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November 23, 2006 Issue

Initiative holds meeting on poverty issues
A season of lightings
Joe W. Cooper III charged with robbing cabdriver at gunpoint

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Initiative holds meeting on poverty issues

• Government agencies work with county to find more efficient ways to serve community

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

The Communities of Opportunity Initiative, created by the Department of Community Affairs and the Rural Development Council in partnership with the University of Georgia’s Fanning Institute recently held a called town hall meeting on Oct. 10 in Gibson to address poverty issues in Glascock County.

The state of Georgia is looking to better its relationship with its rural communities. Out of the 159 counties within the state, 91 counties have persistent poverty rates. Now state leaders are looking to change the statistic.

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“We shouldn’t have 91 counties with persistent poverty rates,” University of Georgia’s Fanning Institute’s Mike Bishop said. “This state does so much with economic development.

We know the state of Georgia, through state agencies, can do things more effectively.”

A town hall meeting was also held in Jefferson County as they will be held in nine other counties within the CSRA. Bishop went on to explain that those communities, who do not work holistically, will be at a competitive disadvantage for state grants and loans.

“If it is, changes need to be made at the state level, we will talk about those things at this meeting,” he added.

The Georgia Rural Development Council, University of Georgia’s Fanning Institute and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs thought that using the CSRA would be a good scale of the state.

“If you look at the CSRA and compare it to the state, it is a nice microcosmic state of Georgia,” Bishop said.

“You have Augusta, which is similar to Atlanta and then you have Colombia County that is like Cobb County.

The other rural counties are similar to counties in South Georgia. The region as a whole looks a lot like the state of Georgia.

We will be able to really make some good generalizations for the state as a whole by looking at the CSRA. What we learn in Region 7 will be a good education, a good start.”

Glascock County Commissioner Anthony Griswell said he believed the meeting was a way to give the citizens of the county a voice. “It seemed to me like it was a way for the state to find out how people really felt about the community,” he said. “Citizens and the state said where they really stood and what improvements could be done on each end.

“I think it was a good thing. I think it is in the very early stages of getting something done, but it is a good starting point.”

Griswell stressed that it is imperative that the county remembers that it must try to better itself.

“The key point is you have got to be willing to help yourself,” Griswell said. “I hope at the second meeting we will have more of the county and city elected officials there. We needed more of those people.”

Citizens and elected officials that did attend the meeting voiced many concerns on what Glascock County lacks and how it will affect them in the future including the lack of jobs, recreation and activities for children, lack of state funding and needed departments.

Bishop explained after the meeting that the Department of Community Affairs is hoping to use the results from the town hall meetings to develop a series of reports for the community.

“We’ll take what we learned at the meeting and bring back the resources to target what was identified,” he said. “This meeting was the jump off point. It is a place where we got the issues on the table. Now we can come in and figure out what can be done. It was just to get a point in time handle on the community and to generate discussion about what the problems are.”

Bishop said in the spring the Department of Community Affairs and the Rural Development Council will come back to the 11 rural counties to do weeklong workshops. The initiative is being sponsored by the Georgia Rural Development Council, a government appointed board that is in the business of partnering and advocating for rural Georgia, according to Bishop. “This is a policy making board,” Bishop explained. “They make recommendations to the legislature and governor, whether it is a new policy on agriculture, transportation and so on. They will probably be rolling out some recommendations for the next general assembly after holding the town hall meetings.” The University of Georgia’s Fanning Institute has a long history of working with communities and government agencies to find what is best for the community as a whole.

“UGA is the convener of those types of groups,” Bishop said. “We have a long history of working with communities across the state. We see ourselves as change agents. We like to work with local governments in solving problems of communities through dealing with the leadership in those communities. We have a history of doing these things across the state and UGA’s involvement is a part of the state’s history.” The Communities of Opportunity Initiative came about as a result of conversations between two state agencies noticing that the state has many programs available to rural communities, but those communities are not able to turn those resources into the kinds of things that would minimize poverty, Bishop said. “This is starting a conversation with those communities and seeing what the state can do,” Bishop explained back in September, adding, “The pilot study is in region seven, which is the CSRA. We want to talk to the folks in the community. We have already been talking to some of the local leaders as a part of the study. “We interviewed community leaders to get their perspective on how the community does planning and development and about what the state has to offer. We are trying to get the public’s perspective. We have data, statistics and leaders’ points of view, now we want the public’s.”

