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August 30, 2012 Issue

Fire at Lamb Bros
Cooper faces host of charges in assault
Citizens comment on millage increase
New pharmacy opens in Louisville

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Fire at Lamb Bros


The owner of Lamb Brothers Lumber Company stopped at the site at 102 Industrial St. in Wrens Sunday, Aug. 26, at 12:20 p.m. to feed the cats and discovered a fire. Wrens firefighters arrived to find flames in sawdust and scrap wood near the base of a wood chipper. The fire area was about 15 feet by 8 feet. There were no heavy flames. The owner told firefighters work crews had been working at the site until 4 p.m. the previous day. After extinguishing the flames, firefighters used various hand tools and a front end loader to remove debris in order to extinguish hot spots. They extinguished hot spots using a booster line and extinguished debris at the top of the chipper where smoke had been seen. All fire department units cleared the scene about 3:25 p.m.

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Cooper faces host of charges in assault

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

A 29-year-old Louisville man, Joe Willie Cooper III, has been charged by Jefferson County deputies in an assault that occurred over a two-day period, Lt. Robert Chalker said Monday, Aug. 27.

Chalker, an investigator with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, said the woman, who has not been identified, was at the man’s home in Louisville on Sunday, Aug. 5.


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“He started beating on her and wouldn’t let her leave,” Chalker said.

“She got away on (Monday) the 6th and showed up at the hospital about 11:30 Monday night. That’s when they called me. So I didn’t actually make contact with her until after midnight,” he said.

The investigator said he was able to interview the victim and received enough information to be able to obtain a warrant.

“I got a search warrant on his house where it was supposed to have happened,” he said. “I executed a search warrant that afternoon on the 7th and seized some evidence. It helped to corroborate her statement.”

Cooper was located on Tuesday, Aug. 7, at his mother’s house, Chalker said.

Cooper has been charged with possession of firearm or knife while trying to commit crimes, superior court probation warrant, kidnapping aggravated battery and false imprisonment.

All of these charges are felonies, Chalker said, adding the probation warrant would have come from the probation office; but, as it is from superior court, it would be a felony.

The officer said Cooper has gone to court since his arrest.

“They have revoked his probation, or at least some of it,” he said. “He has got to serve 180 days. He’s still going to have to go to court on these charges.”

Chalker did not identify the victim other than to say she is an adult.

“She stayed at the hospital in Louisville for several hours; and, they sent her to MCG in Augusta,” he said. “She had broken bones in her face, cuts, a broken nose.”

Chalker said the victim said Cooper got mad at her because he wanted to use her car and she wouldn’t let him.

“That’s when he started to hit her,” Chalker said.

“He would leave for a while and come right back in; so, she never knew when he was coming back. Apparently, he had been gone for a couple of hours and she decided to risk it,” he said.




Citizens comment on millage increase

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

“It’s unfair that we’ve come to this point in time; but, we’re here,” said Jefferson County Commissioner Johnny Davis during the final of three public hearings on the county’s millage rate increase.

He said he wanted to ensure the citizens that everything is spent as prudently as possible; and, added that he is grateful to Commission Chairman William Rabun and County Administrator Adam Mestres for the work they’ve done on the budget.

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The commissioners held a called meeting after the hearing and approved a rate of 14.50 mills with a .75 of a mill going directly to the county’s development authority. Davis voted against the increase.

In the public meetings, Mestres addressed the reasons for the increase over last year’s rate of 12.75.

“I appreciate you coming and being concerned about what’s going on in the county,” he said to the citizens in attendance.

“Part of the reason for the increase is two-fold,” he said.

“We had a drop overall in the property values. Also between last year and this year, we have a number of decreases in our revenue budget.”

Some of the decreases Mestres cited included a decrease in revenues from sales tax and in revenue for housing other counties’ inmates. There is also a contractual increase in the EMS service.

“The cost of doing business is up overall,” he said.

Mestres said the county is in the process of possibly selling some property on US Highway 1.

“We have to be able to meet the expected expenditures for the county,” the administrator said.

Mestres pointed out that the county should have a reserve to cover at least three months’ worth of expenses.

“The reserves are gone or about gone,” he said. “There’s no more dipping into it. The only other way that we can get that revenue is obviously through a tax increase to be able to continue to meet those expenditures that we have.”

Mestres said there was an increase in 2008 to 13 mills.

“Then it was dropped in ‘09 back to 12.75; and, it remained at that level,” he said. “The big thing that hurts us is you look over the years, the five-year history, the digest continues to drop.”

He said the declining values mean less money. There has also been a 3 to 5 percent budgetary increase a year.

“I don’t think this is the time to raise taxes,” citizen Robert Jackson said.

“As you so elegantly stated, sir, everything is pointing in a downward spiral. We have less people. We have less students. There are more poor people in this county. Poor people don’t get raises,” he said.

People on fixed incomes, he said, have less.

“My wife and I are on a fixed income,” he said. “I’m asking you gentlemen in the commission to take the hard way.”

