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August 28, 2003 Issue

Five-year-old Joshua Hillman was bitten by a rattlesnake less than a yard from his Stapleton home. Here, exactly one week after the snake struck, he holds a picture of the bite on his left foot taken when the swelling started going down and the doctors decided they would not have to amputate.

Snakes are moving

Five-year-old boy and 72-year-old man bitten by venomous snakes in the last few weeks

By Parish Howard

"As a mother you're prepared for skinned knees and little bumps. But a snakebite is something you just don't think about," said Crystal Hillman one week to the day after her son was bitten and almost died. "Until it happens, you just don't think to remind your kids to look out for snakes everytime they walk out the door, especially in your own yard."

Joshua, her five-year-old son, is one of two Jefferson County residents to have been struck by a venomous snake in the last month.

One local expert says the reptiles may be more visible right now because of a combination of reasons. This is the time of year venomous snakes give birth and the recent rains may be pushing them out of their usual habitats.

Joshua was bitten in his front yard, no more than three feet from the side door to his family's mobile home.

"It was in a circle," he said drawing the shape on the ground with his finger. "I stepped in the middle and then it jumped up."

The boy didn't see the snake until it moved, until after he had put his tiny foot in the center of that circle of scales. He didn't see it, but his 10-year-old sister Jessica did. She saw it and tried to scream and couldn't get it out before it was too late.

"It jumped up like it was playing," Joshua said, "then it bit me."

His mother heard him scream and thought he had slammed his finger in the door. She glanced out the window and saw the snake, raised up, ready to strike again.

"I yelled help, but there was nobody else here, nobody else who could hear me," she said. "I don't know why I said it; it just came out."

Joshua and his sister ran next door to their Granny's house and she called 911.

"I stood at the door and couldn't get to them," Crystal said. "The snake was between us. I couldn't get to my little man and that's when I went to pieces."

Eventually the snake turned and disappeared under their home through a gap in their underpinning.

"I ran to him, grabbed him and held him until the ambulance got here," she said.

One week later the faint bruising on his knee and leg and a tenderness he complains of are the only physical reminders of the poison's path and the swelling it caused that had doctors considering amputating his leg.

"If the swelling hadn't gone down, they were talking about inch long cuts all the way up his leg or possibly taking the leg itself," Crystal said.

On Aug. 28 he goes back to see an orthopedic and pediatric surgeon to see if there is any muscle, tissue or nerve damage.

Another bite

Seventy-two year-old Ed Perdue of Wrens, was bitten just above his ankle while working in his back yard in early August.

"Ed had been bushhogging and moving trees," explained Miss Bet Perdue, Ed's wife. "He was cleaning out his truck with a long pole when I went out to get him for lunch. I bent over to pick a few tomatoes and he went to pick up the tailgate from where it was leaning against a tree. Then he screamed, 'I'm bit! A snake bit me.' And tomatoes went everywhere."

At first she said her husband hadn't known he'd been bitten. He felt a slight sting and saw some blood on his ankle through his jeans but thought he had snagged a briar or something. It was only when he moved the tailgate that he saw the "big pile of rattlesnake" and realized what had happened to him.

She drove him to the EMT station in Wrens and he was transported from there to MCG where he received the antivenin, or antivenom, as it is sometimes called.

"They put a light tourniquet on it, but he told me later he could feel it, a tingle around his mouth, in his fingers and toes," Mrs. Perdue said.

He stayed one night in ICU and received six vials of antivenin. She said that in the end the bite didn't do any serious damage, but warrants much of that to the speed with which he received medical attention.

Some are more dangerous

Although Joshua's treatment also came quickly, there a number of different types of snakebites and they can be more dangerous in young children.

"Joshua stopped breathing three times that first night in the hospital," Ms. Hillman said. "My daddy is a Pentecostal preacher and he had friends of his across the country praying for Joshua."

Later, curious about the animal that could have taken her son's life, she called Jim McAlister, a local snake expert who has owned McAlister's Snake Wear in Grange for 23 years, has studied herpetology all of his life and spent 10 years working in a venom lab.

"Venomous snakes have babies in the late summer," McAlister said. "They'll still be having them for about another month."

He advises people to be cautious while moving around outdoors this time of year.

"They're in the place you never look for them to be," McAlister said. "I always say snakes don't read books, people do. Everyone thinks they can read up on them and know what a snake is going to do. You can't."

According to a recent story by a University of Georgia Extension Service agent, medical doctors who have experience with venomous snakebites do not always agree on the details of first aid treatment.

"What they do agree on is what to do if your are bitten," he writes. "Go to the nearest medical facility immediately, stay calm, and identify the snake if you can do so easily, without putting yourself at risk or wasting valuable time."

The best way to handle to snakes is to avoid being bitten at all, which may be harder to do right now across this part of Georgia.

McAlister believes that the all the recent rains have added to the problem, possibly forcing a lot of snakes out of their usual habitats.

"The usual places to look for them is around stacked lumber or stacked tin," McAlister said. "But snakes are going to follow the food chain. Wherever they can find rats and mice, that's where they are going to be."

