuel.  Whisenant said the cards allow the department to refuel at any Friendly Express and save money since deputies can buy regular fuel while the gas at the county barn is the more expensive mid-grade.  The county manager said he did not know why the county was stocking mid grade fuel but that he would look into the item.

Offsetting many of the cost increases on the sheriff’s office side was a $23,000 decrease at the jail that came, primarily, from decreases in the prisoner expense and boarding fees,  a $15,000 decrease in repair and maintenance, a $12,000 decrease in personal hygiene items for prisoners, a $25,000 decrease in utilities, a $9,000 decrease in laundry supplies line items and a $2,000 decrease in uniforms.

Altogether with the deputy swap from the courthouse figured in as a transfer of costs from one department to another rather than an increase, the sheriff said his requested budgets for the two departments only came in about $6,000 over last year’s approved budget and would add three employees in the process.  And if the county approves a $10,000 cut to the overtime budget, it could actually be slightly less.

Commissioners and county manager Carl Rowland also pledged at the hearing while discussing other budget areas that if they needed to make further cuts in various departments to keep costs down and the millage from increasing, they would do so.

Cuts could even come from the self-slashed airport authority which cut its own budget by about $18,000 this year.  Commissioner James Spradley proposed cutting the existing proposed advertising budget from $2,000 for the year to just $1,000 saying that the line item was higher than many other departments.  However, the authority’s impromptu leader Josh Cothren said at previous meetings of the authority, that that budget was left in for good reason explaining that while most of Brantley was aware of the airport – whether on good or bad terms – many pilots outside the county didn’t even know it had reopened and that the authority needed to take steps to get the word out about the authority.  The money would also be used to host fly-ins that would integrate local businesses that he hoped would show activity at the airport while also making a positive financial impact on the local economy.

However, commissioners did agree at the meeting to cutting the budget back with the county manager adding that if the authority needed the extra money and could make a solid case, it could pull from contingency funds.

County manager Rowland continued this theme for many departments explaining that rather than having each department budget for “what-ifs,” the county should instead have one pool of backup money from which to pull if it was absolutely necessary.  Rowland said that otherwise, if the money in the line item wasn’t used, it would sit there in each department.

The county also briefly reiterated the reasons for an increase in the elections board budget from about $72,000 to just over $106,500 for the upcoming year due to the plan to consolidate the county’s nine precincts into three.  A plan approved by the elections board after considerable discussion earlier this year.

Meanwhile salaries, overtime and group insurance and estimated costs in gas and oil will be the primary drivers behind a road department cost increase from $1.2 million to $1.5 million for the coming year.

Brantley resident tests positive for West Nile

wnv cycle

A Brantley County resident has tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV), according to officials with the Southeast Health District (SEHD). This is the first positive case of WNV in Georgia and 10th in the US, according to Georgia Department of Public Health and CDC reports. The resident was infected in May and recovered without hospitalization or complications, according to SEHD officials.

Residents are strongly urged to take precautions to protect against mosquito bites and the possible spread of mosquito-borne illnesses, such as WNV. People get WNV when they are bitten by a mosquito that is carrying it. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds.

Around 80 percent of those infected with the virus show no symptoms; while up to 20 percent have symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a rash. There is no specific treatment for WNV. People with severe cases are hospitalized and receive supportive care, such as intravenous fluids and respiratory treatment.

SEHD officials encourage residents to familiarize themselves with protective measures now. The best way to prevent WNV infection is to take personal protection measures to reduce mosquito bites. Public Health officials recommend the 5 D’s:

Dusk/Dawn: Mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus usually bite at dusk and dawn. Limit outdoor activity during those hours.

Dress: Wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and pants to reduce the amount of exposed skin.

DEET: Cover exposed skin and clothes with an insect repellent containing the chemical DEET. It is the most effective repellant against mosquito bites.

Drain: Empty any containers (buckets, barrels, kiddie pools) holding standing water to prevent breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Doors: Make sure doors, windows and screens are in good condition and fit tightly to keep out mosquitoes.

Health officials say they’ve confirmed this year’s first human case of West Nile virus in Georgia.

The Georgia Department of Public Health says the case was confirmed Monday. Officials say the adult patient from Brantley County recovered without hospitalization after being infected in May.

Most West Nile virus infections occur after the person is bitten by an infected mosquito. Health officials are urging Georgians to take precautions to protect themselves against mosquito bites.

Symptoms of West Nile virus include headache, fever, neck discomfort, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes and a rash. They usually appear three to 15 days after the mosquito bite.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Georgia had 99 cases of West Nile virus last year, including six that were fatal.

For more information about these protective measures or mosquito-borne illnesses, contact your local health department or visit www.sehdph. org.

Metal roof fabricator coming to Brantley

1 DevAuth
Development Authority chair Peggy Bowers, left, thanks Georgia Metals manager Byron Lee at the end of Monday’s meeting while the company’s CEO Tripp Strickland shakes hands with executive director Richard Thornton. The authority will be clearing land for the company to move into the county development authority in the coming months.

A Danielsville company with ties to the area will be the next industry to move into Brantley County and bring over a dozen jobs with it, development authority and company officials said at Monday’s regular authority meeting.

After a lengthy executive session regarding real estate, authority members reconvened to announce that Georgia Metals will be opening its third location in the state in the Brantley County industrial park in the near future.

The company is owned  by Tripp Strickland and managed by Byron Lee.  Strickland said that the company specializes in residential and steel roof fabrication and some types of agricultural truss system. The company and primarily serves the southeastern region of the United States.

For the manager, Lee, the industrial park isn’t a far cry from his home stomping grounds.  Lee grew up in the Ware and Brantley area he said after the meeting.

In addition to the branch in Danielsville, north of Athens, the company also has a branch in Moultrie.  The third location will be comprised of two industrial park lots at the back of the industrial park in Nahunta.

“We have agreed to clear some area on the two lots that they’re buying for the location of the first structure,” Authority executive director Richard Thornton said. “Once we have cleared that land we’ll enter into a lease agreement beginning at that time.”

And that tentative agreement will likely mean a lease purchase option after 60 months and the lease payments previously made will offset the purchase price.

“We’re hoping for all of this to take place as soon as possible weather permitting,” authority chairman Peggy Bowers said. “Hopefully something positive by the first of the year if not before.”

The company plans to hire between 13 and 16 employees to start out but Strickland said that this number could grow in the company’s future.

“We’re excited about it, we just wanted to see some movement out there and these guys came knocking on door and we’re really pleased with it,” Bowers said.

Bowers said she anticipates a long working relationship with the new company and Thornton agreed adding that he looked forward to helping the company grow their business and helping Brantley grow industry in general.

While the new company sets up shot in Brantley, another one has already surpassed goals it had made as part of a tax abatement agreement with the development authority that led to the company expanding its operation.

Foodonics had pledged to increase employment to 68 at its Humpty Dumpty chicken egg layer houses outside of Hoboken and after a meeting with the manager of the company, Dennis Hughes, Thornton announced that the company had significantly surpassed that goal actually increasing employment to 78 and planning to continue to hire as expansions continue with a goal of an additional 15 to 18 new jobs in the coming years.  The company will be investing $13 million to $14 million over the next two years as well, Thornton said.

Authority member Joe Carr also brought up a recent story he saw that claimed that California would now be cracking down on eggs the state allowed to be sold in the state with the law paying particular attention to how humanely chickens are raised at the houses.

Thornton responded that if the issue ever did spread closer to Georgia, the Hoboken location has served as one of the largest organic egg houses in the Eggland’s Best franchise.

 

In other business, the authority:

• Announced that the Coastal Georgia Film Alliance expressed interest in allowing Brantley to join.  Thornton said that one of the members of the group heading the organization actually lived in the county for just shy of a decade.  Officials with the organization have asked the county to come back to speak with them when they are done working with at least one movie studio that is already filming in the area.  The group was created to help attract filming companies to the region. Brantley is already recognized as a “camera-ready” county by the state.

Library braces for TRRL system reorganization

Workers load TRRLS furniture for the trip to Jesup

A coastal library’s decision to send the Three Rivers Regional Library packing made waves in Glynn County last week, but ripples will likely be felt in Brantley County as well according to Brantley County Library Director Kathy Moody.

Moody said that the recent eviction of the regional library group from their headquarters in a Glynn County library will mean that dues and career service fees will be going up for each library including the Brantley location – one of six counties still left in the system.

The transfer of the regional headquarters from Brunswick to Jesup will also mean a disruption in member e-mails until the server is re-established in its new location meaning that even those not directly affected by the move will have to deal with complications while it occurs.

To make up those extra dues, Moody said that the library will be forced to ask for that money from the county in this year’s budget.

The long-running Glynn County battle finally came to a head in mid-June when a superior court judge ruled that an April reminder to the TRRLS was notice-enough for the group to vacate the premises after the county-owned library voted to pull out of the system earlier this year.

The Brunswick and St. Simons libraries plan to start their own library system, the Marshes of Glynn Library, on July 1.

Local librarians will be attending a regional meeting to work out the details regarding how the TRRLS will proceed and more details on the overall ramifications of Glynn’s departure from the system.

Compounded with that is the possibility that the Brantley County School System may not renew their services with the group after members at the  Brunswick location couldn’t tell board officials what Brantley schools were getting for the cost.

The TRRLS will, however, get a second chance to make their point at an upcoming board of education meeting where the school board could add them back into the budget helping the local library and the regional system to which it belongs through a though transition.

But if not, the local library will be forced to ask for this money from the county as well for the first time since the partnership started in 1954.

Through the TRRLS the local library is able to provide books by courier from over 275 libraries.  Meanwhile the county’s annual contribution has gone down in value according to documentation from the TRRLS.

According to that documentation, the school board first paid an annual contribution of $600 in 1954 which was equivalent to $5,186 in today’s dollar value.  Today, the annual contribution is $2,425.92 which while a higher dollar figure is worth less than the amount they first paid.

That money goes toward several areas including book purchases, high speed internet at all locations, the PINES library cataloging system, online pay databases, the library website, tech support, certified librarians, community outreach programs and services, new book processing and library construction.

In 2012, 372 teens read for over 4,100 hours according to the presentation and 708 kids were in attendance of the 16 summer reading programs at the local library.

In fact, in just two months of this year alone, March and April, the library reported that 726 picture books, 699 middle-reader books and 95 young adult books were checked out.

The library also provides access to several print, digital and online sources from across the state outside of a school setting while also partnering with several local organizations for community and educational purposes.

Library officials also argue that the library also bridges the divide between students giving those without the resources in their homes an equal footing by providing technology and other services outside of their local schools.

County hopes self-funded insurance will create savings

A partially self-funded insurance plan will likely be the key to having no increase in county taxes this year, county manager Carl Rowland said after a decision last Thursday that will ultimately save the county a large amount of money.

Commissioners voted unanimously to a self-funded insurance plan that will be administered by Taylor Benefits out of Thomasville, Ga.

The decision came after the county received its renewal rate with Blue Cross Blue Shield that would have increased the county’s annual insurance cost by over $85,000 for the year.

An alternative rate through Aetna would have dropped the county’s portion of the insurance by $76,086 dollars and the employee cost by even more $136,250.

But the overall best rate came through Taylor Benefits at a savings of $118,615 to the county and $116,882 for the employees.  Overall, the insurance costs will be $235,496 cheaper than the current rate and $255,331 cheaper than the renewal rates proposed through Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

The county manager applauded the commission for their efforts to keep the budget down and said that barring any increases in the existing projected budget, there shouldn’t be any need for a tax increase for the coming year.
Commissioners also looked initial budget figures during the meeting that included major cost savings in two departments and an expected increase in another.
According to reports, the courthouse itself – excluding the court departments themselves – will be decreasing by about $25,000 this year due to interdepartmental cutbacks.
Similarly the initial budget for the jail saw a cutback of $6,000 requested with the county manager suggesting additional cuts adding up to $23,000.  The county manager requested an additional $10,000 be cut from maintenance and repairs on buildings which was already undercutting the 2013 budget by $15,000 and a $2,500 decrease in the advertising budget.
Across the hall in the sheriff’s office, costs will be going up this year, however, based on the initial budget.
The sheriff’s office requested a $36,000 increase this year and the county manager has bumped that cost up to $43,000 despite numerous line items decreasing.  Administrative assistant costs are expected to rise by about $25,000 in the budget.  The sergeant salary may be among the biggest increases going from $36,000 budgeted the previous year to $135,000 likely due to the reorganization of the department placing new duties on the position.
The drug investigator line item also increased by about $34,000 and group insurance showing a $4,000 increase in budget.  Gas and oil are also budgeted higher by about $19,000.
Reductions in telephone spending and vehicle maintenance budgets were also included in the budget along with an $80,000 reduction in deputy costs and the complete removal of a $5,000 line item for informant pay.
Another department with a significant increase in budget for the year will be the elections board since not only will an election year for various offices be coming up in 2014, but also the complete reorganization of the county’s nine precincts into just three which elections board superintendent Christine Turner said will require several changes and legally required advertising to prepare the public.

The road department will also be receiving a large increase in the coming budget of about $323,000 due in part to a near $100,000 increase in the salary line item. Group insurance will also go form no money in the 2013 budget to $102,000 in the listed budget though this number could lower considerably due to the county’s new choice in insurance. But an increased budget for gas and oil of about an additional $60,000 is also expected.

Despite the numbers being laid out in the  documentation at the meeting, the insurance change could be a significant game-changer that could lower many budgets through the insurance line item but exactly how much of a difference that will make per department remains to be seen.  Other items could change significantly this early in the budgeting process, Rowland told the Enterprise this week, but he still held to hopes that the county shouldn’t be required to increase the millage.

Local mail carrier arrested after minor accident

1 AccidentA local mail carrier spent a brief period of time behind bars last week after an accident led to a charge of driving under the influence of drugs.

Patricia Lynn Lane, 48, of Paterson was entering Douglas Lane from a private drive last Tuesday when her 2004 Chevy Aveo partially entered oncoming traffic and struck the left front of a 2005 Ford Expedition driven by Sarah Kay Williams, 28, of Hoboken.

Williams’s vehicle, which was transporting several children ranging from 3 to 9 years old at the time of the accident, continued another 31 feet before coming to a controlled rest on the east edge of the road. The accident also knocked Lane’s Aveo back 12 feet.

Lane was charged with failure to yield, driving on the wrong side of the road and driving under the influence of drugs upon inspection by law enforcement who said in a report that she refused a legal blood draw.  No one was injured in the accident according to a report filed by Terry Thrift and all occupants of Williams’s vehicle were wearing restraints or were in booster seats when the accident occurred.

Lane was driving a car designated as a U.S. Postal Carrier vehicle at the time of the accident.

Lane was released on $1,161 bond for the three misdemeanor charges from the Brantley County Jail 40 minutes after booking.

Pierce to headline Fourth celebration

kris pierce 2

Pierce County entertainer Kris Pierce has been named the headliner for the Brantley County Chamber of Commerce July 4th celebration to be held at Heron Field.

The event starts at 4 p.m. and Piece will take the stage at 7:30 p.m. Pierce is a Christian country singer and songwriter who has been singing since the age of 16, although he did not start singing professionally until 2004.

” I was in a touring country band for about a year but realized singing in bars was not for me,” Pierce said in his official bio.

“I have since worked with a couple of gospel bands and work as a solo act. I enjoy seeing the joy my music brings to those who listen. I would love to leave a legacy of touching people’s lives through song.”

The event will also feature other entertainers, refreshments and games for kids all afternoon, as well as a special display by the Brantley County Emergency Management Agency focusing on forest fire safety and protection of residences. Special invitations are being sent to area government officials.

The annual fireworks display will begin at dark.

GBI called in to investigate armed robbery

armed robbers

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has been called in to assist in the probe of an armed robbery of an east side business Sunday.

According to the Brantley County Sheriff’s Department, an employee of the Dollar General on Post Road North reported that three black men wearing masks — two of whom carried handguns — entered the store and took money from the clerk before fleeing on foot.

Sheriff’s officials tracked the three to an area just north of the store where they apparently got into a vehicle and left the area.

The incident remains under investigation.

In other activity:

06-07-13

• Deputies responded to the area of the 200 block of Blue Jay Loop in reference to theft by taking. The complainant stated a large radiator had been taken from his property within the past five days.

• Marianne Howell, 37, was arrested and charged with DUI, failure to maintain lane, striking a fixed object and expired driver’s license. Howell had hydroplaned and ran off the roadway on U.S. Highway 301 near mile marker 8, and struck a road marker. She was found to be under the influence of alcohol and her license was expired.

• Deputies responded to the area of Buster Walker Road in reference to an abandoned vehicle. The 1994 Ford F-150 was in the roadway and was deemed a hazard and was towed from the roadway.

• Deputies responded to the area of the 10100 block of Main Street North in reference to forgery in the first degree. The complainant stated some unknown person had passed one of his checks from a closed account.

• Deputies responded to the area of the 26000 block of U.S. Highway 82 East in reference to theft by taking, unauthorized use of vehicle and criminal trespass. The complainant stated he had allowed a friend’s stepson to borrow his truck and he has not returned it. He also stated the offender had taken his chainsaw and case from under his shed.

06-08-13

• Deputies responded to the area of U.S. Highway 82 East in reference to damage to a vehicle. The complainant stated a vehicle ran her off the road near the OREMC building at the east city limits of Nahunta and to avoid a collision she pulled away from the vehicle and struck the curb causing the front right hubcap to come off her vehicle and now her vehicle pulls to the left.

06-09-13

• Deputies were dispatched to the area of Georgia Highway 110 West in reference to a domestic dispute. The complainant stated the offender had stolen his debit card and was driving a black Chevrolet Z-71 pickup truck. Deputies stopped the alleged offender in the truck and she stated she did not have the debit card and complainant had been drinking and the card was still in the complainant’s wallet.

• Jennie Brown, 66, was found unresponsive by family members at her home in the 6800 block of Seed Orchard Road. Mrs. Brown has had medical issue for some time.

Damage to Central Avenue bridge averted

dam(UPDATE: Damage to a Central Avenue bridge was prevented after officials diverted water from a broken dam.) The Brantley County Sheriff’s Office has announcd that a dam break in the Schlatterville area has sent water gushing over Bennett Road off of Central Ave. Officials say a very real chance exists that the water could unseat bridges on Bennett Road and  Central Avenue as well. Motorists are urged to avoid the area until water levels subside.

STORMY WEATHER

mtcalvaryPayton Johnston shared this photo of Mt. Calvary Road near Hoboken about half inundated with rain water. Please send us your photos and be sure to tell us where they were taken.

Brantley is under a tornado watch until 10 p.m.

The Brantley County Emergency Management Agency has released a list of road closures so far  in the county as a result of heavy rainfall preceding tropical storm Andrea.

The following roads have been closed:
Rio Lobo Road
Sante Fe Road
El Dorado
Hondo Road
Chilsholm Road
Rio Bravo Road
Mars Hill Road From Central Ave to Creek Dr.
Mars Hill Road from Central to Hwy 121
Griffin School Road from Hwy 121 to OG Lee Rd
OG Lee Road at Tobacco Row
Ferman Lee Lane at Hwy 121
Glory Lane
Terry Way
Camp Road

Also, Brantley County schools transportation director Wiley Crews said today that there will be no summer lunch deliveries Friday.

