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March 3, 2011 Issue

Cities ask county for more
Wadley home invaded, occupant tied and robbed
Fire decimates hunting camp
Newspaper’s former owner dies at 78
Long-time Bartow councilman passes away at 68

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Cities ask county for more

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Mayors and council members from the cities in Jefferson County attended the county’s commission meeting Tuesday, Feb. 15, to address some issues with the commissioners.

The discussion included roads, prison labor and jobs.

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About 30 people attended the meeting, which was held in a meeting room at the commissioners’ office in Louisville.

After the agenda items had been addressed, several citizens spoke to the board about issues they have with roads in the county.

One citizen, whose business is accessed from a dirt road, said his concerns are with the dirt roads in Jefferson County.

“School buses have had difficulties coming down Gough Road,” said Mitch Vaughn, who operates an annual corn maze in the fall on his farm.

“Over the last four years, our business has continued to grow,” he said, adding the maze has had visitors from other states, including Virginia, and from as far away as China.

Vaughn said they have plans to expand the business, which will bring more traffic down the road.

He said he wanted to continue to operate his business but was having trouble receiving deliveries because of the condition of the road.

Commissioner Wayne Davis said, “I think you’ve got a legitimate problem.”

Another citizen told the commissioners that there are roads in the county that get paved year after year.

“Wrens Quarters has been overlooked for years and years,” he said.

He mentioned a park in the area that was built by an individual with private money but can’t get help from the county for it.

“We need some leadership,” the citizen said.

Commissioner Johnny Davis said the county has cut bushes and swept streets in that area.

“This board has done all it can do within legal means for Wrens Quarters,” he said.

Regarding the park, Johnny Davis said he didn’t think the government could spend money on private property. He said the owner of the park had been given the name of a person who might be able to help the owner apply for grant funds.

“I will grant you this board will do everything it can within legal means to do what it can in the Quarters,” the commissioner told the citizen.

The meeting with the mayors was next on the agenda and Wrens Mayor Lester Hadden said, “I don’t really understand why the city of Wrens pays more in taxes than any other city in the county. Maybe our property is assessed too high.”

He asked the commissioners to look into the issue.

He said citizens have said they pay city and county taxes and have asked what does the county do with those taxes.

Hadden suggested the commissioners consider having town hall meetings in each town to discuss this with the citizens.

He also talked about a road that needs to be paved.

“We need some help to address this issue,” he said.

Next he mentioned the county helps subsidize the Wrens Fire Department in the amount of $20,000, which is the same amount as it was 20 years ago, he said.

Hadden said Wrens has a rescue truck and every time it’s called to go out, a fireman has to be called in to take his place at the station.

He brought up the issue that the cities pay for the use of prison labor.

“We’re paying $160 a day for the officer; but, we’re also paying taxes,” he said.

Bartow Mayor Hubert Jordan suggested that each town have a certain number of days allocated free.

“I was told we were supposed to buy everything they use,” he said.

Avera Mayor Tommy Sheppard said his city can’t afford the cost of the prison detail.

“We pay taxes, too; and, we don’t see anything for our taxes,” he said.

Wadley City Councilwoman Dorothy Strowbridge said she has the same concerns for Wadley.

“We’ve heard your concerns,” Commission Chairman William Rabun said. “The budget is as tight as it’s ever been.”

Commissioner Wayne Davis made a motion to amend the agenda in order to make a motion to let the cities have prison labor at no cost.

“How are you going to do this without knowing how much it will cost?” Commissioner Tommy New said.

Commissioner Gonice Davis said the county did not have the money.

The motion failed for lack of a second.

New told Strowbridge that he had worked with every commission going back to the 1970s and the cities offered to pay for the details.

“The cities come to us and they asked for the details,” New said later. “They agreed to pay for the officer’s salary. I can’t remember if there was a little for gas; but, the whole thing was their idea.

“We were working in the cities for nothing and we would get there when we could get there. They wanted a detail in the cities,” he said.

Items on the agenda included a much discussed proposal to move the offices of the E 911 department.

“We met with the sheriff. He agreed to let it stay with modifications,” Rabun said. The current location of the department is at the sheriff’s office in Louisville.

