Local officials and citizens link hands and sing "We Shall Overcome" during Martin Luther King Jr. Day ceremonies at Stone Springfield Baptist Church.
MLK Day celebrated
By Ben Nelms
The energy and purpose that provided the catalyst was obvious Sunday night as a full house of nearly 500 jubilant supporters filled the sanctuary at Stone Springfield A.M.E. Church to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The annual event sponsored by the Jefferson County Branch of the NAACP continued Monday at New Hope A.M.E. Church with breakfast and services for children and teenagers.
At the Monday service youth choirs and praise teams picked up the work begun by the Jefferson County Mass Choir the night before.
On both occasions, choirs and congregations blended rhythm and expression, forming a synthesis of intention that was evident by the smiles on hundreds of faces as they celebrated the life of they man they so admired.
At the Monday service, Louisville Academy Assistant Principal Sam Dasher told the congregation, half full of children, that it is our dreams that have the potential to shape our future. But dreams alone are not enough, he said.
To be fulfilled, dreams require that a person go into action and remain steadfast in their beliefs even when others do not.
Dasher reminded adults that they are responsible for helping shape and promote their children's dreams.
Also Monday, Athens minister and former Jefferson County resident Rev. David Batts admonished the congregation to be change-agents in their community. To do this, he said, requires that people be wide-awake.
"Jesus tells us to treat people like we would like to be treated," he said. "But our actions sometimes look as though we are asleep and unconcerned."
That need for wakefulness shows up in all areas of life. It comes in every area of life where families and individuals interact with social, political, legal and economic forces. He compared the need to be awake to the story of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee. It is only when a person is awake that he can discern whether freedom is real or an illusion.
"Don't wait until the storm is over to want to do something about it," said Batts. "Though the chains have been removed from our feet, they have been replaced with more sophisticated chains. We think we have arrived and that we can stop singing 'We Shall Overcome.' But the chains of racism, classism and sexism pull you back, showing you that you are not as free as you thought."
Speaking at the Sunday service, Aiken resident and Greater St. Matthew A.M.E. Church minister Rev. David Walker spoke about the uncontrolled fires that tear society down and the controlled fires that build it up. The uncontrolled fires must be confronted and fought while the controlled fires must be fostered.
These are the days of fast food and slow digestion, of more kinds of food but less nutrition, of tall men but small character and of throwaway morality and one-night stands, Walker said. These are the outward symptoms of more dire contradictions in society, ones that can be likened to uncontrolled fires that act to diminish, and possibly eradicate, freedom.
He spoke out against Pres. George Bush and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice and the potential for the United States being dragged into what he considered an unjust war with Iraq. Such an uncontrolled fire, on a national level, would be the death of twice as many blacks as whites, said Walker.
The number of incarcerated blacks in America's prisons was also characterized as an uncontrolled fire, with blacks comprising 12 percent of the population but amounting to 38 percent of the prison population. Walker brought the comparison to a local level, noting that parents should be aware of the type of activities their children engage in and act as a positive influence in their lives.
Other uncontrolled fires, on the individual level, promote the inability to see the truth behind some of the things blacks believe, he said.
"Whites are guilty for some of our problems but we are also guilty for some of our problems," said Walker. "Too many blacks, acting white, want to be white instead of being who they are."
There also exists other fires that must be promoted and fought for, Walker said. These are the controlled fires. He called for an ever-present vigilance in promoting voter registration, stating that a voteless people is a hopeless people. In the area of local politics, Walker warned that blacks should be aware that party affiliation does not insure that the elected official will advocate for them.
"All Republicans are not our enemies and not all Democrats are our friends," he said. "We need to stop taking that $100 from them and then not hearing from them again for two years."
Walker spoke of other controlled fires that tower in importance throughout all of American society. All people should fight, and never fail, to promote the fires of freedom, justice and equality so that legacy of King and so many others might continue to live.
County begins forming 10-year plan
• The goal of the 10-year plan is to beneficially and cost-effectively prepare for growth
By Ben Nelms
Most people would agree that it is better to manage the future rather than to be managed by it. With this concept in mind, a countywide group of elected officials, county and municipal employees and others will comprise the group responsible for developing and writing the upcoming Jefferson County Joint Comprehensive Plan: 2015.
The goal of the 10-year plan is to prepare for growth in Jefferson County so that it occurs beneficially and cost-effectively while protecting areas that need protecting and helping local governments operate more efficiently, said Regional Development Center Planning Director Lori Sand.
"It is extremely important that we get as many people as we can to be there," said Sand. "It is important to get input from the public on this. I'm going to be writing down everything that people say because it makes a difference in guiding the decision-making body in terms of the priorities and the needs."
