Staged deaths help save lives...
"A car is a coffin with a steering wheel," says Maj. Charles Gibbons to Jefferson County High School students April 18 before the annual prom. An endless list of agencies and organizations sponsored the Ghost Out to help prevent drinking and driving.
County hosts annual Relay for Life
• Event kicks off Friday at 7 p.m. at Wrens walking track
By Ben Nelms
If local efforts to combat cancer were the determining factors in a cure, the disease would not stand a chance of succeeding.
The fellowship, spiritual uplifting, camaraderie and antics far outstrip the nationally recognized fundraising efforts of the Jefferson County Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society.
Now in its eighth year, the Relay is the highest attended annual event in the county.
Encompassing the hours of 6 p.m., Friday through 2 p.m., Saturday, the walking track in Wrens will be the temporary home to thousands of residents countywide.
Included in the throng will be 18 Relay teams and 18 corporate and advertising sponsors.
This year's theme will be "It's the Sprit of the USA to Relay" with accompanying colors red, white and blue, said co-captain Karen Walden.
"This has been a hard year for us here, for the economy and the nation," said Walden. "But it's been a year where we've done our best. We're going to continue to fight regardless what comes against us."
Opening ceremonies will begin at Friday at 6 p.m., with prayer, the national anthem and the annual cancer survivors' walk.
Music from Mark Cheek's bagpipes will be performed at 6:45 p.m., followed by the Baby Stroller Parade and performances by the Country Kickers, Springfield AME Choir and Wrens Church of God's Tongues of Fire praise team.
Relay teams will surround the track beginning at 8:45 p.m. for the lighting of the nearly 1,500 luminaries in honor of those who have survived cancer and those who have passed on.
The ceremony will be followed by the Jefferson County High School Chorus, the always-outrageous Talent Contest and other forms of entertainment.
The pajama walk has been replaced this year with a take-off on the Survivor's television show. Scheduled for 1:30 a.m., the survivor's contest will feature members from all teams competing as members of two teams competing as members of two tribes.
Events will continue Saturday with a variety of performances and raffle drawings. Closing ceremonies and award presentations are scheduled for 2 p.m.
Jefferson County was recognized last year as #5 in the nation in per capita fund raising for counties of 10,000-20,000 in population.
Walden said that regardless of the amount of money raised and the multiple times Jefferson County has been nationally recognized, the impetus, the spirit and the outcome of the Relay is for the families and friends in communities countywide.
"The important thing is that we've poured ourselves out for Jefferson County," she said.
Three arrested on rape charges
By Ben Nelms
Charges of statutory rape have been brought against three area men over incidents in July 2001 involving a 13 year-old Glascock County girl.
Derrick Birchfield, 18, of Dearing, Kyle Deal, 19, of Thomson and Reid Rhodes, 17, of Mitchell were charged with statutory rape, according to Georgia Open Records Law information obtained from an investigation conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Glascock County Sheriff's Office.
All three men were arrested April 15. Law enforcement officials said the charges do not include forcible rape.
The alleged incidents occurred over a two to three day period during July 19-26.
The investigation revealed that the girl would reportedly leave her residence with one or more of the suspects who would accompany her to a Bastonville Road address.
The girl would be taken back to her residence sometime after sexual relations occurred. Similar incidents are alleged to have occurred on one or two other occasions during the time period.
Each of the men were released on $5,000 bond.
The men were arrested subsequent to an investigation that was initiated from information supplied by a family member of the girl.
Suggestions given for improving economic base
(Editor's note: This story is part two of a series focusing on the results of a recent study of Jefferson County and the factors facing its future growth and development.)
By Ben Nelms
Jefferson fared better
The final version of a strategic economic development plan presented April 18 by researchers from Georgia Tech Industrial Development Institute (EDI) to members of the Development Authority of Jefferson County and the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce identified a variety of factors that may help the county expand its economic base and improve the lives of citizens.
