Meth lab raided in Avera
By Ben Nelms
A domestic disturbance Aug. 18 in Avera led to the discovery of a methamphetamine lab in a mobile home on Chalker Street.
Howard Batchelor, 33, of Avera was charged with possession of suspected methamphetamine and manufacture of methamphetamine, according to a spokesman for the Jefferson county Sheriff's Office. Other charges in the case are pending, investigators said.
Responding to a domestic call, officers entered the home at the female resident's request to assist her with collecting her belongings. While assisting the woman, officers noticed a dresser in one of the bedrooms pulled away from the wall, revealing a section of paneling attached to the wall with screws. Inches away in a walk-in closet officers noticed materials used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. Officers asked the woman if she objected to their looking around in the residence. The woman gave her consent.
In their search of the residence, including behind panels in the walls, officers found three-five grams of suspected methamphetamine and an estimated $20,000-25,000 in the suspected drug currently in the process of manufacture, according to Augusta Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Pat Clayton. The search also netted quantities of nearly all the ingredients needed to manufacture the drug. These included acetone, lye, muratic acid, more than 500 antihistamine tablets containing ephedrine, thousands of matches containing red phosphorus, processed red phosphorus, lantern fluid, plastic gloves, flasks and two large glass jars containing suspected meth oil, investigators said. The only ingredient missing to complete the manufacture was Freon, they said.
Some of the items were found behind the paneling while others were in plain view in the residence. DEA was called to the scene, as was an Atlanta Hazardous Materials team.
Investigators arrested Batchelor at his mother's house, also in Avera. After being read his rights, Batchelor acknowledged purchasing a number of the items at different stores but denied that he had placed them at his residence and denied manufacturing the drug. Prints were taken at the scene. The results of the prints are pending, investigators said.
Future of sludge in county debated
• County's solid waste management plan deals primarily with landfills and biosolid/sludge land applications
By Ben Nelms
Members of the Jefferson County Solid Waste Management Plan committee and others interested in the developing plan attended a public hearing Aug. 23 at the courthouse in Louisville. Though intended to be the final meeting before the plan is submitted to the state for review, the committee will meet again to finalize items for inclusion.
As has been the case at previous committee meetings, the presentation Aug. 23 centered on the prohibition of future landfills in Jefferson County and the regulation of biosolids in the county. Conducted by CSRA (RDC) Regional Development Center’s Kim Gray, the meeting was divided into two sections. The first was an overview of the plan itself, including a description of the waste disposal stream analysis, waste reduction, waste collection and waste disposal components, education and public involvement, land limitation and an implementation strategy. Goals and objectives for each of the key elements of the plan were presented. Those components addressed watersheds, aquifer recharge areas, water service areas and future growth areas of the county with emphasis on future landfills and the use of biosolids for land application in lieu of fertilizer.
The last half of the meeting was devoted largely to statements from participants on both sides of the issue relating to the application of biosolids on farmland in the county and the proposed monitoring and testing included in the Solid Waste Management Plan. That portion of the plan says that no bulk quantities of biosolids may be placed in environmentally sensitive areas of Jefferson County and that each load entering the county must be tested at the expense of the waste owner or land applicator prior to entering the county. The provisions were included as additions to the assessment components of the sections addressing wetlands, aquifer recharge areas, flood prone areas and watersheds.
The exchange between individuals on both sides of the disagreement turned on issues such as the question of the most up-to-date legal interpretation of the definition of “biosolids” and whether the material is or is not technically defined as solid waste.
Kay Heilig quoted a number of state and federal regulations and laws pertaining to the definition, monitoring, testing of biosolids. He took the position that all current sites and any future sites permitted for biosolids in Jefferson County should fall under the monitoring and testing requirement for each load prior to being brought into the county. Augusta’s Stevenson & Palmer engineer Tom Wiedmeier and Augusta attorney Darren Meadows, both representing Hudson Grassing Company, took an opposing view. They believed that state and federal laws read differently, that biosolids is not defined by Georgia law as solid waste and that the biosolids provisions in the solid waste management plan should be omitted. Both sides agreed that the ultimate resolution of the question would rest either judicially or at the state level.