The sections of the overall plan committee members will address include population, natural and historic resources, economic development, housing, land use and community facilities.
Some of the issues within those sections involve the type of housing and industry needed between 2005-2015, the location of new roads and sidewalks, protection of natural resources while attracting businesses and industry, recreation areas and bolstering the safety of communities throughout the county.
The timeline for developing the plan begins Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. with a public hearing at the courthouse in Louisville.
The committee will meet monthly or bi-monthly. A number of workshops will be held to solicit public input.
A draft of the plan is expected in August and a complete final plan and short-term work program is anticipated by January 2004. Cities and the county are expected to adopt the plan by June 2004.
The short-term work program (STWP) portion of the plan covers projects that require completion within the next five years.
Unlike the comprehensive plan, the STWP is not a binding document and does not carry consequences if local government fails to meet the time frames.
The comprehensive plan is a requirement of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA).
It is necessary for municipalities and the county to maintain qualification as qualified Local Governments.
Without this qualification local governments cannot qualify for many state and federal grant programs and monies.
The current members of the advisory committee include Wadley Mayor Herman Baker, Jefferson County Public Works Director Thomas Beckworth, economic developer Brad Day, Avera City Clerk Amy Hadden, forester Larry Hodges, Bartow Mayor Hubert Jordan, Wadley Mayor pro-tem Charles Lewis, Louisville resident Lloyd Long, Avera Councilwoman Mary Mahoney, Jefferson County school board member Steve Norton, Wadley City Councilwoman Edith Pundt, tax assessor George Rachels, Louisville City Administrator Donnie Rhodes, county administrator James Rogers, Wrens City Administrator Donna Scott-Johnson, Stapleton Mayor Harold Smith and county commissioner Isaiah Thomas.
Sand said that while the number of advisory committee members is larger than usual because Jefferson County has three cities of near equal size, one or more additional members might be added if appropriate.
Pharmaceuticals stockpiled in case of disaster
• Jefferson County forms volunteer base for supply distribution in case of emergency situation
By Ben Nelms
The question is not whether a natural or manmade disaster will strike. Countless rural and urban communities throughout Georgia and America have experienced hurricanes, floods or chemical spills from train wrecks.
The ability of local residents to access timely and effective medical treatment, whether resulting from tornados or terrorism, depends largely on a volunteer response to the incident by those in the community.
The task of recruiting a sufficient number of volunteers in Jefferson County to help dispense medicines and supplies from the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile (NPS) and the coordination of that response was the subject of a meeting Jan. 16 sponsored by the state East Central Health District and Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency.
"To distribute the supplies will take not only a plan but also the necessary organization," said local EMA Director Fay McGahee. "That's why we're here. And tonight we are trying to establish a volunteer base for that effort."
The meeting was attended by nearly 80 residents from local governments, churches, police and fire departments and individuals interested in lending a hand.
Providing an overview of the NPS, the local deployment of necessary medical supplies in the event of a disaster and the role of volunteers in the response process were state and local health department representatives Jo Polhill and Janet Pilcher.
Sheriff Gary Hutchins addressed the role that law enforcement will play in escorting drugs and supplies from the NPS location in Richmond County and providing security at the dispensing location.
Another conclusion reached at the meeting was the location of a screening and dispensing location in the event of a countywide disaster.
Health and GEMA officials suggested that Jefferson County High School be designated as the central location due to its geographical location, the amount of square footage and the quantity of tables, chairs, computers and phone lines available.
The school board agreed and gave its approval for the use of Louisville Middle School as a back-up site because it is the county's next largest facility.
A central location was determined to be the most effective and efficient way to dispense drugs and supplies countywide because manpower limitations precluded establishing a number of smaller sites, each requiring a minimum of 34 volunteers. Emergency response to a localized disaster, such as a train wreck or plane crash, would be handled at a location near the actual site.
Those attending were asked to help recruit volunteers through their churches and other affiliations. The group was told that a central dispensing site would require 150-200 people to provide adequate care for a county of approximately 20,000 people.
Regional state health department Emergency Preparedness Director Charles Reneau said residents wishing to volunteer should do so through the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) process. CERT volunteers are provided emergency response training and their participation is routed through the local emergency management agency. CERT members are integrated into their local response capability and their efforts through the program are free of personal liability.
Residents interested in registering as a CERT volunteer can visit GEMA's Georgia Citizens Corps website at http://rome.gema.state.ga.us/gcc/homepage.nsf then navigating to the sign up sheet. Sign up can also be handled through Jefferson County EMA Director Fay McGahee at (478) 625-8380.