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Updated: 1 hour 40 min ago

Road to close, traffic detour around Riverwatch construction

6 hours 1 min ago


A Martinez road will be temporarily closed this weekend for construction associated with the extension of Riverwatch Parkway.

Old Evans Road will be closed near Connor Drive to install a 36-inch sanitary sewer line beginning at 9 a.m. Friday. If weather permits the necessary work, the road is expected to reopen by 7 a.m. Monday, according to a press release from the Georgia Department of Transportation.

During the closure, traffic will be detoured around the work area using Columbia Industrial Boulevard, Evans to Locks Road and Blue Ridge Drive.

The $35 million Riverwatch parkway project includes widening Old Petersburg Road from Baston Road to Old Evans Road and widening Old Evans Road to Columbia Industrial Boulevard. The road will be constructed westward over the railroad tracks to tie into Washington Road at Towne Center Drive. The new roadway will include fours lanes, two in each direction, 4-foot bike lanes, curbs, gutters, sidewalks and a 20-foot raised median.

Categories: Local

County seeks public input on preparing for next 20 years of growth

Sun, 4/19/2015 12:15 AM

Columbia County officials want to develop a plan for the next 20 years of the county’s growth.

They say getting public feedback on what that plan should look like, however, is critical to making that happen.

With that in mind, the steering committee behind Columbia County’s new growth management project, dubbed Vision 2035 has scheduled a series
of public meetings, beginning Monday, to seek input from residents about how they want the county to grow over the next 20 years.

“That’s what these workshops are about,” said Jean Garniewicz, vice-chair of the steering committee for Vision 2035. “We are inviting everyone to come.”

Along with the open feedback sessions, consultants for the Vision 2035 project will be seeking input from public surveys, both online and by telephone over the next few weeks, Garniewicz said.

“They want the feedback, what the vision is and what you do you want in your county,” she said.

Inge Kennedy, a member of the consulting team, explained that user feedback is important in how the growth plan is shaped.

“We want people to tell us what they want to see Columbia County to look like in the future,” Kennedy said.

Consultants are ready and eager to discuss all aspects of growth including transportation, recreation, architecture, zoning, water and sewer and land use.

“This is a comprehensive plan it looks at everything,” she said.

The meetings will culminate in a day long “land use charrette” at the Columbia County Library on May 14, where residents can look at maps and discuss specifics about how growth should be shaped for the next generation.

That information will be used to develop a draft plan that will be presented in August, she said.

With the coming expansion of jobs and missions at Fort Gordon, and the expectation of even more civilian-related business growth,

Garniewicz said families move to Columbia County for the quality of life, for access to recreation and because of the county’s
well-respected school system.

The challenge is to continue growing while keeping the qualities that encourage more growth.
That’s why having a plan such as Vision 2035 is important for the next 20 years.

“We want to keep the flavor that we have here,” she said. “People want their family to grow up here, they want to retire here, this is a great place to live.”

Garniewicz said the county can’t afford to wait around to see what happens. Officials must get ahead of development to ensure it occurs in a reasonable fashion that benefits everyone, she said.

She said there have been periods in the past 30 years when growth got ahead of officials and wasn’t handled as well as it could have been.

“What I’m hearing people tell me is that they want managed growth,” she said. “Growth is great. Managed growth is better.”

Categories: Local

Underage drinking discouraged

Sun, 4/19/2015 12:15 AM

Rachel Lehnardt was arrested after police said she allowed her 16-year-old daughter and her teenage friends to consume alcohol and marijuana at her Evans home.

She was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a misdemeanor.

But county officials say the problem of parents allowing teens to drink or use other illegal substances in their homes is more widespread than one might think. During prom and graduation season, some parents even host parties for their teens.

“We have had situations in the past where parents will host parties for teenagers in order to consume alcohol,” Columbia County sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris said. “And they justify that usually by saying at least they know where they are at.”

But the decision to serve alcohol to teens or simply allow them to drink in the home can bring trouble for the adults.

In 2014, 10 people were charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor in Columbia County. Already three have been charged with it this year.

“It’s not widespread, but it does occur,” Morris said. “It does occur. It has occurred. We caution (parents) and ask that they refrain from doing that.”

In addition to criminal ramifications, Morris said so much risk goes along with allowing such behavior.

Teens can consume too much alcohol and they can have accidents caused or exacerbated by alcohol among many other scenarios.

“There’s a lot of liability,” Morris said of parents allowing teenage drinking, especially if those drinking teens end up behind the wheel of a vehicle.

More than 86 percent of Columbia County high school students who drink alcohol say they drank it at home or at a friend’s and the parents were not aware, according to Tamica Collins, the coordinator of the Underage Drinking Prevention Campaign at Columbia County Community Connections. The average age the student took the first drink is 13.

She also said 66 percent of county high school students say it is easy to get alcohol.