The crux of the impasse rested on the Hudson’s position that they are conducting business by operating within established guidelines and in compliance with all applicable rules and laws.
Heilig agreed with that position, but called for increased accountability relating to waste being imported into the county as a means of helping to ensure the future physical well being of county residents. Both sides agreed that generators and applicators of all types of waste should conform to applicable state and federal laws.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Gray recommended that the portions of the Solid Waste Management Plan pertaining to biosolids be excluded from the plan.
The sentiment of the majority of participants appeared to run contrary to her recommendation, as provisions relating to biosolids had been presented for inclusion in the group’s prior meetings and had the overall support of group representatives from municipal and county governments and citizens.
Though intended to be the final meeting before submission to Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) for approval, group members after the meeting told Gray they were not satisfied with some aspects of the plan because it did not include some of the items they had submitted or changes they suggested. Gray said the plan could be submitted to DCA by the Aug. 31 deadline and that additional meetings could be held. The results of those meetings could be submitted to the state as amendments to the Solid Waste Management Plan.
The Solid Waste Management Plan and the county’s 20-Year Comprehensive Plan have an Aug. 31 submission deadline.
Approved plans are required for cities and the county to be eligible for state and federal grants.
Wrens to pass ordinance to control stray and dangerous dogs
• The second reading of the revised animal control ordinance will be on Tuesday, Sept. 7 at 7 p.m.
By Faye Ellison
Wrens has gone one step farther in trying to protect the citizens in the community. The City Council had a first reading at their August monthly meeting of a new Animal Control Ordinance.
The old, two-page ordinance the city had was very short, but did include a leash law, which required pets to be on a leash when off of private property and out and about in Wrens. This does not apply to domestic animals such as cats and dogs that are being driven in a car that is driven or parked on the streets of Wrens.
“It was short and didn’t go into as much detail,” said Wrens City Administrator Donna Scott Johnson. “This will help control the problem.”
There has also been a problem with an increased number of stray animals throughout the city. The new 15-page ordinance addresses that problem and the problem of animals that are owned who get on the loose.
“This will help to get the strays off of the streets,” said Hannah. “Also there have been a lot of complaints about dogs in yards being on a chain that is long enough to reach the side walk or go into the road, now the dog has to be in a pen, this is for the safety of the dog and the safety of the citizens.”
Now all dogs must be confined within a fenced area, those chains are no longer useful according to the ordinance. Domestic animals also have to be on a leash that is no longer than four times the body length of the animal.
The old city ordinance covered seven items, now there are 33 items, all defined clearly for the city’s use. Some of the new items on the ordinance include prohibitions for domestic animals, removal of animal wastes, guard dogs, identification and inoculation, fees, disposition of impounded animals, confinement of biting animals and more.
Walter Hannah, the Building and Grounds director, will help to enforce the new laws under the ordinance. Johnson said that Hannah is certified to be the City’s Animal Control Officer. The Wrens Police Department can also help in enforcing the new rules.
Wrens Police Chief David Hannah has been struggling with the problem caused by stray or dangerous animals in the Wrens City limits. There have also been problems with the noises and odors coming from the animals.
“The ordinance we had wasn’t enough to deal with the problems at hand,” said Chief Hannah. “We had to call judges and the city attorney to see how we could change the ordinance to make it work.”
Chief Hannah said that after the ordinance takes effect, “the police officers will be out in full force, enforcing it.”
One Russell Street resident said that the odor and noise coming from a lot off of Brassell Street was so bad that she finally had to contact the Wrens Police Department.
“The odor is horrible and the noise is awful,” she said. “When you can’t sleep in your own house with the air conditioner on, now that’s rough. I don’t see how in the world the neighbors can stand it.”
There are new laws in the ordinance that will help the Russell Street resident with her problem, which pertain to the noise and smell.
