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December 23, 2010 Issue

Traffic stop turns into woodland search
Judge rejects permit for coal plant
Two days break record lows
Potential SPLOST for transportation discussed

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Traffic stop turns into woodland search

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

An incident that could have ended in tragedy ended instead with two men in custody. One man has been charged with burglary. The other with burglary, possession of firearm or knife while trying to commit crimes and criminal use of article with altered ID.

Sgt. Barrow Walden, an investigator with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, saw a car parked behind a house in Matthews early Friday, Dec. 17.

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The car was parked in a manner as though it was being hidden, which made Walden suspicious.

He parked out of sight and followed the car when it left.

He pulled the car over and the passenger, Rodrigus Antuan Freeman, 26, from Wrens, fled.

Walden drew his weapon on the driver, Antonio Lamar Haynes, 22, from Wrens.

Walden noticed Haynes had a handgun.

“He didn’t pull it on me; but, he had it in his hand,” Walden said.

The incident could have ended badly if Walden had not acted with caution, said Jefferson County Sheriff’s Maj. Charles Gibbons.

Walden called for assistance and Gibbons said K-9 units from Waynesboro Police Department as well as game wardens from the Department of Natural Resources and officers from Wrens Police Department assisted.

Walden said a K-9 unit from Richmond County also helped in the search for Freeman.

Gibbons said the event started at 8:42 a.m. and ended at 1 p.m.

“By 1 p.m., both subjects had been apprehended and had been taken to the Jefferson County jail,” he said.

Both men were given bond, Gibbons said, adding that currently both men are still being housed at the Jefferson County jail.

Lt. Robert Chalker, an investigator with JCSO, said Tuesday that items of jewelry were found in the woods where the dog tracked Freeman.

Officers who searched the car found some electronic items in the trunk. There was a flat screen TV in the backseat, he said.

Chalker said officers returned to the house where it was obvious a burglary had occurred.

“We recovered a weapon. The serial number had been removed,” he said.

Chalker said Freeman was arrested about lunchtime without incident.

Gibbons said everyone should be careful.

“It’s shameful that you work hard and you can’t put nothing in your own house,” he said.

Freeman has been charged with burglary.

Haynes has been charged with possession of firearm or knife while trying to commit crimes, criminal use of article with altered ID and burglary.

“We urge the community to be vigilant,” Walden said. “Look after your friends’ and neighbors’ property. Anyone who sees something out of the ordinary, please call the sheriff’s office or your local police department. We have officers on patrol 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer your calls.”




Judge rejects permit for coal plant

By Mary Landers
Morris News Service

A Georgia judge gave an early Christmas present to Ogeechee Riverkeeper Chandra Brown.

Judge Ronit Walker rejected Georgia’s air quality permit for Plant Washington, a proposed 850-mega-watt coal-fired power plant in Sandersville. The state permit for the Plant Washington violated federal Clean Air Act safeguards to limit harmful air pollution, she ruled in a decision released Thursday.

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The Riverkeeper, one of four petitioners in the case, sees the ruling as a gift to the public.

“We are thrilled that the judge ruled in favor of protecting the people who would be forced to breathe the hazardous air pollution from this proposed dirty coal plant,” Brown said. A consortium of six electric membership cooperatives based mainly in Atlanta and called Power4Georgians, is backing the plant. Not surprisingly, it viewed the ruling more as, well, a lump of coal.

Power4Georgians issued a statement that read in part: “These limits were the product of rigorous analyses by EPD. In the end, the Administrative Law Judge elected to elevate form over substance, in that she focused on the words that the EPD witnesses used to explain their analyses, rather than the low emission limits that their analyses produced.”

John Suttles, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, which litigated the case on behalf of the Ogeechee Riverkeeper and three other environmental groups, said the judge’s ruling made clear that Georgia has been applying the wrong standards in setting limits on the emissions of hazardous air pollutants. The plant has the potential to produce enough pollutants in this category per year to be categorized as a “major source.” But instead of looking at what similar plants had actually achieved in reducing pollutants, the permit looked at what the other plants’ permits allowed them to emit.

In some cases, Suttles, said, they perform much better than required. And once they do, the law requires others to achieve that level, too.

“The legal standard is based on the level of emission control achieved in practice by a similar source,” Suttles said. “It’s irrespective of cost.”

Power4Georgians spokesman Dean Alford said Friday a decision had not been made on whether to appeal the ruling.

Brown has long argued that Plant Washington’s air pollution will rain mercury into the already mercury-stressed Ogeechee River, on whose banks it will be located. Mercury wasn’t one of the pollutants affected by the judge’s ruling, at least not directly.

“They all interrelate,” she said. “Some of the other metals allow for more mercury absorption in the body.”

And the ruling means at least a delay for Power4Georgians, which Brown sees as a reprieve.

