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February 4, 2010 Issue

Two arrested with nine pounds of pot
Rhodes gives annual report on Louisville
Governor proposes tax that will hit local hospital

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Two arrested with nine pounds of pot

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Officers pulled over a vehicle Wednesday, Jan. 27, after smelling a particular odor from the car. The car had been stopped during a road check on U.S. Highway 1 Bypass at Old Midville Road in Wadley.

Officers asked the man, identified as Lamar M. Brunson, 20, of Statesboro, if he had anything in the car. Brunson said he had smoked some marijuana about two hours earlier.

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A drug dog and handler with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office walked around the car. The dog indicated there were drugs in the vehicle.

A search revealed nine gallon-sized freezer bags filled with marijuana.

Lt. Leroy Morgan, an investigator with the Wadley Police Department, said the marijuana was indoor grown.

“You can tell by the texture,” Wadley Police Chief Wesley Lewis said.

Besides the marijuana, officers found $445 in cash, Lewis said.

Brunson was charged with a seatbelt violation and driving under the influence of drugs, both misdemeanors in this case, Lewis said.

He has also been charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, which is a felony.

Latrece S. Banks, Brunson’s 20-year-old girlfriend, also of Statesboro, was a passenger in the car. Banks has been charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, Lewis said.

The road check was held in conjunction with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, the chief said.

Other agencies involved were the Department of Motor Vehicles, Louisville Police Department, Wrens Police Department, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Taliaferro County Sheriff’s Office, Burke County Sheriff’s Office and the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office K-9 division.

Lewis said the road check began at 1:30 p.m. and lasted until about 4:30 p.m.

During that time, 445 vehicles came through the road check, he said.

Lewis said the marijuana weighed 149.9 ounces, or a little more than 9 pounds, with a street value of about $6,000.

Officer Ricky Worman of the Wadley PD said two other people were arrested, each for driving with a suspended license.

There were also citations written for minor violations, he said.

“I think there were like nine tickets in all,” he said.




Rhodes gives annual report on Louisville

By Jared Stepp
Apprentice

At the monthly Louisville City Council meeting, Larry Morgan was sworn in as the new mayor of Louisville. Matthew Hodges and Jim Polhill were sworn in as councilmen.

The annual report was released for the city of Louisville in the meeting. In the report, City Administrator Don Rhodes said the year 2009 was a good year of many accomplishments and substantial progress in general for the city of Louisville.

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The report included projects for the local airport, new fire and police station and other projects for the year 2010.

Rhodes said that in June of 2009, Louisville was notified that they were one of 13 approved applicants for a Safe Routes to School grant in the amount of $500,000.

“We are hopeful that construction will get under way by June 2010,” said Rhodes in his report. He said design and letting of the project would be handled by the Department of Transportation and the process could take up to 18 months.

“I am pleased to report our airport continues to receive federal and state funding for projects,” Rhodes said.

In May of 2009, Louisville purchased the hangar and property adjacent to the new terminal building at the airport.

The acquisition cost including review appraisal and closing costs would be totaled at $101,462. Funds for the purchase came from the Federal Aviation Administration and Georgia DOT Aviation Programs in the amount of $98,901.70.

The report stated in December of 2009, Louisville purchased another hangar and property, formerly Burt’s Aircraft Service.

The acquisition cost of this building including cost of appraisal and the review appraisal was $122,130. Louisville received $119,493.68 of federal and state funds to fund the purchase.

The report stated that Louisville will be receiving another $300,000 in 2010 for fencing of the runway and surrounding property at the airport.

“During 2009, the city was one of two cities in Georgia to receive funding for construction of a new fire station from FEMA/Department of Homeland Security,” said Rhodes in the report.

Funding in the amount of $858,673 will be used to construct a 5,500-square-foot fire station. Construction is expected to get underway in 2010.

