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Updated: 36 min 22 sec ago

Broadband companies slow River Watch Parkway work

12 hours 13 min ago

A delay in relocating utilities, particularly telecommunications lines by Internet providers Com­cast and WOW!, has caused construction of a $40.3 million expansion of River Watch Parkway in Columbia County to fall six months behind schedule, officials said on Aug. 24.

Tim Magill, the project manager for E.R. Snell, a road and bridges contractor based in the Atlanta area, said during a two-hour community forum at Mosaic United Methodist Church in Evans that his crews have cleared all the land they need to begin the three-mile extension. The main obstacle to starting work on grading the highway, Magill said, is Comcast and WOW! relocating broadband cables.

He said that unlike gas, power and water companies in the area, the two Internet providers have at least three more weeks to go, making the project’s expected completion date of April 30, 2017, a “tall order.”

“We have done all we can, but utilities are the primary factor not working in our favor right now,” Magill said to a group of 40 residents who attended the meeting to receive updates on the project.

Many of the residents found the possibility of a delay to be unsettling, particularly because the three-year project has already caused stormwater to damage residential sewer lines because of faulty silt fences.

George Hoyt, who lives on Old Petersburg Road, said that because of the number of times that crews have caused breaks in his water line, increased sewer costs raised his county utility bill last month from $70 to $280.

Hoyt said the county only adjusted his bill by $80, an inconvenience he said he does not want any longer than necessary.

Columbia County Comm­is­sio­ner Doug Duncan said he would look into resolving excess water charges.

Magill said E.R. Snell has no control over local utility companies, which did not attend the meeting, and that the delays will not cost taxpayers because DOT has already set the contract price.

Online records show the River Watch expansion, funded by the state’s Transportation In­vestment Act, is 33 percent complete and invoiced $7.4 million in sales tax funds to date.

Lori Greenhill, a Martinez resident who has launched Ri­ver Watch Community Advo­cates, an awareness effort to support homeowners affected by the expansion, encourages local residents to get involved.

“If any of you are Comcast or WOW! customers, call them,” she said. “Tell them they are holding up progress.”

The project is designed to streamline traffic from downtown Augusta to Columbia County’s Towne Center area by transforming Old Evans and Petersburg roads into a four-lane highway with bike lanes, sidewalks and a bridge over railroad lines.

Categories: Local

More commercial development slated for Columbia County

12 hours 13 min ago

William Few Parkway could see more commercial development in the near future.

A rezoning request for a grocery-anchored center with restaurant and retail space at the corner of William Few Parkway and Columbia Road in Evans is going before Columbia County planning commissioners Sept. 3. The wooded 21-acre parcel is adjacent to Patriots Park.

The preliminary zoning plan shows a 60,000-square-foot grocer anchoring the center, which would also include more than 50,000 square feet of retail space and five out-parcels fronting the intersection.

“That is a footprint, which we’ll probably use,” said Oliver Owens, who is representing the out-of-town property owners at the rezoning hearing. Owens, who has a background in construction lending, said he and the owners will likely work with local developers to put together the project.

Owens said it was too early to give names of prospective tenants but that the center would be “upscale” and target a national chain grocery store and a mix of retail and restaurants, one or two of which would be “first class.”

Owens said they would like to start marketing the property after the first of the year. First, he said, the property must be rezoned from residential agricultural to general commercial.

The final rezoning decision will come from the county commission later in September.

Owens said the surrounding area’s growth makes commercial development there feasible.

“It’s got a lot of potential in the future,” he said. “Any time your big box people come in they go by rooftops. You have to have enough rooftops in the area to justify it.”

The same property owners have about 300 acres on the opposite side of William Few Parkway, with long-range plans of developing the land into “upscale housing,” Owens said.

Further down William Few Parkway, at the Lewiston Road intersection near Grovetown, grading started this month on a 36-acre commercial site that will include the area’s first 114,000-square-foot Kroger Marketplace, 10,000 additional square feet of shop space and 12 retail out-parcels. Kroger is expected to open there in the summer of 2016.

Categories: Local

Archery tournament returning to Wildwood Park

12 hours 14 min ago

A large archery tournament is returning to Columbia County next year.

Columbia County officials are expected Tuesday to approve a $5,000 host fee to bring back an Archery Shooters Association back to Wildwood Park next spring.

“We’re really looking forward to coming back,” said Michael Tyrell, president of the international archery organization.

Tyrell said the Georgia Pro/Am 3-D archery tournament was held at the Columbia County park in 2006 and 2007 before moving to Fort Gordon through 2012. He expects the tournament to draw about 1,600 shooters.

“They travel from everywhere,” Tyrell said, adding that archers from England, Australia, Canada and the continental United States typically participate in the series of tournaments held around the country all year.

The tournament is slated for April 28 through May 1 at the park on Thurmond Lake in Appling.

Randy DuTeau, executive director of the Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau, has worked with Tyrell and the organization several times in the past.

He expects the tournament to further showcase Wildwood Park and all that can be done there as well as have a significant economic effect for the county.

“It’s a really cool tournament,” DuTeau said. “It’s huge.”

In addition, county officials have agreed to make some changes to the park to make it more convenient for tournament participants as well as other park guests.

A multi-use trail will be cut from the main parking areas near the boat ramps to the campground and the Corps of Engineers agreed to allow the county to clear cut some forested area of the

“The facility is going to be a lot more accommodating for the numbers that it has been in the past,” DuTeau said. “It’s really nice to see the park getting utilized that way.”

Columbia County Deputy Administrator Glenn Kennedy said considering the expected participants and estimated economic effect for the county, the changes will be well worth the effort.

The contract is a multi-year contract that can be canceled by the county or the ASA within 30 days after the first event next spring. But Tyrell said he hopes the move back into Columbia County is a long one.

And county Administrator Scott Johnson said happy to see the event return.

“We’re glad to have them back.”

