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October 9, 2003 Issue

Jefferson County Sheriff's deputies check out the racecar seized Oct. 1 in a transaction with two Savannah area men who traded the car and trailer for $20,000 and 20 pounds of marijuana.

Men tried to swap stolen dragster for marijuana

Officers say conversations with men went on for weeks

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

What must have seemed like a good idea at the time turned into anything but that for Joe Frank Huggins and George Joyner. The plan to swap their $50,000 racecar for marijuana and cash evaporated faster than gas in the small fuel tank of their seven seconds per quarter-mile dragster.

Both Joyner, 35, of Allabell, and Huggins, 31, of Savannah, were charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute after completing a transaction with undercover investigators from Jefferson and Richmond counties, according to a spokesman for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. Joyner and Huggins traded the racecar, an enclosed trailer and accessories to undercover operatives for 20 pounds of marijuana and $20,000, investigators said.

Investigators said the idea by Joyner and Huggins to sell the racecar surfaced several months ago. Word spread that they might settle for something other than cash. The two men were later introduced to undercover operatives from the sheriff's offices in Jefferson and Richmond counties.

Through conversations over a three-week period, the men agreed to exchange the car, trailer and accessories for $20,000 in cash and 20 pounds of marijuana, investigators said.

A call to Huggins and Joyner was placed Sept. 30 by investigators, who verified that the two still wanted to make the deal. A meeting time and place were arranged for Oct. 1.

Upon arriving in Jefferson County the following day, Huggins and Joyner were led to the meeting place. Investigators were already at the scene, concealed inside the building and around the property. The ensuing conversation and the entire transaction were video taped. The men were arrested when they took possession of the marijuana.

In their conversations with investigators after the arrest, Joyner and Huggins claimed the car was worth $50,000. They acknowledged their attempt to barter the car and trailer for $20,000 and 20 pounds of marijuana. Huggins, who has a previous conviction for manufacture of marijuana, said he planned to sell drug for $2,500 per pound, according to investigators.

The racecar, trailer and accessories were confiscated by Jefferson County Sheriff Gary Hutchins because they were used in the drug transaction. The pickup truck used to pull the trailer was released because it had little equity value and is owned by the lending institution, said investigators. The confiscated items will be sold.

Huggins and Joyner were released late last week on $15,000 each.

Wadley council candidate owes city and county back taxes

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

A check of compliance by local candidates qualifying for the November election showed that only one candidate in Jefferson County owes back taxes in violation of a new state law.

At issue are delinquent city and county business taxes owed by Wadley City Council candidate Albert Samples. Information obtained through state Open Records Law requests show that Samples owes a total of $2,549.45 in county and city taxes and penalties.

Nearly 79 percent of Georgia voters last year approved the proposed constitutional amendment making defaulters on federal, state or local taxes ineligible to hold office. The amendment was written into the state constitution earlier this year.

Records at the Jefferson County courthouse showed Samples owing $2,104.03 in back business taxes from 1994-2002, including $1,675.54 in delinquencies for junk cars, machinery, equipment and tools in addition to $428.49 in interest and penalties. Wadley records showed business delinquencies for 1999-2002 for $445.42, including $285.18 in taxes, interest and penalties for machinery, equipment and tools, $105.26 for junk cars and $54.36 in 2002 for real estate on his Forbes Street business.

Attempts to contact Samples at his residence were unsuccessful.

Samples is one of three business owners in Wadley who are the subject of lawsuits to recover delinquent city loans made under the former federal Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG) program. He is currently being sued by the City of Wadley for delinquencies stemming from a $25,000 business loan initiated in November 1992.

At the completion of the 10-year loan period he owed more than the principal and to date owes nearly $30,000 in principal and interest. Samples used machinery, equipment and tools in his shop as collateral for the city loan.

