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March 4, 2004 Issue


Richmond County K-9 Task Force bomb dog and handler get set to begin a sweep of Jefferson County High School Tuesday morning after a 14 year-old student called in a bomb threat. The student faces charges in the incident.

Student arrested for making bomb threat

A 14-year-old girl faces charges in incident

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

A bomb threat called in at Jefferson County High School Tuesday morning resulted in the arrest later in the day of a 14 year-old female who is facing charges of making a false public alarm relating to a bomb threat.

The juvenile called at approximately 7:15 a.m. from a relative's place of business, stating that a bomb was in the school, according to Principal Molly Howard.

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School authorities kept students outside at the perimeter of school property while a preliminary search was conducted by sheriff's investigators. Jefferson County deputies, Georgia State Patrol troopers, firefighters from Louisville and Hillcrest fire departments and EMT's from Rural Metro Ambulance were on standby at the scene.

Students were allowed into the school beginning at 9:30 a.m. after a Richmond County K-9 Task Force bomb dog completed a sweep of the school.

Once alerted to the threat, investigators began piecing together information that led to the discovery of the caller.

The juvenile was picked up later and brought to school where she and two other students were questioned about the incident by investigators and school officials.

The investigation resulted in an admission by the 14 year-old and the possibility of school tribunal charges being brought against the other two students, said Howard.

She said anyone guilty should be prosecuted to the fullest extent allowable by both the school system and the criminal justice system.

"People need to realize that with the information available to today there is no way a person can make such a threat without being found out," said Howard. "As bad as you hate what happened, it is encouraging to see the response of all the agencies involved as well as the student body in bringing this situation to a resolution. Everybody worked together as a team."





New county jail could house federal inmates

This could help cover additional staffing costs, sheriff says

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Representatives from the U.S. Marshals Service met with Jefferson County commissioners at the March 1 work session, apprising them of some of the details involved with housing federal inmates at the new law enforcement center once completed this summer. The move is designed to offset and likely supercede the expense of hiring the additional jailers required to conform with current inmate supervision guidelines.

U.S. Marshals James Roberts and Mike Scripture told commissioners that though the details had not been finalized, the U.S. Dept. of Justice customarily pays $30-45 per day for each federal prisoner housed. Roberts said that once additional information is obtained the price offered to Jefferson County can be established. Roberts said the price per day for each inmate should be toward the high end of the range given that it is a new facility.

Scripture said federal prisoners are housed in county jails on a temporary basis until after their trials and sentencing is complete. Prisoners housed would be those awaiting trial for offenses such as drugs charges, counterfeiting, various white-collar crimes or offenses stemming from the use of a firearm during the commission of a crime.

Scripture told commissioners the arrangement to house federal prisoners would be that of an Intergovernmental Agreement with U.S. Justice. The agreement is non-binding and can be cancelled by the sheriff at any time. Responding to questions from commissioners, Scripture said the Marshals Service has no expectations concerning the number of prisoners the county will be willing to house. It is completely at the discretion of the sheriff, he said.

"We come in and work with a sheriff," said Scripture. "We do not come in to run jails."

Other available options under the agreement include prisoner transportation and hospital guard service. The federal government pays the cost of two guards and 37.5 cents per mile for transport to the federal judicial hubs in Augusta, Savannah, Dublin or Statesboro. The jail is responsible for providing the vehicle. Under the hospital guard service, the government pays to have a guard stationed at the hospital when a prisoner is receiving treatment. The federal government assumes full liability for all medical care required for its prisoners that exceeds the normal dispensing of items such as aspirin.

Conversations between county officials and the Marshals Service began months ago, Sheriff Gary Hutchins said after the meeting. He initiated the discussions as a way to neutralize the additional staffing costs at the new facility. The current jail cannot meet several of the mandatory compliance issues relating to inmates, including those pertaining to required staffing. Hutchins said the cost of required staffing at the new jail is anticipated to be fully offset with the federal dollars generated from the Marshal Service. The potential exists for the dollars generated to more than pay the additional staffing costs, Hutchins said.





On the straight path

Alton Snider honored for helping addicts recover their lives


By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

The work of more than four decades helping to uplift those with addictions to alcohol and drugs would for many people comprise the work of a lifetime. For Louisville resident Alton Snider the path that turned from crooked to straight endures.