Categories: Local

Sheriff will ask for revised pawn shop ordinance

12 hours 15 min ago

Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle said Aug. 27 he will ask county commissioners to rescind and revise an ordinance meant stem sales of stolen goods, which has been criticized as too broad and burdensome for businesses that resale used merchandise.

The Columbia county Commission passed Ordinance 15-22 on April 21, which required certain businesses, such as pawn shops and jewelers, to collect information on each transaction when buying used goods from the public. The information included the seller’s identification, photo and thumb print. The law required businesses to transmit this information daily to a national database of transactions to assist law enforcement agencies with tracking and recovering stolen property.

Not long after it was implemented, however, some businesses began questioning some of the new law’s provisions and expressed concerns about its impact on business. Local lawyer, Andy Tisdale said the ordinance could be interpreted to apply to almost any business that buys and sells used goods and equipment, including used cars, calling is a “second-hand dealer law.”

In addition, Tisdale said the ordinance had conflicts with Constitutional law, where it compels business owners to comply with warrantless searches or face arrest.

Tisdale said he understood the desire to stem the flow of stolen goods, “but you have to balance that with constitutional rights and with the trouble that you are imposing on businesses for the furtherance of that objective.”

On Thursday, Whittle said he wanted to fix the ordinance’s shortcomings and come up with a more narrow version that applied to the businesses that require more scrutiny, not all those that sell used goods.

“The intent was never there to cast a wide net over anybody and everybody that sells second-hand anything, but there’s a legal opinion out there that the way the ordinance sits it could be construed that way,” Whittle said. “We want to correct the ordinance so there is no opinion out there that we know of that would say it is not legal.”

Whittle said there is a well established history of criminals abusing the pawn shop business model to move stolen goods. That is where the law needs to focus, he said.

As for tracking firearm sales, he said the law wasn’t intended to build a database of gun owners and he would oppose any law that did.

“I’m a Second Amendment guy, I do not want to ever come close to anything that could resemble a database, because I think that is horrible,” he said.

“Any country you can ever show me that ended up with a database of firearms, confiscated them, and I’m not going to be a part of that, I can promise you.”

On Thursday, Tisdale said he was happy to hear that sheriff wanted to revise the law.

If that is the sheriff’s position, it is the correct position,” he said. “I think this ordinance can be rewritten to address the sheriff’s office concerns, and comply with recent U.S. Supreme Court case law and still respect the constitutional rights of business owners.”

Categories: Local

Police Blotter, Aug. 30, 2015

12 hours 16 min ago

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

Elderly woman reports theft

An Evans woman called authorities Aug. 25 after she said two men scammed their way into her home and stole money.

The 86-year-old woman said she was outside her home on her golf car at about 3 p.m., when a truck pulled into her driveway. Two men got out and started asking her about the property next door, if she knew who the owner was and if it was for sale. They then complimented the woman on how nice her landscaping looked and asked where the “man of the house” was. When she said her husband wasn’t home, the woman said the man maneuvered her into the carport, then into the kitchen. She said they never went any further than the entrance to her kitchen and left shortly after entering the house.

After the men left, the woman said she noticed her purse, which was on a table by the kitchen entrance, was disturbed and $100 in cash was missing. Nothing else was missing from her purse and her identification and credit cards were accounted for.

But a bottle with 10 hydrocodone pills in it was missing from a kitchen cabinet.

The woman described the men as white with dark hair and said they were scruffy, “kind of on the rough side,” driving a white possible extra cab truck with a South Carolina tag.

Caregiver scammed

A Grovetown woman said she was scammed as she tried to find employment on a site for caregivers.

The 46-year-old woman said she is a caregiver and signed up on to find clients. She was contacted by a woman via text message who asked about care-giving services for her 76-year-old mother. After several text messages, the caregiver said she was hired.

The client told the caregiver that her mother would need a scooter and asked her to purchase one so they didn’t have to buy one and haul it to Georgia. The caregiver said the client sent her a $2,865 check with instructions to deposit it into her bank account.

She was told to then withdraw $2,465 to pay for the scooter and deposit it into an account at a different bank.

A short time after depositing the cash into the second account, a representative from the caregiver’s bank called and informed her that the check was fraudulent.

Man thwarts
an ID thief

A Grovetown man said on Aug. 24 that he kept someone from using his information to buy cell phones.

The 54-year-old man said he got a call from a restricted number at about 3 p.m. who identified himself as “Joe” from Verizon Wireless. The caller said an issue with the company computers required him to verify the man’s information. The man provided his last name, address and the last four digits of his Social Security number.

The man said he became suspicious when the caller asked about his last name.

He told the caller that he should know the last name if he was looking at his Verizon account. The caller hung up.

About 30 minutes later, the man received a call from a Verizon representative asking him to confirm his order for two iPhones.

He was told the phones were to be shipped to Duluth, Ga. He told the Verizon representative that he did not order the phones and canceled the order.

Californian uses man’s identity

A Martinez man called authorities Aug. 26 after he received a traffic citation from California.

The 34-year-old man said that someone used his identity on June 14 to rent a 2014 Chrysler 300 in Los Angeles.

The vehicle was returned the same day.

The person who rented the vehicle used the man’s Georgia drivers license number and his old Augusta address. He said the person drive through a toll in California without paying the toll fee on June 14.

A violation management company sent the man a citation that required him to pay a fine for the violation.

Categories: Local

Grovetown officials seeking funding for new wastewater treatment plant

12 hours 16 min ago

Grovetown officials took a big step Aug. 26 toward building their own wastewater treatment plant.

They passed a resolution allowing city staffers to submit an application for a $23.2 million loan from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority for construction of the plant.

“We’ll wait and see what happens,” Mayor George James said. “We’re hoping and keeping our fingers crossed that everything will meet their satisfaction and we can proceed.”

The city waited for a while for a resolution to their wastewater problem. The city currently sends about 17 million gallons of wastewater per month to Columbia County and another 2.5-3 million gallons to Richmond County every month.