The fire department also received a new mini pumper in December. Funding for the purchase of the mini pumper came from Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds of $150,219 and $35,622 from the City’s general fund. The city now has two new fire trucks purchased with SPLOST funds totaling $354,000. The fire department’s rolling stock is now the best it has ever been,” said Rhodes.

The report discussed the use of money from selling 85 acres of timber.

“During 2009, the city completed the sale of acres of timber for approximately $230,000. The proceeds from the sale of the timber were used toward the purchase of a building located at the corner of Oak and Peachtree Streets that was a former dialysis center before closing several years ago. The acquisition of the former dialysis building at a cost of $300,000 was a very good investment for the city. It will provide a modern building for relocation of City Hall. We thank our city attorney for negotiating with the owners to secure the building for $300,000. It was appraised at $700,000,” said Rhodes.

Capital expenditures for 2009, according to the report, included a lease-purchase payment of $10,332 on the backhoe, purchase of a 1999 Chevrolet pickup for $9,259 for the Utilities Department and the purchase of two S-10 pickups from surplus property. Capital assets totaling more than $700,000 were added during the year with no outstanding debt.

“Water and sewer sales for the past year totaled $729,205; less operating expenses of $522,750, reflecting earnings of $206,455. A substantial expenditure of $625,000 will be required next year (2010) to replace a well and make improvements to the electrical panels and pumps at our pump station. Plans are to finance the improvements with a Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority grant funds for 50 percent of the costs and loan funds for the remaining 50%. 2010 water and sewer rates will have to be adjusted to service the anticipated debt of over $300,000.”

“Natural gas sales for the year totaled $1,036, 822; less gas costs and operating expenses of $875,303, reflecting earnings of $161,519. Wellhead prices of natural gas have remained in the $4 to $6.30 range for 2009 and predictions are that prices will remain in the same range for next year. With more coal steam gas being extracted, the wellhead price of natural gas looks very encouraging for the coming years,” said Rhodes.

Rhodes said many projects are anticipated for 2010, the most important one being relocation of city hall offices and police department offices to the building at 1011 Peachtree Street. The fire department will be moved to a new building adjacent to city Hall once the new fire station is completed.

Rhodes ended his report by thanking citizens of Louisville for their support and city employees for their hard work and dedication. He said his thanks and appreciation goes to former Mayor Rita Culvern for her service to the city.

“I look forward to working with Larry Morgan as he takes the helm as Mayor and welcome Matt Hodges as a new member of Council,” said Rhodes. “This marks my 21st annual report and I have enjoyed serving as your City Administrator for each and every one of those years.”



Governor proposes tax that will hit local hospital

Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Jefferson County Administrator Paul Bryan told commissioners about an adjustment by the state that will reduce funds to the local hospital.

During its February work session this week, Bryan said Gov. Sonny Perdue has proposed a 1.6 percent provider fee on all hospitals.

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In a copy of an email Bryan gave to the commissioners, Andy Crosson of the CSRA Regional Commission stated the loss to Jefferson Hospital is estimated to be $104,576. That estimate was prepared by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, the email states.

Other hospitals in the area expected to be affected include Burke Medical Center with a loss of $98,780, McDuffie Regional Medical Center with a loss of $171,312 and Doctors Hospital of Augusta with a loss of slightly more than $3 million.

University Hospital, another Augusta facility, is estimated to lose about $4.8 million.

Although the email did not state how the GOPB determined these estimates, 39 hospitals on the list will gain from this provider fee, including Trinity Hospital of Augusta with a gain of $178,185.

Heyward Wells III, the CEO of Jefferson Hospital in Louisville, said he hopes this proposal is defeated.

“We’re hoping this doesn’t pass; either the tax or the rate cut,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.

“There are two things proposed. One will be a 1.6 percent tax, which is basically on your net revenue. In Georgia, that would equal somewhere in the neighborhood of $247 million that would be taken out of Georgia’s hospitals,” he said.

The other option is a 16.5 percent cut to Medicaid rates, Wells said.

