Local family organizes annual bike tour coming to Jefferson and Glascock March 25-26
By Jennifer Flowers
The Tour de Louie is coming to town!
Hosted by Team Cutlet, made up of the family of Harry and Carllene Veal of Louisville, the Tour de Louie is named for King Louis XVI of France, for whom the Jefferson County seat, Louisville, is also named.
The title is reminiscent of the famous Tour de France bike race.
The North Louie
"I needed a catchy name that would be appealing to bike riders and give a little history of Jefferson County," said Jean Miller, a member of Team Cutlet helping to coordinate the event.
The two-day bike tour will feature a century, or 100-mile ride, on Saturday, Mar. 25, and a half century on Sunday, Mar. 26.
The South Louie
Registration will be at the Louisville Academy gymnasium from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Saturday, March 26.
The mass start for the North Louie, complete with a police escort to accompany riders out of town, will begin at 8 a.m.
Those who don't plan to ride are encouraged to come by and cheer the riders on and see them off in the morning.
"It would be great to have Broad Street packed with supporters as the bikers head off Main Street and out of town," Miller said.
Riders can choose between the 15-mile family ride, the 31-mile loop, the 52-mile loop, and the 102-mile century on Saturday.
The century route takes riders from Louisville to Vidette, Gough, Keysville, Matthews, to Wrens and toward Harlem onto Old Warrenton Road, to Avera, Gibson, Edgehill, Grange and back into Louisville.
The 52-mile loop turns at Wrens back to Zebina, and by Middleground Road back to Louisville.
The 31-mile loop turns at Gough back to Middleground Road back to Louisville.
A dinner for riders is in the works for Saturday evening.
Check-in for Sunday's South Louie will be from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m.
The mass start will be at 8 a.m.
The Sunday ride will take participants from Louisville to Bartow, towards Kite, back to Wadley, through Moxley to Bostic Mill Road, back across to Old U.S. 1 and back to Louisville.
Maps of the tour will be available in the next couple of weeks at participating businesses.
Helmets are required for all rides, and it is recommended that anyone under 16 years of age ride with an adult.
Supply and gear (SAG) trucks under the leadership of SAG truck coordinators Lamar Basley and Jeremy Kelley will be on hand to assist riders who have difficulties completing the course or who just need assistance.
SAG stations will be located every 15 to 20 miles for riders to stop and use the bathroom and get Gatorade, water and snacks.
All riders will receive a Tour de Louie t-shirt and goody bag.
Those completing the century will receive a Tour de Louie parka.
People interested in participating in the ride should visit the Tour de Louie website at www.tourdelouie.com for registration forms and additional information.
The intended benefits of hosting a ride in the county are numerous.
"What events like this do for our community is bring visitors to our county who will hopefully come back," said Lil Agel, Executive Director of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce. "The economic impact is huge to have an extra five, six, seven hundred people in town, buying gas and purchasing other things from local businesses."
The Chamber has volunteered to help make local connections for Team Cutlet as they work to prepare for the event.
"It helps all of us spotlight what we're doing here," Agel added. "It helps the local economy."
Tour de Louie will encourage exercise in local residents, give children the chance to see a big ride in their hometown, increase the visibility of the county via the web and other media forms, encourage contacts with other counties that offer bike rides, and increase commerce, if only for the weekend of the ride.
"Any time we have citizens in the community that have an idea and want to do something like this, the Chamber is willing to help," Agel said.
"Many Jefferson County organizations have volunteered time and free services in support of Tour de Louie," Miller said. "I am so thankful for all the groups and individuals who have given of themselves to make this event possible.
A Reason to Ride
"I would especially like to thank the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and Lil Agel for her encouragement and hard work with contracts, services and planning."
Miller also credits a local man for paving the road for such an event.
"George Brewton is a mentor," she said. "He used to host rides in Jefferson County, and we're excited to follow in his footsteps in bringing rides to Jefferson County."
Community members, groups and even schools have joined forces to make the event possible.
"Louisville Academy is a huge supporter," Miller said. "The ride will start in front of Louisville Academy and will end in front of it, with registration occurring in the gym of the school."
Miller would like to thank Dollye Ward and the Wrens Better Hometown committee.
She also acknowledges Brett from Outspokin Bike Shop in Augusta for giving her some organizing tips.
While the group already has a number of volunteers who are ready and willing, they are still in need of more assistance.
Persons interested in helping with the ride are asked to contact Miller at home at (706) 547-7801. Volunteers are needed to serve as SAG station and parking attendants and help register people for events.
