By Stephanie Johns
Lucy Ray, currently the Agriculture and Natural Resources agent in Jasper County, will begin serving as Morgan County’s Agriculture and Natural Resources agent on March 15, according to Bobby Smith, program development coordinator for Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia.
“She’s a very good individual who has done good work in programming and needs assessment,” he said. “She’s a quality person for Morgan County.”
Ray also will serve as the county Extension coordinator in the coming year, Smith said.
He explained that the coordinator position, a yearly designation, comes from Northeast District Executive Director Norman McGlohon.
As coordinator, Ray said she will serve as liaison between the Extension Office and Morgan County commissioners and management.
Smith, who resigned from his position as Morgan County Agriculture and Natural Resources agent effective last Sept. 1, said he has worked with Ray on past projects.
“She has a good knowledge base and a good work ethic,” he said. “As for the trust factor, I’ve known her and she’s developed a good program down there (in Jasper County).”
Ray holds a Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from Berry College and a Master’s of Science degree, also in Animal Science, from the University of Georgia.
By Patrick Yost
A 17-year-old student, who had been expelled from Morgan County High School, was tazed and arrested at Morgan County Middle School on Tuesday, Feb. 19.
Erice Williams, Madison, was arrested and charged with two counts of disruption with the operation of a school and two counts of obstruction of law enforcement officers after he allegedly fought three Morgan County deputies at the middle school.
According to Morgan County Sheriff's Office reports, Williams came to the school at 2:30 p.m. for an arranged lesson that was scheduled at 3:30 p.m. Reports state Williams had been expelled from Morgan County High School for allegedly threatening a teacher.
According to Dr. Ralph Bennett, superintendent of Morgan County Schools, the school system is required by law to provide educational instruction for students even if they have been expelled. Bennett said the system contracts with various instructors across the system to continue lesson plans for expelled students at various schools. In this instance, he said, the lesson plan called for Williams to be instructed at the middle school after school hours with a middle school teacher. Williams, Bennett said, arrived an hour before the scheduled time and was "for all intents and purposes on school grounds illegally."
By Kathryn Schiliro
The state’s First Lady, Sandra Deal, wife of Governor Nathan Deal, trekked to Morgan County Elementary School last Thursday, taking some time out on her way to Milledgeville to read both a poem and a story to local PreK and Kindergarten students.
A visit meant to encourage literacy among the youngest students, Deal read a poem, “Learning to Read,” as well as a book, “Who I’d Like to Be,” by Georgia author Elizabeth Brown and illustrated by Brown’s granddaughter.
“My husband and I think this is so very important,” Deal told the students, seated on the floor in the elementary school’s activity room, about reading. “Everything we do when we grow up requires us to know how to read.”
A former middle school teacher herself, the visit was part of her “Read Across Georgia” initiative, which she began “in support of Gov. Nathan Deal’s goal of increasing the percentage of children reading at grade level by the completion of third grade,” according to gov.georgia.gov.
“I encourage students to love to read and to realize how important reading is,” Deal said in an interview with the Citizen. “We believe it’s [reading at grade level before grade 3] important enough for me to spend my time doing this.”
Her Read Across Georgia goal is to read to at least one school in each of the state’s 180 school districts. To date she’s visited 100 counties in Georgia as part of the initiative and read at 170 schools.
AT&T donated a stack of “Who I’d Like to Be” books for local classrooms and school libraries as part of Deal’s visit.
Printed in the February 28, 2013
By Stephanie Johns
Chief Appraiser Chuck Anglin and Appraiser III and GIS Administrator Mechell Salter shared information from the Morgan County Tax Assessors Office with those present at the recent Morgan County commissioners work session last week.
Anglin offered updates regarding the county’s tax digest and Conservation Use Value Assessment (CUVA), while Salter spoke about the county’s Geographic Information System (GIS) information.
Anglin said the tax digest will continue to decrease, just not as much as it has in the past.
“It’ll go down about 5 percent on average,” he said, stressing that there may be some valued at a higher or lower rate, but overall it will be down about 5 percent.
The number of foreclosures in the county also has decreased: from about 200 last year to about 100 this year, he said.
Bank-owned properties also have decreased by about two-thirds, he said.
“These are positive signs to stabilizing the values,” he explained.
He added that “not many” homes are sitting empty in the county.
“These are the first good signs we’ve seen in three years,” he said.
Regarding CUVA, Anglin told those present about how CUVA currently excludes two acres of land from conservation use for every residence on a property.
“I have seen up to five homes on one property so they will have to exclude 10 acres,” he said.
Salter said that for those applicants who do not designate the shape of the excluded acreage, she does it for them with the house in the center. She added that most people do not have a problem with the buffers she sets out.
Many of the county’s CUVA applications are up for renewal this year. Salter said so far they have received about 250 or over half.
By Stephanie Johns
Members of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) shared details about Phase I of the Gilmore property project.
The home, located at 473 Burney St., will stay but the pink structure on the corner of the lot will be removed and a corner store built.
Madison Planning Director Monica Callahan and DDA Chair Shandon Land each shared a picture of a historic corner store, one of which was located beside Harriet Tubman’s home.
Land said that these pictures would serve as models for the design of the new building.
Callahan added that they already have someone interested in running the store and paying rent.
She told the group about the possibility of using Redevelopment Fund monies from the state as one possible funding strategy.
These funds are used to improve areas of “slum and blight,” which Callahan said this property has been deemed.
She would have to submit an Initial Project Assessment (IPA) and a four- to five-page summary of the group’s goals.
If they receive any funds, they would be in the range of $125,000 to $150,000, she said. That money could be used for a variety of project tasks, from demolition, to grading, to tree removal.
Officially, the money would go to the City of Madison and the city would then loan it to the DDA at 2 percent.
Once the DDA repaid the money, it would stay local and not go back to the state or federal government, she said. Rather, it could be used as a revolving loan fund to help existing businesses in downtown Madison.
She added that the Madison City Council would have to agree to accept the money, though.
By Stephanie Johns
The Madison City Council heard from Todd Barnes, a managing director with Robert W. Baird & Co. in Atlanta, regarding an advance refunding of the Series 2005 Water & Sewer Bonds during its recent work session.
“With the various scenarios, you could save anywhere from a little over $400,000 up to $1.6 million,” he said. “On an annual basis that’s anywhere from $23,000 to $93,000 a year annual savings.”
Madison Finance Officer Karen Guinn as well as Wayne Tamplin, a partner at Treadwell, Tamplin & Co. and the city’s auditor, took part in the discussion.
Barnes pointed out that interest rates are “extremely low” and that the city could re-invest its debt at a lower rate.
The city currently has a 2005 bond issue with a call date of July 1, 2015. Barnes explained that a call date is the earliest date that a bond can be called in from investors.
Barnes said that a refunding could lead to gross savings over the remaining term of the debt by lowering interest costs and therefore payments.
Barnes shared information detailing four refunding options and told council members that they could choose which option they prefer later or even closer to the call date.
As noted in an e-mail Barnes wrote addressed to City Manager David Nunn, one option would have the city “just refunding the callable maturities (2016-2030) of the ‘new money’ portion of the 2005 Bonds on a tax-exempt basis.”