By Matthew Burgoyne Staff Writer
The Board of Education and faculty members at Morgan County High School presented the Drug Screening Program to the public on May 5, and it was met with mixed reviews.
“We wanted to make sure we answered all of the questions parents and students have,” said Dr. Stan DeJarnett, superintendent of Morgan County Schools. Starting next school year, a drug screening program will be put into place. The program will randomly test student-athletes and parking permit holders throughout the year. Before a student can sign up for a sport or a parking pass, they must fill out a consent form allowing them to be tested. Every month, the toxicology lab at Morgan Memorial Hospital will randomly choose students to be tested. The date and time of the test will also be random.
The students will be picked randomly by a number that will be assigned to them at the beginning of the year. If their number is picked, they will report for a random drug test which consists of a urine sample. The test checks the sample for amphetamines, barbiturates, marijuana, cocaine, opiates, and propoxyphene. A positive test result will go through a second test to verify the positive. Students refusing to get tested will be considered positive for a drug.
“There will not be any false positives,” said Mr. H.D. Cannington, CEO, Morgan Memorial Hospital.
If a student is found positive, the consequences are dependent upon how many times they have tested positive.
By Tara DeRock Mahoney
Senior Staff Writer
Recreation department officials hope that as many as four contractors could produce competitive bids this month to build an indoor pool in Morgan County.
County officers will open bids May 30 that could lead to a contract to build an eight-lane, year-round pool.
“We’re trying to find out what we might have to spend,” said Bill Wood, director of the Morgan County Recreation Department.
“We’ll have several questions to answer after the bid opening—will we go forward? Will we borrow the balance of money needed for the project? What is that balance?” said Wood. The county hopes to take in $750,000 over the course of a five-year SPLOST initiative that started in spring 2007, funds earmarked for a swimming pool. Recreation board members recently decided to put out a bid for an indoor pool, rather than a pool with a seasonal bubble—as had been initially discussed—due to cost considerations and life expectancies of the two types of shelter.
“The cost of the building and the cost of the bubble…are comparable,” said Wood.
“The life expectancy of the building is 20 to 25 years; the life expectancy of the bubble is only seven to 10 years.”
By Patrick Yost
A suspected armed-robber did not escape her second attempt at robbing a Madison convenience store Monday.
Takiya Sequoyah Burdette, 22, Covington, was arrested minutes after she fled the Racetrac convenience store on Monday. She was arrested after her vehicle was stopped by Morgan County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Madison Police Department officers at the 113 mile marker off the west–bound lane of Interstate 20.
According to Det. Carl Jones, Madison Police Department, Burdette is also wanted in last week’s armed robbery of Madison’s Racetrac. She is also a suspect in six other robberies of Racetrac convenience stores in DeKalb, Gwinnett and Cobb counties.
Officers descended on Racetrac minutes after receiving a 911 call on Monday. Burdette was arrested at approximately 4:30 p.m. Morgan County Dispatch received a distress call from the store at 4:21 p.m.
Jones said three clerks in the store noticed Burdette when she entered the store this time. She was wearing a red, hooded sweatshirt similar to what the suspect in last week’s robbery wore. In fact, he said, one clerk wrote a message on a paper sack that read, “She looks like that girl.”
Jones said she was. After Burdette questioned a clerk regarding a money order and was told that the machine was disabled, Burdette then handed the clerk a note stating “This ais a robbery. Give me your money.”
By Tara DeRock Mahoney
Senior Staff Writer
Madison City Manager David Nunn presented the draft fiscal year 2009 budget at Monday night’s regular council meeting.
Revenues and expenses for the city’s general fund for 2009 are expected to hover around $6.5 million. The size of the city’s general fund has approximately doubled over the past six years, while the millage rate has remained steady at around three mils. The total city budget, including water and sewer, gas, and sanitation, SPLOST, hotel/motel, and various investment funds, will near $14 million this year. That’s actually a 32 percent decrease in the total 2008 budget, as various capital projects—including the city’s new water reclamation facility—are completed.
Budget cuts in at least 12 general-fund line items also helped to trim the budget. Only three departments are expected to see budget increases of more than 10 percent and $10,000.
“It’s tough times but we’re trying to keep everything in check,” said Nunn.
The new expenditures include $15,000 for consulting and matching grant funds for the Historic Preservation Commission, which has qualified for a grant to digitize its design-guidelines publication; $97,000 for the observance and celebration of the city’s 2009 Bicentennial, including nearly $70,000 for new, bronze historic community markers; and a 28 percent increase—to $169,000—for the city’s fire department.
Included in the budget this year are a series of “frequently asked questions” that city officials regularly field. Here’s a sampling, with answers compiled by the city:
What is a budget?
By Kathryn Purcell
No, it's not the original saying. At this point, however, an adaption seems most appropriate - "As the economy goes, so goes sales tax."
Local sales tax collections in Morgan County, specifically ELOST (Education Local Option Sales Tax), seem to be in decline.
The current ELOST, scheduled for five years, is set to raise more than $21.2 million for projects within the Morgan County School System. These projects include a gymnasium at Morgan County High School, to cost more than $5.2 million; a Central Office building, to cost $1.3 million; and a gymnasium at Morgan County Elementary School, to cost $700,000. This ELOST also includes the building of a new school, set to cost $9 million.
As of the last Board of Education meeting, January 2008 ELOST collections that arrived in April (checks are always two months behind), totaled $230,774.54. Compared to collections of $284,927 in January 2007 and an average collection of $308,573.83 per month in 2007, the outlook isn't good.
"The check we got two or three weeks ago was off $100,000 based on the average of previous checks," Morgan County Schools Director of Operations Bob Monk said. "February and March may be off even more."
If the worst was to happen, however, and the school system not collect the more than $21.2 million needed, Morgan County Superintendent Stan DeJarnett feels that some of the projects could be delayed until they could be paid for.
"If we don't collect it, we don't collect it," DeJarnett said. "We may have to shift some projects into the next ELOST."
By Tara DeRock Mahoney
Senior Staff Writer
The deadline to qualify for various county elected positions is tomorrow at noon, but as of Tuesday only a handful of people had qualified to run in a number of races.
Incumbent Clerk of Superior Court Jody Moss qualified to run again for her position; Terry Evans, the chairman of the Morgan Memorial Hospital Authority, qualified to run for Tax Commissioner; Keith Howard qualified to run for the Board of Education District Three slot; and Sammy Cathey qualified to run for a full term as District Five County Commissioner. (He is currently completing the unfinished term of the late Chester Thomas.)
“Currently and officially, Sammy Cathey is the only one to qualify [for the commissioners’ races],” said Morgan County Election Superintendent Bobby Howington on Tuesday morning. Beyond that, the fields are wide open.
County commissioners from District Three (incumbent Mack Bohlen), District Four (incumbent Ellen Warren) and District Five (incumbent Cathey) will be up for election this fall, as will Board of Education representatives from District One (incumbent Minnie Peek), District Two (incumbent Nelson Hale), and District Three (currently Jimmy Paxson, who has declared that he will not run again).
Elections for Morgan County Sheriff, Coroner, Probate Judge, and District Attorney will also take place in November, but no one had qualified for any of those races as of press time. Morgan County resident Keith Fitzgerald has previously stated his intention to run for Sheriff, but as an independent qualifier he will not register with the Board of Elections and Registration until late June. Commissioner Ellen Warren has also stated her intention to run for the District Four seat, but as an independent candidate she is not required to qualify this week.