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September 5, 2002 Issue

Dry conditions put firefighters to test...

Firefighters from Hillcrest, Louisville and Wadley fire departments and Georgia Forestry Commission respond to a crop fire Aug. 17 off US Highway 1 north of Louisville. A spark from farm equipment, dry conditions and a moderate breeze put firefighters to the test.

Suit filed over recent election

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

A petition contesting the results of the Aug. 20 District 1 County Commission primary was filed last week in Jefferson County Superior Court requesting another primary be held.

Incumbent Commissioner Wynder Smith filed the Aug. 28 petition maintaining that numerous irregularities present at the Louisville precinct prevented Smith from receiving some of the votes intended for him, resulting in challenger Gonice C. Davis winning the seat.

The petition was filed against Probate Judge Quillian Bryant and registrars Lucille Salter, John C. Kilgore and Q.E. Parker.

In an Aug. 30 answer, the defendants deny the allegations of irregularities, stating that "if any electors voted in the wrong district, the total number of electors who voted incorrectly were too few to alter the results of the election."

Davis won the election 567 votes to 513 votes district-wide. In the contested Louisville precinct, Davis received nine votes to Smith's 26 votes.

Voters from District 1 began voting in Louisville for the first time during the primary election Aug. 20 due to the realignment of the district after the 2000 census showed a decreased population in south Jefferson County. There are approximately 270 registered voters formerly assigned to Districts 2 and 4 who must now vote in District 1.

In the petition, Smith alleges that "there is no clear indication, demarcation or direction by election officials as to which voting machine in the Louisville precinct containing ballots for District 1 and which voting machine contained ballots for electors eligible to vote in other districts."

The petition contained a number of other allegations relating to the primary election. Some District 1 residents were directed by election officials to vote on machines designated for Districts 2 and 4, thus negating their vote, the petition said. Also maintained was the lack of sufficient identification in the Louisville precinct about which voting machine was to be used by District 1 voters. Allegations were also made in regard to absentee ballots. Smith contends that illegal absentee ballots were counted in the election rather than being rejected by the registrar.

A judge from outside the Middle Judicial Circuit has been assigned to the case but at press time no hearing date had been set.

Georgia law requires that the hearing be conducted within 20 days of both parties filing.

Committee wants landfill closed

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

The citizens' committee appointed by Jefferson County commissioners in the spring to arrive at recommendations for the future of the county landfill on Mennonite Church Road appears to be nearing the end of a sometimes rocky road.

Despite other considerations to be presented to commissioners, county residents on the committee said they were adamant that the facility be permanently closed.

That road led most recently to a meeting Aug. 28 where committee members and Department of Community Affairs (DCA) landfill consultant Randy Hartmann both agreed pleasantly and disagreed decisively on the various issues slated for consideration by commissioners.

The primary focus of the meeting dealt with the pros and cons involved with disposing of county trash and those involved in waste collection.

Much of what was discussed evolved from a range of five disposal options presented to commissioners and committee members by consulting engineers Chasman & Associates.

In their report, Chasman said one option was the continuation of landfill operations as they are now.

In option two, trash intake at the facility could be substantially reduced, with most of the trash transported out of the county by a contracted waste hauler and with resumption of full operations in the future.

Similarly, option three calls for the facility to be temporarily shut down and waste hauled out of the county for up to five years, or until the county could take its time to open the required new cell without overtaxing county finances.

Option four called for permanently closing the landfill and transporting all waste out of the county. Chasman's final option proposed making the facility a regional landfill operated either publicly or privately.

In arriving at the pros and cons, some committee members said they considered that a portion of the numbers used by Chasman were questionable. A few of the figures, supplied by DCA, were said by committee members and by Hartmann to be hard to account for.

Though commissioners will be provided with the pros and cons of each of the possible options, the four county residents appointed to the committee unanimously agreed that the landfill should be closed immediately and should never be sold.

Committee member Kay Heilig said the reasoning behind the recommendation was based on the mechanism currently being put in place by the commission for disposal of county trash by using haulers to transport waste to out-of-county landfills either by home pick-up or by creating a transfer station at the landfill.

On a recommendation from Hartmann, a draft letter will be prepared for commissioners. Though no firm date for presentation was established, Hartmann asked that the landfill committee meet prior to the meeting with commissioners. Hartmann said the meeting with commissioners should be one where the landfill would be the only agenda item.

The landfill committee was created earlier this year when commissioners appointed a resident from each district to serve and with Hartmann functioning as chairman.

The first meeting was held April 7, nearly eight months after commissioners voted unanimously to cease all organized attempts to sell the facility and to explore other avenues to stop the financial loss at the site.

Locals remember terrorist attacks

By Parish Howard

It was a year ago next week, but the explosions, the falling bodies and the enormous cloud of dust and smoke that swallowed several blocks around where the New York World Trade Center's Twin Towers once stood are still clear in the minds of most Americans.

Equally indelible are the images of the firemen who raised the flag in rubble, those emergency service responders and civilians who spent weeks looking for survivors.

A year later the world has not forgotten. Local Jefferson and Glascock county agencies and groups are planning special services next week to honor and remember the victims of last year's terrorist attacks.

