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Fire damages Martinez home

Wed, 4/8/2015 12:23 AM

Fire damages home

Categories: Local

Pet adoptions

Wed, 4/8/2015 12:20 AM
Categories: Local

Current events

Wed, 4/8/2015 12:19 AM

Vendors sought

Marvin United Methodist Church Bazaar 8 a.m. May 2, Marvin United Methodist Church, 4400 Wheeler Road, Martinez; Marvin Café for breakfast and lunch, live music from Credence; inside and outside space for crafters, vendors and yard sale; 8 foot square space $25; call for registration form; (706) 863-0510, (706) 550-7710

Art meeting

Meet the Artist: Hyunsuk Erickson 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Hire Grounds, 3179 Washington Road; explore the Earth in the Universe from the eyes of Erickson; uncommon mediums scattered throughout her art exemplify the totality of human existence; exhibit on display through April; free;

Line dance

Greater Augusta HBCU Alumni Alliance Scholarship Line Dance Fundraiser 7-10 p.m. Friday, Henry H. Brigham Community Center, 2463 Golden Camp Road; $25; line dancing, food, fun; (706) 254-0563

Wings, Things

Augusta-Aiken Audubon Wings and Things at Yuchi Wildlife Management Area 8 a.m. April 11, meet in parking lot of Phinizy Swamp Nature Park 1858 Lock and Dam Road, to carpool; naturalist field trip looking for birds, butterflies, dragonflies and more; all day trip, bring lunch; active hunting area, wear bright colors; free, beginners welcome;

Summer camps

How to Find and Fund Summer Camps and Enrichment Programs, 10 a.m. April 11, Augusta-Richmond County Public Library, 823 Telfair St.; learn about local, state, national, international, specialty and family camps; tips on financing summer camps; free; held by JLJ Resources Inc.; (706) 210-2547,

Workers’ comp

2015 State Board of Workers’ Compensation Regional Seminar 8 a.m. April 15, Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center, 2 10th St.; information on Georgia’s workers’ compensation system; interactive presentation, panel discussion, audience participation presentation, question and answer session, prize drawing; $85; (404) 656-3697, (404) 656-5656,

Memorial event

The Evans Camp of The Sons of Confederate Veterans, The Ambrose Wright Camp, No. 1914, will hold a Memorial Service at the Confederate Monument on April 26, at 2 p.m. All are welcome. The Monument is beside the Main Library in Evans, behind the Columbia County Judicial Center

Spring Fest

Fort Gordon Spring Fest 2015 April 16-19, Barton Field, Rice Road at Brainard Avenue, Fort Gordon; carnival April 16-19; food and beverages, family fun, live entertainment, shopping and flea market; open to the public; no pets; (706) 791-4300,


Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Memorial Day Observance 6:45 p.m. April 16, Augusta Jewish Community Center, 898 Weinberger Way, Evans; Marsilla-Claire “Bebe” Hofman-Forehand speaking about her World War II experiences; wear white shirts and blouses;

Blues, barbecue

6:30-10 p.m. Fridays, Columbia County Amphitheaer, 7022 Evans Town Center Blvd., Evans; April 17 Electric Voodoo; April 24 Barry Richman Band; May 1 Funky Bluester; barbecue from Southbound BBQ, Kansas City BBQ Society Judge Robert Franklin Waylon’s Wickedly Good Q; craft beers by Vineyard Wine Market; $5, ages 12 and younger free; (706) 650-5005,

Field trip

Meet at 8 a.m. April 18, at Popeyes, corner of Walton Way and Gordon Highway, to carpool for a Augusta-Aiken Audubon field trip to Lovers Lane; looking for migrating birds; beginners welcome; free;

Bike ride

Pedal Through the Past Bike Ride 10 a.m. April 18, Lockkeeper’s Cottage, 3300 Evans to Locks Road, to I-20 bridge and back; free, donations accepted; (706) 823-0440 ext. 4,

Open house

Georgia Military College spring open house 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 18, Augusta campus, 115 Davis Road; door prizes, scholarship giveaways, campus tours, activities for kids, music, free food; information session on dual enrollment; free

Camp expo

Summer Camp Expo 2015 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 18, Warren Baptist Church, 3203 Washington Road; presented by Augusta Family Magazine; showcasing a variety of summer programs educating parents about the options available for children during the summer months; information, fun, door prizes; free; (706) 823-3702,

Summer camp registration

Childcare Network Summer Camp and Pre-K Registration 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 18, Snelling Center, 3165 Washington Road; summer camps at all Childcare Network locations; for ages 6 weeks to 12 years; introduction to summer camp themes; call for fees and application information; free; vendors welcome; (706) 733-0780,

