New Jersey K-9 handler Karen Dashfield (left), Connecticut handler Marian Beland and Heidi check GPS units prior to Tuesday's search.
Search of area enters final stages
• Exhaustive land search using four canine teams doesn't turn up Farrer's whereabouts
By Ben Nelms
The largest, sustained search for a missing person known to have occurred in east central Georgia continued under cold, cloudy skies Jan. 13 and 14.
Though it encompassed the first thorough land search of the area of Rocky Comfort Creek where 66 year-old Bill "Bo Peep" Farrer's truck and fishing boat were found abandoned Sept. 12, it offered no new clues about his fate.
The continued search for the missing Louisville resident followed the promise in December by Sheriff Gary Hutchins to bring cadaver dogs back at the conclusion of hunting season.
Canine search and recovery teams returned from Jesup, Eatonton and St. Petersburg, Florida and were joined by handlers from New Jersey and Connecticut. Unlike earlier searches, this effort concentrated specifically on land.
"The last time we were here we had planned on doing a land search but the alerts from the dogs brought us back to the water," said Hutchins. "This time we were determined to stay on land. We used Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) charts to cover every possible place we could look to try find Mr. Farrer."
Cadaver dogs worked both the Grange Road and Clarks Mill Road sides of Rocky Comfort Creek. The four dogs and their handlers carried GPS units, working their assigned grids.
"We are using GPS and our computer system to grid off the search area one-half mile in each direction from where the boat was found," said Dogs South searcher Angela Batten. "Each team has their own map, their own section and are equipped with a GPS unit. Each team radios their coordinates every 30 minutes and the information is entered in the computer. The GPS also has trip-tracking capability so that we can tell the exact route each searcher has covered."
The only areas within the established grids unable to be searched were the beaver ponds, located primarily on the north side of the creek, and areas of extremely thick briars. The fact that some areas were inaccessible to the dogs does not completely hamper their detection of the scent of human remains, according to Incident Commander Tony Batten. Cadaver dogs are able to detect human remains up to several hundred yards away, depending on the wind. The combination of their olfactory ability and training makes a cadaver dog equivalent to 25-30 human searchers.
Dogs did show interest on several occasions during the search, though digging by investigators at one site where two dogs alerted revealed nothing. Dogs did alert in an area nearly three miles upstream from where Farrer's boat was found and more than two and one-half miles upstream from the alerts given in the December search. Closer examination of the gravesite revealed three graves on a hill overlooking the creek. Markers on two of the graves were dated 1817 and the third was dated 1823. The discovery of the old graves may be an explanation why dogs gave alerts during the December search but does not completely address the reason why such a large volume of alerts occurred at, and downstream from where the boat was found positioned over a fallen tree Sept. 13.
Though Hutchins could not comment on every aspect of the investigation, he emphasized that every potential lead in the case, both at the creek and away from it, will be examined. He requested that anyone with information contact his office at (478) 625-7538.
"We have covered the water and land thoroughly in the areas where Mr. Farrer's boat and truck were found," said Hutchins. "But this investigation is not going to stop even though we have finished here. It's going to carry on based on the other interviews we will be doing and on other leads that develop. We would ask that anyone in the public who has any information, leads or evidence involving the case of Mr. Farrer's disappearance contact me. It doesn't matter how small it is or how small it may seem. It may be something that we can put with other information to find the answer."
To date, the three searches covered a total of 25 days of effort by cadaver dogs and dive teams, and the diversion and draining of one-third mile of Rocky Comfort Creek.
County creates public works director position
• Thomas Beckworth, roads department supervisor, appointed to position
By Ben Nelms
Jefferson County commissioners began 2003 with a move geared to bring all county operations that fall under services to the public under the supervisory responsibility of a single person.
To fill that expanding role for no increase in pay, commissioners selected roads department supervisor Thomas Beckworth to be Director of Public Works.
Beckworth has been responsible for the county roads department and the county maintenance shop at the old National Guard Armory for one and one-half years.
The addition of supervisory responsibility at the landfill solidifies the continuously increasing responsibilities the commission has charged Beckworth with since he began working with the county.
More than anything else the position is one that will redefine the existing responsibilities at the landfill, said county administrator James Rogers.
In making the decision, commissioners believe that Beckworth's 32 years with Georgia Department of Transportation, including 16 years in construction engineering, will provide a necessary component to the requirements facing the ongoing operation of the county's Subtitle D landfill.
Commissioners faced mandated corrective actions imposed by Georgia Environmental Division (EPD) in the past year over deficiencies at the facility.
"Thomas will function not as a landfill operator, but as the engineer responsible for the opening of new cells, soil and erosion control and the movement of dirt, monitoring the physical environment at the landfill and overall compliance with the county's agreement with EPD regarding the Design & Operation (D&O) plan," said Rogers. "So the idea is for Thomas to work in partnership with the current landfill operators. This will make our overall operation work more smoothly, with more teamwork and less territoriality. It lets the landfill operators do their job of monitoring incoming materials and other duties."
Additional plans for landfill operations include the certification of one or more existing county employees as Subtitle D operators. This would provide a backup for the two current operators.
Beckworth said much of the equipment assigned to the roads department has, of necessity, been used at the landfill to get the facility into compliance.
The move to put control of the landfill, its D&O requirements, the roads department and maintenance shop under the same supervision makes sense, he said.
As for road construction and maintenance throughout Jefferson, Beckworth said the county has the resources for building some roads but does not have the resources to continuously build new roads while appropriately maintaining approximately 750 miles of county roads.
He said the current priorities involve completing the 13 active roads projects, being able to respond appropriately to complaints and requests and getting people in and out of dirt roads during inclement weather.
