Della's Diner Opens...
The School House Player's production of Della's Diner will open Thursday, June 13 at the Bartow Community Center and run for six performances through June 15 and June 21 through 22. There is one matinee scheduled for Sunday, June 16 at 3 p.m. For more information call (478) 364-3340.
Glascock County residents line the track Friday night at dusk to light the hundreds of luminaries that would flicker and illuminate the path for the walkers throughout the weekend's American Cancer Society Relay For Life fundraiser.
Relay is another success
By Ben Nelms
It is amazing how a county of only 2,556 people can continuously come together as a unified force and raise so much money to defeat cancer. Yet again this year, the residents of Glascock County have accomplished that very thing.
More than 500 people were present June 7 and 8 at Brassell Park in Gibson for the county's third annual Relay for Life fundraising event for the American Cancer Society. The event is the culmination of their yearlong efforts to raise money for a cure. Those efforts, said event chairman Gwyn Couch, totaled $43,216.71.
"Glascock County has come through for the Relay again this year," said Couch. "The folks were out again in great numbers. I got a little worried when it started raining, the luminaries went out and HOPE caught on fire, but by midnight everybody was glued to the stage for the talent show.
"The whole Relay was great. The stars came out again. The Star Spangled Banner was on the stage and the night was filled with patriotism and with very moving emotions all night long."
The upbeat event began Friday at 6 p.m. and continued until 7 a.m. Saturday. During that time the rain started and ended and the night stayed comfortable with the help of a constant breeze. Nearly 50 cancer survivors took to the track for the Victory Lap at the beginning of the event. The track was lined with approximately 1,000 luminaries to signify those who had survived cancer and those who have gone on. But whether in memory or in the present, the celebration at Brassell Park was populated with life and hope.
Entertainment and antics throughout the night, whether organized or impromptu, brought out the customary excitement for which Glascock County might likely become famous. In one of the most heavily attended Relay events, a stunning group of "beauties" from across the county competed in the Miss Relay Contest. Persisting through the stiff competition that exuded excessive body hair and body parts that seemed to defy the modern conception of anatomy, the laws of physics and the rest of nature was newcomer Roxy Foxy Rogers. Many other events, such as the Baby Stroller Parade, Pajama Walk, softball game and scavenger hunt and, of course, the no-holds-barred Talent Show made Brassell Park one of the most festive locations in this part of the solar system.
Taking part in the celebration were two cancer survivors whose eyes were bright and seemed to smile. Sixty-two-year-old Gibson resident Wade Jackson was found to have a grapefruit-sized tumor on his right kidney in January after consulting his doctor about a pain on the right side of his abdomen. Jackson said he was told by doctors that the tumor would be fatal in 95 percent of cases, even after surgery and therapy. Tests revealed that the tumor was also present inside the kidney.
Jackson underwent surgery the next week. He was back at work at the Sheriff's office in two months without requiring follow-up radiation or chemotherapy.
"I haven't really had any problems with the surgery," he said. "And I haven't had any problems since then. But when I found out that I had cancer the first thing that ran through my mind was that I wouldn't see my little grandboy get grown."
Jackson said the days between the diagnosis and surgery worried him. His feelings altered during a visit to have the surgery staples removed. His doctor announced that his pathology report indicated that cancer cells were not present in his circulatory system.
"It was like the world had been lifted off of me when he said that," he said smiling and laughing. "I had prayed and everybody down here had, too. And I think that helped. I just had a feeling that it helped me. So people shouldn't give up. You've got to put your trust in God."
Another cancer survivor who made time to talk during the festivities was Savannah resident Patrick Vooton, a medical physicist married to the former Laverne Mathis of Gibson. The 50-year-old first experienced cancer at age 25 and again five years ago. The first time was testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and other areas. He was given a diagnosis of three months to live. An experimental protocol at Emory University along with surgery and chemotherapy for the next year paid off. Vooton's bout with cancer at age 25 helped direct his career path. He now works at the Anderson Cancer Institute in Savannah in radiation oncology.
Five years ago Vooton had a nerve pop up behind his left ear. A persistent sore throat followed. He had the area checked and found himself in surgery three days later with cancer in both tonsils and a lymph node, followed with aggressive radiation therapy. Today he is cancer free. That freedom is the outcome of mountains of prayers and the increasing effectiveness of medical technology and understanding.
