Team takes state
By Jessica Newberry
The towering pine trees they have learned to measure are years older than they are. In fact, the students that make up Jefferson County High School’s forestry team were not even born when Robert McGill began the award-winning program in 1966.
But they are already a part of a local legacy that will continue in the hands of instructors Olin Cannon and Steven Sheram.
On May 7, the Jefferson County team drove to Swainsboro to compete in the Future Farmers of America’s State Forestry Career Development Event.
By winning the region contest earlier this year, Jefferson County earned the right to compete with Georgia’s 17 other top teams for the state title.
This year’s team included Matt Boyd, Andrew Pittman, Marilyn Timms, Amy Walden, Jacob Stickle, Cameron Clark, Danny Hobbs, Chris Cooper, Jared Price, Jonathan Davis, Rachel Foss and alternates Taylor Gill, Anastasia Forsyth, Heather Sheppard, Aaron Mullis, Quin Smith, Cindy Brassel and Jonathan Alligood.
Over the years, Jefferson County has earned quite a reputation, according to ag teacher and FFA advisor Steven Sheram, and the 2008 team did not disappoint.
“When we show up at events, the teachers say “Well, they’re here. You may as well go ahead and give them the plaque,’” he said with a laugh. “There were actually several teams at state that could have won. It’s harder to win state than to place in the top 15 in the nation.”
Jefferson County left the event in Swainsboro with yet another plaque to hang on the heavily decorated walls of one of their classrooms. This year’s state win was the third in four years under the direction of Sheram and Olin Cannon, and now they are looking for another shot at becoming the national champs for the first time since 1991.
In 2005, team members John Adams, Jonathan Christian, Robert Newberry and Robert Parker earned second place in the national competition. Adams took second place in the individual competition.
In 2006, team members Daniel Newberry, Austin Newsome and Nelson Sassard also placed second with Newberry being named the highest scoring participant in the nation.
“I think if they come and practice like our 2006 team did, we should be able to win this year,” said Sheram. “I always tell them ‘good isn’t good enough unless you’re perfect.’ We practice during and after school, and we’ve been blessed with a great group of kids.”
The students will spend months preparing for the national competition on October 21-25 in Indianapolis, Ind. Team members study and practice a variety of skills including measuring saw timber and pulpwood, tree identification, compass practicum, forest disorders and chainsaw maintenance.
National standing is based on individual performance in interviews on forestry issues, identification of North American trees and forestry tools, the hands-on team event and two individual events selected by the judges.
The banquet and awards ceremony is held on the last night of the competition week, a night when the Jefferson County team members are always on the edges of their seats.
“The bottom third section of scores is bronze, but you hope that no one’s name is called as bronze,” said Sheram. “Then you hope like no other that there aren’t any of your names called as silver. If none of your individuals have been called by that time, you have a good shot at the top three. If you have one or two in the top 15, that’s when you start smiling.”
In addition to scholarships, plaques and bragging rights, these FFA competitions offer lasting lessons for students.
“It shows them how to lead, how to persevere, how to compete and introduces them to various aspects of forestry,” said Sheram. “They can take this knowledge and use it throughout their lives.”
These are lessons that both Sheram and Cannon learned in the same program under Robert McGill who was an ag teacher in Jefferson County from 1966 to 2004 and Young Farmers advisor for the last 10 of those years.
“Before Olin and Steven took over, we went to state 33 of 34 years, and it looks like they will be continuing that tradition,” he said. “I feel great about Jefferson County winning state forestry again because that was my life, and we took a lot of pride in our forestry program. To have them replace me was a great honor and for them to keep winning is even better.”
Generators experience problems
By Carol McLeod
The generator at Jefferson Hospital and the one at the county’s 911 center had problems running during the storm that hit Louisville Sunday, May 11.
At the hospital, the problem was caused by a difficulty with the generator’s fuel pump, said Heyward Wells, the hospital’s CEO.
“We did go into disaster mode and it did start,” he said, adding the generator ran for about 30 minutes before a temporary malfunction of the fuel pump occurred.
Wells said the generator is started and run every week as a test. When the malfunction occurred, the contractors who service the generator were at the hospital within a few minutes and had the generator up within an hour, he said. “No one was in the dark. At no time was anybody in harm’s way at all. It was never a problem with fuel. We have a huge fuel tank.”
