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July 18, 2002 Issue

Wrens mourns loss of business pioneer

Mourners attended funeral services for one of Wrens' most respected businessmen on Tuesday.

Robert "Bobby" Lewis, owner and CEO of Lewis Steel Works, Inc. for 42 years, died Saturday, July 13.

Lewis was associated with Lewis Steel Works, founded by his grandfather as a blacksmith's shop in Augusta in 1896, for 61 years. The Lewis family brought their business to Wrens in 1932. As president of the corporation, Lewis led the company into the refuse container business in 1968. Thousands of those containers may be found across the United States today.

An organizer and charter member of the board of directors of Firstate Bank, Lewis served the bank until retiring as chairman, a position he held for 18 years, in December of 1994. He was a director emeritus until the date of his death.

He was also co-owner of Wrens Auto and Truck Parts and Wrens Diesel, Inc. and co-founder of Lewis Disposal.

Lewis was a member of the Gibson Masonic Lodge #257 and a charter member of the American Legion Post 229 for 56 years of continuous membership. He was a veteran of WWII serving in the Navy Seabees in the Pacific. He was the son of the late H.I. and Clara Lewis.

Survivors include his wife, Betty Wiggins Lewis of Wrens; a son, Brian Lewis of Martinez; two daughters, Barbara Thigpen and Carla Garin, both of Martinez;

Three brothers, Charles Lewis and G.I. Lewis of Wrens and Leroy Lewis of Louisville; two sisters, Bessie Snider of Millen and Agnes Boulineau of Wrens;

Seven grandchildren, Kurt Garin, Wes Garin, Tyler Thigpen, Cassidy Thigpen, Adam Lewis, Ben Lewis and Brianna Lewis.

The Rev. Griffin Thompson officiated at the service. Pallbearers were Greg Lewis, Wes Garin, Kurt Garin, Tyler Thigpen, Adam Lewis, Cassidy Thigpen and Ben Lewis. Honorary pallbearers were members of the board of directors of Firstate Bank.

Local teams train for bio-chemical incident

Public health officials believe what we don't know can definitely hurt us

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

It'll never happen here.

That's what many people think, but Louisville Fire Department Training Officer Chester Johnson is not willing to take that bet. A July 3 training course on awareness of biological agents was conducted by the state Division of Public Health's District 6 Bioterrorism Coordinator Charles Reneau.

Neutralizing the myth that what we do not know cannot hurt us, Reneau told Louisville and Hillcrest firefighters, Forestry Service staff and first responders that the United States is facing a potential threat today unlike any it has seen in its history. On the local level, a better knowledge of the detection of and response to the introduction of biological agents in the community underscores the importance of providing training to emergency support services personnel, he said. In the event of a biological outbreak the primary job of local emergency response personnel would be surveillance to determine the scope of possible infection and containment until assistance can arrive.

Reneau provided detailed information on the history, transmission, symptoms and treatment of a range of biological agents that could be used to strike at a community. Reaffirming government accounts of the harm inflicted by terrorist organizations or terror-sponsoring nations, he cited the well documented dispensing of biochemical agents by Saddam Hussein against the Kurds and others in western Iraq in the 1990s to illustrate that the precedent for use of biological agents has been established.

Driving home the point, Reneau said someone with sufficient knowledge and $2,000 could culture enough anthrax in 48 hours to take out the population of Jefferson County.

While most biological agents can be dispensed in spray form, or aerosolized, or introduced by other means Reneau emphasized the need for a sufficient local awareness of the so-called Category A agents, including anthrax, smallpox, tularemia, brucellosis and septicemic, bubonic and pneumonic plague.

"If we can get emergency response personnel trained and get them knowledgeable we can reduce the chaos and confusion that would result if a bioterrorism event were to ever happen," he said. "We don't know how terrorists are going to think and we don't know what means they are going to use. In a rural county you may not be the primary target, but as a consequence of your location you may get some of the effects of where it was used."

Awareness of a potential problem can offset confusion and can enable communities to work together to respond if the release of a biological agent were to occur.