"Cancer is just another bump in the road and you get through it," said an upbeat Vooton. "I have a lot of support from my family and friends. Cancer doesn't care who you are or if you're in good shape. From my experience in radiation oncology and treating cancer patients I can tell you that we are curing a lot of cancers and increasing the survival rates. I am living proof that research pays off."
The hours between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. are often the only times during a Relay for Life where a reasonable amount of quiet time can be found. At Brassell Park it was the quiet time that never came. A steady diet of music from the PA system, quiet conversation under tents scattered around the park and sporadic episodes of dancing, laughter and the effervescent antics of the Headhunters, Fellowship Lamplighters and others insured that the upbeat celebration did not end. The Sun, doubtless surprised as it crested above the morning horizon, found many members of nearly all the teams awake and awaiting the closing ceremonies.
The annual Relay for Life fundraiser is always an upbeat affair in Glascock County. Though an occasion for reflecting on the lives of loved ones lost to cancer, it is a celebration of hope. It is a celebration of life. But more than anything else, it is a celebration of love. In Glascock County the love is strong.
Relay for Life local supporters included Freddie Turner, Jim Holton, Torianna Fowler, Jet Food Stores, Glascock County Board of Commissioners, Glascock County Road Department, City of Gibson, Thomas Chalker and Georgia Department of Transportation.
Corporate sponsors included Gibson Church of God, the Headhunters, Firstate Bank, Williams Farms, Usry's Auto Parts, EZ-Go Textron, Fellowship Lamplighters, Badcock, Jefferson EMC, Usry's Towing, Euphrates Baptist Church, Country Lane Rentals, First City Bank of Gibson, Usry's Diner, Sidewalk Gang, Gibson Hardware, WPEH Radio, The News and Farmer/The Jefferson Reporter, News Channel 12, Blue Contractors, LTD, Kitchens Grocery, Rabun Clearing and Grading, Gibson Methodist Soaring Eagles, Gibson Health & Rehab Center and G. Ben Turnipseed Engineers, Inc.
County property will go through revaluation
By Ben Nelms
Growth and development is slowly but steadily increasing in Jefferson County. The resulting higher prices received for the sale of land, homes and other property have prompted the need for a revaluation of property that will be reflected on tax bills later this year, according to Tax Assessor George Rachels.
Rachels said the revaluation is necessary because the sales ratio is out of tolerance with the requirement specified by Georgia Department of Revenue. Property tax bills are based on 40 percent of the fair market value of the price of property. Categories currently being revalued include residential, small and large tract agricultural and some commercial and industrial properties. The remainder of commercial and industrial properties will be revalued next year, Rachels said.
"What's happening in this county is that we are growing," he said. "People don't believe it, but you have to start looking at the higher land prices, new subdivisions, building permits and things like our first $300,000 house and a three year-old house that resold for $191,000. These things indicate growth."
What is occurring in the county is that higher prices paid for property results in an eventual drop in the overall percentage of the assessed value of property within the county, which leads to an overall drop in the property taxes generated. When the ratio drops below 36 percent it can trigger action from state departments that monitor property sales across the state. All property sales are recorded not only in the county where the sale occurred, but also in Atlanta.
The state Department of Audit reviews all property sales annually. Additionally, the Georgia Department of Revenue audits property sales within counties every three years to determine if property tax bills reflect the required 36-44 percent of fair market value.
"We're dropping down to 38, 39 or 36 percent and we do not want to drop below 36," he said. "If we drop below 36 percent we will be penalized and there is a fine imposed by the state."
Rachels said the current revaluation process should be completed by the end of June or early July, with assessment notices following shortly thereafter. The high and low-end sales are excluded from the process in order to more accurately reflect a uniform perspective of the fair market value of properties in the county.
"What I want is a median average, that's what I'm after," said Rachels. "So when we do a mass appraisal we try to apply it across the board to everybody so that everybody is treated fairly and uniformly. Our digest is checked for uniformity by us and by the state, as it does with all counties."
