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Woman charged in son's death denied bond

Thu, 7/2/2015 4:37 PM


A judge denied bond Thursday for a Martinez woman who was charged with murder in the June 17 death of her 5½-month-old son.

Superior Court Senior Judge William M. Fleming Jr. refused to grant a bond for Lexis Fay Russell, 23, at a hearing in Evans.

“I believe she’s a threat to the community and also committing another felony offense,” Fleming said.

Russell was charged with felony murder because the baby’s death happened during the commission of a felony –her use of illegal drugs in the home, according to Assistant District Attorney Jared Williams. She’s also charged with cruelty to children and possession of Schedule I and II drugs and marijuana.

Russell’s boyfriend, Jacob Drew Harris, 26, was charged with malice murder. Authorities suspect Harris smothered the baby in the mobile home he shared with the baby, Russell and her 2-year-old son.

“Harris admitted (to a non-law enforcement witness) to putting a blanket and pillow over the baby and turning him over on his face,” Williams said. “That he was tired of the baby and wanted to make him stop crying so he could finish cooking meth. While all this was happening to her baby, Lexis Russell was in the other room getting high.”

Russell called 911 at about 4:35 a.m. after she said she woke to find her son unresponsive and not breathing. They then moved the baby to the living room and began CPR, according to a Columbia County Sheriff’s Office incident report.

When authorities arrived, they found the baby with dried blood on his nose and an obvious odor and signs of drug use in the home.

Columbia County Coroner Vernon Collins said the autopsy was inconclusive and he’s waiting on toxicology results before announcing an official cause of death.

“She should not be able to walk the streets with this baby’s death on her hands,” Williams said opposing bond for Russell.

Russell and Harris admitted to using methamphetamine and Spice, a synthetic marijuana, the night before the baby died and that he didn’t normally sleep with them.

Russell’s attorney John Kraft said Russell had only been living in the home with Harris a short time.

“There is no evidence this was intentional,” Kraft said. “This appears to be a very suspicious situation where a child has died and we don’t know all the facts.”

Harris was originally scheduled for a bond hearing as well, but his attorney withdrew the petition for the hearing. Russell and Harris, who is also charged with possession of marijuana and methamphetamine, are being held in the Columbia County Detention Center without bond.


Categories: Local

Motorcyclist injured in Washington Road wreck

Thu, 7/2/2015 11:50 AM


A Grovetowm man was hospitalized Thursday morning after a car pulled in front of his motorcycle on Washington Road in Evans.

Van Antoine Alexander, 29, of Grovetown, was transported to Doctors Hospital with serious injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening, according to Columbia County sheriff’s Deputy Keith Warner.

Alexander was driving his Triumph Daytona sportbike east on Washington Road near Old Evans Road at about 10:30 a.m., when a vehicle tried to make a left turn in front of him out of the Publix shopping center near Taco Bell. Alexander tried to stop in time, but hit the back quarter panel of the small car and slid about 75 feet, according to Warner.

Alexander suffered road rash among other injuries.

The driver of the vehicle, Trenton-John Matthew Walter, 24, of Augusta, was not injured. He was at-fault for the wreck and was cited for failure to yield the right of way, Warner said.

Categories: Local

Columbia County engineers use adaptive camera system to fight traffic congestion

Wed, 7/1/2015 12:14 AM

Randy Prickett knows the thrill of cruising through four miles of green lights along Wash­ington Road without having to stop between the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Evans and Bobby Jones Ex­press­way in Martinez.

The traffic engineer has ridden it, seen it happen on video and, through the help of two analysts, he hopes to make it an everyday occurrence in Columbia County.

Under his leadership, Prickett said, Columbia County became the first in Geor­gia this year to link all of its school-zone flashers and 65 signalized intersections to InSync, an adaptive traffic-control computer system that coordinates the timing of lights and enables them to “talk to one another.”

It’s the latest inventive technique Columbia County has used to fit more vehicles on roads and keep them moving. In the past three years, it has added roundabouts in Grove­town and Harlem to reduce stops and installed six digital message boards in Evans and Mar­ti­nez to alert motorists of construction delays and wrecks.

Despite the efforts, the roads at times remain clogged. With daily commuters increasing to more than 220,000 in the Augusta area, officials say more time and innovation is needed to prevent gridlock from worsening.

“We know we have traffic congestion,” said Prickett, who came to Columbia Coun­ty from Augusta as a special operations commander in Sep­tember. “The county has grown at such a rapid pace that it just takes time to adjust.”

Like many fast-growing suburban areas in the U.S., Colum­bia County is trying to keep from being strangled by its own success.

A special project by The Asso­ciated Press reviewed data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Federal High­­way Administration for more than 470 urbanized areas of the country and found that Augusta’s seven-county metropolitan region is growing at an exponential rate every five years.

The area’s population grew 4 percent this year from 2010, increasing to 590,233. By the time the Army Cyber Com­mand settles into its new home at Fort Gordon in 2020 and adds 3,700 employees to the workforce, the population is projected to increase an additional
9 percent to 618,174.

AP research shows local engineers worked to get ahead of the curve by extending the area’s road system from 2,459 miles in 2010 to 2,863 in 2013 – a 16 percent increase – but the expansion efforts have lost momentum, particularly in Columbia County.

The Georgia Department of Trans­portation is expected to finish a 2-mile widening of Columbia Road at North Belair Road in April, but the $7.9 million project “was delayed due to inclement weather and utilities” and is only 64 percent complete, said Augusta Area Engineer Rodney Way.

The two Columbia Coun­ty projects funded by the first wave of the state’s Trans­por­ta­tion Investment Act, which spans a two-year period ending in 2015, are progressing slowly under the penny sales-tax collection passed in 2012 to provide infrastructure improvements.

Way said the $34.1 million project to extend River Watch Parkway three miles to Evans’ Towne Center area is 29 percent complete. But so far only one-fifth of its costs – $6.9 million in sales-tax revenue – have been invoiced to grade for additional lanes, move utilities, install drainage structures and build a bridge over a nearby CSX railroad crossing, online records show.

