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January 21, 2010 Issue

Putting a light in every home
Wrens neighbors go on patrol to cut down on crime
Wadley holds off on rehiring officers

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Putting a light in every home

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Jefferson Energy Cooperative has created a room highlighting the beginnings of electric devices in rural areas.

Steve Chalker, director of public relations for the cooperative, said he hopes people will come to the company’s office in Wrens to see the room. It is open to the public during normal business hours. Teachers who want to bring their students can call Chalker at the cooperative to schedule a tour.

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The room contains several displays with information about rural electrification and how Jefferson Energy got started.

Chalker said the exhibit was an idea of the company’s president and CEO, Kenneth Cook.

“He was at a meeting at another cooperative,” Chalker said. “They had some artifacts; and, he thought it would be a great thing for us to do here.”

The artwork in the room contains a farmhouse facade with the face of a boy painted on the window, paintings and a mural.

Chalker said the work was done by an Augusta artist, Donna Whaley, who came up with a sketch based on her own conception and from her conversations with company officials.

Chalker said the room was not being used and that most of the items on display were donated or are on loan.

Two employees, Charles Hendricks and Gary Smith, constructed the house, the transformer pole and other things in the room.

The Augusta Museum of History did the reading rails, which contain historical information.

Chalker said the project began two years ago.

“A lot of people don’t realize what REA (Rural Electrification Association) and even Jefferson Energy brought to the area,” he said. “We wanted to show what it was like, a typical rural setting in the early years of rural electrification. And what a great service REA and locally Jefferson Energy provided.”

Information is posted around the room, some on the door and some on reading rails.

This information explains how the cooperative was started in 1937 by Clarence H. Dawson, James B. Polhill and L.C. Rowland.

Other information explains what living conditions were like before electricity. For example, most people in rural areas had no running water, were washing clothes and milking by hand and cooked with wood.

Additionally, the only means of refrigeration was using blocks of ice that had to be purchased.

Early electrical devices in the display are a 1941 Singer sewing machine, a 1938 electric light, a radio from about 1940, an electric fan from about 1940, a 1933 electric washing machine, an electric iron from about 1940, a 1927 refrigerator, a 1930 flopper toaster, a 1952 electric range and a coffee percolator from about 1930.

To add atmosphere, music from the 1930s plays and is triggered when someone enters the room.

Any group should contact the cooperative at 706-547-2167 and ask for Steve Chalker to schedule a tour.




Wrens neighbors go on patrol to cut down on crime

By Jared Stepp
Apprentice

With a declining number of officers on patrol and an increase in crime, the city of Wrens implemented a Neighborhood Watch in September.

Meetings began then and have been occurring once each month since. Civilians from Wrens and other nearby cities attended to listen to the concerns of their neighbors as well as advice from police officers. The meetings average about 50 to 60 people and feature guest speakers such as judges, district attorneys, county investigators and an assistant director from Georgia Bureau of Investigation headquarters.

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Wrens Police Chief David Hannah said the meetings allow people from Wrens to be notified of what to look out for in their area, as well as assign block captains. These block captains coordinate with citizens in their assigned area to gather information about trouble in their area as well as recruit others to join the watch. They are screened to make sure the captain is someone who is trustworthy.

“It’s neighbors watching out for neighbors,” said Hannah. The meetings allow people from Wrens to discuss criminal actions to assist the Wrens police, whom Hannah said needs civilian assistance. Hannah said several crimes have been resolved because of the Neighborhood Watch and has led to at least three arrests.

“The crime rate went up this year,” said Hannah. He said the Wrens police force is reaching out to citizens to help them. “The citizens are responding; everything is positive,” he said.

Citizens also put signs up on their block to show that there is a neighborhood watch. Their names are put on a roster and the city of Wrens orders the signs, which are paid for by Neighborhood Watch Associations.

At the December meeting, guest speaker Dan Kirk, the assistant director of the GBI, gave an overview of the responsibilities of the GBI. He also encouraged the audience to remain interested and active in the Neighborhood Watch program and gave a couple of examples where the ordinary citizen helped police solve serious crimes. He also described how to be vigilant in their everyday surroundings and noticing when something just doesn’t seem right.

The meeting on Jan. 4 went well according to Hannah. He said at least 50 people were in attendance at the meeting. A representative from Congressman John Barrow spoke at the meeting, as did representatives from The Red Cross and the Department of Natural Resources.

