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November 20, 2003 Issue

Ezra Dixon, 24, of Valdosta led officers on a high-speed chase through two counties before wrecking in Louisville.

High speed motorcycle chase ends in wreck

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

It was not exactly what you might call a leisurely Sunday drive. And unfortunately for the many people on roads in Jefferson and Richmond counties, the high-speed chase that began in Richmond late Sunday morning, continued through Wrens and ended early afternoon in Louisville.

Ezra Dixon, 24, of Valdosta was charged with a total of 17 violations in Jefferson County by both Wrens Police and Georgia State Patrol (GSP) and by Richmond County for violations there. Charges by Wrens Police included reckless driving, fleeing and attempting to elude, speeding, no valid insurance and failure to obey a traffic device.

Charges filed by GSP in Jefferson included failure to maintain lane and no insurance.

Charges filed by Richmond County deputies included reckless driving, speeding, fleeing and attempting to elude, no proof of insurance, improper movement on the roadway, improper manner of riding a motorcycle, crossing median, improper U-turn, no helmet and no eye protection.

The chase began in Richmond County with deputies attempting to subdue Dixon on his 1992 Suzuki GSX motorcycle as he sped down US 1. Deputies followed Dixon into Jefferson County, where they stopped in Wrens to confer with Wrens officers and Jefferson County deputies after temporarily losing him. Within minutes Dixon was spotted hiding behind Tucker Trucking Company on US 1 south of Wrens. Wrens police and Richmond deputies responded but were unable to contain the elusive Dixon as he quickly sped back onto US 1 heading south. Dixon's rate of speed both before entering Wrens and after his departure south toward Louisville was estimated to be in excess of 130 miles per hour.

Dixon proved evasive during portions of his trek through Jefferson County. Richmond deputies abandoned their pursuit after stopping along with Wrens Police at US 1 and Sand Valley Road. Dixon continued in a generally southbound direction, pursued by Jefferson County deputies. The high rate of speed, combined with other motorists on the road, made a close pursuit difficult.

Dixon was reported on SR 296, back on US 1, on Wilcher Road outside Louisville and again on US 1 as he entered town.

Dixon coursed through the Louisville bypass, finally turning right on SR 24 after Louisville Police had stopped traffic at the intersection to avoid a collision between Dixon and unsuspecting motorists. Dixon traveled a short distance to Cloverdale Drive where he turned onto the street.

He spun his motorcycle around and headed back to SR 24 after determining that Cloverdale Drive was a dead end.

Dixon collided a moment later with a pickup truck at the residential intersection and was subsequently taken into custody. Dixon was not injured in the low speed crash.

Dixon was taken into custody by Louisville Police and later turned over to Richmond deputies. He is currently housed at Richmond County jail.

Lawsuit filed against county

Benson takes issue with way county accepted bid for service

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

A lawsuit by Jefferson County resident Ben Benson against the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners was filed Friday over alleged irregularities associated with the approval of a bid to supply electricity to the future Jefferson County Law Enforcement Center.

Benson cited violations of numerous county ordinances as reasons to have the bid cancelled or nullified. Included in the suit was the request that the court, if deemed appropriate, find Chairman Gardner Hobbs guilty of misusing his office and to consider his removal.

"Over the years the chairman has, I believe, violated numerous laws and ordinances," Benson said Monday. "During the last few meetings it is my belief the number of violations are more numerous. This is why on November 14, 2003, one day after the called meeting, I filed another suit against the Board of Commissioners for Jefferson County. It is my hope that the Superior Court Judge will correct these violations."

At issue were the events at commission meetings on Nov. 3 and Nov. 13 that resulted in the electricity bid being awarded to Georgia Power. The only other bid received by the commission was one from Jefferson EMC. Basic to the issues at the meetings were bids by Georgia Power for a rate of 3.2 cents per kilowatt hour of electric service and by Jefferson EMC for a rate of 3.3 cents per kilowatt hour. Numerous other issues including base rates, rate determinations, blended rates with the prison camp by Georgia Power and incentives by Jefferson EMC became convoluted and, by the statements of three commissioners, caused significant confusion in their ability to determine the best course of action in the bid process.

In the suit filed with the Clerk of the Court, Benson cites several actions by the commission that prompted the litigation.

Pertaining to the Nov. 13 called meeting, Benson contended that the vote to award the electricity bid to Georgia Power violated county ordinances and consequently was not legal and binding.

He based his contention on ordinances 2-28 and 2-29, which state that the chairman will cast the tie-breaking vote and that each commissioner shall vote on all motions unless prevented from doing so due to a conflict of interest, which must be explained for the record. Commissioner Sydney Norton made the motion to give the bid to Georgia Power. Commissioner Tommy New seconded the motion. Norton and Chairman Gardner Hobbs voted in favor of the motion although Hobbs, the tie-breaker by established guidelines, voted first. New voted against the motion and Commissioners Isaiah Thomas and Gonice Davis abstained. County ordinances were violated when neither commissioner gave a reason for abstaining. That action nullified the vote and, subsequently, the awarding of the bid, Benson said.

Pertaining to the Nov. 3 work session, Benson asserts unfairness to Jefferson EMC in the way Hobbs reopened the meeting once the executive session had concluded and by the availability of Georgia Power representatives to freely comment on the accuracy of Jefferson Energy's bid. "Georgia Power was not stopped from making these allegations about Jefferson EMC, as was Jefferson EMC when they made their presentation," the lawsuit stated. Benson contends that Georgia Power's statements allowed by the commission violated county ordinance 2-30. That the presentation by Georgia Power was made after executive session had ended and no vote by commissioners was called for to change the meeting to allow for the presentation violates county ordinance 2-32 pertaining to the way changes in agenda items must be handled.

