Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Macon's Drought Plan

Emergency workers are preparing for possible drought relief with help from Macon.

In 1994 Tropical Storm Alberto flooded Macon. The city's water treatment plant shut down and residents spent 21 days without water.

Now as the state's record drought continues, Macon officials are helping others around the state plan on how to live without water. Johnny Wingers is with Bibb County's Emergency Management Agency. He coordinated the relief in 1994 and says two things are very important.

"First thing is porta potties. Then they thought no water, no sanitation you know. The next thing they thought of was the number of volunteers it's going to take to run this operation."

During the flood Wingers and 23-hundred volunteers set up water distribution points with help from FEMA and the National Guard. He will train more emergency workers in December.

Monday, November 5, 2007

News Headlines for November 5, 2007

Jury selection begins today in Baldwin County, On trial is one of four men accused of several violent crimes over Labor Day weekend in 2006. Rafael Crawford is the only one in the group to not plead guilty. The others have already been sentenced for crimes that range from manslaughter to armed robbery. Police officials say the weekend was memorable for the large number of violent crimes that took place.

Bibb County Commissioners gathered for a retreat over the weekend. The group discussed several issues including consolidation, education, and raising the sales tax. One of the major sticking points was the power of Commission Chair, Charlie Bishop. Some of those present said they were uncomfortable with the fact that he is entitled to vote on every committee. They say this ties up the vote on many issues. Newly elected Commissioner Lonzy Edwards called for the retreat.

The Governors of Georgia, Alabama, and Florida may be nearing an agreement in the tug-of-war over water. The three states have been locked in a bitter battle over water rights since 1990. An epic drought in the Southeast has intensified the fight. Governor Perdue called the meeting pleasant to some degree. The group reached a short term agreement to reduce the amount of water flowing downstream out of Lake Lanier by 16%. Georgia and Alabama are still locked in lawsuits with the Army Corps of Engineers who control water releases from Lake Lanier.

In sports the Mercer women's basketball team opened its season with a 92-63 victory over Georgia College in an exhibition game on Saturday. The regular season starts November 9th.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Headlines for Monday, October 15, 2007

Bibb County will begin a new property tax evaluation in the coming weeks. Tyler CLT will handle most of the work. The work will cost the county about 2-million dollars. The Bibb County Commission expects to approve the contract this week.

Closing arguments are expected today in a Milledgeville murder trial. Brian Duane Brookins was found guilty over the weekend for shooting his wife and stepdaughter. The prosecution has asked for the death penalty in the case. Brookins lawyers say their client is mentally retarded and therefore should not qualify for the death penalty.

Macon police are still looking for the killer of Macon businessman Waldo Sheftall. Police now say they believe he knew his killer. Last week police discovered Sheftall dead in his Washington Avenue home of multiple gunshot wounds. Funeral arrangements are still pending.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Headlines for Friday, October 12, 2007

Macon police detectives continue to investigate a murder that has shocked the community. Local businessman and community volunteer Waldo Sheftall was found shot to death in his Washington Avenue home late Wednesday evening. Police say robbery may have been the motive and that no suspects have been arrested at this time.

Meanwhile a double murder trial is continuing in Milledgeville. Brian Duane Brookins is accused of murdering his wife and step-daughter and faces the death penalty. Defense attorneys put a psychiatrist on the stand Thursday who testified that Brookins is mentally retarded. Prosecutors dispute these findings saying the defendant has an IQ of 72. Legally a person must have an IQ of 70 to be considered mentally retarded. Those found mentally retarded cannot face the death penalty.

Bibb County's Chief Tax Appraiser, Jim Davis, is staying in Macon. Davis was offered a job in Glynn County but turned it down. This means he will oversee a massive reevaluation project set to begin in a few weeks.

A Macon woman remains in jail after being charged with theft. Trudy Rutland is accused of stealing nearly a quarter million dollars from the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth. Investigators discovered the theft after the center's anniversary celebration. Proceeds from the celebration could not be found, and when officials checked the account they discovered the shortage.

A Bolingbroke zebra is back home. Ziggy was given back to his owners after they paid fines and fees to the Department of Natural Resources. Officials confiscated the animal in August saying the family did not have the proper permits.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Headlines for Thursday, October 11, 2007

Macon Mayor, Jack Ellis is refusing to sign off on a deal to build a hotel in the parking lot of the Wilson Convention Center. The documents, awaiting his signature, will secure bond financing and allow construction to begin. But, attorney's say the project will move forward with or without his signature. The Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority has already approved the deal. Macon City Council President, Anita Ponder says she can sign the documents if the mayor continues to refuse to do so.