Drinking alcohol at a young age is not only illegal, but can damage the long- and short-term growth process of developing adolescent brains. It also can lead to dangerous activities such as drugs and sex.

“Drinking alcohol often leads to poor decision-making and makes it more likely for teens to engage in other high-risk behaviors,”’ according to Collins.

Early drinking also can lead to adult alcoholism.

Collins said parents are a strong influence in a teen’s decision to drink alcohol or not. Her goal is to encourage parents to talk to their children about the dangers of underage drinking, which helps reduce the risk they will do it.

Community Connections run several campaigns aimed at underage drinking prevention including Parents who Host, Lose the Most; Sticker Shock Campaign, where the Columbia County Youth Action Team puts stickers on alcoholic beverage sin stores explaining the legal penalties of providing alcohol to minors; and Safe Homes, an online database, where parents can pledge not to provide alcohol to minors and vow to keep their homes free of underage drinking.

Collins also speaks at area high school about the risks of underage drinking and how to handle peer pressure.

Morris said parents are legally allowed to provide alcohol to their own child in their own home, but not to any other minors and not outside of the family home.

Categories: Local

Police Blotter, April 19, 2015

Sun, 4/19/2015 12:15 AM

The following accounts were taken from Columbia County Sheriff’s Office incident reports:

Man pretends to be deputy

A Martinez woman said Wednesday that a man claiming to be a deputy who called her about a incident she witnessed wasn’t a deputy.

The 38-year-old woman said she got the call at noon. The caller identified himself as Columbia County sheriff’s Deputy Tim Rollins and said he was investigating an incident reported to the sheriff’s office on Monday involving a woman being harassed.

The caller asked if she had information on the incident, so she recounted what the victim told her.

She was suspicious of the call, so the woman called the sheriff’s office and was told no Tim Rollins worked for the department.

Two arrested for drunkenness

Authorities arrested two people in separate incidents Tuesday for being drunk in public.

At about 2:30 p.m., a deputy responded to a call of a man in the bushes outside River Ridge Middle School. Jeffrey Murl Moore, 50, was found outside of the Evans school with eight empty beer cans and four unopened cans next to him. Moore said he was from Greenville, S.C., is homeless.

He registered a .131 blood alcohol level and was charged with public drunkenness.

Another deputy responded to a call about a woman on the side of Hereford Farm Road near Lawrence Drive at about 5:30 p.m. Helen Lavern Turner, 56, of Evans, was found laying on the side of the road with an open bottle of wine and three unopened bottles. She refused to take a field alcohol test, but was charged with public drunkenness.

Fraudulent loan damages credit

A Martinez woman told deputies Monday that someone damaged her credit by defaulting on a loan obtained with her information.

The 53-year-old woman said she had a credit report run while trying to refinance her home.

The report showed that someone used her last name and Social Security number to get a $1,045 loan in November. Since then, the loan has not been repaid and it damaged the woman’s credit.

The woman contacted the loan company and told them about the fraud and reported it to authorities.

Man says he was drugged, robbed

A man called authorities Monday stating he’d been drugged and robbed by a friend.

The man said he went to a Old Petersburg Road house to visit a friend. He said his friend shot him up with heroin and robbed him because the man’s friend was sleeping with his wife.

The man said his friend drives a red Chevrolet with a hood scoop and runs an escort service.

The deputy found track marks from intravenous drug use on both of the man’s arms and he admitted to be being a frequent heroin user. The deputy had difficulty understanding the man’s garbled speech because he was heavily under the influence of drugs.

The man only gave the deputy his friend’s phone number. But the deputy didn’t make contact with him and searched, but never found the red Chevrolet. A neighbor said she didn’t recognize the man.

Categories: Local

Marriage Licenses, April 19, 2015

Sun, 4/19/2015 12:08 AM

Stephen Hill Reasoner IV and Avery Ensley Palmer applied for a marriage license on April 9, 2015, and were married April 9, 2015, in Evans.

Travis James Gauthreaux and Christiana Noelle Tejeda applied for a marriage license on March 13, 2015, and were married April 4, 2015, in Augusta.

Jonathan Eugene Sheets and Tarilyn Marie Garrard applied for a marriage license on March 16, 2015, and were married April 4, 2015, in Sandersville, Ga.

Ralph Stephen Debord and Tonnia Price Powell applied for a marriage license on Feb. 25, 2015, and were married March 28, 2015, in Appling.

John Levent Rose and Stacey Harbin Stencel applied for a marriage license on April 10, 2015, and were married April 10, 2015, in Evans.

Emmanuel Joseph Angulo and Annastasia Marie Dilworth applied for a marriage license on April 9, 2015, and were married April 9, 2015, in Evans.

Terry Eugene Reames and Stephanie Nicole Gray applied for a marriage license on April 9, 2015, and were married April 9, 2015, in Evans.

