Major disaster avoided in Bartow
• Tractor trailer wreck blocks Bartow tracks with a train bearing down on the intersection just miles away
By Ben Roberts
A hit-and-run involving two tractor trailers in Bartow last week was just a few minutes shy of turning into a major train wreck.
According to Bartow Assistant Fire Chief Chip Evans, a tractor trailer heading south on Georgia Highway 78 last Thursday afternoon, Feb. 16, clipped the front driver's side tire of a second rig traveling north. The impact broke the axle on the north-bound truck, stranding it on the railroad crossing near the center of town.
Bartow City Clerk, Susan Scarboro, said she called Norfolk Southern to alert them of the truck on the tracks and they relayed the message to the train coming out of Wadley at the time.
Evans said he and others were on the scene when the train rounded a bend, slowing to a stop. According to Evans, the train's conductor said if it had taken three minutes longer to contact him, he would not have been able to stop in time.
The train had several cars labeled as containing anhydronous ammonia and gasoline, just a few cars behind the train's engine.
"Given the chemicals it was hauling, if that train hadn't been able to stop, downtown Bartow would look very different today," Evans said.
The conductor also said that in the event of a train hitting a tractor trailer, the preference is for the train to hit the center of the trailer in hopes of passing straight through without derailment.
Evans said the way the rig was sitting on the tracks, the engine would have made a direct impact with the truck's gas tanks.
"If any of those tankers had leaked or exploded, we would have had to evacuate the whole town, or what was left of it. Those of us in downtown most likely wouldn't be here anymore," Evans said. "We would have been in a bad fix."
The Georgia State Patrol was investigating the accident; however, the other tractor trailer was never located. It was last seen headed south on Highway 78 toward Johnson County.
Senate Bill 390 threatens rural schools, officials say
• The Classrooms First for Georgia Act will restrict local control over spending
By Ben Roberts
A controversial bill dictating just how much of their budget a school system would be required to spend in the classroom is on its way to the Governor's desk where his signature is expected to make it law.
Senate Bill (SB) 390, officially known as the Classrooms First for Georgia Act, or the "65 Percent Solution," passed the Georgia House last Thursday, Feb. 16, 102-70.
Representatives Jimmy Lord (D-Sandersville), whose district includes Jefferson County, and Sistie Hudson (D-Sparta), who represents Glascock County, both voted against the measure.
The bill passed the Senate last month by a vote of 32-18. Jefferson County's senator, J.B. Powell (D-Blythe), voted no then while Sen. Jim Whitehead (R-Evans) voted in support of the legislation.
The bill, which Gov. Perdue has vocally supported, would require local school districts to spend at least 65 percent of their budgeted funds on classroom instruction.
While the bill sounds good in principle, opponents say its implementation could be crippling to rural and small school systems with smaller student populations.
"It will be almost impossible for us to comply with this legislation and the other state mandates currently in place," said Glascock County School Superintendent Jim Holton.
The catch, he says, is what the law defines as a "classroom" expenditure.
Currently those "classroom" expenditures would include salaries for teachers and paraprofessionals, instructional supplies, field trips, music and art programs and even athletic costs. It would not, however, cover expenditures for school librarians, guidance counselors, school nurses, meals or bus drivers.
"Our system is simply not large enough to absorb the cost into 35 percent of our budget," Holton explained. "We will have to seek some sort of waiver."
Jefferson County Superintendent Carl Bethune says the biggest issue comes down to local control by locally elected officials.
"The state is telling us how we have to spend our money, not just state dollars, but federal and local dollars as well," he said.
Bethune cites transportation issues and the number of Jefferson County schools as examples of how this bill will hurt local citizens and ultimately their children.
Carver Elementary, in Wadley, has around 300 students in Pre-K through 5th grades. Bethune said the Jefferson County Board of Education has chosen to keep that school in operation because the community and citizens in southern Jefferson County specifically asked for that.
"That school has to have principals and teachers and staff regardless of the number of students in the building," he said. "Electrical costs are the same whether you've got 15 students in a classroom or 35. Are we supposed to cut bus routes to save on transportation costs? How do you do that in a county that's 40 miles long?"
Bethune and Holton have both pointed to the fact that their Boards serve as the Fiscal Agents for their county's community outreach organizations, Jefferson County SHIPS for Youth and Glascock Action Partners.
Unless some provision is added to the law, the funds for those groups would fall into the 35 percent side of the equation, causing more difficulty for the systems to comply.
"It could be a real problem," Bethune said. "That could be one of the places throwing us off."