Commissioner Johnny Davis made a motion to let the department stay where it is and to bring it under the direction of the board of commissioners.

The motion passed.

The board then approved a motion for Jefferson County Administrator Paul Bryan to work on a job description of a director for the department and advertise the position.

The commission voted to increase some of the water and sewer rates. The residential and commercial rates will change from $2 per gallon over a 2,000 gallon minimum to $2.50 per gallon over a 2,000 gallon minimum.




Wadley home invaded, occupant tied and robbed

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Wadley police arrested four people in connection to a home invasion Saturday, Feb. 26.

Denisha Lee, 17; Derrick Dwayne Smith, 25; Kevin Smith, 21; and Stephen Lee Smith, 19; all of Wadley were arrested Sunday, Feb. 27, and charged.

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Wadley Chief of Police Wesley Lewis said in an interview Monday that Lee and the Smiths went to a house in Wadley and robbed the residents of the house.

“I think it was four victims if I’m not mistaken,” Lewis said.

“They actually tied one up and put a knife to his throat,” he said.

Lewis said he and a Wadley officer, Cpl. E.B. Marsh, picked the four up on Sunday. None of them offered any resistance, he said.

“I didn’t even have to put the handcuffs on them. They got right on in the car,” he said.

Lee faces an additional charge of arson, Lewis said.

“That came from a brush fire next to Peach Lane and Peach Lane Apartments. It was set on fire by her. It was at 7:20 p.m. Saturday night when the call came in. This was before the home invasion,” Lewis said, adding Lee did not give a reason for setting the fire.

“The fire department came and put it out,” he said.

Lt. Leroy Morgan, an investigator with the Wadley PD, said the suspects took cell phones and some cash from the victims.

“One of them threw one of the cell phones away,” Morgan said.

Police were not able to locate the item, he said, adding the suspects took the cell phones to prevent the victims from calling police.

The victim who had been tied up was not otherwise hurt, Morgan said. No one else was injured, he said.

Morgan said Lee went to the victim’s home about a week before the incident happened and asked him for some money.

“Later she told the three Smith men, who are her relatives, about the money and they decided to rob him,” Morgan said.

“One of the victims said he had $80 but the suspect said he got $3,” the investigator said.

Police charged Lee with theft by taking, arson in the third degree, possession of firearm or knife while trying to commit crimes, aggravated assault, burglary and false imprisonment.

Police charged Derrick Dwayne Smith with burglary, armed robbery, intimidation, theft by taking, false imprisonment and aggravated assault.

Charges filed against Kevin Smith are false imprisonment, aggravated assault, burglary, armed robbery and intimidation.

Charges against Stephen Lee Smith are false imprisonment, possession of firearm or knife while trying to commit crimes, aggravated assault, burglary, armed robbery and intimidation.




Fire decimates hunting camp

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

I didn’t know what exactly we were being called to; but, I knew it wasn’t good that they called everybody,” said Matthews Fire Chief Barrow Walden Monday.

All firefighters in Jefferson County were called to the scene of a fire that had the potential for a disaster – a fire in a hunting camp surrounded closely by a thickly wooded area with no nearby fire hydrants.

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Besides the usual flames and smoke, firefighters on Sunday, Feb. 27, faced exploding ammunition and gas containers as they battled a fire that broke out at JJ and G Hunting Camp on Belmont Road in Louisville.

“The tankers really paid off yesterday,” Hillcrest Fire Chief Dave Beachy said in an interview Monday.

“We were the second tanker in,” he said. “A tanker/pumper is what we’ve got. The rest are tankers. We were able to run two 1.5-inch lines for about 18 minutes until another tanker got there.”

Beachy said the Hillcrest FD tanker was there the whole time.

“Because of having the tanker/pumper instead of just an engine, we were able to save three structures,” he said.

“If we had had just an engine, we would have run out of water and we wouldn’t have been able to save those three structures,” Beachy said.

Several tankers left the scene to refill their tanks with water from a nearby pond and then returned.

Beachy said all firefighters in the county were called to the scene.

“Glascock County had a unit there,” he said. “I’d hate to guess how many firefighters we had. We had 14 there ourselves.”