There are several stricter laws in the detailed ordinance, including the fees and penalties of claiming animals that have gone on the loose. All cats and dogs have to have a current rabies inoculation and have to wear a “securely attached collar about its neck displaying such current rabies tag and a proper identification tag” at all times. The tag must list the owner’s name and address.
Any person reclaiming a spayed or neutered dog or any other animal has to pay a $25 impoundment fee for the first impoundment, $30 for the second impoundment and $35 for impoundment thereafter. In addition to the impoundment fee, there will be a $10 per day charge for boarding plus the cost of inoculations and/or veterinary services, according to the ordinance. Dogs that are unneutered or unspayed will have to pay $50 for the first impoundment, $75 for the second and $100 for each additional impoundment. There will also be a $10 per day boarding plus the cost of inoculations and/or veterinary services.
The animals will be kept at a vet in Thomson.
A new law in the ordinance also is coming down on dangerous and potentially dangerous dogs, which must be registered with the city for a cost of $100 per year and shall be renewed on an annual basis.
Hannah said that this is for the young men that are walking around with bulldogs that are pulling them instead of them leading the dog.
When a dog is classified by the Animal Control Officer as dangerous or potentially dangerous, the owner will receive a notice in the mail, in which the owner can request a hearing on the classification within 15 days from the date of the notice, the hearing will then be within 30 days of the request.
Hannah said as for now, he will have to label the dogs as he sees them while out in Wrens, but if he does get a complaint, he will check to see if the dog should be classified as dangerous or potentially dangerous.
There are stricter requirements for dangerous or potentially dangerous dog owners to abide by, which is covered in Section 9-4-28 of the ordinance.
Not only does the dog have to be registered with the city and stay inside a fence as other dogs do, it also has to have a sign posted on the fence as a warning. The dog also has to have a minimum of $15,000 insurance policy or surety bond. They have to be muzzled at all times when outside of the fenced area and must be on a leash that is not more than four times the length of the dog, which applies to all domestic animals.
Any dangerous or potentially dangerous dog that is confiscated for noncompliance with the ordinance, will cost the owner $50 for the first time, $100 the second time and $200 for the third or other confiscations. If the owner does not comply with the provisions set by the ordinance within 20, the dog will be “destroyed in an expeditious and humane manner, under no circumstances shall such dog be placed for adoption,” according to the ordinance.
Chief Hannah said he has never seen a case where a child was hurt by an animal and he hopes he never does.
“There are some people training their dogs to fight that I have heard of,” said Chief Hannah. “Some say they are just pets. A few citizens said that they were training them to hunt wild hogs, but it is in a bad area to do that. There are children around. They need to be in the country to train for hunting.”
Hannah said after the second reading of the ordinance at the Wrens City Council monthly meeting, if approved, a vet will come to Wrens to have a day where people can bring in their animals to get all of their shots and possibly have a chip put in the animal, which can be scanned by Hannah to tell to whom the animal belongs to. Hannah said this is easier and safer because the animal can lose a collar, but not the chip.
Hannah said if anyone has any problems in Wrens, call Animal Control at City Hall.
Mathis and Bopp square off at greviance hearing
By Ben Nelms
The elimination of the position held by a part-time deputy two weeks ago by Glascock County Sheriff Bryan Bopp resulted in commissioners agreeing to conduct a personnel grievance hearing Aug. 30 at the request of Deputy Steve Mathis, who said he had been wrongfully terminated. Though they stated at the outset that they could not dictate the actions of elected officers, commissioners nonetheless conducted the session, hearing remarks from Mathis and Bopp. Rather than adjourning the meeting after their comments, Commissioner Thomas Chalker unexplainably opened the floor to comments from several of the audience of nearly 90 people.
An opinion from county attorney Sammy Fowler read to those in attendance by Chalker at the beginning of the grievance hearing indicated that the commission controls the funds for the operation of the offices of elected officials but “can not dictate what an elected official does.” Chalker continued his prepared statement, stating that Mathis was an employee of the Glascock County Sheriff’s Office and that his employment was the business of the sheriff.