Bishop said this gave those involved in the initiative an inside track to how citizens see the state of Georgia with their interaction with the community and how the citizens believe the state can improve those relationships. Through the feedback from the community, Bishop said the state hopes to find a better fit for the needs of citizens.

“We recognize the fact that all local communities are unique,” he said. “Each one has different opportunities and we need to provide services in a more unique fashion to them. The Community of Opportunity Initiative is working with all the folks at the local level for any kind of planning at that level. We are trying to have an effort at local level to do things comprehensively.”

Bishop said the state agencies want to find communities in the state of Georgia that have government entities, including commissioners, school boards or any other kind of local government that work together for the good of the community. “We want to find those places and learn from them,” he said. “We need to replicate this in places that aren’t doing it. To be honest there are some communities where the school system doesn’t talk to the local government. This way we help local communities do planning comprehensively and to bring all facets of the community together.”



A season of lightings

• Wadley and Wrens parades will be Dec. 2, Louisville's Christmas festival and parade will be Dec. 9

By Keyon Wilson
Apprentice

Jefferson County is showing its Christmas spirit and decking the halls across the county. Wadley held the first Christmas program of the season Saturday, Nov. 18. Around 100 people gathered in the downtown area at the city's annual Christmas tree lighting.

The program’s Master of Ceremony was Timothy Bell. A host of city officials and citizens took part in the program which included caroling from the Brinson Hill and Spears Grove’s Youth choirs.

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On Saturday, Dec. 2, both Wadley and Wrens will have their Annual Christmas Parades. Wadley’s parade will begin at 11 a.m. with line-up at 10:30 a.m. on College Street. Wrens will start their parade at 2 p.m. with line-up at 12:30 p.m. at Wrens Elementary School.

The City of Louisville is also getting ready for its Downtown Festival and annual Christmas Parade, Saturday, Dec. 9. The festival will start at 9 a.m. and will run throughout the parade which will begin at 1 p.m.

Special appearances will be made by Santa Claus who will also be available for pictures at the Market House. Jefferson County High School band will march in the parade along with the Fort Gordon Marching Band which will be set up downtown for live entertainment as well.

This year, there’s a new addition to the parade, the Hillbilly Golf Cart Parade, sponsored by the Friends of Historic Downtown Louisville. Anyone who owns a golf cart and is interested in decorating it can be in the line-up. Cash prizes will be given to the top three carts.

Parade fl oats will also be judged and the top three will be awarded cash prizes. The annual festival and parade is sponsored by the Louisville Lions Club.

Vendors will be set up downtown with crafts, foods and much more. Exhibit fees are $20.

The Jefferson Hospital will be presenting its Lovelight Tree a fixture in Louisville for more than 15 years. After Thanksgiving, Toni Yonchak and the rest of The Pink Ladies of Jefferson Hospital will begin sending out letters regarding the project. The tree itself will be set up in the lobby of the hospital throughout the rest of the holiday season. People can come by make donations and fill out a little poster with their name and a message. Donations can be made in memory of, in honor of or for an organization.

Donations go toward scholarships for students bound for the medical field.




Joe W. Cooper III charged with robbing cabdriver at gunpoint

• Cooper arrested while in court on other charges

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Joe W. Cooper III, a 23-year-old Thomson man, has been charged by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office in connection with a robbery against an Augusta cab driver.

Cooper, according to a spokesman with the sheriff’s office, called a cab in Augusta on Friday, Nov. 10, and asked the driver to take him to Wrens.

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The driver said he told Cooper to pay a $100 deposit for the trip and Cooper did so. Upon arriving in Wrens, Cooper allegedly took a pistol and robbed the driver of the deposit as well as an undisclosed amount of money the driver had with him.

After being given the money, Cooper ran away and the cab driver went to the police department in Wrens to report the crime. Since the event occurred outside the city’s jurisdiction, the crime was referred to the sheriff’s office.

The spokesman for the sheriff’s office said a warrant was taken out on Cooper after his identity had been determined based on the witness’ description.

Cooper was picked up in the Jefferson County courtroom where he was appearing on an unrelated charge.

At that time, Cooper was charged with armed robbery, possession of a firearm during commission of a crime and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.




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