The Brantley Enterprise will continue to update the list as other roads are closed. Please report problem roads to the Brantley 911 center or the Commissioners’ office, 912-462-5256.

In honor…

MEMDAY3.1 CROPPEDThe Brantley County High School Junior Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps ceremony held Monday at the courthouse gave Brantley Countians a chance to pay their respects to those who have preserved our freedoms over the years. See more coverage in this week’s newspaper. (Photo by Chris Buchanan)

‘Straight line’ winds wreak havoc

Storm5Brantley winds may not have brought the same damage found in the midwest earlier this week but the county did find itself the victim of strong damaging winds Sunday afternoon.

According to Brantley Emergency Management Agency Director Michelle Lee, Brantley experienced what the National Weather Service called straight line winds on Sunday evening.  Emergency personnel surveyed various damage around the county ranging from one mobile home with a partially removed roof, two damaged barns, one damaged pool and several downed fences.

Power lines and trees were also reported down in areas of Hortense along Hwy. 32 West and along Raybon Rock Road.

Juanita Crews said that the storm was extremely loud as it came across her property that afternoon and that it shook her kitchen.

Amidst the storm a pine tree came down destroying a metal carport and damaging a vehicle underneath but narrowly missing a home.

Also on the road, Kristen Crews Cribbs reported through social media that the storm uprooted a pecan tree on her mother’s property.

The storm also moved a barn on Horsestomp Road and took the roof off half of mobile home on Hortense Screven Road.  The residents were assisted by the Red Cross and a tarp has since been placed over the damaged roof.

Oddly enough one resident in the area of the damaged home said she saw relatively little damage.

“I live five minutes from the roof that got torn off that house and I had electricity and even the TV didnt got out,” Brittney Megan Oglesby comment through Facebook.

Many areas of Hwy. 32 also had downed trees and downed power lines due to high winds resulting in a destroyed barn and a damaged pool.

Similar damage was reported not far over the county line into Wayne County where the Roberson and Lee families both recounted the loud storm and spent most of Monday moving fallen trees and debris from their properties.

Both Rhonda Lee and her husband Wade disagreed on weather it was a tornado or a storm but both agreed it was the worst storm they’d seen there in 26 years of living off of Hortense Road.

Among the damage was a massive water oak which was upended bringing nearly 10 feet of earth and roots with it.

But wind wasn’t the only problem for some, including Tyler Rowell, who was on the road to his brother Patrick’s house when the storm hit out of nowhere.

Rowell said he got a call while on the way warning him of the bad weather.  At that time, the drive was fairly peaceful, but by the time he got off the call, the became a much more dangerous feat, with heavy rains and even hail pummeling his vehicle. Meanwhile trees were sideways on the road, he said.

“It was just white everywhere, just the rain was so heavy all you could hear was the rain falling,” Tyler said. “You couldn’t actually hear the trees breaking it was just loud wind noises.”

Tyler’s trip to a family dinner quickly became more about helping him recover from the damage when a tree landed on Patrick’s home during the worst of the storm, he said.

Nahuntans also saw some damage from the storm including downed trees and power outages.

Through social media, Brenda Lichty-Steedley said that wind and limbs did damage to both her sons’  houses.

“Both were without electricity,” she said. “Our outside television and internet box got hit and we were without today. All of us live on the same road.”

The storm also took a limb down behind the post office, she said, and was laying behind the Nahunta First Baptist office.  The storm also flooded part of Florida Avenue she said.

Okefenoke REMC, Satilla REMC and Georgia Power were all called for assistance with lines down in there service areas.

Meanwhile Brantley EMA, the Hortense, Nahunta, Hoboken and Waynesville Fire Departments, the Hoboken Police, Brantley Sheriff’s Office, and the American Red Cross responded to the various incidents surrounding the afternoon storm.

 

County meeting erupts into shouting match

Longstanding tensions flared when commissioners brought their personal feelings to the table on issues of private property work at a called meeting last Thursday.

Charlie Summerlin brought an item to the agenda regarding private property work and questioned the county manager, Carl Rowland, about use of county equipment to remove concrete from a private residence in recent weeks – an item that brought at least two residents to the meeting in protest of the practice.

Summerlin’s questioning inferred that the county manager illegally used the equipment and provided county dirt to the private land owner – something he said ended in a lengthy legal battle years before and was stopped.

However, before he could respond, commissioner Mike Edgy spoke in the county manager’s defense and said that the concrete – the foundation of a former chicken house – was provided to the county in exchange for the dirt needed to fill in the holes.  Edgy said that the action saved the county money and that this is what the county manager was charged with doing.  Edgy also said that the county did not fill the hole, but instead left dirt for the landowner to do it himself.

Summerlin said he felt it was against regulations set in place by the county regarding private property work and said that he was still against doing so.  He also said that Edgy and commissioner Skipper Harris had worked with the county manager to make the decision underhandedly. Edgy responded that the acquisition of the concrete was the decision of the county manager and that he had the right to do so.

But Edgy also added that Summerlin had recently asked the county manager to have work performed on a private road, foregoing the commission and overstepping the rights of the commission chairman.

Summerlin said the county manager had agreed to the roadwork however Rowland denied this.

In previous years, the county has walked a tight- rope regarding private work and has only allowed the work in rare cases, such as to repair damage done by county equipment in the process of regular work.

However, previous discussions may allow the county to take the work slightly further if strict guidelines are met.

The county’s current attorney, C. Deen Strickland, brought his expertise on the item to the table last year when a Saturday work program was first considered.  Years before, Strickland actually defended the item in the Georgia Supreme Court – and won.

But in order for the practice to be legal, several very strict rules must be met including a standing, first-come first-serve list of private road work and a means of allowing the land owner to pay for the work and the equipment use.

However, some residents said that this was still against the interests of the county.

Resident Raymond Smith was among them, saying that county labor costs would undercut and hurt local businesses that are in the market to perform the same work.  Smith said that in the downtrodden economy, this was unfair to local businesses.  Smith said lists could also be easily changed to the detriment of a resident if he or she angered the wrong county official, taking away from the fairness of the process.

Summerlin requested the the commission bring forth a motion limiting the use of county equipment to fill in water holes only and Mike Edgy did so, but said that he hoped no one would second.  The motion died for lack of a second.

After a considerable amount of heated discussion, county attorney Strickland broke in explaining that the item could be discussed in a more civil manner.

Commissioner James Spradley agreed adding that the afternoon’s events were going to reflect badly on the commission and that they should cease “fighting over the steering wheel” of the county and work together.

Meanwhile a jail refinancing plan will save the county almost $1 million after being approved at the meeting.

The commission voted unanimously to approve the new financing rate of 2.3 percent down from the previous 4.58 percent rate set in 2006.

The new rate will mean a savings of about $965,000 over a 12 year period.

With work between the county manager and representatives from Merchant Capital, LLC, the county was able to negotiate out of a lock-in rate with SunTrust and get the new rate.

Edgy clarified that despite some wording in existing documents the county was not issuing a bond and that there would be no general obligation indebtedness. If it were, it would require a ballot item and public advertisements and it would be illegal to enter into such an agreement without, he said.

Discussion of approving three items for work on the airport also came to light and were passed at the meeting but not without discussion of a letter from Summerlin to the Georgia Department of Transportation representative Charles Evans giving the go-ahead on other projects.  Among them was the acquisition of land for a runway protection zone which included land belonging to nearby landowner Raymond Smith.

Edgy said he was against taking Smith’s land for the amount he was being offered for it but so did Summerlin who said that his signing off on a letter giving the go-ahead was a mistake and Edgy had taken advantage of it to attack him.

However, Edgy responded that it should have been the county manager and not the chairman sending this e-mail.

The county approved the reimbursement for terminal plan update, phase one design of a fuel farm and design of a parallel taxiway for the purposes of showing intention to move forward and continue to receive grant money for the project.  Of the three projects totaling around $110,000, the local portion would be about $6,000 with the rest being picked up by state and federal money.

In other business, the county:

•  Approved transferring funds from the jail SPLOST to the general fund to be distributed to the cities as their portion of the special tax.

•  Tabled an item regarding the transfer of cable franchising for BCI James Cable

Bradskeez’s has grand opening

2013-05-18 21.30.29Bradskeez’s Restaurant held their grand opening and ribbon cutting last Saturday with family, friends, restaurant staff, patrons and Brantley Chamber of Commerce members participating in the event. The restaurant served a variety of short orders for the occasion. Bradskeez’s offered a grand opening special, complimentary ice cream for participants and held drawings throughout the day for people dropping by and visiting.

Brantley gets first art association

1Brantley Co Art AssociationNew members gather in front of the newly formed Brantley Art Association sign, a historical first for Brantley. The first meeting was held last Wednesday at Sweet P’s Art Studio in Hoboken with a slate of officers chosen to represent the group. The association is dedicated to supporting and promoting all forms of art encouraging the various arts in Brantley County. The art association will also establish ties to help promote artists and the association by providing an environment for artists to meet, exchange ideas and information and will organize exhibits in which members may display and sell works of art. The association’s first event (at Sweet P’s) is this weekend’s Art in the Shade from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. for the public to meet, greet and learn from area artists and to provide information about the new association. The next meeting will be June 9 at 7 p.m. at Sweet P’s.

BOE recognizes retirees

Longtime school system employees Mary Lyons, left, Anne Williams, Sandy Lee and Elaine Baxley were each honored for years of service on Monday night. Not pictured but also honored were Donna Johns, Jane Allbritton and Dale Hendrix.
Longtime school system employees Mary Lyons, left, Anne Williams, Sandy Lee and Elaine Baxley were each honored for years of service on Monday night. Not pictured but also honored were Donna Johns, Jane Allbritton and Dale Hendrix.

The Brantley County School Board and superintendent may soon be adding landlord to its existing duties after a decision at Monday night’s regular meeting to move forward with drawing up contracts to lease a home on the high school campus. The board also announced the county’s newest salutatorian and valedictorian for this year’s graduation.

The home, formerly inhabited by the county’s previous superintendents, has sat vacant since the resignation of superintendent Drew Sauls when board members approved the hiring of Anthony Smith for the position.

Smith resides in Pierce County leaving the home vacant. But if the superintendent and school board attorney can iron out a solid lease agreement, that may not last for long. There will be requirements for living in the home according to board members. Among the most important will be that the home only be inhabited by school system employees. Board members also requested that the resident serve as a steward of the property helping keep an eye out for potential vandalism and clear out remaining participants after events at the location.

The practice isn’t completely unusual according to some board members who said at least two different principals had lived in another house on the property that was later demolished.

The board’s vote Monday night was also in hope that the resident will help with upkeep so that the home doesn’t deteriorate. However, many of the legal details have yet to be fully clarified.

The board also formally announced that the system’s start student, Joseph Ronald Ham is also this year’s valedictorian followed by Ashley Lynn Johnson who will be the Salutatorian. The two were mere points away on overall GPA and both received near perfect scores while also performing well on the SATs. The two will preside over the opening ceremonies of this year’s graduation and will have their pictures placed in the board of education hall alongside past students who earned the distinguished titles.

Star Teacher Frank Bullard III was also recognized at the meeting for being chosen as STAR Teacher by Ham.

Several retirees were recognized as well for years of service to the school system including Donna Johns, Jane Allbritton, Anne Williams, Mary Lyons, Sandy Lee, Elaine Baxley and Dale Hendrix.

In other business, the school board:

• Accepted the resignations of Jessica Carter, Mary Lyons, Daniel Byrd, Margie Manning, Brenda Jowers and Vic Parker.

• Accepted the recommendations of Scooter Goss Morgan as assistant secretar at BCMS, Candice Griffin at content teacher at BCMS, Joe Allen as cyber lab teacher at BCHS, Andrew Shealy as math teacher at BCHS, Richard Blood at English and language arts teacher at BCHS, Neely Moody as social studies teacher at BCHS, Sabrina Crawford as social studies teacher at BCHS and Tracey Perryman as media specialist at Nahunta Elementary.

• Announced the transfer of assistant principal Lora Harvard from BCMS to Hoboken Elementary School as counselor, media specialist Karla Carter from Waynesville Primary to BCMS, Robin Ham from paraprofessional at Hoboken Elementary School to assistant secretary, Tyler Page from content teacher to the connection teacher position of healthcare science and teacher Kim Steedley from Waynesville Primary School to Nahunta Primary School.

• Approved the 2014 Regional Education Service Agency contract for a cost of $30,702. Board members said that the cost hasn’t changed since 1992.

• Approved the bid of about $52,883 from Learning Labs for Engineering Class items at BCHS. The purchase is grant-funded.

• Reimbursed two travel package expenses for the Georgia HOSA Leadership Conference through grant funds.

• Approved the cost of 44 Georgia Nurses Aid Career Pathway Tests for graduating seniors to take at Bayview Nursing Home. This will allow students to graduate as certified nursing assistants.

• Approved the cost of $1,612 for a first aid training mannequin. The item is grant-funded.

• Approved the cost of a geriatric empathy kit for BCHS at a cost of $2,488.56 through grant funds.

• Approved the purchase of a SkyJack Narrow Scissor Lift for the maintenance department at a cost of $6,550.

• Approved the cost of $7,700 for the purchase of refrigerant for the maintenance department.

• Approved the cost of a new math textbook adoption at the cost of nearly $192,000. The new books are part of several curriculum changes.

• Approved fundraisers as presented.

• Approved $1,869 for a mobile work bench for engineering at BCHS. This is grant-funded.

• Approved the cost of $1,542 from Learning Labs for a smart board for the health care class. This item is grant-funded.

• Approved the birth-to-five Striving Readers Grant Cohort which will included the purchase of 70 ipads for kindergarten classes, laptops and $5,000 worth of books for pre-kindergarten students.

• Approved a contract for visually impaired student services.

Area leaders get legislative update

CHAMBER BREAKFASTMembers of Brantley County’s legislative delegation told those gathered at the post legislative breakfast sponsored last week by the Brantley County Chamber of Commerce that the legislature was able this year to spare school systems the 3-percent across-the-board cuts that were applied to all other state departments during this year’s session.

Sen. William Ligon and Rep. Chad Nimmer spoke at the event held at the board of education meeting room Wednesday.

Ligon also said 108 days were restored to the state’s pre-kindergarten programs and $156 was added to the education budget for future growth.

The senator also pointed to legislation passed this year to crack down on pain pill mills which he said had moved into Georgia following crackdowns in surrounding states.

Ligon also took advantage to once again speak out against the Common Core Curriculum which he say surrenders local control of education to Washington.

He said the approval of the CCC was premature and made without any cost analysis which might have determined that the cost of testing could rise from $5 per student to $30 per student online and $37 if taken the old-fashioned way with paper and pencils.

Testing, which will drive the curriculum at schools, will be determined by people outside of Georgia, Ligon said.

But the senator also said that $8 million was restored to technical school funding in the HOPE scholarship program.

He pointed out that $52 million has been pumped into the state’s equalization fund for low-wealth schools that “just can’t afford” the costs of state-mandated programs, but chamber president Tim Sawyer said that much of that money was going to systems — especially in metro Atlanta — that don’t need it.

Both officials agreed that rural Georgia just doesn’t have the numbers to compete with metro Atlanta for state funding.

Nimmer said that he rejects the “two Georgias” mentality that separates the satte into two parts — Atlanta and surroudning areas and the southern half of the state, adding that instead in fighting with those areas, rural representatives should make sure they sit at the right tables to make a pitch for their areas, touting what they have to offer whenever they get the chance.

“There is life outside the median of I-285,” he said.

Toothpick bridge wins third in nation

*BCMS students national awardScience skills are at work at  Brantley County Middle School this year as teachers were able to offer several applied learning connections classes this year.The results of this exploratory learning has paid off with  Mrs. Donna John’s Science Action Lab students winning third place in the nation for their entry. In a recent bridge building competition, future scientists Jesse Worth, Cassidy Tucker, Brittany Tolbert, Kassidy Griffin and Mara Gibson constructed a 59 1/2 inch bridge with an unsupported span of 53 1/2 inches. The project was built out of tooth picks and glue and easily passed the contests’ criteria of supporting the weight of three full 12 ounce soda cans.

Local residents go gold for cancer patient

Silas-MainGold is an important color to 4-year-old Silas Edenfield in many ways.  He knows it’s the color of childhood cancer awareness — something with which he’s become very familiar having fought it for most of his life.

But gold is far more than just a color for the brave young man. It’s also, in his own words, the color of Heaven, where he will receive his new body and meet Jesus.

Silas’s touching story may have begun in Lyons, but the young warrior’s selfless message and bravery have quickly spread around the region — and even the world — thanks to family and complete strangers who want to show support.

In February of 2012, Silas was diagnosed with stage-four Hepatoblastoma, a rare liver cancer that affects one million children in the United States.  Unfortunately the cancer had already begun to spread when it was caught and after a year-long battle doctors have exhausted most of their options and have given the young man only months to live.

Since then, parents Jessica and Archie Edenfield and Silas’s three brothers have been extremely supportive. Treatments have not had a lasting effect on the cancer and chemo has taken it’s toll on the young man physically — but has yet to dampen his spirit, a spirit that comes from inside but is made strong by a group of family members and literally thousands of strangers who want to let him know that he isn’t in this battle alone.

Among his family is great-aunt Susan Keene, a courthouse employee and Brantley resident, who has worked tirelessly to spread Silas’s message of awareness in the community she calls home.

Gold ribbons and gold fingernails were the young boy’s request, and many at the Brantley County Courthouse have already responded with gold bows on the doors and paint on their nails — both men and women alike.  Keene said that support in the community for her nephew has grown tremendously with residents and even deputies painting their nails to support Silas.

 

God and family have played a major roll in keeping Silas’s heart strong during his battle, but also from another less likely source — sea turtles.

During chemo, Silas began to request the “sea turtle room” to help take his mind off of the treatments. In time, the creature became his favorite animal.  Sea turtles and other turtle-related trinkets now fill Silas’s bedroom thanks to caring people in the community. But perhaps the most touching gesture came from the Jekyll Island Authority’s Sea Turtle Center who named one of their own patients, an injured loggerhead turtle, after Silas.

The turtle, which was released in late April during the Tybee Turtle Trot, was a special tribute by the employees of the center who were also moved by the Silas’s story.

Though weak, Silas was able to make the trip to meet the turtle sharing his name before it was released.

Meanwhile, communities like Brantley have continued to take action to bring out the gold to support Silas’s brave journey. But for Silas, it’s not about him. Because his hope is that it will spread awareness and hope for the many other children like him afflicted with the powerful disease.

Thanks to websites like CaringBridge.org/visit/silasedenfield and Facebook.com/prayingforsilas, thousands of strangers have also begun to help spread the message while receiving regular updates from the family on Silas’s condition. Those close to Silas have been amazed at the support and his Aunt Susan said that they wanted to thank all those who have worked so hard to keep a smile on the young man’s face with their prayers — both abroad and in Brantley County.

Silas’s mother said that he is not afraid of what is to come in his life and that he is excited for his future, regardless of the outcome.