The 2001 study represented the culmination of data collection, research, analysis and personal interviews by which the proposal was derived. EDI's Joy Wilkins said the project's mission was intended to provide information and recommendations compatible with the community's vision.
The study was presented in five parts that include a Local Economic Review, Survey of Community Leaders, Industrial Development Assessment, Community Economic Development Issues and recommendations.
The first of the project components, the Local Economic Review, was composed of 15 socioeconomic categories that exist in Jefferson County.
To help gauge the relevance of the results the findings were compared to groups of counties in four distinct categories.
These include the 14-county Central Savannah River Area (CSRA); a nine-county regional Labor Market Area (LMA); counties statewide; and a peer group of four counties, Ben Hill, Berrien, Macon and Washington, all having population, economic, interstate access, geographical and other similarities to Jefferson.
Socioeconomic indicators were used in the study because they help explain the well-being of residents within a community in ways that job growth alone may not reflect, said EDI's Larry Edens.
To understand whether economic development has truly reached the individual resident, it is important to review other measures such as social, health and educational.
The 15 socioeconomic indicators used included population growth, per capita income, job growth, unemployment rate, labor force participation rate, manufacturing employment, average weekly wages in manufacturing, poverty rate, teenage pregnancy rate, infant mortality rate, food stamp participation rate, crime rate, juvenile arrest rate, high school dropout rate and education test scores.
The study provided a matrix illustrating Jefferson County's socioeconomic positioning relative to the average for its counterparts within the CSRA, LMA, peer group and state. Jefferson County fared better than counties in five of the 15 categories and worse in seven others compared to counties in the four groupings. Jefferson had mixed results in three other categories.
Jefferson County fared better in manufacturing employment, teen pregnancy rate, infant mortality rate, crime rate and juvenile arrest rate categories.
Jefferson fared worse
The county fared better in manufacturing employment, with 28.7 percent of jobs in the manufacturing sector in 2000 compared to a 18.8 percent average in the CSRA, 17.8 percent in the LMA, 24.2 percent in the peer group and 12.7 percent statewide.
Jefferson fared better in pregnancies per 1,000 teenage females at 40.5 in 1998, having dropped significantly from a rate of 63.7 in 1990. The county's teen pregnancy rate is better than the CSRA average of 47.8, the LMA average of 52.3, the peer group's 50.9 and the state's 44.0.
Infant mortality rates representing the deaths of infants under one-year of age per 1,000 births fell dramatically in Jefferson from 1990 to 1998. The 1998 rate for the county was 3.6 deaths per 1,000 compared to 6.5 in the CSRA, 11.7 in the LMA and 8.5 in both the peer group and state.
Jefferson County fared better than counties in the four groupings in the crime rate, with 13.1 violent and property crimes per 1,000 population in 1999, compared to a 26.3 average in the CSRA, 31.9 in the LMA, 44.8 in the peer group and 50.4 statewide. The county also fared better in the juvenile arrest rate. Jefferson had a rate of .41 percent of juveniles ages 15-17 arrested for criminal offenses, compared to 3.59 in the CSRA, 4.65 in the LMA, 5.0 in the peer group and 5.48 statewide.
Jefferson County fared worse in population growth, being the only county in the four groupings to show a net loss in population from 1990-2000 and was one of only eight counties in the state to experience a loss during the same period.
Though posing a steady growth since 1980, the county fared worse in per capita income at $18,364 in 2000 compared to an average of $20,380 in the CSRA, $20,115 in the LMA, $21,165 in the peer group and $27,703 statewide.
The county experienced a 3.4 percent increase in job growth from 1990-2000, compared to 13.6 percent in the CSRA, 7.8 percent in the LMA, 15.7 percent in the peer group and 31.8 percent statewide.
Jefferson's labor force participation rate, the percentage of working-age residents either employed or actively seeking employment, remained lower than the averages of the other groupings.