"I want the people to see quality work while I'm on my watch," he said. "The work needs to be done properly and in the right sequence. We are going to do the best we can with what we've got and I want the people to see good results for what their tax dollars are going for."
Glascock decides not to fight EPD over landfill
• Commissioners will sign consent order and work on monitoring plans with engineers
By Ben Nelms
Glascock County commissioners recently reversed a tentative decision made in late 2002 to fight a consent order imposed by Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) over compliance issues at the old county landfill.
Commissioners announced at the January meeting that they will sign the order and work with a new consulting engineering firm to resolve the matter, thus minimizing the potential burden on taxpayers.
Commissioners met with EPD officials in early 2002 and again in November.
At issue was the Methane Monitoring Plan and Groundwater Monitoring Plan that were included in the closure and post-closure plans required after the landfill closed.
EPD issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) in July, citing the county's non-compliance in addressing the two plans.
An Oct. 31 consent order required that the county pay a one-time fine of $6,750 for two missed groundwater-monitoring violations and a penalty of $500 per day if the stipulated 60-day deadline was exceeded.
Chairman Thomas Chalker said the commission had been under the impression that all requirements involving the closure had been completed by the previous county administration when the landfill had been officially closed.
Commissioners said they were confident that as a result of the November meeting all compliance issues could be worked out without placing a financial burden on county taxpayers.
Commissioners took the position that beginning work immediately with newly hired Athens consulting engineering firm Armentrout, Roebuck & Methany, county attorney Sammy Fowler and EPD would reap the most desirable results and have the least negative impact on county taxpayers. The alternative approach, fighting a court battle with the agency, would likely be one that the county could not win.
"If we fight it, they are going to milk this cow until the milk runs dry," said Commissioner Jay Dixon.
Dixon said the fact that methane has never been detected at the site should be a plus as the county addresses the compliance issues in the consent order.
Stapleton city limit boundary questioned
• C.G. Boone has paid city taxes, voted in elections, and even served as mayor pro-tem, but his home may not be in the city
By Parish Howard
C.G. Boone says he has paid city taxes and voted in Stapleton elections for over 20 years. He even served on the city's council and for four months, as Mayor Protem.
So this summer, when he was told that the home he has lived in all that time is not within the city, Boone was more than a little surprised.
Last week, he and his son-in-law, Frank Lindley, appeared before the city council requesting that formal proof of the correct city limit boundary be provided in relation to his Boone St. property.
"A small war was fought over taxation without representation," Lindley told the council Monday, Jan. 6. "We just don't understand how we can be on the tax digest and voter registration for so long and not be in the city limits. If it could happen to my Mr. Boone, it could affect everyone who lives contiguous to a city limit boundary."
The mayor said that no one else is in the situation Boone is in.
The issue surfaced this past summer.
Boone's brother-in-law once lived on Boone St., as his neighbor. Sometime in the early 1990s, the city installed a light pole near the brother-in-law's home.
This past summer, Boone happened to notice a power truck taking the light down.
"I went to talk to the mayor and that's when I was informed that I was not in the city limits," Boone said. "They showed me a map with the city limits line drawn in, looking like it ran through the ditch in front of my house."
It was not the first city map Boone had seen. Other city maps, he said, such as the one used to determine who owes city taxes on property, show his property as inside the city.
Boone then wrote a letter to the city requesting that the city show him documentation of where the city limit line lies.
He claims he never got a response.
Mayor Harold Smith says that he tried to explain the situation to Boone on a number of occasions.
"I told Mr. Boone that according to the location of the city limit sign he apparently is outside of the city limits," Smith said. "We've spoken to him several times trying to explain this thing.
"According to the old charter, the city limit is 1,200 yards from the center of the city. We know where the center is, it's on Highway 296 beside the old garment company where the old railroad bed is."
The sign sits across the road from curving Boone St., and according to the mayor, Boone's home happens to sit on the wrong side of that line.
"We don't want to put anybody out of town," Smith said. "Every person helps bring in more revenue for the city. At the same time, once it has come to my attention that someone is outside the city, I can't just ignore the fact and let them vote.
"I have a sworn responsibility to do what I'm supposed to do. And that's what I'm trying to do. I don't believe he has any dirt in the city at all. To vote or run in a city election, your current physical dwelling has to be in the city."
Steps have been arranged to determine if the sign, which has been moved at least twice, is actually in the correct spot, the mayor said.
He explained that the CSRA Regional Development Center is presently working on a new map of the city which will depict the correct placement of the city limit line.
"We've also contracted with a registered surveyor to measure that one point," Smith said. "I expect sometime in the next three weeks that he's going to measure from the center of town out to where the city limit is. That should lay it to rest forever. I believe after that we will have done all we can do and then some."
In the meeting, the mayor brought up the possibility of annexing Boone's property if he wanted to be in the city.
Since then, Boone has said that he is not interested in that option.
"I'd like to see the city limits be established and know where I am," Boone said. "If it's determined that I'm not in the city, then I'd like to be reimbursed for city taxes paid in the past. I don't think that's too much to request."
He is also concerned that if it is determined that he is not a resident of Stapleton, that all of the motions he voted on and all of the decisions he made in his time on the council could be null and void.
The mayor said that he is waiting for a response from the city attorney on the issue of the reimbursement of Boone's taxes; however, he doesn't feel that the city will have to repay them.
Regardless of all he says he is doing to determine the exact whereabouts of the city limit line on the Wrens side of town, Smith feels that the ultimate burden of proof falls on the Boones.
Boone feels it is the city's responsibility to let it be known, without a doubt, where the city's boundary lines are.
Within a month, they both hope to have their answers.