Morgan County at the center of historic multibillion dollar deal with Rivian Automotive
The rumors were true. Rivian Automotive announced in December that they will indeed build a massive electric car manufacturing facility that spans across parts of Morgan and Walton counties, between Social Circle and Rutledge.
The Morgan County Citizen first reported on the rumored deal in early November. Gov. Brian Kemp officially announced the news a month later on Dec. 16, touting the Rivian Automotive plant as the largest economic development project ever in Georgia’s history, expected to yield $5 billion in investment and more than 7,500 jobs for the region.
The news came on the heels of another massive development at Stanton Springs, after Baymare’s March announcement of a multibillion dollar development.
On May 6, Morgan County reaped the harvest from Stanton Springs, receiving its first million dollars in revenue from the venture. In June, the Joint Development Authority unveiled Stanton Springs North, adding more than 600 acres of new developable land, which paved the way for Rivian to set up shop in Morgan County.
Fight over Drug rehab leads to lawsuit between City of Madison and Morgan Medical Center
In January, Morgan Medical Center requested the City of Madison to issue a certification letter ensuring a potential buyer of the old Morgan Memorial Hospital Building that the property could be used for an upscale drug rehabilitation facility.
The City denied the request, which led to months of meetings and public debate, finally resulting in a lawsuit filed by the leaders of the hospital against the City of Madison in July 2021.
The lawsuit is ongoing and the outcome will determine whether Flashpoint Recovery can operate a resort-like inpatient drug rehabilitation center out of the old Morgan Memorial Hospital property in Madison.
Mother charged in shooting death of 7-year-old son
In March, the community and law enforcement struggled to process the shooting death of 7-year-old Maddox Jones, a second-grader at Morgan County Primary School.
His mother, Alison Jones, 36, was charged with murder, felony murder and aggravated assault after she allegedly shot and killed her son and attacked her husband at the couple’s Riverwalk Road residence on the morning of March 1.
Jones was detained by deputies at the scene and transported to the Morgan County Detention Center where she was then arrested and charged following an interview.
Callidora Ranch project stumps Buckhead Town Council
Since April, the Town of Buckhead has been wrestling with the adoption of zoning standards, after plans for a 278 acre agri-business within the Town of Buckhead town limits were proposed by Raul Rivera.
Rivera is the founder of Callidora Ranch, a dude ranch and trail destination that is also a working cattle farm. The ranch runs from the northside of Buckhead’s Town Hall and volunteer fire department north past the town limits. In November, Callidora Ranch Attorney Dick Schmidt presented the council with an ordinance to amend Buckhead’s zoning ordinance produced by the Georgia Regional Development Commission to facilitate allowance of an ambitious and controversial agritourism business in Buckhead.
The plan, according to an ordinance draft, would include “a wide variety of activities such as… farm markets, roadside stands, U-pick operations, Christmas Tree farms, pumpkin patch, local products, retail operations (farm/ranch produced crafts and food products), corn mazes, recreational zip lines, agriculturally related events/fairs/festivals, walking and bicycling tours and trails, horseback trail riding and tours, RV/ATV farm or ranch tours, community organization picnic sites, farm/ranch weddings, rodeos, Agri-entertainment, Agritourism Retail, Agritourism restaurant and Agritourism Overnight Stays.”
No decision has been rendered as of yet.
Murder at Budget Inn
In January, A 33-year-old Madison man, Alex Bernard Tolbert, was murdered at the Budget Inn, on Eatonton Road in Madison, dying from 14 gunshot wounds.
In March, A Morgan County Grand Jury on March 1 indicted murder suspect Adrian Darnyell Weston in the shooting death of Alex “Moo Moo” Tolbert. Weston was indicted on one count murder, one count felony murder and one count aggravated assault.
However, Weston was on the run, with investigators unable to locate him. After months on the lam, police arrested Weston in Kansas on Nov. 3. Weston was hiding out in his sister’s house there and will now face charges for the January slaying of Tolbert at the Budget Inn.
Historic $750,000 grant awarded to City of Madison for The Madison-Morgan Boys & Girls Club
In November, The Madison-Morgan Boys & Girls Club took one step closer toward receiving an historic $750,000 grant to repurpose the Pearl-Burney Campus as the club’s headquarters.
