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March 14, 2002

Night-time Wrens fires...

Wrens firefighters responded to two fires this past weekend, one on Hill Street and another on Highway 88. Friday night the department received a call at 12:37 a.m. Saturday morning about a structure fire at 307 Hill Street. Fire engines were on the scene at 12:39, Chief Wayne Davis said. The fire, possibly caused by an electrical shortage, began in an unused bedroom and the occupants were alerted by a fire alarm. Another call came in at 4:14 a.m. Sunday morning to serve as backup for the Matthews Fire Department at a structure fire at 5307 Highway 88.

Guard suspended, wood shop moved after investigation

No one other than relatives received goods, investigators concluded

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

The Jefferson County Correctional Institute inmate woodworking shop has been relocated and a guard has been suspended for five days without pay after an investigation into the unauthorized manufacture and distribution of furniture and other items at the county shop in Louisville.

The investigation concluded that no one other than relatives were proved to have received the goods or passed contraband materials to inmates.

The county shop is located at the old National Guard Amory on SR 24 and houses the county's Roads and Transit departments and maintenance, painting and woodworking shops. Inmates have been assigned to the facility for the past several months, performing maintenance, painting and woodworking functions for county projects.

The results of an investigation completed Feb. 27 by Warden William Evans and Deputy Warden Mark Williamson, obtained under the Georgia Opens Records Law, determined that some of the inmates assigned to the county shop were constructing unauthorized items that included lamps, tables, magazine racks, picture frames and jewelry boxes for pick up later by friends and relatives, who would sometimes drop off food or other contraband items. The investigation also found that some of the weightlifting equipment recently constructed by inmates from scrap metal and ordered removed earlier this year had been held back by inmates and was still present at the armory.

Evans said the outcome of the investigation, including the disciplinary action against the prison guard and the inmates involved, resulted from facts he could prove rather than on unverifiable allegations. The guard received a five-day suspension without pay for failing to follow a supervisor's instruction by not insuring that all the weightlifting equipment had been removed and allowing inmates to use the equipment and for dereliction of duty for failing to properly supervise inmates at the county shop.

In a Feb. 28 letter to Department of Corrections (DOC) State Coordinator J. Paul Ford, Evans said corrective action has been taken for all inmates involved, including the issuance of disciplinary reports and the suspension of visitation privileges of the family and friends involved in receiving goods and dropping off items to inmates. He said in an earlier interview that DOC regulations prohibit the manufacture of items by inmates.

"What I've known to be the facts that I can prove, I have dealt with," Evans said. "When we found something was wrong, we corrected it and will always continue to do so."

The investigation was initiated when Louisville police were notified Feb. 15 of suspicious activity at the county shop. Responding to the call, Police Chief Jimmy Miller arrived and contacted prison camp Lt. Calvin Oliphant. In a search of the premises they found two wooden lamps wrapped in paper and enclosed in a plastic bag inside a crate on the east side of the building. The search also revealed a picture frame wrapped in paper inside a trashcan in front of the building and three jars of instant coffee in a grocery bag retrieved from a trashcan on the premises earlier that day. Lamp parts and drawings, shop-made weightlifting equipment, an assortment of food, cigarettes, letters, pornographic magazines, coffee pots, an electric skillet and other items were also found in the search.

The involvement of Miller and Louisville Police ended after the initial contact. Evans said Friday that the assistance of other law enforcement agencies was not warranted because inmates were the responsibility of JCCI, thus extending the prison camp's jurisdiction to the county-owned property at the old armory as well as the questioning of guards, inmates, relatives of inmates and civilians. Outside law enforcement agencies would have become involved if inmates' activities had felony crimes against civilians, he said.

The investigation report indicated that friends and family members of some inmates were dropping off consumables and other items and were picking up goods manufactured by inmates. The father of one inmate said in a written statement that he had made at least three trips to the county shop to pick up tables and lamps made by inmates. The Harlem resident said the items would be brought to his vehicle once he arrived and parked in front of the armory. He also brought various food items with him, leaving them for his son. He said the inmate assured him that there was no problem in picking up the goods. The goods were subsequently returned to the prison camp. Investigators were told that some inmates would divert the guard's attention while other inmates would make the exchange.

Evans said county employees working at the old armory were interviewed as a part of the investigation and were found to have no involvement in inmates' activities. In subsequent interviews with all prison guards and inmates who were assigned to the county shop, Williamson found that several inmates said they had knowledge of various degrees of involvement in the manufacture of goods at the county shop. All inmates maintained that guards knew nothing of the activities. While most of the materials used to manufacture the various goods were scraps from county projects, other materials were purchased from a local hardware store. Inmates told investigators they would inform guards of the materials needed for the various projects being worked on, often simultaneously. Several inmates told investigators that a number of items such as electrical supplies for lamps and an electric skillet were purchased by guards, and some with approval of unnamed county employees or officials. The assertions by inmates were unable to be proved, according to Evans.