Wells said the power holds a switch open and whenever there is a power failure, the lack of power outside releases the switch and starts the generator.
“It’s a matter of two or three seconds,” he said. “We had flashlights in the nurses’ stations and in patients’ rooms if they needed them. We had natural light in the rooms.”
Wells said vital equipment at the hospital, such as IV pumps, have the capacity to run on battery power.
“We had no patients on ventilators, which is usual for us. We transfer those patients to Augusta,” he said.
“Whatever happens, we’re prepared. We drill,” he said. “We don’t just sit around. We’re required to be prepared and we do it. This is a highly regulated industry. Everything went right according to plan.” Wells said whoever needed oxygen was on a manual tank. Had the power outage occurred during the week when surgeries are scheduled, backup batteries would have been used.
“I have tremendous confidence in our staff,” he said.
“We actually have two power sources coming into the hospital and the odds of both of those being damaged is unheard of but it happened. And we have a weekly tested generator that malfunctioned. What happened on Mother’s Day was absolutely a testament to the preparedness of our staff.”
At the 911 Center, the generator didn’t start initially.
“It didn’t start. It came on. We had to manually start it, but it came on,” said Major Charles Gibbons, the operations and administrative manager of the center, adding there was no problem with the generator other than it requiring a manual start.
“So what’s going to happen is they’re going to put 911 on a different generator. The (commission) chairman talked with me and Mr. Paul (Bryan) talked with me and I told them what’s wrong and they said they’d take care of it. I’m happy with that,” Gibbons said.
William Rabun, chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners, addressed the issue during the commission’s most recent meeting on May 13.
“We had a problem again with the generator at 911 not starting when the power went off. I have instructed our administrator and our purchasing agent to correct this problem immediately as we have already voted to purchase an additional generator if necessary,” he said.
Robert Yonchak, Jefferson County purchasing and safety coordinator, said he and Jefferson County Administrator Paul Bryan have been talking with a contractor about rewiring the 911 center to accommodate a new generator.
“At this time, he has not submitted a report detailing the requirements needed,” Yonchak said. “He has been reviewing the schematics of the building and we expect to hear from him shortly. I haven’t received any information about the cost, yet.”
Pennies add up to thousands in help
By Faye Ellison
Pennies add up. No matter how hard we try to get rid of them, once you begin to let a collection of them grow it will soon turn into dollars.
Jefferson Energy Cooperative has found a way to use the same idea, all while using change to better the community. Recently The Jefferson Energy Operation Round Up gave grants to five different local organizations.
Those receiving grants included the Glascock County Sheriff’s Office, Wrens Middle School Band, Gibson/Glascock Fire Department, Good Samaritan Food Pantry and the Walk Autism Augusta Chapter.
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The Sheriff’s Office, band and Walk Autism each received $10,000, while the Fire Department received $7,000 and the food pantry $6,000.
“Jefferson Energy provides grants to charitable organizations within the territory served by Jefferson Energy Cooperative as a means of improving the quality of life for those who live there,” Jefferson Energy’s William Irwin said. “All of the funds raised are returned to the locals communities served by Jefferson Energy Cooperative.
“Grants are typically provided for food and shelter needs, educational programs and scholarships, community projects and health needs.”
With the participation from customers, Jefferson Energy bills are automatically “rounded-up” to the nearest dollar. The average member contributes about $6 a year.
Irwin said the board of directors meets every other month and evaluates requests for assistance. Any administrative costs are absorbed by Jefferson Energy so that 100 percent of the contributions made from the consumers go directly to the community.
Member-owners of Jefferson Energy Cooperative are automatically included in Operation Round Up. If one does not want to participate or chooses to discontinue their contribution, they may contact the Jefferson Energy Cooperative.
According to the Jefferson Energy Operation Round Up website, if all 26,000 Jefferson Energy Cooperative member-owners participated, approximately $156,000 will be “rounded-up” each year. The contributions are tax deductible and summaries of what was donated are on the January and February bills.
Irwin said to apply, the group needs to be a 501-C organization. Grants are not provided for individuals. Applications may be obtained by calling 706-547-5055.