Residents express opinions on sludge

Majority of citizens in attendance opposed to sludge; officials say application will meet standards

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Jefferson County's most recent exposure to the possibility of having additional sludge applied on county land met with constrained but obviously adamant opposition Monday night at the courthouse in Louisville.

The public information meeting was conducted by representatives from Columbia County Water and Sewer Department as part of the requirement by Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) before a land application permit can be filed to apply sludge in west central Jefferson County.

Local organizations such as Friends of the Ogeechee (FROG) and Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce were a part of the nearly 70 people present from Jefferson, Burke and Warren counties.

Speakers said they opposed the introduction of sludge as a fertilizer substitute on grass fields on Hudson Grassing Company's Horseshoe Road property.

Representing Columbia County at the meeting were Columbia County Wastewater Manager Richard Hutcheson, Columbia County Director of Water and Sewage Bill Clayton, Stevenson and Palmer Engineering's Tom Wiedmeier and Hudson Grassing Company co-owner Richard Hudson.

Wiedmeier opened the meeting by explaining Columbia County's rationale for acquiring a site to land-apply sludge from its three wastewater treatment plants.

He said Columbia's aim was to find a solution for the 1,200 dry tons of sewage sludge produced annually by its Reed Creek, Crawford Creek and Little River wastewater treatment plants.

He said Hudson had provided the best proposal to dispose of Columbia's sludge in the safest and most cost effective manner.

Wiedmeier told residents the land application of two fields, comprising approximately 270 acres, would conform to all state and federal standards. He opened the meeting for public questions and comments after explaining the permit process.

Residents speak out

Representing FROG, organization President John Lewis cited state law prohibiting the introduction of sludge over a significant aquifer recharge area.

Lewis said U.S. Geological Survey Hydrologic Atlas Map 18 that showed that the proposed permit site sits atop a portion of the Floridan Aquifer that supplies much of south Georgia and northern Florida with drinking water. The Ogeechee River, Georgia's only remaining free-flowing river, along with its tributaries are vital to the aquifer system and numerous animal species, he said.

Other FROG spokespersons advised Columbia County representatives that 1,000 petition signatures opposing sludge had been secured from Jefferson County residents and that more would be forthcoming. Copies of the petitions would be forwarded to EPD, they said.

Louisville resident Gail Mole spoke later on behalf of her children and grandchildren, opposing sludge due to what she described as significant health risks and the desire to keep Jefferson County free from outside pollutants.

"We want to keep our county beautiful," said Mole. "We don't want anybody else's garbage and we don't want anybody else's sludge."

Taking a different posture, Louisville resident Robert Clements said he was tired of Jefferson County being the "rich folks" dumping ground. Clements added that his job in Richmond County had been threatened on a number of occasions by Hudson Grassing co-owner Ronnie Hudson as a result of his long-time opposition to sludge.

Speaking in opposition to the proposed permit was Warren County resident James Newsome. He referenced research stating the sewage sludge contains numerous viruses and pathogens and urged Jefferson County commissioners to take legal action to block the permit.

"It's just one rural county after another," he said. "I'm here to support you because if you loose this, Warren County will be next."

Newsome also appealed to the residents of Columbia County to rethink the permit proposal as well as the health and environmental risks posed by sludge.

"You're not this kind of people," he said of Columbia's citizens. "You don't want this in your yard. Don't bring this into these people's yard."

While they have not taken an official position, several members of the Jefferson County Commission have individually voiced their opposition to the proposed permit.

After the meeting, Hudson said he respected resident's right to voice their opinion even though their views run contrary to his own.

"They've got the constitution on their side and I've got the constitution and the law of the land on mine," he said.

Columbia County will continue with the process by applying to EPD for a permit. Once the permit application is received EPD will process the application and initiate a 30-day public comment period to determine if public opposition exists, according to Rachel Cochran, with EPD's Water Protection Branch in Atlanta. EPD will conduct a public hearing if the agency determines that reasonable opposition to land-application of sludge exists.

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Last modified: October 8, 2003