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September 25, 2008 Issue

Shopping center gets facelift
Council discusses ambulance service
Kicking off reading program

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Shopping center gets facelift

By Leila Borders
Staff Writer

The scaffolding is gone, but the renovations have just begun at Peachtree Plaza Shopping Center. A new façade unites the five stores housed in the center, and more renovations, including new brick posts and brighter lights in a freshly paved parking lot, are set to begin in the upcoming weeks.

“We wanted to update and bring a new look to go along with the wonderful renovations to downtown Louisville,” said Marie Jones-McBride, president of the Peachtree Plaza Shopping Center, Inc. The improvements are planned in increments in an effort to avoid inconveniencing consumers and the store managers and employees.

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In 1973, Samuel E. Jones and Leroy Lewis broke ground for the shopping center in the hopes of helping Louisville grow. “They wanted a big shopping center with diversified stores to be convenient for customers in the area,” Jones-McBride said. She and her daughters, Marie Jones Handberry and Jan Jones McElreath, hope that the center remains a benefit to the community.

“We’re proud that after all these years, people continue to shop and keep the plaza successful,” said Handberry. She hopes that the center will become even more useful to citizens as gas prices continue to rise.

The stores housed in the center also are undergoing renovations on the inside to coincide with the center’s new look. Peebles, Maxway, Rite Aide, and Another Level Fashions have already updated their interiors, and Hadden’s IGA is set to update as well.

“We have been blessed to have great tenets who really want to serve the community,” said Jones of the various stores housed in Peachtree Plaza. She said that even though the stores may have changed over the years, many of the people have not.

“All of us in the center greatly appreciate the renovations,” said Peebles manager John Johnson. “It gives citizens a better shopping environment. We want to provide services citizens need right here at home.”

Jones-McBride has served as president of the Peachtree Plaza Shopping Center since the death of her husband, Samuel Jones, in 1982. She hopes the updates will help the center continue to be a place of convenience for the community. “It has been a pleasure to serve the people of Jefferson County,” she said.



Council discusses ambulance service

By Leila Borders
Staff Writer

Jefferson County’s ambulance service sparked a heated discussion at the Wrens City Council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 9. When Fire Chief Larry Cheeley stepped up to report that the Wrens Fire Department was running smoothly, Council member Willie Huntley took the opportunity to voice his concerns about the ambulance service’s slow response times and mistaken directions in the Wrens area.

Council member Tomasenia Jackson also shared complaints about the service, saying she had called an ambulance to her home and it arrived 45 minutes later—after Jackson had already had a family member begin to transport her to a hospital in Augusta.

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Cheeley informed the council that the ambulance service is contracted with the county commission and that it is the county’s responsibility to oversee the service. Cheeley went on to say that the fire department responds often in the ambulances’ stead and that these instances are increasing in number.

There have not been any problems reported with the ambulance service in Louisville, according to Louisville mayor Rita Culvern. However, at least one other city in the county has expressed concerns.

The Jefferson County Board of Commissioners contracts Rural/Metro Ambulance service to operate two 24-hour Advanced Life Support ambulances and one daytime weekday ambulance. Of the two 24-hour ambulances, one is stationed in Louisville at Jefferson Hospital and one is in Wrens at the Old ROTC building. The daytime weekday ambulance operates out of Bartow. By contract, that ambulance is not staffed, and therefore is not in use, after hours or on weekends. However, the county actually has five ambulances. The remaining two are staffed only for county football games.

More than 50 percent of the patients transported by Jefferson County ambulances go to hospitals out of the county, which can consume from two and a half to three hours of time. According to Rural/Metro director Carl Wagster, this is due in part to patients requesting to be taken to specific hospitals and the lack of doctors at Jefferson Hospital equipped for certain types of emergencies. During the month of August, the service requested mutual aid six times. Mutual aid asks for assistance from an ambulance in a neighboring county when all local ambulances are either engaged on a call or transporting out of the county.

When a call is placed to 9-1-1, operators located at the Jefferson County Sherriff’s Office in Louisville dispatch the ambulance closest to the site of the call. All of the ambulances are equipped with GPS and new easy-to-read grid maps. Wagster said he has never had a problem with the GPS and that all the paramedics and EMTs know how to use the grid maps.

“It is a big county for two ambulances,” said Keldric Cobb, a full-time paramedic in Jefferson County since 2002. However, Cobb and Vern Franklin, an EMT with the county since 2004, said that they do not have problems finding the way to where they are needed.

When asked if two full-time ambulances were enough for the county, Wagster said he would like to have at least one other ambulance operating. “But, I don’t know what enough is,” he said.

The county is trying to figure out just how many ambulances are enough by tracking the call volume received by the ambulance service. According to monthly reports from Rural/Metro, calls for an ambulance average 250 each month. About 75 percent of those calls require an ambulance transport to a hospital.

“We don’t have the consistent level of call volume to justify three full ambulances, yet,” said Paul Bryan, the county’s administrator.

All of those 9-1-1 calls come into 9-1-1 dispatch located in the Jefferson County Sherriff’s Office in Louisville. Two operators are on duty at a given time, and the office employs a computer system to record the incoming phone number, time of the call, time an ambulance was dispatched to the scene and the time the ambulance arrives on the scene. The system also generates a text version of the phone call as well as an audio recording.

“It is a foolproof system,” said JCSO Maj. Charles Gibbons, operations administrator for 9-1-1 dispatch.

Gibbons said that upgrades for the communications system are being discussed with the county. These upgrades would include strategically placed communications towers throughout the county to maximize cell phone and radio coverage. Gibbons reported there have been some problems with the communications tower in Wrens since it was damaged in a recent tornado.

Wrens, which accounts for approximately 27 percent of the county’s ambulance calls, has not replaced the antenna that was damaged. The city applied for government relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but has not received them. According to Mayor Lester Hadden, the cost for replacing the tower is $95,000, half of which the city has already received from insurance. The city had planned to build a new tower before the tornados.

“Improved communication would help,” said Arty Thrift, city administrator for Wrens, concerning the ambulance service problems. “We can communicate, we just cannot communicate as well as we could with a new tower,” he said.

At the Wrens City Council meeting, Huntley asked what actions the city and county were taking to resolve the problems. “We need to address this problem with the mayor, city administrator, county commissioners and with 9-1-1,” he said.

Cheeley said that the matter had been discussed between those parties, but did not indicate if any resolutions had been reached.

“The city is eager to look for solutions,” said Thrift.



Kicking off reading program

Wrens Elementary School held its annual Accelerated Reader kickoff on Friday, Sept. 12. The students had a fun and exciting morning as they released balloons. This year’s theme is “Reading under Construction.” Prizes will be given as the students reach their goals. For the end of the year reward, the school's faculty and staff will have a talent show.

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