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February 14, 2002

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One-car accident

First Responders assist Louisville resident Johnny Hill, injured after colliding with a tree Friday, while attempting to avoid another driver who failed to yield the right-of-way at the intersection of Peachtree Street and 9th Street. Hill was treated and released at MCG Hospital.

Burglary nets weapons, cash

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

A weekend burglary at Avera Hardware in Wrens resulted in the theft of weapons and other items following an unusual method of forced entry.

Police Chief David Hannah said possibly more than one suspect was involved in the burglary that occurred sometime between Saturday morning and Sunday night. Suspects used a cutting torch to cut through the hinges and remove the door at the rear of the building. Indications at the scene led investigators to believe that the person or persons involved appear to be familiar with the layout of the store.

Taken in the burglary were eight shotguns, an undisclosed amount of cash, a cell phone and other items.

Hannah said the incident is still under investigation and that arrests are anticipated. Investigators with Jefferson County Sheriff's Office and Georgia Bureau of Investigation assisted in the investigation.

Anyone with information relating to the burglary should contact Wrens Police at (706) 547-3232 or the GBI office in Thomson at (706) 595-2575.

Sludge issue seeks statewide focus

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

The local controversies over land application of sewage sludge in recent years and permits for application of sludge in lieu of fertilizer granted by Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) are no strangers to Jefferson County. A new initiative by a local citizens group is attempting to ratchet the issue to the state level.

A Feb. 7 letter to EPD Director Harold Reheis on behalf of Concerned Citizens of Jefferson County Inc. (CCJC) requested that all permits for land applied sewage sludge within the 13,000 square miles designated as "Most Significant Groundwater Recharge Areas of Georgia" be revoked immediately.

A failure by Reheis to respond by March 7 will result in actions by the group that may result in a call for an investigation by state Attorney General Thurbert Baker and a class-action lawsuit, the letter said.

The impetus for the position stems from the granting of a modified permit to apply sludge within Jefferson County following a June 19, 2000 public hearing in Louisville conducted by EPD representatives. Attended by more than 300 residents, a large majority of those who spoke voiced opposition to the granting of a permit.

The Feb. 7 letter cited CCJC concerns specific to the granting of that permit:

"The process for this permit application was monitored and we were informed that the EPD staff was not going to recommend approval of this permit request. You can imagine our shock when we learned that the permit had been approved. It was reported to our group that someone at EPD's Assistant Director level stated that EPD's staff recommendation was not to approve the permit application when it was sent to your office."

The CCJC letter took the position of assuming that Reheis might not have been aware of the "political semantics" in granting permits for land application of sludge on lands identified by the Georgia Geologic Survey as "most significant groundwater recharge areas."

CCJC President Kay Heilig said Tuesday that the request to revoke permits across a wide area of Georgia stems from the basic need to protect citizens' drinking water.

"The Concerned Citizens of Jefferson County Inc. want to protect the groundwater recharge area that provides our drinking water," he said. "We believe the director of a program as big a EPD may not be aware of all the technical details and we have chosen to bring what we believe are the relevant facts directly to his attention. We made the request based on those relevant facts."

CCJC said its position on the need to revoke all permits tied to land applied sludge is based on a groundwater report from Georgia Geologic Survey (GGS), Georgia law surrounding land application of sludge and documents from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

The 1989 GGS report, Hydrologic Atlas 18, identified 13,000 square miles (or 23 percent) of Georgia's land surface as being included as "most significant groundwater recharge areas," with the highest concentration of such areas being in southwest Georgia and in an east-west band from Augusta to Columbus, including portions of Jefferson County. The CCJC letter tied the GGS report to Georgia law 12-8-25.3(c ), which states that "no permit of modification of an existing permit shall be issued for land application of untreated municipal sewage sludge located in an area designated by Hydrologic Atlas 18 prepared by the Dept. of Natural Resources as a significant groundwater recharge area including, but not limited to, those areas designated as probable areas of thick soil."