In addition, some wastewater is send to the city’s land application system off Lakeside Drive. At that facility, holding ponds are used for wastewater that is then sprayed onto spray fields.

The problem is that the fields don’t properly percolate like they were designed to limiting the amount of wastewater that can be disposed of there.

The facility, built in the late 1980s, is permitted by the Environmental Protect Division to released 580,000 gallons a day onto the spray fields.

Public Works Director Michael Woods said they use the spray fields as much as possible, spray as much as will be absorbed before running off, which is considerably less than its capacity.

In May, the average amount of
wastewater sprayed onto the fields was 117,000 gallons per day and 198,000 in June.

The city was cited by EPD for violations involving run-off, discharge into state water, sampling procedures and exceeding suspended solids and nitrate limits.

The city paid the $10,000 fine, but also got an EPD permit for a new wastewater pollution control plant on the same site.

“We’ve been fighting to get one of those for years,” James said.

EPD officials wouldn’t grant the city a permit for discharge into Butler Creek because Fort Gordon’s wastewater was already being discharged into the waterway and there was not enough “flow” in Euchee Creek. But Richmond County had since taken over Fort Gordon’s wastewater treatment allowing the city to discharge into Butler Creek, James said.

Woods said before applying for the loan or any design took place, the city contracted engineers for an antidegradation study to explore possible solutions.

The construction of a new plant was deemed the smartest move instead of buying more land for spray fields or sending more wastewater to other municipalities.

“It needs to be done bad,” Woods said. “I’d love to be able to start building it next week.”
Woods said the plant has not yet been formally designed, but the proposed design will accommodate about 3 million gallons of wastewater a

The city currently produces less than 1 million gallons a day that is either sent to Columbia or Richmond counties or sprayed onto the treatment fields.

“We’ll be able to handle everything, including what’s going to Columbia County and Richmond County,” Woods said. “That is looking out for the future.”

James said city officials have been trying in recent years to beef up the city’s infrastructure to handle expected growth from Fort Gordon.

“It’s a necessity,” James said of a new plant. “We’ll probably be self-sufficient. ... We definitely are going to build beyond our current needs. That’s just good planning.”

The estimated $23.2 million price tag includes construction and permitting of the plant, but also some upgrades to the water and sewer system to reroute some pipes.

Woods said there is no clear timeline for the project, which still needs ot be formally designed. Once designs are approved and construction bids are accepted, he expects construction to take about three years.

James said that if all goes smoothly, the water treatment plant is expected to be operational in less than five

Categories: Local

Charter school petition denied

12 hours 16 min ago

For the second consecutive year, State Charter Schools Commission has denied a a local group’s petition to establish an arts-infused charter school in Columbia County.

Organizers behind Columbia County School for the Arts were anticipating the state commission’s decision after receiving a letter earlier this month indicating the review panel would recommend to deny their petition.

The letter laid out a list of new concerns that took the group’s board by surprise, said Todd Shafer, founding member of the charter school group and school leader. The group had hoped to delay the commission’s vote until next month in order to address some of the issue, but that effort did not succeed, Shafer said.

“They upheld their staff’s recommendation,” he said. “We are denied.”

Shafer said after last year’s denial, the group worked for months to address the three reason cited by the charter commission’s staff recommended; a lack of management, and oversight over the school leaders, no clear plan to be ready for the 2015-16 school year and no clear strategy for acquiring a facility for students in that time frame.

He said the group though they had met all corrected all the problems, including coming up with a plan to build a new facility near Blanchard Woods Park in Evans.

He said the commission’s decision was hard to take, but it wasn’t the end of their effort to build the county’s first charter school.

“It is kind of deflating,” he said. “We are going to take the weekend and let some things process and then we are going to meet nest week and layout all our options and make some decisions then.”

He said the group should have a sense of how it should proceed by next week.

“The fight is not over,” he said. “The consensus is we are going to move forward, it’s just how we are going to move forward has not been decided.”

He said the group has a contract for the school property until the end of the year, so they will have to make some decisions about that issue soon.

He said the group has experinced an outpouring of support since the commission’s denial had been announced.

“The support is still there,” he said. “The community is not happen with the outcome, but they are very supportive of our effort to move forward.”

Categories: Local

Warriors dominate Bulldogs

Sat, 8/29/2015 6:09 AM

It was a dominating performance across the board for the Grovetown Warriors Friday night.
In its season-opener on the road at Harlem, the Warriors' defense and special teams set up early scores and the offense clicked throughout as they beat the Bulldogs, 42-7.
The Warriors' offense ran up 425 total yards of offense and got touchdowns from five different players. They showed they could grind out drives or score in lightning-quick fashion and they felt good after the game.
"It gives us a big boost of confidence," said quarterback Skylor Vance. "We had our little mess ups here and there, but if we clean it up, we've got Houston County next week and we hope to go in there and beat them, too."
The Bulldogs (0-2), who lost 10-3 to Greenbrier in Week 1, now have a week off to regroup before they play again against Class A Warren County.
"We've played two 5A teams in a row, both of them have got good football teams," said Bulldogs' first-year head coach Todd Booker. "I think if we could have eliminated some mistakes here and there, it could have been a little bit better."
The Bulldogs' first mistake came early as they fumbled on their first possession, with the Warriors recovering on Harlem's 32. It took three plays for the Warriors to score with Shiyear Woodbury punching it in from two yards out. The offensive line did a good job getting their rushers lanes and Woodbury paced the team with 114 yards on 15 carries.
Harlem was forced to punt on it's second possession and Grovetown's Jarred Cox took the punt at his 48 and made his way to the Bulldogs' 3.
"When I caught it I saw two people come towards me and I just broke that tackle and saw the outside wide open," Cox said. "I saw one of my players tell me take it this way so I just took it outside and almost had it."
Three plays later Vance took it in from 11 yards out and the Warriors' lead was 14-0 with 6:45 left in the first quarter.
As well as rushing for 88 yards on seven carries, Vance completed 10 of 17 passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns. His main targets were Cox, who caught five passes for 121 yards and a 51-yard touchdown, and Ben Jean who caught four balls for 54 yards and two scores.
The Warriors' suffocating defense held the Bulldogs to just 61 total yards and four first downs, The Bulldogs got three of those first downs at the end of the half as they got on the board with 51 seconds left when Jonathan Worrell swept around right end for a 26-yard touchdown.
The Warriors kept the Bulldogs in the game in the first half committing eight penalties for 70 yards, finishing with 11 for 100 yards for the game. They took control quickly in the second half, driving 77 yards in six plays to open the third quarter with Cox taking a screen at midfield, turning on the jets and racing to the end zone untouched.
Grovetown coach Rodney Holder said there was still things to clean up, like the penalties, but likes the way the team is coming together.
"It's a good mixture of kids, they're really starting to like each other a lot which makes a big, big difference," Holder said. "As that bond grows, if we keep being steady and fixing the little things, we could have a good year."

