• Carver dance team receives awards in state competition
By Ben Nelms
The kids at Carver Magnet/Theme Elementary School just keep on winning. Those winning ways established their prominence last year in the high stress world of dance competition. Representing the school, the boys dance team won big at the regional competition in Atlanta in March 2003 in their first competition and at the national finals in Daytona Beach three months later.
And now they have done it again, but with a something new added. This year Carver is represented by two dance teams. And both teams, the 11 and 12 year-old boys Small Group Tap team and the nine and 10 year-old boys and girls Line Tap team, returned home with gold and more. The high scores this time came at the International Dance Challenge regional competition April 3 and 4 in Salisbury, North Carolina.
No one could be more proud of the continued accomplishments of the Carver kids than dance instructor Melonie Jones. Describing the efforts of her students and their perseverance, she said it is a privilege to have the opportunity to be a part of the dance component at Carver and to witness the wealth of natural talent so evident at the school.
Entered in the Junior Session at the competition, the Carver boy's Small Group Tap team won a gold medal for their performance. And they were second runner-up for the highest score in their group out of all the Small Group teams, including Tap, Jazz, Ballet, Acrobatic, Point, Lyrical, and other dance disciplines.
New to competition from Carver this year is the 22-member Line Tap team. They also won gold and
were second runner for high score in their category. The group was called back for the Entertainment Challenge based on their performance. When that competition ended, they were awarded the Entertainment Challenge Champion trophy. If that were not enough for first year performers, the Line Tap team won the award for Best Presentation based on choreography, music selection, costuming and overall performance.
But those were not the only recognitions on the day. Fifth grader Damon Gilmore was chosen out of all the dancers on all the teams and honored with the Gregory Hines Memorial Award. This accomplishment was nothing less than astounding, said Jones, her emotions obvious, her eyes dancing.
"He danced with every muscle in his body. He captivated the audience," Jones said proudly. "The judges said he was phenomenal."
Reliving the moment, as if frozen in time, Jones said the audience response to Gilmore's performance was pronounced, something audiences in dance competitions rarely express. They stood to their feet in recognition of the skill and exuberance they had just witnessed, Jones explained. The audience was not alone in their appreciation of what had transpired, she continued.
"The judges talked about how Damon flowed with the music," she said, her emotion unmistakable. "It was very moving. I cried when I saw the audience stand to their feet."
At their first competition March 2003 in Atlanta the Carver team won the Platinum Champion Award, the Large Group Challenge Champion Award, the Entertainment Challenge and were 1st runners up to the Ultimate Challenge Champion Award. At the National Final in Daytona Beach in June 2003 the Carver team won the National Platinum Award and were semifinalists for the Entertainment Challenge.
With their accomplishments at the latest competition, the Diamond of south Jefferson County has once again put their community on the national map in the world of dance. Their efforts will be repeated in June when the Carver Magnet/Theme Elementary School Small Group Tap team and Line Tap team will represent Wadley and Jefferson County at the International Entertainment Challenge National Finals in Daytona Beach on June 24-27. Those who would like to make a tax-deductible contribution to help defray some of the expenses can contact Principal Shawn Johnson at (478) 252-5762.
Future of landfill still up for debate
• Public hearing scheduled for June 3 at courthouse
By Ben Nelms
Jefferson County commissioners continued a discussion May 3 designed to determine the fate of the county's Subtitle D Municipal Solid Waste Landfill on Mennonite Church Road. What began April 19 with a total of 18 options falling within four basic categories was narrowed to four options at the May work session. Those options along with several revenue options will be presented for public input at a June 3 public hearing. Commissioners said they will make no vote June 3 but did intend to solicit residents' opinions on the various options.
"We want to listen to what the public has to say, but when all is said and done the buck stops here," said Chairman Gardner Hobbs.
The four options discussed included the general features of those presented by consulting engineer Robin Chasman at the April meeting. One option included the continued operation of the solid waste landfill and the adjacent inert landfill for materials such as limbs and leaves. A second option called for permanent closure of the solid waste landfill, continuing the operation of the inert landfill and construction of a transfer station from which household trash would be transported out of the county. A third option called for permanent closure of the solid waste facility, maintaining the inert landfill and providing residential trash pick-up. The fourth option provides a delayed closure of the solid waste landfill for an as yet undetermined amount of time while maintaining the inert landfill and providing residential trash pick-up.
Concerns that must be addressed if the landfill remains open are the needed capital investments required to operate the facility. Those include the purchase of a packer, estimated at $250,000, two garbage trucks and a leachate truck. Those purchases would be required only if commissioners decide on the first option.