In that way, he shares much in common with his tough-shelled namesake turtle.

Because someday, Silas, too, hopes to have a mended body — whether it be on Earth or in Heaven.

County may clamp down on off-road park

Brantley County may soon be looking at ways to recoup losses, fix traffic problems and better enforce the law governing major county events after an agenda item regarding East Coast Off-Road Park brought up by commissioner Mike Edgy at Tuesday’s regular meeting of the board of commissioners.

And agents from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms may be part of the solution.

Edgy referred to a recent event at the park known as Trucks Gone Wild that regularly brings in massive crowds to the county and has brought some in the community to complain of various issues that follow.

Edgy said that he had no issue with the business bringing in the crowds even of that size, but massive traffic blockage, noise issues and alcohol were each items that the county should address as well as the cost the county incurs trying to fix each of them.

Edgy said that alcohol was one of his biggest concerns about the event, which doesn’t sell or condone alcohol but tends to attract the use of alcoholic beverage nonetheless.  Among the options the county has, Edgy said, is to contact the ATF who had already spoken with the previous chairman about sending undercover agents to the area to help keep a lid on illegal consumption of alcohol during the time of the event.

Meanwhile, traffic was also backed up from the location of the event off of Highway 32 to the four way stop in the middle of Hortense causing several issues with motorists who may have just been passing through.

Edgy said local law enforcement did the best they could to direct large portions of the traffic but that the area was inundated with vehicles.  Edgy suggested that the county find ways to help increase the flow of traffic such as redirecting traffic through Ballfield Road to help keep the main highways clear.  Edgy also suggested finding ways to have the event organizers help pay overtime for officers who were required to direct traffic for the event.  Edgy said that the event actually brought in over 6,000 participants this year paying anywhere from $25 and $55 dollars to enter the park. Edgy said the organizers could use some of that money to help the county pay off some of the costs associated with traffic and general upkeep after the event.

911 Director Linda Murrell attended the meeting and confirmed that the 911 center does receive a significantly more calls during that major event at the park.

Quoting approximate numbers, the 911 center’s average emergency calls for the three day weekend period went from about 50 to 100 for that weekend and from about 110 to 231 for non-emergency calls.

There were also about six ATV wrecks during the event compared to two on a regular weekend, seven EMS calls compared to none on a regular weekend and about 54 traffic stops compared to 16 regularly.  DUI calls also went from about one a weekend to approximately two.

However, only a handful were noise calls, she said, with 10 noise complaints – seven of which were actually called on a resident in the area who was apparently using a train horn to protest noise at the park.  As it turns out, the loud horn annoyed neighbors more than the park itself.

Murrell said that this year’s event was much larger than previous iterations and that this likely caused an increase in each of these areas that the park owners weren’t expecting.

Murrell also said that the park itself was staffed with off-duty officers from surrounding counties as security and that there were signs throughout the park prohibiting alcohol.

However, she did point out that one of the more serious accidents – that the Enterprise had previously learned involved a life flight – involved an 18 year old who had wrecked into a drink while under the influence of alcohol.

Commissioners tasked the county manager with looking into a more robust ordinance to reign in some of the issues and look into event permitting that may recoup some of the costs.

Manager Carl Rowland said that he plans to confer with other counties about their ordinance and come back with a proposal by the June meeting if not by Thursday.

Meanwhile the airport authority’s latest project may have “put the ox before the cart” in the words of some commissioners when it opened bids, approved the low bidder and held a pre-construction hearing over the last year without first bringing the item to the attention of the board of commissioners.

A lengthly discussion inferred that the main problems occurred over a year ago when the bids were first accepted and that this should have been brought to the commission table in a step-by-step process rather than having the authority handle all the items and come to the county for the final confirmation.

But discussion also brought forth that the airport authority’s actual powers may not be as far-reaching as members had previously thought.

Both the attorney and county manager agreed that the airport authority did not have the power to enter into this contract on its own in large part due to the fact the majority of the contract refers to the county as the land owner. This made the county the final decision maker on this project.

The discrepancy, a lack of communication and the need for more funds to be transferred from the general fund are major reasons why Edgy said he backed the recent decision to request from the legislature that the authority be downgraded to an advisory board to the commission.

However, county attorney C. Deen Strickland said that many of the issues stemmed from year-old problems and that communication has improved.  Strickland also said that current authority chairman Billy Lee’s knowledge of the projects have played a major role in helping the county through some of the legal issues that arose before he became chairman.

However, Edgy also said that the authority going through with two phases of the project despite commissioners demanding it be put on hold previously also frustrated him.

However, the county manager pointed out that he had been kept in the loop on the authority’s actions since he took office.

The budget amendment for more money, contract approval and bid approval were placed on the regular agenda and, if approved, will allow the low bidder J. Hyers to begin the project this month and complete the project within a month.  The county will only pay a small portion of the total bill with a majority of the money coming from the Federal Aviation Administration and another portion coming from the Georgia Department of Transportation.

 

In other business, the commission:

•  Struck two items regarding appointments to the Tax Assessors Board and the Development Authority from the agenda following discussion between Commissioner Edgy and Chairman Summerlin regarding whether the items should be ran in the media first.  Summerlin said that he had discussed the item with other commissioners and Edgy and thought they had already come to an agreement.  Edgy said they should be advertised first.

•  Placed the transfer of cable franchise from James Cable to BCI on the regular agenda.

•  Placed a National EMS Week proclamation on the regular agenda.

•  Placed an agreement between the city of Nahunta and the county regarding billing and collection of ad valorem taxes on behalf of the city.  The contract remains the same as the previous iteration and runs through 2016.

•  Listened to an update from the county attorney regarding the school bus stop arm camera program that the county may enter with the cities and school system. Strickland said that there were still some legal issues and questions he would like to work out with the company in various parts of the contract before the board consider it for approval.

•  Placed an ante-litem notice regarding a Rachel Mitchell on the regular agenda.

•  Placed two tax payers with unusual circumstances regarding interest and penalties on the regular agenda to have portions of their tax bill forgiven because of clerical issues.

•  Placed discussion of the GDOT speed limit ordinance on the regular agenda to examine possible changes the commission would like to make.  Suggestions thus far range from  having all of Central Avenue limited to 45 miles per hour as per the county attorney’s request to having all county maintained roads lowered to 45 miles per hour per chairman Charlie Summerlin.

•  Listened to a report from the county manager who said that the county road department was in full force repairing issues from recent downpours and that other road repairs would recommence once they were complete.  Ongoing work at the county landfill is also going smoothly he said.

 

Nahunta Primary School leads county on CCRPI

testsNahunta Primary School led the county in results of the 2012 College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) tests with a 96.9 overall score, according to results provided by the Georgia Department of Education Tuesday.

Among elementary schools, Hoboken Elementary School was second with a 92.8 score, Nahunta Elementary School was third with 89.4, Atkinson Elementary School was fourth 87.7, and Waynesville Primaru School was fifth with 75.6.

The county system’s overall score among elementary schools came to 88.4, the same as Camden County, one point higher than Pierce County, 14.8 points higher than Charlton, 21.9 points higher than Wayne County, and 8.9 points higher than Glynn.

Brantley County High School scored a 69 and Brantley County Middle School an 88.

Among area high schools, Pierce scored 79.8, Charlton 79.1, Camden 84.2, Glynn 75, Ware 80.7, and Wayne 67.6.

In the middle schools category, Ware scored a 90, Wayne middle schools a combined 76.5, Charlton a 77, and Camden a combined 86.6.

State board of education officials cautioned that the results of the CCRPI are not test scores, although those scores are included in the overall assessment of each school.

The new system is meant to be a more comprehensive measure of a school’s performance than that used under the No Child Left Behind Act. The state Department of Education says the new report card is meant to let the public know how a school is doing with easy-to-understand scores.

Each school gets a score out of 100. The overall score was made up of three areas: achievement counts for 70 percent; progress is 15 percent; and achievement gap accounts for the remaining 15 percent. Each of those areas is broken up into subcategories.

Brantley County schools assistant superintendent for curriculum and testing Greg Jacobs also warned that the index numbers assigned by the CCRPI is not to be likened to scores students receive in school, and while a 80-something may be liked to a good “B,” that’s not how the indexing system works and may be misleading.

The new ranking system is more complicated and includes more factors than the previously used No Child Left Behind and Adequate Yearly Progress system, he said.

A school and district’s overall score is made up of three major areas: Achievement (70 points possible), Progress (15 points possible) and Achievement Gap (15 points possible). In addition to the three major areas, some schools receive “Challenge Points” to add to their score (up to 10 points).

State School Superintendent John Barge said the index measures schools and school districts on an easy-to-understand 100 point scale. The state, as well as each district, will receive a score for each grade band (Elementary, Middle and High School). The average score for Georgia’s elementary schools is 83.4, middle schools is 81.4 and high schools is 72.6.

The U.S. Department of Education granted Georgia’s waiver from NCLB on Feb. 9, 2012.

“I am very pleased that we now have a school improvement measure as in-depth as the College and Career Ready Performance Index,” said Barge.

“We are no longer bound by the narrow definitions of success found in the Adequate Yearly Progress measurement. Holding schools accountable and rewarding them for the work they do in all subjects and with all students is critical in preparing our students to be college and career ready. The index effectively measures how schools prepare our students for success.”

The CCRPI will help parents and the public better understand how schools are performing in a more comprehensive manner than the pass/fail system previously in place under AYP, according to the state superintendent’s office.

The Index includes scores that easily communicate to the public how a school is doing. Each school receives a score out of 100 points, just like what students receive in their classes, according to a news release sent out Tuesday.

They receive these points if they have a significant number of economically disadvantaged students, English learner students and students with disabilities meeting expectations.

They also receive points for going beyond the targets of the CCRPI by challenging students to exceed expectations and participate in college and career readiness programs.

Beginning in 2013-2014, schools will also receive ratings based on their financial efficiency and school climate, but these ratings will be for the public’s information only and will not factor into the school’s overall CCRPI score.

Rain turns fertilizer into fly spawning ground

Hoboken experienced a population boom in the last week in the hundreds of thousands, but the new residents are anything but human.

Hoboken City Clerk Linda Henderson said that last week’s explosion of flies is likely the worst the city has seen in at least 30 years.

The exact cause isn’t clear but officials with the city have surmised that the recent laying of chicken manure on the many fields in and around the city along with manure stored at local chicken houses could be the culprit.

The new manure coupled with heavy rains has created a breeding ground for what is essentially  the common housefly.

While they don’t bite, they have caused a nuisance for area residents in their daily lives.

“I live in Hoboken, and of course there have always been flies in the spring and summer but not like this,” Gloria Trull said. “They have never been one tenth as bad as they are now.”

Others have said that even going to the store has become a battle just to get through the bugs.

“They will carry you through the doors in Hoboken,” Kristina Walker said.

But the problem isn’t limited to the city with communities as far away as Hickox and Schlatterville also complaining of flies.

Cool weather has served as somewhat of a break from the flies residents have said, but evenings still bring the bugs in by the hundreds.

And that’s not too surprising based on extension service documents that put the average range of fly dispersal from one half to two miles but maximums of up to 20 miles from where they were born.

Documentation also shows that the flies can carry up to 100 human and animal disease-causing organisms.

As for the numbers, wet poultry manure is considered an ideal breeding ground for house and garbage flies with some being able to lay between six batches of 75 to 200 eggs at three to four day intervals.

These flies usually live for three to four weeks but can live longer under the right circumstances.

In the meantime, residents in the area are finding their own solutions.

Some, such as Mary Griffin of Mount Calvary Road are taking the flies on head-on with a fly swatter while others have resorted to fly paper. However, as Staci Tindall said in a social media response, the solution is temporary since the immense number of flies has caused the sticky fly tape to fill up quickly.

Others have been finding that homemade traps and store-bought items are doing the trick.

Trent Jacobs said that Rescue Brand Big Bag Fly Traps available at area hardware stores have worked well to keep the flies out.

Others said that Skin So Soft lotion, garlic items such as powder or pills and even planting basil all have some effect on reducing the numbers.

Though worse than years past, the flies are something many have come to expect in the heavily agriculture area though some have expressed concern over the use of chicken manure after this year’s swarm.

But farmers and those familiar with the process have said that the alternative to chicken manure – non-organic fertilizers – could actually be more unhealthy than the flies the current product attracts.

Meanwhile some area chicken houses have made changes to help alleviate the fly problem.

The Humpty Dumpty plant outside of Hoboken, for example, has worked to increase ventilation and changed how they handle chicken manure in an effort to reduce the flies, United Egg Marketing general manager Dennis Hughes told the Enterprise in an interview last year.

New chicken houses are also being constructed with the fly issue in mind, he said, though admitting that some flies are unavoidable.

The flies have come and gone in recent days with many complaining of flies on some days and others, such as Hoboken Elementary School’s Field Day experiencing few of them.

But until they are gone for good, residents are doing what they can to cope.

Mangram guilty on all counts in murder

UntitledA Glynn County man was sentenced to two life sentences after he was found guilty in the May 29 murder of Ultavious Gillard in Brantley County.

Jurors found Dayquan Marquez Mangram, 18, guilty on all six counts — including malice murder and felony murder — at the end of a five-day trial in Brantley County Superior Court Friday at about 4:30 p.m. while Rena Lang, 33, was found guilty on three counts and jurors were unable to reach a verdict in two counts.
The jury took two days to reach the verdicts, deliberating until 11 p.m. Thursday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday.
Brantley County Superior Court Judge Dwayne Gillis sentenced Mangram to two life sentences on malice murder and felony murder convictions, as well as 12 months to serve for possession of a handgun by a minor, 20 years to serve for aggravated assault, five years to serve consecutively for possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime conviction, and 10 years to serve for concealing the death of another.
The felony murder sentence was merged with the aggravated assault sentence and the malice murder was merged with the felony murder sentence.
Mangram was shackled by Brantley County Sheriff’s Office deputies after he created an outburst following the reading of the verdicts, shouting something unintelligible. He calmed down only when his attorney told him his case would be appealed.
Defendant Rena Lang received a sentence of 20 years for aggravated assault, five years for possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime to serve consecutive to the previous conviction, and 10 years for concealing the death of another, to serve consecutively as well.
Jurors reached an impasse in the malice murder and felony murder charges against Lang forcing the judge to declare a mistrial on those charges, which may be brought back at a later time.
Assistant District Attorney George Barnhill said after the hearing was adjourned that he was happy with the verdicts and sentences, pointing out that Lang had been tried for felony murder before and had been found guilty of more than one felony drug possession charges in the past few years.
Lang pled tearfully for mercy from the judge, saying she had children and a grandchild on the way.

First Lady visits WPS students

FirstLady-MainGeorgia First  Lady Sandra Deal stopped by Waynesville Primary School earlier this week to read to the kindergarten classes while also promoting the joys of reading to an eager audience.

Deal read a poem by her husband as well as a children’s book entitled “What I’d Like To Be” to the packed media center and entertained students.

First Lady Deal, her husband Gov. Nathan Deal, Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning Commissioner Bobby Cagle and state School Superintendent John Barge joined together this month to kick off “Read Across Georgia” in March.

Since then the First Lady has made appearance to read in almost every county in the state of Georgia.  But for Deal, a former teacher, the trips are about far more than just visiting the state’s many regions.  She also hopes to work toward broadening the interest in reading at a young age.

“We must increase the percentage of children reading well and independently at grade-level because this lays the groundwork for all of their future academic and career endeavors,” she said. “This past year, I had the opportunity to visit 100 counties and 170 schools emphasizing to parents, teachers and mentors the importance of being proficient in reading. I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish during my Read Across Georgia initiative this year.”

As a part of the celebration, DECAL sponsored “Georgia Reads Aloud Day” on March 19. On this day, parents, child care providers and the entire communities were encouraged to make a special effort to read to children of all ages.

“Reading can have a huge impact in the lives of our state’s youngest learners and ‘Read Across Georgia’ and ‘Georgia Reads Aloud Day’ are great ways for everyone to get involved,” said DECAL Commissioner Bobby Cagle. “Both programs support Governor Deal’s goal to have all of Georgia’s children reading on grade level by third grade.”

Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning is responsible for meeting the child care and early education needs of Georgia’s children and their families. It administers the nationally recognized Georgia’s Pre-K Program, licenses child care centers and home-based child care, administers Georgia’s Childcare and Parent Services program, federal nutrition programs, and manages voluntary quality enhancement programs.

The department also houses the Head Start State Collaboration Office, distributes federal funding to enhance the quality and availability of child care, and works collaboratively with Georgia child care resource and referral agencies and organizations throughout the state to enhance early care and education. For more information, go to www.decal.ga.gov.

Strangeness prevails at Okefenokee event

Swamp3Patrons of the Okefenokee Swamp Park enjoyed a night of sight-seeing, local cuisine and swamp education as they took to the many trails of the park, which held special full moon tours of the park, boat rides through the swamp and educational events by resident swamp expert Don Berryhill.  Park workers also gave visitors up-close looks at the parks many animals including the famous alligators.  Park officials also updated the crowd on many projects that the group hopes to pursue including upgrades to live-stream park events on the internet, however also mentioning that funding would be a big part of making those projects a reality.

BOE fires teacher on alcohol related charges

BOE HEARING WAINRIGHT
The Brantley County Board of Education terminated a teacher employed at Hoboken Elementary School Monday after testimony in a day-long hearing indicated she had provided alcohol for her own 15-year-old daughter during prom week and allowed under-aged Brantley County High School students to play beer pong in her Fernandina condo while she was there.

After listening to witnesses and attorneys in the public hearing from 9:30 a.m. to about 5 p.m., members of the board went into executive session to consider the future of Joanna Wainright, finally emerging about 9 p.m. to announce the teacher had been terminated.

Wainright was charged with providing alcohol to minor students and allowing its use by minor students in her presence during prom week in Jekyll Island and spring break in Fernandina Beach.

In pre-hearing interviews Wainright admitted she had provided beer for her 15-year-old daughter “but not for any other child,” and that may have been her downfall, although board members did not say which charge led to the teacher’s dismissal.

Defense attorney Teresa Bowen argued that state law allowed parents to allow their children to consume alcohol in the homes, and that included her condo or motel room — or anywhere else she was living at the time.

But board attorney Tracy Altman argued that the state code of ethics for educators held Wainright to a stricter set of guidelines which did not allow her to provide alcohol to minors in any location or under any circumstances.

The board heard from a stream of witnesses including students, parents and other teachers, as well as HES principal Kim Morgan, who testified that Wainright told her she had provided alcohol to her daughter “but not for any other child” — but only after she was questioned three times.

Taking the stand in her own defense Wainright wove a convoluted tale of the events of the evening, explaining how her husband bought some beer and wine coolers at the grocery store which somehow wound up in the backseat of her car when she drove her daughter to Jekyll late on prom night.

But her daughter testified that she took the beer from the trunk of the car to someone else’s room while Wainright went to secure a room of their own. In either case, the former teacher said she discovered her daughter  had the beer when they brought the bag back to their room, where she poured out two beers.

She did not say what happened to the remaining four beers or the alleged second six-pack.