Georgia College and State University will move forward with plans to buy and renovate Milledgeville's Downtown Campus Theatre. According to the Telegraph the State Board of Regents will fund the project to convert the Art Deco facility into a bookstore and performance space. The board also approved a new stadium for Fort Valley State University.

On Wednesday a Central State Hospital psychiatrist testified in a Milledgeville murder trial. The doctor said Brian Duane Brookins, accused of a double murder, is not mentally retarded and therefore competent to stand trial. She did say that he suffers from several personality disorders. Brookins is accused of killing his wife and step-daughter and faces the death penalty.

For the first time in years the flu vaccine is here on time. Starting Monday the Bibb County Health Department will begin its week long flu shot clinic. The shots cost 25 dollars.

Three members of a prominent Mennonite family from Montezuma have survived a plane crash in Virginia. Richard Yoder, his brother Wade and father Melvin Yoder remain hospitalized after their small plane was flipped by a strong gust of wind while landing. They are listed in fair condition and expected to recover.

In today's weather we'll have mostly sunny skies with a high of 78 degrees. Tonight skies will remain clear and the temperature will dip to 45.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Headlines for Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Lawyers for a Baldwin County man, accused of killing his wife and step-daughter, say he suffers from mental illness and mental retardation and therefore should not receive the death penalty. Brian Duane Brookins is accused of shooting and killing the two women and faces the death penalty. His trial is underway in Milledgeville.

Bibb County's Chief Tax Appraiser, Jim Davis, has still not accepted a job in Glynn County. Davis was offered the top appraisers position just as Bibb County is set to begin a massive reevaluation. Glynn County officials say they are still looking for someone to fill the position.

A local teach has announced that he will run against Congressman Jim Marshall in the Democratic primary for the Eighth Congressional District. Robert Nowak, who lives in Macon but works in Warner Robins, joins Macon Mayor Jack Ellis in the growing field of potential candidates. Nowak says he disagrees with Marshall on funding for children's health care programs and the Iraq War.

Macon Mayor, Jack Ellis, has reserved the city council chambers this evening for a celebration. The mayor, along with the Macon Islamic Center, will host an event to mark the end of the Islamic holiday, Ramadan. Ramadan does not officially end until Friday. The event includes a panel discussion and a community feast. Ellis converted to Islam last December.

In today's weather we'll have partly cloudy skies with a high of 91 degrees. There's a 20% chance of rain this afternoon.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Headlines for Monday, October 8,2007

The deadline to register to vote is Tuesday. On Georgia over 6-million people are eligible to vote, but just over 5-million are registered. Registration is open to all legal residents over the age of 18. Voters casting ballots in person must have valid forms of photo ID when they show up to vote.

According to the Telegraph two deputy appraisers in the Bibb County tax Assessors office continue to receive the same pay, even though they have been demoted. The two men were moved from their deputy chief positions, but kept their salaries of nearly 75-thousand dollars a year. Officials say it's because county policy only allows them to reduce workers wages when they can prove poor performance.

Middle Georgia Technical College in Warner Robins is experiencing record enrollment. This Fall there was a seven percent jump in students. The campus leads all other technical schools in the state in both enrollment and the number of credit hours their students are taking. Officials cite a strong economy, low unemployment, and population growth as reasons. They also attribute the rise to programs that work closely with local businesses and others that allow dual enrollment at local high schools and the college.

The Washington County Sheriffs office has arrested a man and charged him with setting a fire that destroyed Holly Springs Baptist Church in June. Kevin Tanner was arrested after police found the meter box from the church at his home. He is also a possible suspect in an arson fire that destroyed Mount Sinai Baptist Church around the same time.

Today's weather partly cloudy with a high of 88 degrees.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Napier Home May Be Saved

The City of Morrow is trying to save a historic home in Macon. The Napier house, built in 1842, will be torn down if nobody steps forward to move it. The home is being demolished to build a new Central High School. Morrow officials plan to cut the home in four sections and reassemble it on their own site. Morrow has moved other structures to their, "Olde Town" development in an effort to create a downtown. Morrow will pay up to 200-thousand dollars to move the home.

Cemetary Vandals

A third Bibb County cemetery has been hit by vandals. According to the Bibb County Sheriffs Department the thefts occurred in the last week. Criminals took bronze plaques, used to mark military graves, and hundreds of brass vases. Police report that the thefts have also occurred in Atlanta.