He said an increase in fees gives people an option of not getting a particular service.

“When you raise taxes, people have no option. They have to pay it,” he said. “But that $4 or $5 might be the cost of some ham hocks. I urge you to think about these things.”

Mestres said the commission worked very hard on the budget.

“I spent four months on developing what I thought was a good budget for the county. We made a lot of cuts,” he said.

Mestres said the commission looked at what services the county workers could do.

“Some of the cuts we made were to our local contract workers,” he said, adding that made things difficult for those people.

Mestres told the citizen the commission did discuss raising fees for services.

“As far as increasing costs, we don’t have a lot to pass on to anybody,” he said. “Whether we call it a tax or not, it is what it is.”

Mestres said the county is fortunate that most of the services citizens receive are free. He said the county could increase fees at the recreation department; but, there is already a declining participation rate.

He also said few people ride the county’s transit system. An increase in rates there would not be enough to make up the difference just from lost revenues, he said.

“We’ve got almost $400,000 in lost revenues,” Mestres said.

County Commissioner Tommy New said it was his opinion the mistake was in not adding a little bit to the millage rate each year; so, the county did not have to increase it 1.7 mills all at once.

“And don’t misunderstand me, I’m a big part of it,” he said.

“Our big budget items, we don’t really have a lot of control over them,” New said. “All the other elected officials, they turn in their budgets. Of course now, we scrutinize them and sit down with them.”

New said there is also a change at the state level that no one knows yet how it will affect the county.

“We don’t even know for sure this 1.75 millage rate is going to cover what the state has cut out of us,” he said.

“Starting March of next year, when you buy a new automobile, the county’s not going to be able to get any ad valorem tax off of it. And unless something is done between now and the first of the year, we’re going to lose all our sales tax off of energy. And these are things that the state does and then put out in the paper and say, ‘Look what we’re doing for the people.’ But they’ve not really done nothing for the people because they’re just passing it right on down to the counties.”

New said that a few years ago, when they had a small surplus, the county reduced the millage rate.

“So why not help the people?” Rabun said. “We did; and, now we’ve reached a point where we’re going to have to raise it.”

The county’s tax commissioner, Jenny Gordy, mentioned the value of a mill dropping and the decrease in the value of the digest.

“As far as the energy tax, we don’t have a clue how much that’s going to take off the digest,” Rabun said. “Now we got the option that we can reinstate it; but, if Washington County, Burke County, Columbia and McDuffie counties, if they decide to take it off, if you get an industry looking for a place to locate – where they going? They got to pay the extra 2 percent, they going to locate in Jefferson County? I don’t think so. We got to make a decision on that shortly.”

Mestres said the commissioners have to make a decision by Sept. 1 if they want to move forward and reinstate the 2 percent energy tax.

“We have to get letters out to all the mayors of the cities letting them know our intent to go into further discussions on this tax; because, the cities play an integral role,” Mestres said. “They can decide whether they want to participate or not. But yes effectively Jan. 1, we lose a 2-percent tax that we previously received that’s gone forever. The state took that away. And we have that option to there again impose it.

“It ends up affecting everybody, even though it affects industry most. But if they’re looking for this reduction that their lobbyists have been fighting for for a number of years and they start to plan their budgets and they say the majority are not going to take the 2-percent and they start to raise consumer costs. It’ll end up getting us one way or the other. Everything in economics circles like that,” he said.

New mentioned a friend of his who owns a business in the county.

“I know about what his electricity bill is. Just that 2 percent will cost us $2,000 to $4,000 a month. Just him. I know we don’t have a lot of industry; but, you start adding that up,” New said.

“Believe me, sir, we don’t want to raise taxes no more than you do. For us, it’s just a fact of life. Every time I talk to somebody, they say, ‘Tommy, how come you don’t do this and do that?’ I say, ‘Fine, I can do that. But the only place I have to get money, sir, is out of your pocket. That’s the only place this board has to get money.’”

“Before we adopted our fiscal year ‘13 budget, which was July 1, we were looking at a proposed millage rate increase of 2 mills,” Mestres said.

They were able to revise the budget and cut a quarter of a mill, but Mestres said it will still be tight.

“A month and 20 days into the new fiscal year, we’re still faced with mid-year cuts that we’re going to have to take in some form or fashion,” Mestres said. “At some point, we’re all on fixed incomes. We’re talking about eliminating jobs. Now you’re going from paying your taxes to putting food on the table.

“Something we have to look at. And it’s tough. I hate to have to call somebody up and say we can’t afford to pay you. We’re working hard. We’re looking at having to make those tough cuts. We don’t know yet what the loss will be to the change in the ad valorem tax.”

Commissioner Wayne Davis re-emphasized what the Mestres said.

“He has said in open meetings, even with this 1 and 3/4 mill, there’s got to be cuts in personnel,” Davis said. “There has got to be cuts in services. If it’s not, when it comes June the 30th of next year, then there will be a significant shortfall. So that’s something that we all are going to have to look at real hard and decide where are we going to lay these people off, how are we going to rein this thing in and what services that the people out here are getting right now that we’re not going to provide next year.”