But in addition to providing alcohol to her own daughter, Wainright also was charged with allowing underaged BCHS students to imbibe beer while playing beer pong in her condo while she was present.

One student said she went so far as to call him “the comeback kid” each time he fell behind and came back in the game, which involves bouncing a ping-pong ball into a plastic cup and drinking beer — lots of beer.

Wainright said she found that same student sleeping on her dining room table when she awoke one morning and he told her he couldn’t remember how he got there.

School board members and those who sat in the gallery heard tale after tale of minor drinking in condos, motel rooms and on the beach, where one student was ticketed by local police for possession of alcohol, and another was alleged to have buried a cooler of beer under the beach sand, which was found by law-enforcement officers and poured out when no one would claim it for fear of being ticketed as well.

Bowen brought in at least one student who said she never saw beer pong being played in the condo, one who said it was played but when Wainright discovered it was being played with beer she ordered the players to leave, as well as several character witnesses who said Wainright was a good and moral person who could be trusted with kids under her supervision.

Even Morgan agreed that she was a very good teacher who brought CRCT test scores up from 80 percent to 99 percent during her years at HES where she also was a team leader and a tireless, responsible instructor.

Bowen also told the board about one Robin Ham, a para-professional at HES with an ax to grind with Wainright, whom the attorney and the teacher indicated was behind the actions taken by the board against the teacher, which Bowen described as a “witch hunt by someone who can’t stand her.”

The board had several options after hearing almost eight hours of testimony. They could have terminated her, suspended her for 60 days without pay, or reinstated her, according to Sid Cottingham, a Douglas attorney who acted as administrative judge in the hearing.

NES Gazette staff brings news to students

One local student’s excitement for journalism has sparked the interest of an entire school in Brantley County and he’s nowhere near done just yet.

Grant Bennett is the editor and publisher of Nahunta Elementary School’s NES Gazzette which is published about four times a semester by an in-house news team of top-notch reporters.

Regularly the team meets at the school to pull together all the news that’s fit to print – on standard printer paper – and Bennett send the teams off to find out what’s happening all around the school and suggest topics from bullying to book reviews.

“My teacher Ms. Diana Carter brought up the topic that she did a newspaper,” he said. “I just thought from that it would be pretty cool to do that.”

Bennett said he started then but didn’t have enough time to put it together. But when he began working on the project again this year with the help of teacher Ashley Booth the idea caught fire.

“She was very enthusiastic about it when I first brought up the idea and then we talked to Dr. [Tim] Sawyer and it just worked out a bunch that everything came out exactly as planned.”

Bennett said he wasn’t originally that interested in writing but that there was something different about this project – something that enticed him.

“When it comes to the journalism topic where you can put mainly whatever you think should be put in there without a limit on it, that really clicked me in because I like stuff like that,” he said.

Part of the ability to do that came from having a team of hand-picked writers that Bennett said he chose based on various items they’d written and their willingness to work to put out the paper.  The sixth grade editor said he looked for creativity and imagination in the writing when he first assembled his team of students C.J. Tumlin, Regan Perkins, Thomas Albright, Sierra Santiago and Brenna Boyett and that they have played a major role in putting the paper together.

For Bennett discipline is also something he expects from his writers while he also expects depth from their writing – things he learned early on.

“When getting the student of the week [story] you have to ask the teachers what [the students] are doing,” he said. “Don’t try and wing it – that was a main thing for me.”

Bennett has also used his paper to take a stand on issues he felt were important to students including bullying which he tackled in the very first issue he put together.

“It was in the first one; we said bullying gets you nowhere and stuff like that,” he said.

Overall the project has gotten easier each time, he said, from taking months to finish a single issue to having the last one done in just three days. All the while, Bennett said that the project is helping him gather his thoughts more clearly when writing.

Bennett said he also reads several books, magazines and newspapers to get ideas for how to write his stories.

And Brantley’s youngest newspaper editor plans to keep the project going.  He is already looking for people to take his place for next year and to take over in other capacities in the fledgling newspaper when he starts at Brantley County Middle School next year.

Bennett hopes to speak with principal Angela Haney about starting a new paper at the middle school as well.

No doubt he already has the support of his current principal.

“He’s not only driven to make the newspaper happen, but also to make sure it’s very well done.  He’s got a great blend of intelligence, creativity, and determination,” Principal Sawyer said. “In addition, he’s just a pleasure to be around – he’s a great kid!”

His advice for others wanting to get involved with journalism, or anything else, is simple.

“Never hold back,” he said. “If you want something, go for it until you achieve it; never stop.”

That advice seems to be working well for him, too, since he promised to dye his hair black if the paper sold over 300 copies and will soon need to fulfill his end of the bargain.

Bennett said the paper not only met the goal but surpassed it.

Storms leave trail of damage across county

Weather-CowsResidents are still recovering from damages after a storm swept through most of Brantley County on late Sunday evening causing damage throughout.

The Enterprise received reports of damage from Hoboken to Waynesville, Monday morning, as residents finally got a chance to survey their property.

Some of the worst stories came from a community on Hwy. 110 East, where trees were toppled in several yards and caused some damage to property – and headaches for property owners.

Among them was Wetzel Head who had numerous trees and limbs fall in his yard with at least one limb puncturing his roof.

The storm also destroyed his fence and effortlessly mangled and tossed a large trampoline 40 yards toward the front of his property.

While the damage was fairly extensive, Head said that the mess was the largest part of the aftermath with several trees littering the front and back.

Despite the damage, Head said that the storm was extremely brief having passed over in a momentary roar – still one of the worst he had seen in over 30 years.

While severe, Head’s story was not uncommon in the neighborhood with several trees down from pines to massive live oaks littering yards for most of a mile.

It was also not uncommon around the county with residents from Waynesville to Hoboken reporting massive downed trees on the roads and on some power lines causing blackouts around the county.

At least a couple of residents also reported damage to buildings and heavily damaged vehicles due to fallen trees.

While weather reports dispute the suggestions that the night’s storms caused a tornado, residents who rode out the storm said they heard a loud roaring noise briefly pass over their roofs in several areas.

“It sounded like an Amtrak going by for a few seconds,” Hannah Dawn Boggs said. “It had me a bit concerned.”

Boggs said the storm uprooted a privacy fence and threw it into her home.

“On Post Road South several trees cross the road and there’s a power line down across the road,” Sonja Bullard said. “Sounded like a train running through my front yard.”

Frankie Helton reported several trees and damage off of Buster Walker and Fred Cooper roads as well as well as a roof completely being blown off a shed.

Meanwhile, Christina Taylor noted that her trampoline had completely gone missing during the storm.

Clear across the county, Mechell Loudermilk Croslyn reported that several trees were down in Hoboken with at least one tin roof having been damaged on one of the houses while another resident, Sarah Ellisonflake, reported a damaged building on Chicago Avenue also due to a tree.

The storm also brought out Okefenoke Rural Electric Membership Corporation (OREMC) workers who repaired lines and carefully removed partially broken trees and branches from their perch above major power lines.

Backwoods artisan finds beauty in gnarled roots

BigZ-FatlighterHeronThere was a little bit of everything at the Big Z garage sale last Saturday which brought residents from around the area and even out of state to exhibit their wares at Twin Oaks Park – some items more unusual than others.

Among  them was Larry Hickox who has a knack for finding art in just about anything from trees to cow skulls.

Amidst the many items was one large heron carved entirely out of a fatlighter stump that Hickox had found.  But the self-taught artist would be quick to tell passersby that the heron was already there,  he just brought it out.

That was the premise behind many of the items at his booth Saturday including walking canes and staffs made of trees that he’d cut up, carved and painted based on what he said was art already in the wood.  Each cane had a story, from snakes climbing along the sides of one cane to wolves adorning the wood knots along the sides of a staff.  Hickox said he never knows what his next project will be until he sees the wood and from there his imagination takes over.

Not far from the canes were several hand-framed paintings and even painted cow skulls – all of which were covered in whatever image came to mind for the artist.

Hickox, a Waycross native currently residing in Alabama, said that he has no formal training and took up “whittling” when he had his hips replaced to have something to pass the time.

This was his first trip to the Big Z garage sale.

Meanwhile James and Estelle Hendrix had a very different type of wood based art – a massive archway.

Estelle said that she was unsure of the history of the massive structure, which measured in at almost five feet tall and over 10 feet wide, but thought that it came from an extremely old building possibly in Ware County – though the design matches some historic buildings in Savannah.  Estelle said her hope was to find a new home for the historic piece where it could continue to be taken care of.

School officials say hello to new super

1 BOETeachers and several other school system employees will be adding a planning day to the end of the year to help make up hours lost during February’s flooding which forced the system to close school for two days.

The board approved an adjusted work schedule at Monday night’s regular meeting that will allow teachers, paraprofessionals, secretaries, book keepers, custodians and administrators to make up one day as a planning period on May 30.  The additional day will be made up using documented time working while out of the office doing jobs such as tutoring children.

Meanwhile department directors will be given leeway to set up their own plans for employees who need to make up days and don’t fall under the other category.

Students, on the other hand, will not have to make up the two days.

However, board member David Herrin voted against the schedule explaining that he would rather see teachers working in the classroom instead of adding a  planning day.

Herrin cited a $16,000 deficit by which he said the school system was “in the red” last year as part of the reason he was cautious of leaving the pay for the two days in the schedule.  Herrin said the two days alone would cost the county about $220,000 and that he was concerned about taxpayer money.

“We gave up two instructional days where we actually taught kids and I asked Thursday for it to be considered that we hold onto these two days and maybe have two less furlough days next year where we actually have kids in the classroom,” Herrin said.

School officials countered that if they were to cut those two days out of the remaining school year, it would have an extremely detrimental effect on their paychecks and on overall employee moral after having already dealt with and worked through several budget cuts.

Teachers in the audience also said that that staffing cuts have forced them to cover classrooms during their existing planning periods and that the additional planning day is needed – especially considering major curriculum changes.

In addition to modifying the existing calendar, the school board also approved the calendar for the 2014 school year which already has five furlough days in place, though assistant superintendent Greg Jacobs said that more or fewer days could be needed depending on the financial situation of the school system in the coming year.

The furlough days will be split and distributed throughout the calendar with two days being on Dec. 19 and 20 and two more being held on Feb. 18 and 19. The remaining day will be placed after graduation on a planning day on May 29.

The calendar also has students starting back to school on Aug. 7 and returning from Christmas break on Jan. 8, 2014 after a 20 day hiatus.

The meeting also served as an introduction to two officials who were involved in their first meeting that night.

Both Superintendent Anthony Smith and new school board attorney Tracy Altman were recognized at the start of the night by chairwoman Dot Hickox who also thanked Read Carter for holding the interim superintendent’s post for several months in addition to his regular duties.

In other business, the board:

•  Approved the carpet cleaning bid of 5,435.80 from ServPro.

*  Approved the carpet and tile bid from Nahunta business Ashley Floors for $6,349 to carpet and tile the new band room at BCHS.

•  Approved the purchase of AV Rover 3-D projectors for BCHS Healthcare to be paid out of a healthcare capital equipment grant awarded to BCHS in 2012

•  Approved the cost of $5,790 from the Apple Store for 10 ipads for special education classes.

•  $1,215 from SchoolTech Suppliers to purchase five computers for the alternative school.

*  Approved the BCHS fundraiser list with one addition.

ATV rider could face multiple charges

An accident at an area event could could result in charges against the injured driver.

Corey Lee Rauch, 18, from Hinesville who received a life-flight due to head injuries could face charges of driving under the influence, driving too fast for conditions and failure to maintain lane after he lost control of his 2011 Can-Am Renegade all terrain vehicle on East Coast Loop – a private road at the East Coast Off-Road Park.

Rauch failed to negotiate a curve and ran into a tree.

His passenger, Michelle Novak, 20 of St. Marys was not injured. Rauch was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.

The accident is being investigated by Trooper First Class Greg Stone.

Storm marches through county Sunday

storm mapStorm tracks show the paths of destructive winds that marched through the county Sunday night downing trees and scattering debris through the eastside of the county. The county was placed under tornado warning and a severe thunderstorm watch until lat win the night. Read more in this week’s edition of The Brantley Enterprise, Brantley County’s favorite newspaper since 1920!

One seriously injured in Hickox accident

accident1Emergency services workers carry a victim in a Sunday afternoon accident to a TraumaOne helicopter for transfer to an area medical center. No official reports were immediately available from the Georgia State Patrol which investigated the accident but unconfirmed accounts indicate that Brenda Hickox was seriously injured in the accident when the late model Kia she was driving pulled from Caney Bay Road into the path of a Mustang apparently traveling south on US Highway 301. Witnesses say that she was ejected through the passenger’s side window. Read more in this week’s edition of The Brantley Enterprise.

Photo by Chris Buchanan

Former Nahunta mayor passes way

1 Marvin-WreathThe city of Nahunta mourned the loss of one of its longest serving and most recognizable public figures this week when he died late Monday after a storied career in local politics that spanned two decades.

Marvin Peeples, who served with the city of Nahunta in varying capacities over the years stepped down from his position as mayor pro-tempor and later from his council seat in 2010. Peeple’s career in local politics began in 1994 as a Nahunta City Councilman. He later served as the mayor of Nahunta from 1996 to 2003.

Peeples continued on as a councilman and served until 2010 during which time he was honored for 13 years of perfect attendance.

He also served as a member on the Brantley County Development Authority, the Board of Concerted Services, the Brantley County Chamber of Commerce, the Nahunta Masonic Lodge and years earlier served in the Navy during the Korean War from 1948 to 1952.

Councilman Richard Johns, who served alongside Peeples during his last stent with the city spoke highly of his esteemed colleague and friend.

“He was a man of his word if he told you something he stuck to it,” Richard Johns said. “I really enjoyed being on the council with him. I think he served the city the best he could and served for the best interest of the city. I’m going to miss him.”

Johns said Peeples never backed down from what he believed and that he both admired and respected Peeples for his courage.

City Clerk Angela Wirth similarly said that Peeples was never a man to be deterred from his decisions.

“I think what I’ll remember most about Mr. Marvin is that you couldn’t sway him from any decision he made,” she said. “Once he made a decision that was it.”

In fact, in one of his last years on the council, Peeples walked out in protest of an action with which he disagreed, breaking a quorum and effectively tabling the item for the night and ending the meeting.

But Wirth also said he was a kind man during her time working with him.

“He was a sweet man; I couldn’t have worked with a better council member,” she said. “When he came in to pay his water bill, I would hug him and come out to talk to him for a few minutes.”

Wirth said the city has placed a wreath at the door in his honor and pending the approval of the current mayor will lower the flags at city hall to half-staff.

Peeples was 82 years old.

Visitation will be held Wednesday April 10, from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. at Frye Funeral Home and a funeral service will be held Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m. at Frye Funeral Home with Rev. Randy Carson, Bishop Hugh Arnold, and Rev. Larry Altman officiating.

Burial will follow in the Smyrna Cemetery.

Pallbearers will be Johnny Celand, Jamie Celand, Larry Morgan, Danny Carter, Johnny Chesser, and Larry Herrin. Honorary Pallbearer will be Tommy Smith.

East-side resident unearths mystery marbles

1 RailroadMarbles2
Derrick Daniels closely examines one of over 100 glass agates he has found mysteriously buried in his yard for the last decade.

When Derrick Daniels was just eight years old he ran excitedly out the door to play in the puddles after one of Waynesville’s many infamous downpours.  That’s when he said he first started finding the small glass spheres – later recognized to be possibly a century old –mysteriously buried in his yard.

“It rained real bad and a lot of water down at the end of my road washed it out really bad,” he said. “So when it quit raining, I went to go play in the water when I was a kid and I just found one marble laying there and I looked and dug a little bit and found a little cluster of them.”

And so the investigation started for Daniels, who said local theories over the years have ranged from oversized playing marbles to specialized musket balls.  But none of that ever quite fit.

Over a decade later, he still finds them and finally knows what they are thanks to some local help, but the story of just how so many of them turned up on his land remains a mystery.

With help from Stephanie Watkins and Susan Keene of the Mumford Library and in Waynesville, Daniels, now 19 years old, discovered that the almost indestructible clear orbs were likely what has been nicknamed “railroad marbles” which were first used by railroads over 120 years ago to transport cargo.

Around the nation the marbles have become somewhat of a lucky find along railroad tracks – leftovers from a bygone era and good luck charms to those who find them.

According to information from Railroadiana.org, a railroad collector information website, the marbles were first used between 1885 and 1890 when a railroad official requested that Wheeling Glassworks was asked by a railroad official to create a glass agate that would support five hundred pounds of weight as a sort of conveyor belt in freight houses and depots.

The load bearing capacity might explain why Daniels has never able to break one whether with a hammer or when practicing sling-shot marksmanship when he was growing up.

That said, the ones he has found have varied in condition from unmarked to chipped with only a few actually in pieces.

A quick internet search reveals that people from coast to coast find them in certain areas and begin the same investigation Daniels has been on for years.

But national conversations about the interesting find also reveal something else – it’s considered rare to find more than a few at a time – and none have been reported in the southeast.

That would come as a surprise to Daniels who said from the very first time he found them, they were in large buried piles of 20 to 30. Stranger still is the fact that he lives nowhere near the railroad track where the marbles would usually be found.

Keene also said that she had no recollection of any rail spur or other connection at that location and that it would have had to be extremely long to reach Daniels’s property.

To this day, Daniels still finds the marbles in the same manner that he found his first batch – by searching after a good rain.

Overall, he estimated that he’s found more than 130 of the objects over the years and he use to collect them to the point of filling a five gallon jug with them.  But he said he recently had to start his collection over when he suffered a collector’s tragedy when someone threw them out.

But all hasn’t been lost.  As recently as a couple of months ago, he has unearthed 30 more of the railroad novelties in the yard and started the collection anew.

Meanwhile, Daniels’s discovery will soon be immortalized in a display at the Mumford Library so that regardless of home many are left, the young man’s decade-long discovery will live on for future generations to investigate.

Cyclists stop in Nahunta during 1,700-mile journey

3 BikersStephen and Penny Koerner’s 1,700 mile journey may have begun in Sarasota, Fla. late last month, but the couple’s love of seeing the world from the seat of a tandem bicycle began long before, they said, as the two stopped for a rest, lunch break and repairs in Nahunta on Monday.

The couple, retired attorneys in their early 60s, have been sight-seeing the towns of America on a custom-built tandem bike since 2006 when they took to the roads of Colorado Springs,  Colo. for a 950 mile ride to Mankato, Mont.

Since then the two have set out on three more tours and are in the middle of yet another.

Nahunta marked the mid point of the Koerners’s daily trek from Folkston to Jesup along Hwy. 301 and just over mile 500 of their overall trip to Greensboro, Ga.

The distances don’t seem phase the two who have done much longer tours – as long as 4,400 miles from Oregon to Massachusetts – but they do make for interesting memories.

And that’s what it’s all about, Penny explained.

“It’s not the destination; it’s the journey,” she said.

Stephen makes sure to keep a daily journal of their encounters, pitfalls, finds and even cultural oddities each day with a blog on the website CrazyGuyonaBike.com – an international site dedicated to bicycle touring.

