Wrens receives $8.7 million
• Improvements will include expanding sewer plant, extending lines to new customers and replacing old lines
By Parish Howard
With the USDA's Rural Development office's help, the city of Wrens will soon be making several infrastructure improvements which will help protect the environment, stimulate growth and possibly attract new industry.
Monday the city was presented with a check for $8,755,000, a $6.5 million grant and $2,255,000 loan, to expand the city's water treatment facility, replace deteriorating sewerage lines and extend service to over 100 new customers.
Congressman Max Burns, who serves on the congressional transportation and infrastructure committee, spoke at the presentation.
"Build infrastructure," he said, "and that will grow jobs...This is a good day for Georgia, a good day for Jefferson County and a good day for Wrens."
USDA's Rural Development State Director Stone Workman presented the city of Wrens with the check roughly eight months after he was appointed to study the immediate needs of the community. Improvements to the city's sewage infrastructure were at the top of the list.
"While everyone's looking overseas, this is the money that proves that America still cares about America," Workman said. "If you had to pay for this project using local support only, your citizens would never be able to afford it. You couldn't raise the fees enough to ever be able to do this. You are paying all this money to the Federal Government, and this is proof that Congressman Burns is helping you get some of it back."
Along with the $6,500,000 grant, comes 40-year loan for $2,255,000 on what Burns described as "great terms."
"You've got to have infrastructure in place to create jobs and wealth," Workman said. "With this project in place, you can aggressively go out and try to get industry that may have passed you up in the past."
Mark Ivey of G. Ben Turnipseed Engineers, who has been working with the city on improving its infrastructure since 1996 was also on hand to discuss the improvments this money will be used for.
"This is a milestone for the city," Ivey said. "Over the past few years the city has been improving water lines, roads and some sewer lines. This is the last big piece of the puzzle, and it's a very important piece. This project is critical for this community. Without this funding, it simply could not happen."
The money will be used to expand the city's wastewater treatment plant from operating at or near its maximum daily flow of around 350,000 gallons per day, so that it will be able to handle around a million gallons per day.
It will also go towards replacing some of the city's older sewer lines, which in the rainy seasons, contributes heavily to the city's recent problems with overflow.
"Many sewer lines have been replaced," Ivey told those gathered. "But many more still need to be. A lot of these pipes were put in the ground in the early to mid 1960s. Now they are beginning to break down and allow groundwater into the system."
The grant and loan money will also help the city extend its service outside of the city limits to reach approximately 108 new sewer customers along the Fall Line Freeway south of Wrens and Highway 17 north of the city.
In June of last year the city met with the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to address reports of three major sewage spills at the Wrens treatment plant and raw sewage backing up out of a couple of manholes.
"We were lucky in that we had already been planning to expand our water treatment facility and were able to take a draft of our plans to fix this problem with us to the meeting," said City Administrator Donna Scott Johnson. "So we were able to design a schedule with EPD that we could realistically meet."
And since EPD could see the city was proactively working toward correcting the problems with the city's infrastructure and thereby working to prevent future spills, they did not impose any fines.
The problem, according to OMI Operator Danny Wilkerson, only really surfaces during heavy rains.
Normal, average flow is around 350,000 gallons per day. But once it has rained one to three inches, especially in a 24-hour period, that flow can get as high as 1 million gallons per day gushing through the city's treatment system.
That's why in the last two years, the city has had three major and one minor sewage spill, Wilkerson said.
"It's only during the high rains," Wilkerson explained. "It all comes in so fast our plant goes into hydraulic overload. It's like trying to take two gallons of water and pour it into a one-gallon jug. It just can't hold it."
The most recent spill, this past February, resulted in about 10,000 gallons of partially treated sewage overflowing into Brushy Creek. This was classified as a minor spill. Over the past two years there have been three major spills, at least one of which dumped an estimated 200,000 gallons of partially treated sewage water into the creek.
Since then OMI has gone beyond the require testing period, and continues to this day to test water above and below the spill sites. Right now, Wilkerson said the tests are looking good for the city and the environment.
The city has recently completed video-taping approximately 63,000 feet of sewer pipe to map the cracks and holes in the nearly 45 year-old pipes.
Over the past five or six years the city has received between $3-$4 million in Community Development Block Grants to improve sewer lines in portions of town. The city is currently working to install storm drain facilities, curb and gutters, and finish paving in those areas. The new USDA grant and loan will help the city replace the sewer lines in the areas of town which did not qualify for CDBG monies.
To cover the loan portion of the project, the city's council has decided to raise its water and sewer rates from $8 for residents to $12 plus so much per 1,000 gallons.
"It's always hard when rates go up," Johnson said, "but it would have been much, much worse without all this grant money."
Plan must be finished by June 30
• County would not be eligible for any new state or federal grants until plan is approved
By Ben Nelms
A small but persistent group of city and county employees and residents from around Jefferson County are nearing completion of a plan designed to help guide Jefferson County through the first quarter of the 21st century.