An obvious facet of the future of trash collection and disposal involves the long overdue solution to the growing gap between funding the facility and the amount of revenue it generates.
The only viable solution commissioners, consultants, auditors and the public have identified over the past few years is the introduction of some type of user-based fee, especially in respect to residents who live outside of the county's incorporated areas.
Those residents fund the landfill operation through property taxes while city residents pay garbage pick-up fees in addition to funding the operation through property taxes. Several potential options will be explored at the public hearing to make the funding of whatever option that will eventually be selected more equitable to all citizens, said county administrator Paul Bryan.
During the discussion and referencing the future of the facility, Hobbs said he wanted the commission to honor the 1996 resolutions with the Mennonite community and county residents prohibiting the entry of outside trash into the county. He added that he did not want the facility to become a regional landfill.
"I don't think we can continue to do (landfill) business as we're doing it now." Hobbs said. "In the long run it's going to be very, very costly."
Hobbs' comment mirrored that of Chasman at the April meeting. Chasman told commissioners the county could not operate the landfill in a cost effective manner given the amount of trash generated compared to the cost associated with running it. The landfill is more a liability than an asset, he said.
The public hearing will be held June 3 at 7 p.m. at the courthouse in Louisville. Commissioners agreed to have a court recorder present at the meeting to document the proceedings.
Pate withholding payments until others catch up
• Since questioning city expenditures, Wadley UDAG loan holder is putting his payments into a personal savings account
By Ben Nelms
Russell Pate is a man who decided to take matters into his own hands. His questioning of the accountability of some of the City of Wadley's revenues and expenditures led him to route the payments for his city-sponsored small business loan into a savings account.
Pate said he has made his Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG) monthly payments in a timely manner since he acquired the business loan in January 1999. But in March, he opened a savings account at his local bank where he now deposits his monthly UDAG payment rather than sending it to the city. Pate cited two reasons for his action.
"Some of the others aren't making their payments to the city UDAG account. That money is supposed to be used to make low interest loans, for small business start-ups and expansions," he said. "If people don't pay back their loans it means the city can't loan the money back to other business people."
Pate said his decision to set up the savings account was bolstered by his discovery in early January that some of the money contributed by citizens and businesses for the city's 2003 Christmas parade had been used by the Christmas parade committee to pay for meals for committee members at restaurants in Wadley and Louisville.
A check of city records showed that a total of $1,711 was generated from the Christmas parade with $975 in expenditures. The committee spent $117 at a Wadley restaurant for its customary post-parade dinner for the grand marshal, speakers and committee members, said city clerk Sallie Adams. The committee had an additional meal at a Louisville restaurant at a cost of $252. Christmas committee members would often attend the city's annual dinner for Wadley's employees but refrained in 2003 after complaints about the practice by some city employees, Adams said. As an alternative, Christmas committee members then decided to have a separate, second dinner given the available funds.
The history of delinquency with Wadley's UDAG loans spans years. Three of the loan recipients owe more than $50,000 in delinquencies and two of those, council member Albert Samples and council member Izell Mack, are currently in default though Mack did make one loan payment in 2004. Pate decided to route the money into a savings account rather than making his payments to the city. He cited Wadley's lack of accountability on matters regarding city revenues and expenditures as the basis of his decision.
"This is nothing personal having to do with anyone else who has a city loan," said Pate. "It's the principle of the thing because we have to be responsible for our actions and our debts. This includes those of us who took out the loans and the city itself in the way it conducts our business.
"I don't care if the others pay or not, I just want to make sure that the money I pay back will benefit another business," Pate added. "The loan from the city helped me, but with the way things are handled I can't be assured that the money will be used for what it was intended for."
Pate also cited a concern about the way receipts for his payments had been handled. In addition to having no coupon book as is customary with many loans, the hand written receipts do not indicate they are from the City of Wadley, they are not numbered and some do not indicate that the money was targeted for the city's UDAG account, he said.
Pate questioned the city's audit trail accounting for its revenues and expenditures and whether the city council is serious about collecting the monies owed by delinquent UDAG recipients. If nothing changes in terms of the city's accountability, Pate said he will continue to deposit his payment into the savings accounts and will make other provisions for his loan money five years from now at the end of his payment period.
"If it doesn't go back to the city, I'll donate it as a scholarship for a child in Wadley or to the dance program at Carver Elementary," Pate said.
Federal UDAG grant awards were established through competitions from 1978-1989 to assist communities in stimulating economic development, employment and housing opportunities in distressed communities. The funds were considered city money after the first loan process had been completed. Wadley's UDAG account funds belong the city, with the stated intention of the past three administrations being to use the funds as a way to continue to help new businesses get started and to help existing businesses to expand.