Johnson’s Cleaners closing after 30 years
By Faye Ellison
“I’ve been looking down Broad Street since I was a little kid,” Gene Johnson reminisced.
Now after years of perching on the counters of Johnson’s Cleaners to look outside of the downtown Louisville location, Gene and his wife, Patricia, are packing up a family business that began in 1946 by his parents, Gene and Mae Brannen Johnson Sr. Gene’s and Patricia’s roots are here in Louisville, both growing up here in the early years.
Louisville Cleaners began on Green Street by Gene Sr. and Mae, but was later relocated to the current Broad Street location in the mid to late 1950s, when Gene Sr. bought the old gas station from Albert and Oliver Thomas.
“I grew up in this building,” Gene said. “I worked here while my dad was in the Navy.”
Patricia said that she and Gene had planned to stay open for two or three more years.
“We had already said we would close if it were an equipment failure or health problem,” she said.
"I guess the Lord tells you when its time to go,” Gene added.
Gene underwent open heart surgery in Augusta on Wednesday to replace an aortic valve. He said he had suffered from shortness of breath and fatigue. After visiting his cardiologist, he said the problem was found.
With their faith in God, and the well wishes and prayers from customers, family and friends, Gene and Patricia plan to stay in Louisville and relax after Gene recovers from the surgery.
“We want to relax and take it easy,” Gene said. “We are not going anywhere. We are staying in Louisville.”
“We are looking forward to spending quality time together with our children and grandchildren and doing church work,” Patricia said. “We have always worked together, but that is not getting to spend quality time together.”
Before moving back to Louisville, Gene and Patricia lived in Augusta.
“We wanted to raise our children here in Louisville, in a small town,” Gene said. “When we came back to Louisville, it was like déjà vu. I walked in that first day and it was just like it was when we were children.”
Gene and Patricia returned in 1980, after Gene’s mother’s death and Gene Sr.’s retirement. Since then the back part of the building was added and the Laundromat was added in the early 1980s. Over the years, Johnson’s Cleaners has employed five to six people with one person in the last few years as services were cut.
“We wanted to come back and run the business even when we lived in Augusta,” Gene said. “There are a lot of memories here. A lot of friends grew up in here and played in here.”
Through the years, Patricia said their customer base has grown.
“When we first came back we saw a lot of the same customers who would bring in their children,” Patricia said. “Now the children are grown up and still come in.”
The customers are also caring, according to the couple. Even before their closing, the Johnsons were able to talk and spend time with their valued patrons.
“We have enjoyed this so much,” Patricia said.
“We have the nicest customers,” Gene added. “People come in and pray and talk to us. They wouldn’t have done that in the city. We get to meet so many nice people and we actually get to talk to them a lot. We’ve told jokes and had good times here.”
“We’re going to miss them a lot,” Patricia smiled.
The Johnsons said they plan to sell the building, and hope that it will continue to serve the community in some capacity. Johnson’s closed on Friday, June 11, but will be open some days, which will be posted on the door, to allow customers to pick up their dry cleaned clothes.
“Thanks for the memories, the business and support through the years,” Gene said. “We’ve made a lot of friends down here.”
Gene said he is a little worried about the near future.
“I am nervous about not working,” he said. “There is a lot of not knowing how to fill each day.”
“But we got plenty yard work to do,” his wife laughed.
Board begins looking for next JCHS principal
By Carol McLeod
Now that Jefferson County High School Principal Molly Howard has accepted the job as the school system’s superintendent, her position as JCHS principal is available.
Dr. Donnie Hodges, an assistant superintendent, said the position was announced Thursday, June 10.
Hodges said the position is open to candidates inside and outside the system.
Dr. Molly Howard, the county’s school superintendent, said Tuesday, June 15, the position had been posted at colleges, a Teach Georgia website and the school board’s website.
“We have over 25 applications already,” she said.
One qualification requires an applicant to hold or be eligible to hold a Georgia certificate, L5 or L6 in administration and supervision or educational leadership.
Howard said that although a minimum of three years teaching experience is preferred, it is not a requirement.
“Sometimes you may get someone who’s come a different route,” she said. “They may have gone into administration after another educational position.”
She said she is looking for someone who has shown success and/or the ability to engage in a shared decision making process.
“No longer can it be top down management,” she said. “Someone who has a proven track record for leading a school using a shared decision making process.”
Howard said every school and most businesses now have a leadership team. In school, leaders are among the teachers, she said.
