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Warnock's office working on SK Battery issue; says settlement would be best

Senior staff leaders with Sen. Raphael Warnock's office told the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce board on Friday that the new Georgia senator is working every day to convince the Biden Administration to overturn the ITC's ruling on SK Battery.

Warnock's chief of staff Mark Libell said the senator would be meeting with President Biden during the president's visit to Atlanta March 19 and the SK issue would be discussed. 

The president is the only person who can overturn the ITC's ruling against SK Battery, which it found had stolen information from rival LG Chem to make its battery design for electric vehicles. The trade board sanctioned SK in February by limiting the scope of its battery production.

Biden has until April 10 to overturn the ITC ruling against SK. For its part, SK has threatened to abandon its Commerce plants, and a promised 2,600 jobs, if the ruling isn't overturned.

Libell said the senator's office had spent more time on the SK issue than any other since he took office in January. The office has been in on-going contact with both SK and LG about the ITC ruling and a possible resolution. It's also had discussions with the White House and other various federal agencies about the issue.

But Libell said one of the frustrations in the matter is that SK seems to have "put all its eggs into one basket," meaning that it is expecting the president to overturn the ruling.

Libell said the thought that was a "very risky strategy."

He said he thought SK should be negotiating with LG to settle the issue outside of government intervention. But he noted that the two South Korean rivals "hate each other" and that getting them to settle might be difficult.

Libell said that discussions with LG leaders led him to believe that regardless of the ultimate outcome, if SK did abandon its Commerce plant, LG would step in to either take over the facility to make batteries, or perhaps build another plant to fulfill SK's EV battery contracts.

"The best thing for everyone would be a settlement," Libell said.

Miracle at birth and still a miracle today

It’s a miracle he lived, and it’s a miracle he has survived for so many years, according to Stan Westmoreland.

At age 20 his brother, Steve answered a serious question, and “he didn’t give it a second thought.” Stan needed a kidney, and Steve answered the call.

Now not only are Stan and Steve celebrating the 40th anniversary of the kidney transplant, Stan is one of the longest living people to received a kidney.

This story started long before the two men were looking forward to celebrating their 60th birthday. It started on the day their mom, Ruby Louise Marlow Westmoreland, gave birth to them in 1961.

“When our mother was expecting there were no ultrasounds available,” Pam Westmoreland Craven explained, as her mother was very intuitive and, “she knew there were two babies in there.”

Sure enough, on April 19, Mrs. Westmoreland, and he husband, Bobby, welcomed twin boys. Although Dr. Scoggins, at the old BJC Medical Center told them, “There were no incubators. The only hope for this baby was to get him into an incubator at Northeast Georgia Medical Center,” Mrs. Craven continued. “So the doctor tightly wrapped him up in blankets, put him in a car, and drove to Gainesville.”

“We didn’t think he would live,” explained the siblings’ aunts, Dianne Marlow Wills, Belva Massey Marlow, and Lena Marlow Griswell. He was born with Prune Belly Syndrome, and his intestines were outside the body when he was born.

Stan, who seems to have a near perfect memory, detailed the ins and outs of his childhood. He has been in and out of doctor’s offices all of his life going from Commerce to Gainesville, Augusta, Atlanta, Virginia, and to the Mayo Clinic. When he was a toddler, he had the surgery to repair his intestines.

While the bills were adding up, help was on the way. The trio praised the March of Dimes for their help because their dad was going to stop at nothing to be sure their son was able to get the help he needed. The family also acknowledged the Banks County community as well. The county nurse would bring medicine, milk, and diapers.

“There would be people that we didn’t even know who stopped to bring us food and to check and see if we needed anything, “Craven remembered. “There was such a sense of community.”

The community also prayed and prayed, and God answered.

Stan says he lived a normal teen life. He played baseball and basketball, but he didn’t dare play football. Of course, brothers will be brothers; there was fighting and a ruckus at times. “We were typical teen brothers. We could tear a house down in 2.5,” everyone chuckled at the fond memories from their childhood.

The family gathered together at Steve and his wife, Dianne’s home, Saturday to reminisce about the goodness of God, their blessings, and thankful hearts.

During those times, families really stuck together. There is just something about praying for each other, caring for each other, in the good times and in the bad, that brings a family together forever. While the parents have gone home to be with the Lord, their aunts are still a great part of their lives.

Stanley remembered a particular visit he had with one of his greatest caregivers, Dr. Rafe Banks.

”I found out my kidneys were failing," he said. "They couldn’t handle this growing boy.”

This started when Stan was in the 11th grade and by 1980 his kidneys failed and Stan started on dialysis. Dr. Banks, “the guru of transplants,” told him he could be put on the transplant list or have the family tested to look for a match. He knew he had a twin brother, so that’s where they started, and Steve was a perfect match, and Pam matched as well.

When Steve found he was a match, he said, “I never batted an eye. I would do anything I needed to do.”

