Shots fired in altercation with alleged drug dealers
• Routine traffic stop turns into a nearly five-hour manhunt
By Regina Reagan
A routine traffic stop for a speeding violation Friday afternoon in Glascock County resulted in a nearly five-hour man hunt that ended with two arrests.
According to the incident report around 2:51 p.m. Friday Glascock County Chief Deputy John Cooper attempted to stop a speeding pickup, but the driver, 17-year-old Travis B. Holt of Warrenton, sped up and turned onto High Lonesome Road. Without stopping, Holt and his passenger, 22-year-old Gerald Wade Story of Gibson, proceeded to jump out of the moving vehicle and flee the scene.
"I stopped my vehicle and gave chase on foot," Cooper's statement reads. "I identified myself and advised the subjects to stop. The passenger had a silver and black object in his right hand.
"I told the passenger to drop his weapon; the passenger then raised his right hand and pointed the object towards me."
Cooper fired two rounds at the passenger who disappeared into the thick woods that lined the dirt road. Cooper then turned his attention to the driver of the vehicle.
"I noticed the driver of the vehicle was closer to me so I chased the driver on foot until I lost him in the woods," Cooper said in his report.
Cooper had already informed Glascock County Sheriff Dean Couch and dispatch of his pursuit of the vehicle. After the suspects fled Cooper returned to his vehicle where he notified Sheriff Couch and dispatch of the current situation.
A man hunt began that did not end until both Holt and Story were apprehended at approximately 7:30 p.m.
"I had the DNR guys positioned near where they came out of the woods," Sheriff Couch said. "The first guy came out of the edge of the woods on Hobbs Road and they caught him there. Apparently the second suspect heard the officer telling him to get on the ground and about 30 minutes later, he also came out on his own."
Holt was arrested and charged with speeding, driving in violation of permit, reckless driving and fleeing/attempting to elude a police officer.
Officers found suspicious substances in Story's right front pocket, which tested positive for methamphetamine (meth) and marijuana. Story was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of meth with intent to distribute and obstruction of an officer.
An investigation into the owner of the vehicle's involvement may result in a third arrest in the case. No charges have been made against the suspect yet.
The Glascock County Sheriff's Department was assisted in its search by the Georgia State Patrol, Jefferson County Sheriff's Department and Jefferson County K-9 unit, Wrens K-9 unit, a Richmond County K-9 unit, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and DNR K-9 unit, McDuffie County Sheriff's Office, Glascock County Fire and Rescue and the Department of Motor Vehicle Safety (DMV).
"On behalf of the Sheriff's Department, we greatly appreciate all of their assistance," a representative of the Glascock County Sheriff's Department said.
"Our message is that drugs, whether trafficking or selling or distribution, are not going to be tolerated in Glascock County, and we're doing whatever we can to enforce that," Sheriff Couch said. "We will continue our war on drugs."
Over $4 million of SPLOST to be spent on recreation
• Part Two in a three-part series explaining each portion of the proposed SPLOST
By Ben Roberts
(Editor's Note: On June 21, 2005, the citizens of Jefferson County will vote whether or not to extend the current one-cent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. This story is the second of a three-part series detailing how the funds will be dispersed and spent among the three project areas of recreation, economic development and fire and rescue.)
Recreation and leisure services in each of Jefferson County's six municipalities stand to gain the most should voters renew the one-cent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) later this month.
Of the estimated $10.5 million SPLOST is expected to raise over the next five years, just over $4 million will be spent to construct new parks or upgrade existing facilities in Wrens, Louisville, Wadley, Avera, Stapleton and Bartow.
The recreation category of SPLOST will receive the most funds of the three components at $4,033,000, while economic development will get $3,399,746 and fire and rescue will receive $3,067,254.
Originally, the proposals of the five cities and the Jefferson County Recreation Department, headquartered in Louisville, totaled between $7 and $9-million. Jefferson County Administrator Paul Bryan then culled those proposals down to fit within a manageable budget that would divide the SPLOST funds closely among the three projects. Bryan said that although the list of projects saw a significant number of deletions, he was satisfied the projects would serve the citizens of Jefferson County well.
"The projects were developed with the idea of addressing recreation issues throughout the county and addressing them to the specific local needs of the citizens," Bryan said. "Some communities have gone with parks, recreation or recreation and leisure facilities. Each community defined their own projects and submitted them to the county."
Bryan also explained that each municipality would be responsible for the upkeep of the new facilities. The city of Louisville and the Jefferson County Recreation Department currently have inter-governmental agreements in place that would cover their joint projects.
Bryan reiterated the importance of the SPLOST tax in funding projects that might otherwise never come to fruition.
"The funds for these projects are collected from the one-cent sales tax paid by everyone who makes purchases in the county. This is really the only opportunity we have to make these changes in the county and have others pay for it. This funding mechanism removes the tax payer burden away from property owners and places it on a much broader base," he said.
The city of Wrens will receive the largest allocation of funds, $1,690,000 for the construction of a community center with a gymnasium and offices for the city's recreation department. It will also be used to build a picnic shelter and a restroom building.
The county recreation department and the city of Louisville will get $1,435,000 to be used for the construction of a new gymnasium with offices, locker rooms and a concession stand. The funds will also go towards upgrades to ballfields and the construction of new picnic areas.
Wadley will receive $443,000 to remodel their gymnasium, upgrade their baseball field, football field and the city's playground.
