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May 29, 2008 Issue

Veterans honored at park
Officers warn that thefts are increasing
Third round of storms knock out power

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Veterans honored at park

By Parish Howard
Editor / Publisher

The veterans of American Legion Post 229 lined up and saluted as the black cloth was pulled from the monument at the Wrens Veterans Memorial Sunday afternoon.

The shadows of these men, rigid hands held to brows, stretched toward the rows of servicemen’s name-engraved bricks and granite monument reading, “In honor of those who have served our nation to preserve our freedom.”

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It was the day before our nation celebrated Memorial Day.

“It’s hard to say just how much it means,” said Wrens American Legion Post 229 charter member C.W. ‘Speakie’ Stephens after the dedication. “We’ve been working for this for so long. We know that a salute may have been out of protocol, but it was just so satisfying to us.”

Many of these men, and the families of others who sacrificed their lives in battle, had purchased bricks for the monument as much as seven years ago. For these men and their families, Sunday’s dedication ceremony opening the memorial and veterans park to the community was a long awaited tribute that many of them feared they would not live to see.

“There are only two of our charter members left,” Stephens said. “That’s me and R.C. ‘Sneak’ McDonald.”

The $700,000 grant that provided the funding for the park, a project of the Wrens Better Hometown Club has been working on since 2000, was awarded in 2001 and includes other ongoing streetscaping work downtown.

But Sunday’s event, which drew a crowd estimated at more than 600 individuals, was strictly for the park and the area’s veterans.

In all, the monument includes 475 bricks engraved with the names of men and women who have served our nation through its armed forces. The surviving veterans and their families walked around the monument after the program looking for their names. Some knelt and touched them. Some cried.

“We were thrilled with the number of people who came out to celebrate our veterans,” said Peggianne Chalker, the Wrens Better Hometown member who has been handling veterans brick orders since the project began. “This is truly a legacy for our citizens that will be here for years to come.”

The Ceremony

The Fort Gordon Military Band played while some 600 citizens and visitors dressed in red, white and blue gathered downtown.

Woodmen of the World representative Randall Jones presented a new American Flag to the city for use in the park and representatives from all branches of the country’s military services posted their colors, the state and U.S. flags on the park's eight flag poles.

“We are flying all of our branches’ flags,” Stephens said later. “We aren’t leaving anyone out.”

Congressman John Barrow spoke about the significance of Memorial Day and the importance of taking care of our veterans once they return from battle overseas.

“All gave some—those are the veterans here today—and some gave all—that’s what Memorial Day is all about,” Barrow said.

He talked about the 4,561 names of servicemen and women who have given their lives in the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Fort Gordon bugler played “Taps” followed by the band’s “God Bless America.”

What’s to Come

Chalker said that the organization is still taking orders for engravings on the other 135 blank bricks that are in the memorial. The price to have a name included has gone up to $50 because the engraver will now have to come to the monument.

“We have probably picked up an additional 30 orders,” Chalker said. “My phone has been ringing since the program on Sunday.”

Applications for veterans bricks can be picked up at Wrens City Hall or First State Bank.

Chalker said there is plenty of room to expand the brick portion of the monument as more and more area citizens join the armed forces over the coming years.

Work continues on the park, she said, and in the coming weeks visitors should be able to see statuary eagles added to the granite monument, an additional flagpole, lights added to the fountain, four benches and a black metal fence. There will also be a message board erected that will help visitors locate their family’s brick more easily.

The canon located behind the foxhole was borrowed for Sunday’s event, but planners are currently working to obtain the city’s own piece of artillery for the park.



Officers warn that thefts are increasing

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

As the economy has slowed and area residents have begun to feel the crunch in their wallet from higher gas prices, it seems that thefts in general, but particularly that of metal, are also on the rise.

Since the latter part of 2007, investigators in both Jefferson and Glascock counties have said that they have seen an increase in thefts of property left outside, like lawnmowers, ATVs or scrap metal.

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“People are just going on other people’s property without their permission,” Glascock County Sheriff Dean Couch said. “We have two different investigations going on at this time for metal theft.”

Though Couch did not divulge the circumstances surrounding the thefts, he said he began to notice some time ago that the area was having a problem with sticky fingers.

“Just within the last year or so, we have had more thefts than I’ve had in the first two years of my time here in the Sheriff’s Office,” Couch said. “As time goes on it is getting to where it is more and more.”

Not only do the thefts leave property owners open for stealing, but once the item is gone, especially metal, there is less of a chance the owner will ever see it again.