So far their tour – Dawdlin’  Through Dixie as it is called on the site – has brought the two in touch with interesting locals along the Florida portion of the trek from friendly if not slightly inebriated squatters, kind small town inn owners, suspicious townies, fellow bicyclers with a heart of gold and at least one mud truck tire sales woman.

Of course not every day is great for riding but they do if they can.  Other days they have to stop and wait for the weather to clear, which has given them some time to meet locals and learn more about the area.  Other times flat tires or mechanical problems are an issue.

But somehow the two, with their tandem bike and a one-wheeled trailer full of bags have managed their trips without too much strife.

Because even the worst of days add something to thousands of memory-laden miles.

Court of Appeals sets Waycross session

Waycross attorney C. Deen Strickland has announced that Judge Michael P. Boggs of the Court of Appeals of Georgia has accepted the invitation of Chief Superior Court Judge Dwayne H. Gillis and Waycross Bar Association president W. Frank Aspinwall Jr. to hold a session of the Court of Appeals in Waycross.

The local bar has been advised that Division Four of the Court including, Presiding Judge Sara L. Doyle, Judge Christopher J. McFadden and Judge Michael P. Boggs have scheduled oral arguments in two civil cases to be held in the Ware County Court house beginning at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, April 24.

The court will hear arguments in Bulloch County School District v. Georgia Department of Education, involving the whether the Supreme Court of Georgia’s 2011 charter schools decision finding that Georgia’s Charter Schools Commission and Charter Schools created pursuant to statute were unconstitutional had retroactive application and, whether sovereign immunity prohibits the payment of Quality Basic Education funds from the state to local school district s and relevant Charter Schools. The court will also hear arguments in the case of In The Interest of R.G., K.B., and H.S. Children, concerning an appeal from a juvenile court order granting the Department of Child and Family Services’ motion for non-reunification of the children with their mother.

Members of the Waycross and Douglas Bar Associations, invited guests, members of the press and the public are encouraged to attend the session which marks the first occasion to host a session of either of our state’s appellate courts in Waycross and the Waycross Judicial Circuit. For more information, contact: C. Deen Strickland at 912-285-5449.

Local resident discovers meth making kit

The GBI was called in when a new method of making meth using pipes was discovered on private property located on the east side.
The GBI was called in when a new method of making meth using pipes was discovered on private property located on the east side.

Deputies and investigators of the Brantley County Sheriff’s Office responded to the Waynesville Volunteer Fire Department on Tyson Road Wednesday in reference to a hazardous materials incident after an area resident found a suspicious nylon bag on his property.

The bag contained Coleman camp fuel, PVC pipe glue, salt, clear vinyl tubing and two two-foot-long sections of PVC pipe with a metal pressure valve and gauge at one end which was wrapped in duct tape.

The finder put the suspicious materials in the trunk of his vehicle and drove to the Waynesville Volunteer Fire Station where he learned that the PVC pipes are a new way in our area of “cooking” crystal methamphetamine.

Because there are many deadly hazards associated with the manufacture of the drug, the complainant was advised to exit the vehicle and told help was on the way.

Deputies and investigators arrived on scene and the items were removed and placed on the ground. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Regional Drug Enforcement Office (RDEO) was notified and responded and because this new method of manufacturing crystal methamphetamine is considered so dangerous, the GBI’s bomb squad had to be called in to render the devices safe for handling by the hazardous materials technicians.

These are the Special Agents responsible for the investigations of clandestine laboratories.

Sheriff Jack Whisenant has asked the residents of Brantley County to be careful of strange or questionable items which they may encounter. They may be very dangerous. It is recommended that finders stay at least 300 feet away from items of this nature, stay up-wind and call 911 for assistance from the sheriff’s office.

The sheriff thanked the Waynesville Fire Department, the GBI RDEO and the GBI Bomb Squad for their assistance in the incident.

Three arrested on multiple drug charges

ARRESTSThe Brantley County  Sheriff’s Department has arrested three Hickox area residents on multiple drug-related charges after deputies went to 178 Johnson Circle to execute a federal arrest warrant.

According to sheriff’s reports, Melissa Annette Crews,30, was arrested on a federal charge of trafficking in crystal methamphetamine and waived her Fourth Amendment rights to allow a search of the property, which led to the recovery of a stolen television, several weapons, drug paraphernalia, prescription medication, a small amount of marijuana, drug packaging materials, digital scales, smoking devices and approximately one half ounce of the form of crystal methamphetamine known as ice.

Jeremy Raymond Crews, 33, and Joseph Franklin Wainright, 32, also were arrested and all three were charged with possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute, possession of a firearm during the commission of certain crimes, possession and use of a drug related object, possession of less than one ounce of marijuana , possession of a dangerous drug and theft by receiving stolen property.

 

Sheriff’s department makes marijuana arrest

pot bustBrantley County Sheriff Jack Whisenant displays three marijuana plants seized at the Waynesville residence of Brittany Candice Taylor and Kevin Coker late Tuesday. The Sheriff’s Office searched the residence located at 373 Elbert Wilson Road after receiving information that the couple had marijuana plants growing on the front porch and went to investigate.  Investigators secured the residence and obtained a search warrant. Marijuana smoking paraphernalia and nursery buckets were found in the residence. Taylor and Coker were not at home when the search was conducted and warrants for their arrests on the charges of manufacture of marijuana and possession and use of a drug related object were secured. (Special photo)

Herons win Dublin tourney, Lady Herons 3rd

Camry Chapman
Camry Chapman

The BCHS Herons tennis team recently traveled to Dublin to compete in the Middle Ga. Classic Tennis Invitational. The Herons girls first defeated Putnam County in a 5-0 sweep. The Lady Herons lost a close second round fight against the West Laurens Raiders, putting them in a battle versus Telfair County for 3rd place in the tournament. For the Lady Herons, singles players’ Emily Page, Loren Mertz, and Kiersten Morgan swept all three of the singles matches to lead them to the 3rd place trophy.

The Heron boys made quick work of Putnam County also, winning their 1st round match by a 5-0 score. They too would face the West Laurens Raiders in the 2nd round for a shot in the tournament championship. After Zach Edwards and Camry Chapman won two of the three singles matches easily vs the Raiders, the doubles combination of Skyler Horne and Spencer Lee sealed the win for the Herons. In the championship match facing the Bleckley Co. Royals, the Herons Camry Chapman was the lone winner, winning his singles match 6-1, 6-0. The Herons lost the Finals by a 1-4 score.

Coach Matt Thrift “I am proud of my team for competing hard this weekend. Because of basketball, most of my players have had more matches than they have had practices. For the boys to get 2nd place and the girls to get 3rd with this level of competition was a very good thing. Hopefully we can continue to progress as we enter our region matches.”

Herons hosted Tattnall for their first home match Thursday.

Smith named superintendent

Justin Bowers congratulates new superintendent  Anthony Smith as assistant superintendent Greg Jacobs looks on (Photo by Chris Buchanan)
Justin Bowers congratulates new superintendent Anthony Smith as assistant superintendent Greg Jacobs looks on (Photo by Chris Buchanan)

After months of deliberation, the Brantley County Board of Education made its final decision on a superintendent at Monday’s regular meeting – but the board was anything but unified on the final choice.

After one hour in executive session specifically for the discussion of the vacant position, the board came out and voted 3-2 to make former Pierce County High School principal Anthony Smith the county’s new school superintendent.

Board chair Dot Hickox made the motion which was seconded by Teresa Lairsey to hire Smith at $110,000 plus benefits not to exceed $125,000
The two and board member Cindy Morgan voted for the appointment of Smith with David Herrin and Kerry Mathie voting against the decision.

Herrin told the Enterprise after the meeting that his decision was based largely on the amount of money that the system had agreed to pay Smith explaining that he did not think that it was appropriate in the current economy.

Herrin said that previous superintendents were hired when the school system was more financially sound allowing pay to be higher.  Herrin also took issue with having a superintendent who would live out-of-county and be paid travel expenses.
Despite these objections, Herrin said he would stand behind the new superintendent now that he was officially selected.

Mathie would not comment on the decision.

Smith was hired to fill the position after the resignation of Drew Sauls who took a position in Pierce County late last year.  Smith will take office on Thursday and told the Enterprise that he is ready to get started.

Though the decision was only officially made Monday night, a story by the Blackshear Times online late last week indicated that Smith had resigned to take the position in Brantley and to be approved at the regular meeting.

Many in the boardroom, Monday, erupted into applause upon the vote to hire Smith for the position.

The board also hired a new attorney for the first time in well over a decade. The board voted unanimously to hire Tracy Altman to take the position in place of long time board attorney Bruce Walker.

Altman is an attorney with the Law Offices of Earl Daniel Smith Jr. out of Nahunta and a former candidate for the probate court judge position.

The board first announced it would begin looking into the costs of local attorneys at last month’s meeting, however the board made no guarantees that it would change the attorneys at that time.
Walker nor Altman were in attendance of Monday’s meeting.

At the high school, Brantley County’s head football coach Mark Walker will also be stepping in to fill the position of junior varsity baseball coach after the approval of the recommendation at the meeting.  Meanwhile, the board accepted the resignation of coach Craig Davis.

In other business the board:

* Approved the second reading of a board policy regarding homebound instruction that brings local regulations in line with state guidelines.

*  Approved the purchase of a food slicer for Brantley County Middle School from Norvell for $3,948.

*  Approved the bid of $8,700 from Stanley Dowling for concrete at the new band room.  The money will come from SPLOST.

*  Approved the bid of $3,000 from Stanley Glass for double doors at the Nahunta elementary and primary school cafeterias.

*  Appointed Teresa Lairsey as the Brantley delegate for the Georgia School Board Association and Dot Hickox as the alternate.

*  Approved the bid of over $1,800 for a condenser and motor for a freezer at Waynesville Primary School.

*  Approved high school fundraisers.

Ninth grader dies in bicycle accident

High school principal Bert Smith said Monday night that counselors would be available to students this week following the death of a ninth grade student early Monday morning.

Justin Cody Smith
Justin Cody Smith

“Unfortunately today you’ve heard about the tragedy that’s happened, we have heavy hearts tonight about a young man that tragically lost his life today so y’all keep us in your thoughts and prayers tomorrow,” Smith said.

A Monday morning accident took the life of Justin Kody Smith, 14, of Atkinson after he was accidentally struck by a vehicle while on an east side Brantley highway according to county coroner Richard Rowell.

Rowell confirmed Monday afternoon that Smith was struck by a car at approximately 10:30 a.m. Monday while he rode his bicycle along Hwy. 110 West past Fort McIntosh.

Emergency calls went out shortly after with operators warning of a possible fatality in the accident.  Smith was pronounced dead on the scene.

According to Brantley County Patrol Commander Wade Bennett, Smith was riding when two vehicles approached from behind.  Those on scene say the boy thought there was only one vehicle behind him and switched lanes in front of the next vehicle leaving the driver unable to avoid the collision.  Officials have said that no charges are likely.

The accident scene temporarily closed off the section of the highway that morning.

Rowell said that Smith’s family had been notified of the incident.  Smith attended Atkinson Church of God of Prophecy, he said – just miles from the scene of the accident.

Monday’s regular meeting of the board of education began with a prayer for the families affected by Smith’s death.
Interim Superintendent Read Carter also expressed his sympathies for the family during the meeting.

“We are saddened by this event and our prayers are with the parents,” he said.

Services for Smith will be Saturday, March 16 at 11 a.m. at Atkinson Church of God of Prophecy.  The family is requesting donations be made to the church’s youth group or St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in lieu of flowers.

Arsenic concerns draw investigation

The Southeast Health District responded to fears of high arsenic levels in area water this month and said that the state health department should release results of water tests within the next week.

Public relations director Roger Naylor said in an e-mail that both state and local public health departments are aware of the concerns that were mentioned on Facebook and in numerous e-mails circulating on the internet about higher than normal arsenic levels in drinking waters in the southern portion of the state.

However Naylor also said that much of the information is incorrect.

Naylor said arsenic concerns have been primarily focused in the southwestern corner of the state rather than the southeast and that the department hopes to have an investigation completed in the next week.

Naylor also said that arsenic occurs naturally in the lower part of the state and traces of it show up in tests, however there has not been an indication of rates being above normal levels in Pierce or Ware counties.  The e-mail didn’t mention Brantley specifically but said that there is no known threat in the southeastern part of the state.

The e-mail was in response to a groundswell of concern on social media in the area with some even linking arsenic levels with what many are calling a high instance of childhood cancer.

Much of the concern sparked from a Ocilla woman, Janet McMahan, who claimed that cancer had spread in her household and even in her pets.  The onslaught of cases brought McMahan to investigate issues with arsenic and other heavy metals in groundwater as a possible cause.

McMahan also recently posted a photo of dirty tap water that was collected in a “community between Waycross and Brunswick” and suggests that as many as six current cancer cases involving children in the area could be part of a “cancer cluster” brought on by arsenic levels.

Though the community was not named, the photo spread quickly among Brantley residents who were already aware of numerous cancer cases in the area.

Meanwhile, another photo circulating on the web claims to be that of a letter from Jane Perry, the director of the Environmental Health Branch of the Chemical Hazards Program in the Georgia Department of Human Resources.  The letter to McMahan, dated Oct. 26 2012, claims that drought concentrates arsenic levels in the area and that rates of certain arsenic-associated cancers are “statistically significant” in some counties.

A map also provided does appear to show elevated levels of various chemicals near the “Gulf Trough” on the west and central part of the state but also one more in neighboring Camden.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency held a meeting to announce plans to clean Burnett Creek in Glynn County last summer.  According to the Glynn Environmental Coalition, the area was coated with creosote several times as a result of the Brunswick Wood Preserving Superfund Site which was closed in the 1990s.  As a result, numerous chemicals entered the creek in the 1980s including arsenic and spills further released chemicals into groundwater.

New queens

1 miss bchsLast years winner Tori Thornton Willis crowns the new Miss Brantley County High School Taylor Mertz at last week's pageant. Mertz also won the prettiest dress competition. Kaitlyn Shivar was crowned Junior Miss Brantley County and also won the pretties dress competition. The Miss BCHS court included third place and prettiest smile winner Ashley Gibson, second place and most photogenic winner Megan Breese, and first place winner Kaylyn Dunsmore. The  junior miss court included people's choice winner Erin Lartz, prettiest smile winner Mollie Woodard, fourth place winner Morgan Bennett, third place and most photogenic winner Shayna Dryden, second place winner Evie Chesser, and first place winner Erica Smith. (Photo by Lora Able)

Talking with the angels

Former Brantley County resident John Jones thanked about 64 people who attended for allowing him to come home again for a little while to dedicate a painting by his daughter Maryanne Jones to the Brantley County Public Library Monday.

Jones and wife Linda, who now reside on St. Simons Island, joined with family and friends at the event to remember Maryanne, who was born the second of three daughters in 1976 with Downs syndrome and died in May of last year, defying doctors who said she may not survive at all and at best would be in and out of hospitals all her life.

“She wasn’t,” Jones said.

Perhaps because of the love and support heaped on her by her family and circle of friends, she prospered, despite her classification at birth as mildly handicapped.

“Where others see finality, Maryanne sees life,” wrote her cousin Kaela Horne on her website before her death in May of last year.

“As a smaller child, Maryanne participated in Brownie Scouts, took lessons in both tap and ballet, began reading with a ferocious appetite, and contributed to her church choir,” Horne wrote.

“She also became very involved in the Special Olympics, and developed a passion for swimming. During her years on the swim team, she learned all of the strokes — even the butterfly stroke — and actually qualified and competed in the state Olympics two separate times. ”

It wasn’t until the last 20 years or so that Maryanne became interested in painting and she attacked it with the same gusto as everything else.

Her vibrant colds and simple designs have captured the attention of many and some of her work is on display the the library as well as her website, maryannefoundation.com, from which cards and prints of several sizes can be purchased.

Some originals also are still available.

Jones told those gathered at the library that he and his wife first asked “why?” when their newborn daughter was diagnosed with the disease but over the years realized that her birth was a blessing, even with the disease.

“We finally realized that God had chosen us to be her parents, but little did we know at the time  that she would touch the lives of literally thousands of people,” Jones said.

And over the years they came to regale themselves with Maryanne-isms, such as “pwobly,” the answer she gave when asked if you would like to drive the car or the golf cart.

That also was the comment she made when her mother noticed damage to a side mirror on the car after she ran off the road during a trip to town.

“How did that happen?” she asked.

“Pwobly when you hit that mailbox,” Maryanne answered.

She also coined the word “dorknob” which referred to something dumb and was delighted when she spotted it in a circular.

“That’s not dorknob,” her father said. “It’s doorknob.”

“No,” she argued. “It’s right here: d-o-o-r-k  n-o-b.”

And once after Maryanne visited a neighbor and no one knew where she was, her mother told her to always leave a note.

She said she did leave a note on her mother’s dresser.

“But you need to leave it somewhere where I’ll be sure to see it,” her mother said. “Leave it on the counter.”

So next time she left the house she left a note on the counter saying where was and added this note:

“PS: The note is on the counter.”

“From the time she could talk, Maryanne often talked and laughed with someone we could not see,”  Jones said.

And she would not say with whom she was conversing, even when asked with a stern tone.

On a visit to Nahunta to visit with family, Maryanne mother commented that Maryanne had a good time.

“But not with us. She was talking with her friend.”

It took an astute friend to explain the conversations.

“Don’t you see?” he asked.

“She’s talking to the angels and you just happen to be lucky enough to hear her.”

But even Maryanne was not impervious to the disease with which she had been born, and one of the effects of that chromosome abnormality is a shortened lifespan.

The Jones family recognized that, and often wondered how she would pass away.

“We didn’t want her death to be violent,” Jones said.

“We asked the Lord to take her home gently.”

In the minutes before her death, she was excited and animated, talking rapidly to some they could not see.

“The angels were all around her,” Jones said.

“And they took her home.”

Nahunta will apply for CDBG grant for roads

The city of Nahunta came one step closer to its road paving goals when the council voted to approve a resolution that would allow the city to submit its application for the 2013 Community Development Block Grant at Monday night’s regular meeting.

The city first applied for the grant late last year and were advised which roads would be allowed under the grant based on road population and income level.

Roads for the project will include First Street off of Cannon Street, Allen Road Extension, Elouise Street, Apricot Street and Irving Street.

In addition to paving the project will include drainage work on each of the roads.

Those a major undertaking for the city, officials told the Enterprise that it wasn’t quite as far as much as they had hoped.

Angela Wirth said that the city had originally attempted to lump these roads into a larger overall project that would have also included Read Street, Jacob Street, Michelizzi Street, Burch Street, Coyote Trail, Velie Street, Jason Street, Rozier Street, Peach Street, Plum Street, Cherry Street, Williams Street and Dykes Road.

However, because of income and population restrictions, the roads were not allowed to be a part of the overall project under CDBG regulations.

After reviewing that council members had no conflicts of interest in approving individual roads such as family on them, Richard Johns voted to submit the application with Alan Morgan seconding.

But road projects don’t end there for the city.  With a combination of SPLOST funds and Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant (LMIG) funds, city manager Tom Wirth said that the city plans to resurface Avalon Street, Laura Street and Bouncer Dowling Street and improve drainage at the location for a total project cost of about $59,000.