Civic classes

Civics and Citizenship 1-2:30 p.m. Saturdays, April 18-June 6, Columbia County Library, 7016 Evans Town Center Blvd., Evans; registration by e-mail required by April 16;,

Self defense

2-4 p.m. April 18, Superior Academy 4158 Washington Road, Evans; women’s self defense course; be ready for any situation; how to avoid being a target, the power of body language, tips on being safer, more; no martial arts experience needed; casual or sportswear attire; $20, tickets available online;

Tonic concert

J.D. Paugh Memorial Concert featuring Tonic 6 p.m. April 18, Lady Antebellum Pavilion, 7016 Evans Town Center Blvd., Evans; with The Edison Project Reunion; benefits area law enforcement; $10, tickets at Wild Wing Cafe, Augusta Harley-Davidson and online at and

Best Dam Ride

7 a.m. April 19, J. Strom Thurmond Dam & Lake, 510 Clarks Hill Highway, Clarks Hill, S.C.; family friendly event featuring options of 29, 62 and 100 mile routes on surface roads as well as 15-20, 36 and 50 mile off road course on the Bartram Trail; registration 7 a.m., ride 8:30 a.m.; benefits Southeastern Firefighters’ Burn Foundation; $35; (706) 855-2024, and

Garden festival

Sacred Heart Garden Festival Tea, A Southern Tea with James Farmer 4 p.m. April 19, Sacred Heart Cultural Center, 1301 Greene St.; gardens of Patty and Dan Blanton open 4 p.m., champagne and cucumber sandwiches, while strolling through Japanese maples; tea seating 5 p.m., live gospel singers; $100, reservations required; (706) 826-4700,

Civil War meeting

Civil War Roundtable of Augusta 6 p.m. April 20, Snelling Center, 3165 Washington Road; Vince Dooley, board member of the Civil War Trust, presenting on the Col. W.G. Delony, Cobb Legion’s Fighting Bulldog; open to anyone interested in the history of the American Civil War; annual dues $25 or $40 per couple; (706) 736-2909,,

Literary event

Under Magnolia with Frances Mayes 7-9 p.m. April 23, Columbia County Library, 7022 Evans Town Center Blvd., Evans; an evening of reflections with Georgia-native and author best known for Under the Tuscan Sun;

Archaeology meeting

Augusta Archaeological Society 8 p.m. Thursday, April 23, Big Daddy’s Bar & Grill, 4045 Jimmie Dyess Parkway; University of South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology Archaeologist Joseph E. Wilkinson presenting From Savannah to Santee: Looking at Early Archaic Hafted Bifaces by Raw Material and Geography; dinner (on your own) 6:30 p.m., program 8 p.m.; open to the public

Relay for Life

Relay for Life of Columbia County noon Saturday, April 25, Evans Towne Center Park, 7016 Evans Town Center Blvd., Evans; fundraiser to end cancer;

Half marathon

Race 13.1; 7 a.m. Sunday, April 26, Evans Towne Center Park, 7016 Evans Town Center Blvd., Evans; half marathon, 10k and 5k;

Bird count

Aiken County Migration Count 7:30 a.m. Saturday, May 2, meet at Kathwood Ponds, Silver Bluff Audubon Sanctuary, Silver Bluff Road, Jackson; looking for migrating birds; counting every bird seen, then reporting to Carolina Bird Club to be compiled for the state; all day event, bring lunch; beginners welcome, spotters needed; free;

Food festival

The Kinfolks Soul Food Festival 2 p.m. Saturday, May 2, Lady Antebellum Pavilion, 7016 Evans Town Center Blvd.; Bel Biv Devoe, Salt’N’Pepa, El Debarge, Avery Sunshine, Loose Ends; food, music; gates open 2 p.m., showtime 4 p.m.; $25 early bird (online only, limited time); $35, $45 preferred viewing, $68 VIP; tickets: Aladdin Travel on Fort Gordon, Pyramid Music, Big Mama’s Soul Food, Still Carribean Restaurant Lounge, Galle’s Seafood and online; vending: (877) 415-7258, and

Mom prom

7 p.m. Saturday, May 2, Snelling Center, 3165 Washington Road; DJ, drinks, appetizers, sweet/candy bar, raffles and auction, photo booth, vendors, free 10 minute chair massages, swag bag valued over $50; benefits Children’s Hospital of Georgia’s Camp Lakeside; $40 through April 14, $45 after, $50 at door;