Columbia County’s other TIA project, a $3 million upgrade of Wrightsboro Road in Grovetown that will add more turn lanes and updated traffic lights to reduce delays between Lewiston Road and Robin­son Avenue, has had only $250,859 invoiced to date to begin right-of-way authorization this month.

Way said the River Watch and Columbia Road projects are representative of the county’s “growth and vitality” and that widening each from two lanes to four will “better accommodate and safely serve the current and future travel demands of an area dealing with unprecedented growth.”

He said realigning intersections and railroad crossings along the two highways should drastically reduce congestion by eliminating the need for traffic to stop for trains and at lights close to each other.

Way said the upgraded roads will provide an alternate route for traffic that now relies on Washington Road to travel to downtown Augusta, the medical district and Interstate 20.

“A great deal of our current infrastructure is under-sized for the existing capacity, much less that of the future,” he said.

“Consider what your daily commute would be like if the infrastructure never adjusted to the increased volume. This loss of time and money would ultimately affect us as a whole.”

Way and Prickett said their departments are always studying traffic data and collaborating with local groups to improve the area’s roads.

Prickett said the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office will begin using six digital message boards on Washington, Furys Ferry and Belair roads this week to inform the public of accidents, construction delays and public safety alerts.

By the time school starts, Prickett expects to activate a new light at Baker Place Road and William Few Parkway. DOT has begun contract negotiations to build a “diverging diamond” interchange at Lewiston Road in 2017 to allow for unencumbered left turns onto I-20, Prickett said.

Last week, he tied in two four-mile corridors along South Belair and Furys Ferry roads into InSync to program the timing of lights and enable them to communicate with one another to ease gridlock near I-20 and the Savannah River. The two roads are one of six corridors in the InSync system that Prickett’s staff is watching, riding and analyzing video data from to determine the best traffic patterns for commuters. Others include Bobby Jones Expressway and North Belair Road.

Washington Road, the busiest thoroughfare in Columbia County, is divided into two corridors, with one portion extending from the Evans Wal-Mart Supercenter to Bobby Jones Expressway, and another from there to Baston Road.

Prickett said the InSync system works by releasing packs of cars, or “tunnels,” every 120 seconds and monitors their movement using a range of motion that centers on the speed limit and cars traveling 5 mph over.

“The whole idea is to get from the start of the tunnel to the end without stopping,” Prickett said. “If a driver is pulling too slowly they’ll stay out of the tunnel, but if they’re going too fast, they’ll get ahead and disrupt the flow. If we keep it going, we’re good.”

Categories: Local

Police Blotter, July 1, 2015

Wed, 7/1/2015 12:12 AM

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

Breaker tripped in Evans home

An Evans man told deputies late Saturday that someone was in his home and tripped a breaker.

The man said he returned home with his wife at about 10:45 p.m. and smelled smoke. The power was off. The man flipped the breaker and the power came back on. He then noticed some broken glass on the floor in the living room and some upstairs on a balcony.

A deputy didn’t smell smoke in the house but found broken glass on the floor and a shattered picture frame on the floor. The man said the frame normally sits on a shelf above where it was found. The deputy did not find any signs of forced entry. Firefighters checked the home and found no sign of fire in the electrical outlets, walls or breaker box.

Several cars
are looted

Several Evans residents called authorities Sunday morning to report their vehicles were broken into.

A Furys Ferry Road resident said someone shattered the drivers window of two vehicles parked in the driveway of the home near the Savannah River. A gun was stolen from one vehicle and the contents of the glove compartments were dumped out in both.

A nearby Ascot Court resident said his wife heard a noise at about 4 a.m. that could have been a window being broken. He found his drivers window busted and change was missing from the vehicle. Two residents on Ashwood Drive said the windows of the vehicles also were shattered. One woman said her garage door opener, which didn’t activate the door on her home, was missing and her empty purse was found on top of a bush lining her driveway. The other Ashwood Drive resident said his window was also broken out and a GPS device was stolen from the center console. His wife said their dog acted strange a about 10 p.m. the previous night.

A resident of Furys Ferry Landing said someone got into his Jeep Wrangler through the canvas top and stole a pistol, portable radio and a garage door opener. The thief also entered an unlocked vehicle in the driveway and emptied the glove compartment and stole a garage door opener. A window on a third vehicle was cracked but ir was not entered.

Fruit taken from trees

A Martinez woman said Sunday that someone stole fruit from her trees.

The 68-year-old woman said someone came into her backyard on June 25 and took about 20 plums. She said on Sunday, she noticed all of the peaches on her tree in the backyard were gone.

A deputy saw there was no fruit on the trees in the woman’s backyard and no fruit on the ground.

Business receives threat of outage

The owner of a Martinez business called authorities Thursday after he said someone threatened to cut off power to the business if he didn’t pay with a cash card.

A man claiming to be a Georgia Power Co. employee called the owner of Sam’s Hot Dogs on South Belair Road just before 5 p.m. The caller said the owner had to pay $498.67 immediately or the electricity would be shut off. The caller said he needed to put money on a reloadable cash card and provide him the numbers on the back of the card.

The owner said he hung up and called Georgia Power Co., where he verified that his bill was paid and the power would not be shut off.

Categories: Local

Fireworks legal for July 4 celebrations

Wed, 7/1/2015 12:12 AM

July 4 celebrations will likely be a little more festive this year because the sale and use of fireworks in Georgia is legal.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill on May 5 that allows for the sale and regulation of consumer fireworks statewide.

The new law went into effect today. Buyers must be at least 18.

Hand-held and ground-based sparkling devices have been legal since 2005. It is now legal to purchase aerial fireworks such as skyrockets and bottle rockets, missile-type rockets, helicopter and aerial spinners, Roman candles, aerial shell kits, reloadables and firecrackers.

Fireworks can only be shot from 10 a.m. until midnight and until 2 a.m. on July 4 and Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. They are prohibited within 100 yards of gas stations, refineries, near schools and on school buses.

