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December 18, 2008 Issue

Four injured in two-vehicle collision
Keep your underwear under there, council says
Officers warn holidays often entice criminals
Vote splits on assistant building inspector

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Four injured in two-vehicle collision

By Parish Howard
Editor/Publisher

A trip to the dentist turned into a horrific experience for a family of six Tuesday morning when a car pulled out in front of them at a Matthews crossroads.

According to Jefferson County Sherriff's Office Sgt. Clay Neal, James and Jennifer Lemerond and four children, all of Avera, were driving east on Hwy 88 from Wrens to Keysville when a Honda Accord driven by 31- year-old Roberto Martinez of Matthews pulled across Campground Road into their path.

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The vehicles collided in the intersection and according to Carl Wagster, Director of Jefferson County EMS, Martinez was thrown into the passenger seat of his vehicle by the impact.

"He was in critical condition," Wagster said. "He was in surgery within minutes."

Four ambulances, three from Jefferson County and one from McDuffie, transported victims of the accident to the Medical College of Georgia.

Wagster said 30-year-old Jennifer Lemerond, the Oldsmobile mini-van's front passenger, was complaining of injuries consistent with seatbelt constriction. While 9-year-old Kassie Lemerond bit through her lip during the accident and her brother 7-year-old James Jr., sustained a laceration to his forehead.

According to a spokesperson for MCG Marinez was in fair condition, both children were in good condition and Mrs. Lemerond had been treated and released as of Tuesday evening.

Though conditions were very foggy, Sgt. Neal said that it was undetermined at the time if the weather played a part in the accident. The Georgia State Patrol took over the investigation into the accident and an official report from that department will not be available until later in the week.



Keep your underwear under there, council says

By Leila Borders
Staff writer

Pull ‘em up or pay the fine. That is Wrens’s final word on the sagging pants trend that has gripped their city for several years.

In a vote at the Tuesday, Dec. 9 city council meeting, a sagging pants ordinance outlawing the trend was passed unanimously. Council member Tomasenia Jackson was not present for the vote.

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Discussion of the sagging pants issue began in September of this year when the city council asked city attorney Chris Dube to prepare an ordinance that would outlaw the exposure of undergarments and skin that accompanies that style of dress.

For the drafted ordinance to become law, it would have to be read and passed by the council twice. At the October council meeting, Dube read the drafted ordinance, and after a brief discussion, the first reading was passed. The December council meeting was the required second reading of the ordinance.

To allow the council more time to discuss items on the monthly council meeting’s agenda, members of the council, the mayor, city administrator and city attorney held a work session on Thursday, Dec. 4. Wrens Police Chief David Hannah also was on hand to field questions from council members and questions they had.

The ordinance states that it is unlawful to wear “pants or shorts more than three inches below the waist (crest of the ilium).”

After determining exactly where the crest of the ilium lies, the council discussed the length of three inches from that point. In response to the idea of three inches being too small of a span, Dube reminded the council that if more than three inches of skin is showing then the violator can most likely be punished by an indecent exposure law already in place. Dube also said he based the wording of the ordinance off of similar ordinances in other cities around the state of Georgia and the country.

Council member Ceola Hannah asked how the law handled sagging pants that were covered by a shirt or other outerwear. Dube explained that if the pants are sagging but the undergarments and skin are covered by other outerwear, then the person is not in violation of the ordinance.

The ordinance only covers persons who are exposing their undergarments or skin. In response to a question from Mayor Lester Hadden, Dube said the law covers both males and females who are exposing underwear or skin.

When deciding to pass the ordinance, the council also faced the issue that the ordinance could possibly be challenged in court. Wrens is one of the first few cities in Georgia to pass this kind of ordinance and, according to Dube, the law will most likely be challenged at some point in one of these cities on the basis of constitutional freedom of speech or expression.

If challenged, the city would have to use tax payer money to defend the ordinance as the city’s insurance does not cover this kind of issue. The law has not been challenged in the other cities yet, but Dube advised the council that a challenge would happen somewhere and could happen in Wrens.

In discussing the challenges facing the ordinance, the council turned to police chief Hannah to find out what kind of enforcement the city can expect. According to Hannah and city administrator Arty Thrift, enforcement initially would focus on education rather than issuing citations. Hannah said he would sit down with all his officers to discuss how to legally enforce the law and would encourage issuing warnings until the city was well informed about the law and its ramifications.

“If anybody has questions, bring them in, sit down and talk about it,” said Hannah. He encouraged citizens to talk with him and other law enforcement officers about the law and any questions they might have. Hannah also said his officers would be instructed to confront violators of the law in front of the police car’s camera to ensure that the law was being enforced properly and not abused.

When discussing citizens’ responses to the law, the council members all reported they had heard only positive responses from their constituents. Some said they hoped the law could be used to assist parents in ensuring their children are dressed appropriately. The work session’s discussion left the council members with much to think about before their final vote.

“What is the duty of government? Should we legislate dress?” said Thrift at the end of the work session. The council’s response came through on Tuesday: a definitive yes.



