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Man arrested after firing on trooper

A Georgia State Patrol trooper was fired upon after he used a P.I.T. (pursuit intervention technique) to stop a vehicle he was pursing on Hwy. 72 between Hull and Colbert Tuesday night around 10 p.m.

According to Madison County Sheriff’s Captain Jimmy Patton, the trooper used the maneuver to force the vehicle into a ditch on Hwy. 72 near Meadow Lane. As the trooper exited his patrol car, the suspect got out with an assault-style long gun and fired on the officer, then fled into the woods.

The officer returned fire, Patton said, but neither he nor the suspect were injured.

Timothy Demone Carruth Jr., 24, of Colbert, was arrested about 1 a.m. Wednesday morning when K-9 officers from the Department of Corrections located him after an hours long search, which also involved a GSP helicopter and numerous law enforcement agencies.

Carruth has been charged with failure to report an accident or provide assistance, felony fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer, hit and run, aggressive driving, reckless driving, driving without a valid license, failure to stop for a stop sign, failure to maintain lane, driving on divided highways and willful obstruction of a law enforcement officer and is in the Madison County Jail. Patton said more charges are pending.

According to a press release from the state patrol, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) had been called in to investigate the incident and Carruth has also been charged with aggravated assault of a police officer.

The Madison County Sheriff’s Office responded to the incident initially. Agencies assisting with the incident were the GSP, the GBI, the Oglethorpe County Sheriff’s Office, the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office, the Athens-Clarke County Police Department, the University of Georgia Police Department, the Danielsville Police Department and the Comer Police Department.

A post on the Madison County Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook page last night informed the public of the ongoing search for the suspect and warned that there would be a heavy police presence in the area and that the suspect was still believed to be “armed and extremely dangerous.”

It was unclear as of press time why the trooper sought to perform the traffic stop on Carruth.


News
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Former judge emphasizes unity at MLK celebration

Retired Madison County Magistrate Judge Harry Rice spoke of the need for unity as a polarized society remains soaked in partisan hostilities.

Rice was the featured speaker at the Madison County Pastors and Laymen’s Fellowship hosted its 16th-annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration Jan. 20 at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Hull.

“Today, the division gap between the political parties grows further and further apart, like two magnets pushing against each other, polar opposites, not just in our country but across the globe,” he said. “Although it may see that it’s the most divided in our nation’s history, there are those of you sitting here today who have seen a time when the politics of this nation were even so much more divided than today.”

Rice was talking about the Civil Rights era of the 1960s.

“I am referring to an era in which lived the man this day is set aside to honor,” said Rice. “In today’s world of division we must remember that endurance occurred yesterday — and we will make it through these perilous times today. The only way our leaders on both sides of the aisle can accomplish anything to benefit the people is to unify.”

The former judge said he is disturbed by the inability of people to civilly talk through their differences.

“We can barely think and talk,” he said. “Instead of being partnerships, we are becoming a collection of hostile identity groups, each blaming others.”

Rice talked about the importance of identifying specific unifying goals, of promoting reading and education, of people surrounding themselves with positive influences, not negative, adding that people “become a product of your environment — what and who you are exposed to.”

“You can’t reach your goals and dreams without these topics I laid out,” said Rice, who was introduced by county Clerk of Court Katie Cross. “The byproduct of pursuit, unification, reading, surrounding, unity and education is action,” he said. “No dream is too big or small and there is nothing we can’t achieve if we employ unity in action.”

Rice talked about the late Ches McCartney, the “Goat Man,” who died in 1998 after spending many years traveling across the country and learning about people why spreading the Gospel of Jesus. Rice talked of the “Goat Man’s” learning, character, faith and freedom.

Rice read a quote from MLK about the equality of all men as established in the Declaration of Independence.

“The first saying we notice in this dream is an amazing universalism,” said the late Dr. King. “It doesn’t say, ‘some men.’ It says ‘all men.’ It doesn’t say, ‘all white men.’ It says ‘all men,’ which includes black men. It does not say, ‘all Gentiles.’ It says, ‘all men,’ which includes Jews. It doesn’t say, ‘all Protestants.’ It says, ‘all men,’ which includes Catholics. It doesn’t even say ‘all theists and believers.’ It says, ‘all men,’ which includes humanists and agnostics.”

But Rice also spoke of the importance of seeking guidance from a higher power.

“What could we accomplish by asking God for wisdom and guidance?” he said. “Where could we go by simply unifying, using God and church as our basis? What would the Goat Man say?”