Fireworks can be a fun but be aware of the dangers, according to Dr. Natalie Lane, Medical Director of the Children’s Hospital of Georgia Emergency Department. On average, about 200 people go to emergency rooms with fireworks-related injuries over the July 4 holiday weekend, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission.

“Most of the injuries we see involve burns,” according to Lane. “For example, a sparkler can burn as hot as a blow torch; and, unfortunately, we have had to treat children with sparkler burns several times. But these are avoidable injuries, if families will carefully follow safety procedures.”

Categories: Local

Peka signs to become Lady Pacer

Wed, 7/1/2015 12:11 AM

While she was looking to play softball somewhere, 2015 Evans High graduate Samantha Peka was trying to take care of her scholastic future first.

She did both Friday in a ceremony at her house, signing to play softball for Division II University of South Carolina Aiken.

“They have a very strong academic program and I wanted look past softball as well,” Peka said. “From what I’ve heard it’s a young team. It’ll be nice to go somewhere and be able to help. The coach has an awesome program over there.”

Peka plans to major in psychology and branch out.
“I’ll either do sports psychology with it or I’ll double major and do criminology as well,” Peka said.

She joins a squad led by Jerry Snyder that went 22-17 in 2015. She met Snyder while she was at the school for another reason.

“I was invited to their honors program, so I went up and they were playing a game and I was like I might as well knock out two birds with one stone,” Peka said. “I went for it and talked to him about it and he (Snyder) said just e-mail me some stuff and send me some videos so I knocked both of them out.”

After starting high school in Grovetown, Peka joined the Lady Knights her junior year. Evans coach Colette Cassedy thought it was a plus that Peka came her way.
“With rezoning, she was a bonus for our program,” said Cassedy, adding that Peka called her own games in 2015.

Catching for the Lady Knights, the team went 41-24 in her two years behind the plate. She earned 2015 All-Region 2-AAAAA Second Team honors while batting .354 as the team went 24-11.

While handling Lady Knights’ pitchers, that’s not necessarily where she’ll end up with the Lady Pacers.

“For my travel ball team I would play outfield, shortstop, third, second, wherever coach said go,” She said. “Hopefully I can show that I’m a team player and that I can earn some spots. But if not I will still bust my butt and try to work for it. That’s all I can do.”

Categories: Local

MELL Nationals fall short in comeback bid

Wed, 7/1/2015 12:11 AM


The Martinez-Evans Little League Nationals just didn’t have one final comeback in them.

In the 9/10 District 6 All Star championship game at Crawford Creek Park Friday night, the Nationals trailed Elbert County 7-0 after the first inning. The teams played evenly the rest of the way with Elbert County taking the title, 12-5.

It was a long week of baseball for the Nationals. They started Sunday, June 21 with a 26-0 win over Lincoln County and beat Oglethorpe on Monday before being sent to the losers’ bracket on Tuesday by Elbert County, falling 10-2. The Nationals fought their way into the championship round with a 21-13 win over Washington-Wilkes on Thursday, a game in which they trailed 6-1 after the first inning.

In the game against Washington-Wilkes, the Nationals worked 18 walks and banged out 13 hits while manager Sam Carter utilized five different pitchers.

During the week, Carter started using terms like intestinal fortitude and moxie and he thought his team embodied those terms Friday night.

“I was happy that that’s what I saw tonight,” said Carter. “They tried to battle back. Again, at 9 and 10 it gets a little hard, but they they made me proud to the extent that they didn’t give up.”

The Nationals scored four of their five runs in the final two innings after Elbert County starter Lawson Adams reached his 75-pitch limit in the fourth inning. The Nationals made things happen when they put the ball in play, but Adams worked the outside corner to perfection and got 10 of his 12 outs via strikeout.

Elbert County got four hits off MELL starter Evan Norton in the decisive first inning, but he was hindered by his defense that committed two errors behind him. Ater that, Norton scattered three more hits while allowing three more runs, including two in the fourth inning as the defense made three more errors.

Once Adams left, MELL started applying pressure. In the fifth inning, Michael Bates walked leading off and Evan Eveker singled right behind him before Gage Daniel was hit by a pitch. A Norton walk brought home a run as did Hayden Revile’s groundout.

In the sixth, Bates, who took over pitching duties in the fourth inning, doubled home a run and scored on Eveker’s groundout.

Carter thought scoring runs might be hard to come by coming in.

“I knew they were going to go the distance with their two aces,” Carter said. “The second guy was a little bit off tonight, just as good as the first.”

In the end, Carter likes what the future might hold for the players.

“The league is alive and well,” Carter said. “We have a great group of 9 and 10 year olds. They probably hit the ball as good as anyone has in some time. We’re going to be great, we’re going to be good.”

Categories: Local

Deaf Disc Golf National Championship held in Appling

Wed, 7/1/2015 12:10 AM


New champions were crowned at the end of the Deaf Disc Golf National Championship on Saturday.

Held at the International Disc Golf Center in Appling and sanctioned by the Professional Disc Golf Association, 90 players representing 27 states and two countries competed for the title of champion in several different categories.

In a men’s open field that included a four-time and a three-time national champion, Fletch Kuehne from Washington, D.C., scalded the field with a 23-under-par, beating his nearest competitor by 10 shots.

In the women’s open. Melissa Montgomery (Austin, Texas) unseated defending champion Brandie Aguado, finishing at 69-over-par while Aguado was third at 98-over.

Locally, Dain Sivak from Augusta competed in the masters division, coming in third after finishing even for the tournament.

Categories: Local

Volunteer Spotlight: Jane Cashin

Wed, 7/1/2015 12:10 AM

Jane Cashin can’t remember how long she has been a Casa volunteer. CASA is the arm of child enrichment that works in the field to evaluate cases of child neglect and abuse for the court.

Cashin stands out for her longevity in a field in which volunteers typically last only two or three years. She volunteered with the agency in Illinois before she moved here 18 years ago.

Casa Program Director Dawn Charleston-Green said, “Miss Jane is a different breed (of volunteer) altogether. If the child moves and she has built up a relationship, she will go to where the child is.”