The goals and objectives of the joint comprehensive plan, Jefferson County 2025: Planning a Better Tomorrow, were established May 20. The effort came after soliciting input at public meeting in spring 2003 and subsequent meetings of the committee members.
A public meeting is scheduled for June 17 to solicit further input before the plan's submission to the state June 30.
Economic development goals
The vision statement, developed by Jefferson County High School students in May 2003 and adopted by the committee states: In 2025, we want a caring, safe, fun, clean environment for our kids with community involvement and awareness. We believe that our community in 2025 should utilize current resources to become a self-sufficient, family-oriented community who strives for better education, job opportunities, housing facilities, civil services, medical facilities and recreational opportunities. We want to maintain the small town country feel of Jefferson County by keeping our downtowns intact while enhancing and attracting tourism.
The areas for which goals and objectives were established included Economic Development, Housing, Natural and Historic Resources, Community Facilities, Land Use and Intergovernmental Coordination.
Committee members acknowledged that some of the goals and objectives would necessarily overlap.
Goals were based on items obtained from a public hearing held in 2003 and from committee members in subsequent meetings in the summer and fall last year.
In the area of countywide economic development, the committee set four goals and subsequent objectives to be accomplished. These included reducing unemployment, attracting new businesses, retaining and expanding existing businesses and promoting overall improvement of the transportation system, including the expansion of the Governor's Road Improvement Program (GRIP) highway system.
Five objectives were established for the goal of reducing unemployment. These included improving the county's educational standing, reducing the dropout rate, bringing outside industry into the county, attracting retirees and enhancing adult literacy.
Numerous objectives were identified for the goal of attracting new business to the county. These included increasing the county's water/sewer/natural gas infrastructure and capacity, securing a more highly trained workforce, expanding the airport in Wrens, securing and promoting the availability of training opportunities countywide and promoting the county's tier status to acquire increased funding opportunities.
Objectives identified for the goal of retaining and expanding existing businesses included enhancing the interaction of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce with new businesses, developing approaches to show appreciation to existing businesses, devising methods to welcome new businesses and residents to the community, encouraging large and small businesses to locate within the county and developing a business retention team of interested individuals.
Objectives for the goal of promoting the overall improvement of the county's transportation system included expanding the airport in Wrens, exploring additional facility upgrades for the recently expanded airport in Louisville and promoting the expansion of the U.S. 1/SR 17 Corridor and the completion of the Fall Line Freeway.
The 20-year plan committee identified three goals for housing in Jefferson County. These included reducing substandard housing, increasing home ownership and encouraging the development of subdivisions.
Natural and historic resources
The objectives identified for reducing substandard housing included taking advantage of state and federal programs designed to help homeowners upgrade their homes, adopting and enforcing ordinances designed to eliminate dilapidated structures and exploring urban redevelopment options. Objectives for increasing home ownership included holding information workshops for first-time homebuyers and educating the public about the existence of financial assistance programs. Objectives identified for encouraging the development of subdivisions included encouraging water tap and sewer tap loans and developing the infrastructure needed for housing growth and development countywide, specifically including expansion of existing water and sewer systems.
Three goals were devised to address the county's natural and historic resources included protection of streams, rivers and creeks, protection of groundwater quality and protection of the area's historic resources.
The objectives for protecting streams, rivers and creeks included adopting the necessary ordinances to ensure that bodies of water are protected, the prohibition of landfills near or adjacent to rivers and creeks, identifying nonpoint source polluters and the adoption and enforcement of state regulations pertaining to protection of waters of the United States.
Objectives identified for protection of groundwater quality included adopting and enforcing ordinances geared to protecting groundwater and following state guidelines for watershed assessment. Objectives relating to protecting historic resources included participating in the national register where applicable, applying for available funding designated for historic structures and places and promoting community awareness of the importance of historic preservation.
The goals developed for the community facilities component included improving fire protection and equipment, enhancing parks and passive recreation, expansion and improvement of water systems, expanding programs for youth and identifying and addressing child abuse issues.
The objectives for improving fire protection and equipment included having commissioners put a one-percent sales tax referendum on the ballot prior to the ending of the current one-percent and continuing the cooperation between the eight fire departments across the county. The objective for enhancing parks and passive recreation was identified as continuing to apply for appropriate funding in that area.
The committee identified two overall objectives for improving and expanding the county's water systems. These included developing a countywide water authority and acquiring any and all available state or federal funds for expansion and improvement.
Objectives identified for expanding programs for youth included developing an increased number of recreational opportunities and developing youth leadership and mentoring programs. The committee developed two objectives designed to identify and address child abuse. These included securing funding for a domestic violence and child abuse center and affiliated programs and, in general, developing ways to protect those who cannot protect themselves.
