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May 1, 2003 Issue

Mitchell Springfest...
It was a picture perfect day in Mitchell. Hundreds of people enjoyed music, fireworks, a street dance, the community church service, the parade, the Mitchell Depot Museum dedication and, of course, the food and endless items offered by a record number of vendors at the annual Mitchell Springfest last weekend. See page 8A for more Springfest photos.

Meningitis cases confirmed

Precautions outlined to reduce the risk of infection

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Local and district health officials have confirmed the presence of two cases of spinal meningitis in Jefferson County. The good news is that there have been no new cases for nearly a week and that proper hygiene and sanitation measures can greatly reduce the risk of infection.

Parents of children in Jefferson County schools were notified by County Nurse Manager Janet Pilcher in an April 24 letter that there have been two cases of viral meningitis confirmed in the county. Both cases are preschool and school age children, the letter said.

East Central Health District Risk Manager Larry Walker said Tuesday that no new cases of viral meningitis have been confirmed in the county and that a total of 32 confirmed cases were distributed throughout the Georgia portion of the CSRA. The large majority of cases exist in Richmond and Columbia counties, he said.

Walker added that the presence of a cluster of viral meningitis cases is not cause for alarm, but does provide a reason for utilizing proper hand washing and personal hygiene methods and avoiding reusing cups, glasses, plates and eating utensils before they can be adequately washed.

Pilcher described viral meningitis as an infection of the thin lining covering the brain and spinal cord. It is a fairly common disease with 150-300 cases reported each year in Georgia and most often occurs in children. Viral, or aseptic, meningitis is caused by an infection by one of several types of viruses, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Exposure to the virus does not guarantee infection. Exposure usually results in the individual experiencing only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, Pilcher said.

Enteroviruses, the most common cause of virual meningitis, are most often spread by contact with the respiratory secretions (through coughing or sneezing) of an infected person, according to CDC. The transmission occurs, for example, when shaking hands with an infected person, touching something they have handled and then rubbing one's nose, mouth or eyes. The virus can also be found in the fecal material of an infected person.

The incubation period is usually seven to 10 days from the time of infection to the manifestation of symptoms. The virus can usually be spread to others after the third day of infection until approximately 10 days after symptoms develop.

Symptoms of viral meningitis vary from person to person, but often include fever, severe headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to bright lights, drowsiness, confusion, nausea and vomiting, according to CDC. Symptoms in infants are more difficult to determine. They may include fever, fretfulness, irritability, difficulty in awakening the infant or its refusal to eat.

Pilcher said no specific medicines or antibiotics are used to treat viral meningitis. Care generally takes the form of supportive therapy toward the symptoms, she said.

The most effective ways to prevent the spread of viral meningitis include good personal hygiene and proper hand washing, Pilcher said. The spread of the virus can be curtailed by avoiding sharing eating utensils and cups and glasses.

Pilcher recommended that anyone who is exhibiting symptoms of viral meningitis should contact their private physician or local health care provider.

Annual Relay For Life this weekend

By Parish Howard

The battle is fought all year round by individuals, families and teams, but there's one special weekend for them all, one weekend of events that begins with a victory march by the survivors in Jefferson County's personal war against cancer.

In its ninth year, the Jefferson County Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society has become the single biggest event in the county.

Even with thunderstorms cutting last year's Relay short Friday night, the county still raised around $125,000, enough to take eighth in the nation for per capita earnings.

"And that's with not really even having a Relay," said Karen Walden, co-chairperson and event organizer. "Since we didn't really get to have all the events everyone had planned and everyone had already bought their red, white and blue decorations, we decided to go with last year's theme, 'The Spirit of the USA to Relay.' We didn't have a clue at the time that there was going to be a war."

She asks attendees to bring American flags to wave along sides of the walking track during the survivors' walk.

This year the weekend's events will begin at 7 p.m., an hour later than usual, at the walking track adjacent to Wrens Middle School.

"This way it will be cooler for our survivors and it gives our organizers and teams a little longer to set up," Walden said.

The survivor's reception will actually be held before the survivor's walk under the registration tent on the corner of U.S. Highway One and Griffin Street.

Walden encouraged each of the county's 258 cancer survivors listed on the Relay rolls to join in the walk and during the weekend's events.

"Bring a chair and join us," Walden said. "There's going to be a special tent set aside for survivors and they can hang out there as long as they want. Stay, fellowship and enjoy the events."

Other events this weekend include a baby stroller parade at 7:30 p.m., a luminary service at 9 p.m., a talent show at 10 p.m., and a survivor game, patterned after the reality series, at 1 a.m.

Raffles will be drawn and contest winners announced on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. with the Relay's closing ceremonies at 2 p.m.

Special entertainment by local musicians, drama and mime troups, and dance groups will be held throughout the weekend.

"Last year's rainout was such a disappointment to everyone who had worked so hard," said Doug O'Steen, the Relay's co-chair. "We just hope everything planned for this year gets to go off as planned.

"The enthusiasm over the Relay is still great. Every year they surprise us. Even last year, we weren't expecting numbers to be up, but then, everything turned out so good. You never know what the total is going to be until that final count is done."

Flim-flam artists take local lady for $3,000

Sheriff's office on the lookout for scamming duo

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

There is really no end to the lies and deception some people will use to gain advantage of other people's money. Such an incident happened to a Jefferson County woman Monday when she lost $3,000 to two very slick scam artists.

The incident began in Swainsboro when the victim went to make a payment and had returned to her truck. A nicely dressed man approached her truck, she told investigators. Though she was not certain of his approximate age, she said the man was wearing African-style clothing and wore a hat. The man said he was indeed from Africa and was new to the area. He told the woman she looked like a respectable and responsible person and asked if he could talk with her.