Merchants wishing to participate can contact Miller with coupons for the goody bags and allow her to place a poster at their business.
Businesses and organizations interested in becoming sponsors should contact Miller as well. All sponsors will be advertised on banners, the website, t-shirts and parkas.
Current sponsors include Davis-McGraw, Prescott Septic Tank, Coca-Cola and Southern Bottling Company.
After Miller's brother, Jeff Veal, became interested in biking a number of years ago, the rest of the family began to follow his riding adventures. Two of her sisters began to participate in races themselves.
With so many family members biking, Veal decided that the family, including his parents, siblings and their extended families, would need a name.
And so, Team Cutlet was formed.
"Having a last name like Veal was definitely a difficult thing!" Miller said with a smile. "We were always referred to as Veal cutlets. Whenever we tried to make reservations somewhere, we suffered through such errors as Beal, Neal, Deal, etc., so it was common for us to say, 'Veal - like Veal cutlets.'"
Miller and her brother talked about the beauty of Jefferson County's rural rolling countryside and how well-suited it would be for a bike tour.
They contacted the organizers of rides in other areas, including Harlem, Dublin, Madison and Claxton, to find out more about what it would take to host such an event.
"For years I have been interested in bringing something to Jefferson County to show off how beautiful the county is," Miller said.
After a number of conversations and prayerful consideration, Team Cutlet decided to host a ride.
"As part of Team Cutlet, I am the youngest of five children," Miller explained. "I feel very honored to be raised by such awesome and godly parents as Harry and Carllene Veal.
"Furthermore, my siblings are a tough act to follow and I'm amazed by all they are able to accomplish with what seems to be effortless ease. Out of love and admiration for my family, I am hosting Tour de Louie in their honor."
U.S. One expansion planned
• DOT open house planned for March 7 to discuss construction plans
By Faye Ellison
The Georgia Department of Transportation recently announced their intention to widen U.S. Highway 1 starting at the north end of the Wadley bypass and ending at State Route 88 in Wrens.
The plans involve taking the two-lane road and turning it into a four-lane divided highway.
District 2 Communications Officer Vonda Everett explained that this was a plan that has been long in the making.
"The U.S. 1 Corridor is part of the Governor's Road Improvement Program," she said. "It was one of the original 14 corridors included in the program when it was initiated in 1989."
Everett went on to say that one of Governor's Road Improvement Program purposes was to ensure that 98 percent of all areas in the state will be within 20 miles of a four-lane road.
"The Governor's Road Improvement Program is intended to foster economic growth in Georgia as well as provide safer and more efficient transportation," Everett added.
The Department of Transportation plans to hold a public information open house to discuss proposed plans for construction in Jefferson County. The meeting is scheduled for March 7 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Jefferson County High School's cafeteria located at 1157 Mennonite Road in Louisville.
Everett says that any residents interested in learning more about the proposed project are encouraged to attend the open house and express their thoughts and concerns.
"No formal meeting will be held," she said. "Plans will be on display for citizens to review, ask questions and leave their comments. Whether their comments are negative, positive or neutral, it is important that we know how the citizens of Jefferson County feel about the plans."
Everett stressed that it is a critical time in planning and the Department of Transportation needs any comments or suggestions the public may have now.
Those attending the open house can leave their written comments in a comment box using a sheet provided in an informational handout. Attendees can also speak to a court reporter who will record their comments in a written report to the Department.
Those who are unable to attend the open house may send their written comments until March 21 to Harvey Keepler, State Environmental/Location Engineer, 3993 Aviation Circle, Atlanta, GA 30336-1593.
The U.S. 1 Highway stretches throughout Georgia from U.S. 441 in Habersham County and extends to the Florida State Line at Folkston, Everett added. The corridor is approximately 331 miles in length. As of now, 133 miles or 40 percent of the corridor is open to traffic or under construction.
he cost to complete the entire corridor is $743,400,000, where it will be the same throughout with four lanes of roadway divided by a 44' wide grass median.
Everett said that the Department of Transportation will begin to secure the land needed to widen the road in 2007.
"Since we are widening the roadway, utilities will definitely need to be relocated," she said. "There are some proposed houses and/or businesses that will need to be relocated; however, I am not sure of a number."
The proposed widening is projected to start in 2009. The roadway will be divided into four different segments of U.S. 1 construction, Everett said.
"I would guess that each section would take approximately two years or more to construct depending on the length," she said. "It is possible that two or more sections could be under construction at the same time."