Beachy said several gas containers or LP tanks blew up.

“There were several that we had to drag out of the way to keep them from getting hot and blowing up,” he said.

Besides overseeing his crew’s work, Beachy said the chief also keeps an eye out for the firefighters.

“One of the concerns is that they don’t get over exhausted and some of them got exhausted,” he said. “With it being a campground, there were a lot of gas, LP tanks. Those LP tanks can blow up. If they do, they’ll send debris and metal flying everywhere, plus a gas explosion. Fireball would be a better expression. A big fireball.”

Beachy said what he had heard before his fire station was toned out was there was a camper on fire.

“Just one,” he said. “One of the hunters went to a neighbor and had his neighbor call it in,” Beachy said.

An additional concern during the fire was the closeness of wooded area around the camp.

“When we got there, those buildings were fully engulfed in flames. The only thing we did was to keep the buildings around them from burning. There was no way we had enough water to keep those buildings from burning and put out the fire. The only thing we could do was keep the fire from spreading,” he said.

James Davis, a firefighter with Louisville Fire Department, was in charge of the scene at the hunting camp while LFD Chief Lamar Baxley coordinated efforts from the station in Louisville.

“Jefferson Energy was a great asset to us out there,” Baxley said in an interview Tuesday.

“There were some live wires that hindered us from fighting the fire and their quick response in getting someone out there to turn off the power helped us a great deal. We really appreciate their efforts to assist us,” he said.

Davis said Tuesday about 13 trailers were destroyed by the fire.

“It was 11 to 13 as far as I counted,” he said. “They was just little old shacks. Some of them were little cook shacks. Some of them were old school buses that had a top over them.”

Davis said these were trailers and campers where people stayed while they were at the camp hunting.

“Our biggest problem was the propane cylinders. They had a lot of 20-pound and 100-pound propane cylinders they used to cook with and heat with,” he said.

Davis said the cylinders themselves did not actually explode.

“The release valve melted and the gas would blow out of it,” he said.

“When they toned us out, there was a report of one camper on fire. But when we got there, there was two campers fully involved and a third structure that had just ignited,” Davis said.

“We were just trying to contain it,” he said.

“When we got there, we went ahead and called for aid and the tankers. The propane cylinders were the biggest cause of the spread of the fire. The only thing we was really trying to do was contain it and that’s all you could do,” Davis said.

“There’s a fellow that lives out there. He let us know when we got out there that he was the only one that was there,” he said.

“He said he looked out the window and one of the trailers was on fire,” Davis said.

Baxley said there were five tankers on the scene, probably five fire knockers and at least four engines.

“And Glascock County was there, too, so that was five engines,” he said.

“Everybody worked together as a team. It was a combined effort, everybody worked together. We had no injuries,” Baxley said.

“I was here at the station, coordinating. Gold Cross Ambulance Service was out there, doing rehab. Other people in the community helped bring water to the personnel that was out there. We want to thank everybody that helped,” he said.

Walden, Matthews’ fire chief, said his station was called as mutual aid to bring some water and manpower.

Like other firefighters with tankers, Walden said his crew had to refill the tanker with water from a nearby pond.

“We used two tanks of water and had to refill out of the pond. There was 18,000 gallons of water out of the pond, total,” Walden said, adding the owner of the pond was present while the firefighters were loading the water.

Walden said the amount of water his unit used was because of the amount of fire.

He said they were called to the scene around 4:20 p.m. or 4:30 p.m.

“We were one of the last stations called because we’re the farthest from the hunting club. Matthews, Wadley and Bartow were the last three called. We were called at the same time. They had three trucks from Glascock County. Their truck is actually the one that set up the draft from the pond for us, one of their engines,” Walden said.

“That was the largest fire I’ve ever been to, as far as the number of buildings involved,” he said.

Like other fire chiefs, Walden said the tankers were a tremendous help in saving time and pointed out there are no hydrants in that area of the county.

He said he and his crew were on the scene between an hour and a half and two hours.

Tommy Sheppard, mayor of Avera and the city’s assistant fire chief, credited the tankers with preventing the fire from becoming much worse.

