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October 18, 2012 Issue

Fun raising funds...
Venue change sought for slaying trial
Stapleton inert landfill closed
Freeport and Sunday sales votes postponed

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Fun raising funds...

The Jefferson Hospital Foundation held its annual fundraiser Saturday. The festivities included entertainment, dinner and an auction. Funds raised will be used to renovate patient rooms.


Venue change sought for slaying trial

By Donna Stillinger

A change of venue has been requested in the trial of a McDuffie County man charged last year with killing his wife then dragging her body into another county.

Caryn Lobdell, the public defender representing Ricky Wells, filed the request in Superior Court.


In her motion, Lobdell asks that Wells’ trial be moved beyond a 75-mile radius of Thomson to a county with a constitutionally composed traverse jury list.

Lobdell said that newspapers, radio and television stations have devoted great attention to the case and publicity has severely prejudiced potential jurors against her client.

Lobdell added in her motion that to try the defendant in McDuffie County where the community feeling is strongly set against him will violate his right to a fair trial.

Court officials called the filing a bit early in the proceedings of the case. A change of venue is usually requested closer to the trial date.

Neither Ricky Wells nor his co-defendant Tina Wells have been arraigned, although they have been held in jail more than a year.

Tina Wells is represented by Thomson attorney Lucy Bell, who was appointed by the Public Defender’s Office. No request for a venue change has been filed by Bell.

After a change of venue motion is filed, a hearing may be scheduled and a judge will listen to each party’s presentation on the issue when determining whether to grant the motion. If the motion is granted, the judge will issue an order for a change of venue. The case will then be transferred to the new jurisdiction.

There is no word on when such a hearing will be held.

Court officials anticipate that Ricky and Tina Wells will be arraigned some time this month with trial planned for next year.

Both suspects are charged individually and as co-conspirators with one count of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated assault, one count of armed robbery, three counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and three counts of aggravating circumstances. The 12 charges stem from the Sept. 29, 2011, death of Jennifer Kitchens Wells.

The indictment states the slaying of Wells was outrageously and wantonly vile, horrible and inhuman in that it involved depravitiy of mind, as said defendants shot the victim multiple times with a firearm and dragged the victim behind a motor vehicle for several miles.

Because of these aggravating circumstances, there is a possibility of this being a death penalty case. Both Ricky and Tina Wells are being held in the McDuffie County Law Enforcement Center on $1 million bond each.

Stapleton inert landfill closed

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

A representative of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, Madara Tyler, closed Stapleton’s inert landfill Monday, Oct. 1.

“I reckon everybody got the letter,” Stapleton Mayor Frank Parrish said to the city council during a meeting Thursday, Oct. 11.


“EPD shut it down; and, they wanted the gates locked on it and we locked it,” he said.

Parrish said the city will have to haul the contents of the landfill to a properly permitted landfill and show EPD receipts for the tipping fees.

In an interview this week, Parrish said the landfill was just a burn pile.

“We would pick up limbs; and, our fire chief would burn it,” he said. “Somebody called the EPD and complained. EPD came down and said we didn’t have a permit for an inert landfill and said we had to lock the gate.”

The mayor said the area is on School Street.

“It’s got a gate to it. It’s locked right there,” he said. “We still haven’t got a letter from them, yet. So, I’m just waiting on them.”

Parrish said the city was picking up limbs every Monday.

“When we got a pile, our fire chief would burn it. They’ve been doing it for 20 years. At one time, it was over on Highway 102 on an open field,” he said.

Ted Staak, program manager of the North East District, Augusta office of EPD, said Tuesday the city probably will not be fined.

“Not at this time,” he said.

“We’re in the midst of enforcement with the city; so, I can’t go into any details,” Staak said. “The way the laws are written is if it is site-generated, like yourself or anyone, they could just leave it to decay on site. Limbs, leaves, tree trunks, things like that. But whenever it’s generated, picked up and moved off site, then it becomes inert solid waste and needs to go to a permitted landfill.

“Most of the time, generally speaking with some exceptions, it needs to go to a permitted inert landfill.”

Staak said the office received an anonymous complaint.

“The division always attempts to work with folks and with cities on these issues and to try to be reasonable about time frames,” he said.

He said there are several ways the city can respond to the closing of its landfill.

“One is to remove all of this to an inert landfill and to supply the division with tipping receipts so we can confirm a proper disposal. And another option that’s generally available to people is to apply for their own landfill permit coverage,” Staak said.

“Another option for smaller towns with leaner budgets would be to grind some of this material and offer it back to the citizens, for either a fee or for free whatever the city decided,” he said.

“Another issue is that division doesn’t allow open burning of this material. In order to save space, some municipalities will opt to burn it to save space for the next load that comes in. That’s violating our open burning regulations,” he said.

During its meeting last week, Councilmember Lisa Cranford asked if the city would be discontinuing the dollar charged on citizens’ water bills to offset the cost of collecting limbs while the landfill is closed. Council discussed this and decided to stop charging the fee until the issue is resolved. Suspension of the fee is effective immediately.

Freeport and Sunday sales votes postponed

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Two issues Wadley City Council has been discussing since July may finally get on the ballot but not until March 2013.

In July during a regular council meeting, two council members asked if the Freeport exemption currently in place in the city could be placed on a referendum to have it rescinded.


During that meeting it was determined there would not be enough time to publish the notice for the referendum to be held during the July election.

Another issue council decided to place on a referendum would allow voters to decide whether to allow the sales of alcohol on Sundays.

Councilmembers Albert Samples and Izell Mack expressed their interest in placing both issues on the ballot for citizens to decide. After discussion, council voted to let the citizens decide both issues.

Since that meeting, council has discussed the options of holding a city referendum during the primary, during the presidential election in November or having a special election next year.

Wadley City Attorney John Murphy researched the issue and provided the council with the information that the third Tuesday in September was no longer available for a municipal election. Additionally, he advised the city council that placing an issue on the ballot during the November election would require the city to have its own area, equipment and staff.

“If a city has a special election or a referendum held at the same time as the county or the state like there was in July or a general election like in November, the city can do that; but, it has to have a roped off area with its own voting machine and its own poll workers,” Murphy said.

“The county uses the same poll workers as the poll workers in the city,” he said. “If they wait until March, there wouldn’t be any conflict with other elections. There’s only a city referendum being held.”

Susan Gray, Jefferson County’s elections superintendent, confirmed the September date had been removed from the elections cycle.

“There were not enough days in the year to have that date in September; so, the secretary of state requested that change,” Gray said. Gray said also in order to have a special election, there needs to be sufficient time to publish the call for the special election.

“I think you need at least 30 days,” she said.

Lack of time is the reason the city did not hold the referendum in July.

In an email obtained by The News and Farmer / The Jefferson Reporter, Murphy told Wadley City Clerk Sallie Adams, “The next available date for the Sunday alcoholic beverage sales referendum and the Freeport revocation referendum will be March 19, 2013.”

Murphy had previously told the city council that, although a Freeport exemption could increase in increments of 20 percent, a referendum could not offer a reduction. Only a revocation could be made, he said. The city’s current Freeport exemption is 100 percent.

Murphy also said the Freeport revocation statute provides that, even if the citizens vote to revoke the exemption, the revocation will not take effect until five years after the revocation referendum.

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