Everett added that there will be no detours involved and that with the construction taking place in phases, there should be no affect on traffic.
The cost to acquire the right of way along all four sections is estimated at $10 million according to Everett. Construction costs are estimated for all sections from Wadley to Wrens to be $66 million, coming from federal and state funds.
Information about open houses and public outreach can be found on the Department of Transportation's website at www.dot.state.ga.us.
Deadline nears for Pine Valley residents
• Officials, Congressman Barrow and at least one local developer look into
By Parish Howard
With less than a week before their electricity, water and other utilites will be turned off, quite a few residents of Pine Valley Apartments in Wrens are still unsure where they will go, and what they will do.
Residents recently found letters, dated Feb. 6 taped to their doors giving them 30 days to vacate the apartment complex. The letters said that the HUD Project Section 8 subsidy which provided income-based rent assistance at Pine Valley ended Jan. 31 and with it, so did all of the residents' rental agreements/leases.
While the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) had issued vouchers to most of the families living there, the letter also said the property's owners elected not to accept any vouchers, and so gave every one of the near 40 families living there 30 days to secure housing elsewhere.
Meeting With a Congressman
With the March 8 deadline looming, one local preacher, school system officials and the city of Wrens have been scrambling to find answers to questions a number of government agencies just do not seem to want to address.
Wednesday, around 35 Pine Valley residents, along with other members of the community and local officials, met with Congressman John Barrow, who happened to be in Louisville for another event.
Barrow told residents that his staff was looking into the issues surrounding the imminent closing of the complex trying to determine what could be done to help meet the residents' basic needs.
"Nothing we can do will be adequate," Barrow told them. "We're going to do all we can and make sure this does not happen again, but there's nothing we can do replace the sense of community these people have developed over the years…Things like this shouldn't happen to folks."
Pastor Minnie Davis, of Spring Bethel AME Church, has been working to find an answer to the housing issues for Pine Valley's residents.
"We are working to find you adequate housing," Davis said. "Pine Valley is not alone. I know you might not be able to see what all we are doing, but we are working for you."
Barrow heard from residents at the complex regarding their search for housing and the trouble they have had finding new homes even with the vouchers.
Sharon Williams told him that she had gone to McDuffie County in an attempt to use her DCA voucher, only to be told that her voucher wasn't good there.
"What happens to families when March 8 gets here and we don't have anywhere to go?" she asked the congressman.
Barrow said that his staff was working on that and that they would try to see that residents' "basic housing needs" were met.
"I don't have a vehicle," Williams said. "I don't have any transportation."
Williams, a mother of four, told him how difficult it is to move or to even get out and find housing when you are dependent on other people to get you where you need to go.
School board member Charlie Brown told the congressman that possibly losing the 40-plus families from Pine Valley means possibly losing 60-plus children from the county public school system.
"That's definitely going to effect us," Brown said.
"What happens in Pine Valley doesn't stay in Pine Valley," Barrow said. "All of this is going to affect the community in bigger ways than a lot of people realize."
Wrens Middle School Principal Julia Wells told the congressman that three county schools would be affected.
"I've been speaking with the elementary school principal and these kids, especially the younger ones, are very anxious," Wells said. "They don't know where they're going and the parents really don't want to take the children out of the community or out of our schools."
Current plans regarding the foreclosure on the property, including all seven buildings, 32 two-bedroom and 20 three-bedroom apartments, is that it will be sold at the Jefferson County courthouse on March 28 at 12 p.m.
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According to Linda Allen, a Regional Public Affairs Officer for HUD, Pine Valley Apartments has been in default for some time as the mortgage has not been paid in years.
Allen said that around $433,000 is owed on the mortgage, and without a current owner or manager, the property has to be closed.
At least one local developer, Jerome Bynes of Bynes Construction and Georgia Realty Venture Group in Swainsboro ,has shown some interest in purchasing the property, paying off the overdue mortgage and trying to keep as many families there as possible.
"I could take my crews in there and in 72 hours we could turn four units," Bynes said. "At least all of the families wouldn't have to leave."
He feels that within a week he could have five units ready to pass DCA inspections.
Bynes planned to meet with Wrens Mayor Dollye Ward on Tuesday, and said he had been trying to contact HUD to look into the possibility of taking over the property.
He planned to talk to the mayor about the possibility of extending the city-owed back taxes of just over $5,800.
Ward said that a decision like that would have to go before council.
In the meantime, many residents say they have not found alternative housing and are unsure of what will happen on the March 8 deadline.