He told her he had come into a large sum of money and was unable to take it with him on his return home. He said he was attempting to find a respectable and responsible person with which to leave the money so that it could be donated to a community charity, investigators said. He asked her if she knew of such a charity. She said that she did and suggested a non-profit educational organization. The man acknowledged her suggestion and pulled a bank bag from inside a satchel. Inside the bank bag was what appeared to be a large sum of money, she told investigators. The man told her the bag contained $40,000.

During their brief conversation another woman, also nicely dressed and wearing a yellow pantsuit, approached them.

The second woman, later determined to be the man's accomplice, engaged herself in the conversation.

The man restated his desire to find an acceptable person or persons to insure the money went to a worthwhile charity.

He insisted that he wouldn't want to give the money to someone that did not already have money because they might be tempted to keep it.

Maintaining her role in the scam, the accomplice announced that she had money at the BB&T bank. She left for the bank, returning moments later with a clear fabric bank bag that appeared to contain a large sum of money, the victim told investigators. The accomplice said the bag contained $20,000.

The victim told investigators the accomplice gave the man her bank bag. He put it with his own, placed a prayer cloth over them and said a prayer to bless the money. Then he asked the Jefferson County woman if she banked in Swainsboro. She told him she banked in Louisville. "

If you can show me you have money, I'll be willing to share mine with you," the man told her.

At this point, though apprehensive, the victim and both scam artists entered the victim's truck and proceeded to Louisville. During the journey, the victim remarked that she believed they were being followed by another vehicle. The female accomplice attempted to dissuade her, saying that the car she identified was not tailing them, the victim told investigators.

Once in Louisville, the woman parked her truck on Broad Street and entered First National Bank. She exited the bank with an envelope containing $3,000 withdrawn from her account and returned to her truck where the man and woman were waiting, investigators said.

Though still apprehensive and thinking something might be wrong, the victim gave the envelope to the man, who investigators believe was sitting in the back seat of the truck. As he had done earlier in Swainsboro, the man placed the envelope with the satchel and covered both with the prayer cloth and said a prayer to bless the money.

After blessing the money both con artists exited the victim's truck, leaving the envelope and satchel with the victim. She asked the pair if they needed a ride but was told that was not necessary because the female accomplice's sister worked at a store across the street. As they left, the man wished the victim good luck and told her to have a safe drive home and to have a nice day.

The two walked away and the victim, unaware she had been scammed, left Louisville without looking in the bag. She drove to a relative's house before examining the contents of the satchel and her envelope. Upon opening them she found a $20 bill on either side of the stacks of money in the satchel and her envelope.

What had begun in Swainsboro late morning Monday ended in Louisville at approximately 1 p.m. A witness to the scam artists gave investigators a description of the vehicle later in the day after he heard what had happened. The witness had seen a man and woman dressed in similar attire entering a light blue/green four-door car on Broad Street. The car had a Clayton County plate.

"This con man was exceptionally smooth and confident," said investigator Clark Hiebert. "The victim watched him all the time and she was still taken. Even though she was apprehensive, she thought she was in total control of the situation."

Hiebert said residents should be aware that scam artists often come to rural areas from larger cities specifically to prey on older people, often women, with promises too good to be true.

"And if it sounds way too good to be true, it is probably bad," he said. "Whether it's about money, cars or any type of home repairs, if it sounds too good, it's not going to be a legitimate proposal. All of us have to use our best judgment in these situations."

Sheriff Gary Hutchins advised residents to be alert to any type of situation where someone unknown to the individual is asking for money.

"This kind of thing can and does happen, but I don't like it when our citizens end up in this kind of situation and when they are taken advantage of," he said. "I would advise people that before any financial transaction takes place to find out as much as you can about the person, their credentials and their background. And if our residents are approached in a suspicious way, they should note a description of the person, the vehicle and tag number and call this office."

Glascock working towards landfill's final closure

Armentrout says EPD's mandated requirements should be fulfilled by mid-May

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

The decision by Glascock County commissioners to hire consulting engineer Charles Armentrout to help resolve issues relating to the old county landfill may be just what the doctor ordered.

Armentrout reviewed a Feb. 21 Documentation of Violation with commissioners, providing them with an overview of the county's current compliance status and obtaining other updated information from them.

"One of the things we've got to do is get this facility in shape so that EPD will be satisfied," said Armentrout.

Commissioners had been at odds with Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) over a number of issues they thought had been resolved with former consultants Moreland Altobelli. Though critical contamination issues involving some landfills are not the case in Glascock, commissioners were, nonetheless, concerned and hopeful that issues such as monitoring requirements, grading and erosion control and the topsoil "borrow" area can be rectified quickly and that the county could fulfill EPD requirements cited in the Feb. 21 Documentation of Violation and a Jan. 30 Consent Order.

Armentrout said his firm has responded to EPD concerning the Feb. 21 Documentation of Violation and has requested an extension from March 31 until May 15. Though several issues must be discussed prior to the deadline, Armentrout said the mandated requirements should be fulfilled by mid-May.

He said the county is also currently monitoring groundwater and methane required by the Jan. 30 Consent Order.

Compliance with EPD requirements does not come without a price tag. Armentrout explained that a potential estimate of $30,000 might be expended to accomplish the required compliance issues. These include methane and groundwater monitoring and erosion control measures.

An overall objective, said Armentrout, is to get the old landfill to the point where it can be certified for final closure by EPD.

An interesting facet of the meeting occurred when Armentrout informed commissioners that he had found a set of updated landfill plans drawn by former consultant engineering firm Moreland Altobelli. The plans differed somewhat from the ones currently held by the county. Armentrout said he would secure a copy of the plans for the county.

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Last modified: April 30, 2003