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Top Stories
February 2, 2006 Issue

Jerry Watts' car rests in the water after fatal accident that took his life last week.

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Sandersville man killed in single car accident

Other Top Stories
Issues with first responders unresolved
Wrens to designate historic district

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Sandersville man killed in single car accident

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

A Sandersville man died after a severe wreck last week.

Jerry Watts, 38, was traveling to Louisville on Highway 24, the road between Sandersville and Louisville, Friday, Jan. 27, in a blue Buick, when he was involved in a deadly wreck.


According to Rural Metro Jefferson County EMS Director Mike Bennett, Watts went off the right shoulder of the road. He then likely overcorrected when he came back into the roadway, crossing the left side and going off a steep embankment.

The accident occurred near the driveway of Ebenezer CME Church.

Bennett also said that the vehicle struck the edge of the bank as it went off. The force ejected Watts out of the right side of the vehicle. The car was submerged in water when officers arrived.

The call came into the 911 center at 2:05 p.m. from a passerby, the first EMS unit arrived on the scene at 2:22 p.m.

According to Georgia State Patrolman Corporal Ben Forehand of the Swainsboro office, the wreck was called in by Department of Transportation worker Chuck Stevens, who was returning home from a meeting in Tennille.

"The DOT worker said he saw the marks in the roadway and knew they were new marks, that they were fresh," Forehand said. "When he pulled over to the shoulder and when he looked down, he saw the car and the body laying beside the car."

Forehand also said after investigating the accident he is not sure why Watts lost control of the vehicle.

Bennett said that when EMS arrived, they assessed the victim and found that he had multiple system trauma. They received do not resuscitate orders and the Jefferson County Coroner's Office was then notified.

EMS transported Watts to Jefferson Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. However, Bennett said that Watts died at the scene of the accident.

It is procedure to take the victim to the hospital so that the family can view him or her and then transport the person back to his or her home county.

While officers were still at the scene, Watts's mother arrived and asked officers if the victim was her son, noting that he drove a blue Buick. Officers asked her to pull over to the side of the road where she saw it was her son.

Bennett said she told officials that she talked to him around 9 a.m. that Friday after he dropped her off for dialysis in Louisville. She said he routinely took her to her treatments and normally he would wait on her to finish, but this day he returned to Sandersville.

She said he was supposed to pick her up at 12:30 p.m., but never arrived. She then contacted her daughter and on the way home, when she saw the emergency vehicles, she stopped to ask if it involved her son.

Forehand added that she was in shock.

"She said she knew something had to be wrong," he said, noting that she said he has never been more than a few minutes late to pick her up, "but she said she never expected this."

The trooper placed the time of the wreck around 12:15 p.m. He said that no one saw the accident.

Issues with first responders unresolved

Liability and protocols are biggest issues to be addressed by cities and county

By Ben Roberts
Staff Writer

Representatives from Jefferson County and its six cities met last week in hopes of clarifying the current question of who is qualified to be a first responder and what those individuals are capable of doing compared to firefighters.

Jefferson County Administrator Paul Bryan explained to officials from Wrens, Avera, Stapleton, Louisville, Wadley and Bartow that he had instructed the county's Emergency-911 call center to no longer dispatch "first responders" because he questioned the liability in doing so since there is currently no licensed first responder agency in Jefferson County.


"I felt like that was wrong," he told those in attendance.

Bryan went on to say that while there were a number of county and city firefighters who are trained and certified as first responders, neither Jefferson County nor any of its cities have a recognized first responder agency.

The creation of such an agency - which has not been ruled out by officials - would be an expensive undertaking according to Bryan and would fall under strict state regulations.

Bryan said he is concerned that the lack of such an agency and protocols to determine individual's actions at the scene could put cities and the county in a dangerous legal position in the event of accident if they continue to dispatch "volunteer" first responders.

Louisville City Administrator Don Rhodes agreed.

"I don't think (the Louisville Fire Department) has a problem with being called, but we need protocols," he said. "Who is covering these individuals when they go out into the county? I would want to make sure there is some insurance coverage for me performing these services. It needs to be spelled out."

"We've got some dedicated volunteers who want to help people," Rhodes added. "I think things are headed in the right direction."

"The biggest thing we want is a chain of command," said Bartow Fire Chief and city councilman, Billy Neal.

Neal added that he believed the best thing to do at this time is to do away with first-responder dispatches and simply call fire and rescue to the scene.

"The people of Jefferson County deserve more than sitting around in limbo," Neal said.

Wrens City Administrator Donna Scott Johnson said she is concerned about sending members of the fire department to a scene possibly unnecessarily and lacking the appropriate personnel to answer another call.

Bryan reassured those in attendance at Wednesday's meeting that E-911 would continue to dispatch Fire and Rescue units for car accidents and medical emergencies like cardiac arrests or instances requiring general first aid, as they have done in the past. Bryan said such instances have always fallen within the capabilities of fire personnel and they would continue to be called for such incidents.