On May 27, 1981, at 20 years old, the brothers rolled out of their rooms, into separate elevators, and met again in the operating room where the surgery was performed at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Stan said he was in the hospital for ten days and Steve said he was out in five to seven days.

Of course, Stan is on antirejection medicine to this day, but he’s had a good life.

“I married the woman of my dreams, the late Vickie Westmoreland, in 1979," he said.

He was able to hold down a full-time job most of his life. In fact, during his employment at the Georgia Department of Transportation, he didn’t miss a day in 11 years.

“I was not going to let a handicap keep me down," he said.

Today, the brother's bond is one that will never be broken. They shared the womb; they have been together through thick and thin, but their bond goes so much deeper.

“It was worth donating a kidney to have him here with me. He’s not just my brother, he’s a friend,” Steve declared. At times they see each other during the week, and probably talk even more, but there is something about Saturday mornings.

“We get together, shoot the breeze, and catch up on what’s happened during the week," Steve said.

Stan has seen health and he has seen illness, which makes him most grateful. “Life is more precious today because I’m healthy.”

They all admit there have been good times and there have been a few rough spots, but by far, each member points to the grace and mercy of Almighty God.

“We give God all the credit,” Stan said and all the family nodded their heads in agreement and thanksgiving.

As this family fellowships together, there is plenty of fellowship, laughter, and gratefulness that they of what the Lord has done.

Decrease in number of COVID-19 cases in county

There has been a drastic decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases reported in Banks County, with only four new cases of the virus reported last week, as the one-year anniversary of the pandemic in the United States passed.

The total number of cases of the virus reported in Banks County since March 2020 is 1,584—up from 1,576 reported for the same period last week.

In Banks County, 33 people (same as last week) have died from COVID-19 in the past year and 182 (up two over last week) have been hospitalized.

This week, the Banks County School System reports there are four students with a current positive COVID-19 status among the 2,711-student population. There are 24 students quarantined due to possible exposure.

Of the 405 employees, one has a current positive COVID-19 status and no one is quarantined due to possible exposure.


As of March 15, the state expanded its list of people allowed to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to include adults aged 55 and older, individuals with disabilities and certain medical conditions.

Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are already eligible for vaccination.

This expansion now includes disabilities caused by an injury (e.g., traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury), a disability due to a longstanding condition that could cause vision loss, nerve damage or loss of a limb, or a disability due to illness such as ALS or multiple sclerosis.

The medical conditions referenced are: Asthma (moderate to severe), immunocompromised, cancer, liver disease, cerebrovascular disease, neurologic conditions, chronic kidney disease, overweight and obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pregnancy, Cystic Fibrosis, pulmonary fibrosis, diabetes, Sickle Cell Disease, hypertension or high blood pressure, thalassemia (blood disorder) and heart conditions

To find a vaccine location near you or to schedule an appointment, visit https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-vaccine.

For individuals aged 16 and 17 who are in an eligible population for vaccination, Pfizer is the only vaccine currently approved for these ages. Schedule an appointment at CVS or Walgreens or at one of the GEMA mass vaccination sites to ensure Pfizer vaccine is available.

More vaccines are also now available in health departments in District 2 Public Health, which includes Banks County. Eligible residents can make appointments by calling 1-888-426-5073 or online at www.phdistrict2.org or by calling their local health department.

To see if you are eligible, go to https://dph.georgia.gov/

To register for an appointment at one of the four state-operated mass vaccination sites, visit myvaccinegeorgia.com. One of the mass sites is located in Habersham County.

Residential developments planned in Lula

Plans for two residential developments were discussed at the Lula City Council meeting last week.

Norton Capital Inc. has submitted an application to build 36 two-story town homes, at 5980 Moon Drive/Hwy 51. The property would have to be rezoned from residential to planned residential development. The proposal includes a pavilion, sidewalks, a playground and other amenities.

Developers say it will be designed to create a sense of community in keeping with the historical character of Lula.

Holly Owens Management has also proposed to rezone a parcel of property located at 5252 and 5752 Old Cornelia Hwy. from residential to planned residential development. When completed, the property will have three comfortable loft style apartments. This is the property where the Daniels Grocery Store and Laundromat and a residence were located. In this proposal, the current buildings will be given a major facelift. Developers say it will have a brand new façade that will maintain the character of the building but have a new street front.

All adjacent property owners have been notified and there will be a public hearing with the Planning Commission on April 6 and the City Council on April 19.


The council also discussed the 365 Overlay District, “Gateway Corridors.” Mayor Jim Grier explained that this would be the first impression visitors get when arriving in the city. Grier expressed his desire to support downtown businesses with signage, promotions, and networking.

The council also discussed a base pay raise for the mayor and council in the next terms. The last salary increase was in 1982, and it was proposed that the pay be raised from $100 to $250 a month. There will be a public hearing on this proposal in May.

The council also:

•discussed a proposed zoning amendments for breweries, tap rooms, vape shops.

•approved a request for the Lula Assembly of Praise to use the park for an Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday, March 27, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

•discussed COVID shots being offered at Lula Pharmacy.