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May 8, 2003 Issue

Cancer survivors taking part in the Jefferson County Relay for Life survivor's walk pause to hug friends and family along the route.

Rain can't spoil Relay

Teams, sponsors and individuals raise $110,960.49 to fight cancer

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

It's just hard to keep some people down.

Though pouring rain, lightning and high winds invaded Jefferson County's annual Relay for Life fundraising event for the second time in two years, the spirit of HOPE could not be dampened or diminished. By the end of the event Saturday afternoon the total had climbed to $110,960.49.

The theme of the event was "The Spirit of the USA is to Relay." The annual Relay event, held each spring, is the culmination of yearlong fundraising efforts by teams throughout the county to benefit the American Cancer Society.

"We work all year to get to this event and when it comes we have fun," said Renae Borum, one of three event co-chairs. "The Relay is all about helping the survivors. They want to beat this disease. They are determined to win; they are determined to win their life."

The Relay began, as it always does, with the Survivor's Walk. An emotional event each year, 130 cancer survivors took one lap around the walking track adjacent to Wrens Middle School.

Friends and family lined the track as they made their transit, applauding the resilience of their loved ones who so poignantly understand the power of love and the force of hope.

All along the track survivors would pause to receive a hug, exchange a smile or to see the tears in their own eyes reflected in the tears of a loved one in their embrace.

Words can scarcely do justice to the depth of emotions expressed in those brief moments, yet their reality is exactly what the Relay is all about.

"I'm so proud of Jefferson County," said event co-chair Karen Walden. "When I saw those yellow shirts hit the track and the looks of appreciation on the survivors' faces I knew they felt our love. The Relay is all about the survivors. They are my inspiration."

The festivities were well underway by 9 p.m. and an estimated 2,000 people were on hand when the storm hit with full force, almost exactly one year to the hour when the 2002 Relay had to be cancelled for the same reason. Some of the members of many of the 16 Relay teams refused to leave despite winds that overturned tents, lightning that crashed overhead and a tumult of rain that might have put Noah on full alert.

A particularly striking element of the rain soaked night was the curious circumstance surrounding several of the nearly 1,500 luminaries, lighted to honor those who and have survived cancer and those who have gone on. The lit candles inside the paper bag luminaries were some of the first things to go once the rain began. But one remained lit, a candle that helped for the letter E in HOPE, until its visible light was finally extinguished shortly after 11 p.m. Even more amazing, on examination Saturday morning, event staff found seven candles somehow still barely burning in HOPE and another five also burning inside luminary bags along the walking track.

By mid-morning Saturday hundreds were back at the track and the festivities continued. Picking up where the Baby Stroller Parade, a performance by the Pine Hill Baptist Praise and Dance Team and endless amounts of food left off Friday night, Jefferson County's own version of Survivors television show began. The tribes faced off through competitions that included egg tossing, bicycle and wheelbarrow racing and musical chairs.

Other events Saturday included songs by Hephzibah's Wanda Skinner and Wrens' Ruth Fleming, the Country Kickers line dancers from Augusta, a talent show by Matthews Community and Friends and numerous team raffles.

Everything considered, the fun, festivity and compassion made the Relay the community event for which it has become known.

"I'm real proud of everybody," said event co-chair Doug O'Steen. "It was a great success. We came back Saturday and didn't let the rain chase us away. Everybody had a great time and what was accomplished was the result of a tremendous effort by the teams and the captains."

Teams and individuals are always cited for their contributions to the fundraiser. Among those are the awards for a host of accomplishments that reflect the yearlong fundraising efforts.

The award for the most money raised by a team went to First State Bank for raising $11,365.32, to Wrens United Methodist Church for their contribution of $13,102.32 for the most money raised by a church, to Matthews Community and Friends for $24,525 signifying the most money raised by a community and the most money raised overall and to Laice Newman for bringing in $13,000, the most money raised by an individual.

Also included were a number of other awards. First place for the Team Spirit award was Matthews Community and Friends while 2nd place went to Keysville Nursing Home. The Individual Spirit award went to Donna Cheeks of Matthews Community and Friends. The Best Campsite award went to Walden's United Methodist Church for 1st place and Friends for Life for 2nd place. The Street Spirit award went to Noah Station Road in Matthews.

Raffles, too, have their place at the Relay. The Winner of the Davis-McGraw furniture raffle was Harrileen Conner of Louisville. The winner of the Matthews quilt raffle was Zuelene Moats of Davisboro, while Wrens' Bobbie Hudson won the Matthews 50/50 split raffle and Karon Bryant, of Matthews, won the Matthews jewelry raffle.

Next year will be the 10th anniversary of Jefferson County's Relay for Life. For a decade residents of Jefferson County have given money to support the American Cancer Society. But for anyone who has attended the annual events it is clear that much more than that has been given. With seemingly endless abundance they have given to each other the more intangible yet priceless gifts of concern, laughter and tears, compassion, empathy and hope.

So next year, expect a blowout.