Wirth said the money was already ready for the project.

The city also continued with discussions on defining exactly how many hours should be considered part-time in the city.

City officially originally tackled the issue last month at the request of police chief Gene Solano.  City attorney Nathan Williams returned this week with more information from the department of labor on the item.

Williams said that he was told that 24 hours a week was considered full time.  But both the city clerk and the police chief heard differently.

Wirth said she was told that up to 29 hours was part time but that the cities had leeway in setting their own part or full-time hour limits.  Wirth said that up to 35 hours could even be possible depending on a city’s existing policies.

Solano said that he was told much the same thing by the attorney for the Chiefs of Police Association in that the city could set part-time requirements as high as they like as long as they don’t surpass the hour limit at which city employees begin receiving benefits as full-timers.

Council members seemed content with pushing the hours up to 32 as they had previously discussed, however, the attorney adviced that the chief not work his employees over 23 hours until the DOL could provided an answer in writing which he said had already been requested.

Further discussion on the item was tabled for the night.

The city also began discussion of hiring a human resources firm to aide in rewriting the employee handbook – just one part of an ongoing larger project to modify several of the city’s governing documents so that they agree with one enough.  The project was started over a year ago and the city attorney brought his suggested changes to the council in January for the employee handbook the city charter and the ordinance book.

Mayor Jeffrey Lee suggested the city look at a HR firm to help sort through the morass of legal issues with changing the document.

In other business, the council:

• Listened to concerns from resident Lydia Burch.  Burch said that a smell was coming from a manhole near one of  her properties and had been a problem since Christmas.  The city manager said he would look into the issue.  Burch also said she was promised by the late Rev. Robert Thomas during his time as a councilman that her road would be paved.  Council members, however, explained that he, alone, could not make the decision and that the council had to vote on paving a road given the monumental costs.

Meanwhile the road didn’t qualify for the CDBG grant because of both income level and population.  However the road was originally suggested as part of the grant proposal.

BOE presents bus camera plan to county

Residents in Brantley may soon need to keep an even more careful eye out for stopped school busses since a proposed inter-governmental agreement could allow the buses to keep a close eye on them.

Brantley County School System Transportation Director Wiley Crews told county commissioners Monday night that he had been working with a company named Redflex on a StudentGuardian Program that revolves around the possibility of installing as many as seven cameras on up to five school buses in the county.

But the company’s work wouldn’t end there, he said. The cameras would activate whenever a bus was stopped with a crossing guard out. From there a monitoring company would watch for any vehicles that choose to illegally pass the bus and would send video to the appropriate municipality to write a ticket for the driver who would likely receive it in the mail.

As for the cost, there wouldn’t be one according to Crews, but the company would take up to 75 percent of the ticket money brought in. That’s where an agreement between the three governments in the county would be necessary.

And with ticket costs from $300 for a first time offense, $700 for the second and $1,000 and a revoked license on the third, the county and cities’ share of the remaining 25 percent would still be reasonable, Crews said.

But he said the goal of the technology isn’t to write more tickets, but instead to stop a burgeoning problem in the county particularly on U.S. Hwy. 82 in both Hoboken and Waynesville as well as along Georgia Hwy. 32.

Crews said that Georgia currently has the highest number of student fatalities for the third year in a row and that many of these are the result of motorists passing school buses.

Sheriff Jack Whisenant, who was in attendance of Tuesday’s meeting, said that he was in favor of the project and that the money that would go to the company wouldn’t hurt the sheriff’s office since they would be tickets that may not otherwise be written.

The information was also being presented to the Hoboken City Council Tuesday as well and will be brought to the City of Nahunta at its next meeting.

Crews passed out a packet of information on the company and said he could have a representative at Thursday’s regular meeting to answer further questions.

The item was placed on the regular agenda.

The county also revisited issues with residence living in unfit structures such as storage buildings at the meeting for the first time in several months.

Commissioner Mike Edgy said that he had spoken with the previous county manager to find out where the issue was left. According to former manager Parrish Barwick, the county’s code enforcement officer was asked to send out letters to home owners that violated the county’s housing codes by lacking items such as working water and sewer. The residents were then to have been given 180 days to bring their homes up to code or they would have to leave.

While the code is in line with state law, Edgy admitted to the difficulty and unpopularity of evicting residents from their homes.

Chairman Charlie Summerlin said that it didn’t seem right to move residents out of what they could afford.

However, Edgy and the county attorney agreed that the violating homes were a liability for the county in the event of a major storm or other disaster. Edgy also pointed out that living in unfit structures is as much a violation of state code as it is local.

The item was added to the regular agenda for Thursday.

Meanwhile the county may soon be moving road department employees from five 8 hour days to four 10 hour days to help save money on gas and overtime.

County manager Carl Rowland said that he had polled many of the departments employees and found them to be largely in agreement with such a move. Rowland said that he had noticed during the last week’s flooding issues that workers could get more done in a 10 hour day.

As for the roads themselves, Rowland said they were well on their way to being completely back up and running with remaining work to be finished soon.

The words brought both the transportation director and longtime resident William Gibson to praise the work of the road department in having the roads maintained and repaired in a timely manner.

The sheriff’s department could be more prepared for the next major deluge if the board approves Whisenant’s request. The new sheriff requested two Chevrolet Tahoes in place of three budgeted Ford Crown Victoria police cruisers that were already budgeted for the department this year. Whisenant said he had looked around for the best price and found that Brannen motors had the best price but that a more local company, Walker Jones in Waycross, could match it.

Whisenant said he picked the Chevrolet over a Ford Explorer because he felt the truck, which is built on a truck chassis, would serve the department better than the Ford, which was built on a car chassis. Of the two vehicles requested, Whisenant asked that one be a four wheel drive and the other a two wheel drive.

The vehicles would be used to navigate the county’s more treacherous roads in the event of an emergency during another major storm or flood.

The item was placed on the regular agenda.

Discussion of using a high power pump and truck for cleaning out culverts in the county stalled over cost concerns when the county chairman suggested that the county didn’t have the money to spend up to $25,000 on a truck and a pump repair to make the process a reality.

However, the county manager said that many of the county’s problem roads are made worse by clogged culverts that sometimes are so clogged they can’t be cleaned by any other means. Meanwhile digging them out to solve the problem, he said, is costing upwards of $400 per damaged pipe.

The commission also reviewed two task orders for the airport expansion project with a total of just over $9,000 of the program cost actually falling on the county. The task orders had to be altered after an environmental study was imposed on the project by the state and added to task order nine.

The county is set to receive a large amount in reimbursement from the state for previous work on the project the county manager said.

County auctions mobile homes for back taxes

Brantley County Tax Commissioner Pat Tompkins and Chief Tax Appraiser Corey Lamb auction off 27 mobile homes on the courthouse steps Tuesday for non-payment of taxes, most which were bought by the county. Tompkins said that only 11 of the mobile homes, which went for $625.34 to $6662.29, were bought by private buyers. The county must now declare the homes it bought as surplus property and sell them to used trailer dealers or junk yards. Those who purchased the homes received bill of sales and had to apply for a title and were required to move the trailer within 30 days or reach an agreement with the property owner to allow it to remain longer. The county agreed to waive the moving permit fee although new owners still must apply for a permit to move the home. Buyers also are required to clean up the property after the home is moved, taking away any debris or junk that is part of the home and repair any damage and pay for any trees that must be cut in order to move the trailer. Because mobile homes are considered personal property and not real estate, the rules for their public sale are different. All sales were final and there is no redemption period. (Photo by Ken Buchanan)

Residents report snow flurries; nothing sticks

It didn’t stick on the ground this weekend, but a brief mid-day snow did manage to stick in the minds of several Brantley County residents Sunday when the skies let loose a few flurries in an area that seldom sees any.

County residents primarily on the south and west sides of Brantley reported snowfall to accompany the low and windy 40 degree temperatures between about 10 a.m. and noon on Sunday with many, like Brenda Lichty-Steedley, reporting the rarity after they left church.

“We got out of church at Nahunta First Baptist at 11:30,” she said in a social media message to the Enterprise. “While we were walking to our vehicels we saw several snowflakes floating through the air. Some landed on our windshield. How exciting!”

The flakes were so small that others mistook them for something entirely different.

“We thought we saw some when we came out of church. I looked hard wanting to see it when we left Mt. Calvary Baptist Church,” Rhonda Smith said. “We went down the road and saw smoke from a fire the day before so I just assumed it was ash.”

Ciera Brown said that she’d just been baptized at the New Hope Fellowship Church when she saw the snow on her way home.

Others reported the snow off of Miles Still Road, Central Avenue, Gibbs Road as well as in downtown Hoboken and in the communities of Hickox and Bachlott.

“It looked like dipping dots on my front steps at about 11:15. It didn’t last long though,” Cindy Tomlinson said.

The snow comes on the heels of some of the most diverse record-setting weather in the area in years, with the most recent cold front being preceded by record winter heat. Meanwhile steady rains have brought on flooding of the Satilla and two “mud-days” where students couldn’t attend school due to road conditions.  Less than a week later parts of the county got the chance to see snow though only on a weekend and far from enough to cause another school closure.

The flurries, though rare, are more common than actual ground-covering downfalls the likes of which haven’t been seen in the area in over two decades.

As for the next week, temperatures are expected to gradually increase with highs in the upper 70s yet again by next Wednesday and a lack of rain until at least Tuesday will make more snow unlikely.

With that heat and rain comes an entirely different season that may stick around longer than Brantley’s little snowstorm, but the memories that the brief weather anomaly created for many of Brantley’s residents will likely remain much longer.

Students take part in NASA disaster simulation

Gifted students from all Brantley elementary schools gathered at the Board of Education office Thursday to take part in a NASA-sponsored emergency simulation drill as first responders. Students were organized into three teams responding to natural disasters and making life-saving decisions based on science. The students communicated with a NASA specialist that dispersed information to the public based on the students findings. Students were divided into three groups, one group worked with a hurricane in progress, the  second team worked with an unstable volcano and the third team worked as an evacuation team with all emergencies happening simultaneously. The groups united to make the best decisions for the public based on gathered information. They relayed their knowledge to designated commanders in each area that relayed their information to the NASA natural disaster specialist.

Nahaunta hires two part-time officers

Julie Royer and Matt Stallard hired at called meeting Tuesday (Photo by Lori Buchanan)

The Nahunta City Council unanimously hired two new part-time officers for the Nahunta Police Department after an extensive  vetting process by Police Chief Gene Solano and City Manager Tom Wirth at a called meeting Tuesday.

The two officers were chosen from a field of three candidates. The third candidate was a no-show after taking another job.

Officer Julie Royer has an extensive background having begun her career in Virginia where she worked as a police officer before moving to Georgia in 2006. Her most recent job was on the patrol unit with Glynn County where she has been since 2010. She has canine training and has worked in drug interdiction and has a variety of related trainings and certifications. She also has worked as back-up on high priority calls such as shootings, stabbings and domestic calls. Before working with Glynn County, she worked at Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) on contract in the security building. She has a four-year degree in health with a minor in physical education and special education.

Royer chose to apply for the part-time position with Nahunta because the job would give her more time to be involved in activities with her children.

The second candidate, Officer Matt Stallard, hired by the council current also works as an officer in Glynn County. He intends to stay full-time with Glynn County and work in Nahunta part-time. Glynn County works a current schedule with 5 days on and 4 days off which would allow for him to work a Nahunta schedule during his free time.

Stallard has been with Glynn since 2009. He primarily works the traffic unit involving traffic law violations and serious accidents which involve injuries or fatalities. He is also certified for river, beach and kayak patrol. He is CPR certified and has a variety of extensive training including certification in intoxication, taser and accident reconstruction. Stallard also served as a combat lifesaver in the military. Julie Royer,

Birthday tax to disappear on vehicles purchased after March 1

A new law that changes the way motor vehicles are taxed in Georgia will go into effect on March 1. Motor vehicles purchased on or after March 1, 2013 and titled in this state will be exempt from sales and use tax and the annual ad valorem tax, also known as the “birthday tax”. These taxes will be replaced by a one-time tax that is imposed at the time the vehicle is titled on the fair market value of the vehicle called the title ad valorem tax (“TAVT”). For the first year of the TAVT, the rate will be 6.5% of the fair market value as identified by the Georgia Motor Vehicle Assessment Manual. The TAVT is applicable to dealer and casual sales but excludes non-titled vehicles such as trailers and other non-motorized vehicles which will remain subject to ad valorem tax.

Vehicles owned prior to January 1, 2012 will stay in the old system and owners can expect to owe the annual ad valorem tax on their birthday. The period between January 1, 2012 and February 28, 2013 is considered an opt-in period. Vehicles purchased during this period may opt-in to the new TAVT system or they can stay in the annual ad valorem system. The Georgia Department of Revenue’s website www.newtitletax.com

provides a TAVT calculator that will help owners decide which option is best for them.

Owners who choose to opt-in to the TAVT system will need to go to their local county tag office at any time between March 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013 to do so.

To view frequently asked questions concerning the new TAVT system or to use the calculator, visit the Georgia Department of Revenue website www.newtitletax.com.

Brantley issues voluntary evacuation order

Chart updated Feb. 27

The Brantley County Board of Commissioners has implemented a voluntary evacuation order for those living in low lying areas adjacent to the Satilla River, which was expected to reach flood stage Wednesday but has reached that level today, rising to 12.84 feet. Flood stage is 13 feet and the river is expected to reach 14.2 feet by March 3.

The county also has closed 20 roads and classes for Brantley County students were suspended Tuesday, but school officials have not decided whether to keep schools closed Wednesday.

Closed roads include:

• Hope Rd. at Oleander Circle entrances

• Mineral Springs Road near Murphy Rd

• Browntown Road by Murphy Road

• Warners Landing at the end is under water

• Deerwood at the end is under water

• Atkinson Road

• Chicago Avenue in Hoboken

• Evergreen Way east of Schlatterville Road

• Harrington Road

• Little Buffalo Creek Road

• Baker Creek Road from U.S. Highway 82 to Airport Road

• Boots Harrison Road

• Albert Gibson Road

• Tyson Road

• Waynesville Road

• Raybon Road East (Turkey Ridge to Gilmore)

• Saddle Club Road (Georgia Highway 121 to Raybon Road West)

• Wainright Loop

• Bachlott Break

• Bobby Strickland Road

• Williams Road

The National Weather Service has also issued a tornado watch for Brantley County until 3 p.m.

 

Local businesses pull together for student trip

Woodard points to one of the stops on her 19-day excursion (Photo by Chris Buchanan)

A Brantley County High School student was chosen late last year for a study abroad trip to Europe this summer and now local businesses are pulling together to help her fulfill that goal.

Mollie Woodard, a 16 year old sophamore was the sole Brantley student chosen to spend 19 days touring Europe along with about 40 other Georgia students.

Woodard said that she went through an interview process and background check by members of People to People Student Ambassadors who greatly narrowed down the field for the trip known as the “Heart of Europe” tour.

The trip will take students from the Atlanta airport on a 10 hour flight to Paris where the first leg of their journey will begin.  The group will get to see some of France for the first four days of the trip and visit famous locations such as the Chateau de Versailles and the Eiffel Tower while also seeing parts of modern history such as the official seat of European Parliament – Strasbourg.

On day five the group will move along to Switzerland where they will visit the waterfront city of Lucerne with structures dating back to the fourteenth century before moving on to Heidiland and sampling the local pastries and cuisine.

The group then spends six days in Austria traveling to a different city each day learning about everything from centuries-old stone castles and even meeting a concentration camp survivor who will tell the story of living through one of the worst times in world history.

The rest of the trip will be spend in Itally, traveling to all of the most famous cities in the country and exploring the structures almost 2000 years in age.

But it’s the very last day, that Woodard said really has her attention.  Having done a project on the Colosseum years before, she’s looking forward to seeing the famous structure in person.

Woodard said the tour will be the first major trip she’s ever taken having never been outside the country aside from a cruise to the Bahamas.    Woodard said this will also be her longest trip away from family by far with a week-long Future Farmers of America (FFA) camp being the longest before.

The organization is already preparing her for some of the differences she can expect in the countries including hotels that are completely different from those in America, different wall plugins and the much cooler summer weather in various parts of Europe.

Meanwhile, numerous local businesses have pitched in to give Woodard a helping hand on paying the steep expenses of the trip.  Woodard’s mother Anna Woodard said that the community had already helped raise a large amount of the trip’s tuition.  Sponsors include Lewis Raulerson Oil, Bennett Hometown Pharmacy, Taylor Timber, Satilla Family Chiropractic Center, Guys Automotive, Dr. John Hopkins and 44 Mac Forestry.

The program was started by President Dwight D. Eisenhower over 50 years before in an effort to bring peace between nations after World War II through ambassadorship. Eisenhower’s ultimate goal for the group was to bridge cultural and political divides through education and exchange.

Through the years, students in the group have traveled to all seven continents through various travel plans in times when boarders in other countries were not as open.  In fact, ambassadors toured both east and west Berlin in 1966 and another group was present at the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Students on the trips have also met everyone from Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev and Queen Elizabeth II.

Woodard said she hopes to continue to travel even after this trip with Greece and Ireland among her future travel.

Superintendent candidate has unexplained transfer

Russell Brock

Even as members of the Brantley County Board of Education further discussed the three finalists in its search for a new superintendent, the Brantley Enterprise has learned that one of those candidates left a post as principal of a north Georgia middle school under mysterious circumstances.

According to the news blog the Loganville-Grayson Patch, Russell Brock was principal of Loganville Midde School until October when he requested to be moved to the maintenance department for “personal reasons.”

The Walton County Board of Education approved his request, but did not say why the transfer was requested or so hurriedly approved.

However, the board did say in a statement that “concerns involving the administration were brought to the school system’s attention.  The district looked into these concerns and, while they could not be substantiated, it was mutually agreed by both system and school administration that a change in administration was in the best interests of the school.”

In a statement issued earlier, the Walton County Public School System said the transfer was granted pending final approval of the school board.

“The district will be interviewing candidates for the position of principal in the near future and in the meantime assistant principal Karen Thompson will be in charge,” WCPS said.

“Loganville Middle School has a record of excellence and high academic achievement to be proud of. We appreciate the support of the community during this transition and look forward to another outstanding year at LMS.”

Loganville Middle School has an enrollment of about 1,100 students, with more than 90 percent meeting or exceeding standards on the CRCT in reading, language arts and writing in 2010. The school has high participation in the FFA and FBLA programs and performs well at the state level. Eight students qualified for the Duke Talent Search in 2010 and nine students medaled at the state Math-Fest competition, with several students ranking nationally. LMS was named a Distinguished Title 1 school for 2009/2010, and the LMS marching band has participated in several prestigious parades, including one in Disney World.

Murder case continued in January court session

The case against three suspects in a May 2012 murder in which the body was found alongside a dirt road near the Brantley-Glynn County line was continued in the January term of criminal court, according to court records.

Dayjuan Marquez Mangram, Shaquilla Janna White and Rena Lang were each named in an indictment dated Sept. 12, 2012, with aggravated assault, felony murder, malice murder, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, and concealing the death of Untavious Gillard.