“True leadership engages all the stakeholders. We are going to follow a process which involves our school counsel (at Jefferson County High School) and leadership team,” Howard said.
They will conduct interviews with the finalists and make a recommendation to the superintendent. Then the superintendent will make a recommendation to the school board.
“We hope to be able to make that recommendation at the July board meeting,” Howard said.
Louisville city offices to move next week
The City of Louisville Police and City Offices will begin relocating to their new building on 1011 Peachtree St. located beside the Jefferson County Board of Education on Monday, June 21.
The relocation has been in the plans for about eight months, said City Administrator Don Rhodes. The sale of timbers from a house owned by the city a year ago helped to pay for the building. The previous owners of the new building agreed to take some cash and the rest of it was a donation, he said. For this reason, the old dialysis center was the best choice for the new City Hall. City Council then agreed on the location and proceeded to discuss plans and layouts for their new workplace.
For now, only the Administration and Police offices will be moving.
“The fire department will stay until the new fire station is completed,” Rhodes said.
This process would take anywhere between 10 to 14 months, he said. The Fire Department will be adjacent to the new building; on Sinquefield Street. The street will be closed.
Rhodes said he is currently waiting on Homeland Security and FEMA’s approval on the final design. He said the floor plan architect has to finish the final plans after approval.
“We are putting in computers this week,” Rhodes said. “We are certainly excited to be moving in there. Our air conditioning unit here is on one leg. It is a whole lot nicer. There is a larger conference room, more office space and storage space.”
All together the building has approximately 17 rooms and four bathrooms.
The city still owns a house in Helen Clark Memorial Park. This house, Rhodes said, would be a site for future long range plans that would take place when more money was available.
As for future plans with the current location of the City Hall building, Rhodes said he had no idea, saying it would be put up for sale at some point. The building was built in the late 40’s. Rhodes said the amount of electrical work and plumbing would take a large amount of money to bring to code.
All telephone numbers for the offices will remain the same, as well as the P.O. Box number 527, Rhodes said. He said the council hopes to be able to meet at the new building for their next City Council Meeting.
Rhodes said all offices should be up and running on June 21. For more information, call the City of Louisville at (478) 625-3166.
GreenLaw files protest on coal plant
By Carol McLeod
Lawyers with GreenLaw, along with eight other groups, filed petitions earlier this month in response to permits the Georgia Environmental Protection Division issued Plant Washington in April.
The plant will be a coal-fired energy plant in Washington County.
In a recent statement, Power4Georgians said significant modifications to air and water standards were made to achieve the permits.
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The permits issued by EPD for Plant Washington are a Prevention of Significant Deterioration permit for air quality, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for water discharge, a groundwater withdrawal permit, a surface water withdrawal permit and a notice of site suitability for the solid waste handling facility, Power4Georgians stated.
“We made significant and positive changes in our application to make our permits among the very best, if not the best, in the country,” Dean Alford, a spokesman for Power4Georgians stated.
“We responded to suggestions raised with regard to air and water and now have exceptional standards that far exceed the strictest federal regulations for protection of human health and the environment,” he said.
Alford also said Plant Washington’s overall emissions profile will be among the lowest that has ever been proposed for a coal-fired power plant in the United States.
In a press release, Chandra Brown, executive director of the Ogeechee Riverkeeper, an opponent of the plant, said the claims focus on the water and air pollution permits.
“The Plant Washington air permit fails to set safe limits on harmful air pollutants that would be emitted by Plant Washington, including sulfuric acid mist and particulate matter. Particulate matter is linked to respiratory illnesses, heart disease and even premature death,” the release stated.
Another issue is the state water withdrawal permit, which Brown stated fails to set necessary limits on the amount of water the plant can take from the Oconee River for use at the proposed plant located in the Ogeechee River watershed.
“Without adequate limits, communities such as Dublin, area farms and other downstream users along the Oconee River would be left without sufficient water resources,” she stated in the release.
The release also said the state water discharge permit fails to limit the temperature of heated wastewater discharged by the plant into the Oconee River.
She said this will change the river’s ecology, deplete available oxygen in the water and harm fish and other wildlife dependent on the river system.
“Hazardous air pollutants from the plant will compromise the Ogeechee River basin,” Brown said last week.
“Our recent report, Protect Yourself and Your Family from Mercury Pollution, shows that additional mercury deposition from Plant Washington would prevent people who fish from safely eating the fish they catch,” she said.