Louisville woman stable after being shot multiple times

Alleged assailant turned himself into officers

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

A shooting Sunday night of a Louisville woman at her residence on West Broad Street left her in stable condition after undergoing surgery at MCG Hospital for multiple gunshot wounds.

Virgil Leon Rolle, 38, of Louisville, was charged initially with aggravated assault in the shooting of 50 year-old Normia Mack Thomas, said Louisville Police Chief Jimmy Miller. Additional charges are pending in the case, Miller said.

Rolle told investigators he and Thomas had been drinking and arguing inside Thomas' residence prior to the incident.

The argument eventually continued outside the residence where Rolle produced a .22 caliber, six shot revolver and fired at Thomas. The woman suffered gunshot wounds to the head, chest and buttocks, according to a spokesman for the sheriff's office.

Rolle later told investigators he fled after shooting Thomas, catching a ride to Bartow and then to Wadley. He contacted family members who advised him to turn himself in.

Rolle was arrested when a relative brought him to the county jail Sunday night. During a subsequent interview Rolle told officers he suffered from a diagnosed mental condition and was taking prescription medication for the condition.

Sheriff's deputies and a firearms dog with the Richmond County K-9 Task Force located the gun Monday on Jefferson Street in Wadley. Rolle told investigators he had thrown the gun in that vicinity Sunday night.

Participating in the investigation was Louisville Police, Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, Richmond County K-9 Task Force and GBI.

Report claims marshal was told not to police company

Officials say they do not remember that directive being given

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

The legacy of the former Forstmann textile plant outside Louisville has been a mixed bag since the plant closed in January 1999. Since that time Forstmann filed bankruptcy, environmental problems were discovered and Flint Logistics Management LLC purchased the property.

Documents obtained from the state Environmental Protection Division (EPD) under the Georgia Open Records Law show that since the purchase of the property in January 2002, Flint has been progressively cited by EPD for failing to adequately address the environmental problems. The origins of those problems preceded Flint's purchase of the property and include such violations as the presence of asbestos in the plant and high levels of trichloroethene in groundwater on the property bordering the Ogeechee River.

The volume of communications between EPD and Flint subsequent to its purchase of the property culminated with the issuance by EPD of an Administrative Order in October 2002 and Flint being placed on the Hazardous Sites Inventory in February. Flint co-owner Charles Westberry recently said the company is currently addressing compliance issues along with other work geared toward making the facility operational.

Aside from the numerous documents obtained from EPD under the Georgia Open Records Law specific to both Forstmann and, more recently to Flint, were other documents that included issues dealing with both the property and local governmental entities such as the Jefferson County Commission, Development Authority of Jefferson County (DAJC) and the county marshal's department. The contents of some of those documents are at odds with statements made by some of the individuals mentioned in them.

Feb. 27, 2002 Meeting Report

One of the documents, issued by Marshal Alan Wasden, cited a meeting Feb. 27, 2002, attended by former county administrator James Rogers, county commission Chairman Gardner Hobbs, economic developer Brad Day, development authority President Bill Easterlin and Mickey Moses, the attorney for both governmental entities.

The brief report stated that Wasden had been requested to attend the meeting. According to the report, Day stated that the (Flint) owners were very capable of handling any environmental issues that have occurred or might occur in the future, that EPD was involved and that a plan was being followed for the cleanup. In the report, Wasden told the group that numerous county ordinances and state laws were being violated and that the county should regulate any violations. The report ended with Wasden stating he was told that his actions were hurting economic development in the county and that he was not to go back to the property.

Prior to the meeting and since the property was purchased by Flint, Wasden said the only time he had conducted any type of inspection of the property was during the week of Jan. 14, 2002, to check on a report by local residents of an obnoxious odor in the area and again on Feb. 5 with an EPD representative who requested that Wasden accompany him.

When asked recently about the meeting, all of those listed on the report agreed that the meeting occurred and acknowledged their attendance. When asked about the purpose of the meeting, Hobbs said it was held because Day and Wasden were thought to be having a difference of opinion over the former Forstmann property and both had approached him about the issue. Rogers said the meeting occurred as a follow-up of "earlier recent events" associated with the property. Easterlin said the meeting was held to discuss what was going on at Flint and to determine how assistance could be provided without "causing a ruckus." Day had no comment and Moses said he could not speak about the meeting, being legal counsel for both entities.

Concerning the portion of the report where Wasden said he was told his actions were hurting economic development and that he should not go back to the property, Hobbs said he did not specifically remember anyone making such a statement.

"I didn't tell him not to go back and James didn't tell him that," said Hobbs. "I think this is an Alan and Brad thing."

Rogers said he did not remember the statement being made or being a part of the conversation, adding that he believed Wasden had had a problem with the facility for years. Day said the statement was not made by him or anyone at the meeting. Easterlin said the general thrust of the meeting was to allow the state to handle the issue since EPD was already involved. He said Wasden might have misunderstood the intent of the meeting.

All those in attendance, except the marshal, did not claim to remember anyone making the statement that Flint is capable of handling the cleanup of environmental problems, as the report stated.

