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March 15, 2007 Issue

Discount prescription card available
SPLOST and council seats to appear on local ballots
Pine Valley open again

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Discount prescription card available

• Jefferson County offers free card to help residents cut healthcare costs

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

With rising health care costs, the future of PeachCare uncertain and veteran's care recently in the news, it seems like everyone needs help with their medical bills. In a joint effort, the Jefferson County Commissioners and National Association of Counties are introducing a new prescription discount card program they hope will aid young and old in their quest for affordable healthcare.

“This does not cost anything to the county,” Jefferson County Administrator Paul Bryan said. “This is something we gained as being a member of the National Association of Counties.”


The new program will begin March 15. Citizens of Jefferson County can visit the commissioner's office to pick up a prescription card offered by Caremark Rx, Inc, a leading pharmaceutical services company.

“Commissioners recognized the high cost of health services in the county and had been looking for opportunities to assist citizens with better healthcare,” Bryan said. “It was researched and we submitted an application to implement the program.

“I am really looking forward to working with Glenise on this.”

County worker Glenise Dixon has had a hand in getting the program ready for Jefferson County.

“I think this is a plus for the county,” Dixon said. “It will be very helpful for older and sick people that need any assistance possible. And I am looking forward to helping them.”

Dixon said interested citizens should stop by the Jefferson County Commission Office to pick up the card which is available without having to sign up for any program or sign any forms. The card is not an insurance plan and is to be used for prescription discounts anytime a prescription is not covered by insurance. There are no limits or restrictions on how many times the card can be used. On average, the card saves around 20 percent on prescriptions, but can provide higher discounts on a three-month supply of some medications though the mail. This offers the whole family coverage with no age or income requirements.

Citizens also do not have to be a Medicare beneficiary to enroll.

The card also has a safety feature that alerts pharmacists when one drug may conflict with another medication the cardholder is taking, if the prescriptions were obtained with the discount card.

Caremark said in a press release that nine out of 10 pharmacies nationwide accept the discount card including Rite-Aid, Eckerd, Walgreens, Wal-Mart and CVS. A network of 57,000 pharmacies accept the card.

Burke County has begun using the new prescription drug cards, along with over 18 million program participants.

The card has been offered since 1993.

The prescription card is not only for two-legged citizens of Jefferson County, but also the four-legged. Cardholders can save on pet prescriptions at participating retail pharmacies.

SPLOST and council seats to appear on local ballots

• Three face off March 20 for Louisville council; SPLOST for Glascock BOE

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

As the special Election Day nears, citizens in the city of Louisville and Glascock County will head to the polls to decide on their community’s future. Glascock County’s Board of Education will have a Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendum on the ballot.

The sales tax can be used for adding to, renovating, repairing, improving and equipping existing school buildings and other facilities including, but not limited to, the school cafeteria, physical education athletic fields and facilities and administrative offices; acquiring system-wide technology and safety equipment; and the acquiring of any property that is desirable to the school system.


All polls will be open on Tuesday, March 20, from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. for all precincts. Glascock County residents may cast an absentee ballot during advanced voting at the Chief Registrar’s Office before the end of the business day Friday.

In January, two candidates qualified to run for Louisville’s mayor seat. The seat was left vacant after the unexpected death of Mayor Byron Burt. Jefferson Hospital Administrator Rita Culvern and Louisville’s Interim Mayor Ricky Sapp both qualified by deadline for the seat.

The following Monday, Sapp withdrew his candidacy. Culvern will now be the city of Louisville’s new mayor effective March 21, the day after the election. Not only is it a major milestone for Culvern, but also for the city as she will be the first woman mayor in the city’s history.

“I’m excited about the opportunity,” Culvern said. “I have served the people of Jefferson County working with the hospital for 35 years and being the hospital administrator for 15 years. This is another opportunity to serve the community that I love and I am really looking forward to it.

“I understand that there are a lot of exciting plans in place for the growth of Louisville and I wan to be a part of that.” Culvern said the anticipated date for her retirement at Jefferson Hospital will be April 30. Culvern has made Jefferson Hospital one of the few rural hospitals that operate in the black each year and has implemented many programs including a partnership with the Medical College of Georgia to serve the needs of people in Jefferson County.

Sapp had served as the interim mayor for the past four months. Before serving in that capacity, Sapp served on the Louisville City Council for 15 years. Sapp’s seat on the council was left vacant after he had to give it up to run for mayor.

The election for the seat will also be held on March 20. “I qualified to run for mayor in order to make sure we had a qualified candidate on the ballot,” Sapp said. “Mrs. Culvern is qualified and has the time and experience to do a good job as mayor. I have all the faith that Mrs. Culvern will be a mayor we can all be proud of.”

Pine Valley open again

• Pine Valley Apartments' new owner and manager are working to change the area's reputation

By Parish Howard

Tomasenia Jackson lived at Pine Valley Apartments for a while shortly after graduating from Wrens High School in 1990. She used the government assistance the income-based Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funded development offered to offset her expenses while she started her family and sought further education.

Last year, when Pine Valley’s 40-some-odd families received notice that the apartments were being closed and discovered they had 30 days to find new homes, Jackson said she felt for its residents.


“So many of them did not understand what was happening,” she said. “I tried to help.” A year ago this week, the doors closed, the apartments were boarded up and the last of the families moved out.