Cashin has been traveling to Atlanta frequently to check on a mentally handicapped child who was placed in a foster home there about 15 years ago.

“I check on her and talk to the foster mother every month and keep up with her medications because she has seizures daily,” said Cashin. “I make sure she gets what ever she needs.”

This long-term commitment is what makes Cashin stand out.

Recently a teenager who was adopted many years ago wanted to make contact with her birth mother.

“Miss Jane had the knowledge of the situation that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise,” stated Charleston-Green. “I’ve only been here five years so I had no knowledge of the case.”

Cashin eventually traveled to Maryland at her own expense to evaluate the current situation before agreeing to provide the contact information to the adoptee.

Juvenile Court Judge Douglas Flanagan credits the Casa volunteers for providing an invaluable resource. He has the Casa reports printed on red paper so he can go right to them when reviewing a large case file during a court hearing.

“Could I do it without them? The answer is no,” said Flanagan. “What I’d be doing is making decisions with only half the necessary evidence.”

“I can’t travel to the house and spend the time necessary to get to know the child,” stated Flanagan. ”I can’t go to the foster home or review medical history in order to make recommendations on what is best for the child.”

“Every time we have a hearing Casa is there right up front, not in the back, because I want to see them and I want to hear them,” continued Flanagan.

Sometimes the job can be dangerous.

“When I was in Illinois I was attacked in the courthouse,” said Cashin. “Of course there were guards there to keep us separated.”

“Most times you may start out with a family that is a little belligerent but in the end they become friends because they see that you are really trying to help,” said Cashin.

Cashin is quick to point out one of the greatest rewards of the job. “It’s always wonderful to go to an adoption ceremony because then they don’t need you anymore.”

Categories: Local

Police Blotter, June 28, 2015

Sun, 6/28/2015 12:09 AM

Business owner arrested, again

The former owner of an electronics repair business charged with stealing from customers last year was arrested again.

Perry Clark Bower, 55, the former owner of Electric Medic in Martinez, pled guilty to 38 of 76 misdemeanor theft by taking charges and two counts of damaging a public utility in March. He was sentenced to seven years probation and ordered to repay $16,625.

He was accused by people who stated he took monetary deposits, but never made repairs and sometimes didn’t return electronics.

Bower was arrested on June 21 accused of theft. A Martinez man called authorities on June 19 stating he’d let Bower live in a camper in his back yard, according to a Columbia County Sheriff’s Office incident report. The man said he noticed a hunting box and a trailer hitch missing from the home. When he moved Bower from the camper into his home, the man said he found the items in the camper.

– From staff reports

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

Tablet missing after teen scam

A couple who was being kind to a young man and woman said they were robbed early Tuesday.

The 79-year-old Martinez woman said a young man and woman, who appeared to be teenagers, came to her house at about 8:40 a.m. asking to use a phone because they were locked out of her grandmother’s house. The husband stayed outside while the wife went inside with the couple.

The girl unplugged the woman’s tablet so she could plug in her own phone. She said the couple asked to use the bathroom, so she let them use the one in the master bedroom.

After they used the bathroom, the couple wanted to leave. A few minutes after they left, the woman said she noticed her tablet missing.

When she told her husband, he discovered two crisp $100 bills were missing. They immediately called authorities.

Deputies went to the home the couple described up the street and spoke to a woman. She said she was house-sitting for her grandmother and younger, sister and sister’s boyfriend.

She said they came into the house at about 9 a.m. with a white tablet, a cellphone and some cords. Deputies were not able to immediately find the couple.

Empty homes vandalized

The owners of two homes told authorities June 22 that their homes were broken into and damaged.

A man said he bought a home on Forest Court in Martinez as an investment. He discovered that between June 1 andJune 22, someone pried the handle off the rear door and got into the house. The vandals spray-painted black paint on the inside walls and on several windows. They also moved the stove, electrical panel, water heater in the garage and went under the house looking for copper wire and plumbing.

The man said copper items were stolen before he bought the home and he had it all replaced with PVC piping and aluminum wire. The vandals damaged the back deck and other rooms throughout the home.

A local builder also called deputies June 22 after he discovered someone vandalized a home under construction. An owner of PDH Builders Inc. said someone spray-painted graffiti on the garage door of a home near Blanchard Woods Park in Evans. The graffiti included the word, “Blood,” and other possible gang symbols.

Categories: Local

Columbia County school board votes down charter school petition to start up proposed Columbia County School for the Arts

Sun, 6/28/2015 12:08 AM

Columbia County school board members voted unanimously Tuesday to deny a charter school petition to the group behind the proposed Columbia County School for the Arts.

The denial is the second in two years for the proposed charter school, which planned to offer a curriculum infused with arts and foreign language instruction that would eventually serve children from kindergarten through high school. The group’s petition can still be approved by the state Charter School Commission, which will hold hearings on the petitions next month in Atlanta.

If approved, the group has plans to construct a school on property near Blanchard Woods Park in Evans and open in 2016 for about 700 children in kindergarten though eighth grade, adding another grade each successive year.

System Superintendent Sandra Carraway told board members Tuesday that after a review of the school’s 200-page petition by a 10-member panel of school system administrators, educators and other experts, she could not recommend approving the charter application.

“Most importantly to the committee, the petition lacked academic rigor and sufficient demonstration that they could or would be increasing student achievement,” Carraway said.

Georgia law requires that startup charter schools must increase student achievement through academic and organizational innovation, and the committee found that was lacking.

The committee also found problems with the charter school’s fiscal soundness and plan to maintain a high-quality school for the length of the charter term, she said. Carraway also said there were issues with the school’s “structure of governance” and that the “potential for conflict of interests” continue to exist in the makeup of the leadership and governing board.

“The petition provides no innovative or flexible learning model not already being provided to through the school system and no evidence of increased student achievement, particularly given in comparison to our school system and the high academic achievement of our students,” Carraway said before recommending the petition be denied.

The board voted 4-0 to deny the petition, with vice chairwoman Roxanne Whitaker absent.

