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September 8, 2011 Issue

District Attorney clears officers
Remembering Javoris...
County gets line of credit to pay bills
Wadley businesses file suit against city

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District Attorney clears officers

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

No criminal charges will be filed against two Louisville police officers who had been suspended from work because of a complaint of excessive force filed against them.

The officers, James Boatright and Elliott Kline, were suspended with pay by Louisville City Council Tuesday, July 12.

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A citizen, 28-year-old Christopher Walden, filed a complaint against the officers stating they used excessive force during an arrest in June.

The Jefferson County Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference held two rallies and a march in response to the complaint.

Jefferson County District Attorney Hayward Altman sent a letter last week to Louisville Police Chief Jimmy Miller notifying Miller that no charges would be filed against either officer.

“I have carefully reviewed the file and made a determination that no criminal action will be forthcoming against said officers,” Altman states in his letter, which is dated Sept. 2.

“After reviewing the statement of Christopher Walden, the statements of the two officers, the statements of the eyewitnesses and a careful review of the medical records, there is nothing to indicate any criminal use of force in effecting the arrest of Christopher Walden.

“Also, there is nothing in the criminal investigation done by the GBI to indicate any excessive use of force by either officer or any other criminal wrongdoing,” the letter states.

Altman goes on to write, “Whether the conduct of the officers followed the correct policies and procedures of the Louisville Police Department in their actions taken is a matter solely for internal review by the police department. The District Attorney’s office makes no determination as to whether these policies and procedures were followed.”

Louisville City Administrator Don Rhodes said a called meeting had been scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 7, for the city council to discuss the findings.

In an interview Tuesday, Sept. 6, Miller said the officers had been notified of the findings.

“They have not violated any policies in regards to this incident,” Miller said.

Miller said the city council will have to decide if and when the officers will be allowed to return to work.

Since the officers were suspended July 12, Miller said his department has not hired any additional personnel, not even on a temporary basis, to cover the officers’ work load.

“We’ve had to cover it with what we had, the manpower that we’ve had since they’ve been gone,” he said. “We’ve had to pull the shifts, myself, the investigator. We used all necessary manpower available to make sure the town was properly covered. We utilized existing manpower.”




Remembering Javoris...

Friends, family, fellow students and teachers gathered at a goal post on Jefferson County Warriors’ football field after the JV game Thursday to hold a candlelight vigil for Javoris Lay, the recent graduate who was shot and killed in Wrens last week. (Above) Lay’s cousin, 3-year-old Joycelyn Jacobs dries her mother’s, Ret. Lt. Col. Sharon Jacobs, tears during the ceremony.

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County gets line of credit to pay bills

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

In a called meeting Wednesday, Aug. 31, the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 with one abstention to accept a bid from Queensborough National Bank for a $750,000 line of credit.

Although a total of three bids were solicited, Jefferson County Administrator Paul Bryan said he had received only two responses.

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Besides the bid from Queensborough, the other bid was from Regions Bank.

Regions made two different offers. One was for a fixed interest rate of 3.25 percent for a lump sum. The other was for a LIBOR variable interest rate for the line of credit. This second proposal was at 1.74 percent and would have also included a loan documentation fee and other associated loan fees as determined by the bank.

Queensborough’s bid was for a $750,000 line of credit at a fixed interest rate of 3.25 percent.

The banks quoted the rate of 3.25 as a prime interest rate. Queensborough’s bid stated the rate was as posted by The Wall Street Journal.

“I would just like to say Regions Bank is not based in the great state of Georgia,” Commissioner Johnny Davis said, adding Regions was not based in Louisville, nor in Jefferson County.

Commissioner Tommy New abstained from the vote. New is a member of the board of directors of Queensborough.

Johnny Davis made a motion to accept the bid from Queensborough. The bid was seconded by Commissioner Gonice Davis. The motion passed.

Bryan said whatever amounts were borrowed are required to be repaid by Dec. 30. He said there should be no problem repaying the loan, adding this time of the year is normally the tightest time for the budget. The first week in September and the first week in December are usually when revenues are down.

Bryan said he has already borrowed $100,000 and expects to borrow another $200,000 this week to make the county current with payroll and accounts payable.

The administrator said the last time the county borrowed money was in 2004.

“I do not believe I’ll be using the entire line of credit; and, we’ll be borrowing only as the need arises,” he said.

Bryan said the county spends $1 million each month and stressed the first week in September is always a low point regarding revenue and fund balance.

He pointed out taxes and fees were not increased.

“It is strictly a cash flow problem,” he said.