“That’s the best thing that could happen for the county is to have these tankers, especially as far out as we had to go yesterday,” he said Monday.

“The tanker, what it means, it means you carry 4,000 gallons (of water) when you go out. The tanker holds 3,000 and the fire engine holds 1,000,” he said. Sheppard said his unit had to go off scene and refill twice.

Jason Mathis, Avera’s fire chief, said Avera had 12 firefighters on the scene and used an estimated 9,000 gallons of water fighting the fire.

Echoing the sentiments of many of the firefighters who responded to the scene, Mathis said when he arrived he was surprised.

“I think we arrived about 3:30 p.m. and cleared about 6 p.m.,” he said.

“The reason nobody was hurt, and I feel like this, is because of the training everybody had,” Baxley said.

“The reason that nobody was hurt and everybody come out of it is because of the training the city and the county let us have. They help provide us with the training that we need and the turnout gear and equipment.”

Baxley said he was grateful to the citizens of the county who voted for the 1-percent sales tax that allowed the county to purchase the tankers for the fire departments, especially in areas of the county such as where the hunting club is where there are no fire hydrants.

A cause of the fire had not been determined as of press time Tuesday.




Newspaper’s former owner dies at 78

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

While standing before a packed church, Jason Green, the grandson of the late James “Jim” Edward Horton, told of his grandfather’s teachings of patience, humility, honesty and integrity, four virtues that many friends and family say he used in his life and his business.

Mr. Horton died on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011, at the age of 78. Jason said that before his death, he was at home for some time preparing, while dealing with an extended illness.

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His life began in Cedartown, where he was born in 1933 to Hugh and Avis Horton, the oldest of three children. After serving in the Air Force and marrying Sue Horton, he moved to Louisville, where he purchased and was publisher of The News and Farmer/The Jefferson Reporter/The Wadley Herald, a business he continued until 1993 when he sold it to Joyce Beverly, former paper owner and publisher as well.

“Mr. Horton became the publisher of The News and Farmer in 1968,” said Beverly.

He was partners at the time with Claude McEvers and Sammy Luckey Jr. He took full ownership in 1969.

Mr. Horton’s entire life had been spent in the Georgia weekly newspaper field. He was a delivery boy for The Cedartown Standard, working his way up through all branches of that paper.

Before working at other papers, he served in the Air Force during the Korean War. After leaving, he spent eight years as shop foreman of The Washington News Reporter, then the next three years as editor of The Columbia County News.

He also served two years as advertising director of The McDuffie Progress.

“By the time he ‘landed’ in Louisville, Jim Horton was a seasoned newspaper man,” Beverly said. “He and his family, wife, Sue, and daughter, Terry, quickly planted deep roots in Louisville. He was advised by a local wise man to ‘just hang on for the first year,’ and after that the town would accept him. He did, and they did, and for the next quarter of a century he ran a solid business and a good newspaper in our quiet little town.”

During his time at the paper in Jefferson County, Beverly said he covered desegregation, recessions, an energy crisis, good years, lean years, natural disasters, celebrations, heinous crimes and the flood of October 1990.

“I tell you with authority: that is no small thing,” Beverly said.

Also while in Jefferson County he was a member of the Queensborough National Bank Board of Directors, Jefferson County Development Authority, a charter member of the Ogeechee Valley Country Club, president of the local Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the Board of Managers with the Georgia Press Association.

Clarence “Brother” Henderson was one of Mr. Horton’s closest friends in Jefferson County.

“He was a down to earth fellow,” Henderson said. “He enjoyed hunting, fishing and playing golf. That is actually where I met him, at the golf course. He had taken over at The News and Farmer, but was still traveling back and forth to Thomson.”

While Henderson said the pair did many things together over the years, one of the most treasured was their wedding anniversaries, which were celebrated with each other and their wives.

“That is what his wife said she was going to miss, was our anniversaries,” Henderson said. “He didn’t meet a stranger. He liked everybody. He was one of those people you run into that is glad that you know them.”

Louisville Mayor Larry Morgan said Mr. Horton was a good friend of his father, and later him as well, especially through their love for Georgia Tech.