Mestek expansion could bring 40 new jobs

It is believed the Wrens plant expansion will generage approximately $1 million per year in new wages

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Everybody wins. That upbeat attitude of confidence was expressed by Mestek, Inc. Plant Manager Emerson Hobgood about the way he sees his company and his community as the facility in Wrens undergoes expansion.

Hobgood said Friday the addition of 25,000 square feet of manufacturing space is underway at the rear of the plant. Filling the manufacturing space will be 35-40 new job positions that will generate approximately $1 million per year in new wages.

With a price tag of approximately $6 million, the expansion will manufacture a new product line of air distribution products, including diffusers, grills and registers, for the industrial and commercial market, said Hobgood. More than just a building, employees will work with new machinery, tooling and a state-of-the-art paint system.

Mestek opened its doors in Wrens in 1970. Growing with the community through the years, the plant employed 68 people in 1992 and today, prior to the expansion, employs 120. The plant manufactures heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment for the air distribution industry. Products manufactured in Wrens include fire dampers, back draft dampers and the "Space Pak" portable, residential air conditioning system.

As he spoke, Hobgood recalled the things that successfully meld a company with a community.

"We're not a fly-by-night company that comes in and tries to get what we can from the community," he said. "We're adding on and we're here for the long haul."

That long-haul mindset, said Hobgood, is the direct result of a corporate management with vision, a local management approach that fosters a high level of participation and employees who continue to advance within the company. As a manager you have got to have confidence in your people, he said.

"Our employees are our most valuable resource," said Hobgood. "My main responsibility is to surround myself and this company with quality people. We recognize motivation and initiative, and many of our employees over the years have advanced in salary and responsibility. Without caring people who care about what they are doing a company cannot succeed."

Hobgood also expressed his appreciation to local economic developer Brad Day, State Dept. of Industry, Trade and Tourism's Wendy Bibb and Sandersville Technical College for their efforts in bringing the project to fruition.

Mestek, Inc. is headquartered in Westfield, Mass. and operates 30 facilities in the U. S. and Canada.

Board member resigns after Augusta arrest

14-year school board veteran charged with misdemeanor shoplifting

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Jefferson County school board representative Belinda Sheram resigned from her long-held District 4 seat after being charged with shoplifting last week in an Augusta department store.

The incident occurred Aug. 19 at Dillard's department store in Augusta Mall, according to a Richmond County Sheriff's report. Sheram was arrested and charged with misdemeanor theft by shoplifting when she attempted to leave the store with two men's shirts without paying for them. She was released later the same day on $2,050 bond.

Contacted Tuesday, Sheram said she accepted full responsibility for her actions.

"I take complete responsibility for what I did," she said. "I'm sorry for my family, my friends, my constituents and most of all for the children of Jefferson County."

Sheram said that after considering the matter in the context of both her constituents and the community she had decided to resign from the school board immediately.

"I violated their trust and I believe this is the right thing for me to do," she said.

School Superintendent Carl Bethune said Tuesday that the school board will begin the process to fill the District 4 vacancy as soon as possible.

Sheram served on the school board since 1989

Glascock commission plans to increase budget by $33,000

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Glascock County commissioners and several department heads met Aug. 21 to work out details of the proposed 2004 county budget, set to be adopted in early September.

The result was an increase of $33,000 over the current budget due largely to required landfill monitoring, increases in insurance premiums, the purchase of a long-needed ambulance and elections to be held next year.

If adopted as proposed, the 2004 budget will be set at $1,421,459, representing a $33,538 increase over the 2003 budget. The original 2003 budget was set at $1,327,921 but requires amendment because $60,000 had to be spent in 2003 for new, state-required monitoring at the landfill. Once amended, the 2003 budget will total $1,387,921.

Commissioners, department heads and residents attending the meeting discussed numerous ways to diminish expenditures while meeting the county's obligations. Several line items beyond county control combined to add significantly to the proposed budget. These included another year of state-required monitoring at the county landfill at a cost totaling $60,000, a $34,000 increase in liability and employee medical insurance premiums, an additional $25,000 for the election cycle in 2004 and more than $17,000 toward the purchase of a new ambulance. The decision earlier this year to purchase a new unit followed continuing costly repairs to the old ambulance and several years of requests from McDuffie Regional Hospital to provide a replacement. Those issues alone accounted for $136,000 of new expenditures in next year's budget.

Responding to the mandatory increases, commissioners made adjustments to a number of smaller line item expenditures. Other adjustments to the proposed budget included the decision to forego pay increases for county employees or elected officials. The number of employees in the Public Works Department was reduced from 10 to eight and personnel in the tax assessor's office trimmed several hours per week from their budget. Also decreased were a number of smaller line items from several departments.

Commissioners commended department heads for doing a good job of monitoring their funds.

Commissioners said they anticipate adopting the budget Sept. 3 and setting the millage rate in mid-September after the required public hearings are held.

The new budget takes effect Jan. 1.

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