The Madison Mayor and City Council voted to authorize Mayor Fred Perriman to sign off on the acceptance package from the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) which is required before the funds can be released to Madison’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA), which will be the fiscal holder of the grant for the Boys & Girls club.
Once the whopping $750,000 is received, the Boys & Girls Club will move forward with plans to revamp and renovate the historic Pearl-Burney Campus, which is currently home to the Madison-Morgan Boys & Girls Club and once housed the old Morgan County Middle School. Before the old middle school, the historic site served as Pearl High School, an all-Black school in the Canaan community before school integration in 1970.
Morgan County Deputy helps solve 33-year-old Atlanta child murder case
Morgan County’s very own Keith Howard, chief deputy for the Morgan County’s Sheriff Office, contributed to solving a three-decade-long cold case, the tragic murder of an eight-year-old boy Joshua Harmon.
On July 22, Howard announced the arrest of Harmon’s murderer, James Michael Coates, 56, of Woodstock. Howard worked tirelessly on the case since 1998, pushing for further DNA recovery and testing which ultimately led to Coates’ arrest.
The coronavirus pandemic dragged on in 2021, introducing two new strains of the respiratory virus, as case numbers fluctuated throughout the year, and the COVID-19 vaccine became widely available to the public.
By December 2020, Morgan County Health Officials were able to receive vaccines. In January 2021, Madison Mayor Fred Perriman shared his vaccination with the public to encourage others to receive it. The first tier of eligible Georgians began receiving COVID-19 vaccines in late January.
In February, Morgan County’s case count cracked 1,000, it is now over 2,400 confirmed cases cumulatively. The vaccination pool widened little by little throughout last Spring, until all Georgia adults were eligible to receive the vaccine in the summer. Now, children from ages 5 and up are also eligible.
In April, The Morgan Medical Center will open a drive-through site to administer vaccines. Morgan County Health Department as well as local pharmacies offer COVID-19 vaccinations.
In July the City of Madison reopened meetings to the public. In August, the city received $1.3 million in COVID-relief funds. Students returned to school in August with loosened COVID-19 restrictions. Over the summer, the Delta-variant became the dominant strand of the coronavirus. Now, Omicron is the dominant strain of the virus.
In November, broadband access in Morgan County got a major boost from county leaders.
After years of hitting dead ends in securing broadband for the rural part of Morgan County, county commissioners signed off on up to $1 million in funding that expands broadband access to up to 1,600 residences that currently do not have broadband access.
The forthcoming expansion comes on the heels of Gov. Brian Kemp’s announcement that will also expand broadband access in Morgan. In March of 2021, Gov. Kemp announced a $47 million investment in a new provider that will lead to expanded broadband access in eight Georgia counties, including Morgan. Kemp said a new broadband provider, which is aiming to expand broadband in rural Middle Georgia, will lead to 22,000 more homes and businesses across eight counties gaining broadband access.
Kemp and Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols made an announcement at Tri-County EMC’s headquarters last Friday that the formation of a new broadband provider in Middle Georgia, Tri-CoGo, will provide high-speed internet service to thousands of rural Georgians in Morgan, Jones, Baldwin, Putnam, Jasper, Twiggs, Wilkinson, and Bibb counties.
Hice, Jones face statewide backlash
In the wake of the U.S. Capitol siege back in January, in which five people died and dozens were injured, Georgia elected officials faced backlash and calls to resign due to their efforts to overturn the November 2020 Presidential Election in favor of President Donald Trump.
U.S. Congressman Jody Hice and State Senator Burt Jones, Republicans whose districts include Morgan County, came under fire for touting accusations of election fraud in Georgia, seeking to object to the Electoral College certification, and using inflammatory rhetoric in the lead up to the unprecedented riots in Washington D.C., in which thousands of ardent supporters of President Trump violently descended upon the U.S. Capitol building to forcibly stop the Electoral College certification for President-Elect Joe Biden. Hice was pressured to resign from office, while Jones was stripped of his chairmanship position in the state senate and chided by fellow Georgia state senators. Hice is now running for Georgia Secretary of State, while Jones is running for Georgia Lieutenant Governor.