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Top Stories
April 7, 2005 Issue

Fire guts Wrens home
Fire fighters dampen smoldering embers on the porch of a home located at 504 Fleming Street in Wrens early Tuesday morning. According to Fire Chief Larry Cheely his department was dispatched at 12:33 a.m. and when they arrived on the scene three minutes later, the house was already fully engulfed. The house, which he says was totally gutted, is the property of Mary Berry who currently resides at Brentwood Nursing Home in Waynesboro. No one was injured and in addition to Wrens' 15 volunteers, 10 to 15 volunteers from Stapleton and Matthews also responded.

Other Top Stories
• Hospital plans groundbreaking
• Round up expected to put more than 50 in jail
• JCHS student injured

Please click the above links to read the story.

Hospital plans groundbreaking

• Ground will be broken for a new Louisville Physician's Health Clinic next week at front of hospital

By Ben Roberts
Staff Writer

The next phase of renovation for Jefferson Hospital will be a facelift.

On Monday, April 11, construction will begin on a new 10,000-square foot addition to be built at the front of the hospital where the traffic circle and lobby entrance are currently located.


The new addition will house Physicians' Health Group's Rural Health Clinic as well as a new lobby, gift shop, administrative offices and a conference room.

The hospital's entrance will be updated as well with a drive-through canopy to match the entrance to the new ER, which opened in February.

Directly off the new clinic waiting room, the addition will also house the pharmacy assistance program which helps provide free prescription drugs to medically needy patients.

"Upon entering the new building, patients or visitors will have the choice to enter either the hospital proper or the clinic," said Jefferson Hospital Director Rita Culvern.

Culvern says construction on the new wing should be completed by mid-December of this year.

All patient and visitor traffic will be routed to the rear entrance of the hospital via the new ER until the project's completion.

Patients and visitors should park in the ER and south parking lots.

Culvern noted the construction, while inconvenient, was a necessary step in continuing to improve Jefferson Hospital for its users.

"We're sorry for any inconvenience this project may cause any of our patients, but we know the community joins with us in celebrating the growth of our community hospital," she said. "We appreciate the support of each of our citizens and look forward to completing yet another upgrade to our healthcare services."

Round up expected to put more than 50 in jail

• Fourteen arrests have already been made

By Ben Roberts
Staff Writer

Drug trafficking in Jefferson County has taken a hit in the last month as local law enforcement began a roundup they hope will put over 50 known dealers out of work.

Investigator Clark Hiebert, of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO), said deputies, along with officers from the Louisville Police Department and the State Probation Office in Jefferson County, began serving warrants in the Louisville area in mid-March. Of the 20 warrants issued, 14 of those wanted men had been arrested as of Tuesday, April 5.


Hiebert said he's pretty sure the six remaining individuals are aware they're being sought. The JCSO is offering a monetary reward for information leading to the location and arrest of those six men. They are: Eric Lewis, Greg Whitfield Jr., Keon Brown, Twane Hollaway, Joe Lewis Gibbons Jr. and James B. Carr.

While he didn't want to be too specific, Hiebert said he has at least 30 more warrants to serve in the near future in the areas of Wadley, Wrens and Bartow.

According to Hiebert, this operation began about two years ago, with a number of undercover operatives who bought drugs from suspected and known dealers in the county. As he pointed out, a number of them should be out of business for quite some time.

"Some of these individuals had numerous buys. I expect there'll be some probation and parole revocations because of these new arrests, as well as some folks not being able to make bond," said Hiebert. "A number of them will be off the streets for a while and some are going to prison.

"Sheriff (Gary) Hutchins has always pushed for drug enforcement. Drug use is the original reason for a lot of other crimes like robberies and shootings. If you can slow down the drugs, then you slow down those other crimes."

Although Hiebert did not have total figures for the amount of drugs, cash or property seized during the arrests, he said it was important to note that no taxpayer funds are used during the undercover drug buys. He said the entire operation from cash used to make the buys to paying undercover agents comes from monies seized during drug arrests or the sale seized property.