President Bush has designated Sept. 11 as "Patriot Day" and has called upon all Americans to observe the occasion with patriotic activities.

Among those who have announced their plans to honor the victims and heroes associated with the tragic event on Sept. 11:

•Wrens Middle School will be holding a special assembly at 9 a.m. Lt. Col. Christopher Robertson, commander of the 447th Signal Battalion at Fort Gordon will be addressing the students.

"Our service is going to be dedicated to the heroes, the victims and their families," School Counselor Pam Malcom said Tuesday. "Our focus is on patriotism within our community. We want to remind all of our students not to take their freedoms for granted."

•Woodmen of the World Lodge 1851 will sponsor a community ceremony to pay tribute to the victims and heroes at 1 p.m. in front of Wrens City Hall.

The program will be one of over 600 sponsored by Woodmen lodges across the country.

"We believe that it is important for people to come together to honor those who lost their lives on 9-11, and to remember those who risked their lives so that others might survive," said James Mounce, Woodmen president and CEO. "The ceremonies also give us the opportunity to say thank you to heroes in our own community, such as police officers, firefighters and members of the armed forces, who put their lives on the line each and every day."

The local lodge will present the city with a new flagpole, United States flag and a plaque.

•At 6 p.m. Keysville residents are invited to share a covered dish dinner at the Charles Walker Building to honor local firemen and police during a ceremony that will include a memorial/remembrance of last year's attacks.

•The Glascock County Commission will be holding a candlelight service on Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. at Brassell Park in Gibson.

Man-made disasters could hit anywhere

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

There was a time when most Americans believed that the only disaster that might befall them would take the form of a tornado, hurricane or earthquake. But experience is a good teacher, and today everyone knows that disaster can take a form created by man.

These realities mandate that we, as a nation and as individual communities, take the steps necessary to respond to any crisis. A part of that response is the development and implementation of a plan to ensure that a community's health and medical services are activated and functioning. Spearheading that effort in each of the 13 counties that make up the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA) is District 6 Public Health Director Dr. Frank Rumph.

"There are no ifs, only when," Rumph said at an Aug. 19 community preparedness meeting at Jefferson County High School. "We live in a global world. What's in the rainforest today can be in your community tomorrow."

Jefferson and Glascock are two of three counties in the CSRA that have initiated steps designed to lead to a comprehensive plan to respond to local health and medical needs in the event of a natural or manmade disaster. Public health and safety personnel, elected officials and interested community residents in Glascock initiated the effort in June, followed by a group this month in Jefferson. Ongoing meetings are coordinated through each county's health department.

In consultation with other state agencies, Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) identified and designated 20 separate components that should be in place in each community to respond to a public emergency. Known as Emergency Support Functions (ESF), these components comprise each county's Emergency Management Plan. Responsible for implementing ESF #8, Health and Medical Services, the state Division of Public Health, which is a part of the Georgia Dept. of Human Resources.

Rumph said the first objective of the countywide initiative is to increase the awareness and sensitivity of the community about the potential for disasters that may happen in their particular community. Another part of the objective is to begin organizing the community to respond to those disasters.

"It is necessary, first of all, for people to believe that something can happen in their community," he said. "Secondly, they must plan for what, I believe, will happen in their community. And for us in public health the purpose is to begin to have a dialogue with the district staff so that we can be a resource to help the community in their planning. In doing so, we can all work together toward carrying out the public health function, ESF #8, in a disaster situation."

Rumph said District 6 decided early in the process to set up a task force to look at the various functions outlined by GEMA and the common template under development by the state Public Health office. From that beginning District 6 developed a template CSRA counties could use to develop and implement their individual plans.

Those plans include the need for participation and interfacing between Public Health and the local governmental entities and agencies that operate within each county as well as organizations, churches and community members.

Augusta was one of 23 cities nationwide to be reviewed last year by the Region 5 Inspector General of the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, Rumph said.

The objective of the studies was to help assess the nation's overall readiness in emergency response management in cities with varying populations, including those that currently receive funds for development and implementation and those, like Augusta, that do not.

"We felt that the review went quite well," he said. "They said in terms of planning across the country we were about in the middle. They also said we could be encouraged because the cities that were above us were Metropolitan Medical Reserve Sites (MMRS) cities that already receive funding to plan for emergencies. So for cities currently not receiving funding we were doing quite well, as is District 6 as a whole. We, along with other state districts, have submitted budgets to receive funds. We just took it upon ourselves to go ahead and get started."

Rumph attended the Medical College of Georgia and completed his residency at Emory.

He entered public health as the director of Public Health State Laboratories. Rumph also administered the state's chronic disease program and was Georgia's first director of the HIV/AIDS program.

For 10 years he worked with the Division of Public Health management team before becoming director of District 6 in Augusta and Commissioner of Health for Richmond County.

In concert with District 6 Public Health, Jefferson County will have its second community preparedness meeting Sept. 9 at 7 p.m. at the high school.

Representatives from all local governments, locally based state agencies, emergency response units throughout the county, churches and interested residents are needed to participate in the local development and implementation of ESF #8.

Through a comprehensive plan the county's human and material resources can be maximized.

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