Joseph Leroy Jenkins Jr. and Diondra Lanise Johnson applied for a marriage license on March 13, 2015, and were married April 9, 2015, on Fort Gordon.

Walter Frank Ramsey II and Courtney Brie-Ann Frasier applied for a marriage license on April 6, 2015, and were married April 11, 2015, in Evans.

Bradley Thomas Williams and Melissa Sue Bryan applied for a marriage license on March 27, 2015, and were married April 4, 2015, in Bogart, Ga.

Karluis Arbolay Mitchell and Cristina Melissa Lopez Cora applied for a marriage license on April 2, 2015, and were married April 2, 2015, in Evans.

Erick Fabian Lopez and Diana Zamudio Rodriguez applied for a marriage license on April 6, 2015, and were married April 10, 2015, in Evans.

Brian Christopher Watson and Ashley Nicole Wedding applied for a marriage license on April 13, 2015, and were married April 13, 2015, in Evans.

Stuart Anthony Lehn and Leah Rose Finney applied for a marriage license on March 26, 2015, and were married April 4, 2015, in Peachtree City, Ga.

Christopher Damron Treager and Amy Kathleen Cotton applied for a marriage license on March 24, 2015, and were married April 10, 2015, in Evans.

Gerald Macellus Tanksley and Annisha Lashelle Vaughns applied for a marriage license on Aug. 20, 2014, and were married April 4, 2015, in Augusta.

Andrew Joseph Cowan and Lisa Marie Prickett applied for a marriage license on April 15, 2015, and were married April 15, 2015, in Evans.

Categories: Local

Divorces, April 19, 2015

Sun, 4/19/2015 12:08 AM

Tammy Brown and Victor Brown, March 26, 2015.

James E. King and Jenne E. King, March 26, 2015.

Bertha Renee Nasworthy and Billy Graham Nasworthy Jr., March 30, 2015.

Matthew W. Baldwin and Wilva Baldwin, March 20, 2015.

Cynthia D. Allison and Glenn M. Allison, Oct. 6, 2014.

Peggy Hilton Lane and Fred Larry Lane, Oct. 15, 2014.

Johnny Hugh Braddy Jr. and Jessica Lynn Braddy, Dec. 17, 2014.

John O. Warren and Chelsea A. Warren, March 20, 2015.

Pamela Makison Pitcher and Michael Eugene Pitcher, Dec. 22, 2014.

Melissa Gale Woods and Stacy Michael Woods, Jan. 16, 2015.

Constance E. Strohl and Kendall C. Strohl, April 2, 2015.

Mary Franklin Barmore and Burton B. Barmore III, March 31, 2015.

Megan Jesson and David Jesson, March 30, 2015.

Faith Mowell and Robert J. Mowell II, March 20, 2015.

Oral Corbin Calton and Deborah Lynn Carlton, March 20, 2015.

Robert W. McQuinn Jr. and Krystal L. McQuinn, March 20, 2015.

Christopher Allen and Donna Holbrook, March 16, 2015.

Holley P. Oellerich and James D. Oellerich, March 20, 2015.

Journey Yvonne Parker and John Ira Parker, March 20, 2015.

Cynthia Inez Hogan Allen and John Royce Allen Jr., April 7, 2015.

Stephanie Meriweather and Gerald Meriweather, March 26, 2015.

Derek Brewer and Caitlin Brewer, March 30, 2015.

Eli Jesse Dove and Lara Dove, April 1, 2015.

Categories: Local

Gov. Nathan Deal to speak at Chamber event in May

Sun, 4/19/2015 12:07 AM

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal will be visiting Columbia County next month.

Deal has accepted an invitation to be the keynote speaker at the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce’s annual Post-Legislative Breakfast on May 7, chamber officials announced this week.

The annual event is held at the Savannah Rapids Pavilion in Evans.

Included in the program will be updates on the 2015 Session of the General Assembly from Columbia County’s local legislative delegation. The delegation includes Sen. Bill Jackson, Sen. Jesse Stone, Rep. Ben Harbin, Rep. Barry Fleming, Rep. Barbara Sims and Rep. Tom McCall.

The event begins at 7:30 a.m. with a breakfast and the main program begins at 8 am.

There is no charge for Columbia County Chamber members. Nonmembers can attend for $25. Reservations are required and can be made by contacting the Chamber at (706) 651-0018 or online at

Categories: Local

Chamber announces new VP

Sun, 4/19/2015 12:07 AM

Heath Taylor was recently hired as the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce’s first vice president.

Taylor took over as the chamber vice president, a newly-created position, on Monday.

He will oversee membership sales and retention efforts, including committees and programs.

Taylor also will head the Columbia chamber’s new Foundation and Workforce and Education Committee and programs.

Taylor spent seven years as the Director of Membership and Vice President of Business and Community Development for the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce.