“The sheriff can fire or hire his employees at his discretion. The Board of Commissioners has no authority over the sheriff or any other elected official,” Chalker said.
Chalker added that the commission had received a lot of calls about the action taken by the sheriff but said there is “really nothing we can do about it.” He cited the funds transferred from the county’s contingency fund totaling $13,350, leaving $29,650 currently in the fund for unexpected and unbudgeted expenses.
Regardless the commission’s inability to render a decision on the case, Chalker nonetheless, began the grievance hearing, calling first on Deputy Steve Mathis.
Mathis stated that he believed he had been wrongfully terminated from his part-time position as deputy sheriff. He said Bopp contacted him by phone Aug. 20, telling him that his position was being cut as of 5:30 p.m. that day. He said Bopp was giving him two-weeks severance pay. Mathis questioned commissioners on how his position could be cut when the position had been fully funded for the entire year ending Dec. 31, asking if it were not the board’s decision to eliminate job positions.
Commissioners commented on various aspects of budget matters relating to the sheriff’s office both now and in the past, but in the end stated that the decision rested with the sheriff. Commissioner Jay Dixon added that, had Bopp asked, the board would have been willing to work with him by attempting to accommodate his budgetary shortfall through the county’s contingency fund.
“Constitutional officers can operate and run their offices as they see fit,” Dixon said. “Near the end of the year, if they feel their budget may not come in as proposed they have the right to make adjustments to keep within that budget.”
Mathis also questioned the timing involved in the elimination of his position, coming the day following commissioner’s approval of the sheriff’s 2005 budget. Also cut the same day was the full-time deputy’s position, reduced to halftime.
“I feel the taxpayers are getting shorted,” Mathis explained. “There will not be enough manpower to cover the county. People will not be getting the protection they are paying for.”
Chalker called next on Bopp, who said the elimination of Mathis’ part-time position and the halving of Deputy Wade Jackson’s fulltime position was due to concerns for his budget. Bopp said his proposed budget for 2004 came in at $190,365, yet in negotiations with commissioners the budget was set at approximately $160,000. Figures received from the county in July showed his expenditures at $101,910. Combined with projected salaries for sheriff’s personnel from Aug. 1 through Dec. 31 added another $43,994 for a total of $145,904, he said. A recent bill for $1,900 to replace a transmission in one of the patrol cars and the July bill for $3,800 to house inmates in McDuffie County jail brought the total to $151,644, Bopp said.
Bopp said he felt compelled to make reductions in staffing given that an additional $4,797 in GCIC computer upgrades later this year would eat into the $8,684 left in his budget to cover operating expenses until Dec. 31. Those expenses include items such as upcoming inmate bills, phone bills and any unforeseen expenses. The personnel cuts, said Bopp, were the only way he could see to make it through the remainder of the year, show accountability to the taxpayers and avoid dipping into a diminishing contingency fund.
“Allegations have been made that I made a rash decision in the (position) cuts,” said Bopp. “But it was a business decision. It was my responsibility to be accountable for my department and my budget. I did what I thought was right to get things in hand.”
Bopp said he had contacted the sheriff of a neighboring county to assist Mathis in securing work. He added that he was making up the difference in county law enforcement coverage. Near the end of the meeting Dixon referenced a statement allegedly made by Bopp, stating that the sheriff said he had a deputy trying to stab him in the back.
“It’s mighty unusual that you would make that statement one day and the next day make the cut,” said Dixon.
Bopp had claimed earlier that his decision to make the cuts was weeks in the making and that he had been waiting on expenditure totals from the county and the adoption of his 2005 budget before making the cuts. The budget was approved by commissioners Aug. 19. Chalker also commented after Bopp’s statements saying, “We’re not trying to tell you what to do. We don’t have that authority.”
Though commissioners acknowledged their inability to render a decision in the case and though two of the three individuals that could have testified in the hearing had already spoken, Chalker inexplicably opened the grievance hearing to public comment without explanation.
A handful of people attending made their comments, some in favor of Mathis’ contention that he had been wrongfully terminated while others offered their support to Bopp for correctly managing his budget.