Categories: Local

Soldier acquitted of child molestation

Fri, 8/28/2015 8:41 AM

A soldier stationed at Fort Gordon was acquitted Thursday of child molestation charges.

A Columbia County Superior Court jury found Brent Briggs not guilty of two counts of aggravated child molestation and one count of child molestation. Briggs was accused of committing the acts between August 2010 and Dec. 31, 2013.

Briggs’ trial began Monday, said his attorney, Richard Goolsby.

Categories: Local

Columbia County Chamber plans for new headquarters in Evans

Wed, 8/26/2015 12:16 AM

The Columbia County Chamber of Commerce has its sights set on a new home.

The Chamber closed July 7 on an acre of land in the heart of Evans that where it intends to build a 10,000-square-foot building for it future office space, according to Tammy Shepherd, president and CEO of the Columbia County Chamber.

The nonprofit entity has been leasing space in a county-owned building on Business Boulevard since September 2012, and that lease agreement is set to expire in 2017.

Shepherd said the Chamber is quickly outgrowing that space and formed a committee earlier this year to explore options, including buying land and constructing a new office.

“I need meeting space bigger than this, and I need offices and more offices to grow,” she said, explaining that in the past seven years she has doubled her staff and her annual budget. She anticipates that trend will continue in coming years as the county grows and more businesses come to the greater Augusta area. About 40 percent of the Chamber’s membership is from outside Columbia County.

The proposed site for the new building is a residential property at the corner of Washington Road and Sir Galahad Drive, at the entrance to the Camelot subdivision. Shepherd said the chamber plans to apply for rezoning to allow for construction of a two-story office building with enough parking space for at least 50 vehicles.

Shephard said their goal was to remain in the Evans Town Center area, but most of the existing commercial lots range from $750,000 to $1 million, which was out of the nonprofit’s price range.

When she spotted a “for sale” on the property in May, Shepherd had found a solution. The land sold for $177,000, she said.

“If you think of Washington Road, it is the business corridor for all of the area,” she said “To me, that was the perfect location.”

Columbia County Planning Director Andrew Strickland said the group has yet to file any plans or submit an application for the rezoning, which will require a public hearing. While he could not speculate on the potential to rezone this tract, Strickland said the such things as future land use maps and impact on nearby property owners are things that will have to be considered.

“Is it something that surrounding property owners could potentially be OK with, because the public hearing obviously play as large role,” he said.

Shepherd said she has been speaking with property owners in the Camelot neighborhood to gauge their reaction to the rezoning and intends to invite all residents to a Sept. 10 cookout, where all will have a chance to get their questions answered.

Categories: Local

Police Blotter

Wed, 8/26/2015 12:15 AM

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


Elderly women scammed

Two elderly Columbia County women told police Friday that men came to their homes and stole from them.

An 85-year-old Harlem woman said three Asian men pulled up to her home at about 2 p.m. Thursday in a gray Chevrolet Silverado. One of the men said they needed to look at her roof to see if it needs replacing. One of them walked through her home and out the back door to look at the roof in the back of the home while the other two waited outside. After he looked at the roof, the man and his colleagues got back into the truck and left.

When the woman went to her bedroom, she discovered $3,325 worth of jewelry missing from her dresser.

An 86-year-old Evans woman said she’d been getting statements from what she believed was the Columbia County Water Utility about obtaining a water sample from her home because the county purchased a portion of her property. On Friday, two Hispanic men came to her home and said they needed to collect water samples. The men wore golf polo shirts. She believes they arrived in a white truck with a blue stripe.

The woman said she wasn’t alarmed until the men started asking questions including if she lived alone and how often her grandson was at the home. They said the water faucets needed to run for six minutes before they could take a sample. In hindsight, the woman said she should have kept a better eye on them as they split up and went about her house.

After the men left, she found her mattress pulled away from the wall and the base of her bed moved. A watch was missing from an unlocked lock box in her grandson’s room and his room was obviously shuffled through. The area where she keeps her mail had also been shuffled through and she was concerned with bank information the men could possibly use fraudulently.


Woman’s home is vandalized

A Martinez woman said early Saturday that her daughter’s boyfriend vandalized her home, which he was moving from.

The 42-year-old woman called authorities to the home at about 1 a.m. after having an argument with her daughter’s boyfriend. She said he was intoxicated and screaming at her. He said they were arguing about moving out of the house they shared and he didn’t want her around him while they moved. The woman agreed to stay at her other daughter’s home for the night while the couple packed their belongings.

Deputies responded to the home again at about 10:45 a.m. because the woman said her daughter’s boyfriend vandalized the house. She said her other daughter’s boyfriend noticed the vandalism and called her.

The responding deputy could see through an open window into the bedroom the daughter’s boyfriend had moved out of. The door was boarded up from the inside and the furniture was thrown on the ground with trash scattered around the room.