Categories: Local

Alleged rape victim made similar accusations before

Sun, 4/19/2015 12:05 AM

A woman who accused a Richmond County sheriff’s deputy of rape last week made a similar allegation against another man last year.

In a report filed with the Richmond County Sheriff’s office on July 11, 2014, the 33-year-old Martinez woman said a friend raped her in a hotel room five months earlier. The woman said she and a longtime friend went out to eat. The pair argued and went back to a hotel on Boy Scout Road in Augusta to watch movies.

The woman said she rolled over to go to sleep and her friend began tickling, then kissing her. When her friend got on top of her, the woman said she pushed him off and told him “No” several times, according to the report. The woman said her friend stopped.

After falling asleep, the woman said she woke to find her friend on top of her. He swore when she opened her eyes and looked at him, according to the report. The woman, who said she rolled over and went back to sleep, said her friend was still in the room when she awoke at about 11 a.m. and they talked until he left for work at about 2 p.m.

The woman said she kept in contact with the man for a few weeks. When asked by investigators if she kept any clothing from the night of the incident, the woman said she did, but the articles had been washed several times. She also didn’t know if her friend used protection during the incident, according to the report.

No charges were filed in connection to the incident.

In her recent report, the woman alleged that Cpl. Jason Turner raped her at his Martinez home on April 9. The woman said Turner assaulted her between 12:30 and 6 a.m. and she did not give him permission to touch her or have sex with her, according to a Columbia County Sheriff’s Office incident report.

She also claimed Turner took photos of her with his phone.

The woman went to Georgia Regents Medical Center to have a sexual- assault examination performed.

“At this point, we are unable to corroborate her allegations,” Morris said Wednesday. “Due to the lack of evidence, no charges have been filed. The case remains open pending crime lab results (of the sexual assault kit).”

The woman also called authorities twice on Feb. 13 to report battery at the hands of her husband and mother-in-law. At about 7 a.m., the woman said she and her husband were arguing about a sick child when her husband punched her in the face several times, threw her down and kicked her several times. She said he then, slammed her head into a door, according to a Richmond County Sheriff’s Office incident report. The only visible injury was a small scratch on the woman’s forehead.

Her husband said that during the argument, his wife attacked him and slapped him across the face. He told deputies that he pushed her away and tried to walk away, but his wife jumped on his back, according to the report. The woman’s husband said he pulled away, which is when she fell and hit her head on the door, and he left.

No one was charged and the woman’s husband said he’d seek a divorce and wanted no more contact with his wife.

More than an hour later, the woman called authorities again claiming she was assaulted by her mother-in-law. She said her mother-in-law came into her house looking for a compressor and she followed her mother-in-law around the house because of the earlier incident with her husband. She said her mother-in-law hit her with her left arm, according to the report.

The woman’s mother-in-law said she was looking for a compressor for her son and the woman was ‘getting in her face” so she put her arm up to keep the woman off her, but never hit her.

Categories: Local

Panthers pounce on Wildcats heading to post-season

Wed, 4/15/2015 12:15 AM

With wins in three of their last four games, the Lakeside High School Panthers head into the Region 2-AAAAA Tournament with confidence and a head of steam.

The latest win was Friday when they beat Lexington High 8-1 after the Wildcats began the day by losing to Evans.

A No. 4 seed, the Panthers (9-10, 2-4 Region 2A-AAAAA) will travel to No. 1 seed and defending Class AAAAA state champion Houston County (13-7, 9-1 Region 2B-AAAAA), in a doubleheader on Thursday beginning at 4 p.m.

If a deciding game in the best-of-three series is needed, it will be played Saturday because both schools’ proms are Friday.

Panthers’ coach TJ Davis was happy his guys had one more game to get ready for the postseason.

“We gave the guys three or four days off, we wanted to make sure the fielding was still there,” Davis said. “Make sure our game as a whole is where we want it to be going into playoff time. If we’re playing like this and playing well going into the playoffs, we’ve got a chance.”

He knows they’ll face a battle-tested Bears’ team.

“I know they’re pretty good,” Davis said. “Houston’s got some of those guys coming back who can make it tough on you. Traveling is always tough, especially when you go that far.”

The Panthers jumped out quickly Friday, scoring two first inning runs. Leading hitter Raekwon Bennett knocked in his team-leading 18th RBI, driving home Luke Wiles with a triple over first base down the rightfield line. Bennett came home to score on a Brandon Hensley groundout.

The Panthers broke it open with a five-run rally in the second. Leading off, David Stahler, Cameron Johnson and Tyler Scarbary all reached and Parker Leathers drove an 0-2 curveball into the right-center field gap, clearing the bases.

“I was looking fastball but saw curveball and just kept my hands back and tried to drive the ball and hit it as hard as I could,” Leathers said.

“It kind of opened the floodgates for us,” said Davis of his batter coming through in the clutch. “It gave us a cushion to do some different things on the mound. The more we play with a little bit of cushion the better we’re going to be. That makes everybody feel better but it definitely gives your pitchers some confidence and it lets your defense play and just go.”