Though the comments of the other individuals present at the Feb. 27, 2002 contradicted the information on his report, Wasden maintained last week that the statements he outlined from the meeting, nonetheless, occurred as stated. He said that since the day of the meeting he has not returned to the Flint facility to conduct inspections relating to any ordinance or code compliance issues.

"I was advised at the (Feb. 27) meeting by my superiors to cease any inspections at the (old) Forstmann facility unless I was accompanied by a member of the development authority and a prior appointment was made," said Wasden. "No further inspections have occurred by the Marshal's Office or will occur under the stipulated conditions."

An ordinance adopted in July 1999 by the commission entitled Solid Waste, Scrap Tire and Trash Ordinance of Jefferson County cites the responsibility of the county marshal to enforce the ordinance as well as cites a description of what can be considered waste materials, the responsibility of property owners to properly contain and dispose of waste and the penalties for violations.

Guidelines included in the county's agreement under the Scrap Tire Grant that provided the original funding for the marshal's department require that all written documentation pertaining to violations of state environmental laws be forwarded to EPD.

The Feb. 6 meeting report

A portion of another document, a Feb. 15, 2002, officer's report issued by Wasden, indicates that he had received contradictory orders from Rogers.

A portion of that report cited a Feb. 6, 2002, conversation in which Rogers advised Wasden to do his job pertaining to needed inspection activity at Flint. Later that day Rogers reversed that position, the report says.

"Later that afternoon Mr. Rogers called me in his office and advised me not to go back out to the Forstmann plant. He stated that he had several phone calls on the matter and Jefferson County would not regulate that area. He also stated that EPD (or more specifically Georgia EPD Director Harold Reheis) was involved and that they would handle everything. He stated that the new owners had cleaned up other areas before and they knew what they were doing," the report said.

Contacted Monday, Rogers denied telling Wasden not to go back to Flint but told him, instead, that nobody is exempt from county codes and state laws and that he should do his job.

Contacted Tuesday, Wasden maintained that his report was accurate and that copies of it were provided to all those who attended the Feb. 27, 2002, meeting.

"I stand firm that my report was truthful and accurate," he said. "A copy of the report was given to each person attending the Feb. 27 meeting and its contents were never contested."

The environmental problems associated with the property were first recognized in January 2001 when Wasden, while checking a timber harvest permit, discovered a breach in the berm separating the plant's two wastewater containment ponds. The breach resulted in a flow of water contaminated with trichloroethene and cis-1,2,dichloroethene into the Ogeechee River.

Grand Jury indicts 20 for recent crimes

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

The work of the current Jefferson County Grand Jury has been completed. Presentments filed with the Clerk of Superior Court April 29 indicated the return of 20 true bills of indictment and two no bills. Also included was the required jail inspection, the proposal of an alternate to the Board of Tax Equalization and an increase in compensation for jurors and bailiffs

True bills were returned on Ronnie Terrel Hannah, Cedric Antonio Williams and Marcus Lorenzo Williams for burglary; Brinson Jones for burglary; Charles James a/k/a Kevin James for theft by deception; and Anthony Roberto Reeves for armed robbery, kidnapping, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and obstruction of an officer.

True bills were also returned for Robert Lee Reeves, Jr. for aggravated assault; George Henry Gibbons for child molestation, statutory rape, incest and aggravated child molestation; Dwayne Grant for child molestation; Jerry Gene Kemp, Jr. for aggravated assault; Lee Edward Hodges for two counts of aggravated battery; Antonio Tarez Wynn for obstruction of an officer; and Henry Clay Burse II for theft by taking, obstruction of an officer and possession of marijuana less than one ounce.

True bills were returned for Ray Shannon Mayo for two counts of driving under the influence, weaving on the roadway and obstruction of an officer; Kassandra Bonita Sweat and Brenda Thompson Young for four counts of theft by deception; Gloria Dorine Gibbons and Ruby Brown Hatcher for theft by taking; Jeannie Laverne Broomfield for obstruction of an officer and interference with government property; Isiah Matthew Martin, Jr. a/k/a Isiah Mike Martin, Jr. a/k/a Izell Mike Martin, Jr. for three counts of burglary; Taworsky Jackson for burglary; George Anthony Jordan for theft by receiving stolen property, no insurance, removing or affixing license plate with intent to conceal or misrepresent; Corey Demond West for loitering near convicts after order to desist and giving convicts items without consent; and Christopher Jermaine Freeman for trafficking in cocaine.

The grand jury's state required inspection of the county jail produced several expected results relating to the old facility. Jurors noted the crowded main office area and booking area, the lack of workspace for deputies, paint peeling from the ceiling in one of the cells and the poor ventilation and lighting in cell areas. Also noted was the upcoming construction of the county's new law enforcement center.

In other actions, grand jurors recommended the appointment of Beth Martz as an alternate member of the Board of Equalization and an increase in pay traverse jurors and grand jurors to $30 per day and an increase for bailiffs to $40 per day.

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