Pertaining to the Nov. 13 called meeting, Benson claims that unfair bid advantage was given to Georgia Power because the bid included providing electric service to the county prison camp adjacent to the future law enforcement center in the form of a blended rate. Benson noted that Commissioner New brought the "error" to Hobbs' attention on several occasions but was ignored. Again, Hobbs' action violates county ordinance 2-30 relating to the chairman being impartial and conducting meetings in an impartial manner, the lawsuit said.

Benson said he hopes the issues brought forward in the filing can be resolved in a timely and fair manner.

"In the current suit is an Order NISI which will compel the attendance of the defendants on Dec. 5, 2003, at 10 a.m. in front of the Jefferson County Superior Court Judge, to show cause, why the court should not rule on my suit, then and there," he said. "Additionally, on the date of filing, I gave to the County Administrator a copy of the suit and a video copy of the called meeting referenced in the suit so that the defense counsel will have enough time to review it. I will be more than happy to work with the defense counsel so that this can resolved soon. Electrical service as I understand is needed soon at the new law enforcement center and I do not want to be the one to hold up any contract signing."

Benson said the apathetic stance taken for so long by so many Jefferson County residents must come to an end. A forthright way to counteract apathy is for citizens to willingly utilize the legal process along with the guarantees built into the state and federal Constitutions.

"Over the last many years the amount of apathy with our local citizens has grown to new highs. People as individuals don't believe their voice counts. This is wrong," said Benson. "One of the most important things we have in our society are the rights built in to our U.S. Constitution and Georgia State Constitution. And standing contrary to the rights included in those documents is apathy. But apathy doesn't work. Beyond its shortsighted viewpoint, we must all stand up for our rights. A great person once said it best, 'If you don't know what your rights are, you don't have any.'"

County 911 director James Cox resigns

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Jefferson County E-911 Director James Cox resigned Monday and was charged with theft after removing gasoline from the county storage tank at the prison camp. Sheriff Gary Hutchins said Cox tendered his resignation after being given the opportunity to resign or be fired.

The incident leading to Cox's resignation occurred on Nov. 9. Cox was observed early that afternoon at the county gas pump at JCCI by prison camp employees. He was observed pumping gas into his personal vehicle and into two gas cans that he filled and placed in the back seat. Hutchins said Cox pumped approximately $18.50 of gas.

The vehicle was filmed during the incident because prison camp employees determined that the car was not a county vehicle, according to a prison camp incident report. A check of the license plate revealed that the car belonged to Cox.

Hutchins said he was informed the following day, after which he contacted the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and requested that the agency conduct the investigation.

Hutchins said Cox resigned without appeal Monday afternoon and has been charged with misdemeanor theft by taking.

"I hate it for him, but he took his private vehicle on county property and pumped the gas," Hutchins said Monday. "This is something he was not supposed to do. His action set things in motion for me to do what I had to do to correct the situation."

Bird with West Nile found in Wadley

Mosquito safety is recommended to protect families

By Parish Howard

A blue jay a Wadley man saw fall out of a tree near his home last week tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV), health officials from the environmental section of Jefferson County Health Department said Monday.

The bird was sent to a state lab which tested and confirmed that the animal did have WNV.

While no human cases have been reported in Jefferson County, the Deparment of Human Resources (DHR) recommends that local residents take necessary precautions needed to protect their families from mosquitoes, a known carrier of the virus.

"Collecting and testing birds is an importnat way to track the presence of diseases like West Nile in a community," a DHR spokesman said Monday. "This bird is a reminder that people need to take some basic precautions to protect themselves from mosquitoes."

The Health Department recommends that mosquito safety be practiced all year. Recomended precautions include wearing long pants, long sleeved shirts and socks when outdoors during morning and evening hours when mosquitoes are most active. However, DHR, says that it is best to avoid outdoor activities during these times. Insect repellent containing DEET (although it should not be used on infants or pregnant women) is also suggested.

The health department also suggests making sure your doors and windows have tight fitting screens in good repair.

"Even though it is common for West Nile cases to peak during the months of August and September, we are still experiencing summer like weather which is conducive for mosquito activity," DHR's spokesman said.

Anyone wishing to report a dead bird or seeking more information is encouraged to contact Jefferson County Environmental Health at (478) 625-3716.

What are you thankful for this year?

By Parish Howard

Tradition, family, feast--Thanksgiving means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but for nearly everyone it means saying thank you to the people in your life who deserve it the most, saying thank you for all the blessings you've received.

Every year The News and Farmer/The Jefferson Reporter asks its readers to share these thanks in the pages of our Thanksgiving edition.

In years past we have had new parents share the stories of their new addition's birth. Some have told the stories of miracle recoveries from life threatening illnesses. Others have shared losses and thanks for simply having known a friend or family member who passed on.

In addition to letters from individuals and government officials, we have already received at least one letter from a soldier overseas and welcome more of these.

The newspaper seldom publishes poetry; however, Thanksgiving is one time of year that we do accept readers' thanks written in verse.

We ask that all letters of thanks be signed and delivered to our Louisville office no later than noon on Friday, Nov. 21 to be included in our Thanksgiving edition.

They may be dropped by our Mulberry street office in Louisville, Jay's Hardware in Wrens, Gibson Hardware. They could also be sent by fax at (478) 625-8816 or by email to editor@thenewsandfarmer.com.

The News and Farmer P.O. Box 487 Louisville, GA 30434
(478) 625-7722 or (706) 547-6629 - (478) 625-8816 fax
E-mail us at: mail@thenewsandfarmer.com

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Last modified: November 19, 2003