With their heads
in the clouds
By Leila Borders
A late afternoon drive down US Highway 1 just outside of Louisville yields views of cotton fields, grazing cows and the occasional hay baler finishing its last bale of the day.
After the few houses dotting the landscape, a radio tower comes into view and, wait, what’s that? A rainbow parachute circles the tower with what appears to be a go-cart dangling precariously from it. Looking closely, drivers can just make out a pilot waving friendly. “Is he crazy?” no doubt crosses the minds of many drivers as they offer a tentative wave. However, “What and who is that?” is probably thought just as often—and is much easier to answer.
Officially called a powered parachute, the contraption is flown by Charles Lewis, a former Navy aviator and commander of the JROTC at Jefferson County High School.
Powered parachutes are essentially exactly what they appear: an open cart suspended from a parachute. The cart supports a small engine, propeller, the pilot, and in the case of Lewis’s machine, a passenger. Traveling at about 30 mph just a few hundred feet above the ground, fliers experience the height and speed of a bird. When Lewis offered this reporter the opportunity to experience that first hand, I leaped at the chance.
“I like to fly other people who want to see Louisville from the air,” said Lewis. Strapped into the compact cart with a helmet on, I was becoming much less concerned with seeing Louisville as getting off the ground. He started the throttle and, after a moment, the parachute inflated with a jerk. My stomach plummeted as I watched the ground fall away and the cart’s wheel stop spinning. Then, I looked up. The clear afternoon afforded a view that cannot be fully described, only experienced. From the courthouse of Louisville to Plant Vogtle in Burke County, miles of forest, fields and roads spread out below us.
Ask Lewis what his favorite flying experience is and he will tell you buzzing a field of wild turkeys with his wife, Susanne, in the passenger seat. Flying with birds, seeing deer creep across fields and circling radio towers are just a few of the highlights of flying with Lewis.
“When you get up above the tree line, you can see the sunset in its entirety,” he said. Watching the sun sink beyond Jefferson County’s fields, he reminisces about his days in the Navy viewing the sunset from his aircraft and then flying higher to watch it again. After graduating from the Naval Academy, Lewis spent 22 years as a Navy aviator before returning to Louisville. Now, he satisfies his passion for flying by taking a few turns over the recreation department’s baseball fields during games.
“Sometimes kids are watching me, not the ball,” he said. He made sure to fly low next to US Highway 1 on our flight to count the number of truckers from whom we solicited waves. Waving is clearly one of Lewis’ favorite aspects of flying.
Providing enjoyment for those watching him from the ground has, however, gotten Lewis in trouble. On July 4 this past year, he decided to display an American flag from the bottom of the cart.
Using a little ingenuity, he determined a way to do this and took off that morning only to have to postpone his flag display because of inclement weather. Undeterred, he tried again a few days later with his wife waiting to take pictures from the ground. When he got to an appropriate height, he dropped the flag weighted with a brick. However, the 30 mph wind surrounding the moving cart did not allow the flag to drop, but instead pulled it into the propeller with the brick close behind. Without engine power, Lewis had to do a precautionary landing, floating into a field full of 7-feet high corn.
“I couldn’t see him or the parachute,” said his wife of the landing. “I had to wait for him to walk out.”
“I felt like I was in 'Field of Dreams,'” he said. The damage to his machine repaired and his ingenuity still in full swing, Lewis is undaunted by the incident.
“Susanne told me I can’t suspend a flag, though I’ve figured out how,” he said with a laugh.
Recently, Lewis was able to share his flying with his father, local historian Leroy Lewis. For the elder Lewis’ 80th birthday, his son took him in the powered parachute for the first time to view his original homestead about five miles outside of Wrens.
Lewis also had a memorable flight with another powered parachute owner, Hubert Jordan. Jordan flew in his single-seat craft and the men talked through CB radios in their helmets.
Being able to carry passengers was a large factor in Lewis’ decision to purchase a powered parachute. Portability also played a large part; the entire machine fits into a small, easily-towed trailer. Shopping around, he considered buying or building his own airplane. Building was too time-consuming and buying was too money-consuming, he decided. One flight in a powered parachute was enough for him.
“The first time I flew it, I knew I wanted to have one,” he said.
Based on Lewis’ enthusiasm, it looks like Jefferson County drivers, and children playing ball are going to continue seeing the rainbow parachute on their afternoon outings. Keep an eye out for red-tailed hawks, bald eagles and a man waving from a go-cart in the sky.
Rates for water and sewer to increase
By Leila Borders
Citizens of Wrens and Louisville will notice higher numbers on their end of March water and sewer bills. Both city councils voted to raise rates by approximately 20 percent at their meetings held Tuesday, Feb. 10. Each city is placing rising water management costs and city debt as the cause for the increases.
Wrens’ increase comes just after a 20 percent decrease in the gas rates for the city. As the city’s gas rates are determined by a contract made eight years ago, the rate decrease did not cause a change in the city’s budget. Water management and rates, however, makes a significant difference in the overall budget. With the budget in the red, a water and sewer rate increase will help to bring Wrens back in black.
This year, Wrens’ waste water management company, OMI, increased the cost of their services by $50,000. This hefty increase in addition to rising power costs also has contributed greatly to the water and sewer rate increase. While the city council discussed terminating their contract with OMI and finding a new provider, they were unable to do this because of clauses in the contract. At the Feb. 10 meeting, the council renewed their contract with OMI for one year, accepting the $50,000 increase.
