Milam's mission to Moldova
• Robbie Milam left his heart with the orphans he met in Moldova
By Faye Ellison
Robbie Milam, organist for the Sons of Jubal and music minister at the Louisville United Methodist Church, went to Moldova, a country in the former Soviet Union to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Milam along with the Sons of Jubal chorus traveled to Moldova April 28 through May 12 for 13 days to make a difference in a country stricken with those living in poverty.
"This was a life changing experience," said Milam. "This showed how much I am blessed and how my blessings helped others."
Milam said before the trip, he had his doubts about going.
"I was extremely nervous because of the world's situation with terrorists and I was going to a third world country," said Milam. "It was very nerve-racking, but I found my peace in my heart and my mind knowing this is what God wanted me to do, I found God's peace.
"There is always a little bit of fear of going into the unknown. Once I was there, I felt absolutely safe."
Using funds taken from offerings during the Sons of Jubal concerts, Milam and others helped purchase three lots to build churches. Everything taken during the concerts goes directly to the missions.
While in Moldova the Sons of Jubal separated into three different groups with 30 in each. They then dispersed into three different regions of Moldova.
In each region, the church property was purchased. There they held a dedication for the newly purchased lots. At Milam's lot, they prayed over the newly bought ground.
Also along for the ride were medical teams to provide basic medical needs, such as antibiotics and vitamins.
"We were able to spread the gospel by handing out Romanian and Russian Bibles," said Milam. "We handed out reading glasses, soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes."
Something that really got to Milam was the fact that some children did not even know about brushing their teeth.
"One of the biggest impacts, was sitting there and teaching some children how to brush their teeth," Milam said. "They had never seen or heard about it."
While there Milam and others got to go to school and speak with teachers through a Romanian interpreter. They talked about travesties spanning over half a century.
"We heard stories of some of the devastating events they have lived through," said Milam, "the Cold War, communism, everything over the last 50 to 60 years."
While in Moldova, Milam along with others in his group was able to go to an orphanage to talk to the children about God.
They assembled about 400-500 children from three-year-olds to 16-years-olds. Some of the children at the orphanage are true orphans and some are temporary orphans. A temporary orphan is a child given to the custody of the state for a year or two until their parents get back on their feet financially. Milam said that becoming financially stable there is very hard to do.
While there they were able to talk to the children one on one, have group conversations and play games.
With an interpreter, Milam went back to the orphanage later to do a little construction work, such as running pipes from wells to the buildings so they would have running water in the bathrooms.
"We were able to arrange for brooms, mops and ammonia be given to the orphanage so the absolute filthiest, foulest smelling bathrooms in the world could be cleaned," said Milam.
The highlight of the trip for Milam was when he and the Sons of Jubal performed at the famed St. Nicholas Cathedral in Prague.
Milam told of how the people in Moldova worked hard for their earnings. He would pass by fields and see 20-30 hand plowing fields of grapes, which will aid their major wine production. Milam said they had very few machines and the machine used to plow with was a hoe.
According to Milam, they raise a lot of their own foods and vegetables.
"Moldova's capitol is a metropolitan city much like cities here in America. They have hotels, running water, televisions, but if you do not live in that area then you do not have any of those luxuries," Milam said.
There were many people open to hearing the gospel, according to Milam, and they did make decisions for Christ, but of course there were skeptics as well.
"I felt extremely full and extremely proud because of the ministry's accomplishments and the hundreds of people who accepted Christ as their Savior," Milam said. "People here in United States, even here in Louisville really don't know how good they have got it. Though some maybe on government systems, such as welfare, and think they don't have a lot, they have much more than those people will ever have."
Milam has plans to see Moldova in the future and to return to see the children.
"I left my heart over there." Milam said, "One day in the nearest future I hope to go back and get it."
Milam and the Sons of Jubal plan to perform at the Jefferson County High School Auditorium on Thursday, Sept. 23 at 7:15 p.m.
Dixon calls for Chalker's resignation
• Commission Chairman Thomas Chalker says he acted in good faith and has done nothing illegal
By Ben Nelms
Far from what might be called anything but routine, the Sept. 7 meeting of the Glascock County Commission neared its conclusion when Commissioner Jay Dixon accused Chairman Thomas Chalker of illegally benefiting from a county-funded work project and called for him to resign or face an investigation.
Dixon's statements came at the end of the commission meeting. He began by referencing a "disturbing" conversation with Peebles House architect Ben Carter, in which Carter said that he had previously told Chalker that, being a commissioner, he was not supposed to benefit from a county project. Dixon continued, saying that to receive compensation would amount to an abuse of the commission's oath to uphold the integrity of the office and to protect the county's well being. He asked Chalker if he and his wife had been compensated for work done at the Peebles House. When Chalker said they had, Dixon maintained that the chairman had acted in a manner that demonstrated a conflict of interest and questioned a possible emerging business relationship between Chalker and Peebles House project manager Marc Teresi.
