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March 19, 2009 Issue

Drugs seized at road check
Davis and Brown will contend in runoff
Schools officially cut first six jobs
Uncovered remains to be reburied

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Drugs seized at road check

By Carol McLeod
Staff writer

Friday the 13th proved unlucky for some motorists in and around Louisville.

From early in the evening through about midnight, road checks in Louisville and the unincorporated areas nearby netted cases ranging from suspended licenses to open containers to possession of marijuana and a possession of cocaine.

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Officers from the sheriffs’ offices in Jefferson, Columbia and Richmond counties as well as those from Louisville Police Department and the Georgia State Patrol faced the night’s cold, stopping motorists and asking for drivers’ licenses, registration and proof of insurance.

Along with these officers were K-9s and their handlers from Jefferson, Columbia and Richmond counties.

These K-9s were instrumental in identifying vehicles and motorists with illegal drugs.

Starting around 5:15 p.m., officers already had 12 or 13 cases by 7 p.m., said Jefferson County Sheriff Gary Hutchins.

About 30 officers took part in the event.

One driver who tried to avoid the traffic stop by turning around and driving away was pursued by a trooper with the GSP and found to have a suspended license.

About 10:30 p.m., officers stopped a red Mountaineer on Highway 24 near the intersection of Highway 171. One of the K-9s alerted on the car and officers conducted a search.

Lt. Garry McCord, an investigator with the JCSO, had escorted the driver to the back of the vehicle. While speaking with the driver, McCord saw the driver place something in his mouth. The item was retrieved from the ground and field tested positive for cocaine.

Officers asked the four passengers to exit the vehicle and conducted a search. All five persons were taken to the JCSO where they were strip searched.

Only the driver was found to have cocaine in his possession. He was charged with possession of cocaine. One male passenger was charged with disorderly conduct. No charges were filed against a third male passenger or either of the two women passengers.

Lt. Clark Hiebert, an investigator with the JCSO, said the K-9’s alert on the vehicle gives officers probably cause to search the vehicle and the occupants. There was about one gram of a substance that field tested positive for cocaine, Hiebert said.

Additionally, county officers went to a house inside the city limits along with Louisville Police Chief Jimmy Miller to serve a warrant on a man wanted for nonpayment of child support.

Hiebert said an occupant in the house ran away.

“We didn’t have any charges on him,” Hiebert said, adding officers chased the man, who failed to stop when ordered to do so by the officers.

He was charged with obstruction of an officer.

Additional charges filed against individuals that night included one DUI for drugs, several drivers with suspended licenses, seatbelt violations, drivers with no licenses, children restraint violations and window tint violations.

Jefferson County Sheriff Gary Hutchins said Monday he thought the road checks went well.

“People have wanted us in their neighborhoods,” he said. “We didn’t pick just one area. We went to several places in the Louisville area. We weren’t in just one location.”

Hutchins said they tried to cover all of Louisville and will continue to have road checks there and in other areas in the county.

“Any places with concerns of drug activity or where we’re receiving calls in a neighborhood,” he said, adding how much assistance his office received from the other departments involved.

“We can’t make it without other people and other agencies,” he said. “We appreciate their support. By working together, it helps us get the work done.”



Davis and Brown will contend in runoff

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

A runoff will be needed to fill the District 3 Jefferson County Commission seat after the special election held on Tuesday. The seat was left vacant following the December death of Sydney Norton.

In order to have won the seat, one of the six people who qualified would have had to receive a majority, which is at least 50 percent plus one vote of the total votes cast, a spokesman with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office said. Since no one candidate won a majority, there will be a run-off election with the top two candidates Michael Brown and Wayne Davis Sr., which will be Tuesday, April 14.

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Tuesday, Brown, Davis, Alec McNeely, Spence C. Norton, Dalton D. Dowdy and Horace Watson “Race” Lariscy III competed in the District 3 race.