Junior Daniel Wiggins (3-1) was the recipient of the Panthers’ offensive showing, picking up the win with four innings on the mound. He gave up one run on two hits with a strikeout. Scarbury pitched two scoreless innings and Patrick Tom closed out the seventh.

Wiggins and senior Jake Gilbert should be taking the hill for the Panthers to open the series against the Bears. Leathers thinks the team as a whole is catching fire at the right time.

“Our hitting is coming along and our pitching is really getting us there,” Leathers said. “Wiggins threw a heck of a game against Greenbrier (March 31) and things are falling together for us and we’re getting hot for the playoffs.”

Categories: Local

Evans re-writing lacrosse history

Wed, 4/15/2015 12:14 AM

The history of lacrosse in Columbia County will be adding another chapter next year.

After gauging interest from students, officials at Evans High School made the move to field a girls and boys team beginning in the 2015-2016 school year.

“We felt the time was right, now, financially and with some other things, to give it a go,” said Evans’ athletic director Kevin Kenny, who filed paperwork with the GHSA on March 29. “We have some people in place that are willing to coach it, so we decided to go ahead and start next year.”

Evans joins Lakeside, which started a boys team in 2006 and a girls team in 2007 and Greenbrier, which started a boys team in 2007 and a girls team in 2008.

Jeff Becker, Greenbrier boys lacrosse coach and president of the Augusta Lacrosse Club, was excited to hear the Knights were adding the sport and what it might eventually mean down the road.

“This will hopefully break the seal and possibly see more teams start,” said Becker. “I’m sure they will have growing pains. We all do but it would be great to see a region in Georgia that is of only Columbia County and maybe Richmond County teams.”

Kenny said Gina Zagarella, a special education teacher and an assistant coach with the softball and track teams in her first year at the school, has been identified as the girls’ coach.

Zagarella said she had always been interested in the sport and just missed out playing as Mill Creek High School added it in 2010, the year after she graduated. She has had some experience with it already, though.

“Being a P.E. major, I taught a few lessons on lacrosse and we would play it in class sometimes, and I always enjoyed it,” Zagarella said. “When coach Kenny brought up that opportunity, I thought it would be a great experience and definitely a challenge but I thought it would be definitely fun,” Zagarella said.

She thinks getting some girls out will be a hurdle to clear.

“I think my first biggest challenge is competing with soccer in getting some girls out there,” Zagarella said. “Most of our athletic girls are doing either soccer or track right now. I think the biggest challenge will be trying to convince girls to come out and try a new sport.”

Kenny meanwhile is looking for a boys coach.

“We’ve had some interest from the lacrosse association and CSRA and lay coaches to help,” Kenny said. “Greenbrier and Lakeside use their lay coaches’ knowledge and expertise and we’re going to have to do the same thing probably, get some lay coaches to help get the program started.”

Kenny noted that established programs will be in the second year of their area schedule next year and not sure if they will be able to play a varsity schedule or come in playing just JV games that first season.

“If we have to play a JV schedule the first year that’s not a big deal,” Kenny said.

Lakeside boys coach Ron Ritter was also excited to have another county school jump in feet first.

“It will only make our area stronger in the long run,” Ritter said. “Hopefully they will reach out and ask for help starting the program up.

‘‘Lacrosse is a close-knit sport and we need to work together to make sure they prosper.”

Categories: Local

J.D. Paugh Memorial Concert on Saturday

Wed, 4/15/2015 12:11 AM

Evans Towne Center Park will be the place to rock this weekend at a concert to honor a fallen officer and raise funds for local law enforcement.

The rock band Tonic will perform Saturday at the inaugural J.D. Paugh Memorial Concert at Lady Antebellum Pavilion.

The concert was organized in conjunction with the fourth annual J.D. Paugh Memorial Ride, which will be held earlier in the day, said Michael Cardenaz, president and co-founder of the J.D. Paugh Memorial Foundation.

A concert for the slain officer was considered by foundation officials for a few years, Cardenaz said. Musicians will perform at Wild Wing Cafe in Augusta after the ride. But organizers wanted to extend the festivities into the evening.

“We didn’t want to go small,” Cardenaz said. “We wanted to go big. We wanted to do a headlining act that evening.”

The all ages concert starts at 6 p.m. with Tonic and special guests The Edison Project.

Tickets cost $10 each and can be purchased at the gate or at Wild Wing Cafe, Augusta Harley-Davidson and online at and

Proceeds from the concert and ride benefit the J.D. Paugh Memorial Foundation, which supports 13 Georgia and five South Carolina law enforcement agencies around the Augusta area.

“Everybody has budget constraints,” said Cardenaz, adding that they help purchase needs and wish list items for the agencies. “The things that make the officers’ jobs safer and in turn makes their ability to serve the public safer.”