Board chairwoman Regina Buccafusco said she could appreciate the group’s effort and that in another school system the petition might have succeeded.

“I think in any other county or school system in Georgia, their recommendation might be strong, that they could offer a better program than other school systems offer,” she said. “But when you look at it item by item with what the Columbia County school system offers to the children of this community, I don’t see that it meets the same standards.”

After the meeting, Todd Shafer, one of the founding members and possible future head of the proposed school, said the board’s decision was not unexpected.

“I’m very disappointed that this 10-member committee, for whatever reason, never called us to come in and answer questions, like the state commission will, and have an interview with us,” he said.

“The next step is going to the state commission next month for our interview and then in late August we will know the answer.”

Carraway said the panel didn’t see a need to interview the charter school leadership because the petition had all the information needed to make a recommendation to the school board.

“There really is nothing that’s not included in the petition that has to be asked or answered,” she said. “It covers all of the areas important to the workings of the school, and for that reason there were no questions left to be answered.”

School for the Arts board member Steven Uhles said the weaknesses that the county’s committee pointed out could actually prove helpful in preparing for the group’s presentation to the state.

“I thought those were all, in fact issues that we had answers for,” Uhles said. “They did not call us and they did not ask those questions, but the state will and we will be able to respond on the state level.”

Uhles said he thought there was a misconception at work in that most charter schools are proposed in counties where the schools are failing to show student achievement, but such schools also can benefit students in systems where that is not the case, such as Columbia County.

“There’s sort of a disconnect between the reason this charter school is trying to happen here as opposed to another county,” he said. “They haven’t failed any students, we just feel like there are students out there that would benefit in a way they are not in this school. Different kids learn in different ways.”

Retired Richmond County teacher Anne Handley echoed Uhles’ sentiments after the board vote. Handley, who taught for more than 20 years at Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School – which ranks consistently among the top public schools in the nation – said an arts-infused education model is lacking in Columbia

“We had to fight with Richmond County, too, but it is proven it works,” she said. “Every kid doesn’t think the same way and just because they say they incorporate arts, they may offer arts programs, but that is not incorporating the arts.”

Handley hopes the charter school will be approved because it will benefit children like her granddaughter, Eliza Stull, who is entering fifth grade in August.

“The kids who think that way have to be educated that way,” she said.

Categories: Local

Grovetown names Wheatley as permanent police chief

Sun, 6/28/2015 12:08 AM

The word interim was removed from Scott Wheatley’s job title with the Grovetown Department of Public Safety.

City officials named Wheatley, who served as the interim director of the department, as its permanent leader on Thursday.

“It’s exciting,” Wheatley said.

Wheatley was named to lead the department temporarily on April 28 after former Chief Gary Jones was terminated.

Mayor George James said that the interviewing panel chose Wheatley out of those who applied for the position and the city council members agreed.

“Scott has been with the city quite a while, held about every position in that department,” James said. “He’s well-versed there.”

James described Wheatley, nearly a 16-year veteran of the department, as loyal, level-headed and calm and one who knows the department procedures and policies well. He’s confident Wheatley will conduct department business in a professional manner.

“I can depend on Scott,” James said.

Wheatley has said he’s willing to serve in whatever capacity is needed.

It’s not the first time city officials called on Wheatley in tough times. He also served as interim director for about three months after former Director Gary Owens resigned on Aug. 22. He applied for the position after Owens left and was a front-runner for the position before Jones, who was chief of police in Harlem at the time, was hired.

Wheatley started working for the Grovetown department in July 1999 as a jailer. He’s spent time in most department positions including dispatcher, firefighter, road patrol officer, road patrol sergeant and investigations. He was also a deputy coroner for Richmond County.

Wheatley said he doesn’t have plans to make a lot of changes immediately. Instead, he said he’ll continue running daily operations and see where some improvements can be made.

“We’d like to see the department grow and add some more manpower eventually, down the road,” Wheatley said. “We’d like to create a training division one day. Stuff like that.”

Categories: Local

Summer school students will hopefully decrease

Sun, 6/28/2015 12:08 AM

Nearly 800 Columbia County students enrolled in classes this summer.

School system officials expect that number to decrease as students take advantage of the newly-approved seven-period day.

“It is our hope and expectation that the seven-period day will cause summer school to be less of a necessity,” Superintendent Dr. Sandra Carraway said. “It is our expectation that as years go by, fewer and fewer students will need to take summer school because of the seven-period day.

Carraway said she thinks that the change from a six-period to a seven-period day, which was approved in the spring of 2014, will offer students a way to make up required courses, take classes to get ahead or enroll in electives or courses in areas of interest while staying on track to graduate.

Carraway said students simply didn’t have much of a chance to use the extra period this year.

“Being that this was the first year and also that it was implemented late last spring, students didn’t have as many options for course work as they will in the future,” she said.

Summer school classes began on June 1 with 660 high school students and 127 middle-schoolers enrolled in a total of 1,394 courses. That is 59 more students enrolled in summer school than 2014, but the number fluctuated from as low as 728 last year to 869 in 2011.

This coming year, Carraway said the study skills class, designed as extra time to focus on areas of
difficulty, will be expanded.

Because they are given prescribed course work as opposed to an open study hall, it also allows the students to recover credits required for graduation.

The last day of summer school classes and
graduation is slated for July 10.

Categories: Local

Doctors Hospital of Augusta now trauma center but not all are pleased

Sun, 6/28/2015 12:07 AM

Joseph Duncan had no doubt he was going to be taken to the Level I Trauma Center at Geor­gia Regents Medical Center after a car ran a light and rammed into his motorcycle.

“I was busted up from head to toe,” he said during a follow-up visit Wednesday with Dr. Colville Ferdinand, the chief of trauma and surgical critical care at GRMC.

Now that Doctors Hospital of Augusta has been designated a Level III Trauma Cen­ter, other trauma patients might not be so sure of their hospital destination. And that could create problems for the Level I center, Ferdi­nand said.

