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July 5, 2012 Issue

Firefighters battle heat and flames
Early voting begins July 9
T-SPLOST explained at chamber program
Gold Cross gets new equipment

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Firefighters battle heat and flames

By Faye Ellison
Staff writer

Area firefighters fought the heat and three blazes in Glascock County on Friday, June 29, that put the county’s resources and the firemen’s bodies to the test.

The first fire began between 2:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. off of Highway 102 West near Snider Road, just past what is known as Jumping Gully in Glascock County.

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“It was a piece of logging equipment that caught on fire back in the woods,” Gibson-Glascock County Fire Department Chief Steve Mathis said Monday. “There was no road for us to drive a truck back there to get to the piece of equipment.”

Mathis said when the call first came in, the man who made the call was unsure of where he was located in the logging outfit, only that it was on a dirt road just outside of Gibson headed towards Mitchell.

“One of the deputies knew where the logging was going on, but when they got on the scene, there was not a road to get a truck to it,” Mathis explained, adding that he believes the equipment was being used at the time it caught fire.

Fire extinguishers were taken to the equipment, but Mathis said it was so hot, the extinguishers did not help much with the blaze.

“It had to burn itself out,” Mathis said. “Some of the loggers got a little overheated and EMS went to check on them.”

When firefighters first arrived on the scene, the toll the heat was taking on the loggers was evident. The loggers were taken to a shaded area and given water.

“Everything was OK after that,” Mathis said.

Shortly after arriving on the scene for the logging equipment fire, another call came in about a fire on Highway 171 North outside of Gibson, around 3:15 p.m.

It was determined by officials that a power line on the back of some property had caused a fire igniting a powerful blaze in a barn and trailer.

“Some trees had grown up under the power line and the tops had pushed the neutral wire up against the hot wire and it shorted out,” Mathis explained. “The sparks hitting the grass back there started the fire on the ground. The neutral wire that was burnt also fell to the ground.”

Moving across the ground, the fire began in the barn first, which stored old pine lumber.

“The heat then transferred to an uninhabited trailer and caught it on fire, too,” Mathis said. “It burned a bunch of wood and stuff around the house.”

The back of the trailer was on fire, but with the extreme heat from the barn, firemen were unable to push the fire out of the house.

“It was igniting right back up as soon as they would put it out,” Mathis added. “Something exploded in the house, but we are not sure what it was.”

Around 4:15 p.m. the temperature was at 112 degrees, leaving the firefighters unable to battle the blaze. The road was closed to through traffic because of the intense heat coming from the blaze, and the dark smoke and ash in the air causing problems with visibility.

“There was a good bit of fire around the north end, so I made the decision to pull them out,” Mathis said, explaining, “With it being that hot and the firemen in full gear, it probably raised the temperature inside the suits by 15 to 20 degrees. They were swapping out about every 10 minutes or so, because that is all you could stand, with the combination of the heat, humidity and fire.”

EMS brought wet towels, water and Powerade for the firefighters. Others in the community also pitched in when they heard of the firefighters’ struggle with the blaze.

The Georgia Forestry Commission was also on the scene plowing a break around the blaze before it could get to some planted pine trees and other structures in the area.

“There was so much fire and no way to put it out,” Mathis said. “We just did what we could to save all the structures and keep it from jumping across the highway to structures over there. We just contained the area around it and let it burn itself out.”

Firefighters were at the scene for two and a half hours before the blaze was finally controlled. It also caused a power outage on that circuit for some hours, Mathis said.

Responding to the scene was the Gibson-Glascock County Fire Department, Georgia Forestry Commission, Glascock County First Responders, McDuffie County EMS, and fire departments from Avera, Stapleton, Mitchell, Edgehill and Warren County.

Mathis said that Tim and Josh Brooks, who were building a house a short distance from the fire on Chalker Road, brought in a piece of equipment from the construction site to help push back all the trees that were burning to the center of the fire so it would not flame up on trees on the other side of the fire break.

After leaving the Highway 171 fire, firefighters found a spot on the side of Highway 102 West that was burning. It was believed to be caused by a cigarette butt that was in the vicinity of the blaze.

“It has been bad dry,” Mathis said. “We have not had much rain in the last several weeks, so please don’t have any outdoor burning. Forestry would not issue a permit at that time. People should always check with Forestry if they plan to burn and see if it is permissible.

“Also do not throw any cigarette butts out of the car window. When it is dry like this they can start fires too.”

Mathis said if any citizens see a fire, contact 911 as quickly as possible.



Early voting begins July 9

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

Early or advance voting will begin next week for Glascock and Jefferson counties.

The general primary will be held on Tuesday, July 31, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in both counties as well. The July 31 election will decide winners for the democratic and republican political parties.