The city of Stapleton will get $207,000 to purchase the former First National Bank to be used as a Senior Center and community building, to make playground and park improvements as well as to upgrade the softball fields and tennis courts.
Bartow will get $183,000 for the creation of a recreation area with a playground, basketball court, walking track, pavilion with restrooms and a picnic area.
The city of Avera will get $75,000 to upgrade their playground and city park area.
The SPLOST referendum will only give voters the choice of continuing the special tax for another five years by voting "yes" or ending it in December of this year by voting "no." The projects have already been chosen and approved by the county commission; neither the projects themselves nor their monetary amounts can be changed.
The Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce is hosting three informational meetings to help educate voters on the upcoming SPLOST vote. Each of those meetings will be held from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The first is tonight, June 9, at Pansy's Restaurant in Louisville; the second on June 14 at the old Wadley Middle School, and the final meeting on June 16 at the Wrens Community House.
County voters overwhelmingly approved the existing one-cent SPLOST in September 2001. Collections began in January 2002 and are expected to continue through December of this year, when the total collections will reach their ceiling of $6.5 million dollars. If renewed, this next round of SPLOST would continue uninterrupted for another five years or until the $10.5 million is collected.
County budget increases $1.3 million
• Total proposed county budget tops $11 million
By Ben Roberts
The 2005-2006 fiscal year budget for Jefferson County is complete and will include an increase of $1.3 million over last year's spending.
County administrator Paul Bryan presented his version of the budget to county commissioners at their work session Monday morning. The total figure for that budget is $11,371,965 compared to the 04-05 budget of $9,998,438. Bryan said he expects that figure to change somewhat as numbers are tweaked before the final adoption.
Bryan said the budget was created assuming a growth in the county digest due to property reassessments this year and that he did not expect an increase in the county's millage rate.
Overall, Bryan said, he was pleased with next year's budget.
"I feel real good about it," he said. "It's a realistic budget based on the county's anticipated revenues and expenditures."
"Last year's budget was conservative," said Commissioner Tommy New. "This one is a realistic budget. This is how much we expect to take in and how much we expect to spend."
During Monday's workshop, Bryan explained the increase in the budget is largely due to the number of county employees and the rising cost of their insurance.
Payroll for those employees saw a jump of $247,000, which included $100,000 worth of raises granted last year.
The cost of the county's group insurance for employees has also increased by $173,000. Bryan says this is due to a 15-percent increase in premiums resulting from a high number of claims among employees and their families as well as an increase in the cost of services.
The county's new cell at the landfill includes an increase of $113,000 for engineering fees and $470,000 in actual construction, but this expense had been expected.
Bryan said the budget includes $353,000 from the county's reserves to balance the revenues with expenditures.
Also on the revenue side, Bryan said the county's new landfill user fees and increased tipping fees would generate an additional $466,000. The county is also banking on the continued increase of housing out-of-county inmates and federal inmates at the new jail to boost revenues.
A public hearing will be held next Monday, June 13, at 9 a.m. at the Commissioner's Office for the first reading of the budget. A second hearing will be held on Tuesday, June 21, at 9 a.m. for the final reading and adoption of the budget.
Copies of the budget are available for review at the commissioner's office, all Jefferson County libraries, and at the office of the Probate Judge in the courthouse.
Commission to revisit landfill user fees
• Age cut not included in current plans, but will be discussed at Tuesday's meeting
By Ben Roberts
Jefferson County commissioners will again take up the issue of landfill user fees at their regular meeting next Tuesday, June 14.
Commissioners were reluctant to add the item to the regular meeting's consent agenda and seemed apprehensive about the proposed fee overall at Monday's work session.
County Administrator Paul Bryan told commissioners he had not added an age cutoff of 75, as requested by commissioner Tommy New, because such a cutoff would compromise the idea of passing along the landfill's cost to users and decrease needed revenues.
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"I did not include the age cut-off because everybody creates trash," Bryan said. "Once you start offering exemptions, everyone will want some sort of exemption."
Bryan also explained that the fee would begin with the 2006 tax year, starting on Jan. 1.
New, who made a motion to discuss the issue during the work session, balked at making a motion to add the issue to the meeting's agenda.
"I ain't going to vote for it. I ain't satisfied a bit," he told fellow commissioners.
However, when it appeared the action would fail due to lack of a motion, New did move to add the item to Tuesday's regular agenda as the remaining three commissioners gave no indication they would take any action. Gonice Davis then gave the motion a second and all five commissioners passed it unanimously.
The $100 user fee will be applied to every residence in the unincorporated areas of Jefferson County and the city of Avera, which does not contract with a private company for trash pickup. That fee will appear on property owners tax bill for every livable residence on their property regardless of whether someone is actually residing in the home or not. The same applies for owners of rental property as well.
In other business, commissioners unanimously approved a $50 increase for deposits for county water and sewer. This will increase the total deposit to $100, which Bryan said is necessary since the previous deposit amount failed to cover unpaid water bills when a customer's service was cut off for delinquent payments.
Commissioners also approved Bryan's recommendation that the county hold a public auction to sell the county's surplus equipment.
Bryan will also present commissioners with a new purchasing policy for the county, restricting purchases for county items to a select group to reduce the risk of unauthorized purchases.
The commissioners will also consider appointments to the county board of tax assessors, the library board and the Georgia Forestry Commission at next Tuesday's meeting.