Rachels said a similar situation occurred three years ago when the ratio fell to a level that the revenue department considers unacceptable. Prices paid for various types of property had risen in the prior few years to the point that a revaluation became necessary to maintain the mandated assessment level of 40 percent of fair market value and to prevent triggering a penalty on the county, which would have been shouldered by property owners.
14-year-old runaway gets to Mexico City before being caught
By Ben Nelms
A 14-year-old Jefferson County girl was returned home from Mexico City June 8 after running away a week earlier. Intervention by the Sheriff's office, FBI agents in Augusta and Mexico City and the girl's mother insured her safe return. The girl was one of three juveniles, accompanied by an 18-year-old male, who set out June 1 to leave the county without the consent of their parents.
The 14-year-old girl initially set out to leave the county June 1 with a 15-year-old male, a 15-year-old female and 18-year-old Sergio Torres, according to Sheriff's investigators. The 15-year-old female returned home on her own and then left again, being detained a short time later near SR 296. She was returned to her family and sent later to the Youth Detention Center (YDC) in Sandersville.
Torres and the remaining boy and girl left the county on June 1 and drove to Abbeyville, S.C. to the home of the boy's sister. The sister said she had taken the three to the bus station shortly after their arrival in Abbeyville.
A tip from a family member June 3 led investigators to South Carolina. The 15-year-old male was located in Calhoun Falls and returned to Jefferson County June 5 and then to YDC.
Investigators initially believed that Torres and the 14-year-old female had purchased bus tickets to Michigan, based on conversations with the boy's sister.
Further conversations with the woman and her boyfriend revealed that the pair had purchased tickets June 1 and departed for Laredo, Texas.
Once in Laredo the pair crossed the border into Mexico by renting a taxi and evading Border Patrol agents who, by law, would have required her to have parental authorization to leave the country unattended.
After crossing the border, Torres and the girl took a bus to his mother's home in Mexico City.
Acting on information from one of the runaways that the destination might be Mexico City, Sheriff's investigators contacted Torres' brother in Wadley who, in turn, contacted his mother.
The woman verified that her son and the girl had arrived. On agreement made by the District Attorney's office and coordinated by Sheriff's investigators and FBI agents in Augusta and Mexico City, the mother was told that Torres would not be charged if they would deliver the girl to authorities who would be waiting at a predetermined time at the Mexico City airport.
Agreeing to the proposal, Torres and his mother arrived at the airport June 8 where FBI agents and the girl's mother were waiting.
The girl and her mother flew to Atlanta, where Sheriff's investigators met them and returned the girl to Jefferson County.
YDC was contacted upon their return to the county. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for later this week.
Gibson reconsiders enforcing state window tint law
By Ben Nelms
Members of the Gibson City Council decided recently to hold off on its April decision to step up enforcement of the state window tint law. Following a unanimous vote in May to table enforcement, council members at the June 4 meeting said the decision was made because enforcement would involve individuals other than city residents.
The council's reversal of position occurred after a meeting at city hall attended by Mayor Donald Kent, council member Lester Hadden, school board member Danny Milburn, Superintendent Dorothy Reynolds and Principal Sally Garrett. The group met to discuss a number of issues pertaining to the school. Both Milburn and Hadden acknowledged June 4 that the council's earlier move to step up enforcement of the window tint law was discussed, though Milburn said his concerns opposing the move were voiced as a private citizen and not as a school board member and that his comments were made largely after Reynolds and Garrett had left the meeting.
Hadden said at the June meeting that the council's decision to hold off on enforcement did not result from the position taken by Milburn, but rather from the council's concern that enforcement within city limits would involve others besides the citizens of Gibson.
Hadden suggested in May that the council give the issue some additional thought so that all the variables involved could be considered before enforcing the window tint law, saying that he believed that other state and local law enforcement agencies would likely begin citing violators in the near future.
"With all the controversy we've had and all the (tinted) windows I see, we should wait around a little bit and see what happens," he said. "We're not going to throw it out the window. We're just going to watch it a little bit."
School board Chairman Gail Berry said May 14 that the sentiments expressed by Milburn was not a directive issued by the board and did not represent a position it had taken.
"The board of education has not addressed the decision of the City of Gibson regarding the window tinting," she said. "The board has not appointed or designated any member or employee to express a consensus of the board regarding the issue. Each citizen, however, is entitled to his or her opinion concerning any matter."