In addition, Mangram was indicted for possession of a handgun by a person user the age of 18 years.

The three were named in earlier indictment dated Aug. 16 which included all the same charges except malice murder, which was added in the second indictment.

Bot indictments remain active and it’s unclear which will be prosecuted when the case comes to trial, according to the Brantley County Clerk of Court’s office.

The January term also included a litany of drug and alcohol related indictments as well as traffic, theft and assault-related offenses.

Most cases were continued, but some were pleaded out and others were listed as nolle prossed, meaning they will not be prosecuted,  or dead docketed, which means they have been postponed indefinitely.

Defendants in nolle proceed cases included Jonathan Summers, charged with manufacturing and growing marijuana; Anthony Moore for theft by taking motor vehicle; Chad Murph for burglary; Kenneth Williams for driving with a suspended license and possession of diazepam; Edward Wheatly for driving with no working turn signals, possession of less than an ounce of marijuana and driving without a license; Stacy Merrill Lake Jr. for possession of oxycodone and hydrocodone; Kristina Montgomery Crews for manufacture of methamphetamine; Redick Aaron Thornton IV for simple battery, reckless conduct and pedestrian under the influence;  Jason M. Lee for possession of a controlled substance Melissa Kinlaw for manufacture and growth of marijuana and possession of a drug related object; Damon Smith for theft by taking, theft  last or mislaid property, and criminal trespass.

Two cases were nolle proceed because the defendants — Joanna Mixon for open container and furnishing alcohol to a minor and Charles Benny Thomas for driving under the influence of alcohol — were deceased.

Dead docketed case included those against James Kelly Floyd for aggravated assault, cruelty to children, possession of a sawed off shotgun, possession of a destructive device or replica of one, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, by a convicted felon and by a convicted felon during the commission of a crime; Leon Carlos Blount for driving under the influence and weaving, and Roy Waters for making harassing phone calls.

One defendant, Cleveland O’Steen pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine and was banished from Brantley County unless he has a family emergency, in which case he must notify his probation officer and the Brantley County Sheriff’s Office before returning.

He also was placed on 15 years probation and ordered to pay a $7,000 fee for the cleanup of a methamphetamine lab.

Guilty pleas included:

• Kendall Johnson to sale of cocaine and distributing cocaine within 1000 feet of a housing project, received a $1,500 fine, ordered to pay $100 court costs, and placed on six months probation. Johnson also pleaded guilty to indecent exposure and got 12 months probation.

• James Roberson to four counts of sale of cocaine, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, sentenced to 10 years with seven years probation, a $1,500 fine and $100 court costs.

• Kristina Montgomery pleaded guilty to obstruction, simple battery, and possession of methamphetamine, hydromorphone and morphine and got 10 years probation, a $1,500 fine and $300 in court fees plus a $500 attorney fee and a $50 fee.

• Christopher Lee Smith pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and evading police and got 12 months probation, a $1,350 fine, $100 court costs and 40 hours of community service.

• Paul Johnson pleaded guilty to speeding, reckless driving and got 12 months of probation, a $1,000 fine and $100 court costs.

• Steven Ammons pleaded to a stop sign violation, DUI, driving with suspended license, and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and got five years probation, a $1,500 fine, $100 court costs, and a $500 attorney fee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hoboken dropped by county tax billing firm

The city of Hoboken is looking for tax billing software after it was recently dropped by the firm that handles that task for the county and the city of Nahunta.

Hoboken city clerk Linda Henderson told members of the Hoboken City Council at the regular February meeting that the search has begun for software that will handle the billing and collection of city taxes but no information about possible vendors was available.

The Enterprise has learned that Manatron, the firm that handles the tax billing and collections for the county, decided to drop Hoboken after it has handled the job for at least four years.

Brantley County tax commissioner Pat Tompkins said this week that the company has provided the preparation of tax bills for the city and allowed the city to handle collections during that time.

But Manatron decided that in order to continue its arrangement with Hoboken the city would have to sign a contract for full services, including sending tax notices and collection of taxes, which Hoboken has in the past handled in-house.

Angela Wirth, city clerk for the city of Nahunta, which allows the county to handle all its tax billing, said the cost is about  $6 per notice and includes filing, collection, and legal action required to recover delinquent taxes.

And Tompkins said the county would be ready and willing to take over Hoboken’s tax billing again if they agreed to sign a contract for the full service, which would include the same services as Nahunta for a similar fee.

Only delinquent taxes from before the contract is signed would not be eligible for the collection and legal actions portion of the contract, Tompkins said, adding that probably would not be a problem for Hoboken because they do a good job collecting taxes each year and wouldn’t have many delinquencies.

The council also voted to retain the Brantley Express as its legal organ, opened discussion of the proposed repainting of the murals on the city hall walls, and accepted the 2012 audit report.

Drug expert to speak at Brantley events

Jesse Hambrick

Nationally renowned and televised drug expert Jesse Hambrick will be coming back to Brantley County to talk to local agencies, schools and the community about the harsh realities of drug use in a piece entitled Dangerous Youth Drug Trends local officials told the Enterprise this week.

At last week’s meeting of the Brantley County Rallying Our Community and Kids against Substance abuse (ROCKS) team, the group proposed bringing Hambrick back this year on April 11 and 12 to help educate the community about drug trends in the area.

This year’s program will spotlight methamphetimine use as well as prescription drugs –both of which have been identified by ROCKS team members and local law enforcement as being some of the biggest catalyst to drug-related crime in Brantley.

Sergeant Jessie Hambrick has been featured in hundreds of news articls and television programs including a documentary for Georgia Public Broadcasting, A&E’s “Meth and in the City”, Austrian television, the Atlanta Business Chronicles and the Christian Index because of his extensive knowledge of drug habits in the area due to several years in law enforcement.

Hambrick is currently a Sergeant with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office in charge of Drug and Gang Prevention and he is the acting supervisor for 11 school resource officers as well as the Sheriff’s Office Gang Unit. Additionally, Jesse supervises the Meth Task Force. His position was created around his efforts to assist the community in better understanding illegal narcotics and illegal street gangs, assisting family members in getting addicts as well as youth involved in gang related activities into treatment rather than incarceration, as well as providing constant intelligence to the front line officers on the illegal distribution and manufacturing of illegal narcotics and gang related activity.

His experience includes having been assigned to the Special Investigations Division of the Sheriff’s Office for over 5 years as well as another 5 years assigned to the West Georgia Drug Task Force as a narcotics investigator. In this capacity, his primary responsibility was to identify, investigate and prosecute those persons involved in the possession and distribution of illegal narcotics – specifically Methamphetamine. Hambrick is currently a Clandestine Laboratory Certified Technician, a Tactical Entry Specialist for Meth Labs, as well as a certified Clandestine Laboratory Site Safety Supervisor through the DEA. He is trained to respond to and manage hazardous materials scenes resulting from Methamphetamine Clandestine Laboratories.

Hambrick is currently one of the primary officers in Douglas County that documents and investigates gang related activities which include drug sales, vandalism and other violent crimes. In the past ten years he has conducted both large and small scale gang investigations which have given him the opportunity to become well versed in gang related activity locally and throughout the United States. He has attended local gang schools as well as specialized gang schools in the southeast United States.

From these experiences, he developed and now teaches several different courses to local law enforcement, private citizens, volunteer groups and school administrators in the area of drug abuse recognition and identification as well as on understanding Georgia’s gang law. Through these classes, he has worked with over 50,000 community leaders, teachers, law enforcement, and treatment providers to recognize signs of illegal drug use and gang involvement.

Hambrick is also the coordinator of Douglas County’s Methamphetamine Task Force. This group is comprised of local, state, and federal law enforcement agents, public service professionals, public school administrators and private citizens. The task force’s main objective is to combat the Methamphetamine problem in the county through prevention, education, treatment and enforcement. The Douglas County Meth Task Force was the first of its kind in Georgia and now a model for other such groups both state and nationwide.

The ROCKS team also announced several other events that will be coming up including a massive 500-bag food drop at Nahunta Elementary School – up from 400 at the last drop – on March 29 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Laura Kelley with Family Connection said that, this year, the group would begin putting all sign-up information on the back of flyers that will be available at all schools and churches and hopefully groceries stores.  The group is also asking for volunteers who would help facilitate the event from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.

The group will also be assisting the Brantley County Sheriff’s Office in yet another Drug Take-back Day Sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).  The main drop-offs will be at the city hall in Hoboken, the courthouse and the corner of Hwy. 82 and Browntown Road.

The goal has been to help residents legally and safely dispose of their old or unneeded prescription drugs to help lower incidents of medication theft.

The county has regularly began bringing in several pounds of medication by holding the take-backs multiple times a year.

The father-daughter dance has also been scheduled for April 20 with the theme Cowboys and Angels.

BOE narrows superintendent list to 3

The Brantley County Board of Education this week announced the finalists in the search for a new school superintendent, including one former assistant principal at Brantley County High School, after several called meetings at which several candidates were interviewed and discussed in executive session but no action taken.

Anthony Smith, who currently serves as the principal of Pierce County High School (PCHS), is one of three candidates from whom the new superintendent will selected — a group which also includes a former student teacher at the local high school and the maintenance director for the Walton County school system.

Smith was the Lady Heron basketball coach, a social studies instructor and a football coach at BCHS before he was promoted to the position of assistant principal and athletic director in 1994 and then named principal at PCHS in 2001.

He earned his bachelor’s degree at Georgia Southern College in 1988 and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Valdosta State College in 1997 and finally a specialists degree from Nova Southeastern University in 2000.

His teaching experience includes a stint at Appling County as a social studies teacher, head coach of the girls’ basketball team, and a football coach, followed by his time at BCHS during which he was named the coach of the year by an area newspaper.

Smith was a Golden Gloves boxer from 1977 to 1986, winning two southeastern championships and making it to the finalist level in two national championships.

He was named a high performing principal by Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2008, and was among the final three contestants for the GASSP principal of the year in 2009, during which he was a speaker at the Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement, followed by s speaking engagement at the Nation at Risk Youth Conference in 2011, and he was asked to speak at the Indiana Youth at Risk conference in 2011 as well as the National at Risk Youth Conference in spring 2012.

Smith has the most experience of the three candidates with 25 years and according to his application can begin the job on May 28.

Candidate John Ramsey also has a link to Brantley County schools, having completed his student teaching in the eighth grade math class under the supervision of former school board member Linda Marion.

He has the least amount of experience with 10 years but is one of two candidates with a doctorate degree. He graduated in 1994 from Douglas County High School just west of Atlanta, earning his bachelor’s degree in education from Armstrong Atlantic State University, a master’s degree in educational leadership from Mercer University, and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Mercer.

He began his career in 2002 at Pierce County Middle School but relocated to Atlanta in 2003 as a seventh grade math teacher until 2004, then became a seventh-grade gifted and collaborative math teacher in Clayton County in 2005 and an eighth-grade Georgia studies and geography teacher in Henry County in 2006 before becoming a fifth grade teacher this year.

Third candidate Russell Brock received his bachelor’s degree in history from Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, his master’s degree is in educational leadership from the University of Georgia in 2003, and his doctorate is in educational leadership from UGA which he earned in 2003.

He began his teaching career in Greene County as a social studies teacher in 1993, then went to Madison County as an assistant principal in 2002 and to Oglethorpe County High School as associate principal in 2006. He also served as principal of Loganville Middle School beginning in 2008 and currently serves as the maintenance director for the Walton County school board.

County gets $28,000 workman’s comp credit

Safety policies and loss control played a big part in a nearly $30,000 return from the county’s workman’s compensation fund county manager Carl Rowland said at Thursday’s regular meeting of the Brantley County commission.

Late last month the county was notified by the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) that it would receive $28,135 from the group self-insurance workers’ comp fund in the form of a credit because of a low incidence of on-the-job accident payouts.

The money goes toward the county’s 2013 premium according to information released from the ACCG.

Following the passage of a bill in 1982 at the request of various county governments in Georgia, counties have allowed counties to pool resources by forming a non-profit insurance fund that provides for anticipated losses and expenses.

Brantley’s share was part of a $3.25 million dividend credited to Georgia counties this year, ACCG officials said.

The return means lower insurance costs which could mean lower costs to the taxpayer as well.

The county manager also said that the county saved $21,000 on workman’s compensation insurance for volunteer firefighters by changing companies.

The item was for informational purposes at the meeting and did not require a vote.

Meanwhile, a lower than expected bid on the future grant-funded mental health facility in Brantley County could mean the building gets an expansion even before it is built.

Though no official change has been made, commissioners discussed the possibility of adding onto the existing plans for the building to bring the cost of the project – currently $345,330 from R.H. Tyson Construction – closer to the grant funding of over $400,000.  This money can only be used for structural additions and improvements to the building itself and not to items such as landscaping, according to county clerk Dale Halligan.

The item passed unanimously.

A contract wording dispute also has Brantley County back at the drawing board regarding power line relocation at the airport.  According to county attorney C. Deen Strickland, members of the Okefenoke Rural Electric Membership Corp. (OREMC) and legal council attorney Dan Smith were not happy with a previous draft of wording that gave them a “guarantee pending funds become available” on the over $500,000 relocation project.

However, the county was hesitant to give an outright guarantee of the money since the grant funds that would pay a majority of it, have come in pierce by pierce as portions of the project are done.

The county has agreed to a new draft that would guarantee payment in increments up to $50,000 a piece to insure that the county isn’t stuck with the bill if the state redirects funds from the OneGeorgia program largely funding the airport renovation endeavors.

However, Airport Authority Chairman Bill Lee said that he hoped the issue would be resolved soon so that the project could begin again. Lee said he feared the money would be taken away if the county did not act quickly enough.

The county attorney said that he would draft the new agreement and pass it to the OREMC for possible approval.

County manager Rowland said that in the numerous airport projects in which he had been involved, none had required the type of wording requested by the OREMC.

Rowland also cautioned the county to look out for a bill in the legislature that could allow the state to own the county’s forfeitures instead of the county itself.  Rowland said that this would hurt the counties in Georgia while benefiting the state and called the bill ludicrous.

Meanwhile he said legislation that would force money to be spent where it was originally intended could be a positive change giving examples of money from OneGeorgia – a major funder of small rural projects – being cut to help fund transit upgrades in Atlanta.

Such legislation could help prevent this in the future, he said.

Further discussion of the county’s website was also brought up particularly regarding overall cost.

Rowland said that while he was speaking with residents about roads he recently met with a former computer programmer and web designer who moved to Brantley County from outside the area.

The man agreed to draft a website for free in an effort to publicize his work.  Rowland said that the site itself would be free but that the county would have to pay up to $6,000 in equipment and software if it hopes to house the website in-county as opposed to in a server farm in another location.

Chairman Charlie Summerlin said he took issue with the cost of equipment needed to provide the county the site and that felt it was an unnecessary expense.  Summerlin also said that the county should look at area counties to see who did their web design work to get the job done professionally.

Rowland said that the county could house the website with another company for a fee instead of the large sum, but also said that his future plan to consolidate county websites into a single web portal would be better served with a secure in-county server.  Rowland also said that the cost of going with a professional company, in his experience, could easily cost $20,000 compared to the free cost they are getting from the Brantley resident.

Rowland said if the final product isn’t up to the commission’s, they didn’t have to accept it.

Commissioners voted to allow the county manager to work with the man and report back to the commission at a later date.

Rowland said he had previous experience with website revamps such as the the one currently used in Thomasville, Ga.  Rowland may also consider advice from members of Leadership Brantley that suggested web changes in a class project in the last month.

Commissioners continued discussion of the possible consolidation of the Brantley and Charlton County Extension Service programs at the meeting with a new 4-H director in place as soon as the next two months and a new extension agent by the summer pending a joint decision between the counties.

The county manager said that the county’s current retired and part-time agent has been contacted and has requested input on the process.  Meanwhile his secretary has been offered a job in the new program.

Current plans call for the county to contribute the same amount it does now for a part time position plus about $2,500 for extra expenses.  The decision would mean a major change for the county’s extension office and an active 4-H program for the first time in several years.

Commissioner Brian Hendrix said that he hopes whoever takes over the 4-H job is “gung-ho” about  the program and that he hopes to see the return of 4-H hog shows in Brantley County.

In other business, the board:

• Tabled discussion of employee overtime but voted to have an outside company come re-evaluate the county’s pay-scale.

•  Approved the bid of $19,040 from Southern Property Maintenance of Waycross for 193 cubic yards of rubber mulch for the Waynesville Nature Trail and outdoor classroom.  The mulch will be used in place of a boardwalk due to both cost and safety concerns. Commissioners have been told that the rubber mulch won’t float away in a major storm as would be expected from the wooden variety.

•  Approved the bid of $11,570 from Brantley company Poolside Construction for the placement of boarders along the rubber walkway, the placement of mulch and the installation of drainage.

•  Appointed Sherry Griffin to the library board.

•  Modified a consent agenda item regarding the Emergency Management Agency vehicle.  The keys will be left at the Emergency Medical Services building and not the 911 center.

BOE stops payments to library system after 60 years

The Brantley County Board of Education voted unanimously to discontinue pay for services from the Three Rivers Regional Library System (TRRL) System for the first time in almost 60 years at Monday night’s meeting.

The cut was proposed by interim superintendent Read Carter as a cost cutting measure after he spoke to officials with the library.

Carter said they were unable to tell him what services the library provided to the school system in return for nearly $2,500 a year the system has paid  to the library system.

Carter said what services he was aware of could be handled in-house, now, because of better technology and access to the internet.

The school system first entered into a service agreement with the TRRL system in 1954, Carter said.  Among the 10 libraries in the system is the Brantley County Public Library in Nahunta.

Board member David Herrin asked Carter if the organization would be allowed to come back at a later date for another chance to explain their services and possibly be reinstated to which Carter replied they could.

The board unanimously approved the discontinuation of service.

The board also voted unanimously to seek bids for the school board attorney position after Herrin made the motion seconded by Kerry Mathie.

Herrin said that during the last two years the board had paid over $51,000 in attorney fees and he wanted to request bids to make sure the costs were comparable to that of other attorneys.

Longtime board of education attorney Bruce Walker said that he welcomed the board of education’s action but said that he felt his rate of $125 an hour was reasonable and said that he didn’t charge expenses or travel to do the job.

However if the board did decide to look for a new attorney, he recommended that they also conduct an interview process to make sure the applicant has appropriate experience to serve as the school board attorney.

The board unanimously approved the motion.

In other business, the board:

•  Approved the termination of Alisia Lattimore as a bus driver with Brantley County.

•  Approved the recommendations of Scott Herrin for employment in the maintenance department, Zach Anderson as the BCMS baseball coach and Stephen Howard as the BCMS assistant baseball coach.

• Approved a board policy regarding homebound instruction programs to bring local policies in line with state requirements.

• Approved the elementary honor band trip to go to Wild Adventures park in Valdosta on May 4.

• Approved the bid of $2,130 from Strategic Equipment Supply for a food disposer at Hoboken Elementary School.

• Approved the Brantley County High School Herons in Harmony trip to the show choir championships in Orlando, Fla. from April 5 to April 7.

