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December 24, 2009 Issue

The reason behind the season...
FEMA approves county predisaster mitigation plan
Judge’s criminal charges dropped
Perry to replace Rachels as chief county appraiser

Please click the above links to read the story.



The reason behind the season...

Members of Wrens Baptist Church present a live nativity scene Monday through Wednesday on U.S. Highway One in front of the church. The scene included wisemen, angels and live sheep and a donkey.

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FEMA approves county predisaster mitigation plan

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

In a recent press release, officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced the agency has approved Jefferson County’s hazard mitigation plan.

“The plan is approved for a period of five years and focuses on developing a strategy to reduce or eliminate long-term risk to its citizens and property from natural hazards,” the release states.

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FEMA announced several years ago a change in the way the agency releases emergency funds to help communities after a disaster.

Communities without approved plans in place will no longer be eligible for disaster relief from FEMA.

Various people in the county began working with Linda Grijalva, a representative with the CSRA Regional Development Center, in January of 2007 to prepare the plan and submit it to FEMA for approval. The plan, called a Predisaster Mitigation Plan, was submitted last year.

Prior to sending the plan to FEMA, it had to be reviewed and approved by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.

Grijalva and community leaders researched and reviewed local history to identify areas of the county that had suffered disasters in the past and the types of disasters that occurred.

This information was evaluated to determine what areas and buildings need to be updated to help citizens survive disasters. One example of this is retrofitting buildings with windows able to withstand strong winds.

The county and cities will be eligible under a variety of programs to apply for grants to help pay the costs of making the upgrades outlined in the plan, Grijalva said when the plan was submitted.

“There were representatives throughout the county who worked very diligently on addressing the issues on any predisaster scenario,” Jefferson County Administrator Paul Bryan said at the time.

Charley English, GEMA director, said in the press release the county is now eligible for hazard mitigation assistance grants to address the needs identified in the plan.

“These activities will help reduce the loss of life and property by lessening the impact of natural disasters,” he said.

Some of the activities that can be funded with these grants include storm water management improvements, the development of warning systems and structural reinforcement, the press release stated.

“A lot of people in the community worked on this project to get it ready for FEMA approval,” said Lamar Baxley, the county’s EMA director.

“They did some background work looking up history on the floods, hurricanes and any other kind of disasters that have happened in Jefferson County over the last 100 years. It was a time-consuming job and we appreciate the work that everyone did to make this plan come together,” he said, adding the county and its cities will follow the guidelines and steps listed in the plan to stay in compliance with FEMA regulations.

“One of the biggest things we’ll be looking at will be refurbishing some of the older buildings in the county to bring them up to where they need to be to better withstand any future disasters we may have,” he said.

“It allows you to apply for funding for some of the projects in the plan to lessen the effects of the next disaster,” Grijalva said about receiving FEMA approval.



Judge’s criminal charges dropped

Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Nearly three months after Murray Bowman, Jefferson County’s chief magistrate, was suspended from his duties after an arrest on charges of aggravated assault, all criminal charges have been dropped.

Maj. Charlie Gibbons with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office said at the time that deputies responded to a call about shots being fired. Gibbons said no one had been shot.

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“There were no injuries,” he said and added the charge is a felony.

Bowman made a $25,000 bond but has been on paid suspension since.

Richard Malone, executive director of the Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia, had been appointed by the state’s attorney general to prosecute the case. The local district attorney and superior court judges withdrew from handling the case, which is usual in cases involving judges.

In court documents recently obtained by The News and Farmer under the Freedom of Information Act, Malone notified Jefferson County Superior Court Clerk Mickey Jones that the charges against Bowman have been dropped.

“Accordingly, I am declining prosecution in this matter but reserve the right to reconsider this decision,” Malone wrote in the document, which is dated last month.

Bowman’s suspension by another oversight agency, the Judicial Qualifications Commission, has not been resolved, said Sheryl Custer, an agency spokesman.

“His case is still pending with us,” Custer said last week. “And he is still suspended from the bench.”

Custer said Bowman’s case with the JQC may be resolved in January.

Custer said although the criminal charges against Bowman were dropped, the JQC is involved in reviewing ethical considerations.

In a separate matter, Bowman has also been named as one of several defendants in a complaint filed in federal court. The other defendants who have been named in the complaint are Wiley Clark Evans IV, Charles Hutchins and James Miller Jr. Jefferson County and the City of Louisville have also been named as defendants.

In the complaint filed in federal court in Augusta Wednesday, Dec. 9, the plaintiffs, Dustin Myers and Rodney Myers, state their constitutional rights were violated during an incident that occurred in August.



Perry to replace Rachels as chief county appraiser

By Billy W. Hobbs
The McDuffie Mirror

Jefferson County Board of Commissioners recently announced a replacement for retiring George Rachels, the county’s chief tax appraiser.

Katherine Perry, who has filled a similar position in McDuffie County for 12 years, is a Jefferson County resident and began her new duties last week.

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Before working for McDuffie County, Perry worked in the local tax appraiser’s office for 17 years.

“I’m going back to my old antique desk,” Perry laughed during a recent interview with The McDuffie Mirror in Thomson. “It’s going to be great to be just six miles from my new job instead of having to drive to work so far every day.”

Perry said her drive into Thomson and back home was 82 miles every day.

Bob Ballard, vice-chairman of the McDuffie County Board of Tax Assessors, told Perry that it was with deep regret that he and board member Tommy Gantt accepted her resignation..

“She has brought this office up to a professional level that we’re all proud of,” Ballard said. “We’re going to miss Katherine. She’s been a real asset to this office and this county.”

“I’m going to miss this staff and a lot of the people that I’ve gotten to know here in McDuffie County over the years,” said Mrs. Perry. “This staff has been wonderful to work with and I’m going to miss them.”

At the same time, she pointed out that she looks forward to working with her new staff in Jefferson County.

“It’s like going back home for me in a lot of ways,” she said.




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