"The threat is real in every county is this district," said Reneau. We can educate every county to a level where they can become viable assets. If we have one county where an event happens we can pull resources from other counties within the district and assist each other. This is why we are approaching this as a district-wide program."

He said the availability of antibiotics and other drugs is already in place. A climate-controlled, national pharmaceutical stockpile exists today with a sufficient quantity of medications to meet the needs of the population of the 13-county District 6 area. Plans are currently being developed to insure delivery to outlying counties and communities.

Next up for Jefferson County, and already in the formative stages for Glascock, is the development of a countywide, comprehensive response plan to a bioterrorism incident or any incident that poses a threat to public health and safety within the county.

Johnson said the increased diversity of real and potential threats on American soil makes training such as that provided by Reneau something that is timely and necessary.

"As members of the fire service we all need to bring up our level of awareness of biological and chemical (agents)," he said. "We all need to be up to date on what can happen and be prepared for how we will respond."

Wadley seeks delinquent UDAG loan payments

Councilman, former councilman owe most of outstanding funds

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

The Wadley City Council decided July 8 that the time for "a reckoning" had come for a handful of residents with long-term delinquencies in repaying low-interest city loans used to start-up or expand businesses. Left unresolved by the previous administration after surfacing in late 1999, city records indicate that payments on three delinquent loans owed by former Mayor pro tem Albert Samples, council member Izell Mack and a group of three former business partners now total $30,590.14, with Samples owing nearly two-thirds of the amount.

The council decided in executive session to pursue collections of approximately $19,027 owed from delinquent city-sponsored Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG) loans issued to former Mayor pro tem Albert Samples and approximately $6,249 in delinquencies from former business owners Brenda Mincey, Ideal Glover and Prince Lemons. After the close of executive session city attorney John Murphy said the council had instructed him to proceed with foreclosure on Samples' loan by seeking a deficiency judgment and to seek a judgment against Mincey, Glover and Lemons. Murphy said loan payments owed by Councilman Izell Mack were not current and that the council had made other arrangements to have the monthly payments made.

Samples' $25,000 loan was made in November 1992 for his business, Albert's Garage, to purchase machinery and equipment and to hire two additional employees. Terms called for payments of $287.04 for the first five years and $301.32 for the second five-year period, with a scheduled maturity date of November 15, 2002. Interest rates for the two periods were four percent and six percent, respectively. City records obtained July 9 show Samples delinquent for 64 months for a total of $19,027.44 with the most recent payment made on November 21, 2001.

When contacted, Samples had no comment on the council's decision.

The $14,000 loan to Mincey, Glover and Lemons was taken in June 1993 to start up the Learn N Play children's center. Loan payment terms were structured at $141.74 beginning in June 1993 for five years at four percent interest and $148.80 at six percent interest beginning in June 1998. The scheduled maturity date is June 20, 2003. Records indicate the group is 42 months delinquent, or $6,249.60 with the most recent payment made on October 17, 2001. All loan payments to date have been made by Mincey.

Contacted July 9, Mincey had no comment on the council's decision.

The $15,000 business expansion loan made to Mack for Mack's Masonry Contractors in January 1998 carried a six percent interest rate and a term of 120 months with payments of $200 per month for the duration of the loan period, ending February 8, 2008. The loan was made to purchase new equipment, to retain three employees and hire two additional employees. City records showed that Mack's last payment prior to the July 8 council meeting was made on January 18, leaving him with 29 months of delinquent payments totaling $5,800.

A twofold arrangement put in place at the July council meeting addressing his delinquencies calls for Mack's $200 per month city council salary to be transferred to his UDAG account to function as loan payments effective July 9, according to Baker. Additionally, a $1,200 sum owed Mack, who was not paid for six months since January, offset a portion of his $5,800 in delinquencies. The monthly salary transfer will keep the ongoing payments current but will not reduce the $4,600 adjusted delinquency, still representing 23 months of non-payment.

