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February 27, 2003 Issue

Jefferson County Recreation Director Tom Browne helped build the county program and has influenced thousands of lives.

A real sport

Tom Browne, who helped build the county's recreation program, is retiring

By Elizabeth Howard

When Tom Browne came to Louisville in 1976, there was no recreation program.

Starting from scratch, Browne helped build the recreation program here in Jefferson County and he has spent the last 28 years helping develop the program and watching it grow.

Now, after 28 years as Jefferson County's Recreation Director, Browne is retiring.

Browne was born in Florida but spent most of his youth in Wrightsville. His father, a government employee, was relocated to Statesboro when Browne was in junior college at South Georgia.

Browne went home for vacation and was introduced to Statesboro's recreation director, Max Lockwood. Lockwood offered Browne a summer job with the recreation department and encouraged him to transfer to Georgia Southern.

The American Red Cross paid for Browne to be trained as a lifeguard and he spent the summer working at a pool in Statesboro. He enjoyed his summer so much that he took a part-time job with the recreation department in Statesboro when he transferred to Georgia Southern to pursue a degree in physical education and recreation.

When he graduated, Browne spent a year in Statesboro before moving to Winter Park, Fla.

He spent five years in Winter Park and another five in Cocoa Beach before he had the opportunity to come back to Georgia in 1970.

Browne moved back to Statesboro and worked as the recreation director in Statesboro until 1976 when he came to Jefferson County to work with a pilot program the state of Georgia was starting in several communities.

There were no recreation facilities in Jefferson County when Browne came to work.

"I've considered myself to be more of a hands on person than just strictly an administrator," Browne said. "I love all the facets of recreation and this just seemed to be a place I would enjoy in trying to establish recreation. The kids needed a wholesome outlet."

Browne spent 28 years establishing a recreation department to fulfill that need. In that time the department acquired a state grant to develop a park in Wrens and one in Louisville and to contribute to an existing park in Wadley.

"Everything that we've offered has grown," Browne said.

Now there are numerous recreation parks in Jefferson County, participation has increased every year, two activities, soccer and track, have been added in the last few years and the department has offered everything from karate and gymnastics to arts and crafts.

"I've been very thankful for the tremendous support from the parents and the confidence they've shown in letting their kids participate," he said. "This program wouldn't have been possible without the support of hundreds of volunteers, the support of civic clubs, banks, communities and especially the Jefferson County Commissioners."

Browne's hope for the future of Jefferson County's recreation department is that it will continue to grow and be funded and that eventually everyone will come together for a countywide program.

"Sports is a place where different people can come together," he said.

And he knows because he has seen it happen.

Over time, Browne has seen people of different ages, races and hometowns come together on the athletic field. He has seen the development of the recreation department, he has watched the children of Jefferson County grow together and he has played an integral part in all of it.

After 28 years of contributing to this community, Browne is retiring to spend more time with his grandchildren.

"I just feel like it's time," he said.

He will remain with the recreation department until a replacement is found and he plans to provide as much help as needed as the new recreation director comes in.

Browne also plans to be around and available to volunteer with the recreation department in the future.

"We have loved the area so much that we plan to retire here," he said.

Glit to expand

Will possibly create as many as 150 new jobs

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Plans for the long anticipated expansion of the Glit/Microtron plant in Wrens became evident Tuesday with the announcement of state grants associated with the project totaling $500,000.

"The Development Authority of Jefferson County (DAJC) is pleased to announce that the OneGeorgia Authority has awarded our community a prestigious EDGE grant in the amount of $500,000," said economic developer Brad Day. "The grant is given to communities to close critical economic development in Georgia."

Day said the grant came in two parts. One grant provides $250,000 to the City of Wrens for new recreation facilities while the additional $250,000 will be used in conjunction with construction of a new distribution facility for an industrial expansion in Wrens.

The expansion includes a two-part project involving long time Wrens cleaning products manufacturer Glit/Microtron.

"These funds are a prelude to a formal agreement of an industrial expansion," Day said. "The expansion includes a multimillion dollar investment and the creation of a substantial number of jobs."

The business expansion includes a 60,000 square-foot addition to the existing Glit plant and the construction of a 50,000 square-foot distribution facility on property adjacent to the plant.

Construction at the plant site is ongoing while preliminary work at the new site begins this week. The two additions are anticipated complete and operational in late summer.