The foundation also provides benevolence, financial assistance to law enforcement officers who may have fallen on hard times due to injuries or accidents.

Cardenaz said food and drink vendors will be at the concert, so no outside food, drink or coolers are allowed. But chairs and blankets are welcome.

For more information, visit

Categories: Local

Harlem to celebrate Georgia Cities Week

Wed, 4/15/2015 12:11 AM

Harlem officials will spend next week celebrating Georgia Cities Week.

The theme for the week of festivities from the Georgia Municipal Association is Destination Downtown. And city officials will be showing off a part of downtown, the city’s Public Safety Building, during an open house on Sunday.

“It’s for people to come in and look,” said Stacie Hart, the city’s Community Services and Events coordinator.

Hart said citizens are invited to tour the building at 110 W. Milledgeville Road from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. The public can talk to police officers and firefighters, tour the facility and view equipment and enjoy refreshments.

Georgia Cities Week gives cities an opportunity to share information about the valuable services they provide to residents and how they positively affect quality of life for citizens. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate community achievements and recognize volunteers and city employees.

In honor of Georgia Cities Week, city officials will recognize three Harlem Middle School sixth graders who wrote entries for the “If I Were Mayor” essay contest at the monthly meeting on April 27.

Hart said she’ll also be recognizing two senior citizens who are active in the community.

“I’m hoping it will also encourage volunteerism from many,” Hart said.

Also during the city-centered week, a Harlem High School senior will be job-shadowing Public Works Director Robert Fields.

Categories: Local

Police Blotter, April 15, 2015

Wed, 4/15/2015 12:08 AM

The following accounts were taken from Columbia County Sheriff’s Office incident reports:

iPad is stolen from visitor

A man in town for the Masters Tournament called authorities Friday after discovering his iPad missing from his hotel room.

The 60-year-old man said he left his room at the Quality Inn on Jimmie Dyess Parkway near Interstate 20 at about 6 a.m. the previous day to go to the tournament. He said the iPad was missing when he returned at about 5:30 p.m.

The hotel manager said housekeeping personnel did make a note that the man’s room door was open when they arrived to clean it.

Woman scared by firecrackers

A Grovetown woman said early Sunday that someone set off fireworks near her home.

The woman said someone set off firecrackers in front of her home between 10:50 p.m. and midnight Saturday. She was on the side of her home when she heard the fireworks, but she didn’t see anyone or a vehicle nearby.

A deputy found red paper strewn in the street in front of the woman’s home and two pieces of Black Cat wrapper paper next to her mailbox. The mailbox and yard were not damaged.

Man threatened by computer

An Evans man said Thursday that a computer hacker locked up his computer.

A 46-year-old man said he got a call from a 989 area code at about 6 p.m. The caller claimed to be a Microsoft employee who needed remote access to the man’s computer to safeguard it from viruses. The man followed the caller’s instructions to go to to allow the remote access. After following the instructions, the caller asked the man to pay for the services.

When the man refused to pay initially, the caller insisted the man provide his credit card information. When the man again refused, the caller told him the computer would be blocked. The computer reset and the man couldn’t log in. When he called the number back, it went to a recorded message stating the number was out of service.

A deputy told the man to contact all of his banking and credit institutions.

Woman taken for drug tests

A friend of a Martinez woman called 911 early Sunday to say she might have been drugged at an Augusta club.

The woman said she was at a night club in Richmond County late Saturday into Sunday morning and left about 2 a.m. because she was feeling unusually intoxicated, possibly high. She went home, but didn’t feel any better. The woman called her roommate, who called 911.

The woman was adamant that she’d only had two alcoholic beverages during the night. She was taken by ambulance to a hospital for further evaluation.

Thieves target jewelry store

An employee of a Martinez jewelry store said Thursday that she found evidence someone tried to break into the store through the ventilation system.

The employee of The Gold Shop at 3817 Washington Road said she found damage to the air conditioning duct that leads into the building. She thinks someone tried to get into the building through the air duct.

Categories: Local

Perfect day for county teams

Tue, 4/14/2015 9:18 PM


On the day back from spring break, it was a perfect day for Columbia County teams in their respective region tournaments. All who played moved on to the semi-final round and qualified for the state post-season.

Where to start.

The Evans boys tennis team entered the Region 2-AAAAA tournament as a No. 4 seed on the road facing No. 1 Houston County. Forfeiting No. 1 doubles because one of the players was ill, all three singles won for the 3-2 win.

“We went out and played hard today,” said Evans coach Sarah Harrington. “I told the boys, No. 4 doesn’t mean anything, play strong!”

Not as big an upset but the Lakeside soccer girls were a No. 3 seed on the road facing No. 2 Northside, Warner Robins. They went into penalty kicks tied at two and won that 4-3 in seven attempts. They’ll face No. 1 seed and crosstown rival Greenbrier Thursday night at Blanchard Woods Park.