While no decisions were made at Wednesday's meeting, officials did agree to meet again soon to decide on specific protocols to guide city and county units.

Wrens to designate historic district

Public Hearing Feb. 6 offers residents a chance to voice their concerns about the designation and what it will require

By Parish Howard

Owners of around 200 Wrens residential and commercial properties recently received letters notifying them that their land is part of the city's Historic Preservation Commission's (HPC) proposed locally designated Historic District I.

The letter also notifies them of a Feb. 6, 3 p.m. public hearing where representatives from the HPC will give a public presentation of what this will mean, answer questions regarding the designation and take comments on it.


"We are not a large town and our historical buildings are disappearing," said Judy Bostic, chair of the Wrens HPC. "But we still have a lot of things that can be salvaged. We want to preserve what buildings we have left so that they aren't lost to progress."

Over the last couple of years the city has recognized the importance of historic preservation, created the HPC and is now taking the next step in proposing to designate a portion of town as Historic District I.

If passed, no material change in the appearance of any structure, site, or object of art within the designated Wrens Historic District I shall be permitted without the application for a Certificate of Appropriateness from the city's HPC.

Mayor Dollye Ward said that she has heard worries about Wrens' designation in comparison to similar ones in Waynesboro and Summerville's Hill community in Augusta. She said that these other communities have a lot of history there that needs preserving, but she doesn't forsee the Wrens ordinance being as restrictive as some.

"We don't intend to be strict or uncaring," Ward said. "We see us being able to preserve what we have in the style and character of Wrens. Some people would argue that we don't have any, but we do, and we need to preserve what we have."

Preserving History

In its district boundary report, the city's HPC gives the physical boundaries of the district, which is U.S. Highway One and surrounding blocks from Pope Hill south to just past the Broad Street traffic light and as far east as Brooks Street.

According to the report, "the Wrens Historical District I is primarily comprised of historic commercial buildings dating from 1880s-1940s"; however, it also includes quite a few residential structures, commercial properties, churches and at least four archaeological sites.

The ordinance would require that anyone wishing to get a building permit in this district come before the commission for a Certificate of Appropriateness.

The application to the HPC would involve a description, possibly a rough sketch of the proposed construction or renovation work, including materials and positions on the property, City Administrator Donna Scott Johnson said. The HPC would then decide whether the proposed work would be considered conducive to a locally designated historical district.

"It's not meant to be overly restrictive," Johnson said. "The idea is to honor an area we have in Wrens that is considered to be historic. It's meant to be a wonderful thing to preserve what we love about our city. It's not meant to limit what people can do with their property."

It would not affect any structures already in place nor any internal renovations.

"We're talking about changing rooflines, adding on, things like that," Johnson said. "We want to maintain and preserve the character the area has that we've come to appreciate."

The city has already begun compiling a historic structure survey of all Wrens structures that are 50 years or older or have significant historical value. Organizers already have estimated the city has around 300 buildings that could be considered historic.

According to Anne Floyd, a Regional Historic Preservation Planner with the CSRA RDC, the city will currently be using the Secretary of the Interior's standards for rehabilitation of historic properties, but in the future plans to customize its own standards.

Floyd said the current standards include construction, site changes, demolition or relocation, fencing, signage and non-temporary features such as satellite television dishes and awnings.

Mayor Ward said that regardless of what some residents have heard, the standards do not include paint colors.

The Hearing

At 3 p.m. at the civic room on Monday, Feb. 6, the city intends to hold a public hearing seeking community input on the proposed district.

"We prefer to have the public aware of what's being planned so we can get their comments on the front end," Johnson said. "That way we can incorporate it into the planning stages. We're hoping for some good input."

Current members of the city's Historical Planning Commission include Judy Bostic, Evelyn Murray, Fred McCants, Delores Prescott and Heather Mahaffey.

City council members are reviewing an ordinance concerning the HPC and designating the historic district to be voted on at an upcoming meeting.

"It all depends on what happens at the public hearing," Johnson said. "It may need revisions."

Bostic, Ward and Johnson said they encourage the community to come to the meeting, share their concerns and hear the commission's plans for the district.

"We're not Waynesboro. We're not Madison," Bostic said. "We don't have the people, we don't have the resources and we don't have the homes. At the same time, we do have some historical value that needs to be preserved. But we are not going to insist on any standards that cannot be reasonably or financially met."

In Related News

The city is considering making some changes in the zoning along the U.S. Highway One corridor. It has been strictly commercial, with clauses that say if any residence on the highway is not lived in for over a year, then that property can then only be used as a commercial property.

The new zoning being considered would allow a number of old homes currently restricted to commercial property to once again be used as residences.

"We have too many nice homes along U.S. One that could be lived in," Ward said.

She believes the current zoning was put into place in an effort to spur commercial growth.

"Well, it just hasn't worked," Ward said. "We're working on changes that could mix residential and commercial. It could improve the look of the town and there's a shortage of housing in the city as well."

A number of structures along U.S. One will be included in the proposed historic district.

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