Doctors was one of seven HCA hospitals last year pursuing trauma center designation, a move opposed by the Georgia Alliance of Com­mu­nity Hospitals, which includes the state’s Level I Trauma Centers and other large community providers such as University Hospital.

The group said letting those hospitals become trauma centers could hurt the state’s Level I providers, which need a minimum of 1,200 patients a year to maintain their status, a concern Ferdinand raised again Wednes­day.

Last year, his facility saw 1,600 trauma patients but some might not be counted because they could be classified as children.

“The growth of (Doctors Hospital’s) program and Tri­ni­ty (Hospital of Augusta) in our area can potentially put us at risk for not being able to meet that number,” Ferdinand said. Trinity is also a Level III Trauma Center.

That potential shortage is a real concern for those facilities, said Dr. Patrick O’Neal, the director of health protection for the Georgia Depart­ment of Public Health, which oversees the trauma system in the state.

“It’s always a great concern that you have enough that the proficiency is maintained,” he said.

“I would certainly trust GRU to have looked at those numbers, and they probably have good reason to be concerned that they may not have enough cases for their folks to get the experience they need.”

Doctors Hospital would only respond in a written statement Wednesday. The hospital said it treated 588 trauma patients last year, not counting burn patients, and 279 trauma patients through May this year.

“Treating trauma patients is nothing new for us, the official designation is,” the hospital said in its statement. “We expect to see a slight increase in trauma volume.”

Beyond volume concerns, Fer­di­nand said he fears a patient being sent to Doctors, which does not have to have the treating physician on site as long as the response happens within 30 minutes, could then be evaluated, and still
shipped to GRMC ultimately.

“If we are not careful and they require a higher level of care, essentially what happens is they get delayed,” he said. “The longer you go from the time of injury, when you are most severely injured, the worse your outcomes. That would be one of my big concerns about that.”

O’Neal, whose office also oversees ambulance providers in the state, said patients in Georgia who can make a choice have the right to make that call. If they cannot, it would be up to those responders to make the appropriate call.

And they will, because they use the trauma level criteria to send that patient to the right place, said Vince Brogdon, the president and CEO of Gold Cross EMS, which provides services in Rich­mond, Columbia and Jef­fer­son counties. “Our guys in the pre-hospital setting are pretty good at making that decision,” he said.

What having a trauma center at Doctors offers is now being able to take the appropriate patients there, particularly if they are in Columbia County or the west­ern end of Richmond County, without having to go downtown and tie up an ambulance longer, Brogdon said.

“I think this opens up another added resource for the citizens that they have a choice,” he said. “The citizens are going to benefit.”

But it might cost them or their insurance. Doctors Hos­pital said it plans to charge a $9,900 “trauma activation” fee once it is notified by an ambulance that a trauma patient is on the way in. GRMC charges $2,077 for a similar level trauma patient.

Apparently, no agency in Georgia regulates how much trauma centers in Georgia can charge. O’Neal said he thought it was Insurance Com­missioner Ralph Hudg­ens, but his office said last year it does not have jurisdiction.

“That’s news to me,” O’Neal said.

Doctors Hospital said it would offer trauma patients without insurance or without “third-party liability coverage” a discount, including waiving the activation charge.

“Insured patients are only responsible for their out-of-pocket expenses, copays or deductibles,” Doctors said in its statement.

Doctors insisted there was a transfer agreement in place between its facility and GRMC, but Ferdinand said it is not specific to trauma patients.

“This has not been done collaboratively,” he said.

Categories: Local

Harlem arts group offering summer art classes

Sun, 6/28/2015 12:06 AM

The Harlem Arts Council held the first of several summer art classes last week.

Arts Council President Janet Short taught an acrylic painting class at Attic Treasures.

Several classes will be taught in July and August, including oil painting, pottery, finger-weaving and children’s art.

“It was the real goal of the arts council,” member Ann Blalock said of the classes. “We do have a lot of people who are very talented, a lot of kids.”

The classes are open to any skill level and are held at Attic Treasures at 575 W. Milledgeville Road in Harlem.

“Even if they don’t want to become an artist or use their art (to make a living), it makes them look at the world in a different way,” Blalock said.

All of the classes are taught by and showcase local artists such as Angelika Bondar, Kay Reese, Ulreche Beck and Minette Hatcher. The cost ranges from $10 to $20 per class series. Blalock said the council is able to keep the costs low by partnering with Attic Treasures.

The arts council also is offering scholarships to allow everyone the opportunity to take the classes.

Blalock said the summer classes are just the beginning of what the council leadership hopes to continue. Other classes will soon be offered in china painting, jewelry-making and porcelain and canvas run painting.

For more information or to register, contact Blalock at (706) 556-6656 or or visit Attic Treasures.

Categories: Local

Sports Calendar for Sunday, June 28, 2015.

Sun, 6/28/2015 12:06 AM

Soccer camps

The Augusta Arsenal will hold soccer camps in June and July. The Academy Summer Program for U8 to U14 boys and girls runs until July 23 on Mondays and Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. Cost is $75. Middle School Summer League, open to middle school boys and girls, will be held until July 23 on Mondays and Thursdays from 7:30 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. Cost is $45. The high school and college summer league is open to high school boys and girls and will be held until July 23 on Mondays and Thursdays from 7:30 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. Cost is $45. Go to or call (706) 854-0149 for more information.

Volleyball camps

Greenbrier will hold two volleyball camps. The first, for rising second- to fifth-graders, is a day camp on July 11 from noon to 4 p.m., which costs $40. The second, for rising sixth- to ninth-graders, is from July 13 to July 15, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., costing $100. Contact Nicole Abbott at (706) 650-6040 or or visit the Greenbrier volleyball Web site for more information.

Baseball camp

The Second Annual NIKE Baseball Camp, held by Georgia Regents University, will be held from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. from July 20 to July 23 and from July 27 to July 30. The camp, for boys ages 6 to 12, at Christenberry Fieldhouse. Cost is $225. Go to or call (800) 645-3226 for more information.