The No. 1 seed Lakeside boys and girls tennis teams cruised to 5-0 wins over Warner Robins and Northside, Warner Robins, respectively. No. 2 seed Greenbrier girls and boys followed suit. The girls beat Warner Robins 5-0 while the boys topped Jones County, 3-0.

In soccer, the No. 1 seed Greenbrier boys beat Northside, Warner Robins, 10-2, while the Lady Wolfpack blanked Warner Robins, 9-0. The No. 2 seed Evans Lady Knights beat Jones County at home, 3-1. The Lakeside boys were a No. 2 seed facing No. 3 Warner Robins and won at home, 4-2.

The Grovetown soccer boys had their shot at an upset delayed when their game with Houston County was postponed due to lightning. The Lakeside boys will face the winner of that contest – at some point.

Categories: Local

Mother arrested for hosting teenage party

Tue, 4/14/2015 11:48 AM

An Evans mother was arrested Monday accused of hosting a party with drugs and alcohol for her teenage daughter and her friends.

Rachel Lynn Lehnardt, 35, was charged with two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

An Augusta woman told authorities Saturday that she was recently appointed as Lehnardt's sponsor through Alcoholics Anonymous and Lehnardt told her about a recent incident at her home on Whitney Pass, according to a Columbia County Sheriff's Office incident report.

Lenhardt said her children were with their father when her 16-year-old daughter texted asking if she could have friends over "to party," according to the report. She agreed and allowed her daughter and her friends to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana in her home.

The woman said Lehnardt continued to describe the incident stating she played naked Twister with the teens and had sex with an 18-year-old and her daughter's 16-year-old boyfriend, according to the report. The woman said Lehnardt also claimed she showed photos of herself and her boyfriend having sex and other pornographic material to her daughter.

Lehnardt was released from the Columbia County Detention Center after posting a $3,200 bond, according to jailers.

Categories: Local

Missing man found drowned in lake

Tue, 4/14/2015 11:37 AM

A man wanted in South Carolina who disappeared from a lake recreation area over the weekend was found dead in the lake early Tuesday.

Columbia County Deputy Coroner Bonnie King said that a park ranger found Devin T. Wright, 47, of Jackson, S.C., floating 20-30 feet off shore in a cove at West Dam Recreation area at about 8:30 a.m. King pronounced him dead at 10:15 a.m. He is presumed to have drowned, but King said an autopsy will be performed at a Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab.

Wright was reported missing early Saturday after a park ranger at the recreation area on Clarks Hill Lake discovered his drivers license in the trunk of a rented Ford Focus in the parking lot and some personal items including keys, a cell phone and clothing on a picnic table nearby, according to Columbia County sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris.

The vehicle was seen in the park the night before, but was not reported until the park ranger saw it again Saturday morning.

Though no one saw Wright in the water, Morris said the Columbia County Dive Rescue and Recovery Team was called and searched for Wright.

Morris said Wright is a suspect in about 15 incidents of thefts of construction equipment, accessories and vehicles in Columbia County over the past several years. In one of those cases, the victim saw a piece of his stolen construction equipment for sale online. He found out where the equipment was and saw it before calling authorities, according to a press release from Aiken County sheriff’s Capt. Eric Abdullah.

On April 6, Aiken County authorities executed a search warrant and began a week-long search of property owned by Wright in Ridge Spring, S.C., said Abdullah. A large cache of stolen property including vehicles and construction equipment was found on the property.

Categories: Local

Board overrides withdrawal request, denies water park rezoning

Sun, 4/12/2015 12:16 AM

The decision to allow a $20 million water park to go up near Grovetown now rests in the hands of the Columbia County Board of Commissioners after developers and public officials failed to resolve an ongoing dispute over building permits and infrastructure concerns.

The disagreement came to a head last week when the Columbia County Planning Commission voted unanimously not to accept a request by Benjamin Bell to withdraw a rezoning request to construct Scuttle’s Island, a 45-acre water park being plan on Louisville Road.

Bell said he and the project’s developers had hoped to re-file “when we’re ready and the county is fully on board,” but the planning commission reportedly grew tired of waiting for documents showing the proposed site could support the volume of traffic, wastewater and noise pollution associated with a water park.

Consequently, Chairman Jim Cox said the board voted unanimously to recommend county commissioners deny Bell’s rezoning application.

Commissioners have the option to approve, deny or table Bell’s rezoning request, or allow him to withdraw his application as he initially sought last week.

“No one is saying we are against a water park, but we do not want to force this type of a facility into a location many believe to be suspect,” Cox said Tuesday. “Every time I turn around another red flag pops up that makes me want to take a step back, and it’s the same for many people in Columbia County.”