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In Glascock County, absentee in-person/advance voting will be held Monday through Friday beginning July 9 and ending on July 27 from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the Glascock County Extension/Registrar’s Office, 676 West Main Street, Gibson. Their office will also be open on Saturday, July 21, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for absentee in-person/advance voting.

There will be three ballots for the county, one democratic, one republican and one non-partisan. Sample ballots are available upon request at the Probate/Magistrate office and are also on display at the Glascock County Courthouse.

In Jefferson County, absentee in-person/advance voting will be held Monday through Friday beginning July 9 and ending July 27 from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the Board of Elections Office, 415 Green Street, Louisville. The office will also be open on Saturday, July 21, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for absentee in-person/advance voting.

There will be 12 ballots for the county, one democratic, one republican and one non-partisan for each of the four districts. Sample ballots are available upon request at the Board of Elections Office.

If needed, a runoff could be held on Aug. 21 for the July 31 general primary. The general election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 6. The last day to register to vote or for a change of address for the Nov. 6 election will be Oct. 8.

Voters will need identification, which may include a Georgia’s driver’s license, even if it is expired; a voter identification card; a valid employee photo ID from any branch, department, agency, or entity of the United States government, Georgia, or any county, municipality, board, authority or other entity of the state; a valid United State passport ID; a valid United State military photo ID; or a valid tribal photo ID.

Voter identification cards may be obtained at the Glascock County Extension/Registrar’s Office for Glascock County residents and at the Board of Elections Office for Jefferson County residents.

To obtain a voter identification card, citizens must have a photo identity document or approved non-photo identity document that includes full legal name and date of birth; documentation showing the voter’s date of birth; evidence that he applicant is a registered Georgia voter; and documentation showing the applicant’s name and residential address.




T-SPLOST explained at chamber program

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

The Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce recently held a Lunch n’ Learn program on a much debated issue that will come before voters later this month.

Andy Crosson, executive director for the CSRA Regional Commission, presented information about the Transportation Special Projects Local Option Sales Tax or T-SPLOST that will appear on the ballot Tuesday, July 31, as a referendum.

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The tax, if passed, will remain in place for 10 years. If the tax fails, it cannot be considered again for 24 months.

The referendum must pass with 50 percent of the votes, plus one, in the region, rather than in a majority of the counties.

The counties in this region are Columbia, Augusta-Richmond, Jenkins, Burke, Washington, McDuffie, Warren, Lincoln, Wilkes and Taliaferro, as well as Jefferson and Glascock.

Lil Easterlin, the county chamber’s executive director, said this event and others like it allow the voters to ask questions so when they go in to vote, they know what they’re going to vote for or against.

At the meeting, Crosson said the state of Georgia is divided into 12 regions.

“We are region 7,” he said, adding this region contains 13 counties and 39 cities.

“All of the proceeds generated here will stay here,” he said.

The funds from this tax are to be used only for transportation.

Crossen said the bulk of the funds will go to Columbia and Richmond counties.

He said it takes about $40,000 to $50,000 for the county to pave about one-half mile.

Jefferson County Administrator Adam Mestres and Jefferson County Commission Chairman William Rabun each said that sounds about right.

Crosson said one of the projects in the state is to make the Port of Savannah deeper.

If the T-SPLOST passes, the taxes will begin to be collected Jan. 1 and would be received by the county about April or May, he said.

“If not passed, local governments must match 30 percent of their local maintenance and improvement grants,” he said.

Crosson said even if the T-SPLOST passes in only region 7, we would still be receiving the funds generated in the region.

“They can’t take that money away,” he said.

Rabun, who in on the Regional Transportation Roundtable, said Jefferson County started out as a donor county and is now a recipient county.

This means, at first, the county would have given more than it received; but, now the county stands to receive more.

The Regional Transportation Roundtable was a group of elected officials from throughout the region who worked together on developing the regional projects to be paid for from the T-SPLOST funds.

Two members from each county were part of the roundtable. They were the county commission chairman and one of the mayors.

Jefferson County’s representatives were Rabun and Wrens Mayor Lester Hadden, who was selected by all the mayors in the county.

“Your elected officials here did not put this on the ballot,” Rabun told the group, adding hefty penalties would have been assessed if the counties had not complied.

“I went to a lot of the meetings,” said Wrens City Administrator Arty Thrift.

“There was a lot of work done. Y’all were well represented. You didn’t just get that this week,” he said.

“This region works well together,” Crosson said. “Some of these are projects that have been on the books for years; and, some of these are new projects.”

A citizen asked what would happen to any project not finished in 10 years.

Crosson said the Georgia Department of Transportation has to finish the projects.

Another citizen said she was at the meeting for people who do not have the extra penny on the dollar.

“All this sounds really great; but, what does this mean to all the people who come to us? There are a lot of people who don’t have it,” she said.

Jefferson County Commissioner Wayne Davis said, “This is the only game in town.”

