Jefferson County Sheriff's Office Investigator Clark Hiebert displays the bags of marijuana and crack cocaine confiscated last week during a multi-department street sweep in Wadley.
Drug sweep nets several discarded bags in Wadley park
By Ben Nelms
Drug sweeps Friday afternoon in Wadley and Wrens by Sheriff's deputies, Jefferson County's K-9 unit, Richmond County Sheriff's K-9 Task Force, Wadley and Wrens police resulted in one arrest and the seizure of suspected marijuana and crack cocaine in Wadley.
Officers found a total of 22 small bags containing marijuana and one bag containing suspected crack cocaine in and around Hoke Williams Memorial Park in Wadley. The drug sweep included the park and portions of downtown Wadley and Pine Valley Apartments and Hill Street residences in Wrens. No drugs were found in Wrens.
A Wadley juvenile was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute after leading officers on a foot chase through the park and across Butts Street in Wadley. He told officers the bag he had thrown during the chase, which contained several small packages of marijuana, did not belong to him. He said he found the bag earlier in the day.
Clearly evident at Pine Valley, and especially at the Wadley park, were numerous small plastic bags often used to hold drugs littering the ground. The little bags are commonly used to hold powdered and rock forms of cocaine and other drugs as well as small amounts of marijuana.
Also evident was the support of numerous residents who openly thanked officers for conducting the sweep, requesting additional efforts to keep their neighborhoods safe and drug-free.
"We are concerned about Wadley," said Sheriff Gary Hutchins. "We want the people of Wadley and the rest of the county to feel safe in their neighborhoods. Drugs cause a lot of other crimes and we are not going to let the drug dealers run our county."
Hutchins said his office plans to continue to do periodic drug sweeps and road checks with local, regional and state law enforcement agencies.
The drug sweep followed a drug and weapons check of Jefferson County High School and Louisville Middle School Thursday and Friday mornings. Officers found only a small amount of suspected marijuana during the checks.
Glass firebomb thrown into Louisville home
• Molotov cocktail caused minimal fire damage
By Ben Nelms
Suspects are being sought on arson charges after a Molotov cocktail was thrown through a window of a Louisville residence early Saturday morning. Minimal fire damage was done after the glass firebomb failed to break.
Louisville police discovered the incident after responding to a possible burglary at a W. Broad Street residence shortly before 3 a.m. At the scene officers found a broken bedroom window at the rear of the house. An unbroken one-quart beer bottle inside the bedroom partially filled with gasoline, apparently having been thrown through the window. The fire was started by the fuse portion of the firebomb. The fire apparently extinguished itself after the mini-blinds, window curtain and the carpet below the window were burned.
The owner told officers that no one was home at the time of the incident. She arrived home at 2:30 and called 911 after noting the damage.
State Fire Marshal Alan Logue said Monday the investigation of the incident is in progress. He said the unexploded Molotov cocktail used in the arson has been sent to the state crime lab for analysis.
Logue said anyone with information relating to this crime is requested to contact Louisville police at (478) 625-8897 or the Arson Hotline at (800) 282-5804. The state offers rewards of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of felons in arson cases.
Senior citizens cutback reversed
• Meals will continue to be served five days a week at the center and by the Meals on Wheels program
By Ben Nelms
Jefferson County commissioners voted Tuesday to reverse their intention to cutback meals at the county Seniors Center and the Meals on Wheels program from five to four days per week. The commission voted 5-0 at the March 5 work session to fund the meals program to include hot meals five days per week until the end of the fiscal year June 30.
"We're very happy about this," Senior Center president Martha Harmon said Tuesday. "Now we won't have to worry about not being able to go to the center every day."
Commission Chairman Gardner Hobbs began the discussion by referencing recent discussions with senior-affiliated agencies on the center's budget overruns and the reductions in federal money designated for the program.
County Administrator James Rogers told commissioners the dilemma over the center's budgeted food needs resulted from not having adequate figures to work with when preparing the current budget that took effect July 1.
Regardless of the shortfall, funds can be located to provide supplemental funding to keep the program operating as it has been, he said.
"We just got our printout for eight months (of the fiscal year) and we can fund that program for the rest of the year," said Rogers. "We will have learned something this year from not having all the numbers in last time. We've got some money in our fund balance that we could transfer, but I figure we've got some money we can move around to help her (Seniors Center Director Marie Swint's) department. In my opinion we can afford to fund the program for the rest of the year and not create a problem."
During the discussion phase of the motion to continue to provide hot meals five days per week, Commissioner Wynder Smith requested that Seniors Center Advisory Council Chairman Lloyd Long and Concerned Citizens of Jefferson County, Inc. President Kay Heilig provide assistance to the program in a monitoring capacity. Earlier in the meeting, both men had addressed the board, offering their services free of charge to assist the director with budgeting concerns.