“People in the Ogeechee and Canoochee (basins) won’t have to worry about breathing in more hazard air pollution,” she said.




Two days break record lows

By Bonnie K. Sargent
Apprentice

Temperatures this month have hit record lows for Jefferson County, said John Reed from WPEH.

The first record-breaking temperature day was Wednesday, Dec. 8, Reed said. Temperatures dropped to 17 degrees that day. He said the previous record was 20 degrees in 1965.

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The other record-breaker was Tuesday, Dec. 14, when temperatures dropped to 16 degrees, the coldest it has been this month, according to Reed. He said the previous record was 21 degrees in 1960. Reed said the coldest local temperature recorded in the past 20 years was -2 degrees on Jan. 21, 1985. He said the coldest Christmas recorded was 6 degrees on Dec. 25, 1983.

The Department of Transportation released a media alert for north Georgia on Wednesday, Dec. 15, urging drivers to use extreme caution because of sporadic icing conditions on roadways. The media alert said sleet and freezing rain had resulted in many areas of icy roadways, especially on elevated structures such as bridges and overpasses.

According to reports on msnbc.com, several schools in Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, Missouri, North Carolina and South Carolina closed for the day or opened late on Thursday, Dec. 16, because of icy roads. Reports also said icy conditions prompted road closures on Dec. 16 and there was one fatal accident in North Carolina that day, caused by the icy roads.

The Weather Channel website has several tips for preparing your car for winter.

The first suggestion is to start with a checkup that includes checking the ignition, brakes, wiring, hoses and fan belts; changing and adjusting the spark plugs; checking the air, fuel and emission filters and the PCV valve; inspecting the distributor; checking the battery; checking the tires for air, sidewall wear and tread depth; and checking the antifreeze levels and the freeze line.

In addition to making sure you have the tune-up, a full tank of gas and fresh anti-freeze, weather.com suggests carrying the following items in your trunk: a properly inflated spare tire, wheel wrench and tripod-type jack, a shovel, jumper cables, tow tire and chains, a bag of salt or cat litter and a tool kit.

The forecast for Christmas, according to the Weather Channel website, is a 50 percent chance of rain with a high of 54 degrees and a low of 30 degrees.




Potential SPLOST for transportation discussed

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Members of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce met at Foster’s Restaurant in Louisville Friday, Dec. 3, for breakfast and to hear information about the proposed transportation SPLOST.

The SPLOST is scheduled to be voted on by citizens in 2012.

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If the SPLOST passes, an additional 1 percent sales tax will be collected beginning Jan. 1, 2013.

Matthew Hicks, from the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, said the state legislators determined that in order to raise the same amount of revenue as the SPLOST is projected to raise would require an additional 27 cents in taxes on each gallon of gasoline sold.

“The debate went on for three years,” Hicks said.

“This is a regional funding project,” said Matthew Fowler, a representative of the Georgia DOT Office of Planning.

“Funding collected in each district remains in each district,” Fowler said.

Individual counties will not be able to opt out of the program, he said. The vote will be counted by region. If the region’s vote is 50 percent plus one vote for the SPLOST, it will pass and be collected in each county of the region.

The district that contains Jefferson County will have a total of 26 members on a board that will decide what projects will be funded from the monies raised by the SPLOST. Each county will be represented by one mayor from the county and the chairman of the county commission.

Jefferson County’s members will be Wrens Mayor Lester Hadden and the county’s commission chairman, William Rabun.

Fowler said anyone who is interested can find more information at the website www.IT3.ga.gov.

Andy Crosson, a representative with the CSRA Regional Commission, said this is new transportation funding.

“Additional funding,” he said.

Fowler said the tax will be a 1 percent sales tax for 10 years for transportation purposes, individual counties cannot opt out and funding will not be subject to congressional district balancing.

Three-fourths, or 75 percent, of the funding will be spent on regionally selected projects or projects selected by the regional committee in collaboration with GDOT and will follow established criteria, he said.

The rest, 25 percent, will be spent on transportation projects at the discretion of local governments. These percentages vary in the Atlanta region, he said.

The funds in the 25 percent will be distributed based on a weighted average, one-fifth population and four-fifths center-line miles of roadway, Fowler said.

Fowler said estimates based on 2009 state economist projections and GDOT records of roadway mileage show potential annual local discretionary funding levels as Jefferson County receiving $1,241,485.

The cities’ potential annual level of this funding show Avera receiving $5,789, Bartow receiving $8,412, Louisville receiving $66,213, Stapleton receiving $14,400, Wadley receiving$61,758 and Wrens receiving $57,623.

Jefferson County Commissioner Tommy New asked what would happen if an area voted against the tax but the region passed it.

Fowler said the area still pays the tax and still gets its share.




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