The additions represent an approximate 40 percent increase in total space for the company's Jefferson County operation.

The price tag for the projects total approximately $1.5 million each. Construction funding is being provided by Glit, DAJC and government agencies such as OneGeorgia Authority. Unlike the addition to the existing plant owned by Glit, the distribution facility will be owned by DAJC. Glit will enter into a 10-year, renewable lease/purchase agreement with DAJC.

Day said the expansion was two and one-half years in the making.

"Shortly after coming to Jefferson County three years ago, I was made aware that Glit/Microtron was looking for a new place to expand," he said. "They were also contemplating many different options as far as opening and closing different plants. We're very excited that they have chosen to expand here in Jefferson County.

"This deal protects over 200 jobs currently at the facility and we anticipate as many as 150 new jobs to be created in the immediate near future. This was a renewal of their commitment to the community," said Day. "Glit/Microtron has consistently been one of the top 10 employers in Jefferson County. This does solidify their position as one of the top five employers in the county."

Property for the new building adjacent to the existing plant was acquired by DAJC from the City of Wrens, who owned the 15-acre property. The property had for years housed the city recreation fields used by Wrens Middle School and others. The city council agreed in May 2002 to deed the property to the development authority for the expansion. Day sweetened the pot by assuring the council that DAJC was in process of applying for grants to replace the recreation fields with a "state of the art" facility. When the vote came, Wrens council members voted 5-0 in favor of the proposal and subsequently deeded the property to DAJC. Their vote for the project was contrary to the wishes of Mayor J. J. "Juddy" Rabun, who cited issues such as increased demand of the city's wastewater treatment system and the potential expense required to expand that system as reasons not to agree to the proposal.

"I wanted the jobs as much as anybody and I am proud that the buildings are going up," Rabun said Tuesday. "When it came before the council, I just wanted to make sure the city would get its money."

Construction of new jail expected to begin in May

Commission will save money by moving facility closer to the highway

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Persistence by Jefferson County Commissioners to keep down the costs associated with building the county's new law enforcement center paid off. A Feb. 19 vote to approve the hiring of Tallahassee architects Clemons Rutherford & Associates (CRA) paves the way for construction of the 128-bed facility to begin in early May.

"This has been a long time coming but it has been in the best interest of the county," said Chairman Gardner Hobbs. "And for that I am appreciative."

The vote set a cost of $5.6 million for land preparation and construction of the facility to be located adjacent to the county prison camp on US Highway 1 in Louisville. The only other cost to county will be CRA's travel reimbursement, set not to exceed $5,000, and the purchase of items such as desks, chairs and file cabinets. The cost of those items is not expected to exceed $100,000. The project is being funded by a voter approved one-percent sales tax.

The $5.6 figure was well below the $7 million price tag proposed just months ago by architect Rusty McCall and builder Mark Massee, commissioners said. The figure proposed by McCall and Massee was the final one after more than a year of meetings on the projected costs needed to build the facility. After hearing the proposal in late 2002 commissioners decided to solicit additional bids.

The vote came after Commissioner Tommy New insisted Feb. 11 that the board solicit comments or concerns from residents on the proposal to locate the facility closer to US Highway 1 than originally planned.

Only one resident attended the Feb. 18 information hearing. His concern with moving the facility closer to the highway centered on whether doing so would make the area surrounded by razor wire more clearly visible from the highway. Architects and Sheriff Gary Hutchins explained that the only two areas with fencing were the prisoner drop-off area located at the entrance to the booking area on one side of the administration building and one located at the rear of the housing pod. Commissioners' decision to move the facility closer to the highway was prompted by the cost savings that will result from less grading and site preparation and the diminished cost of running utility lines if the center were located directly adjacent to the prison camp rather than being diagonally behind it. Also on the mind of commissioners was the potential for female visitors to the center's offices being subjected to inappropriate language by inmates from the recreation area next door at the prison camp.

Moving the center closer to the highway would reduce inmates' field of vision and eliminate the concern.

The law enforcement center will be comprised of two buildings. Closest to the highway, the 22,728 square-foot administration building will house the sheriff's offices, magistrate court offices and hearing room, kitchen, booking room and holding cells, control room and a multi-purpose room. The 17,681 square-foot housing pod located behind the administration building will be outfitted with two-man and four-man self-contained drop-in steel cells. Cells will be equipped with beds, toilets and showers, thus diminishing potential traffic flow and potential security problems associated with congregate restroom and bathing areas. The building is designed so that any required maintenance can be done in the small corridor behind the cells.