“Those cuts are a part of business,” Jackson said. “If you don’t have it over here, then you got to do something over here. If you listen to everybody, everybody’s tight except the federal government. This is the time when you’ve got zero growth in business as people will tell you.

“I just think that, gentlemen, I’m against raising taxes. Period. I realize that if you’re a civilized world, you’ve got to pay taxes for service. You’ve got to have police; you’ve got to have fire; you’ve got to have water. I feel sorry for you guys; but, that’s why we hired you,” Jackson said.

Mestres told Jackson he appreciated his interest and that he understood that citizens might be against the increase.

“(It’s) what we expect when we have public hearings and rightfully so. I appreciate your coming down here and being the concerned citizen, ” Mestres said.

“We’re not adding anything,” Rabun said. “We’re trying to maintain. We’re trying to hold the status quo; and, it’s going to be hard.

Gordy said with the 14.50 mills for the county, the .20 mills for the state and the 14.147 for the school system, the total mills people will see on their bills will be a 28.847 millage rate.

She said she plans to send out the county tax bills in a few weeks.

“I’ve got a target date of Thursday, Sept. 20,” she said. “They’ll go into the mail on the 20th of Sept. That’ll give people until Dec. 20 to pay it.

“We are required to give 60 days; but, I find if you give people a little more time it works better for a lot of citizens, mortgage companies and other businesses. This also gives us extra time to answer questions and work with people.”

Gordy said the total amount of revenue raised from the taxes for real and personal property will be $10,865,822.43. This includes the solid waste fees. Without solid waste, the total is $10,550,422.43, she said.

This breaks down to $68,813.11 to the state, $5,057,793.44 to the county, $5,147,934.40 to the school system, $275,881.48 to economic development and $315,400 to solid waste.

Ad valorem taxes on motor vehicles, mobile homes and timber are not included in these amounts, she said.

“This also does not include the appeals,” she said.




New pharmacy opens in Louisville

By Oraleethia Morgan
Apprentice

Peachtree Pharmacy & Gifts is more than just the typical pharmacy; it’s a Friday afternoon hangout spot where one can enjoy conversation, fountain drinks from an old fashion soda fountain and old fashioned hand-dipped ice cream.

Owner Beth Miller-McNeely said she wanted her pharmacy to be different from the others in town.

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McNeely said she has a genuine love for people and a heart to help the public and felt that getting involved with this type of business would be a good way to accomplish that.

“I like helping people,” she said.

McNeely is the daughter of Bill and Donna Miller of Moxley and a native of Jefferson County. She graduated from Thomas Jefferson Academy in 1994.

From there, she attended Mercer University Mercer University School of Pharmacy and obtained an undergraduate degree in pharmacy. She graduated in 2001 with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree.

She married Adam McNeely. They have two sons, Matt, 9, and Will, 6.

For a while she worked in the CVS Pharmacy in Sandersville and at the pharmacy at Washington County Regional Medical Center.

She said although she worked in other pharmacies, there was something missing: she wanted to have a pharmacy that would set itself apart.

“We have a drive-through and of course we have gifts and an old fashioned soda fountain,” she said, adding the pharmacy also delivers to local customers. also delivers.

She said Peachtree Pharmacy & Gifts has gift items that range from jewelry to clothes, purses, soaps and even seasonal items.

Its old fashioned hand-dipped ice cream, can be served on a cone or in a cup, she said.

The pharmacist said she and staffers came up with their own frozen treat combinations called Peachtree Breezes.

Each frozen treat is a mixture of ice cream and a favorite cookie or candy. McNeely said they have Oreo Breezes, Reese’s Breezes and Butterfinger Breezes, as well as smoothies, floats and shakes.

“We go above and beyond to exceed everybody’s expectations. You get good prices like at the big stores, but you get hometown service,” she said.

There are three members of the Peachtree staff, not including McNeely. She said the staff includes a Licensed Practical Nurse and a Certified Pharmacy Technician.

To become a customer at the pharmacy, customers can fax their name, date of birth, allergies and insurance information and the Peachtree staff will process the information into the pharmacy’s system. She said this process keeps the customer from having to wait at the pharmacy to have their information processed.

McNeely said customers could call the pharmacy, give the name of the medicine and which pharmacy currently has the prescription.

“Or they can just bring in the prescription bottle,” she said.

Although the pharmacy does not handle Medicare Part B, which covers durable items like hospital beds, wheelchairs and canes, the pharmacy accepts almost every other form of insurance, including Medicare Part D, Medicaid and TRICARE.

“One of the first people to come through (had) TRICARE and it went right through,” she said.

She said if the pharmacy does not accept certain insurances, it will try to get signed up with them.

Peachtree Street Pharmacy is located at 802 Peachtree St. in Louisville. They are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. McNeely and her staff can be reached at (478) 625-9450 or by fax at (478) 625-9454.







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