A central issue surrounding the use of sludge in lieu of fertilizer is the public safety issue. Georgia law addresses only the prohibition of untreated municipal sewage sludge for land application, yet reports from federal agencies indicate that municipal sewage sludge classified as Class B poses concern for human health and the environment.

Included in the CCJC position was an August 2000 NIOSH report on worker's exposure to Class B biosolids (sludge). The report said sewage sludge, as in the case of Augusta's J.B. Messerly Wastewater Treatment plant that supplies sludge to lands in Jefferson County, is typically treated to Class B requirements at sewage treatment plants using a variety of processes to significantly reduce the concentrations of pathogens. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Class B biosolids may contain pathogens in sufficient quantities to warrant restricted public access and special precautions for exposed workers, the report said. Also cited by CCJC was EPA Report No. 2000-P-10, stating that the agency does not have an effective program for ensuring compliance with land application of sludge and that EPA cannot assure the public that current land application practices are protective of human health and the environment.

Returning calls for Reheis, EPD's Water Protection Branch Manager for Permitting, Compliance and Enforcement Jeff Larson said Tuesday that the CCJC letter will be evaluated once it is received.

South Jefferson County's Sen. Hugh Gillis, who co-authored Georgia Code 12-8-25.3, said Monday that he believed he should withhold comment at this time given that the matter may result in litigation.

Voting districts to be reapportioned

Districts must reflect population changes from 2000 census

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Jefferson County commissioners were recently informed that a reapportionment effecting three of the county's voting districts will be required to reflect changes in population resulting from the 2000 census. Reapportionment will require that lines for Districts 1, 2 and 4 be redrawn to address the decrease in population in District 1 in south Jefferson.

County attorney Mickey Moses told commissioners at the Feb. 4 work session he was contacted by Sen. Don Cheeks, who informed him that reapportionment in the southern portion of the county was necessary due to changes in population.

"I was astonished at this since we had just done it in the 1990s and the census did not vary any," he said.

Based on 2000 census figures the number of voting age adults in south Jefferson's District 1 has deviated enough to warrant the requirement to redraw district lines to equalize the voting age populations across districts, said Moses. Based on those figures, east Jefferson's District 4 has 276 people too many, west Jefferson's District 2 has 223 people too many and District 1 has 687 too few.

"In District 1 the deviation by the total number is not out in percentage by race as a minority district, but it is out by the total number of population," said Moses. "It was designed as a minority district. It's not like the minority population has been diluted so much as the number of people in the district has been diluted. I think this can be attributed to the census."

The county's responsibility includes proposing the redrawing of district lines by increasing the geographical area of District 1 and decreasing the area of Districts 2 and 4, making an application for reapportionment and gaining approval from the state.

Chairman Gardner Hobbs recommended that Moses address the reapportionment issue and bring the findings to the board as soon as possible.

Figures from Census 2000 revealed that Jefferson was one of only eight counties in Georgia to decrease in population during the prior decade. Though the validity of census findings have been widely questioned throughout the county, figures indicate the county's population decreased from 17,408 in 1990 to 17,266 in 2000, with Louisville and Avera the only municipalities gaining residents. The greatest decrease occurred in Wadley with a population of 2,416 in 1990 compared to 2,088 in 2000.

Glascock County puts raises on hold

Commissioners cite economy, upcoming trials as reasons

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Glascock County commissioners voted Feb. 5 to go ahead with plans to amend the county's budget that puts on hold a five percent Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) pay increase designated for county employees.

During the meeting Chairman Thomas Chalker referenced a letter from an attorney representing Sheriff Bryan Bopp, who is attempting to secure budgeted COLA increases for the employees in his office after commissioners announced in January that they would be temporarily put on hold until the county's economic situation can be reevaluated at mid-year.