Snider was honored Feb. 14 at the Jefferson County campus of Bridges of Hope Residential Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation facility. The W. Alton Snider building was dedicated in honor of his work in helping secure the site on Mennonite Church Road and his ongoing support of the men who pass through those doors. And though inclement weather kept the ceremony inside, nothing could dampen the spirits of the occasion or the fellowship of friends, old and new.

The occasion Feb. 14 came one day before the 41st anniversary of 83 year-old Snider's birthday with Alcoholics Anonymous, his son Bill told the 125 people who gathered in the dining hall.

"He really pushed for Bridges to be here and when he sets his mind on something it's going to happen," he said smiling.

Acknowledgements of Snider's contributions to Bridges came from all quarters of the Bridges board of directors. Vice Chairman Aden Griffis said Snider was a backbone to the establishment and the continued success of Bridges in Jefferson County. There have been a lot of people through Bridges and Alton has been a part of their lives, he said.

That view was reinforced by Bridges CEO Randy Sellers. He gave examples of how the contributions made by Snider and so many others around Jefferson County have made all the difference in the work of the local Bridges of Hope.

"Alton has a lot of wisdom and I believe he's got the biggest heart I've ever seen," Sellers said. "He's had a hand in getting nearly everything built here. And today, whether it's a bale of hay or another $20 bill, it's all from the heart."

The facilities now evident at Bridges include the Gardner Hobbs dormitory that sleeps the facility's 47 residents with accommodation for 52, the W. Alton Snider building with its dining hall/meeting room and kitchen, the barn, maintenance shop and laundry building. These impressive facilities compliment the beautifully landscaped grounds, the center's three gardens and livestock areas.

Asked to speak on his knowledge of Snider's contributions to Bridges and to those in the community who received his support long before the campus was built, Sheriff Gary Hutchins said Snider was the catalyst that brought Bridges to Jefferson County.

"Alton has done so much. He was the man who was really involved in the place being here," said Hutchins. "He just kept pushing and never gave up. This dedication is a way to show a little appreciation for what he's done."

As for Alton Snider, his eyes filled with tears more than once as he spoke about his life, his struggle with alcohol and of the crooked path that became straight through the power of love. He spoke of his regard for Dr. Jim Pilcher who had introduced both he and Jefferson County to AA, and of Mary Francis Pilcher who had used her wits to have Snider and his friend Bill Wilson attend that first AA meeting one night in the kitchen of the Methodist Church in Louisville more than four decades ago.

"There were seven of us at the meeting that night," said Snider. "I learned some things there I'd never heard before at home or in church or any place else. And then years later, George Sirmans sent me six men to help clear the land here. So again there were seven of us."

Snider chuckled as he recalled board member Sirmans first visit to the 120-acre county-owned tract that would become the new home of Bridges of Hope. Decked out in a nice suit, Sirmans had his pant legs shredded in the undergrowth before their walk through the property was complete. Soon afterwards the arrangement was made for Bridges to obtain a long-term lease of the property and in November 1998 ground was broken as several hundred local residents and visitors gathered at what is now the area in front of the residential part of the property.

Toward the end of the ceremony Snider had tears in his eyes as he thanked the many people who had contributed to making Bridges of Hope a reality in Jefferson County, including the county commissioners, the Mennonite community and the large number of people throughout the county, and beyond.

Yet the ultimate tribute was paid to two very special people in his life.

"I'm so thankful because my mother and my wife were my best supporters," he said with glistening, tear-filled eyes. "Without them I wouldn't be here. I am thankful to have helped you here, but it's really you who have helped me."

Snider used a beautiful metaphor to illustrate how his life had been bound with insufficient purpose, direction unknown. He described his life as a crooked road that had been made straight, through the support of AA, caring family and friends and someone else, someone most precious. The crooked road made straight is also the road that leads into the Bridges of Hope residence. The name of the road in Jackie Snider Trail.

Bridges of Hope Charitable Trust operates three other facilities in Georgia, including men's campuses in Homerville and Chauncey and a women's campus in Morven. A non-profit trust, Bridges accepts no solicited local, state or federal funding, relying instead on private contributions.


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