Relayers celebrate 10 years
By Ben Nelms
The rains came again. The event was delayed for a few weeks. But no amount of inclement weather could stifle the spirit of dignity, enthusiasm and celebration that pervaded the hearts and voices of a group of people who care so much about their family and friends.
A light rain began late Friday afternoon, even before the Survivor's Walk could signal the beginning of Jefferson County's 2004 Relay for Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Part way through their initial lap the bottom fell out. A persistent rain continued throughout much of the night and the following morning, resulting in the cancellation of most of the Relay events. Relay co-chairs Renae Borum, Doug O'Steen and Karen Walden said Saturday morning the 2004 Relay will be continued at the Wrens location in the next few weeks. The Relay's theme, Celebration: A Decade of Hope, A Decade of Love, will prevail.
This year marked the 10th Relay for Life fundraiser held in Jefferson County, an impressive run of fundraising efforts not easily accomplished around America. In their first nine years Jefferson County teams raised more than $875,000, placing the Jefferson among the top counties in the nation for per capita fundraising during most of those years. That consistency, said O'Steen, is the mark of a community of people whose efforts cannot be dashed be the mere onslaught of rain, lightning, high winds, or cancer. Walden and Borum agreed, saying that the yearlong fundraising efforts that culminate in the Relay event are ones that occur because people care. Given that perspective, there is little wonder why the Relay for Life held each spring attracts more people than any single community event in Jefferson County. So many people come because of the love they have for family and friends whose lives have been touched by cancer.
Though drastically curtailed by persistent rains, three of this year's relay events were pulled off with barely a hitch. Though many were soaked by the time the Survivors' Lap ended, they all stayed on the walking track, they all finished the lap. And along the way, the walking track in Wrens was lined with people applauding the ones who passed before them. The rain was out matched by the solidarity they displayed.
"Some people handed them umbrellas as they walked, but none left the track, umbrellas or not. They just kept on going," Walden said.
The Survivor's Lap was followed by one where all the teams took to the track, banners flying, as they made their stride along the Path of Hope. This lap is also a mainstay of the annual Relay event, another example of visual symbolism geared to drive home the point that the fight against cancer is a group concern, a community concern.
Continued rain and a deluged sound system prevented nearly all of the numerous events planned for Friday night and Saturday. An exception was the Relay Princess contest, which required no sound system and was impervious to rain, but which required massive special effects assistance to the men from five Relay teams in order to turn them into some of the most frightening "women" seen in Jefferson County in recent years. With that apparently in mind, new princess Chardonnay Muscatel thanked her make-up, etiquette and anatomical transformation teams for making her "into more of a woman than she'd ever been before."
Though the crowds had all but gone by midnight, occasional laughs, shouts and a host of unusual and almost indiscernible noises could be heard on and around the walking track. Strange creatures emerged, one somewhat gnome-like with a cute, fang-filled little mouth that couldn't close; another, somewhat elf-like with two heads, two torsos and one pair of legs. They could have been the products of a dream, if anyone had been asleep. And had sleep found anyone that night it would have been short-lived once their ears were graced with the angelic, helium-inspired sounds of two energetic little pixies singing "Bad Boys" then twirling impishly out of sight. That is the way it is late nights at the Relay, nearly indescribable and always irreplaceable.
Borum, Walden and O'Steen met Saturday morning and announced that a continuation of the 2004 Relay for Life will be held in the next few weeks. Tentative plans call for a final event at the walking track, similar to a giant family picnic under the stars, with the awards ceremony, the Luminary Service, Survivor's Game, skits, music and other entertainment. Teams will continue to sell raffle tickets and will hold all money until then. No matter how is shakes out it will be, as usual, an event to behold.
Qualifying closes: 24 running for 10 seats
• Five candidates qualify for Glascock sheriff's position
By Ben Nelms
Qualifying ended Friday in Jefferson and Glascock counties with candidates vying for races affecting county government, law enforcement, a school board and coroner. The primary election will be held July 20 followed by the general election Nov. 2.
Jefferson County races where opponents will face off include the county commission chairman, county commissioners from Districts 2 and 4, sheriff and coroner. Glascock County races with opposition include two county commission seats, two school board seats and sheriff.
Jefferson County Commission Chairman Gardner Hobbs will face challenger William Rabun for the chairman's seat. Both are running on the Democratic ticket. Democratic incumbent District 4 Commissioner Tommy New will face Republican challenger John Lewis in the Nov. 2 general election while Democrat Johnny Davis will face Republican Ben Benson for the District 2 commission seat on Nov. 2. Incumbent District 2 Commissioner Isaiah Thomas did not qualify for the race.