"We have a letter from our Sheriff addressed to the county commissioners that we have forwarded to our attorney," said Chalker. "I won't go into that but under (county attorney Sammy Fowler's) direction he has asked us to amend our budget. The board decided at the January meeting to delay giving raises due to the current economy."

Commissioners said in January that the decision to withhold pay increases, adopted as part of the 2002 county budget effective Jan. 1, was due to the nation's current economic climate and upcoming county expenses.

"It was in the county's best interest to put a hold on the cost of living increases based on economic conditions in the U.S. and the pending county expenses associated with the two upcoming murder trials," said Commissioner Jay Dixon in a Jan. 30 statement.

Bopp's attorney, E. Allen Smith, said in the Jan. 15 letter that the decision by commissioners to hold off on the COLA increases did not fall within the realm of the commission's authority since Bopp is a constitutional officer and his employees are not employees of the county commission. Consequently, the commission cannot dictate how Bopp spends the money budgeted to his office, he said.

Smith said he will seek assistance from the court if commissioners failed to implement the budget that provided for the COLA increases.

Money withheld from the budget amended Feb. 5, amounting to $17,358 in COLA increases to county employees, will be placed in county's contingency fund, said Chalker. Unaffected by the budget amendment were elected officials, whose pay increases were mandated by the state and became effective Jan. 1.

Candidate for seat in congress visits

New district will include all of Jefferson and Glascock counties

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

A Republican candidate for Georgia's new 12th Congressional District spoke in Louisville Jan. 31 to a small but determined group of party members and others interested in learning more about first time political candidate Cleve Mobley.

The 41 year-old Burke County farmer and business owner appealed to conservative Democrats and Republicans to support his candidacy. Though never having held elected office, Mobley said his continued exposure to the issues and the people reassure him that he made the right decision in giving up farming to run for a U.S. congressional seat.

"I felt all along there was tremendous grassroots desire for a conservative campaign in this district," said Mobley. "The people in this new district are obviously feeling what I was, that we were being set up by the political bosses in Atlanta to have a liberal representative shoved down our throat in an election that would amount to a political coronation.

"But the way this campaign has taken off is showing that those bosses have made a serious miscalculation in drawing the lines for this district. The majority of the new 12th district is made up of conservative Democrats and Republicans, and we aren't going to allow that coronation to happen."

Mobley said his candidacy has the full support of Rep. Charlie Norwood, whose congressional district previously included Jefferson and Glascock counties.

He cited the positive response to the announcement of his candidacy, both from supporters and from campaign funds received thus far.

Through the first six weeks of his campaign, ending Dec. 31, he received $112,271 in contributions, of which all but $2,000 in political action committee funds comprised of individual donations.

Mobley told listeners he had been told that, if elected, he will be given a seat of the House Agriculture Committee, thereby keeping a Georgian on the committee that is so vital to the interests of voters locally. He also addressed the need for Congress to advocate for the needs of rural Americans in the nation's pursue of a continued expansion within the global marketplace.

"A main issues facing our country besides the war on terrorism, in which I fully support the President," he said. "But other terrorists hit Burke County and Jefferson County about three or four years ago when they started closing down plants and we started losing all those jobs. The terrorists are in Mexico and China and where all these companies are taking our jobs.

"Somebody is not doing their job in our trade agreements in protecting our interests of our country. I believe in global trade I believe in free trade. But it's got to be fair and smart trade. If it's not helping us, it will not be prosperous to the United States of America."

Mobley said his family's farm was one of the many that did not survive the 1980s. The loan of a tractor from a friend and the lease of 200 acres in 1986 got him back in farming, where he continues today in addition to owning several other businesses.

If upheld by the courts, the 12th Congressional District will include all of Jefferson, Glascock, Clarke, Warren, Taliaferro, Burke, Jenkins, Screven, Bulloch and Effingham counties and portions of Richmond, Chatham, Oglethorpe and Bryan counties.

The News and Farmer P.O. Box 487 Louisville, GA 30434
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Last modified: February 13, 2002