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April 17, 2003 Issue

Betty Wasden painted on sheets of paper, canvases and even torn up pasteboard boxes in the days after her first exposure to The Art Guild's Fear No Art program.

When the muse takes hold, she doesn't let go

Betty Wasden will be one of around 35 local artists displaying work this weekend

By Parish Howard

Before January, 74-year-old Betty Wasden had never so much as held a paintbrush.

By the end of that month she was tearing up pasteboard boxes because she couldn't wait to buy more canvas. Her muse had finally taken hold.

"All my life I've wanted to try it," she said last week, sitting in the bright red den of her Louisville home. "I'm not sure why I never tried it. I'm a mother of four and I guess there always seemed like there was something else to do, some other way to spend my time."

That was before she attended the Jefferson County Art Show held last year that ignited a spark in her.

"It was wonderful," she said. "I had no idea we had that many people in this area with so much variety of talent."

She was one of a number of people who showed interest in forming a local arts guild.

In January, nearly a year later, Wasden attended a program sponsored by the guild for beginning artists called Fear No Art.

"The only rule was that if you were participating, you could never have painted anything ever before," she said with a mischievious twinkle. "I decided I'd better start painting before I got too old to remember to buy the paints."

Mary Reynolds, a local professional artist, placed an original picture of potted geraniums in front of the group and told them to paint what they saw. Wasden and the others worked at it for several hours, trying to put their own versions of the flowers on their personal canvases. Reynolds later invited the group to her home to finish the paintings.

"I couldn't wait," Wasden said thinking back to that day. "I asked Ms. Reynolds if I could borrow some paints. I hadn't bought any yet, but I had to paint that night. I went home and I tore up boxes and paper. I was painting on anything I could find. It was like a football player, when you get that ball in your hands, you just have to run with it and try to score."

Since then she has painted 35 or 40 pieces, including those on paper, posterboard as well as the 10 or so she's put on canvas.

"Mary would laugh at me for doing so many," she said. "But would say there's a difference in turning out 15 sorry ones and one really good piece. She'd say that since I've been interested in it for so long, but haven't painted until now, I'm just trying to get it all out."

Lil Agel, president of The Arts Guild, is proud of the enthusiasm Wasden has shown for the program, the guild and the arts in general.

"Her experience has been so profound," Agel said. "It's a great example of the heart of what we wanted to be able to do. She has the special distinction of having work displayed in the show both as a Fear No Art participant and as an individual artist."

"It seems to have opened a door for her," Reynolds said of her student and friend. "The difference painting seems to be making in her life is beautiful."

Wasden loves painting landscapes and flowers. She really loves Monet's subtle use of color.

"I just want to do it all," she said. "I'm working on a dog now, my first animal. I'm not ready for a person yet. I may not be able to get any models if they knew how I'd make them look."

Wasden knows she still has a lot to learn and is quite modest about her abilities.

"I don't want anybody to think I'm bragging. I can't draw a straight line with a ruler, I never could and I still can't," she said with a smile. "I'm just getting started, just learning. What I will brag about is how much just doing it, just painting, means to me."

She loves to create, to see that blank canvas get filled.

"My husband passed away two years ago and painting has really helped fill a void for me," she said. "I get so much out of it. I love to create things."

Wasden plans to have three or four on display in The Art Guilds' first art show this Easter weekend.

The work of around 35 local artists will be open to the public in downtown Louisville Friday, April 18 through Tuesday, April 22.

The show will open Friday from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday viewing will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Easter Sunday locals can view the art work from 2 to 5 p.m.

For those who may have been out of town for the holiday, the show has been extended to 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday.

The Art Guild's first show opens Friday

By Parish Howard

In its first official showing of locally produced art, The Art Guild, Jefferson County's own organization dedicated to the appreciation of the visual arts, will present the work of 35 artists with ties to the area.

"We're very excited about this show,"said Guild President Lil Agel. "This will be the first time we've displayed our work as a guild."

The show will be held in six different downtown Louisville locations along Broad Street. Sites include Pansy's Restaurtant, the Jefferson County Historical Society, the Dirty Dawg, the old Peach Tree building, the old Rocky Comfort Timber Company building and the old Hartley and Rhodes building.

"We will be holding a reception in a tent on the lawn Friday night in front of First National Bank where we will be distributing a booklet with artist bios and a map of the downtown area highlighting where certain pieces can be found," Agel said. "We invite the public to come out and meet the artists Friday from 7 to 9:30 p.m."