“You never like to raise rates, but in a business world you probably should be,” said Arty Thrift, Wrens city administrator. The water rates in Wrens have not been raised in several years, and the city has discussed possible annual rate evaluations to keep up with the rising cost of services.
In addition to the rising cost of managing the water and sewer system, decreased usage has contributed to the decision to raise rates in Wrens. According to city officials, during the drought conditions of two years ago, citizens began conserving water, and usage, as well as revenue, went down. This usage never returned to the levels of before the drought.
This lack of revenue from citizen usage coupled with budget deficits and the increase from OMI prompted the 20 percent rate increase. For citizens, their water and sewer bills due in March will not reflect the change. However, they will see the increase on the bills due in April.
For Louisville, the increase arose from a $51,000 deficit at the end of last year caused by increasing waste water management costs. Unlike Wrens, Louisville does not contract out its waste water management, but instead uses internal personnel. However, rising power costs, additional required testing and monitoring and rising chemical costs created last year’s deficit.
The city council of Louisville voted to raise their minimum water and sewer rates from $9 to $11 per month. This minimum includes up to 2,000 gallons of water and sewer usage. After 2,000 gallons, the rates will rise from the current $2.35 per 1,000 gallons to $2.65 per 1,000 gallons. Also, Louisville’s garbage costs will rise from $9 for twice weekly pick up to $11 for residents and from $11 to $13 for commercial customers.
While Louisville did adjust rates last year, that was the first time in several years for a rate increase. Also at the Feb. 10 meeting, Louisville increased the cost of water and sewer taps. To physically connect a residence to the water line will rise from $325 to $500, and to connect to the sewer will go from $300 to $600. These increases are because of increased costs surrounding parts required for the jobs as well as labor.
It is unclear yet if the rate increases will completely cover either city’s deficits.
Wadley business owners complain
By Carol McLeod
Two Wadley citizens who operate unrelated businesses complained to Wadley City Council during its meeting Monday, Feb. 9.
The citizens spoke at the end of the meeting, just prior to its adjournment.
A woman said a police officer came to her business the previous Saturday, said her beer and wine license was not good and removed the beer from the premises.
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Wadley Police Chief Wesley Lewis said his officer told him the license had expired.
The woman said she thought they had until April to renew the license.
Sallie Adams, Wadley’s city clerk, said the licenses expire on Dec. 31.
“But they have until March 1 to get their (current) license,” she said.
Lewis said there also was a fire hazard and marijuana was found on the premises but the business was not cited for either of those.
“You could smell the marijuana,” Lewis said.
The woman made another complaint.
“You keep harassing us,” she said to Lewis. She told council that a police car parks on her property near her business and that keeps away customers.
Lewis said he had not received any complaints from her and that he is in the police station every weekday.
The woman said she had come to the station but Lewis was not there.
A second citizen who also operates a business in Wadley asked, “Does the same law apply to all black businesses? He (Lewis) will take stuff from me but not other black businesses.”
The man named another business and said to the chief, “You were there.”
Lewis said both citizens should make their complaints to him so he can address them.
“I want to talk to you in front of everybody,” the man said, adding he had seen the chief in the other establishment.
“He be in one place watching people pouring up liquor and he didn’t do anything,” the man told the council. Both citizens said this was an example of racial discrimination.
The woman again addressed the council and said the officer who said her license had expired and who took their beer also said a door between two sections of her establishment was locked.
“The door was not locked. It’s never locked,” she said. Locking the door with people in the room on the other side would be a fire hazard, the chief said.
“They still have our beer and I would like it back,” she said.
Lewis said this was the first he had heard of these complaints.
“Nobody came to me and talked about nothing,” he said.
A police officer who was present stood and addressed the mayor.
“The whole thing is there’s a new chief in town and we’re going to enforce the law,” he said.
During the business portion of the meeting, Councilman Randall Jones asked three recently hired police officers who were present to stand and introduce themselves.
This was in response to a discussion in a previous meeting where a councilmember had said she thought all new hires with the police department should meet the council.
The officers are K-9 Officer Patrick Paquette, Patrolman Darien Cato and Patrolman Gerald Dillard.
Bruce Logue, the chief of Wadley’s fire department, gave a report to the council.
Logue said the fire department has a 1985 pumper that another fire department might be interested in buying.
“But it needs a clutch,” he said. “Also another truck is in Louisville. Wadley Fire Department is having problems with it.”
Logue said this truck is an old 1993 rescue truck.
“When the new truck comes in, they’ll need room for it at the station,” he said. The new truck is a mini pumper rescue truck and will be paid for with the latest round of SPLOST money set aside for the fire departments throughout the county.
Additionally, Logue said the chassis on the 1985 fire knocker needs to be replaced.
There were no reports from the sanitation, finance, streets and lanes or vehicles committees.
Councilman John Maye, chairman of the water and sewer committee, said there had been eight major stop ups and several leaks reported.
Councilman Albert Samples reported that he is going to Hazlehurst to look for a truck for the streets and lanes department.
A complaint by a citizen requesting reimbursement for repairs to a car because of striking a hole in the street was referred to the city attorney, John Murphy, for review. A decision on this complaint was postponed until the review is complete.
In other news, the council approved an agreement between the city and Turnipseed Engineers and adopted a resolution observing Georgia Cities Week.
Georgia Cities Week is scheduled for Sunday, April 19, through Saturday, April 25. The council will discuss in its upcoming work session a variety of activities in recognition of this week.