Citing the decision last month to cut hot meals at the center and with the Meals on Wheels program from five days to four per week, Hobbs said he and Rogers had done what the board had asked them to do with respect to addressing the budget overrun at the center. Under that arrangement the center would have remained open on Friday's but would not have provided meals to seniors.
Contract awarded for final section of freeway
• New project's completion date scheduled for June 30, 2004
By Ben Nelms
Whether it can be called the beginning of an era or the end of one, the signaling of a new day in transportation began to take shape Feb. 11 with the awarding of the contract for the final section of the Fall Line Freeway along State Route (SR) 88 inside Jefferson County.
Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Tom Coleman awarded the $22 million contract to Shepherd Construction Company of Atlanta.
The 12.1-mile project will provide a four-lane divided highway from SR 171 to the Sandersville bypass, including new bridges at the Ogeechee River.
The completion date for the project is June 30, 2004.
"I am pleased to announce this road improvement for the motorists of Jefferson and Washington counties," said State Transportation Board member James Lester. "This project is noteworthy because it signifies that the entire Fall Line Freeway from Sandersville to Augusta is either complete or under construction."
Coleman said the 215-mile Fall Line Freeway, connecting Augusta, Macon and Columbus is a significant part of the 2,156-mile highway grid now complete or under construction throughout Georgia.
"I am very pleased that another segment of the Fall Line Freeway will be under construction soon," said Coleman. "This is an integral part of Gov. Barnes' Transportation Choice Initiative plan, and we are committed to achieving the goals set forth by the Governor."
Clearing has recently begun for the third section of the Fall Line Freeway beginning at SR 296 and continuing to SR 171. Work by R.B. Baker Construction of Garden City on the 10.08-mile project includes the construction of a new bridge at Rocky Comfort Creek and new bridge culverts at Duhart Creek and Hannah Branch Creek. The completion date for the $20.2 million project is Oct. 31, 2003.
Construction of the section of the Fall Line from Wrens into Richmond County is scheduled for completion Dec. 31, 2002.
J.M. Huber shuts down Wrens plant to focus on safety
• MSHA rep. said this was the first time he has ever seen a company do this
By Parish Howard
In order to stress the importance of safety, and the company's dedication to its employee's health, J.M. Huber's Wrens Kaolin plant shut down its operations recently in an unprecedented safety time out.
In addition to totally shutting down the plant, something that has only happened three times in the past five years, Huber had its employees go from department to department looking for ways to more safely conduct its business.
"Our plant manager decided to shut down the plant and spend a day focusing on the importance of safety after we had several employees get seriously injured while at home, off of the job site," said the Wrens plant's Evironmental Health and Safety Manager Janice Dowdy. "We've had three small incidents on the job. Last year, from January to January, we had one guy cut his finger and have to get some stitches, but that has been all. Both Huber and the Wrens plant have great safety records, but this was a reminder to all of our employees that they are ultimately responsible for their own safety."
Dowdy explained that employees were placed in groups to audit areas where they do not normally work. Since employees from the plant traveled to the mine, and some from the mine to the plant 5 miles away, there were some employees who had never even been in the areas they were auditing.
"We had lots of findings," Dowdy said. "The teams did find some safety issues, but mostly there was a lot of housekeeping that they noted. When the teams found areas where guarding needed to be put into place and things like that, we took care of it immediately."
She said that teams took their tasks very seriously and the plant's administrators and corporate visitors were very impressed with the project's success.
"Creativity and boldness were required to get the message out that Huber is serious about safety excellence at Wrens," said Dick Shaw, the company's Corporate Director of Global Environmental Health and Safety. "Plant management at the Huber Wrens Kaolin plant and mine made a decision to shut down the plant to put complete emphasis on safety for more than a day and a half. Obviously this meant a considerable investment in time and lost production, but Huber management believes this will pay off in the dividends of reduced injuries, reduced downtime, increased quality and improved morale."
Huber shut down the Wrens plant from 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 19 through 7 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 21.
Roger Rowe with the Department of Mine Safety and Health Administration shared stories about the circumstances around this year's five fatal accidents from around the country with the plant's gathered 171 employees.
"None of those people went to work thinking something bad would happen to them that day," he said. "These things could happen to any of us at anytime."
He told them that ultimately, they are all responsible for their own safety, moment to moment, everyday.
"If you don't remember anything else, remember these two things," he said. "First, always look out for number one. And secondly, don't forget your number."
Rowe said that in all of his years of experience with plants all over the country, he had never seen a company shut down like this to focus on safety and he applauded the plant's efforts.
"Shutting the facility down for safety was a first for J.M. Huber Corporation," Shaw said. "In fact, very few companies would even consider such a bold plan. But, by the end of the safety day, Wrens employees were convinced that the company really cared about their safety and would do whatever it takes to insure a safe and healthy working environment. Now, other kaolin plants in Macon and Sandersville are following Wrens leadership with their own scheduled Safety Time-Out."
At the end of the safety time out the plant gave free six-foot fiberglass ladders to all of its employees.