The show will include a variety of work from a varied group of artists from all different levels of experience.

"We will have all mediums of painting represented from watercolors to accrylics and oils," Agel said. "We will also have ceramics, wood and metal sculpture on display. Some of our artists are realistic, some are more abstract. It's really a broad mix."

Some of the work will be by professional artists, others by students and even some first timers.

The guild was created after the community showed overwhelming support for a show last March organized by local artist Sam Morgan of Louisville. During the weekend show, 22 people signed a form saying they would be interested in forming an art guild.

"We had so much interest last year," Agel said. "Since then it has just grown and grown."

Over the last year the guild has organized, obtained its own studio behind Louisville Academy, invited regional artists in for seminars and created and received grant funding for a new program it calls Fear No Art.

"The program is designed to expose people to the visual arts," Agel said. "The whole thing was Mary Reynolds' idea."

Over the past few months the guild has offered several of these Fear No Art one-day workshops where they have invited residents who have never painted anything ever before and provided them with the materials and a little instruction.

"We received a Grass Roots Arts Grant for the project through the Augusta Arts Council to buy the materials," Agel said. "Then Ms. Reynolds would provide a painting she'd painted a few days before or a photograph and have the class paint that image."

While they are working from another image, Reynolds encourages all of her students not to try to paint in anyone else's style.

"She wants us to develop our own styles," said Betty Wasden, a Louisville woman who attended one of the Fear No Art programs in January and has since painted nearly 40 pieces. "There were six or seven of us in that first session and we were all painting from the same picture, her painting of those geraniums, but do you know they all came out different. Even the posts were different."

Agel said that the program turned out to be an interesting experience for Reynolds, a professional artist, who had to teach these beginners which end of the brush to hold.

"I'd never seen anything like it and had never even thought of a program like this before it came out of my mouth," Reynolds said. "Paints can be so expensive. The program is a great way to let these people get a little experience with them and see if they'd like to continue it or not."

One display at the show will focus on the pieces produced in the Fear No Art workshops.

Guns stolen from Sheriff's evidence room

56-year-old trusty charged for allegedly selling 14 guns for money and drugs

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

What began as a less restrictive stay with some freedom of movement as a trusty at the Jefferson County jail ended abruptly last week for Beau Jack Thomas. The 56-year-old Atlanta resident was charged with stealing 14 guns from a locked room at the jail and selling them for money and drugs.

Sheriff Gary Hutchins said Friday that Thomas was charged with 14 counts of theft and 14 counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Also charged were the six Louisville residents who purchased the guns. Charged with theft by receiving stolen property were James Lewis, 21, and Eric Lewis and Reco Cooper, both 17. Also charged with the same offenses were three juveniles ages 14 and 15.

Hutchins said the handguns and rifles stolen by Thomas were removed from a temporary evidence room over a period of up to two weeks. The room contained a number of handguns, rifles, shotguns, old records and other items. Thomas was able to force the door enough to remove the screws from the hasp and gain entry. After removing the guns he hid them in a storage shed outside the jail until selling them for money, marijuana or crack. When sold for money, the guns brought $10-30 each, Hutchins said.

The sheriff's office was notified of the thefts from an outside tip. Once notified, investigators were able to determine the individuals who had purchased the weapons. Some of those who purchased the guns cooperated with investigators, advising them where the guns were located, said Hutchins. Also cooperating with investigators were all the families of the six individuals charged.

For his part, Hutchins quickly took full responsibility for the incident.

"The best thing to do was to be up front about this," said Hutchins. "If you're wrong, don't blame it on anybody else. That's why I called the local newspaper when this happened to let them know about it. I knew there would be questions and I wanted them to hear it from me before hearing it somewhere else. We are looking to correct anything that happened and make provisions so that there will be no reoccurrence."

Hutchins said the nature of being regarded as a trusty at the county jail or any facility is one where those who are incarcerated for non-violent crimes have earned a level of trust that enables law enforcement to provide them with a limited amount of freedom of movement.

A trusty at Jefferson County jail has responsibility of cutting grass at the courthouse, waxing courthouse floors, performing some maintenance tasks at county offices and taking out trash.

In Thomas' case, he had been a trusty for three of the six months he was housed at the jail and had presented no problems, Hutchins said.