County Administrator James Rogers told commissioners at the March 5 work session that he was satisfied with the investigations results. He said the allegation by inmates that various types of supplies and other items were obtained at local businesses was determined to be false based on a check of county invoices, with the exception of a small number of electrical components apparently used to make four lamps.

"I am satisfied," Rogers said Monday. "It was thorough and complete and I am satisfied with the disciplinary actions. As far as I am concerned the issue is closed."

Unaccounted by both the investigation and a search of county invoices is the means by which inmates were able to acquire the sockets, switches and lamp cord for the remainder of the lamps retrieved in the investigation. Evans also said the origin of a number of skullcaps found during the investigation could not determined. They were not issued by the prison camp. Also of undetermined origin was a bag containing numerous caps found in the back of a dump truck at the county shop. The caps had apparently come from the landfill, the report said.

Rogers said additional materials for lamps, as with other contraband, may have been supplied by family and friends of inmates. Such was apparently the case with inmates' claim that a county employee or official provided them with a camera. On a search of trashcans outside the armory on the morning of Feb. 16, Williamson found a bag not present during the search the previous day. The bag contained a bottle of vitamins and a disposable camera with a $20 bill inside the packaging.

Investigation findings indicated that the control of civilian traffic flow at the armory location made appropriate supervision of inmates problematic. The woodworking shop has been moved to a location at the prison camp where better supervision of inmate security can be maintained, the report said.

Art show highlights local talent

March 22-24 show will present work from a diverse group of local artists

By Parish Howard

"A lot of people who know me don't know that I paint watercolors," Louisville resident Sam Morgan explained last week. "I started a few years ago and the more I've done it the more I've talked to people about it, about art."

And the more he talked, the more he found that even here at home, in the county he grew up, surrounded by people he had known his entire life, he wasn't alone.

What he discovered was that the landscape of Jefferson County is frescoed with artistic talent.

Over the last few years he has met other artists, some beginners, some professionals, many who are somewhere in between those extremes, living within shouting distance of each other, but who have never met.

"Mary Reynolds and I began talking about putting on a kind of show, an exhibit of some kind, a way to showcase all of the talent we have right here in Jefferson County," Morgan said. "We started talking to people and found out that there was a lot of interest in it. Now, we're finally doing something about it."

Friday, March 22 through Sunday, March 23 Morgan and his friends will be hosting a weekend of exhibits representing the work of around 27 local artists.

He expects to display between 55-60 framed paintings and drawings in addition to the metal and wood sculpture work of at least five other artisans.

The show, which is being held at the Magnolia House in Louisville, will open Friday at 6 p.m. with an artists' reception where the public can mingle with their neighbors who created the different pieces of work.

The artists being featured are from all over the county and range in age from mid-teens to early 90s.

At 91-years-of-age, Louisville's Marie English has the honor of being the show's oldest featured artist. Since retiring from the county school system in 1965 and entering the world of commercial art, she has sold more than 5,000 paintings, won numerous awards and been a member of art institutes as far away as Italy.

"I believe that people will always want to paint, to create," English said. "It's more alive today than it has ever been."

While she had not yet decided on which works she would enter in the show, she had narrowed it down earlier this week to a few watercolors and some oil and acrylic paintings done in the 17th Century Dutch style.

"I'm really looking forward to the show," English said. "We have some fine artists from right here in Jefferson County who are going to be there."

Jefferson County High School's art teacher Karen Lewis, another of the featured artists, is also excited about attention the show may bring to some of the lesser known artists.

"I think that Jefferson County is a quiet little Mecca of art and music and I believe that a lot of people are going to be surprised by the talent we see," Lewis said. "I just can't wait to see it all together."

She is particularly excited about the range of ages and diversity of artists who will be represented.

"The atmosphere is just perfect," Lewis said of Louisville's Magnolia House, the site chosen for the showing. "Architecture and old buildings go right along with what we are trying to say and do about preserving and displaying these valuable resources."

Admission is free and the displays will be available for viewing Friday from 6 to 9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m.

"We hope to create an interest in art," Morgan said. "Hopefully this will be the beginning of a number of shows of this type. It may even spark interest in forming something like an artists' guild."