Currently crews working for the complex’s new owners are painting, caulking and installing appliances as they near completion of the fourth of the six apartment buildings. As Pine Valley’s new residential manager, Jackson has moved her three children into the complex and is now picking her neighbors and helping rebuild the community that calls 101 Kings Mill Road in Wrens, home.

Renovating the Complex

Pine Valley, with its six acres and seven buildings, was in foreclosure and in March of last year it sold on the Jefferson courthouse steps to William “Billy” O. Key, Jr., an Augusta attorney, for $16,000 plus closing costs.

According to L.J. Swertfeger Jr., the Federal Foreclosure Commissioner who handled the sale, the original mortgage on the property, issued in 1973, was $678,000 and the mortgage owed at the time of foreclosure was $661,000. HUD estimated the property needed close to $1.2 million in repairs.

Key, who was at the Wrens site Friday reviewing the ongoing renovation, said that while he believes that estimate may have been a little high, it still did not include several important changes he has made to the properties.

During the Department of Community Affairs’ (DCA) 2005 fall inspection, only four of the complex’s 52 units were found to be safe and habitable enough to earn eligibility for use with the agency's housing voucher program.

Jackson said that when Key took over, the apartments were boarded up.

“There was trash everywhere, graffiti, broken glass and holes in the (interior) walls,” she said.

Key’s contractors replaced the roofs, updated the wiring and switched the 52 units to total electric, relieving his tenants of the burden of rising natural gas bills. The parking lot that was pitted with deep holes has been resurfaced. Old sheetrock has been torn out and replaced, holes patched, new appliances installed and everything is being repainted.

“We didn’t really come across anything we didn’t expect to find,” Key said. “If anything, I was a little surprised at structurally what good shape the buildings were in. This is a nicely constructed apartment complex. There’s a real good use of space. I didn’t appreciate it until I got in there and started making renovations.”

He referred to the four to six closets in each apartment and the fact that they are situated in a way that while neighbors may share walls, none live directly above or below anyone else.

“I’ve really been surprised by the tremendous need for good, affordable apartments in Wrens, and really throughout Jefferson County,” Key said. “I think we’re providing quite a service. Residents don’t have to worry about a gas, water, garbage or cable bill. Everything but electricity is included.”

Rent runs between $500 and $550 per month.

Apartment buildings A, B and C are complete. E should be finished by the end of the month and he hopes that all of the complex’s 52 units will be available for rent as of the end of April. Plans include remodeling an on-site laundry facility.

Key said that 24 apartments have been completed and 14 are occupied. The first tenants moved in during September.

Building a Community

Jackson says they are thinking of changing the name.

“People hear the name ‘Pine Valley’ and they have so many negative associations,” she said. “I tell everyone don’t judge it until you come by and see what it’s all about.”

For years the complex has been associated with a certain amount of poverty and Wrens Police Officers admit, a certain criminal element. In the years leading up to its closure, officers spent a fair amount of time responding to complaints of drug trafficking and corner sales. More than one officer has his story about chasing alleged drug dealers along the wooded paths that connect that back of the complex to several other neighborhoods.

Both Key and Jackson feel that much of the problem before wasn’t so much the residents as the traffic from non-residents the complex saw.

“And I think the residents felt no one cared,” Jackson said.

They believe those residents saw the pitted and pot-holed driveways, the outdoor lighting that was so often shot-out, the graffiti, the holes in the sheetrock that went years without repairs, and saw no hope for help.

“We’re very dedicated to building a safe neighborhood, free from drugs, where people will be happy to live and look forward to coming home in the evenings,” Jackson said. “We want our neighbors to enjoy living here.”

She said that they are currently looking at putting in a fence along the back and sides of the property to cut down on foot traffic through the surrounding wooded areas.

At the same time she wants to keep the complex as open as possible.

“There’s no curfew,” she said. “We don’t want people to feel like they’re in prison.”

She says the current residents are a good mix of young families, older retired people and young working people.

So far no one has returned who was living at the complex at the time it closed.

“I have had several calls from a few of those residents,” Jackson said.

The vast majority of those former residents were living in Pine Valley under a government-sponsored Section 8 program that paid all, or nearly all, of the rent. Each of the residents was offered or issued Department of Community Affairs (DCA) housing vouchers early last year. Those vouchers, if not used, have since expired.

“Right now we are operating Pine Valley as a regular private apartment complex,” Key said. “We don’t currently have any Section 8 tenants.”

“All of our current lease holders are working adults who are paying their own rent,” Jackson explained. “The problem we’re facing getting the former residents back is with the vouchers, getting the families themselves eligible to receive them.”

Key said that he would consider accepting vouchers at Pine Valley and Jackson said that she is working with some families to get the proper paperwork filled out with DCA to get them housing assistance.

Jackson said she is willing to work with former Pine Valley residents in helping them get jobs so they can afford the complex and better themselves.

“We go over and beyond,” she said. “I really want to help. I want to be an advocate for them.

“I live here, the office may close, but I’m never off the clock. We’re all like family members, we help one another.”

She hopes that with all the new changes, with her daily presence among her them, she can help show the new residents that the new owners care, that she cares, both for the apartments and for them.

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Last modified: March 14, 2007