Football camp

The Augusta Prep seventh annual summer football camp at Augusta Preparatory Day School is from July 7-9, held by several out-of-town coaches. Contact for more information.


New Georgia Impact 14U travel baseball team is looking for outfielders and catchers. Practices are in Appling. Players must be born after May 1, 2000. Call (706) 231-6488 for more information.

Categories: Local

County golfers fare well at tournament

Sun, 6/28/2015 12:04 AM

After blistering the course the first two days in scorching temperatures, Buford, Ga., golfer S.M.Lee closed with a 2-under-par 70 while winning the Georgia Junior Championship at West Lake Country Club on Wednesday.

His three-day 16-under-par 200 broke the 54-hole record (201) for the championship set in 2009. Lee led by seven shots after the first day and took an eight-shot lead into the final round.

“I stayed a bit more calm than the first two days,” said Lee, who earned an invitation to the 2016 Junior Invitational at Sage Valley with the win. “The weather was burning hot but I just tried to keep my head in the game.”

Weather – and Lee’s large lead heading into the final round – affected the way players attacked the course.

After blistering his feet during his second round Tuesday, Lakeside High School’s Hunter Dunagan, who played all three rounds with Lee, stayed true to his strategy.

“After the first round I knew it was going to be tough grinding back, but I kind of played my own game and finished strong, I thought,” said Dunagan, who was 3-under-par heading to Wednesday’s final round.

Dunagan was the area’s top placer, beating a seventh-place finish in 2014 with a 5-under-par 211, good for fourth place.

Wednesday, Dunagan bogeyed the first two holes. He got hot at the turn, however, sinking birdies on 9, 11, 12, 14 and 18 while giving a shot back on 17.

“I played well, I thought,” Dunagan said.

Finishing in the top eight, Dunagan earned a spot on the Georgia-South Carolina Junior Challenge Match team, which will be played at Berkeley Hall in Bluffton, S.C., July 24-25.

Just missing out on a spot on the challenge team was Greenbrier rising senior States Fort. Fort entered the final round at 2-under-par and was there going to the 16th hole. His par putt lipped out and then he double-bogeyed 17 before finishing with a putt to save par on 18. He finished at 1-over-par for the tournament and tied for 10th.

“My putter let me down all day today,” Fort said. “I hit the ball well, I can’t complain about my ball striking. I missed some putts I should’ve made and I missed a couple off the tee I shouldn’t have missed off the tee.”

And after three days in the heat, Fort was exhausted. Still, he was getting ready to jump in the car and head to Dothan, Ala., for three days of the Future Masters Tournament, beginning with a 7:42 a.m. tee time on Thursday.

Also scheduled for a 7:42 a.m. tee time (No. 10) in Alabama was Augusta Prep rising senior Salil Ghamande. Ghamande tied for 15th, finishing with a 1-over-par 73 on Wednesday and at 3-over-par 219 for the week.

“It was fun,” Ghamande said. “I’m a member out here so I play out here. So it was fun to see tournament golf out here and see how well I could play out here. My game is getting there for sure. It’s a lot better than I’ve been playing this summer, so I think it’s a step for some better tournaments.”

Other county finishers were Andrew Chong (222), Joseph Kim (225), Alex Wells (229), Austin Heider (232), Andrew Duffie (234) Isaac Hergott (237) and Montgomery Harrison (239).

At the 2015 Georgia Girls Championship at Coosa Country Club in Rome, Ga., Lakeside High School’s Megan Sabol finished 11th overall, posting a three-day, 9-over-par 225. Her best day came in the final round Wednesday as she went out with a 1-under-par 71.

Categories: Local

Columbia County All-Stars advance to state tournament

Sun, 6/28/2015 12:03 AM

Weather probably just delayed the inevitable Wednesday night.

Leading Wrens 8-1 after three innings, the 9/10 Columbia County Dixie All-Stars waited for an hour and a half to bat in the top of the fourth inning before the game was called off because of

The win gave Columbia County the District 4 AAA Minors championship after having beaten host Swainsboro, 9-3, on Tuesday.

“We have an extremely solid team, there’s not a weak spot on the team,” said coach Mark Hullum. “We’ve got a mix, probably half and half of 10-year-olds and 9-year-olds, which is exciting to have. We already have a good chemistry together.”

Tuesday against Swains-boro, Emery Burnett led the way with three hits while Preston Hullum had two hits, including a triple.

Wednesday, in limited action, Burnett, Mark Abel and Tryston McCladdie each contributed two hits.

The All-Stars will next play for the state title July 10-12 in Manchester, Ga.

“We’ve got eyes on state,” Hullum said. “We’ve got a very good chance to win state this year and we’re extremely excited about it.”

Categories: Local

Marriage Licenses, June 28, 2015

Sun, 6/28/2015 12:02 AM

Arthur Christian Catt and Jennifer Ann Schuster applied for a marriage license on June 5, 2015, and were married June 5, 2015, in Evans.

Landy Champion Boles and Catherine Middleton Holmes applied for a marriage license on May 20, 2015, and were married June 6, 2015, in Appling.

Alton Hammond Danner III and Ashley Joan Smith Cox applied for a marriage license on May 22, 2015, and were married May 30, 2015, in Evans.

Robert Philip Lorentz and Donna Mayo Williford applied for a marriage license on May 15, 2015, and were married May 23, 2015, in Clarkesville, Ga.

Joaquin Theordis Spikes and Brionna Nichole Peterson applied for a marriage license on June 10, 2015, and were married June 11, 2015, in Evans.

Daniel Ryan Shelton and Carol Anne Townsend applied for a marriage license on May 22, 2015, and were married June 6, 2015, in Tybee Island, Ga.

Tevin Marcel Williams and Taylor Mylyn Ewing applied for a marriage license on May 22, 2015, and were married May 30, 3015, in Gordon, Ga.

Christopher Aulin Phillips and Anne Olivia Zimmerman applied for a marriage license on June 5, 2015, and were married June 6, 2015, in Appling.

Luke Jeremiah Bingham and Abbey Elizabeth Dailey applied for a marriage license on June 11, 2015, and were married June 12, 2015, in Evans.