Tiles were glued to the wall spelling the word “slut” and someone tiled over the light switch. The deputy went into the room and saw couches and other living room furniture stacked up against the door to prevent anyone from coming in.

The kitchen cabinets had been glued shut, tile was torn up in the bathroom and shelves in the bathroom were torn off. In the backyard, doors were ripped off the shed.


Woman discovers credit card fraud

A Grovetown woman told police Thursday that someone used her personal information to open and use a credit card.

The 42-year-old woman said that when she got home from work at about 7:30 p.m., there was a message on her answering machine from a Discover representative, who stated there was fraudulent activity on her account and she needed to contact the company immediately. She was skeptical because she doesn’t have a Discover card. She called the number provided and spoke to someone who wanted her to provide her mother’entire Social Security number as verification. She gave her maiden name, but would only give the last four digits of her Social Security number.

The representative told the woman they couldn’t discuss the account unless she gave the entire number.

The woman hung up and looked up a direct phone number for Discover. When she called, the woman was able to verify her identity with the last four digits of her Social Security number and her mother’s maiden name. The birthday on file for the account was Sept. 7, 1972, which is close, but not the woman’s correct birthday.

The Discover representative told the woman that there was about $3,000 worth of charges to the account, including multiple $480 cash withdrawals at different ATMs. The representative couldn’t discuss the other charges with the woman. But she called back with a deputy in the room and got information about when the account was opened and used.

All the charges and cash withdrawals were made in the Atlanta area. On Aug. 17, someone attempted to buy $1,517.85 worth of groceries from an Atlanta Kroger, but the card was declined and the account flagged.

The woman froze the account.


Man scammed
on Craig’s List

A Columbia County man called authorities Thursday stating he’d been scammed trying to buy gift cards through online site

The 38-year-old man said that he’d bought some gift cards that were later emptied before he could use them. He met another man who had advertised some gift cards for sale at the Steak and Shake on Aug. 12. After verifying the balances on a Dillard’s card and two Kohls cards totaling $1,100, the man paid the seller $400.

He’d previously messaged the seller that he did not want to get involved with anything illegal. The seller said they were gifts from family and he had another card with a receipt showing its balance at his home. The man agreed to buy the fourth card and went shopping at Kohls.

On Aug. 16, the seller said he found the other Kohls card and provided a receipt that showed it was loaded with $200. The man paid him $75. But when he got home, the man said he noticed that the gift card was purchased with a credit card. He got suspicious and checked the balances on all the cards, which all had zero balances.

The man called the seller, who rambled on about how he applied for the credit card using his father’s Social Security number and that he’d reimburse the man in a few days. When the man said he was calling authorities, the seller said he had no problem and could explain everything.

The man said he wasn’t concerned with getting his money back because he knew the risk of buying items off the site. But he didn’t want to be involved with someone using a stolen Social Security number.


Packages stolen
from neighbors

Two Grovetown neighbors told deputies Friday that packages were stolen from their porches.

A 31-year-old resident of High Meadows Drive said she ordered a pair of shoes from and the U.S. Postal Service informed her the shoes were delivered at 12:14 p.m. When she got home at 4 p.m., the package was missing.

The woman’s 51-year-old neighbor also told deputies packages were stolen from his porch. He said one was delivered by the Postal Service at 12:15 p.m. and another was delivered at 12:38 p.m. by UPS. But were stolen from his porch before he returned home at 3:15 p.m.

Categories: Local

Volunteers needed for Thurmond Lake cleanup

Wed, 8/26/2015 12:15 AM

Volunteers are needed for the annual Thurmond Lake cleanup campaign.

The cleanup will run for one month starting Thursday, but it will conclude with a major, organized cleanup day on Sept. 26, which is also National Public Lands Day. The final cleanup will consist of a variety of projects including debris cleanup, brush clearing and trail and park cleanup around the shorelines, islands, recreation centers, coves, old road ends and bridge areas.

The Army Corps of Engineers is seeking Scouting groups, civic organization, sports clubs, church groups, businesses, families and individuals to help complete the projects.

To participate in the cleanup, submit a registration form online or call Corps Park Ranger Ron Woodall at (864) 333-1131 by Sept. 12. Completed forms can be dropped off or mailed to Thurmond Project Office at 510 Clarks Hill Highway, Clarks Hill, S.C. 29821. Forms can also be faxed to Woodall at (864) 333-1150 or e-mailed to

Volunteers interested in helping throughout the month can choose an area of shoreline to remove any glass, paper, plastic or abandoned items. Trash bags are available at the visitor center or volunteers can bring their own bags.

All volunteers are invited to a community cleanup and picnic on Sept. 26 from 8 a.m. to noon. Check-in is in the Lake Springs Recreation Area group shelter, 3900 Lake Springs Road in Appling. All volunteers should wear closed-toed shoes, long pants and bring plenty of water. Participants will receive T-shirts while supplies last and a one-day pass to any federal park.

The event will be canceled in the event of severe weather. For more information, call the Thurmond Project Office at (800) 533-3478, ext. 1131.

