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July 23, 2009 Issue

Officers warn of money order scam
County millage rate drops
Wrens gets stricter curfew
County adopts budget

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Officers warn of money order scam

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

A Jefferson County woman said Monday, July 13, she was suspicious when she received a money order in a FedEx overnight envelope.

“It was on my front door,” Vicky Walden said.

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“I opened the door and (the envelope) fell in. She had it stuck between my screen door and my front door,” she said.

Walden said she usually doesn’t enter her home through the front door and might not have noticed the envelope for some time.

She said she didn’t think the money order was valid because she didn’t know the name of the person who signed as the sender nor does she know anyone in Maryland, the state listed as the sender’s address.

“It’s unreal how real it looks. Even the place you’re supposed to rub out matches the symbol,” she said, referring to a small area supposedly covered with ink that is scratched off at the time of purchase.

She said she called Money Gram, the company listed as the source where the money order was bought. A representative checked the number on the money order and told Walden it was not valid.

“She said that if I had cashed it, it would have come back on me,” Walden said.

If Walden had cashed the money order, she would have had to repay whatever bank or store had cashed it for her, she said.

“The liability would have fallen on me to pay this back,” she said. “I’m just wondering how in the world they got my address. Another thing that tipped me off, if I’d sent somebody this kind of money, I’d have made them sign for it.”

Walden said the envelope had just been dropped off at her door.

Walden said she was told by the Money Gram representative that this type of scam is not uncommon.

“Usually there’s a note asking the person to cash the money order and send half back to them (the sender). For example, for $1,000 money order, they ask the person to send $500. Then the person is out the $1,000 and the $500,” Walden said.

Apparently, the scammers forgot to put a note with the money order, Walden said. Nothing was in the envelope except the money order.

A local law enforcement official said people should be cautious about cashing any unexpected check or money order they might receive, even if there is a note or letter that makes the money order or check seem legitimate.



County millage rate drops

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

In its regular monthly meeting Monday, July 13, the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners voted to lower the millage rate by a quarter of a mill.

“There will be no public hearings; we don’t have to have the public hearings because the rollback is at a level that does not require public hearings this year,” said Jefferson County Administrator Paul Bryan.

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During the meeting, Bryan had said he thought public hearings would be required but later informed The News and Farmer those would not be necessary.

“The value of the mill will be $436,415, which is the same thing we said in the meeting,” Bryan said.

“The value of the mill is increasing and we’re rolling back the millage rate to 12.75. We rolled it back sufficiently that no public hearings are required. The increase in the value of the mill was not due to the increase of reassessment of existing real property but was due to the addition of real property on to the digest,” he said.

Bryan said there is a standard method used to determine the value of one mill.

“You take the adjusted net digest and divide by 1,000 to equal one mill,” he said.

“Then you have to determine how much money the county needs from ad valorem taxes for their budget. You use that number to determine what your millage rate is going to be. You divide how much you need by the value of the mill and that’s your millage rate. The county will establish that millage rate on the regular meeting on Aug. 11.

“Last night was tentative,” Bryan said, referring to the information provided during the July 13 meeting.

“We found when we worked through the numbers (the next) morning it was sufficient that we don’t have to have a hearing because the increase of the digest was due to additions not to any reassessments that have occurred,” he said.



Wrens gets stricter curfew

By Parish Howard
Editor/Publisher

Wrens Police Chief David Hannah says that his city has had enough.

There has been enough gang-related fighting, loitering, groups refusing to leave the roadway for vehicles, reported drug use, burglaries and other crimes for the city council to tighten its curfew.

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“We have had so many complaints about juveniles in the Denny Road, Green Meadows and Pine Valley area being involved in so-called gang activity and fighting, we had to do something else,” Hannah said. “We’re having problems all over town, but those are the areas where we are getting the most complaints.”

As of the council’s most recent meeting, where it held the second reading of its new ordinance, the penalties for juveniles being caught out after hours have been made stricter, the hours have been extended and the age of those the curfew includes has been broadened.

The curfew now restricts the movement of juveniles 17 and under weeknights between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. and weekends between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m.

The parents of juveniles caught out with no good reason within these hours will now face a $1,000 fine and up to 100 days of imprisonment.

