School expansions to begin this summer
• County's three elementary schools will get new classrooms and additions over the summer break
By Ben Nelms
There will be no sense of boredom in the county's three elementary schools this summer as they sit vacated by students during their annual academic respite.
Hard at work in their place will be engineers and construction workers beginning what will become a $5.5 million expansion funded by an extended one-percent sales tax that will add more than 40,000 square feet of new construction and renovations and other projects.
Voters gave their overwhelming approval in September, at a ratio of 9-1, to extend the current one-percent sales tax for another five years to fund the improvements.
Scheduled for completion in time for the beginning of the 2004-2005 school year, returning students and their parents will find new classrooms, new and expanded cafeterias, nursing clinics, carpeting, windows, roofs and other improvements.
Wrens Elementary will have 10 new classrooms attached to the new wing, including art, music and technology, totaling 12,600 square feet. Roofing is also included in the project. Total cost of the project is $1,877,480.
The expansion at Carver Elementary will include six new classrooms, including music and dance rooms, and a new cafeteria with a performing arts area.
Other additions in the 21,600 square foot project include a new façade on the front of the building, a nursing clinic, asbestos abatement and roofing. The cost of the project is $2,364,600.
Construction at Louisville Academy will include four to six new classrooms, a nursing clinic and expansion of the cafeteria.
Other project components include re-roofing, replacement of carpet in the media center and offices, the removal of old windows and new marker boards. The improvements total $896,240 for the 6,000 square foot project.
Also included in the sales tax term is a $356,032 project to construct a new 2,400 square foot chorus room and storage area at the end of A-wing at Jefferson County High School. The project also includes some re-roofing at the school.
Construction at the schools is expected to begin simultaneously this summer, according to Bethune.
Though expected completion dates vary he said all projects should be complete by the beginning of the 2004-2005 school year.
Aggressive dog killed by Wrens officers
• City animal control officer believes rottweiler may have been trained to attack
By Parish Howard
Wrens police officers shot and killed a large, aggressive dog Thursday after two different Center Street residents reported the animal for coming onto their property and terrorizing them.
A Center Street resident called from the Ultimate Personal Care Home at 6:35 a.m. to report a vicious dog that had appeared on their porch would not let anyone out of the house.
When the officer and the city's licensed animal control officer Walter Hannah reached the address, the dog was on the back steps and according to the police report, "acting very aggressive."
Hannah said the dog was wearing a collar and so must have belonged to someone.
"The dog was mean," he said. "When we tried to catch it, it lunged at me, tried to attack me. I had to defend myself (he said he swung at it) and then it ran off. We couldn't catch it."
Around 7 p.m. the city received another call from the owner of the Center Street house next door to the personal care home complaining about a dog barking at and chasing her 12-year-old daughter.
"It was definitely the same dog," Hannah said. "They were able to lock the dog in their backyard and then they called me."
According to the report, the officers again attempted to remove the dog from the premises and again it reacted violently.
"It was jumping up near my face, barking and snapping and lunging," Hannah said. "If I had been a child, it would have been all over me."
The officers said they had to shoot the dog because it was so out of control that it would have been nearly impossible to remove it without being attacked.
"I wasn't going to let any of us get bit," Hannah said. "We didn't know if the dog had rabies or what. It hadn't bitten anybody yet, but we weren't about to let it get another chance."
Last year, at the request of citizens complaining about the number of stray and unleashed dogs roaming the streets, the city purchased new cages and had Hannah, the city's building and grounds director, trained and licensed as animal control officer.
Since then, he says he has trapped hundreds of dogs. The city currently takes these animals to Webster Veterinarian Clinic in Thomson where they are examined. If the animals are healthy, the clinic attempts to adopt them out.
According to Hannah, pet owners whose animals are captured by the city must either show records proving that their dog has had a rabies vaccination, or pay for the shot before picking up their pet.
Hannah said that as the season gets warmer, he is seeing more stray puppies, but worries most about aggressive dogs, like the one the city had to put down.
"I believe it was somebody's fighting dog," he said. "It had a collar and it was so mad, so angry. I think there are people training them to fight, then they get scared of the dogs themselves and so let them go. Now those are dangerous."
Wrens Police Chief David Hannah confirmed that his department has recently received reports that there are people throughout the county who have been raising dogs for staged fights.
"We keep getting reports, complaints about it," Chief Hannah said. "We're doing what we can, but we haven't caught anyone yet. When we do, they'll face both state and federal animal cruelty charges."
Both city employees referenced the 2001 mauling death of a 33-year-old San Francisco woman, the resulting court case that involved murder charges, and said they hope to avoid a similar situation here.
Soil Science Society members from across the state meet at Old Town Plantation near Louisville March 22 for a six-hour working conference and field tour.