Categories: Local

Pet Adoptions

Wed, 8/26/2015 12:14 AM
Categories: Local

Current Events

Wed, 8/26/2015 12:14 AM


2015 Skill Development Training Tuesdays and Thursdays through October, Sting Gym, 6000 Columbia Road, Grovetown; $25 per day or $35 per week;

Euchee Creek

School council meeting 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 26, Euchee Creek Elementary School, 795 Louisville Road, Grovetown; (706) 556-4000,

Demolition bids

Residential Demolition Program: Project Release for Bids; specifications for released projects to be bid on will be onlined each date and copies available at Augusta-Richmond County Municipal Building Procurement Department, 535 Telfair St., Suite 605 – Aug. 27, Sept. 10, 24, Oct. 8, 22, Nov. 5, 19, Dec. 2, 16, 30; from choose the ARCBID application to view projects

Open house

Helms College open house 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27, Helms College, 2145 Washington Road; learn about the culinary programs, tour the campus; financial aid options for those who qualify, questions answered; light refreshments;

Field trip

Augusta-Aiken Audubon Society field trip 8 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 29, Silver Bluff Audubon Sanctuary, 4542 Silver Bluff Road, Jackson; meet at Kathwood Ponds; walk around ponds looking for waders and shorebirds; beginners welcome; free;

Literary event

Toasting With the Authors 2015 noon-6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29, White Columns Inn, 1890 Washington Road, Thomson; literary exposé showcasing up-and-coming, talented and creative authors; meet and greet with several authors, free; $15, receive an autographed book, a toast and have a photograph taken with an author; $25 also sit in VIP with the authors;!toasting-with-the-authors/c23y1

Red Party

Stop Da Stigma Fighters Red Party 6-11 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29, Henry H. Brigham Community Center, 2463 Golden Camp Road; bringing awareness of HIV and AIDS; entertainment, raffles, door prizes, open bar; benefits Fatty Marshall Foundation and Stop Da Stigma Fighters; donations welcome; $20 advance, $25 at door; (706) 421-4320, (706) 231-0876,,,


Brian Free & Assurance 6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 30, Grace Baptist Church, 4945 Hardy McManus Road, Evans; free, donations accepted; (706) 868-9729,


Kiwanis Pre-organizational Meeting – Columbia County 5:15 p.m. Monday, Aug. 31, Columbia County Library, 7022 Evans Town Center Blvd., Evans; new club sponsored by Kiwanis Clubs of Uptown Augusta and Augusta; Q&A; Lt. Gov. for Georgia District of Kiwanis International Rick Berry, speaker; (803) 426-1333,

Forestry pageant

Deadline to enter Miss Richmond County Forestry and Pine Seedling Scholarship Pageant Sept. 1; event to be held Oct. 10 in Evans; winners advance to Miss Georgia Forestry State Pageant; e-mail or call for application;, (706) 664-5010

Genealogy program

The General and His Lady 3-4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 3, Augusta Museum of History, 560 Reynolds St.; Augusta Genealogical Society program covering the life of Maj. Gen. James Ewell Brown Stuart and his wife, Flora Cooke Stuart; Wayne Jones speaking about Jeb and Mrs. Stuart, their life together and the hardships they endured; (706) 722-4073,

Audubon meeting

Augusta-Aiken Audubon meeting 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, North Augusta Community Center, 495 Brookside Ave.; Matt Johnson of Francis Beidler Forest speaking on Prothonotary Warbler tracking; free;

Evans reunion

Evans High School 1985 class reunion Friday-Saturday, Sept. 11-12; contact Kelley Cross Sleeper (706) 860-6151,

Fundraising sale

Lynndale Advocates Indoor Yard Sale 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, Lynndale Advocates, 1490 Eisenhower Drive, refreshments and plants for sale; tax deductible donations accepted 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 8-10

Cat show

Cattyshack Cats Champion and Household Pet Cat Show 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 12-13, Riverview Park Activities Center, 100 Riverview Park Drive, North Auguta; learn about different breeds from Persian to Bengals; meet breeders, learn about cats; adoption agencies; cats from all over the United States competing for titles in seven judging rings; vendors; $5, seniors and ages 11 and younger $4, ages 2 and younger free;

Doc Severinson

The Legendary Doc Severinson and his Big Band, doors 6:30 p.m., show 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, Jabez Sanford Hardin Performing Arts Center, 7022 Evans Town Center Blvd., Evans; $67; (706) 650-5005,

Crackerneck WMA

Augusta-Aiken Audubon Field Trip to Crackerneck Wildlife Management Area 8 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, meet at sign-in area off Brown Road, Jackson; woods, fields, ponds and streams; from Augusta take Old Jackson Highway past U.S. Post Office in Jackson, turn right onto Brown Road just after the ball field, take Brown Road to sign for Crackerneck WMA, turn left onto dirt road, drive to sign-in area; beginners welcome; Anne Waters and Lois Stacey lead; free;

Girls’ camp

Girls Got Game Fall League Sept. 12-Oct. 24, Sting Gym, 6000 Columbia Road, Grovetown; basketball league for girls only; divisions for grade 6, grades 7-8 and grades 9-12; playoffs Oct. 23-24; $200 per team or $75 individual; register online by Sept. 1;

Coffee roasting

The Art of Roasting: Why Better Beans Make Better Coffee 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 14, Buona Caffe Artisan Roasted Coffee, 1858 Central Ave.; master roaster John Curry; American Culinary Federation Augusta Chapter, host; clothing drive to benefit Goodwill Industries; free;

Categories: Local

Backhoe pushed car through intersection, woman says

Wed, 8/26/2015 12:13 AM

An Evans man is facing charges after he pushed a woman’s vehicle through an intersection after she failed to move soon enough for the green light.

The 44-year-old woman called 911 about 10:45 a.m. Saturday to report a case of road rage.

According to a Richmond County sheriff’s incident report, a man in a backhoe behind her vehicle at the intersection of Wheeler Road and Augusta West Parkway used the backhoe to push her Subaru Forester through the intersection.

She followed the backhoe driver to a construction site at Augusta West Parkway and Amli Way, where he hopped out of the backhoe and into a pickup, fleeing the area.

After deputies tracked down the vehicle, the woman identified the pickup passenger, 46-year-old Robert Stanley, as the driver of the backhoe.

Stanley admitted to police that he had pushed the Subaru because he was frustrated that she didn’t go for the green light.

Stanley was charged with reckless conduct for the road rage incident.

He had active warrants in Richmond County for obstruction and three traffic citations.

A hold was placed on Stanley for the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.