“If your kids get caught out, we aren’t going to baby them,” Hannah said. “They are going to have to face the consequences, no exceptions. There aren’t going to be any warnings given so don’t even ask.”

Hannah said this change in the curfew ordinance was brought about by increased complaints and arrests in the area.

“In addition to the fights we’ve had a number of break-ins at residences in these areas,” Hannah said. “They’re going into other people’s apartments and stealing televisions, VCRs, gaming systems.”

Earlier this summer the chief said he personally was involved in an incident where he was questioning some teens and saw a bag that one of them had dropped. On closer inspection he found that it contained a handgun.

“A 16-year-old kid had stolen it from his grandparents and was carrying it around,” Hannah said. “We believe it was the same gun fired into the air during a fight in the area just the Sunday before it was confiscated.”

Earlier this year Hannah designated an officer for these high-crime areas.

“We have an officer that goes into these areas at certain times and this seems to be working well,” Hannah said. “We still have more to do there though. This curfew is a tool we can use to make sure that people who are hanging out where they shouldn’t are moved along. Parents need to know where their kids are. They need to be more involved. Right now there are some who don’t know where their kids are at one, two or three o’clock in the morning. They’re out roaming the streets.”

The ordinance is not in place to punish those who have a legitimate reason for being out and it includes provisions such as: when a child is with a parent or legal guardian, on an emergency errand, traveling to or from lawful employment, or attending an official school, religious or recreational activity.

“If you’re going to visit someone, visit them, but don’t hang out in the streets,” Hannah said. “Something has to be done before someone gets shot or killed in one of these fights that just doesn’t make sense.”



County adopts budget

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

In a called meeting Tuesday, June 30, Jefferson County Board of Commissioners adopted a budget for fiscal year 2009-2010 by one vote.

Commissioners William Rabun, Gonice Davis and Tommy New voted to adopt the budget; while, Commissioners Wayne Davis and Johnny Davis voted against the budget.

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The meeting had been called in an effort to approve the budget before the current fiscal year began, which was on July 1. The county’s fiscal years run from July 1 of one year through June 30 of the next.

The commission had a called meeting for Thursday, June 25, for the second reading of the budget and an adoption at that time.

During that meeting, Commissioners Gonice Davis and Johnny Davis were absent.

New made a motion to adopt the budget at that meeting. Wayne Davis would not second the motion and therefore the motion died for lack of a second.

In the meeting June 30, New made a motion to adopt the budget, which Gonice Davis seconded. The two of them, along with Rabun, voted to adopt the budget.

Jefferson County Administrator Paul Bryan said the total budget for FY 09-10 is $12,183,477.54, a reduction of $162,673.46 from last year’s budget of $12,346,151.

Bryan told the commissioners several changes had to be made to the way in which records for the budget are kept.

“Water, solid waste and E-911 will be separated from the general fund,” he said, adding they will go into an enterprise-type fund.

Bryan also said each section of the court system will be separated from the others, rather than being listed as one item.

Wayne Davis and Johnny Davis voted against adopting the budget.

The two commissioners said in an interview later they thought the budget should include furloughs for county employees.

“We’re going through the roughest time in our history,” Wayne Davis said. “We’re nowhere near the end. We have to start being proactive.”

He said a furlough of county employees now would be much better than what he called a “massive layoff” later.

Johnny Davis agreed, adding that some areas of the budget are going to have an increase and there is no way to control that.

“I’m still concerned about the economy,” he said. “It has not made a turnaround.”

Bryan said in a separate interview that his suggestion to cut costs in the budget is for employees to pay any additional costs in health insurance.

He said he expects the premiums for employees, which currently are paid in full by the county, to increase this fiscal year. He said whatever that amount is should be passed on to the employees.

“That affects everyone,” he said, adding that not every county employee could be furloughed.

“You can’t furlough elected officials, law enforcement officers or dispatchers,” he said. “Everyone has insurance. There are 146 county employees covered by our health insurance. Only 74 employees would be eligible for furlough.”

The approved budget is available for review at the commission office during regular business hours. Anyone who wants a copy may be charged the standard rate for copies made by government offices.




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