Bryan said the loan will be repaid at a straight interest rate applied to the amount borrowed.

In other words, the repayment on the $100,000 already borrowed will be $103,250.

Bryan said revenue will pick up as property owners begin to pay their ad valorem taxes.

Gold Cross Ambulance Service
In other news, the commissioners and Bryan also discussed housing the ambulance service.

The City of Wrens recently sent a letter to Gold Cross, the county’s ambulance service, asking for rent for the building used as a sub-station. The county became involved because the service contracts with the county, not the city. Part of the contract states space will be available for Gold Cross in Wrens.

Because the item had not been placed on the agenda within the 24 hour notice required for a called meeting, the commissioners could not vote on the item.

Bryan said two of the members of the board would not be able to attend the next work session and he wanted to discuss this in front of a full board.

Bryan said he had been approached by the city about this issue several months ago, but told the city the county could not afford to pay rent.

He said the county, city and Gold Cross had spent money to renovate the building.

“Basically, everybody has contributed,” he said.

“Gold Cross pays the light bill,” Commission Chairman William Rabun said.

“The county pays the gas, water and sewer,” Bryan said.

Gonice Davis asked about the rent.

“Add $350 a month,” Bryan said.

Gonice Davis asked about moving the sub-station to somewhere else in the county.

Bryan said he talked with the mayor and city clerk in another town and they said they would be interested in providing a sub-station.

“The cost to retrofit the building they had in mind was cost prohibitive,” Bryan said.

“We redid the old library,” Rabun said. “The county paid for that. The mayor of Wrens asked them (EMS) to move so they could rent the building out to RC and D, which they did.”

Since that time, Bryan said in an interview, Gold Cross has spent $20,000 on the sub-station, has given the city of Wrens a surplus wheelchair van and has paid the electricity since moving into the current location.

The county has spent more than $7,000 on maintenance and repairs on the current sub-station, and paid water, sewer and gas during that time.

Gonice Davis said the ambulance service is for the community.

“The city should not make money from the county,” he said.

Commissioner Tommy New said, “At some time, we’re going to have to bite the bullet. Other counties have the EMS based in one place.”

After some discussion about this, Bryan said, “The distance between one end of the county to the other is 45 miles.”

“We cannot have a service we cannot afford,” New said. “We have one of the best ambulance services around. We are fortunate to have a hospital here.”

The commission is scheduled to continue discussing this issue at its next work session, which will be Monday, Oct. 3, at 8:30 a.m. at the county commission meeting room. The meeting is open to the public.




Wadley businesses file suit against city

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Four Wadley industries caught in a disagreement with the City of Wadley filed suit in Jefferson County Superior Court Friday, Sept. 2.

The industries, Battle Lumber, Cooper Machine, Fulghum Industries and Rachels Machine and Fabrication, named the City of Wadley; its mayor, Herman Baker; and each of the city’s five council members as defendants.

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The suit stems from an issue between the companies and the city regarding a Freeport tax exemption passed by referendum 10 years ago.

The law allows the companies to go back only three years to ask for compensation from not having received the exemption.

In a letter dated June 20, Bill Keogh, an attorney who represents the businesses, stated to Baker the overpayments to the city from Battle Lumber is $133,883.10, from Fulghum Industries is $53,783.50, from Rachels Machine is $3,210.85 and from Cooper Machine is $3,093.23.

Although the companies have been trying to negotiate a settlement of some sort, either repayment in installments if necessary or a credit against future debt, a majority of the council has insisted the city does not owe the money.

In an interview Friday, Sept. 2, Keogh said he hopes to avoid going to trial.

“We’re hopeful things will still work out,” he said.

“That’s always my hope and goal; but, that has been going on since January; and, we just want to keep the process moving,” the attorney said.

A source close to the situation said it appears certain paperwork did not get properly forwarded by the city to the state when the exemption was passed. Additionally, the businesses did not apply for the exemption.

Councilwoman Dorothy Strowbridge, who came on the council in January 2010, has insisted that the Freeport tax exemption was not implemented 10 years ago. She said they started to pass it but it was dropped somewhere between the referendum and the resolution. She said the resolution was never signed or sent to the state authorities.

In a recent city council meeting, Wadley City Attorney John Murphy had a letter from the Department of Revenue that said it was properly passed by the referendum.

He said the resolution was passed and it was in the city minutes. He warned the council that the industries would most likely take legal action, considering the amount of money they are owed.

The council recently voted to hire a local attorney, Betty Williams-Kirby, to represent the city in this case.






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