News for Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The City of Warner Robins turned out in force last night to welcome home their world champions. The Warner Robins American Little League team returned home after winning their final game Sunday against japan. Team manager, Mickey Lay, encouraged the hundreds in the crowd to give the boys a big welcome.

"When these guys walk out of this bus, I want them to know they are world champions, which I know they are. But I also want them to know that all y'all are part of it. This is a championship for Warner Robins, the State of Georgia, and the United States."

The city will celebrate the teams victory on Saturday with a parade and rally in Warner Robins.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

News for Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Bibb County Commission says it will not accept Monroe County's latest decision on a border dispute. They claim a recent survey is not accurate, and that the border needs to stay where it has been for the last 100 years. Monroe officials adopted a survey this week that puts the new Bass Pro retail center within their borders.

The city of Forsyth has settled one of five racial discrimination lawsuits. Former police officer, Elijah James, says he no longer believes his dismissal was racially motivated. The seventeen year veteran was let go after he refused to force a relative, who was a convicted felon, to move from his property. Lawsuits by four other former city employees are still pending.

The Small Business Administration is making loans available to businesses in Georgia hurt by the drought. The federal money is available to farm and non-farm related businesses that have lost money due to the weather.

The Warner Robins American little league team is advancing to the semi-finals in the Little League World Championships. They beat New England on Wednesday by a score of 8-1. They face off against the Western region (Arizona) tonight at 7:30pm.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

News for Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Macon City Council has approved an ordinance preventing city money from being spent on travel to countries that do not support anti-terrorism efforts. The legislation comes in response to a letter Mayor Jack Ellis sent to Venezuelan officials declaring solidarity and expressing admiration. That letter was later read by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in a radio address. The mayor later announced plans to visit Venezuela, angering residents and city officials. The council members present at the meeting voted unanimously to pass the measure.

The Bibb County Commission has voted to raise taxes. This is the first increase since 2004. Commissioner Joe Allen cast the only dissenting vote. The increase does not include a recent tax hike by the Bibb County Board of Education, city taxes, or state exemptions.

The Monroe County Commission is one step closer to resolving a boundary dispute with Bibb County. Monroe commissioners voted to approve a boundary set by a 2004 survey. The line would move the boundary further south, placing much of the Bass Pro retail center in Monroe County. However, Monroe officials say they would allow Bibb County to collect tax revenue from that development. Bibb County disputes the proposed property line.

The Warner Robins American Little League Team will wait until today to resume play. The game was stopped last night due to rain. The game will be today at 11:00am on ESPN2. Warner Robins leads New England 2-0 in the second inning.

Weather for today. Hot and sunny with a high of 102. Heat advisory is in effect. The heat index will make it feel like 103.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

News for Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Macon City Council will take up a new ordinance when it meets tonight. The document bans the use of city funds for travel outside the United States to countries the U.S. Government deems uncooperative in combating terrorism. Mayor Jack Ellis angered residents and city leaders when he sent a letter to Venezuelan officials declaring solidarity. He also announced plans to visit Venezuela. City Council wants to prevent such a trip from taking place at city expense. The mayor plans to return to Macon on Monday, following trips to Africa and England.

Macon officials will have to dip into a savings account to keep the city afloat. The account was created last year in an attempt to avoid taking out a short term, tax anticipation note. For the last three years the city has borrowed millions of dollars to meet expenses, until property tax bills are sent out. Officials say the cash flow problem could be more severe than first thought.

In Jones County a property tax reevaluation is making things difficult for the Jones County Commission and School Board. The tax digest is being held up after nearly 2-thousand appeals were filed. The tax digest can n0t be set with that many appeals pending. The reevaluation was needed due to increases in property values in Jones County over the last five years.

The4 Warner Robins American Little League team plays tonight at six, at the Little League World Championships. Last nights scheduled game was postponed due to weather.

In today's weather we'll have partly cloudy skies with a high of 99 degrees.

Monday, August 20, 2007

News for Monday, August 20, 2007

A soldier from Winder, Georgia says he did nothing wrong. Army specialist Christopher Phillip Shore says he was ordered to kill a man in Northern Iraq, but purposely missed him. He says the bullets that hit the man were fired from far away. The man died two days later from his wounds. Shore and his commander were later charged with murder. The Army will hold a hearing on the case in the fall.

Children covered by Peach Care could have a hard time finding dental care. The state is terminating contracts with two of its largest dental providers, Help a Child Smile and Kool Smiles. The changes could affect 110-thousand children. State officials are hoping to adopt a single administrator program that allows individual dentists to sign up as providers, and increases reimbursements.