"That's a direct violation. That's where you get a conflict of interest," Dixon said. "You cannot benefit from a county project. We've had this discussion before. This is a pretty serious thing. How many other expenditures out of the Peebles House project have there been that you've profited on?"
Chalker responded, saying that he had not received compensation for any work performed other than that in question, work for which he had contracted. Though he did not elaborate at the time, Chalker confirmed later that he and his wife and another couple had performed work that included scrubbing the interior walls, stripping floors, cleaning air ducts, scraping windows and mopping and waxing the floors. He said $1,000 had previously been allotted for that portion of the project and that he and his wife had received a total of $500 minus the cost of supplies and the Finches had received the other $500 minus supplies. Chalker paid $40 for supplies and Finch paid $20, Chalker said.
At the meeting, Dixon continued, saying that contracting for the work was not the issue.
"It doesn't matter if you contracted it out with somebody. You benefited from it and that's illegal," Dixon said. "This is behavior that is not acceptable as a commissioner."
Dixon and Chalker continued the exchange of comments over the next several minutes. Chalker said he had not attempted to hide anything and maintained that he had done nothing wrong in accepting compensation for his work at the Peebles House. He added that neither Dixon nor Commissioner Johnny Crutchfield had spent any significant time assisting with the project. Responding to the assertion that his action was illegal, Chalker asked Dixon what he was suggesting.
"The thing of it is, I look at it from the standpoint that as a commissioner I've got two options," Dixon said. "It can be turned over for somebody to look into or you can look into the option of resigning."
Responding to Chalker's question of whether he had spoken with county attorney Sammy Fowler, Dixon acknowledged that he had, adding that Fowler's comment was that Chalker was "going up a very swift creek without a paddle."
With those comments that portion of the meeting ended, with no definitive plan announced.
Contacted after the meeting, Chalker said he had been told by his personal attorney and Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) attorney Jim Grubiak that he had acted in good faith and had done nothing illegal.
Attempts to obtain comments from Fowler and Grubiak were unsuccessful.
Chalker was defeated in the recent primary election and will be leaving office Dec. 31.
Millage rate increases inevitable
• Glascock will see .87 mill increase, but budget decreasing by around $13,000
By Ben Nelms
The reclassification of property owned by Thiele Kaolin led to the announcement by the Glascock County Commission and Board of Education that millage rate increases are inevitable.
Commissioners said Aug. 26 that the reclassification and required increases in some budget categories will result in a proposed .87 mill increase despite an overall reduction in the county budget.
Many of the increases were beyond of the control of commissioners, said Chairman Thomas Chalker. A sampling of those increases included state-mandated salary increases for elected officials, rising insurance costs for county employees, insurance increases to cover the Peebles House and the new Senior Center, escalating fuel costs and increased inmate housing costs. Budget decreases over last year included items such as the positions of two public works employees that were eliminated at the end of 2003, cuts in landfill monitoring, the payoff of a county computer system and the lack of elections in 2005.
In all, the county budget decreased from $984,841 in 2004 to $971,515 beginning Jan. 1. The reason for the millage increase, from 15.49 mills in 2004 to 16.36 beginning Jan. 1 rests largely on the recent reclassification of property owned by Theile Kaolin. Dixon said a new law in 2000 changed the way companies such as Thiele assess their property. The result of the assessment means that Thiele will generate approximately $97,000 less in taxes than in prior years, Dixon said. The loss amounts to approximately $9 million in reduced value to Thiele property in Glascock County, he said. One mill in 2004 was worth $63,583. After the reclassification one mill will be worth $59,408 in 2005.
Dixon said the company has agreed not to go back to 2000 but will assess according to the law from this point forward. The impact to the school district will be similar, he said.
"Being small, this is hard to swallow, but we know other counties are facing the same thing," said Dixon. "As for the budget, we looked and tried to cut everything we could. We've got the county about as thin as we can, especially with personnel."
The Glascock County Board of Education also announced at a Sept. 2 meeting its intention to increase the millage rate to 15.21, an increase of one mill.
Board members cited the state education cuts of $413,547 since FY 2003 and a $57,910 decrease in local tax revenues this year as reasons for the one mill increase. Board members took the position that the one mill increase will only offset the decrease in local tax revenue.
"At this point there is no allowance for the losses in state funding," said Superintendent Jim Holton. "We're still providing the same services and providing the same staffing as we were in 2003."
As with the county commission, the reclassification of Thiele property had a significant impact on the school board, said Holton. The net loss to the school board amounts to $57,910 this year, he said. The way the budget was compiled diminished what would have been a revenue decrease of $93,000, he said.
Public hearings for the millage increases will be scheduled.