• Approved three fundraisers that included a 50/50 raffle “Jeans week” at the schools to raise money for golf and a rib sale from Feb. 11 to Feb. 18 for soccer.

• Approved the annual subscription to “Brain Pop” unlimited access for the middle school.  The program provides video and visual teaching aids for instructors.

• Approved the cost of $1,272 for an annual subscription to Study Ion which is used in seventh and eighth grade math.

• Approved the cost of $2,250 for an annual subscription of USA Test Prep.

• Approved the amendment of the striving reader grant.  The amendment is used when areas of grant-budgeted items come in above or below expected costs.  The money must be kept on grant-approved projects but can be moved between them.

End of Saturday PO delivery no problem, most say

A recent announcement by the United States Postal Service that it will cut Saturday mail deliveries for the first time since the 1890s later this year doesn’t seem to have Brantley residents too worried, the Enterprise learned late last week.

The USPS announced last Thursday that, in an effort to cut costs, it would be cutting all mail delivery on Saturday beginning on Aug. 1 while allowing its growing package delivery service to continue on that day.

But Brantley and area residents responded through social media with mixed but mild concern.

For some, such as Gloria Sellers of Brunswick, it’s not so much what she would send as what would have to wait a couple of days without the mail.

“I’m not sure,” she said. “It depends on how important the letter is that I’m receiving.”

Katrina Wyatt didn’t seem much affect at all and said she didn’t expect it to have a major change.

“It will not affect me,” she said.

Rhonda Smith of Hoboken said that the she expected the holidays to be when people really notice.

“I’m sure we will survive, but during the Christmas season it’s going to be though,” she said.

Meanwhile others think the decision is long overdue with the company not showing a profit in several years.

“No problems for me,” Sheila Prescott-Crews said. “But I do … think it should have stopped on Saturdays a long time ago so that they wouldn’t be where they are today.”

Crews added that package delivery should follow suit.

“Good grief, I can wait until Monday so they need to stop that, too, on Saturdays to save money,” she said.

Teresa Hill agreed.

“I think that it is a good idea and it helps them save money so no worries here,” she said.

The decision to cancel the Saturday delivery for the first time in over a century comes on the heals of an announcement by the Postal Service Board of Governors that the first quarter of 2013 saw a loss of about $1.3 billion – or around $14 million per day. This is down from $3 billion during the same period of time the previous year.

E-mail and other digital communication has played at least some role in the troubles of the post office leading to fewer letters. In fact, a recent increase in stamp prices didn’t bring the same rush by residents to buy the cheaper stamps like it had in previous years according to Nahunta Postmaster Phil Lairsey. In a previous story regarding the increase, Lairsey told the Enterprise that people had come in for the old stamps, but said that they weren’t slammed with requests.

The plan to cut Saturday delivery is expected to save as much as $2 billion annually and is the latest in a serious of cuts by the USPS with the consolidation of mail processing centers also being on the list of other items that have been done to slow the bleeding.

The USPS is not pushing for congress to remove a requirement put in place in 2006 that it pay over $5 billion a year for health benefits to future retirees.

Career Day at BCHS

BCHS student Tia Green, right, helps with a science lesson with students at Nahunta Elementary School in Lori Slover’s sixth grade class as part of the Future Business Leaders of America Career Day this week. She was just one of numerous high school students who took the day to learn more about the business and career world in Brantley County.  Students chose locations in Brantley and surrounding counties such as Ware, Glynn and Wayne for the event.

InRem2

In rem tax sale

Delinquent tax property sale

Blackshear attorney Franklin Rozier, at left in photo above, hawks properties at the judicial in rem sale as county attorney C. Deen Strickland places bids on behalf the county on the courthouse steps Tuesday afternoon. The county was the primary bidder on 316 different parcels in the former Satilla Plantation Subdivision during the sale from 10 a.m. to about 2:30 p.m. that afternoon. Strickland said he called in Rozier to help aide in the logistics and planning of the major undertaking. Though the county was the primary bidder, local companies also participated at various points during the day, Strickland said. At left, Strickland takes down a map of the Satilla Plantation subdivision after the day long sale on the steps of the courthouse.

Sheriff says he’ll stand with Constitution

Brantley County sheriff Jack Whisenant has announced he will stand with the state sheriffs’ association’s decision to support the Constitution and defend the Second Amendment.

“In light of the recent tragedies at Newtown, Conn., there has been a lot of talk about gun control. First, let me say that my heart goes out to the families of the victims of that horrible day. I can’t imagine how it feels to lose a family member in such a vicious and evil manner as this,” the sheriff said.

“However, as always, there are those who were waiting on such an event as this to scream ‘gun control.’ They wish to reignite the old push to eliminate our Second Amendment rights.”

But Whisenant said he and other members of the Georgia Sheriff’s Association will aggressively oppose federal or state legislation that infringes upon law abiding citizen’s right to bear arms.

The group also announced its support for legislation that penalizes criminals who use firearms in the commission of crimes.

“One of the greatest fears of my law enforcement career is that I would be asked to enforce laws against God. I never thought there might be laws passed that would violate the Constitution,” Whisenant said.

“It is my duty as the chief law enforcement officer of the county to enforce federal, state and local laws and ordinances. I took an oath to honor and protect the United States and Georgia Constitutions,” he said.

The sheriff said a good friend recently referred to the Bible as a standard, pointing out that current laws for the most part came from the standard and much of the United Sates Constitution and the framework of the country came from this standard.

“So whenever a conflict between law and the Constitution arises the Constitution will be my standard,” Whisenant said.

“If the president and lawmakers want to make new laws or stiffen existing gun laws I will support them and applaud them. If they attempt to violate our Second Amendment rights I will not only resist such violations, but if necessary, I will actively repel any violators from our county or find room for them in our jail.”

The sheriff said he hopes cooler and more rational minds prevail in Washington.

“However, it is my job to enforce laws and keep the citizens of Brantley County safe. I will protect the Constitution and, no,— I will not enforce any laws againts God.

County may join Charlton extension office

County Commissioners may soon be looking at consolidating the county extension service with Charlton County per advice from the county extension service coordinator out of Waycross to Brantley’s county manager.

Manager Carl Rowland said that the county was currently paying for a retired county extension agent for two half-days a week and a secretary. But Rowland said the state agency would like to see the position consolidated with Charlton. However, the cost to the county would only change by about $2,500 he said, which were the estimated travel expenses.

In the deal, the county would get a full-time agent with offices in both counties. The move could also bring back the 4-H program which has been missing from Brantley for 14 years according to Rowland.

Rowland said that Charlton’s count administrator had already expressed interest in the deal. Chairman Charlie Summerlin also spoke in favor of the move though nobody mentioned how this would affect the current person filling that position, retired long-time agent Bob Boland who has become a familiar face to farmers in the county over the years.

The item was placed on the regular agenda.

Two members of the audience also brought forth discussion about trash dumping problems near the county landfill far from Smyrna Church with one claiming that a deputy is one of the biggest offenders.

Both Robert and John Lynn brought up issues with residents transporting garbage to the lot uncovered and others dumping trash off road if the dump was closed instead of hauling it home.

The two brought up the fact that the item has come up before and the county had eyed putting a security camera but that nothing had been done. Commissioners suggested that the they get tag numbers and any other information to give to the sheriff’s department. But they said they had already done that and given it to the previous sheriff’s office administration without seeing any action.

In fact, John Lynn said that he had followed one vehicle with an uncovered load when he noticed it was losing a lot of its trash. When Lynn approached a landfill employee, he was told that the person driving the vehicle was a Brantley County Deputy and wouldn’t get caught.

However, commissioners pointed out that both situations occurred under the previous sheriff’s office administration and felt that the issue would be dealt with under new sheriff, Jack Whisenant.

Commissioners were also reminded that they did enact a $300 reward for information such as a tag number leading to the prosecution of someone who dumps trash along Brantley’s roads.

Commissioner Mike Edgy also suggested that the county landfill not accept trash from residents with loads that were covered as the law requires and that the sheriff’s office be notified when they leave to make sure they don’t dump it elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the county’s message to the Brantley Emergency Management Agency was park it – at least when there’s no emergency.

Commissioners and the county attorney were in agreement that the vehicle shouldn’t be used for anything other than official EMA business but also agreed that the vehicle couldn’t be used by any other department either. The Ford Expedition was first obtained by the EMA through a complicated arrangement with the county wherein the organization put forth about $15,000 toward the purchase of a new truck and were given an older one belonging to the county that was worth the amount they’d contributed. The arrangement essentially meant that the older vehicle was purchased through EMA funds and, legally, those funds – and the items bought with them – couldn’t be used by other departments.

The commission agreed to having the keys and the vehicle left at the 911 center in Nahunta where the vehicle could be checked out by EMA administration.

911 Director Linda Murrell expressed some discomfort with having another department’s vehicle checked out from her office, but commissioners said that the location worked because the center was next to the EMA offices and was always open.

The item was placed on the consent agenda.

Volunteer firefighters will soon be required to get their Class F license but the county manager suggested the county give a three to six month window to allow them to get in compliance since many, he said, are not just yet. Rowland also suggested that the county pay the $15 fee on behalf of the firefighters to help expedite the process and get more firefighters onboard. However, Rowland also pointed out that a bill in the state legislature calling for the cost to be absorbed by the state specifically for fire fighters could make the payment suggestion a moot point.

Chairman Summerlin brought an item to the board’s attention during the night explaining that he felt that current human resource policies regarding holiday pay are punishing county employees and said that he wanted to see the policy changed. However, Commissioner Edgy spoke up and said the change to the policy was made during Summerlin’s last stint in office and that it was changed in an effort to save the county money.

Edgy said he didn’t agree with changing the policy, but said that he would be in favor of bringing in an organization to re-evaluate rates.

Commissioners agreed to place the item on the regular agenda for further clarification and discussion.

The county commission will also be looking at changing their current mileage reimbursement rate to the one used by the state. Commissioners had previously discussed changing the rate from the current 48.5 cent per mile to the state’s 56.5 in previous meetings but the item was never put into place. Commissioners agreed that they would base their decision on Internal Revenue Service suggestions.

Commissioner Edgy also spoke up on the Waynesville nature park and said that after rain delays, the project is finally picking up traction once again.

The bids for walkways, borders and drainage as well as for rubber mulch were presented at the meeting but not discussed after a mathematical error was found in the bid sheets. The item will be placed on the regular agenda for Thursday.

The commission has plans to go with a smaller gazebo than was first suggested and will also be using rubber mulch instead of a boardwalk to save money and make a safer location for school children who will likely use the location as an outdoor classroom since there won’t be a risk of falling or wasp nests.

The rubber mulch will be protected by borders and was chosen over standard mulch because it would be less likely to float away.

The project is funded through a 50-50 matching grant from the Department of Natural Resources. Brantley matched much of its portion with in-kind services.

The county manager brought up discussion of a new county website and said that he came upon a former computer programer and web designer while inspecting roads who would build a new website for the county free of charge. However, the cost of an in-house server and software could put costs to host a website in the $5,000 range. Rowland said he hopes to eventually have all county websites consolidated and the county’s various digital maps available at one location.

In other business, the commission:

• Drafted a letter guaranteeing the Okefenoke Rural Electric Membership Corporation payment for the relocation of power lines near the airport as funds become available. The item will be on the regular agenda at Thursday’s meeting.

• Amended the 1989 dangerous dog ordinance to reflect recent changes made by the commission to get in line with state law.

• Approved Tyson Construction as the low bidder on the Satilla Community Service Building project which will be built largely through grant funds. The company was quoted at $384,000 for the construction project but since the grant is for $500,000, the county manager suggested adding to existing plans with more space and landscaping to fill out the remaining funding.

Katlyn takes Supreme on Toddlers & Tairas

On any given day you will find 6-year old Katlyn Smith at home playing dress up or practicing her pageant walk.

“She has such a passion for pageants and practices everyday without being told to do so,” mother Renee Smith says. And her dream was to one day be in a big pageant on TV.

When Renee sent Katlyn’s information to the Georgia Fresh Faces pageant being filmed by Toddlers and Tiaras, she never dreamed that her child would have the chance to be on the hit TLC show, but Katlyn was chosen to be featured as one of the three “followed” contestants — meaning that a film crew would come to her and follow her around a couple of days.

“We had to come up with a video to show Katlyn’s crowns, trophies, and titles she had won, as well as how she was different from the other contestants. Her video highlights were filmed showing our country ways, including fishing with her PaPa, riding in the mud with Uncle Devin, carrying around a live alligator with her daddy, and swimming with her sister, Kirsten,” says her mother.

Within a few days of having her video submitted, Renee received a phone call saying that she would be followed.

“Katlyn was so excited when she came home from school that day. She started telling how she needed to go get her hair cut at Aunt Syble’s, her nails done, go riding four wheelers and playing at Nana and PaPa’s.”

But with time constraints, she wasn’t able to do all that she wanted for the show.

“There was a list giving to us of what could be done for filming.”

The two days of filming were done mostly at Katlyn’s home in Nahunta doing interviews, practices, PaPa bringing the tiger cage he built for her routine, and packing up and heading out to the pageant. However she did get to go and do a couple of things away from home including picking up her custom made pageant shirts from KT Bugs in Nahunta and fishing and tube riding in the lake at Nana and PaPa’s lake.

Once arriving at the pageant in Macon, Katlyn was filmed along with her parents, sisters, her Nana, and Aunt He-He going into the hotel. After that, filming was complete for the day, but Katlyn had to compete in the natural competition that night. She wore a custom made hot pink and lime green dress made especially for her by Janice Hendrix.

“She definitely showed the judges her sassiness and personality on that stage that night,” her mother said.

Saturday morning, the camera crews began filming at 7:45 that morning, during preparations for competing in glitz beauty and filmed her throughout the entire day of competition including beauty, swimwear, and her favorite, circus wear, where she danced as a tiger coming out of the cage. She rocked the stage every time she went on.

The crew went back to filming while she was getting ready for the crowning ceremony.

“When it came time for crowning we didn’t really know what to expect. We went in hoping for just division queen, but were shocked that her name wasn’t called during crowning meaning that she was supreme,” her mother said.

Katlyn was crowned Georgia Fresh Face Supreme in the ages 5-10 breakdown. She also brought home the winning metals for Swimwear, circus wear, prettiest eyes, prettiest smile, best personality, and 1st alternate in natural and glitz photos.

“Crowning blew me away. I was so extremely happy and proud of her. Her hard work defiantly paid off,” Renee said.

Before the division crowning, there were awards given out for Main Attractions which included a 6-foot trophy, a 5-inch crown, and 18×22 glitz photo poster for the money raised for the pageant.

“These are Katlyn’s remembrances of what her community did for her. There were so many people and businesses right here in our county that helped Katlyn be able to go the state competition. So many people donated money, and Mrs. Emily Chancey held a cake auction to help raise money for Katlyn, as well as making one for the crew members that were filming us. Just so much love poured out for my baby. I will never be able to thank each of these people enough.” says her mother.

Katlyn said she loves to do pageants.

“They are fun and you get to wear make-up and look like a princess. I wish I could do a big one every weekend but not with them cameras all the time,” she said.

Katlyn’s show will air tonight (Wednesday) on TLC at 9 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Nahunta moves to online banking

Nahunta will be moving to the use of online banking after a unanimous vote by the city council at Monday’s regular meeting.

Mayor Jeffrey Lee said that the service is currently offered by the Southeastern Bank who currently handles city funds. Lee said the bank would begin charging for printing the check registry and suggested the option as a cheaper alternative.

The city will also approved changes to the city personnel policy to increase the limit on part-time hours from the current level of 20 to the maximum allowed of about 32. The item was added to the agenda after a request by police chief Gene Solano in an effort to allow the department to have more coverage of the city. The limit cap

Tindall Enterprises representative Tindall Enterprises also said that work on repairing various water tower subsystems was well on its way.

Pearson said that the city is currently waiting on the insertion valve to be put in place and once that is completed the tank will be drained for cleaning and valve replacement.

The company will also be performing a flush of the city’s fire hydrants. An official with the company told the Enterprise at the meeting that this could cause a brownish tent to tap water but that it could be fixed by running the water for 10 to 15 minutes.

In other business, the council:

• Listened to a report by Police Chief Gene Solano. The department handled 38 emergency calls and 34 traffic stops. Fifteen citations were issued with 13 for speeding, one for driving while license suspended or revoked and one for failure to yield.

• Listened to a report on the public works department by City Manager Tom Wirth. The department handled 338 work orders for the streets and water department and the sewer department all together. Sixty-nine of those were special assignments while 52 were for the pick up of limbs and debris. The department also changed out and installed 31 new meters.

TSPLOST penalty top legislative issue

A state senate bill proposing the removal of a large penalty against regions that didn’t pass the recent Transportation SPLOST is just one of many that could have an impact on Brantley County if they pass the scrutiny of legislators this session.

Senate Bill 73 sponsored by Republican State Senator John Albers would do away with a 30 percent matching penalty that will be levied against all regions of the state that did not pass the controversial tax item late last year. Currently all regions that didn’t vote for the item would be forced to pay 30 percent matching on Georgia Department of Transportation projects as opposed to just 10 percent.  The bill would drop that matching requirement to 10 percent.

“Taxing any one part of Georgia simply because they did not pass a tax increase is un-American, said Sen. Albers. “This is unfortunately the case for 113 counties across the state that voted against the TSPLOST tax.”

That could appeal to many in the state with only three of the 12 regions created for the purpose of voting on the item actually approving it.

In fact, the regional district setup brought many in the state – particularly various arms of the Tea Party – to question the constitutionality of the voting practice that they believed would take voting power away from smaller counties in regions with much larger population centers.

The bill has been read twice and referred to a senate committee for further investigation.

Meanwhile tax changes could lead to a sigh of relief for delinquent taxpayers and exasperation for Brantley County government.

Senate Bill 72, proposed by senator Jesse Stone, would reduce the current one percent per month interest penalty on taxpayers for past due taxes to only 7 percent per year.

This comes less than a month after the county commission voted to eliminiate a year-long practice of forgiving interest and penalties on select tax bills in an effort to bring back some cash flow and reduce paperwork in the tax commissioner’s office.

But the bill also has another portion that could be beneficial to county government and not as much to residents since the interest paid by the government to the resident on refunds would also be dropped from one percent per month to seven percent a year.

Yet another tax bill, House Bill 80, proposes a facelift for vehicle tax reform that was implemented about a year ago.

Among the changes are streamlining of late fees for title ad valorem taxes from 10 percent of the tax plus one percent a month to $25 after 30 days from the required registration date, an additional $50 after 60 days and an additional $100 for every 30 days after that.

However, the same bill would also reduce the time the tax commissioner would have to pay the state its share of the tax from 30 to 20 days.

Tax bills are also the focus of HB 159 w hich proposes that the placement of fees and assessments on the property tax bill be prohibited.  This would include fees such as street, lights, speed bumps and even fire services.

Meanwhile non-profit organizations in Brantley County will probably be keeping an eye on HB 101, which would require non-profits to file for a permit and fall into various guidelines when serving food at events.  The bill would allow the county to designate these permits to the health department which handles permits for other food organizations.