Soil scientists meet in county
By Ben Nelms
There is much more to the soil beneath our feet than many may realize. The evidence of that realization was in plain site March 22 as a group of 25 soil scientists from northwest Georgia to Savannah met at Old Town Plantation near Louisville. Much of the time spent at the continuing education conference was spent using hand-operated augers to bore small holes in the ground, identifying and discussing the soil types they removed.
The rationale of conference leader Thomas MacFie for holding "The Coastal Plains of Georgia" working meeting of the Soil Science Society of Georgia at Old Town was a matter of down-to-earth pragmatism. With 80-100 recognized soil types in Jefferson County, he said the diversity of soil types at Old Town and the bed and breakfast accommodations made the site a good conference location. Both reasons bode well for a site MacFie found by accident a couple of months ago.
"The state is divided by five or six major soil areas which were all covered by the sea at one time," said conference leader Thomas MacFie. "There is a lot of sand and clay in the soil down here and a lot of variability, especially with the Ogeechee River, so this is a great site for the conference because of its size and location.
"We're doing a six-hour field tour today looking at different soils. It's an educational type tour and it will be really good for some of the guys who have never worked in the coastal plain."
All the conference attendees' work in the private sector, regularly mapping soils for home sites and farms across Georgia and many have worked with the Natural Resource Conservation Service. A large portion of their work centers on finding suitable sites for land use projects such as home construction and septic system installation.
"The soil maps were originally done for agriculture," MacFie said. "But now the big impact, especially in developing areas like Savannah, Statesboro, Atlanta and north Georgia, is finding suitable sites for homes. We can tell through soil colors and textures and mapping those sites if the location would be a good home site, a marginal site or one that should not be considered for development."
By mapping soil in a large area soil scientists can determine the best use of soil resources, such as in the location of houses and streets in a subdivision, and lessen the chance of groundwater pollution. Evidence of the benefit of soil mapping provides a cushion in the costs sometimes faced by homeowners and developers, such as in the case of correctly placing a septic system in a home site analysis.
"Under the old system used for a suitable location for a septic system there was a failure rate of about 10 percent," he said. "But now by using soil maps the 30,000 home sites my group has done has yet to experience a failure by locating the septic on the wrong soil."
Attending the conference was consulting soil scientist Hershel Paulk, author of the authoritative 1994 "Soil Survey of Glascock and Jefferson Counties, Georgia."
The survey of the 675.5 square miles, or 432,313 acres, comprising the two counties required an effort that took Paulk five years to complete.
The survey included a description of the soils and their location and a discussion of the suitability, limitations and management of the soils for specified uses. Paulk's work updated the first soil survey done in Jefferson County in 1930. No previous soil survey had been published for Glascock County.
"When we started the soil surveys, we were doing them for individual farms for agricultural purposes and erosion control," said Paulk. "Now the work has extended into soil suitability surveys for homes sites, septic systems, roads and all kinds of urban uses. So the surveys now are probably as important for urban uses as they are for agriculture."
A cloudless day and mild temperatures provided an inviting backdrop to the history and scenic beauty of the area. With a portion of MacFie's responsibilities including locating sites for consulting and continuing education conferences, he looks for sites such as Old Town for future consulting and continuing education conferences.
"Old Town would make a great site for all kinds of tours, especially tied into ecology, land use or agriculture," he said.
Window tint law will be enforced in Gibson
• Police chief says he plans to begin ticketing for the charge in May
By Ben Nelms
Citing the need for officer safety and the increase in security awareness after Sept. 11, Gibson Police Chief Richard Peloquin is poised to start issuing citations for window tint violations beginning in May.
The city council approved the measure to include a warning phase effective from April 8 through May 8, with citations being issued beginning May 9.
Peloquin said the move puts the city in line with enforcing current state law.
He quoted Georgia law 40-8-73.1, stating that it is unlawful for any resident to operate a motor vehicle which has material and glazing applied or affixed to the rear windshield or the side or door windows which reduces light transmission to less than 32 percent.
State law also prohibits applying tinting and glazing that reduces the transmission of light through the front windshield except for a 6-inch area at the top of the windshield.
Peloquin said exceptions to the tint law exist on some vehicles. These include multipurpose passenger vehicles such as SUVs and four-wheel-drive vehicles, those with factory-tinted or darkened windows, limousines, vehicles not registered in Georgia or for documented medical reasons.
He said enforcement of the law, while perhaps not the preference of some residents, is a necessary move.
"It's a matter of officer safety during a traffic stop," said Peloquin. "An officer needs to be able to see what's going on inside a vehicle day or night, but especially at night."
The move by Gibson coincides with current efforts by law enforcement in the region in response to potential terrorist activities since Sept. 11, he said.
Peloquin said the determination to remove window tint will be made by city court Judge Bob Knox on the basis of his decision at the court appearance. The fine for window tint violations is $82.
Residents with questions pertaining to the law may contact the Gibson Police Dept. at (706) 598-2011.