Officers warn holidays often entice criminals

By Carol McLeod
Staff writer

Chestnuts roasting by an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose and someone kicking in your front door?

An investigator with Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office reminds citizens that besides sharing hot chocolate with friends, singing Christmas carols and exchanging gifts this is the time of year usually accompanied with a rise in crime.

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“Everybody needs to be on the lookout,” said the investigator, Lt. Robert Chalker. “With the way the economy’s going, it’s coming.”

Louisville Police Chief Jimmy Miller agrees.

“This happens during this time of year,” he said of the increase in crime during Christmas. “We didn’t have this problem last year but times have changed. People need to be more aware of what’s going on around them and be more careful.”

During the past few weeks, for example, there have been a home invasion and a burglary in the county, Chalker said.

The burglary was on Tuesday, Dec. 9, outside the city limits of Wrens.

Someone kicked in the front door of a home, Chalker said.

“Nobody was in,” he said, adding that a 52-inch, flat-screen, plasma TV was among the items stolen.

The home invasion was on Thursday, Dec. 11.

Chalker said the suspects in that case are three white males and one white female.

The incident occurred outside of Wrens.

“They went in and took some money and held a gun on them,” Chalker said.

The investigator said when anyone arrives home and finds the house has been broken into, it is sometimes a natural response to want to see what has been taken and what damage has been done.

“Don’t go in,” he said. “Call 9-1-1. Let us come and clear the house.”

Even if you are certain no one is there, Chalker said it is better to be safe.

“Plus, we need to fingerprint the scene, get any footprints or tire prints that may be there,” he said.

Anyone with any information about either of the two home invasions near Wrens is asked to call the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office at 478-625-7538.



Vote splits on assistant building inspector

By Carol McLeod
Staff writer

In its regular monthly meeting Tuesday, Dec. 9, the Jefferson County Commission was split over hiring an assistant building inspector. With Commissioner Sydney Norton’s seat vacant because of his death, the commission now has only four members. Two voted to hire Joseph Phillips; while the others opposed his selection.

Commissioners Johnny Davis and Gonice Davis approved the hire; while Commissioners Tommy New and William Rabun did not.

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New said in the meeting that he would approve hiring Phillips, who currently lives in Burke County, if having him move to Jefferson County was made a condition.

“I feel like because of the economic conditions we’re under, that if we’ve got people who live in the county who can run or help run any department, we should give their applications more consideration than someone who is not already a part of the county,” Rabun said in a later interview.

“The people who live here are already involved in our community and we should seriously consider those applicants first,” he said. The commissioner had not discussed what the next step in this process will be, Rabun said Monday.

In other news, the commissioners accepted a bid of $77,547 for the county’s workers compensation insurance from Bargeron Insurance Inc. in Louisville. The other bid, from the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, was for $78,712.

The commissioners have been using ACCG, which provides a dividend to the county based on any unused portion of the excess premium, Bryan said.

One issue discussed during this month’s work session on Monday, Dec. 1, was whether both insurance providers used local doctors. Bryan double checked this between the work session and the meeting.

“I don’t see any issues with the providers,” he said at the meeting.

“I talked with the school board and they use the same (insurance) provider. So does the city of Louisville and they’ve had no problems,” Rabun said.

Johnny Davis asked if there would be a penalty if the commission accepted the bid from Bargeron and then wanted to go back to ACCG later.

Bryan said he thought the county would lose the dividend surplus.

Rev. Mitch Vaughn, the pastor of Shekinah Baptist Assembly in Louisville, spoke to the commissioners about The Greater Blessing Program, a housing repair ministry from The Fuller Center.

“I talked with Habitat (for Humanity) and was told we didn’t have enough population for Habitat,” Vaughn said.

The program was started by Millard Fuller who started Habitat for Humanity, Vaughn said. The program helps low income people obtain housing, he said.

Someone who qualifies would have to put in 350 hours of work on the home, or what is referred to as, “sweat equity.”

“We’re not taking away from contractors,” Vaughn said. “This is a ministry. We’re hoping contractors will be a part of this.”

Vaughn said he plans to be working in all the communities in the area. He spoke to the Louisville City Council during their last regular council meeting, Dec. 9.

“We’re just looking forward to serving the community,” he said.

The commission discussed a neighborhood watch and clean up day for an area in the county. They decided to discuss this in greater detail at their next work session.

Some changes had been made to a draft of a document regarding the formation of a utility authority in the county. Bryan asked the commissioners to review those changes. No decision was made on this issue.

The commissioners accepted a bid from Rodgers Clock Service in Harrisburg, Penn., for $10,500 for improvements and repairs to the clock on the county’s courthouse.

The board approved a request from the county’s EMS director, Carl Wagster, to purchase a 16-foot support trailer. A Homeland Security Grant will reimburse the county for up to $46,000, Wagster said.

Wagster said he had talked with other counties who applied for this grant and was told the grant was more than the cost.

“The county has to pay up front and get reimbursed,” Wagster said.




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