Since October, Cox said the county asked Bell to provide an approved site plan, and federal and state permits showing an expanded Lights of the South property had adequate infrastructure to serve upwards of 300,000 customers each summer in an area protected by federal wetland and flood laws.
The holiday attraction is serviced by two-lane roads, septic tanks and drain fields.

Andrew Strickland, Columbia County planning services director, said Bell has provided an Army Corps of Engineers permit to disturb 0.21 acres of wetland and 140 feet of U.S. stream for Scuttle’s Island.

He also added Bell submitted documentation showing the Federal Emergency Management Agency amended the land’s map because rear parking lots and a detention pond fell within the Special Flood Hazard Area.

Strickland said Bell still lacks a comprehensive traffic study and paperwork from the state health department and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division approving the use of a septic tank to dispose of 10,000 gallons of wastewater a day generated by customers.

Strickland’s staff has recommended the commissioners reject Bell’s proposal because of concerns it could “cause excessive burden to existing roadways and utility infrastructure.”

“It is really in his court at this point,” Strickland said of what Bell can do to gain county support of his proposal. “If he wants to have a water park in that location, he needs to show documentation that the site can handle it. Right now, the site is ill-suited for a water park.”

Bell said he has hired a firm to work with the state to resolve septic issues for the park, which would include a lazy river, wave pool, slide towers, children’s play area, restaurants, retail store and rental cabanas.

He said early findings of the review, which will take an additional one to two months to complete, show Georgia law allows the site’s septic tank to handle 175,000 gallons of wastewater a day, which is well within the 30,000 to 40,000 gallons his team expects the park to generate.

He said the planning commission’s denial to allow him to pull his rezoning request for more information “is typical and illustrates the politics behind their efforts to stop us from building a water park in Columbia County.”
“The county’s Planning and Zoning Chairman said maybe we should ‘take our toys and play somewhere else,’ so I guess they were against the water park all along,” Bell said in a statement. “Fortunately, we do have other options and will build a water park in the CSRA.”

Bell would not disclose other locations he is considering, but at a public hearing on March 5 in Columbia County, about 75 people opposed the project on infrastructure, traffic and noise concerns.

Cox said the crowd was closer to 100 people last week. He said after he failed to see Bell attend either meeting, he “felt strongly that the commission had to move forward with a decision on this project.”

“One concern is he continues to portray the county as the bad guy,” Cox said. “Everybody has tried to help him, but himself. He has resisted us at every turn.”

Cox said the documents the county has requested are the same it asks of everyone else, and have been sought under the same deadlines.

“I’ve been around this business long enough to know, when someone can’t produce the simplest of documents, there is a problem,” he said.

Categories: Local

Police Blotter

Sun, 4/12/2015 12:15 AM

The following accounts were taken from Columbia County Sheriff’s Office incident reports: ‘


Deputy accused of woman’s rape

A Martinez woman reported that she was raped at the home of a Richmond County sheriff’s deputy early Thursday.

The 33-year-old woman told police the assault occurred between 12:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. and the man’s Martinez residence. She told police she did not give the man permission to touch her or have sex with her and that she wished to prosecute.

The woman was told to report to Georgia Regents Medical Center to have a sexual assault examination performed and the case was turned over to a Columbia County investigator.

Trailer stolen from Martinez

A deputy performing a house watch on Branchwood Drive in Martinez on Monday morning noticed that a black trailer that was normally parked in the driveway was missing.

A deputy found a trailer lock laying in the driveway that appeared to have been cut with bolt cutters. The owner’s son responded to the scene and confirmed that the trailer had been taken by an unknown person between 10:30 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 a.m. Monday.


Credit card fraud claimed

A 40-year-old Evans man reported Monday that someone had used his personal information to obtain a credit card in his name and run up more than $6,000 in fraudulent charges.

The man told a deputy that between Sept. 23 and March 31, the person had made 32 transactions for a total of $6,256.


Man, 76, reports stolen golf car

A Martinez man reported Monday that someone had stolen an electric golf car and charger from his residence on Brockwood Street.

The 76-year-old man told police the car was last seen underneath his back porch Sunday. A neighbor was able to capture surveillance video footage of an unknown person carrying the charger across the man’s back yard at about 3:40 a.m. Monday.


Man reports e-mail extortion

An Evans man called police Monday to report that someone was trying extort money from him.

The man said that he received an e-mail at his company address that threatened to send obscene photos to every employee and customer on the company Web site, unless he paid $1,500.

The man said the e-mail came from a woman he doesn’t know and that he was advised to wire the money to Atlanta. The man told the deputy that he had sent photos in the past to people whom he trusts.


Cashier catches counterfeit bill

A manager of the Belair Road Popeye’s restaurant reported that someone tried to pay for food with a counterfeit bill on Wednesday. The man told police that a man gave a suspicious $50 bill. The bill appeared to be printed over a faded $5 bill.

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Help preserve history

Sun, 4/12/2015 12:14 AM
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