The next meeting will take place on Feb. 25. Anyone interested in learning more about the Neighborhood Watch can contact David Hannah at the Wrens Police Department, 706-547-3000

“I want to encourage anyone who wants to come out and participate,” said Hannah. “They learn a lot from the neighborhood watch meetings.”

He said citizens can get a lot out of the meetings and they can get a chance to talk to people who are involved. The citizens can both speak and listen, and make the city of Wrens a safer place to live.



Wadley holds off on rehiring officers

Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

In its first city council meeting of the year, a meeting that saw the historical swearing in of Dorothy Strowbridge as the city’s first black woman council member, an issue causing a lot of interest occurred.

On Monday, Jan. 11, Wadley’s city council voted to rehire all city employees, except the police chief, Wesley Lewis, and his officers.

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Wadley City Clerk Sallie Adams said the process of rehiring city employees was done every year. She said she did not know the reason for this practice.

The decision of whether to rehire the police force was deferred for a later date, she said.

The police continue to work and continue to get paid.

“They said they wanted to have a meeting with the police department before they said they would rehire everybody,” Adams said, adding the chairman of the public safety committee and another council member would meet with the department.

“We continue to work and continue to get paid. Hopefully, within the next two weeks we’ll have a resolution to this,” Lewis said in an interview Tuesday.

“We’re going to continue to do our job. We’re going to do it right and we’re going to do it fair. That’s all we’ve been doing, doing our jobs without any favoritism to anybody,” he said.

Beth Moore, a former councilmember whose term expired in December, said she stands behind the police chief.

“I supported Wesley when we hired him and continue to support Wesley now. Any complaints that were brought to my attention when I was in office, I personally followed up on and found the police department had acted justly,” she said.

Councilman Albert Samples, the councilman who made the motion to rehire all city employees and defer rehiring the police department, addressed his concerns in an interview.

“The reason I made the motion was I wanted to talk to some of the policemen about some of their actions,” he said Tuesday.

“We’ve gotten so many complaints that I wanted to talk to them. Not that we plan on not hiring them. I went to the chief a couple of months ago and told him, ‘Y’all are writing too many tickets.’

“I know the police have the authority to stop people. We don’t expect the police department to finance the city,” he said.

“They stopped me two times. They stopped me for nothing. I have eight years police experience. Sometimes you can talk to people. What I think is they’re going to bring the state department down here about all these tickets,” Samples said.

“It’s not that we’re not going to rehire them. We just want to talk with them first,” he said.

That should be good news to at least one citizen.

Donna Lamb, a lifelong Wadley resident, said she hopes the current city council will keep the police officers and the chief.

“This is the best police force we’ve had in years and the most efficient in years,” she said.

“They come when you call them. I’ve had to call them on occasion and my house alarm has called them. Every time they have responded. They have sheets that you can fill about their response and everything.

“They’re very efficient; they’re very business-like in their approach. I’ve noticed they ride through the neighborhood. They’ve very efficient. You see them day and night, patrolling. I bike and feel very safe doing so. I hope the council in office now will maintain the integrity of this police department by allowing it to keep functioning and to keep Wadley safe,” she said.

Lamb said she believes the police department has reduced drug transactions in the city.

“They had really clamped down on both users and dealers,” she said.

“They’re just so efficient. They do what they have to and they do it in a very effective way. In this particular case, this chief is a good man. Everything I’ve seen and heard has been positive. When you feel confident in calling your police chief in Wadley, that’s confidence,” she said.

In other news, Wadley Mayor Herman Baker named Councilman John Maye as the public safety committee chairman, Adams said. The mayor usually assigns one other councilmember to each committee but did not do so during the meeting. The other chairmen are Edie Pundt, assigned as chairman to the finance committee; John Maye to parks and ditches; Izell Mack to sanitation and to water and sewer; Strowbridge to streets and lanes; and Samples to vehicles.

Samples is also the mayor pro tem.

The engineering firm for the project, Thomas and Hutton, gave an update on a TE grant. They have completed another phase and must have the council’s approval to move to the next phase.

Adams said they’ve finished some preliminary work and will be submitting an updated plan to the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The city clerk said the grant is for $230,000 with a city match of $70,000.

The council set a public hearing on the budget for Friday, Jan. 29, at 3 p.m. in city hall. Adoption of the budget will be the same day at 3:30 p.m., followed by a work session for council members and the mayor.

Discussion about a pouring license fee was tabled. Voters approved having pouring licenses in the city by referendum last year.




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