When asked July 9 why Mack's delinquencies were excluded from legal action, Baker said Mack came to him in January, informing him that his monthly council salary and two monthly payments would make him current. Baker said, to date, he had not seen the list with the amount of delinquencies owed the city by Mack and was unaware that receiving two additional payments and transferring his monthly council salary to the UDAG account would not wipe out the remainder of the councilman's delinquency.

"I took him at his word," said Baker. "I'm sorry I didn't know. I should have looked at the record."

The previous city council addressed collections of delinquent UDAG payments in October 1999. At that time delinquencies from the same individuals totaled $19,286.86. Former city attorney Bobby Reeves told the council they were obligated to collect money due the city. Responding to instructions from the council, Reeves issued letters to all parties advising them that the collection process would be initiated. Discussion between council members at subsequent meetings resulted in apparent confusion concerning the council's original intent in generating the letter. No action was taken until the July 2002 meeting.

City loans used with UDAG funds customarily carry an interest rate of no more than six percent per annum. The amounts owed to the three delinquent accounts were furnished by City Clerk Sallie Adams from UDAG account records and do not reflect any applicable penalty fees.

The city has three additional UDAG loans outstanding. The recipients of those loans are current with payments to the city.

Federal UDAG grant awards were established through competitions from 1978-1989 to assist communities in stimulating economic development, employment and housing opportunities in distressed communities.

Local family has ties to one of our country's founding fathers

Family visits memorial at National Mall

By Elizabeth Howard

Twenty-six years ago when Kathryn Rowell, then librarian of the Louisville Public Library, ordered an autobiography of George Mason, she had no idea who she had stumbled across.

She was completely unaware that the ancestors of George Mason were alive in Jefferson County and she certainly had no idea that her late husband, Charles Rowell III, was the seventh generation grandson of this quiet Virginian, upon whose ideas this country is founded.

It was many years later that Rowell and her husband discovered the connection. Frederick Rowell, a relative from California and a member of the George Mason Society, informed the two of their heritage. They then traced their lineage on the Internet and began learning the history of George Mason. Later, Mrs. Rowell became a member of the George Mason Society.

After writing the Virginia Declaration of Rights in 1776, calling for freedoms repeated later in the U.S. Bill of Rights, Mason refused to sign the Constitution. His arguments encouraged the addition of the Bill of Rights.

Though monumentally influential in the founding of America, Mason favored a private life. Instead of becoming one of the first U.S. senators from Virginia, Mason retired to his plantation home, Gunston Hall.

But his influence was great and his spirit resolute.

"I recommend it to my sons," Mason said in 1773, "Never to let the motives of private interest or ambition to induce them to betray, nor the terrors of poverty and disgrace, or the fear of danger or of death deter them from asserting the liberty of their country, and endeavoring to transmit to their posterity those sacred rights to which themselves were born."

Earlier this year Rowell received an invitation to attend the dedication of the George Mason National Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Rowell was in Washington April 8-11 with her son Gilbert. While there, they visited Gunston Hall Plantation and attended the dedication of Mason's memorial.

The unassuming memorial in a quiet garden on the Mall is a fitting monument to the memory of George Mason.

Though not entirely imposing, the memorial is in a prestigious section of the Mall, a section reserved until now for presidents and wars. A bronze Mason is seated, with book in hand, on a marble bench under a trellis in a garden.

"The statue is larger than life, but of course he was larger than life," Rowell said. "When you see it, you think that's somebody you'd like to know."

Rowell was impressed by the approachability of the statue.

"Little children were up their just putting their arms around him," she said.

The dedication itself was also a moving experience for Rowell. Especially impressive was the keynote speaker, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

"Chief Justice Rehnquist gave a very inspiring speech on George Mason and his contributions to history, not only national history, but international history," she said. "I was real impressed by the chief justice. He was very dynamic. I was really touched."

Rowell wishes to make more people aware of the contributions of George Mason, for, along with his descendents, his ideas and beliefs are alive in Jefferson County and the rest of the world.

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