The MLK service included gospel singing by the Madison County Pastors and Laymen’s Fellowship Choir. Several individuals were also recognized, including Shelia Collins, who received the “Community Service Award,” and John Hart Reed, who received the “Lifetime Achievement Award.” Terry Willoughby was honored for his service to the Pastors and Laymen’s Fellowship, and two students — Danielle Bates and Isaiah Freeman — were recognized for receiving scholarships from the group.


News
BOE hears presentation on the upcoming Census

It’s 2020, so it’s time for the U.S. Census.

County board of education members heard a presentation from Census representative Jessie Clayton at the group’s January business meeting about the importance of making sure that every person is counted.

Clayton said Census taking will officially begin April 1, but workers are already getting the word out to local governments, school systems and other locations about the upcoming process.

“It’s very important to get our schools involved since children are one of the hardest groups to count because many parents won’t fill out the forms to make sure they are counted,” Clayton said. “And schools need the information in order to be eligible to receive federal grant funding.”

Clayton said the 10-question Census forms will be mailed to all addresses on March 12. Clayton said school officials play an important part in getting parents and community members to participate in the Census because they are familiar, trusted members of the community.

She said governments lose about $2,500 per year, per person for those not counted.

“It is so important that every person is counted once and only once and in the right place,” Clayton said.

Clayton said the greatest deterrent to Census participation are confidentiality concerns and distrust of the government.

In other business, the board was presented with the proposed 2020-2021 school calendar. The calendar, which lists the first day of school as Friday, Aug. 7, received the most votes from parents, students and school administrators, who were presented with three choices from a calendar committee.

Assistant principal Jody Goodroe said the least popular calendar was one that had school beginning at the end of July.

The BOE is expected to vote on the proposed calendar at its February business meeting.

Goodroe told the board that Georgia Power presented the Broad River College and Career Academy (CCA) with a $10,000 donation for new equipment.

He added that eighth graders would be touring the CCA the last week of January.

Goodroe also told the board that 200 staff members at the middle and high school participated in “Ending the Silence” training on Jan. 6. The training was focused on recognizing mental health issues in students and suicide prevention.

He also said 25 elementary school staff members participated in a Trauma 101 course on Jan. 9 to learn more about the effects of trauma on children.

Superintendent Michael Williams told the board that an “elderly exemption” on property taxes coming up for a vote in May, if approved, will cause a reduction of about $220,000 in yearly tax revenue for the school system, if passed.

Williams said school representatives will visit the state capitol next month during the legislative session and added that Governor Brian Kemp has called for four percent cuts in the state budget, but has not mentioned education in those cuts.

Assistant Superintendent Amanda Wommack said Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds were up for December after being down over previous months. She said the total for December was the third highest the system has received.

Wommack said work on staffing for next year has begun and letters of intent for teachers were going out Jan. 13 and are due back by Jan. 24.

She said Charles Black Construction has assessed a vacant room at the Early Learning Center (ELC) to provide an estimate for possibly adding an additional Pre-K classroom there.

PERSONNEL

BOE members approved the following personnel recommendations at their January meeting.

•Colbert – Additional duties were approved for Amanda Carter (CampRaiders), Lisa Hancock (afterschool), Morgan Hollingsworth (extended tutor), and Jennifer Hubbard (afterschool). Kathy Cribb was also approved as a long-term sub.

•Comer – Nathan Bond was hired as a tech specialist to replace C. Moore and additional duties were approved for Jen Cole (Beyond program), Rhonda Doster (Beyond program) and Tina Smith (afterschool).

•Hull-Sanford – William Webb was hired as a parapro.

•Ila – part-time parapro Suzan Hanley was granted leave without pay and Catherine Shriver was hired as a parapro to replace L. Scott.

•MCMS – The board accepted the resignation of secretary Lori Kenyon.

•School nutrition – The board accepted the resignation of full-time nutritionist Amanda Poole.

•Transportation – Shery Duzan was hired as a full-time bus driver to replace D. Yancey and Chelsea Ford was hired as a part-time mechanic. Bus driver Jeannie Harris was granted leave without pay.


News
New election equipment set to arrive Feb. 3

The rush is on to implement a new voting system before the 2020 elections.

The old county election equipment was picked up Jan. 21. The new equipment will be delivered Feb. 3.