The fourteen individuals arrested so far are listed here with their age and charges: Andre Dixon, 32, three counts of aggravated assault, one count reckless driving, one count interference with government property, one county fleeing or attempting to elude an officer, one count disobedience of a traffic signal, one count obstruction of a law-enforcement officer, one count DUI refusal, one count theft by receiving stolen property and one count possession of drugs with intent to distribute; Christopher Jackson, 26, one count possession of drugs with intent to distribute; Isaac Thompson, 28, one count possession of drugs with intent to distribute; Ben Young Jr., 19, one count possession of drugs with intent to distribute; Lavelton Smith, 28, one count possession of drugs with intent to distribute; Sylvester Woods, 24, one count possession of drugs with intent to distribute; Spencer Burton, 25, one count possession of drugs with intent to distribute; Alejandro Bennett, 30, possession of drugs with intent to distribute; Phillip Cunningham, 20, one count driving on a suspended license; Reco Cooper, 19, one count possession of drugs with intent to distribute; Bruce Baker Jr., 28, one count possession of drugs with intent to distribute; Ronnie Fields, 30, one count possession of drugs with intent to distribute; Cardarro Floyd, 18, one count possession of drugs with intent to distribute; Michael Brown, 37, one county possession of drugs with intent to distribute.

JCHS student injured

• Student ignited fumes in a 55-gallon drum while working on a welding project

By Parish Howard

A Jefferson County High School welding student was injured last Wednesday when the fumes inside a barrel he had been using as a table ignited.

Billy Wayne Wilkerson, a 16-year-old 10th grader, was treated for first and second degree burns at Jefferson Hospital and transported to the burn center at Doctor's Hospital in Augusta where he received further treatment and was released Friday.


At the time of the accident he had been working on a project fabricating fishing rod holders.

According to the student's instructor Tony Arrington, Wilkerson had been using a barrel inside the shop but was asked to take his work outside so that he would not interrupt a speaker in an adjoining classroom.

"I told him to take his work outside and clamp it down on the table out there," Arrington said. "If he'd just done that, none of this ever would have happened."

Not thinking that the pneumatic hose outside would reach the table, Wilkerson found a similar barrel to the one he had been using indoors stashed in a corner outside.

Arrington said that barrel had contained laquer-thinner used for the school's auto body shop and though empty, was sitting outside to "air-out."

"You could smell the fumes," Arrington said. "If he'd even stopped to inspect the barrel…."

The teacher said he looked out the door and saw that Wilkerson was wearing his protective gear and even noticed that he was working on a barrel; however he assumed it was the same one he had been using indoors.

Arrington said he was working at his desk when he heard something that sounded like "a piece of sheet metal falling over."

He went outside and found Wilkerson on the ground.

"I pulled the trigger and boom, Wilkerson said. "After I jumped up, the first thing I did was pull off my jacket, because I didn't know if it was on fire. Then I looked down and saw this loose piece of skin on my hand. I thought it was a piece of my shirt and so I snatched it off. I knew I was burnt, but I didn't know it was this bad. The main thing is I'm glad the other two guys didn't get hurt."

According to the other students, fire watchers who were present during the accident, "he was wearing his welding mask properly and the explosion blew it off."

Arrington said that from what he gathered, there never was an actual flame; most of the damage was done from heat.

"It was basically heat, a flash from the vapor," Arrington said. "Apparently his hand was over the vent hole in the top of the barrel and that's why it was burned the worst. The barrel jumped up, puffed out and knocked him back."

The escaping heat knocked Wilkerson's mask back and singed the hair on the side of his head and eyebrows.

"I'm just glad he put all of his equipment on," Arrington said. "It could have been much worse."

Wilkerson's left hand sustained second degree burns to the thumb-side of his palm and first degree burns on his chest, neck and the side of his face.

Doctors at the burn center covered the wounds with a synthetic skin to protect it from infection.

"They want me to stay inside," Wilkerson said. "They won't let me go back to school for a couple of weeks and they say I can't weld for a month or two."

Wilkerson's mother, Francine Hodge, said the doctors have also recommended he not wear a shirt or cover the wounds in the mean time.

"The doctors say that if everything goes like it should, then there shouldn't be any scarring," Hodge said. "I'm just glad it wasn't any worse than it was."

She went on to thank the principal, teacher and everyone else who helped her son.

"We've been very fortunate," JCHS Principal Molly Howard said. "These students are getting real life experience working with real life tools and equipment. Safety and accident prevention are a big part of the training objectives of the program.

"While this accident was terribly unfortunate, if there can be any good side to something like this, then hopefully other students in the program will take this as a learning lesson. Now they know what can happen, because they've seen it, and maybe that knowledge will help possibly prevent something even worse from happening later on."

The high school's welding, construction and auto body classes have been a part of the school's technical prep courses since JCHS opened its doors 10 years ago.

Wilkerson said the experience has not changed his mind about continuing to work towards a career in auto body.

He has taken two intro to auto service classes, is currently in Collision Repair I this block and hopes to move on to Collision Repair II next block.

"I have my seal in auto service," he said. "I can tell you one thing, I'll be back in there welding one of these days."

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