Holton said he had spoken with Sen. Whitehead after the bill's passage in that chamber and that he vowed to help Glascock County in any way he could in their attempt to comply with the new law.
For his part, however, Holton agrees that state lawmakers are stepping in and dictating how systems should spend their money, a job best suited to locally elected officials.
"They're telling us more and more what we can do with our money," he said, pointing out that the bill applies to local ad valorem taxes as well.
In a letter earlier this month, Bethune took his problems with the bill to Gov. Perdue himself, saying it would penalize rural, sparsely populated school systems.
"… the problem is that one size doesn't fit all. … I don't see how the same formula can be applied to huge systems like Gwinnett and to very small, isolated systems like Glascock or to large, sparsely populated systems like ours. Our needs are not the same," Bethune wrote.
Sharing his passion
• Local musician Troy Taylor has turned his love of music into a recording business
By Faye Ellison
With a spark of passion for music, a fire ignited within Troy Taylor. He hopes to spread that fire to others throughout Jefferson County, then the state, the nation, maybe even the world.
Taylor is a local artist who began his singing career at 16 years old with the musical group J423. Last year the group made it to a Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) music contest, which is America's largest religious network and most watched faith channel. They were featured on a television series similar to American Idol, but for Christian music.
With the help of God, Taylor has seen his passion growing over the years. It started when he was a youngster.
"I grew up singing in church," Taylor explained. "I developed a passion for singing when I was little."
The fruits of his labor are beginning to blossom this year. With the help of a friend and family, Taylor started a record label, Dominion Records, in Bartow on Plummersville Road.
Taylor and his former group mates recorded two albums, with the last titled The Journey.
His new solo album, which he published on his newly founded record label, is called Involved.
Taylor said God gave him the gift to hear, but the idea of a studio and record label came from a family source.
"My mom told me to start my own record label," he said. "I needed to be able to record. When you record, you pay an extreme amount of money and this made it a lot easier."
Working hard for two months paid off for Taylor; he was able to open his studio to himself and the public.
Taylor said they have their own producers who make the music, then the artist comes to listen. Once the vocal artist gets the producer's basic idea, they write their lyrics and come back to sing so their vocals can be laid on the track.
When working with a good artist who can sing well, Taylor said it will take about three months to produce an album.
After the album is completed, Taylor sends it to a company that will put it on a compact disc with all the artist's information and pictures. When it is proofed, Taylor receives an album that looks the same as those in stores.
"When it comes back it is wrapped in plastic and even has a bar code on it so the artist can sell it in stores," he said.
Taylor also works closely with his friend, Earl Williams, who will have control of the first artist they sign. His mother has had more of a hand in Taylor's business venture than just suggesting he setup a studio, she also handles the finances.
Taylor's first release, Involved, from Dominion Records has already begun to sell. The album was released in early February. Within two days sales had passed his expectations with 120 compact discs already being sold.
The ideas for his album comes through a lot of prayer.
"There are a lot of things that were birthed out of prayer," Taylor explained. "I spend time with God and write around that."
The title track of the album, Involved, came to Taylor one day while he was playing music.
"I was just playing music and what came out was the words to the song," he said.
Now that he has gotten his first album out of the way, Taylor has plans for bigger things. He plans to release an album of Christmas music from musicians located in Jefferson County.
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"Next we will have a Christmas compilation album of Jefferson County artists that we will release in November of this year," he explained. "To choose those to be on the album, we will look at who the community calls upon the most for singing."
This will be Dominion Records' second release. The profits from this album will fund the budding career of a new artist.
Taylor, along with Williams, is looking for an artist to sign to their label. Money from the Christmas album will be used to further their career.
"We hope to get feedback from the community so we will know who to sign," Taylor said. "There is just so much talent out there; we hope we sign the right person."
In the end, Taylor hopes his record label will be successful on a county, state and national level.
"We want to be able to support the careers of artists and our staff," he said. "We want to sign many hopeful artists. We also want to make this label as big as others. And we believe that we will be one of the major labels."
Some may think those are lofty dreams for a small town label, but Taylor does not see it any other way as long as he has God's help.
"God is ordering my steps," Taylor said. "I don't have to worry about anything."
As advice for artists looking to start a career, Taylor restates the age-old adage, "Never give up."
"I think they should never give up," he said. "They need to hold on and stay strong. They can go as far as they want if they only believe that all things are possible.
"As long as they have faith and trust in the Lord, they should not look to other people to approve them."
Taylor said they are ready to work with artists and are hoping for business immediately.
To make an appointment with Taylor, check on prices or obtain booking information, call (478) 232-3279 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.