Georgia is replacing a paperless voting system with a new set of machines that will provide a paper trail. That system includes large bins for holding paper ballots that take up considerable space — too much to house at the county elections office.

Madison County commission chairman John Scarborough said the election equipment can be secure at the old Fine Finish building off Hwy. 98 where the sheriff’s office already has investigative offices. He said he spoke directly with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger when he visited the county on his 159-county tour of the state. He said he asked if the equipment must be stored at the elections office and was told that this was not a requirement. He said the roof leaks in places but added that he is seeking prices on replacing that roof, which must be done whether or not the equipment is stored there.

“It’s kind of killing two birds with one stone,” he said, adding that it’s much more economical to house the equipment in the old Fine Finish building than to add on to the elections office. He said a security camera will be installed in the storage room to make sure there’s no tampering.

Madison County Board of Elections and Registration chairperson Tracy Dean approached county commissioners in the fall to request the construction of additional storage space at the county elections office. The board declined to take action.

Dean said the state only allows non-electronic election equipment to be stored away from the elections office. She anticipates having as many as 20 large bins that will hold paper ballots. Those bins cannot be stacked on top of each other. Dean said the electronic scanner on top of the bins can be removed. And those scanners will be kept in the elections office, while the bins and other equipment, such as tables and stands will be in the off-site storage room. Dean said it will be a challenge to house equipment in two locales and to transport all of the equipment to the 12 polling precincts.


Franklin County hires company, buys equipment to keep eye on emissions, noise

CARNESVILLE – Franklin County Commissioners will pay more than $16,000 – and possibly near $30,000 – to monitor noise and air quality around a power plant near Carnesville.

Commissioners announced recently that Franklin County has contracted with environmental testing company GeoHydra to study noise levels and air quality around the Georgia Renewable Power (GRP) plant on Hwy. 198 near Carnesville.

The GRP plant burns chipped-up waste wood, “clean” construction waste and railroad ties to generate electricity.

Neighbors of the GRP plant have complained for months about noise, smoke and soot and other environmental concerns caused by the plant.

The county will pay $16,625 for a noise study and air quality monitoring.

The noise study will set up equipment in five locations on one day for 10 hours, county manager Elizabeth Thomas said.

If the county wants to do a more extensive, week-long study, it will cost another $10,000-$12,000, Thomas said.

GeoHydra is waiting for “two or three days of good weather” to do the air quality study, Thomas said.

Franklin County Commission Chairman Thomas Bridges said that the county is paying for the studies in order to find out what is being emitted from the plant.

Should the county take the plant to court, it will have “sound data,” he said.

The studies were just part of the discussion recently about the plant.

Commissioners voted to pay $2,371.42 for its own air-quality monitoring equipment.

Commissioner Jason Macomson said the equipment will allow county officials to do ongoing monitoring by riding the area around the plant.

The equipment will gather readings on particulates, nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and other pollutants.

Any concerning findings can be turned over to the state’s Environmental Protection Division, Macomson said.

The monitoring of the plant is a portion of efforts commissioners outlined in a resolution passed.

The resolution commits the county to:

1) gather noise and air quality data to determine if GRP is complying with mandates set by the county in a Notice of Violation Dec. 18. If the plant is not complying, the county will take them to Magistrate Court;

2) help neighbors “obtain testing of air and water quality through EPD and will commit to pursue funding for the extension of county water infrastructure within the Double Churches Community to provide availability of public water resources to the community;”

3) assist citizens who want to appeal their property values “to adjust for any dimunition in value based on the operation of the GRP plant.”

Tami Black and Sheilah Baker, neighbors of the plant who were on the agenda to speak to commissioners, asked about property tax relief.

Members of the community around the plant petitioned commissioners last year to forgive the property taxes of those affected by the plant.

Bridges said that appealing the assessed value of the properties is the correct procedure to reduce tax bills.

County attorney Dale “Bubba” Samuels said that there are a limited number of ways in state tax law to reduce the amount of taxes owed.

The appeals process is the correct way to do that, Samuels said. Commissioners have no ability to update values, he said, because state law requires values be uniform.

Black read minutes from a 2015 meeting in which GRP officials pledged to give $100,000 to the county each year.

Black said the county should get that money and use it to pay the taxes of the plant’s neighbors.

Baker also asked the county to pay for the testing of wells in the area.

During a meeting in December, plant officials said they would look into paying to test wells.

Bridges asked Thomas to check with the plant to see if it was willing to pay for the testing of wells.