"Trusties usually do what they are supposed to do," said Hutchins. "Others sometimes take advantage and stand to lose their opportunity to have some freedom. In this case the trusty will do additional jail time."

Hutchins said the immediate problem with the door to the temporary evidence room was remedied.

He met with jailers about instituting procedures applicable to trusties to ensure increased security inside the jail, enhanced procedures for entry and exit from the jail and trusty conduct outside the jail.

Jailers currently make documented rounds every 30-45 minutes. The facility is budgeted for one jailer on duty at night.

Sheriff's investigators said they are continuing to look at the case and are anticipating other arrests. It is currently believed that one more stolen gun remains unaccounted for. Anyone with information in the case is asked to contact the sheriff's office at (478) 625-7538.

The jail has been a topic of controversy in the past few years, being rated as substandard and unable to meet fire marshals and other requirements, including inmate supervision standards.

The new Jefferson County Law Enforcement Center, approved by voters in September 2002, is scheduled to begin construction before summer. The evidence room at the new facility will be in the administration area of the center and inaccessible to inmates.

Mobile home park health issues addressed

Commissioners give landlords 60 days to clean up "dangerous" parks or face legal action

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

In an effort to decrease the number of health and safety concerns associated with open sewage in manufactured home parks Jefferson County commissioners voted unanimously at the April 8 work session to give the owners of several parks 60 days to clean them up or face legal action.

Commissioners heard about conditions at the parks primarily from Building Inspector Paul Ledger. Also providing information to commissioners was Marshal Alan Wasden. After the hearing the evidence and viewing photos of the violations commissioners discussed the issues at length before voting 5-0 in favor of demanding actions from park owners, who also own the majority of manufactured homes on their properties.

Ledger began his remarks explaining that he asked to be on the agenda to seek commissioners advice on what could be done to remedy the numerous health and safety violations that exist on several manufactured home parks in the county.

"This is deplorable for the people of Jefferson County and it presents health hazards for children," he said.

Ledger cited some of the conditions of the manufactured home park owned by Frank Landrum on US Highway 1 and Campground Road. He made reference to finding children's toys on the ground in close proximity to raw sewage from open septic tanks. The park is composed on approximately one dozen homes and utility buildings on three and one-half acres. The average age of the homes was 32 years, he said.

Wasden told commissioners Landrum had been cited several times in the past. He said Landrum always paid the fines associated with the violations but the problems have not been remedied.

When asked by commissioners if the county Health Department was involved with attempting to remedy the problems at the site, Wasden said the department had been involved for several years but had no enforcement authority.

Concerning the magnitude of the problem, Ledger told commissioners that other manufactured home parks around the county were as bad or worse.

A manufactured home park near Wadley recently purchased by Keith Hall was cited for similar violations to those at Landrum's park. Also cited was a park on Old U.S. 1 owned by Leroy Thompson and one on Old Stapleton Road owned by Charlie Brown. The manufactured home parks contain between seven and 14 homes.

Commissioners batted around the issue surrounding intervention prior to voting on the matter.

Chairman Gardner Hobbs insisted on the board's need to be consistent and to enforce county codes, stating that the building inspector and the marshal had come to commissioners for guidance after other attempts at remedying the situation had failed.

"We need to be consistent and we need to follow the codes," said Hobbs at the March 31 work session. "We're talking health and safety here."

Commissioner Tommy New spoke on several occasions about the need to ensure the health and safety of county residents while respecting the rights of the owners of the parks.

"I want to stop these actions, but where do we start and how far do we go?" he asked.

After further discussion the board decided to pursue the matter by informing landowners that they have 60 days to clean up the sites or face legal action.

The decision was placed on the consent agenda at the April 8 regular session, where it passed unanimously.

History of Jefferson County healthcare presented

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

"The more things change, the more they stay the same" may apply to many things in life, but not to the changes that have occurred in healthcare in Jefferson County in the past 50 years.

Citing the scope and breadth of the changes at the March 18 meeting of the Jefferson County Historical Society was Jefferson Hospital CEO Rita Culvern. The past one-half century has seen changes in everything from the replacement of the hospital, health department and ambulance service to an array of available medical specialties, new rural health clinics, decreased infant mortality, treatment programs for diabetes and a free prescriptive drug program serving more than 500 people and has dispensed $5 million in free medications since May 2000.