“He was an excellent human being,” Morgan said. “He cared for everybody. He was a good guy and deserves all the stars there are.”

Mr. Horton’s funeral services were held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011, at Louisville First Baptist Church, with Rev. Hardy Owens and Rev. Larry Montgomery officiating. Burial followed in Louisville City Cemetery.

His survivors include his wife of 58 years, Lettye Sue Horton; a daughter, Terry (Steve) Green; two granddaughters, Jana and Julie, all of Louisville; one grandson, Jason (Rachel); and one great-grandson, Cade, all of Athens; two brothers, William “Buddy” Horton of Carrollton, and Robert “Bobby” Horton of Cedartown; and several nieces and nephews.

“He really appreciated everyone that stopped by to wish him well or offer to help Mammaw take care of him, or bring by a meal,” Jason said. “It really showed what a close-knit group of friends and community we have here.”




Long-time Bartow councilman passes away at 68

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

“I still can’t get the lump out of my throat when I start to talk about him,” Bartow Mayor Hubert Jordan said.

The landscape of Bartow will be forever changed, after the untimely death of Mr. Bartow himself, Fred Evans Jr., on Saturday, Feb. 26. Mr. Evans was 68.

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Mr. Evans was born in Washington County, but was a lifelong resident of Bartow. He was the son of the late Frederick C. Evans Sr. and the late Julia Bryant Evans.

“I keep telling myself I can’t believe Fred Evans is dead,” Jordan said of the council member and Mayor Pro-Tem. “There has always been a Fred Evans in Bartow. There has been a Fred Evans walking the streets in Bartow for years and years. Fred was Mr. Bartow.”

Jordan refers to both Fred Jr., and the departed’s father, Fred Sr.

“I always felt like he was really supporting the local people,” Jordan explained. “He was an ideal person and was interested in what went on in this town.”

Mr. Evans was on the Bartow City Council for 41 years, beginning in 1970. Jordan said he remembers him getting the most votes ever given for a councilman and is the longest serving council member.

“He was always very active and sort of our grounding rod,” Jordan explained. “Citizens elected him for life and he just did a good job. He was a very good councilman. He had ideas and could get things done and give us advice.”

Living in Bartow for so long, Mr. Evans even saw the first fire truck shortly after Bartow had city water. During the memorial service, Council member Sally Brooks announced that the new park in Bartow would be named in memory of Mr. Evans.

Mr. Evans was a graduate of Wadley High School in Wadley in 1960, Roanoke College in Roanoke, Va., in 1965, and the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University in Macon in 1968.

He was the owner and operator of Bryant’s Inc., as well as a farmer, which he passed onto his son, Rob, and his daughter, Mel.

Mr. Evans served on the Board of Directors of the Queensborough National Bank and Trust Company, the Queensborough Holding Company and the Louisville Storage and Loan Company. He was a lifelong member of the Bartow Baptist Church, and a member of the Georgia Cattleman’s Association, the Cotton Growers and the Cotton Ginners Associations.

“I believe Rob and Mel will do fine with the business,” Jordan said.

He also loved to spend time on St. Simons, where his family often vacationed.

A memorial service was held on Tuesday, March 1, at 3 p.m. at Bartow Baptist Church, Bartow, with Rev. Paul Harris officiating.

Survivors include his wife of 43 years, Marjorie Hodges Evans of Bartow; daughter, Mary “Mel” Evans Kirk (Danny) of Wadley; sons, Frederick “Lee” C. Evans III (Jennifer) of Vidalia, and Robert “Rob” Warthen Evans Sr. (Julie) of Wadley; grandchildren, Will and Lexi Kirk, Rebecca and Chamlee Evans, and Warthen and Cameron Evans; sister, Mary Evans Brantley (Marvin) of Atlanta; a step-granddaughter, Kim Kirk Johnson (Michael); and step-great-grandsons, Slade and Trey Johnson.

Speaking for the family during the memorial service, Mr. Evans’ son, Lee, said the response from the community had been “truly overwhelming,” and thanked everyone for their support.

“I want to thank all of you on behalf of my family for coming here today to celebrate the life of my dad,” Lee said.




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