Categories: Local

Athlete Spotlight for Wednesday, August 26, 2025 - Lakeside High School's Alyssa Hooker

Wed, 8/26/2015 12:10 AM


Disappointment during the 2014 track season may be bad news for cross country rivals of Lakeside High School’s Alyssa Hooker.

After winning the 2014 Class AAAAA state cross country championship, Hooker was running well late in the track season, winning the 3,200 meters and taking third in the 1,600 at the Region 2-AAAAA meet. An injury would curtail her from moving on.

“She was disappointed with how track ended,” said Lakeside coach Jerry Meitin. “She was injured and had to miss the state track meet.

‘‘I think that has motivated her to work hard. She’s been healthy and running strong.”

Fueled by how the track season ended, Hooker was motivated prior to the school year and believes her training is twice as good as it was a year ago at this same time.

“I ran every day during the summer, not necessarily a lot, but I was running with the boy’s team, which is a huge step,” said Hooker. “Running 4 miles (at) my pace versus 4 miles (at a) boy’s pace feels like 1,000 miles.”

That training should help with the way she likes to appproach her races.

“I’ve always had the strategy of going out slow and getting faster, so this year, since I’m training harder, I can start out fast and get faster,” Hooker said.

Her continued regimen is helping the team run to its potential.

“She’s taken to running with the lead guys and all but pushing a couple of them,” Meitin said. “They, of course, don’t like being beaten by a girl. There’s pressure on some of those guys to stay ahead of her.”

Even at an early age, Hooker liked to mentor runners younger than herself and she has continued to do that at Lakeside.

“I call them peeps, I don’t know why,” Hooker said. “I take little young ones under my wings, basically. I’ve done this for years. As an eighth-grader I took in sixth-graders on the track team and now as a junior I’m taking in freshmen, because I get along with younger people.”

Race day doesn’t begin and end for Hooker with her own meet; she stays active encouraging the runners on the Lakeside squads.

“I cheer on everyone because I like to see everybody win and I don’t really like attention,” Hooker said. “Everybody’s doing their best and my best may be first and their best may be third or slower, like place-wise, but I still think the best is the best, so their best is what they’re giving, and that’s amazing to me.”

With the success she’s had, Hooker knows there’s a target on her back. And even after winning a state title, she doesn’t necessarily feel like the frontrunner.

“I have heard people talk about me,” Hooker said. “They sound so scared talking about me. I guess it’s a good feeling inside that people are nervous to run against me, but at the same time I am just as nervous to run against you, I can guarantee you that. I don’t ever go into a meet thinking I can win.”

Categories: Local

Special election for vacant commision seat set for November

Sun, 8/23/2015 12:15 AM

The Columbia County Board of Elections voted Tuesday to set a special election date for the seat vacated by former District 3 Commissioner Mack Taylor.

The board’s decision sets the special election on Nov. 3, which will coincide with another special election for State House District 122 and municipal elections in Harlem and Grovetown.

Five candidates have already declared their intentions to seek that office: Jim Bartley, Greg Grzybowski, Gary Richardson, Frank Spears and Russell Wilder.

All of them, and any other candidates who might intend to run, must officially qualify at the Board of Elections office in Evans between 9 a.m. Monday, Aug. 31, and noon on Sept. 2. The qualifying fee is $195.

The special election became necessary last month when Taylor announced he would resign to seek the House seat being vacated by State Rep. Ben Harbin, who had resigned to take a job with a political lobbying firm. Gov. Nathan Deal’s office has said they will call for a special election to fill the District 122 seat next month, 60 days prior to the Nov. 3 election date.

According to county Elections Director Nancy Gay, the last day to register to vote for the special election will be Oct. 5.

Voters can obtain absentee ballots from the Board of Elections office starting Oct. 12, and Oct. 30 will be the last day absentee ballots are available.

Gay said early voting also will be Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., from Oct. 12 through Oct. 30 at the Board of Elections office at 500 Faircloth Drive, Building E, Evans. For more information, call (706) 868-3355.

Categories: Local

State panel expected to deny charter school petition

Sun, 8/23/2015 12:15 AM

The group behind Columbia County’s proposed arts-infused charter school is bracing for its second rejection in as many years from the State Charter Schools Commission.

Board members of the Columbia County School for the Arts have been informed that the Charter Commission staff is recommending that their petition be denied at the commission’s meeting on Wednesday.

Todd Shafer, founding member of the charter school group and school leader, said the board was hoping to delay the commission’s vote and address the commission’s concerns.

“Our board attorney is preparing an official response to this and we are hoping that, best case scenario, they allow use to respond to these seven issues and postpone the vote for our petition until the September meeting,” Shafer said. “That’s what we are hoping for.”

Last year, the charter commission staff recommended denying the petition for Columbia County School for the Arts for three reasons; a lack of management, and oversight over the school leaders, no clear plan to be ready for the 2015-16 school year and no clear strategy for acquiring a facility for students in that time frame.

Shafer said the group had been working during the past years to address those issues, including a plan to build a new facility near Blanchard Woods ark in Evans. The group thought that they had done what was necessary for a successful petition this year, so the new list of issues caught them by surprise.

Shafer said when they went to the Atlanta on July 24 to address the panel, the interview seemed to go well.

“The majority of the interview was spent on academics and we feel that the questions that were asked were answered by folks on our governing board who have a number of years of educational background and experience,” he said. “We walked out of the interview feeling really good about what was going on.”

The state commission staff cited about seven areas in the charter petition where the group fell short:

– The academic program lacked substantial plans for implementation

- Lack of an adequate teacher recruitment plan

- The governing board failed to demonstrate clear understanding of its role

- The commission had doubts about proposed partnerships with community organizations

- No sufficient plan for special education

- Concerns about boards ability to secure financing

-Lack of understanding for the purchasing process

Shafer said those specifics were not raised at the July meeting. He expected that any concerns would have been addressed with requests for more information.

“We felt that for a returning petition, that would have been the course of action instead of a straight out denial,” he said. “All seven of those points, we can go through and we have answers for every one of them.”