Among the artists whose work will be displayed in the show are Sam Morgan, Mary Reynolds, Marie English, Willena M. Evans, Nan Gunn, Lee Arnold, David Carr, Nesta New, Karen Lewis, Claire Irwin, Sally Lauderdale, Joan Fulghum, Herman Wright, Lucy McTier, Jace McTier, Ty McTier, Vicky Smith, Louise Abbot, Beth Bargeron, Jacob Jackson, Will Easterlin, Chuck Lawson, Tim Goodson, Pat Kelly, Willie and Ma Tarver, Jimmy Williams and Pierre Smith.

Long-awaited Wadley mini-mall opens

New IGA grocery store will anchor mall

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

History merged with the future in Wadley March 6 as cloudless skies mirrored the clear delight on the faces of shoppers at the opening of the long-awaited Wadley mini-mall and its anchor business, the Hadden's IGA grocery store.

All totaled, the five businesses provide a shopping venue to residents in the Wadley area and employment for more than 60 people.

Aside from stores full of shoppers at 10 a.m., the ribbon cutting at IGA was the temporary home to a host of members of the Wadley City Council and Mayor Herman Baker, Wadley Downtown Development Authority, Jefferson County Commission, Development Authority of Jefferson County, Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce business and civic leaders. Though perhaps not so seemingly worthy of much fanfare in more urban areas, the historic significance of the occasion did not go unnoticed.

"Wow, we did it," said Wadley Downtown Development Authority President Jane Smith. "We had a vision of this. It just shows that if people work together anything can be accomplished."

Smith's reference reflected the multi-year struggle of the Wadley development authority, business interests and the administrations of current and former Mayor Herman Baker and late Mayor B.A. Johnson over the past six years to bring the shopping center into existence and provide needed jobs and sales tax revenue.

The anchor business at the mini-mall is the 15,000 square foot IGA grocery store that features a deli and full-service meat department and employs 40 people.

"This celebration is a way for us to introduce the new Wadley IGA store to the community and thank our customers for being so patient during the period of construction," said store manager Raymond Borseth.

Store owner Floco Foods, Inc., operates 26 grocery stores in Georgia and South Carolina and is a member of the IGA Alliance that includes more than 4,000 stores in 48 states and 40 countries, with aggregate worldwide sales of more than $21 billion.

The mini-mall is also current home to Bill's Dollar Store, Subway, so Magical Hair Designs and Quick Tax. The first business to open two years ago, Bill's employs five, Subway employs 12 and So Magical and Quick Tax employs two people each.

Developer Charlie Smith said the delays with the project experienced over the past few years were overcome by the commitment of all the parties to bring the mini-mall to life.

"We did this for the people of Wadley, not for us," he said. "We did everything necessary to accomplish what we see today and with perseverance we kept this project together."

Reapportionment of county voting districts begun

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

The required reapportionment of three voting districts in Jefferson County was agreed upon between the county commission and school board in joint meeting Feb. 26 at the state reapportionment office in Atlanta.

Portions of Districts 1, 2 and 4 had to be redrawn based on a decrease in population in south Jefferson's District 1, according to 2000 census figures.

The correction resulted in the south part of District 2 and portions of the southern end of District 4 being rolled into District 1.

Both boards were informed in February that district boundaries required redrawing to address the decrease in the population of District 1.

Census figures showed that District 1 had 687 people too few, while east Jefferson's District 2 had 223 people too many and west Jefferson's District 4 had 276 too many.

County attorney Mickey Moses told commissioners last month that district lines must be redrawn to equalize the voting age population across districts.

"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," he said. "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."

School Superintendent Carl Bethune said Monday that the outcome of the reapportionment was meant to be equitable for all districts.

"We tried to accomplish the reapportionment as fairly as possible," he said. "Both boards worked through the best scenario possible to address the issue."

County Administrator James Rogers affirmed a widely held belief that District 1 and other portions of the county were undercounted during the census. That premise was evident when board members visited the state reapportionment office, noting that a number of the census tracts incorrectly reflected that no residences existed in areas where commissioners clearly knew that people lived.

"We feel like a lot of people didn't get counted, especially in District 1," he said. "Based on the census information I think we did a fair and adequate job in reestablishing the boundaries."

The reapportionment requires final approval by the legislature. It is unclear at this time whether that approval will come in time for elections later this year.

The 2000 census revealed an overall decrease in Jefferson County's population from 17,408 in 1990 to 17,266 in 2000. Of the county's six municipalities only Louisville and Avera showed an increase. Unincorporated areas of the county showed significant growth during the same census period, with 47 percent of the population living outside city limits in 1990 compared to 54 percent in 2000. The census also established, correctly or not, that Jefferson was one of only eight counties in Georgia to decrease in population since 1990.

Questions on the specific areas in southern portions of Districts 2 and 4 affected by the reapportionment may contact the school board at (478) 625-3283 or the county commission at (478) 625-3332.

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