More News & Features
By Kathryn Schiliro
Summer Stevens thought she was just going to a "Friday Live" assembly.
But last Friday, April 16, the afternoon assembly at Morgan County Middle School was about her.
The sixth-grade student was chosen from between 20 and 30 students nationwide as the winner of Great American's—a company that manages school fund-raisers—HERO contest.
Summer's was recognized for bringing awareness to horse abuse and neglect in Georgia, as well as her efforts to change related state-level legislation.
"They [Great American] are looking for students that epitomize heroic qualities to recognize in a national ad campaign," an e-mail from Principal Dr. Joe Hutcheson states. "Without hesitation, our teacher nominated Summer."
A surprise to her, she was called to the floor of the gym, told of the award and presented with a $500 check, which she is planning on donating to the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Family, friends and those she has met through her advocacy work—everyone from the Mansfield equine impound barn to local 4-H leaders to Gary Black, candidate for the state's Agriculture Commissioner, was there.
"I was happy," she said. "I didn't know what I was being called up for. It's amazing and everybody's here."
Now part of a national ad campaign for Great American—that was part of the contest—a Nashville-based production crew filmed the entire event and, following the assembly, taped Summer, her friends, family and those that came out in support of her speaking about her work.
By James Faucett
A variance that will allow a company to do stream mitigation work at the old Tamplin farm on Highway 83 North at Sandy Creek was unanimously approved by the Morgan County Commissioners on Tuesday.
Ecological Solutions, on behalf of Hard Labor Creek Mitigation (HLCM), an owner of the property, requested the variance to work within the county’s required 100-foot buffer for streams, wetlands and floodplains.
Partners in the project plan to restore 139 acres of the 295-acre property to its original ecological state, including 400 feet of stream mitigation.
The restoration would include planting 54,000 trees, shrubs and other vegetation. County Planning and Zoning Director Chuck Jarrell told the commission the requestors had done “an extremely good job” with the plans in their proposal. “They’ve gone through the proper channels to have it approved,” Jarrell said. “That is the reason staff does not have an issue with this variance being granted.”
Commission Chair Mack Bohlen expressed concern to the requestors about water quality during the restoration. “While you’re mitigating and digging, what about the water quality going down the creek?” Bohlen said. Rainwater could drain into the creek and eventually the water supply, he said.
Ecological Solutions Senior Ecologist Dan Rice said the project had about 18 pages of erosion and sediment control plans. “This is a construction project,” he said. “We’re not approved to do anything that any other construction project doesn’t do … There are some components, as in any project, to minimize the erosion during the construction process.”
By Patrick Yost
A Morgan County High School student pled guilty to a reduced count of robbery on Thursday, March 25.
Justin Sherill, 18, received a 15–year sentence on the charge with seven years to serve.
He was also fined $1,000, ordered to pay $400 in restitution and ordered to “cooperate and testify fully and truthfully in the trial of co–defendant.”
Sherill was arrested and charged with armed robbery in October 2009 in connection with the armed robbery of the Citgo convenience store in Bostwick. Following his arrest officers alleged that Sherill drove a silver SUV used to flee the store after the robbery.
Michael Bellamy, 19, Mansfield, was arrested on October 14 and charged with armed robbery.
Investigators with the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office allege that Bellamy entered the store at approximately 9 p.m. on Sunday, October 4, pointed a pistol at the clerk and demanded money. The robber was masked and wearing a dark American Eagle hoodie during the robbery. Bellamy was identified by a private citizen after a security camera photo of the robbery in progress was published in the Morgan County Citizen.
By James Faucett
The conservation status of a property near Atlanta and Old Dixie highways was breached by the Morgan County Board of Tax Assessors on Monday.
The move came despite a request for reconsideration by Madison attorney Charles Merrittand and Kip Herndon, son of property owner Sara Herndon, 84. Sara Herndon has been in the program since 2004 and the current 10-year program was not her first, Merritt said.
He cited the property owner’s age and health issues as factors in the case.
“Our request would be to allow Mrs. Herndon’s property just to continue in her current 10-year program,” Merritt said.
Worst case, Merrit said, the Herndons would prefer to be allowed to opt out under a provision in the law allowing someone over the age of 65 who is at least three years into a continuation program to do so.
Kip Herndon gave a history of attempts to cultivate the property and said a lease had been arranged for growing wheat and possibly soybeans or corn. The board deliberated the case in executive session. Ultimately, it determined the land had not been in qualifying use since 2004 and had been re-entered into a covenant, board chairman Ron Zay said after the meeting.
By James Faucett
The Morgan County Planning Commission and other local officials say while they are focused on remaining impartial about a landfill proposed for the county, a recent field trip to other landfills last week was educational.
“We understand the terminology and we understand the process,” said planning commission chairman Brian Lehman. “I thought the trips were invaluable to us.”
Morgan officials visited Dekalb County’s Seminole Road Landfill in Ellenwood, Ga., on March 31. The EPA award-winner is the sole landfill in DeKalb, with operations having started there in 1977.
Under the authority of the county’s board of commissioners, Seminole owns 1,100 acres and runs under its own enterprise fund, according to Billy Malone, assistant director for DeKalb’s public works and sanitation. The facility produces gas profitably for its own use and for Georgia Power, from which the landfill receives $100,000 per month.
The landfill had 300-foot buffers established in 1977. Landfill administrators said they have added to that number, creating a 1,000-foot buffer in some areas. About 250-300 loads of garbage are brought to the landfill each day.
The landfill’s hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday to residents, though operations continue until 10:30 p.m. Solid waste is picked up twice a week and yard debris and recyclable items once a week.
The chief complaints of landfills are odor, noises – such as from trucks coming in and out, or machinery beeping – and devaluation of property, according to Tracy Hutchinson, the landfill’s deputy director. At Seminole, residences have continually crept into the area, though the landfill officials said they do not receive noise complaints. The landfill regularly purchases property to create buffers.
By James Faucett
A Buckhead handyman has tapped into a gold mine.
Kenneth Poole, 45, won $129,362 in a Fantasy 5 drawing on March 26, according to state lottery officials.
“I am speechless,” Poole said in a statement from the Georgia Lottery.
Poole bought the Quik Pik ticket at Fast Phil’s on Macon Highway in Watkinsville.
Poole said he plans to save the money.