Gregg Stevens, deputy director of the State Charter School Commission, said that the staff guidance was “never meant to be comprehensive,” and the commission is always looking for petitions to improve.

“This year a different review panel took a look at the improvements that they made and some things they didn’t change and decided that additional improvements were needed to establish the high-quality option for Columbia County,” he said. “Typically our guiding principal is the mission statement of the commission, which is to approve charter schools which provide students a better educational opportunity than their local district.”

At the July meeting, the Columbia County School District was the only local school system to take advantage of the commission’s offer to speak before the board, Stevens said.

School Superintendent Sandra Carraway said the district also sent a delegation last year to speak in opposition to the charter school ‘s petition.

“They gave us 20 minutes to talk, so basically we shared with them a summary of our review of the petition and the reasons we choose to deny it,” she said.

The Board of Education voted unanimously in June to deny the group’s petition at the local level. The state panel is the arts school’s final chance this year to receive approval for its plan.

“We serve to provide the students in our county with the best education possible and to maximize the use of taxpayer funds to do so,” Carraway said. “Accordingly, we believe it was our duty to share with the review committee how the proposed school falls far short from what our schools offer students”

Stevens said it would be up to the commission’s chairman to decide whether the Columbia County group can address the issues and delay the vote until September.

Shafer said the board is waiting for that final decision before deciding how to proceed.

“The board will review whether we we want to move forward into a third cycle,” he said.

Categories: Local

Police Blotter, Aug. 23, 2015

Sun, 8/23/2015 12:15 AM

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

Women’s info posted online

Two Columbia County women told deputies Monday that someone posted their personal information online to harass them.

A 28-year-old Martinez woman said she received text messages at about 3:30 a.m. from another woman who warned her not to send messages to her boyfriend. The sender said if the woman sent another message to her boyfriend, she’d post the woman’s photo on

The woman said a few hours later, she began getting calls from strangers asking what kind of skills she has. She went on the online site for buying, selling and trading goods and services and found her photo and phone number posted in an ad. She didn’t post the ad, which stated she wanted men to contact her for pleasure. She believes the other woman posted the ad, just as she threatened to.

A Harlem woman said she believes her brother’s ex-girlfriend posted her contact information online. She said her brother went on a few dates with his ex before breaking up. His ex began stalking him. When he refused to respond to her, she eventually stopped text messaging him. The woman said her brother’s ex then began sending her text messages after repeated requests to stop.

Just after 9 a.m., the woman said she began receiving text messages from strange men. Some of the messages contained vulgar language and others included vulgar photos. The woman believes her brother’s ex posted her phone number on dating Web sites.

Woman says she was groped

A woman said she was groped by a construction worker while walking near Grovetown Tuesday morning.

The woman said she was walking alongside the road to a job interview at the Waffle House in Grovetown at about 8:40 a.m. She saw a heavyset man cross over the road toward her.

He excused himself as he approached and the woman moved over to let the man pass her. As he went by her, the woman said the man grabbed her buttocks, then crossed back over the road.

She said he came from the construction site near the Verizon store and returned to that site after groping her, and he had red mud on his boots.

A deputy spoke to the site foreman, who said he saw each of the three people who worked for him when they arrived, but did not see any of them cross the road.

Vacation site scam reported

An Evans woman called authorities Tuesday after discovering she’d been scammed by someone using a popular online vacation rental site.

The 31-year-old woman said she reserved a vacation home on from a man who identified himself as Chad Reagin, the owner of the property.

Per his instructions, the woman deposited a $2,070 cashiers check payment for the rental into an account under the name Maria Tolbert. Reagin provided the routing and account number. When she arrived at the rental property, she was unable to reach Reagin to get in.

When she called the number Reagin provided to her, a woman answered and told the woman that she’d never heard of Reagin and hopes he’s caught.

She also called and was told no one at the company was familiar with a man named Reagin with a property for rent and it was likely a fraudulent rental listing.

Fake ring left
to taunt woman

A Martinez woman said she believes a fake diamond ring was left on her porch early Monday to taunt her.

The 39-year-old woman said another woman, who is accused of stealing a ring from her in 2012, is stalking her. She was awakened at about 3:45 a.m. by her barking dogs and the sound of her door opening. She saw the woman drive by her home.

When she went to the front door, the woman found a balled up note with a fake diamond ring inside it.

The note read, “ha ha,” and the ring, which had pink fake diamonds, resembled the ring the other woman is accused of stealing.

She also filed a report with authorities on Aug. 12 about damage to her property and surveillance cameras.

Categories: Local

Man arrested for kicking baby

Sun, 8/23/2015 12:10 AM

A Grovetown man remained in jail Thursday after his wife said he kicked their baby over the weekend.

Alvaro Sales-Alvarado, 25, of Phinizy Street, was charged with cruelty to children for causing excessive physical or mental pain and three counts of third degree cruelty to children. He’s being held in the Columbia County Detention Center on a $29,300 bond, according to jail records.

The 26-year-old mother called authorities to the home they share about 9:45 p.m. Saturday. She told an officer Sales-Alvarado kicked their newborn out of her bouncer seat. Sales-Alvarado followed her onto the porch and admitted he’d kicked the bouncer, according to a Grovetown Department of Public Safety incident report.

Sales-Alvarado’s wife said he came home drunk. When she asked what took him so long, he got angry and raised his voice. He then kicked the bouncer seat sending the baby airborne and onto the floor, according to the report. She said he knew the baby was in the seat when he kicked it.

Three other children witnessed the incident.

Sales-Alvarado told officers that he argued with his wife and got angry. He admitted that he kicked a pillow sitting on top of the bouncer seat, but didn’t realize the baby was under the pillow. He said it was an accident and that he knew he was in trouble.

Categories: Local
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GRU monkey death raises questions

Georgia Regents University acknowledged in a statement that it has been placed on probation by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International.
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