An additional goal, pertaining to public education, will be taken up prior to or at the time of the June 17 public meeting. The committee, nonetheless, addressed the presence of Sandersville Technical College in Jefferson County and its benefit to the community. The committee agreed that the school should continue to apply for funding to increase its positive contribution and presence in the county.
Goals for the land use component of the 20-year plan included encouraging positive development, encouraging conservation and addressing and cleaning up Brownfield areas located at former industrial sites.
Objectives for encouraging positive development included reviewing zoning ordinances and ensuring they are up to date and meet existing needs, providing training for city or county personnel so that inappropriate development requests will not be approved and reviewing the 20-year comprehensive plan annually.
Objectives for encouraging conservation included green space development and protecting groundwater, rivers and streams. The objective for addressing and cleaning up Brownfield areas was accessing any available state or federal funding.
Goals established for intergovernmental coordination included reviewing consolidation of parks and recreation departments throughout the county, reviewing consolidation of police department and the sheriff's office, reviewing E911 efforts, coordinating land use decisions between the county, cities, school board and the Development Authority of Jefferson County.
Objectives for the first three goals were the same. The objective for each was to identify the current resources and study the methods of service delivery being utilized. No objective was established for the coordination of land use decisions between the various governmental entities. The committee did establish that holding semi-annual meeting between those entities would be beneficial to ensure that each was conducting its affairs effectively.
The need to address the county's Solid Waste Plan was also addressed at the meeting. RDC Director Andy Crosson told the committee that, while included for submission along with the completed Comprehensive Plan, the Solid Waste Plan is a separate entity that will be addressed after the scheduled June 3 public hearing on the landfill. A separate public meeting on solid waste will be held subsequent to the June 17 public meeting on the comprehensive plan.
Public input needed
A public meeting to discuss aspects of the plan will be held June 17 at 6 p.m. at the courthouse in Louisville. The comprehensive plan committee will meet subsequent to the public meeting to finalize the document for submission to Georgia Dept. of Community Affairs (DCA) for approval. DCA has 60 days to review the plan. The approved plan is a state requirement and is vital to the county's ability to receive state or federal grants.
The deadline for submission of the plan is June 30. Jefferson and several other counties served by CSRA RDC may be unable to meet that deadline due to personnel changes in the RDC office. Crosson suggested and gained approval from the group to have the cities and county submit a joint letter to DCA requesting a 75-90 day extension. Draw down activities on pending grants can still occur during the extension, Crosson said.
Green to serve 25 years for home invasion
• Cedric Lewis Beals, the other defendant in the case, is facing murder charges in Augusta
By Ben Nelms
Twenty year-old Augusta man Timothy Gene Greene, Jr. was sentenced to 25 years without parole in Jefferson County Superior Court May 21 after agreeing to change his plea to guilty relating to his involvement in the April 7, 2003, home invasion in Wrens Quarters and the April 30, 2003, murder of Augusta Shell Pump N’ Shop clerk Margaret King.
Greene showed no emotion as Judge Walter C. McMillan, Jr. passed sentence for the multiple counts that stemmed from the Jefferson and Richmond crimes.
Thirty year-old Augusta resident Cedric Lewis Beals is also charged in the crimes and Beals faces a murder charge in King’s death.
Changing his original plea of not guilty, Greene plead to charges in the Wrens Quarters home invasion that included armed robbery, aggravated assault, kidnapping, burglary, car theft, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
Greene also plead guilty to Richmond County charges, including armed robbery and numerous charges relating to firearms possession. He received a sentence of 25 years without parole, with charges running concurrently.
Green agreed to testify against Beals in his murder trial in lieu of being charged with murder. He also agreed to testify against Beals in other potential trials relating to alleged carjacking attempts and shootings in the Atlanta area.
Two of King’s adult children addressed Greene and the court, both unable to hold back their tears.
They spoke of the loss of their mother, its impact on their families and the senseless crime and act of greed that claimed her life. During their statements Greene sat expressionless, head and eyes down.
During the Wrens Quarters home invasion, John Harris sustained several gunshot wounds to the torso and thigh inflicted by Greene, but suffered no permanent damage.
Glennis Dukes miraculously sustained only minor injury after a handgun was put against her right temple and allegedly fired by Beals.
Green told Jefferson County investigators after his May 7, 2003 arrest that the home occurred because he and Beals wanted the vehicle parked at the residence.
They had seen the car in the yard as they drove through the neighborhood, Green told investigators in statements after his arrest. He said they did not know who lived in the house but that they did want the car.
Green admitted breaking into the house and later shooting Harris multiple times with a small caliber rifle after the residents were held at gunpoint during the time the house and car were searched.
Green also stated that it was Beals who shot Dukes in the head, investigators said. Beals was arrested in Atlanta May 13, 2003.
“Small town or not, this kind of thing can happen anywhere,” Dukes said after the incident.