District 3 registered voters were able to vote in precincts in Wrens, Avera, Stapleton and Matthews. According to the Registrar’s Office, of the 2,706 registered voters in District 946 came to the precincts to cast ballots.

Davis received 334 votes, Brown received 289 votes, Dowdy 207 votes, Norton 49 votes, McNeely 43 votes and Lariscy 24 votes.

Provisional ballots will be verified on Wednesday.

The person elected will fill the remainder of Norton’s term, which ends Dec. 31, 2010.

Norton died at the age of 66 on Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008, at University Hospital in Augusta. Norton had been a county commissioner for 14 years and was chairman of the Human Resources, Health and Welfare Committee and the Water Committee.



Schools officially cut first six jobs

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Six teaching positions have been eliminated from the Jefferson County school systems in an effort to meet a tighter budget brought on by funding cuts from the state.

In a called meeting Monday, March 16, the Jefferson County Board of Education passed a series of budget cuts for fiscal years 2009 and 2010.

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The cuts are an effort to address shortfalls created by reductions made at the state level.

During its regular monthly meeting this month, a meeting held Tuesday, March 10, the board discussed a series of state funding cuts that have significantly reduced the board’s budget.

“I know it’s tight,” BOE Chairman Jimmy Fleming said during the regular meeting March 10, commending Superintendent Carl Bethune and his staff for the work they have done to reduce the budget.

“These cuts are very, very painful,” Bethune said.

Several factors that have impacted the county this fiscal year include the delay by the state in sending a grant to compensate the school system and the county for homestead exemptions. This is the last year those funds are expected.

The budget approved during the called meeting March 16 ends with a potential deficit of more than $600,000. Carrying forward more than $150,000 from the board’s general fund along with various cuts between 10 percent and 15 percent, Bethune was able to bring the expected deficit to less than $150,000.

Bethune estimates the budget for fiscal year 2010, which begins July 1 of this year, will begin with a deficit of $140,534. Along with that deficit from the end of FY 2009, Bethune anticipates additional cuts for a total deficit of $1,435,150.

This includes a loss of almost $600,000 if expected changes in the equalization grant is passed. Equalization grants are given to the poorer school systems across the state. These funds are provided by the state to help equalize the amount of funding available to systems without the tax base available in wealthier systems.

Other cuts include an almost $70,000 cut in the nursing grant and a $200,000 loss in QBE funds.

The teaching positions cut are two physical education teachers and four positions that will not be filled when those teachers retire this year.

The savings to the board for those six jobs will be $300,000.

Other cuts in the budget include a reduction of local supplements, a reduction in work days and a reduction in bus routes.

Bethune had said during the regular meeting and again in the called meeting that there have not yet been clear guidelines about Pres. Barack Obama’s stimulus package.

“The stimulus money has been touted as saving jobs, but with so many strings attached, we don’t know what all we can do and what we can’t do,” Bethune said.

Board member Georgia Hunter said during the regular meeting that she believed more time was needed to discuss the budget and any options that might be available.

“I think we need to have the discussion tonight or call a quick called meeting,” Bethune said at that time, adding that April 15 is the deadline for contracts.

“So we have to move quickly,” Bethune said.

The board selected the following Monday, which was March 16, for a called meeting.

In other news during the regular meeting, the board did vote to offer a contract to a prospective teacher to fill the JROTC teaching position that will be vacated when Cmdr. Charles Lewis retires this year.

During the called meeting this week, the budget amendments for the current fiscal year were approved.

Beginning the discussion about the FY 2010 budget, Bethune said, “We’re upside down as we start this year.”

Bethune told board members he will be going to Atlanta Friday, March 20, to try to get some guidance from the state on the expected stimulus package.

“I think we do have to be prudent and know what strings are going to be attached,” he said.

“You know there will be strings,” said the board chairman.

Board member Georgia Hunter said she was concerned about cutting the local supplements for all employees, pointing out that the board did not give local supplements to non-degreed staff.

