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June 19, 2008 Issue

Two Wrens stores robbed
Arty Thrift joins Wrens as new city administrator
DNR sees increase in artifact theft

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Two Wrens stores robbed

By Parish L. Howard
Editor/Publisher

Wrens officers are following leads on two convenience store robberies that occurred just eight hours apart last Thursday.

At approximately 12:40 a.m. an unknown black male wearing a mask entered the Sprint store on U.S. Highway One in Wrens.

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“He poked one of clerks in the back, told her he had a gun and threatened her,” Wrens P.D. Investigator David Leonard said.

The clerk never saw a weapon but the suspect appeared to be holding something in his hand under his clothing.

“He demanded money,” Leonard said. “The clerk told him she could not open the register. He took what little money was exposed and fled.

“He was in and out of there in less than two minutes and no one was injured.”

Columbia County K9 tracking units were called in and, according to Police Chief David Hannah, tracked the suspect to Highway 102 before losing the trail.

Nearly eight hours later, at approximately 8:20 a.m. a man wearing an orange mask entered Jet 66 on the Waynesboro Highway.

“There was one clerk there by herself,” Leonard said. “He threatened that he had a weapon and demanded money. She handed him the cash drawer and he fled on foot.”

Tracking dogs with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office tracked the suspect to Washington Street, Center Street and over to Stephens Street area before losing the scent, Chief Hannah said.

A law enforcement helicopter was brought in later to survey the area from the sky.

“We are pursuing leads in both of these robberies at the present time,” Leonard said. “Anyone with information regarding the person or persons responsible for these robberies is encouraged to call the Wrens Police Department, Chief Hannah or myself or the Sheriff’s Office.”

In another case, Leonard said that a suspect in the Valentine's Day 2008 robbery of the same Sprint store is currently in custody in New Jersey.



Arty Thrift joins Wrens as new city administrator

By Parish L. Howard
Editor/Publisher

The Wrens city council has hired long-time city resident Arty Thrift to take over as its new city administrator, effective Monday, June 16.

“We’re excited to have Arty joining us,” said Mayor Lester Hadden on Thrift’s first day, just minutes before his first department heads meeting. “I am glad we were able to hire a local person with long-standing ties in our community who the people of Wrens already know.”

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As administrator, Thrift will be responsible for day-to-day management of all city departments, preparation of the annual budget, advising mayor and council, monitoring and ensuring compliance with state and federal regulations, overseeing several grant projects, handling personnel issues, staffing planning and zoning commission. City departments include administration, buildings and grounds, fire, natural gas, police, public works and recreation.

“When I saw the position advertised, I felt like this was an opportunity I needed to pursue,” Thrift said. “City government has always intrigued me. It’s quite a change from banking, but that brings with it a certain level of energy…learning something new, tackling a new job and new responsibilities is exciting.”

Thrift comes to the city with a little over 20 years of banking experience.

He is a 1986 graduate of Augusta State University and holds a degree in Computer Science with a minor in math. In 1994 he graduated from the University of Georgia’s School of Banking.

He worked for nine years with First State Bank of Wrens as a branch manager, vice president and loan officer, and four years in these capacities with First National Bank of Louisville.

Thrift later spent five years with Digital Dimensions, Inc. in banking platform software compliance, training, installation, technical support and product design.

Since then he has served as manager/chief financial officer for Southeastern Pride where he was responsible for daily operations, sales, accounting and human resources.

In 2005-2006 he served as branch manager for First Citizens Bank and most recently spent two years as branch manager for First City Bank in Gibson.

“I’ve always lived right here,” Thrift said. “While I wasn’t born here, I grew up in Wrens and graduated from Wrens High School.”

He has remained a resident of Wrens and has served as secretary and president of the Wrens Kiwanis Club, Lt. Governor of Division Six of the Georgia Kiwanis Club and a member of Wrens United Methodist Church.

“The city has a good staff and good group of employees,” Thrift said. “I’m looking forward to getting involved and bringing some new ideas and new ways of looking at things to a city that already appears to be in good shape.”

Some of the first projects he will be working on include the completion of the city’s water treatment plant expansion, downtown cityscape and the construction of the new gym and developing recreation program at Rabun Park.

“I was impressed with Arty’s dedication, personality, work ethic and the way he works with people,” Mayor Hadden said. “He has great management and technology skills that I believe will be a big benefit to the city.”



DNR sees increase in artifact theft

By Parish L. Howard
Editor/Publisher

Despite his reputation, even Indiana Jones would tell you that there is a difference in collecting indigenous artifacts and just plain stealing.

According to a local Department of Natural Resources Ranger Brian Adams, over the last few months he has caught more people illegally digging and has had more cases reported, than in any one time that he can remember.

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“We caught someone in Jefferson County the night of the Wrens tornado,” he said. “And with the lake’s water level down, we are finding places left and right where people are in there digging. You can’t even surface collect on federal property or that owned by the Corps of Engineers.”

He just recently arrested a group of men who he caught digging on an area mining company’s property in Glascock County.

“We had been investigating two places where landowners had seen where some digging was going on,” Adams said. “Someone saw the vehicle and reported it. We stopped them as they were pulling out.”

According to DNR, it is perfectly legal to surface collect arrowheads, points and other tools from private property as long as the collector has written permission from the property owner on their person. However, the law concerning digging is a bit more involved.

According to Adams, these guys did not have permission and had been doing plenty of digging.

“And they were digging in the daytime hours, that’s very, very unusual,” Adams said.

According to the Georgia Historic Preservation Division of DNR, with the exception of burials and associated objects, archaeological sites belong to the landowner, whether that be a private individual, corporation, or local, state or federal government.

The landowners can dig for artifacts on their own property, again excepting any burial sites, but DNR recommends that landowners preserve these sites for future generations and leave digging or excavation of such sites to professional archaeologists.

DNR also requires that landowners intending to dig potential archaeological sites contact their office in writing within five business days before they begin.

Rangers stress the fact that it is not legal to disturb human burial sites or collect human remains, beads or other objects associated with burials, regardless of to whom the property belongs.

Adams said he routinely gets complaints from property owners where illegal diggers are going in and tearing up their property in search of artifacts without permission.

“These people trespass onto your property and they cut down trees and dig holes big enough to put a truck in,” Adams said. “They don’t cover them up or anything. They just leave a mess. I think that’s what really gets the landowners so upset.”

Adams said he believes the artifact hunters are selling their discoveries online.

“A good arrow head in really good condition can bring you a couple hundred dollars,” he said. “And a piece of pottery intact, well, you’re talking about thousands.”

It is illegal to buy, sell, trade, import or export American Indian burial, sacred or cultural objects. Those found guilty of this could face fines of up to $500 per object.

Anyone seeking more information on collecting artifacts, digging or artifact identification is encouraged to contact the local DNR office at (706) 595-4211 or see the archaeology services section of DNR’s Historic Preservation Division website at hpd.dnr.state.ga.us.




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