Search begins for superintendent
By Carol McLeod
In a called meeting Tuesday, Feb. 16, Jefferson County School Board members discussed Superintendent Carl Bethune’s recent announcement that he plans to retire at the end of May.
The board members discussed using the Georgia School Board Association to help search for Bethune’s replacement.
Jimmy Fleming, the board’s chairman, said he had received calls from citizens, some saying the board should hire a local person and others saying the board should not hire a local person.
Fleming said the GSBA would advertise the opening, do the initial application review and hold the first round of interviews.
“(They) will pick a number they will interview (and) pick two or three or four for us to interview,” he said.
The GSBA’s fee for this service is $8,000 plus travel expenses, Fleming said. Half of the base fee would be paid when a contract between the GSBA and the board is signed. The remainder would be paid once the board begins interviews.
The board discussed whether to require the incoming superintendent to be a Jefferson County resident.
School board member Georgia Hunter said she thought Bethune, a resident of Columbia County, had done a good job but people in the community have expressed concerns about having a superintendent who does not live inside the county.
Fleming said he would like for whoever the board hires to replace Bethune to be a county resident as well.
“It’s one of my top 10,” he said. “It’s not one of my top five.”
Hunter said she would prefer applicants be from the southeast.
Fleming said a lot of counties do their own search and that Jefferson County could do that, too. Fleming said the board would have to form a committee if they decide to perform the search rather than hire someone.
“Personally, I would prefer we use GSBA,” Hunter said. “They do a professional job.”
Hunter also said using an outside agency would assure the citizens there had been no bias in the hiring process.
School board member Steve Norton said he would prefer to not hire anyone from outside the state of Georgia, adding someone already working in Georgia would be familiar with the Georgia education system.
The board discussed the cost of hiring GSBA as well as having to pay travel expenses of the interviewees.
“This is for our children,” Hunter said. “I think if we spend that money, it’s for a good cause.”
School board member Charlie Brown referred to Bethune’s announcement as “the shock of a lifetime” and suggested several names of people already working for the school system for consideration.
“The board might want to talk to some local people,” he said.
Hunter said she would prefer someone young and energetic who is not close to retirement age themselves.
Norton said whoever is hired is committed only to the time of the contract.
The board discussed a salary and Fleming said the state scale would apply.
“There’s also the local supplement,” Hunter said.
“The ideal situation is someone young and energetic who’s going to stay here 10 or 15 years,” Fleming said.
“We’re looking at four or five years that are going to be sheer terror for somebody,” he said, referring to the financial crisis facing the state and the school system.
“I’m like you,” Hunter said. “These are critical times. This is a big job. I’d like to get someone with superintendent experience.”
The board decided to have another meeting to continue discussion. A called meeting has since been scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 25, at 8 p.m. at the board office in Louisville. The search for Bethune’s replacement will be discussed, the called meeting notice stated.
The next regularly scheduled board meeting is Tuesday, March 9, at 7 p.m. at the board office in Louisville.
County now 911 zone
By Carol McLeod
The Jefferson County Board of Commissioners voted last year to end their 9-1-1 contract with Rural Metro.
At the time, the ambulance company was the 9-1-1 zone provider for the county. The commissioners requested the East Central Georgia EMS Counsel to allow the county to become the zone provider, which would allow the county to contract services with another ambulance service.
The county was named as the zone provider in December 2009.
“We took over on Jan. 3,” said Jefferson County’s EMS director, Carl Wagster. The company that provides emergency services to the county is now Gold Cross EMS.
Wagster said the change in zone provider status occurred either Dec. 30 or Dec. 31. Now that the county is officially the zone provider, the commissioners can contract with whatever EMS agency they choose.
Wagster said the contract Gold Cross has with Jefferson County is a five-year contract.
Jefferson County Administrator Paul Bryan said the first payment to Gold Cross was made Jan. 29 in the amount of $36,696.
“That’s a monthly payment,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “That will last through April 30, 2010. For the next year, it will go up to $37,797 a month.”
During the third year of the contract, monthly payments will be $38,931. The payments will then be $40,099 a month during year four and $41,302 a month during year five, Bryan said.
“It’s identically the same contract we had with Rural Metro,” he said.
Man killed in fire
A 45-year-old man died early Wednesday morning when fire destroyed the home where he was living.
Eddie Dean Pricket, his parents and a niece were living in a rented house on Georgia Highway 80 outside the city limits of Wrens.
Pricket’s parents and niece were able to get out of the house and had attempted to get Pricket out but were unable to do so.
The Wrens Fire Department was notified about the fire at 3:09 a.m. and arrived on the scene at 3:16 a.m., the department’s report stated. The last unit cleared the scene at 6:59 a.m.
On arrival, firefighters discovered the home fully engulfed in flames and called for mutual aid units to supply water and manpower. They also contacted Jefferson Energy Cooperative to disconnect power going to the house.
Units from Mathews, Stapleton, Avera and Hillcrest fire departments arrived on the scene and assisted in fighting the fire.
The report states Pricket’s three family members were treated by EMS for burns and smoke inhalation and transported to Doctors Hospital.
Firefighters found Pricket’s body in a room in the front left-hand side of the house. Deputies from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office notified the state fire marshal and the county’s coroner to investigate the fatality.
The survivors reportedly stated they had tried to remove Pricket through the front window of the house. He was having a seizure at the time. Because of the intensity of the flames and their own injuries, they could not remove Pricket from the home.
Lt. Robert Chalker, an investigator with the JCSO who was on the scene, said the home was completely destroyed by the fire.
He said he has no knowledge of how the fire started at this time, adding the cause is still under investigation.
Investigators said Monday at least two of the survivors had been released from the hospital. The third was thought to have been released a day or two later. Most of the injuries to the three was from smoke inhalation, investigators said.
Shooting suspects face charges
Wadley police have charged two 19-year-old men, with several crimes in connection with a shooting during a botched robbery in Wadley last month.
Lt. Leroy Morgan, an investigator with the Wadley Police Department, said Quindarius Lamonz Easterling and Antione Brown, both 19 and of Wadley, went to a residence inside the city limits Sunday, Jan. 3.
“They went inside the residence of this gentleman intending to rob him,” Morgan said in an interview on Monday. Instead, the gentleman tried to defend himself with what Easterling and Brown said was a machete.”
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Morgan said police have not located the weapon used by the victim in his attempt to protect himself.
Easterling or Brown fired a shot at the victim to defend themselves, the investigator said, adding the two then ran out the back door of the home.
“They shot the victim in the face one time at close range,” Morgan said, adding the victim is still unable to talk with investigators at this time.
“We do have two other witnesses that were in the house at the time of the shooting. Both of these gentlemen wore ski masks inside the residence. They fled on foot.
“Because of our investigation, we were able to identify Easterling and Brown as the perpetrators and we do have them in custody,” Morgan said.
By the time WPD was prepared to charge Easterling and Brown, Brown was already in custody on an unrelated charge by another agency, Morgan said.
Brown had seen the victim coming from a store with money in his hand. Investigators stated the two men went to the residence with the intent to rob the victim.
Both men have been charged with aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, burglary and armed robbery. Morgan said each charge is a felony.
Neither man was able to take any items from the victim or the victim’s home, he said.