“I strongly believe if you’re making more, you should give more,” she said. “It is too harsh for people who don’t have degrees. To me, it’s not fair.”

Hunter said many of the employees without degrees make $20,000 a year and that a cut for them is too severe.

“There are some programs we haven’t touched,” she said. “I cannot agree with cutting the salaries of non-degreed people.”

Bethune said, as an example, that paraprofessionals face a cut of $12 a month and that the staff at the board’s central office face a higher cut, 3 percent.

“This is just my attempt to do something during drastic times,” he said.

“I just feel this is the wrong thing to do with out non-degreed people,” Hunter said. “I just cannot agree with cutting money of the people who don’t make much. “I really think we could use our money better.”

“We’ve tried to include everybody (in the cuts) so that all give some so that some do not have to give all,” said Charlie Brown, the board’s vice chairman.

“We’ve had four years of extra cuts in a row that were unexpected,” Chairman Fleming said. “Nobody knows the future right now.”

“When we take away, we want everybody to participate,” Hunter said. “But when we’re giving out, everybody does not participate.”

“I do think you’ve opened the door for further discussion,” Brown said.

“Last year the board, this board, wanted to give an increase to one principal and I said all principals should get an increase. I felt bad that we couldn’t do anything for the assistant principals and the teachers, but we didn’t have the money. And I’m going to stand up for the non-degreed people, too,” Hunter said.

“There may be some programs we need to look at,” Bethune said. “Additional cuts to staff would be pretty devastating.”

A vote was taken to pass the FY 2010 budget as it was presented. Hunter was the only board member who opposed the motion, which passed.



Uncovered remains to be reburied

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

In the aftermath of last year’s March 15th tornado that swept through the area, a caretaker discovered a tree had uprooted, bringing with it a funeral vault.

The caretaker contacted C. W. “Speaky” Stephens, who got in touch with Leroy Lewis, president of the Jefferson County Historical Society.

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“There was no tombstone,” Lewis said. “There were two oak trees, huge oak trees, and the roots had gotten into the grave and had found their way into the vault.”

After much research, the remains were identified as those of Frances Marion Thompson, Lewis said.

“We located family members. We found a granddaughter and many great-grandchildren,” he said.

Some family members were in Florida and other places out of state, as well as some family who live in Wrens.

Thompson was a great-grandfather of Lena Braswell, a citizen of Wrens.

“We determined through various research that Mr. Thompson was a grandson of Moses Thompson who was born in 1734 and had fought in the Revolution in North Carolina before he came to Georgia,” Lewis said.

Lewis said the stumps have been removed and the hole filled. They have a new vault and will have a funeral for Thompson, he said.

“We’re going to all gather at James Funeral Home Saturday the 21st in Wrens at 4 p.m. and we’ll go as a group to the Young-Pool Cemetery on Quaker Road in Wrens,” Lewis said.

“We’ll just have a regular service. We’ll have a minister and we’ll have a prayer and we’ll talk about the tornado we had on March 15 (2008) and what happened to the area,” he said.

The Jefferson County Historical Society and James Funeral Home in Wrens are sponsoring the funeral and have invited family members to attend.

“We located a family member who had information about Mr. Thompson. She was able to tell me where her grandfather lived, on the Quaker Road right at the point where Highway 80 comes in to Quaker Road and that Mr. Thompson we’re dealing with married a Pool, Elizabeth Pool in 1867 and had a large family. His wife died in 1881 and then he married a Miss Rabun and had a number of children. None of those children are still living but children and grandchildren are still here. So Mr. James will be furnishing a vault and a metal casket in which the remains will be placed,” Lewis said.

“A Mr. Prescott in Wrens had a Bible that was given to him by a distant cousin. He noticed that the name Frances Thompson was in the Bible. At this service he will present the Bible to the Historical Society,” he said.

Anyone who is interested in attending the service is invited to come.




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