“That would take $364 million out of Georgia’s hospitals. It’s one or the other; but the option that we’re asking for is a tobacco tax,” he said.

Hospitals, through the Georgia Hospital Association, are proposing a $1 per pack tax on cigarettes, rather than the provider fee or the cut to Medicaid, Wells said. Jefferson Hospital is a member of GHA, he said.

“Don’t tax things that make people well; tax the things that make people sick. Georgia is fifth lowest in the nation on tobacco tax. It’s only 37 cents a pack. Going from 37 cents to $1.37 would create $400 million to $600 million in state revenue. That could be used to draw down a billion dollars in federal funds,” Wells said.

Wells said tobacco use in Georgia costs $2.25 billion a year, of which $537 million is covered by the Medicaid program.

“Tobacco is the only legal product that intentionally contains chemicals to addict the user. There is no way you can fit smoking into a healthy lifestyle,” he said.

“We’re going to see what’s coming out of this and we’re going to regroup and adjust our path as necessary. But we’re going to make it through regardless.

“All politics are local and this is exactly the time when you can see what goes on under the gold dome effects you in your own community. We need to get on the websites and email them (congress), call them and let them know we do not want a sick tax or a rate cut,” he said.

Other items discussed during the work session included the commission’s interest in providing access to broadband internet services.

William Rabun, commission chairman, said he had attended a regional commission meeting Jan. 29, along with two members of the county’s development authority.

The regional commission consists of Jefferson County and 12 other counties.

A study by the development authority indicates 80 percent of the homes in Jefferson County do not have broadband; and, 65 percent do not have access to broadband.

“We’ve done two surveys. One was a survey that went home with fourth graders,” said Roger Burge, a consultant with the development authority.

“Another survey was a random sample of about 300 homes in the county, about half inside the city limits of Wrens, Louisville or Wadley and half outside city limits,” he said.

In order to apply for funding from the National Telecommunications and Information Agency, the 13-county commission is considering hiring a company, Civitium, at a cost of $416,000.

Jefferson County’s estimated portion of this cost is about $29,000, said Tom Jordan, executive director of the county’s development authority.

Civitium will perform a study needed for the application process as well as apply for the funding, Burge said.

The funds will pay for the construction and installation of a broadband network for the 13-county region, he said, adding whoever ends up owning the network will have to provide a 20 percent match.

The board of commissioners approved this for the consent agenda of their next meeting.

A drilling project at a bridge site in Lincoln Park for $3,500 was placed on the consent agenda. Bryan said the Department of Transportation approved the project but could not start it for several months.

Bryan recommended the county do the work so it could be done as soon as possible. The board placed this on the consent agenda.

Other items placed on the consent agenda are the purchase of two box scrapers for $9,000 and approval for QORE to monitor environmental issues at the inactive landfill and file reports with the EPD.

The box scrapers will work in place of some of the motor grader work, said Commissioner Wayne Davis, and will be able to be pulled with the tractors already owned by the county.

The contract with QORE is estimated to cost $12,410.

A purchase of two roller packers was placed on the regular agenda in order to allow Bryan to review two bids the county received, one of which was just prior to the work session.

Also discussed was notification from DOT of raising the speed limit on parts of two highways to 65 mph. Bryan said the county must sign off on this in order to keep its radar certification. This item was placed on the consent agenda.

The commission discussed issues regarding installation of driveway pipe.

“We’re having a lot of trouble with this, aren’t we?” Rabun asked the county’s road superintendent, Ken Thomas.

“Yes, sir,” Thomas said, adding that people are putting in their own driveways and many times the pipes are too small or not installed at all.

“We discussed this several years ago,” said Commissioner Gonice Davis, adding that the road department sets the size of the pipe used.

“We need to get more active on our enforcement,” Bryan said. “It’s on the books.”

This issue was tabled and put on the regular agenda.

Commissioner Tommy New said citizens who are interested in this issue should attend the county commission’s next regular meeting, which is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m. at the commission office.




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