The county's 2000 rate was 55.6 percent compared to 58.9 percent in the CSRA, 57.1 percent in the LMA, 64.7 in the peer group and 69.1 statewide.
Jefferson fared worse in its unemployment rate. The 9.2 percent average in 2000 was higher than the 6.2 percent in the CSRA, 6.6 percent in the LMA, 6.6 in the peer group and 3.7 statewide.
Figures for the poverty rate showed the county with 26.6 percent in 1997 compared to 22.0 percent for the CSRA, 23.0 percent in the LMA, 23.2 in the peer group and 14.7 statewide.
Jefferson County's food stamp participation rate, calculated at the number of recipients per 1,000 population was 143.2 in 2000. This compared to 130.1 in the CSRA, 137.6 in the LMA, 131.4 in the peer group and 66.3 statewide.
The county also fared worse in the average reading scores on the 3rd grade Iowa Test of Basic Skills test.
Results from 1997-98 showed a percentile score of 32.0 compared to 44.4 for the CSRA, 41.6 in the LMA, 41.0 in the peer group and 48.0 statewide.
Jefferson County showed mixed results in average weekly wages in manufacturing, high school dropout rate and average Scholastic Aptitude Test scores.
The county's average weekly manufacturing wages was $518 in 1999, higher than both the $425 reported in the CSRA and $465 in the LMA but lower than the reported $613 in the peer group and $683 statewide.
The county's dropout rate was lower than that of the averages of three of the four groupings.
The 1999-2000 rate was 5.4 percent compared to 5.3 percent in the CSRA, 6.6 percent in the LMA, 9.4 in the peer group and 6.5 statewide.
Average SAT scores in Jefferson County during 1999-2000 were 901 compared to 837 in the CSRA, 910 in the LMA, 912 in the peer group and 962 statewide.
The second component of the Georgia Tech study, Survey of Community Leaders, will be presented in the May 9 edition.
Friends of the Ogeechee meet
• Club dedicated to maintaining quality of river holds first meeting
By Ben Nelms
A liquid highway courses through Jefferson and Glascock counties and many others in east central Georgia. Though now the road less traveled, the highway belongs to no one and to everyone. It was used for commerce and migration in times when many of today's roads were only animal trails.
Today this highway has friends who are committed to keeping its vitality and viability alive. The highway is the Ogeechee River and its friends are determined to insure that it remains a never-ending source of productive habitat for wildlife and recreation and enjoyment for people who want to experience the road less traveled.
Friends of the Ogeechee River, Inc. (FROG) gained more than 30 new members by word-of-mouth in February and hopes to recruit more during an upcoming membership drive, said organization Vice President and Secretary Larry Hodges. For Hodges the reasons to protect the Upper Ogeechee River Basin are obvious.
"The Ogeechee River is the only natural resource in the area that is accessible by everyone," he said. "So to maintain and improve the quality of the water and the associated habitat is important for humans and animal alike."
Hodges said FROG is an advocate for clean water, scenic beauty, public access, riverbank protection, river based recreation, river based tourism and watershed education.
The Ogeechee River flows 245 miles, beginning as two small streams between Siloam and Union Point and emptying into the Atlantic Ocean north of Ossabaw Island. The Upper Ogeechee River Watershed encompasses part or all of 11 counties, including Greene, Taliaferro, Hancock, Warren, Glascock, Washington, Jefferson, Johnson, Emanuel, Burke and Jenkins.
Hodges said FROG intends to accomplish its goals and objectives for the Upper Ogeechee River by promoting education, public awareness, community involvement, partnerships, water quality monitoring, public policy development and responsible use and development.
Most current FROG members reside outside Jefferson County. Hodges said anyone interested in joining the organization should write Friends of the Ogeechee River, Inc. at P.O. Box 743, Louisville, GA 30434 or call a FROG member.
Brochures and membership applications will be available soon at local restaurants, bait and tackle shops, chambers of commerce and other businesses.