“They are stealing mostly old farm equipment, heavy metal items, discarded cars, things like that,” Couch said.

“The only thing we’re seeing is scrap metal because the price of scrap metal is going up,” Jefferson County Investigator Robert Chalker added.

While Sheriff Couch said that Glascock County has seen very little copper theft, Jefferson County has seen its fair share.

“They’re mainly after copper,” Chalker said. “It seems copper is the metal of choice. With it they are getting more for a smaller amount of product. Copper’s light. It doesn’t take a lot of weight and the price for it is up. You’d be crazy to take cast iron when you can take copper, it weighs less and you can get more for it.”

Thieves are finding copper in many places including air conditioning units and the main power lines of irrigation systems. This has been seen in Jefferson County with several reports of irrigation systems being ruined by the thefts affecting crops in the area.

“Farmers and everybody need to pay special attention,” Chalker said. “If they see anybody around their irrigation system, call us. They’re taking the electrical wire that spans the whole length of the irrigation system, from one end of the pivot to the other. The electrical wire has 14 insulated wires inside. Those wires are copper.”

Chalker said that a farmer in Jefferson County had the wire from his irrigation system taken, which was several hundred feet in length and costing thousands of dollars to replace.

U.S. Highway 1 Recycling even reported that they had a load of their copper hauled off in recent weeks by metal thieves, during the lunch hour.

“The cases are kind of harder to solve, due to the fact that people can see something, stop, pick it up and be gone,” Sheriff Couch said. “Most of the time it is not real close to where someone lives, like an old abandoned farm or house or on dirt roads or out in the woods that you can see from the road. It takes just a few minutes to pick it up and they are gone.

“If you have items laying around that have been there for years that you really don’t use, keep a check on them and watch for unusual vehicles riding by slowly. If you see it, get their tag numbers and a description of the vehicle.”

Chalker summed up the thefts as a matter of supply and demand.

“As long as there’s a demand, there will be a supply,” he said. “We’ve got to make it harder for the criminal to sell stolen property.”



Third round of storms knock out power

By Jessica Newberry
Intern

Another round of storms hit Jefferson and Glascock counties on Tuesday, May 20.

According to the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Peachtree City, the approach of a cold front created a line of thunderstorms that began in Georgia’s northern counties. More than 35 counties reported wind damage and large hail.

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Wind damage was reported in Louisville at 6:35 p.m. on Tuesday. Wind damage was also reported in Edgehill along with 1.75-inch hail, according to a local storm report issued on Wednesday, May 21, by the National Weather Service.

Eunice Lockhart of Louisville was at her home near the Jefferson-Burke county line when the sky darkened and the power went off.

“I had seen warnings on TV earlier, so I knew something was coming,” she said. “As the wind got stronger, I told my grandkids to get blankets and pillows so we would be ready to get in the bathroom if it got really bad.”

As the children cried and Lockhart prayed, the sky became white and hail began hitting the house.

“The storm passed in minutes, and when I went outside, water was streaming from the porch ceiling,” she said. “It looked like there was a pond on my porch, and there were shingles, limbs and debris all over the yard.”

On Wednesday, Lockhart did not know the full extent of damage to her property, but she is still thankful.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in my 75 years,” she said. “I’ve never been so afraid in my life, but I know it could have been much worse than it was.”

Lockhart’s power was restored at approximately 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, leaving her in the dark like many others on Tuesday night.

Georgia Power had approximately 200 outages throughout the Waynesboro area, said engineering representative Tim Williams.

“Power was restored to customers in Louisville by midnight after the storm,” he said. “We also had some outages in Midville and Millen, but they were back on by daylight on Wednesday.”

Jefferson Energy Cooperative had more than 3,000 customers effected by the storm, said public relations director Steve Chalker. Power was restored entirely by Wednesday evening to service areas in Jefferson, Glascock, Emmanuel and McDuffie counties.

“Tuesday’s storm mainly caused broken lines,” Chalker said. “There was considerably more damage from the Mother's Day storm after which we replaced 98 poles and about 39,000 feet of line.”

Chalker has noticed an increase in weather activity over the past several years including wind storms that have put more trees on the lines.

“Last March, a tornado hit Thomson, then we had the Matthews tornado this March and the one on Mother's Day in Louisville,” he said. “We expect lightning and thunderstorms in the spring, but we also have plans in effect for events like these.”

Other areas of Georgia suffered more severe weather last Tuesday including Cherokee County where a tornado damaged approximately 100 homes. Milledgeville residents also reported softball-size hail during last week’s storm.




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