In 1953, Jefferson Hospital was only six years old. Located on 7th Street in Louisville at the location of the present day Louisville City Hall, the facility was the personal project of Dr. James W. Pilcher.

"He practiced medicine by day and built the hospital by night," son John Pilcher told society members gathered at the Wrens library.

The daily census of patients was easily 40 or more who received wonderful care, with a typical stay of up to two weeks, said Culvern. Today's police department once housed the hospital's emergency room.

Also in 1953, the county's ambulance service was comprised of hearses operated around the clock by funeral homes in Wrens, Wadley and Louisville. Offices of the original health department were located in the small building adjacent to the courthouse. It was there that residents received immunizations and polio vaccines were administered in the 1960s. The new Health Department opened in about 1971 on US Highway 1 in Louisville with Mary Newberry functioning as Lead Nurse.

Practicing medicine in 1953 was Dr. Pilcher in Wrens, Drs. Revell and Lewis in Louisville, Drs. Williams and Bryant in Wadley and Dr. Farris in Bartow.

The old hospital was purchased by Humana Corporation in 1972. The company constructed the new hospital, still in use today, on Peachtree Street in Louisville. The 101-bed for-profit hospital opened in March 1974 and provided services such as obstetrics, surgery coronary and intensive care.

The Jefferson County Ambulance service also began in 1974.

Culvern said the impetus for the startup was due to a severe accident in Stellaville and a change in state laws prohibiting medical transport by funeral home hearse unless an Emergency Medical Technician rode in the back to accompany the patient.

The county hired a full-time director and used a contingent of citizen volunteers who received approximately 400 hours of advanced training to qualify them to serve on the ambulance.

In the summer of 1977 Humana threatened to close the hospital, prompting a response by Jefferson County and the City of Louisville to create the Jefferson Hospital Authority to purchase the facility. The purchase was made in November 1977 for $1.2 million through a bond issue and a commitment by the cities of Louisville, Wrens and Jefferson County government.

Many hospital management companies came and went beginning in 1977 and continuing through until 1986 and could not keep the facility out of the red. It was in 1986 that the hospital authority decided to divest itself of management companies, voters passed a one-percent sales tax for $1.5 million to purchase new equipment and C. James Allen was hired as CEO of the enterprise. In December 1990 Rita Culvern was hired as CEO and remains in the position today.

Toward the beginning of the decade of the 1990s the hospital authority embarked on a plan to respond to the assessed health needs of the Jefferson County community. Those included increasing the number of community based physicians, decreasing the infant mortality rate from its level of 29 percent, providing services for diabetic and dialysis patients, increasing local access to specialty care, sustaining care for the uninsured and assisting residents with managing the escalating costs of prescription drugs.

It was from that commitment to meet the needs of the community that the current status of care provided by Jefferson Hospital emerged and flourished.

In the past 12 years Jefferson Hospital has operated in the black and has continued to meet the goals outlined by the hospital authority.

The pre-natal center opened in 1993 and the infant mortality rate has dropped to 10 percent. An aggressive and successful recruitment of physicians began in 1994 and continues today. Specialty clinics began to provide services in 1995 and today offer on-site care in cardiology, podiatry, orthopedics, dermatology, maternal and infant care and high-risk prenatal care as well as service provision in general surgery, internal medicine, teleradiology and family practice.

Beginning in 1995, the hospital extended its reach throughout portions of the county with establishment of a Rural Health Clinic in Louisville, followed by similar practices in Wadley in 1996 and in Wrens in 2001.

Jefferson Hospital opened the first of three dialysis clinics in 1998 with the construction of a $500,000 center adjacent to the hospital. The Diabetic Case Management began in 2000 and non-reimbursable costs for indigent care went from $700,000 in 1999 to $1.45 million in 2002.

And the free prescriptive drug program that began in May 2000 has provided more than 500 Jefferson County residents with more than $5 million in medicines.

The original bond was paid off in January 2003. City and county governments throughout Jefferson committed recently to continue those annual contributions to help fund the cost of a new $2.5 million, 8,000 square foot emergency room due to begin construction later this year.

Today Jefferson Hospital is one of a small number of rural hospitals in Georgia that operates in the black while expanding services, including providing the initiative to establish the East Georgia Health Collaborative.

Culvern and other hospital staff are frequently called on to present the hospital's formula for success at state and national healthcare conferences.

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