In a telephone interview last week, Crosson said Jefferson County moved from being a donor to a recipient county because DOT came out with a new set of road miles and the agency adopted the 2010 census.

“The way they changed was probably related to the 2010 Census numbers; and, they recognized the road miles,” he said.

DOT requested an update regarding paved and unpaved road miles in the counties, he said.

“Most of the communities did a comprehensive update of their road mileage,” Crosson said. DOT based the division of funds on population and number of road miles.

“I think the important thing, particularly in the rural areas, is there are really two components in that tax,” he said.

“One of them is the major list of projects. The other part, really in the rural areas particularly, is the local money that’s going to come to the local areas as discretionary money. Local tax is going to be the major impact,” he said.

“You all stand to receive more back in that discretionary money than you put in. It can be used for operations and maintenance; but, it has to be used for transportation,” Crosson said.

He said the DOT’s funding issue is that the agency is receiving less and less federal funds.

“There’s a need for more and more state projects,” he said. “Finding additional money for transportation projects is virtually impossible.”

Crosson said in the late 1990s, DOT issued a number of bonds in order to do projects faster.

“A lot of the funding they received now goes back to paying off those bond revenues, that bond debt,” he said.

One website containing some information about the TSPLOST is www.connectgeorgia2012.com. The website contains a map showing this region.

In his presentation, Crosson pointed out there is no opt-out for this tax. If the region passes it, all counties in the region must participate.

A fund of 25 percent of the district’s revenues will be for discretionary use by local governments.

Jefferson County is projected to receive $10,768,485 in regional investments and $22,965,490 in local discretionary funds for a total benefit of $33,733,975.

The three projects are converting Hoyt Braswell Road to a truck route at a cost of $4,607,069, Louisville By-Pass at a cost of $5,630,812 and Walker Street from US 1 to Young Street in Wrens at a cost of $530,604.

Glascock County is projected to receive $530,604 in regional investments and $4,514,489 in discretionary funds for a total benefit of $5,045,093.

The project in Glascock County is the county’s school access road at a cost of $500,000.

The chamber has scheduled another T-SPLOST presentation for Wadley Tuesday, July 10, at 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the old school. The public is invited; and, no registration is required.




Gold Cross gets new equipment

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

Gold Cross EMS, the Augusta-based emergency medical services company that contracts with Jefferson County to provide EMS service, has bought four mechanical compression devices to be used locally by its staff.

The devices, about $18,000 each, are battery operated and, once fitted to a patient, will make the compressions needed during CPR.

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This will not only free up the EMTs and paramedics but will allow for continuous compressions during patient transport, a time when normally compressions cannot be continued.

Maj. Michael Willis, director of clinical services for the ambulance service, demonstrated the device Friday, June 15, at Jefferson Hospital.

Vince Brogdon, Gold Cross’ CEO, was on hand.

“We decided to invest in the LUCAS 2 device,” Brogdon said, adding there are four of the units in Jefferson County, one on each of the ambulances and one with Maj. Carl Wagster, Jefferson County EMS director.

Brogdon said the one-man unit frees up hands and allows the EMTs and paramedics to provide other care.

“This thing keeps going,” he said. “There is no stopping.”

There are two batteries packed with the unit. Each battery lasts 45 minutes.

“In Jefferson County, it’s about a $60,000 investment,” Brogdon said. “We’ve already had a known save with this device.”

Willis said the device provides 2 inches of compression.

“Every compression,” he said. “It provides continuous compressions while it’s on.”

Willis said the device is very simple to put on.

“Twenty seconds from the time you take it out of the bag until you’re compressing. It’s so easy to use and it makes such a huge difference,” he said.

Willis also demonstrated an advanced airway, which is a separate device from the LUCAS 2.

“We’re always looking at new equipment coming out,” Brogdon said. “In fact, we’re the second ambulance service in the state to have it.”

“The patient care will be a lot better,” Wagster said.

Willis said the average time for a cardiac arrest for EMS workers is 45 minutes.

Wagster said in Jefferson County the EMS responds to about 15 cardiac arrests in a year.

“We’ve worked three arrests in a day here,” he said.

“If you save one life, it’s worth it,” Brogdon said.

“We’ve used it once,” Wagster said.

Willis said ambulance service personnel receive about 45 minutes of training on the device. They watch a 13-minute video and then have hands-on training for 30 minutes, actually putting the device on a mannequin.

“They will be rechecked off on it yearly,” he said.

Wagster said if the device is still being used once a patient arrives at the hospital, someone from the ambulance service will remain with the device.

“This is a fairly significant expense,” Wagster said. “One of the things Mr. Pounds does, if Columbia County or other areas get a new piece of equipment, we get it down here, too.”

Bo Pounds is the owner of Gold Cross EMS.







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