Hutchins said Saturday he has been contacted by a number of different law enforcement agencies about providing housing for out of county inmates. Hutchins said some of the open cells could be utilized in that manner to help offset the cost of operating the facility.

The revenue of housing the inmates is anticipated to be no less than $40 per day, he said. One of the topics surfaced in several meetings held by commissioners in the past two years involved the requirement to hire five additional jailers once the facility is open. Doing so would put the jail in compliance with supervisory as well as facility standards that cannot be met at the current jail.

Another area being discussed by commissioners is to have meals for inmates at the new jail as well as residents attending the senior's center prepared at the law enforcement center.

Commissioners were recently informed that food service companies, such as the one that prepares meals at the McDuffie County jail, might be able to operate at a lower cost than currently available at the county prison camp. The camp now prepares meals for both its inmates and those housed at the jail.

The collection of the one-percent sales tax began in January 2002 after a 9-1 mandate by voters at the polls in September 2001. County Administrator James Rogers said Feb. 19 that the county is averaging approximately $126,000 per month in collections. At that rate, the center would be fully paid for in less than four years from the date collections began, thus outstripping the maximum collection period of five years.

Congressman visits Jefferson County

Max Burns meets with students and citizens throughout the county

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

New US 12th District Congressman Max Burns made comments and answered questions on issues from agriculture to Iraq last week at stops in Wrens, Louisville, Wadley.

Burns visited with supporters mid-morning at the Country Hearth Restaurant in Louisville, met with elected officials at the county commission office and attended a school wide assembly at Louisville Middle School where the former college professor held the attention of school children and answered question they posed.

Burns shared thoughts and responded to questions that encompassed America's current role in the Middle East and Pres. Bush's stated aim to eradicate terrorism.

Questions on these topics were the most frequent asked of adults and school children.

"My hope and prayers are that we can resolve this situation with Iraq," Burns said to nearly two-dozen supporters at Country Hearth Restaurant and more than 500 middle school children and community members at Louisville Middle School. "No one wants a war with Iraq and the last thing we want is a conflict in the deserts of Iraq. We know with great certainty that he has weapons that, if delivered here or elsewhere, would be devastating.

"Eighteen resolutions from the United Nations have called on Saddam Hussein to disarm but he hasn't done it. But I can tell you with absolute certainty that Iraq will be disarmed."

Burns took the position that America's long range plan to thwart international terrorist organizations required that the United States identify both the human threats and organizational threats they pose so that preemptive action can be taken to eliminate those threats.

The elimination of such threats should be by overt and covert means utilizing a joint cooperative effort by the America's Armed Forces, FBI, CIA and other agencies.

Burns responded to questions relating to the recent actions of France and Germany, current demands by Turkey for increased U.S. monetary assistance, the nation's economic outlook, the regional impact of Fort Gordon and the necessity of keeping the fort open and the ability of the Saudis to remain unscathed despite the ongoing conflict in the Middle East region.

At Louisville Middle School, Burns held the attention of more than 500 sixth, seventh and eighth graders for more than an hour after being introduced by Jefferson County Republican Party Chairman Leroy Lewis.

Also attending the assembly were Family Connection Director Carolyn Swint, Sandersville Tech Director Matt Hodges and Glascock County Commission Chairman Thomas Chalker.

Of note during the assembly was Burns' manner of addressing the students and their response to him.

Throughout his remarks, Burns spoke to students on the same level he had used to communicate with adults earlier in the day.

Students responded by asking a variety of questions that continued until the end of the school day forced an end to the session.

Burns explained the geographical layout of the newly formed 12th Congressional District, the process of getting legislation enacted, the importance of building coalitions and partnerships and gave a brief sketch of his earlier years in rural Screven County.

He challenged students to utilize the educational benefits at their disposal to form a firm foundation for their future.

Questions posed by students included those relating to Iraq and international terrorism, the impact of anti-war rallies around the world, the future of NASA and space exploration, the Agriculture Disaster Relief Bill and the ways Sept. 11 affected life in Washington.

Students also solicited Burns' thoughts on the issues surrounding year-round school and asked him to name and describe two upcoming pieces of legislation he will face and provide a rational for the way he plans to vote.

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Last modified: February 26, 2003