In the sheriff's race in Jefferson County, incumbent Sheriff Gary Hutchins will face challenger Alan Wasden in the July 20 primary election. Incumbent coroner Johnny Nelson will face challenger Edward James, also in the July 20 primary.
Unopposed races in Jefferson County include incumbents holding the school board seats for Districts 2 and 4, magistrate judge, clerk of superior court, tax commissioner, solicitor, probate judge and state court judge.
In Glascock County all positions run on a countywide basis. Qualifying for Mill District commission seat to be decided Nov. 2 was Democratic incumbent Johnny Crutchfield, Sr. and Republican challenger D'Ann Simpson.
The Mitchell/Edgehill commission race will pit incumbent Chairman Thomas Chalker against challenger John "Ant" Griswell in the July 20 primary. The election of the commission chairman will be decided in the November general election.
Two of Glascock's non-partisan school board seats are up for election in July.
Gibson district incumbent John Raley will face challenger Michael May while the at-large seat will see a three-way race between Tracy Bopp, Diana Rabun Reese and James Moore. Incumbent Jim Pate did not qualify for the race.
The contest with the largest number of candidates participating is the race for sheriff. Democratic incumbent Sheriff Bryan Bopp is opposed in the July primary by Dean Couch, Cary Deal and Larry Blair. The winner will face Republican James Stephens, Jr. in the November general election.
Unopposed races in Glascock County include incumbents in the Gibson district commission seat, the Mill District school board seat, magistrate judge, probate judge, tax commissioner, coroner, clerk of superior court and county treasurer
EPD issues consent order over Glit spill
• Company given 30 days to develop a contingency plan, 90 days to provide environmental training and to submit a study
By Ben Nelms
The February release of an estimated 10,000 gallons of untreated wastewater from the Glit/Microtron plant in Wrens resulted in an April 19 Consent Order issued by Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD). The Order requires at least $15,000 in compensation and other remediation actions.
The incident occurred Feb. 28 and was discovered the following day by a property owner who noticed a cloudy blue-green liquid in Brushy Branch east of Wrens.
Questioning whether the substance would be injurious to his cattle that drink from the creek, he contacted Wrens city employees Wayne Davis and Walter Hannah for clarification. Their inspection of the creek led to contact with Jefferson County Marshal Alan Wasden and Augusta EPD's Program Manager Jeff Darley, who conducted the investigation.
Local and state officials were contacted in accordance with regulatory statues and enforcement requirements that designate creeks and rivers as public domain, or "waters of the United States."
Darley's investigation at the site, at locations in the vicinity of Brushy Branch and in conversations with Wrens city officials found that Glit had violated several state laws pertaining to the improper release of industrial wastewater pollutants.
In documents supplied to EPD by Glit and based on its internal investigation, the company maintained that the spill was due to "operator error." EPD countered the assertion, alleging that Glit "negligently spilled the wastewater into the waters of the state and made no attempt to remediate the spill for two days."
The Consent Order gave Glit the option of paying $15,000 to the state as a negotiated consideration of the claim, spending a minimum of $15,000 to purchase equipment to enhance the wastewater treatment facility at the plant or providing equipment to the City of Wrens for its wastewater treatment facility, according to documents obtained under the Georgia Open Records Law. Wrens officials had not been contacted by Glit at press time.
Also contained in the Consent Order, Glit was given 30 days from April 19 to develop a contingency plan for wastewater released from its plant, 90 days to provide environmental training for management level employees and 90 days to submit a study conducted by a third-party engineer determining the effectiveness of the existing wastewater treatment facility.
Conditions of the Order also call for a penalty of $150 per day if Glit fails to complete the required plans, reports and schedules contained in it. The Consent Order also stipulated that EPD can take further enforcement action if Glit does not fully satisfy the conditions of the Order.
In his March 5 report, also obtained under the state Open Records Law, Darley said his investigation noted the presence of tanks containing blue-green liquid, soil stained with the same liquid that had flowed across the ground to the rear of the property, into a cut ditch and eventually into a wet weather creek on the east side of the Glit property and on into Brushy Branch upstream from where the spill was first observed.
Darley's report concluded that approximately 10,000 gallons of industrial wastewater was released from the property and was done so in a willful manner.