The Bibb County School Board is taking applications. The board needs to fill a position left vacant by board member Terry Tripp, who resigned to run for a seat on the Bibb County Commission. Applicants must live in the District One area which includes; Northeast High School, Appling Middle School, and Burdell-Hunt Elementary. Applications will be taken through the end of the month.

A loss by New England means the Warner Robins American Little League team is still in the running. That loss evens up all the teams, 1-1. The boys play New England tonight at 6:00pm on ESPN 2. If they win that game they will advance to the next round. The boys made it to the Little League World Championship in Williamsport, Pennsylvania after winning the Southeast Regional Championships.

Weather: Partly cloudy skies with a high of 98 degrees. Heat index of 103.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

New symphony CEO

The Macon Symphony Orchestra has a new CEO. After a yearlong search the board hired Eugene Carinci of Portland, Maine. The new CEO will focus on fundraising and boosting attendance. Two issues faced by symphonies all over the country. Carinci has experience as both an administrator and musician.

Hamilton Elementary says goodbye

Hamilton Elementary School is closing its doors after fifty-three years. The Bibb County elementary school held its final sixth grade graduation on Wednesday. The school serves children in the Unionville neighborhood. In March the school board voted to close Hamilton citing declining enrollment. Students from Hamilton will be moved to Hartley Elementary.

Commuter rail talks in Atlanta

Officials met in Atlanta Wednesday to discuss commuter rail, again. Former State Representative, Larry Walker, who serves on the board of the Department of Transportation says it's time to make a decision on the rail issue. Some of the option's discussed; going ahead with the Atlanta-Lovejoy portion of the line, hiring a consultant, or getting rid of the project all together. DOT officials say plans for a Macon to Atlanta route are not looking good.

Help coming for Middle Georgia farmers

Middle Georgia farmers will be getting some help from the Federal Government. The U.S. Farm Service Agency says 152 counties around the state will be eligible for low-interest loans. An Easter eve freeze damaged or destroyed many crops. The cold weather caused 258-million dollars in damage statewide. Hardest hit were blueberries, peaches and pecans.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Peach crop is worse than expected

Damage to the Middle Georgia peach crop is far worse than expected. After a freeze on Easter weekend, damage estimates were about 50 percent. However, farmers now estimate the losses at 80 percent. Officials from the Peach County Extension office say the reduced crop also means five hundred fewer migrant workers will be coming to the area. These workers contribute to the local economy. Officials with Lane Packing, one of the largest growers in the area, say the freeze is the third worst in the company's 100 year history.

Macon-Bibb tax assessors get to work

The new Macon-Bibb County Board of Tax Assessors is up and running. The board elected Bill Vaughn as Chairman, and voted to mail out the 2007 tax notices. The new assessors took office after the Bibb County Commissioners voted to remove the previous board. They came under fire after 18-thousand property owners appealed their assessments. There is still one vacancy to be filled on the new board.

Macon Marine dies in Iraq

A Macon Marine died fighting in the Anbar Province of Iraq on Monday. The United States Department of the Military says Cpl. Jeffrey Walker joined the Marines in 2004 and was stationed at Camp Lejune, North Carolina. Cpl. Walker was assigned to combat logistics and deployed to Iraq earlier this year. He received the Iraq Campaign Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Sea Service Ribbon prior to his death.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Animal cruelty suspects charged

Three Macon teenagers have been arrested and charged with animal cruelty. Two 14-year old's and a 13-year old are accused of setting a dog on fire. The dog was still alive when fire officials arrived on the scene, but died soon after. Animal advocates are calling this one of the worst cases of animal cruelty they have ever seen.

Oil spill cleanup

It's been more than a month since an oil spill was discovered in a drainage ditch near Central City Park. The spill originated at the City of Macon's vehicle maintenance department, and quickly spread. The city will have to spend 130-thousand dollars to clean up the mess. The City Council is hoping the Environmental Protection Agency will help pay for the cleanup.

Commissioner Sam Hart steps down

Bibb County Commissioner Sam Hart has formally stepped down. Hart was forced to leave office after purchasing a new home and moving out of his district. However, he is not leaving politics. Hart says he will run for Chairperson of the Bibb County Commission during the next election. Harts departure leaves the commission with two Republicans and two Democrats.

Rick Hutto annouces run for citywide council seat

Macon City Councilman, Rick Hutto is leaving his Ward 1 council seat to run for a citywide post. He will run against Councilwoman Brenda Youmas who defeated him in 2003. Hutto says he stands a better chance this time because of his record on council. Formal qualifying for the race is in June.