Antwan Edward Battle and Rhonda Yolonda Cullum applied for a marriage license on June 4, 2015, and were married June 12, 2015, in Evans.

Clifford Paul Garrett and Amanda Michelle Flanders applied for a marriage license on June 2, 2015, and were married June 6, 2015, in Augusta.

Carlie Ryan Blacklidge and Leigh Ann Stefan applied for a marriage license on May 15, 2015, and were married June 5, 2015, in Martinez.

Gerald Daniel Burt and Morgan Aaron Holley applied for a marriage license on April 24, 2015, and were married June 13, 2015, in Grovetown.

Dave Raj Gupta and Muktha Sundar Natrajan applied for a marriage license on May 21, 2015, and were married May 24, 2015, in Augusta.

Carl Gordon Butler Jr. and Latoria Wynette Paschal applied for a marriage license on June 12, 2015, and were married June 13, 2015, in Appling.

Brandon Emmanuel Dent and Kendra Moneek Lee applied for a marriage license on April 30, 2015, and were married June 12, 2015, in Evans.

Rashad Yonnell Darby and Clarissa Iris Hatchett applied for a marriage license on May 29, 2015, and were married June 25, 2015, in Evans.

Curtis Chuck Tiner and Sarah Kate Arrington applied for a marriage license on May 27, 2015, and were married May 30, 2015, in Appling.

James Keith Stokeling Jr. and Melody Latasha Daniels applied for a marriage license on June 4, 2015, and were married June 6, 2015, in Thomson.

Niell Albert Surles and Bethany Grace Smith applied for a marriage license on May 14, 2015, and were married June 6, 2015, in Evans.

Michael Thomas Marsh and Nicole Aileen Danna applied for a marriage license on April 24, 2015, and were married June 12, 2015, in Appling.

Zachary Scott Holley and Morgan Elizabeth Chafin applied for a marriage license on June 2, 2015, and were married June 13, 2015, in Augusta.

Dallas James Howard and Irina Jeanette Espinoza applied for a marriage license on March 20, 2015, and were married June 13, 2015, in Grovetown.

Gary Patrick Smith and Teresa Marie Booth applied for a marriage license on May 22, 2015, and were married June 13, 2015, in Jekyll Island, Ga.

Aaron James Clark and Megan Ann Malone applied for a marriage license on June 1, 2015, and were married June 13, 2015, in Grovetown.

Chad O’Neal Akins and Emily Renee Millard applied for a marriage license on June 1, 2015, and were married June 13, 2015, in Appling.

Jedidiah Jackson Bickle and Margaret Ruth Trigg applied for a marriage license on May 20, 2015, and were married June 13, 2015, in Lincolnton, Ga.

Jordan Taylor Bell and Maritess Victoria Banez applied for a marriage license on June 1, 2015, and were married June 13, 2015, in Grovetown.

Jason Alan Moore and Laura Leigh Trampe Tedder applied for a marriage license on June 17, 2015, and were married June 18, 2015, in Evans.

Luis Alfredo Rodriguez-Torres and Mary Howard Strong applied for a marriage license on June 11, 2015, and were married June 14, 2015, in Martinez.

Andrew James Johnson and Stephanie Dawn Powell applied for a marriage license on June 19, 2015, and were married June 22, 2015, in Evans.

David Andres James Martinez and Rebecca Elise Napper applied for a marriage license on June 8, 2015, and were married June 22, 2015, in Evans.

Lloyd William Pate Jr. and Fredericka Sue Clark applied for a marriage license on June 15, 2015, and were married June 20, 2015, in Harlem.

Michael Alan Russell and Kristen Amanda Crenshaw applied for a marriage license on June 16, 2015, and were married June 20, 2015, in Augusta.

Christopher Lee Hobbs and Tracy Nicole Yon applied for a marriage license on May 29, 2015, and were married June 20, 2015, in Augusta.

Dale Arnold Hoyle and Donna Marie Foreman Moore applied for a marriage license on May 6, 2015, and were married June 20, 2015, in Dawsonville, Ga.

Benjamin Ricky Hadden and Lauren Mackenzie Cook applied for a marriage license on June 5, 2015, and were married June 20, 2015, in Appling.

Categories: Local

Sports Calendar for Wednesday, June 24, 2015.

Wed, 6/24/2015 12:14 AM

Soccer camps

The Augusta Arsenal have soccer camps from June to July. The Academy Summer Program for U8 to U14 boys and girls runs to July 23 on Mondays and Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. Cost is $75. Middle School Summer League, open to middle school boys and girls, goes until July 23 on Mondays and Thursdays from 7:30 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. Cost is $45. High School/ College Summer League open to high school boys and girls, will be held on Mondays and Thursdays until July 23 from 7:30 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. Cost is $45. Go to or call (706) 854-0149.

Baseball camp

The The Second Annual NIKE Baseball Camp, played host to by Georgia Regents University, is July 20 to July 23 and July 27 to July 30 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., for boys ages 6 to 12 at Christenberry Fieldhouse. Cost is $225. Go to or call 1800-645-3226.

Volleyball camps

Greenbrier will have two volleyball camps. The first, for rising second- to fifth-graders, is a day camp on July 11 from noon to 4 p.m. costing $40. The second, for rising sixth- to ninth-graders, is July 13 to July 15, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., costing $100. Contact Nicole Abbott at (706) 650-6040 or or go to the Greenbrier volleyball Web site.


There will be a 13U baseball tournament on June 27-28 at Lake Olmstead Stadium with a $475 entry fee and a 14U baseball tournament on July 17-18 at Lake Olmstead Stadium with a $550 entry fee. Call (706) 288-8511.

Football camp

The Augusta Prep 7th Annual Summer Football Camp at Augusta Prep is July 7-9, hosted by several out-of-town coaches. Contact for more information.


New Georgia Impact 14U travel baseball team is looking for outfielders and catchers. Practices are in Appling. Players must be born after May 1, 2000. Call (706) 231-6488 for more information.

Categories: Local
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