Blues festival

Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival noon Saturday, May 9, Stagecoach Road, 300 yards off Washington Highway, north of Thomson; gates open 11 a.m., music noon; performers include Marcia Ball, John Hammond, Golden State Lone Star Revue, Chris Smither, Mingo Fishtrap and Bruce Katz Band; rain or shine; no carry in food or drink allowed; $30 advance, $40 festival day; ages 12 and younger free;

Rotary yard sale

7 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, May 16, Columbia County Fairgrounds; vendor spaces start at $25; benefits campaign to promote literacy; (762) 233-9273,

ARC reunion

50 -year reunion 7-11 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9, Julian Smith Casino, 2200 Broad St.; (706) 364-7830,


Christian singles

6:30-10:30 p.m. Saturdays, Ballroom Dance Center, 525 Grand Slam Drive, off Evans-to-Locks Road; dance lessons 6:30-7:30 p.m., dance 7:30-10:30 p.m.; refreshments; Augusta Christian Singles; $8 members, $10 others; (762) 233-1978,

Eyeglass help

Financial assistance for qualifying Grovetown residents’ eyeglasses; Grovetown Lions Club Eyeglass Program, P.O. Box 248, Grovetown, GA 30813

Farmers market

4:30-7 p.m. Thursdays April 2 through Oct. 30, Columbia County Amphitheater, 7022 Evans Town Center Blvd.; Evans Towne Farmers Market; cooking demos and vegetable gardening education;,

Food pantry

9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 1959 Appling Harlem Highway, Appling; Columbia County Cares Food Pantry; (706) 541-2834

Live wrestling

First Saturday every month; doors open 7:30 p.m., belltime 8 p.m., Patriots Park Gymnasium, 5445 Columbia Road, Grovetown; $10 front row, $7 general admission, 5 and younger free;

Hospital classes

Variety of classes each month; Doctors Hospital; (706) 651-2450,


4:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Mindbody Stress Reduction Programs, 4210 Columbia Road Suite 4A, Martinez; Mindfulness and Expansive Meditations; experience deeper awareness and stress reduction through guided meditations; $15, $5 students with ID; (706) 496-3935,


MOMS Club of Augusta meets 10 a.m. first Wednesdays (except December); chapter includes Augusta, Martinez and North Augusta; e-mail for location;,


Columbia County Orchestra and Columbia County Youth; weekly meetings; musicians needed; information can be found online;

Public speaking

7 p.m. Mondays, University Hospital Education Wing, third floor, room 3; Riverwalk Toastmasters Public Speaking and Leadership Club;


Barbara C. Beazley Memorial Scholarship, sponsored by The Columbia County Foundation for Children; must be a Columbia County resident and intend to enroll or are currently enrolled in a college or technical school; applications available from school counselors’ offices and online; grants are need-based; deadline to apply and submit documents May 30;


Fort Gordon’s Survivor Outreach Services, for families of deceased soldiers; (706) 787-4767,


• Grovetown Senior Center; volunteer drivers to deliver meals to shut-ins needed; (706) 210-8699

• Regency Hospice; training provided; Nancy Browning (706) 868-4422

• Golden Harvest Food Bank; help sort donations; (706) 736-1199

• Safe Kids East Central Georgia; help with events; lead programs that teach safety to children and teens; training provided; (706) 721-7606

• Columbia County Library, Evans; (706) 863-1946,

• American Cancer Society Augusta chapter; drivers for Road to Recovery program, which provides transportation to cancer patients, needed; (706) 731-9900

• Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), 4210 Columbia Road Suite 13A, Martinez, for ages 55 and older; (706) 868-0120 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday

Wine tastings

4:30-6:30 p.m. Fridays, 1-6 p.m. Saturdays, Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; (706) 922-9463,

Women vets

11 a.m. first Saturdays; The Women’s Veterans Club; $24 per year; April Starks (706) 868-5601

Writers group

6:30 p.m. third Mondays, Georgia Military College, 115 Davis Road; CSRA Writers Group; free, open to the public; for a critique, bring eight copies of up to 10 pages of work (double-spaced); (706) 836-7315

Zumba classes

6:30-7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Mondays, Evans Christian Academy, 213 S. Old Belair Road, Grovetown; $5 per class; (706) 364-3565,

Categories: Local

Resolution urges pipeline cooperation

Wed, 4/8/2015 12:18 AM

By Walter C. Jones

ATLANTA - Georgia lawmakers, despite their rush to complete the 2015 April 2, passed a resolution urging the state’s utilities to share their right-of-way territory.

Rep. Jon Burns, chairman of the House Game, Fish & Parks Committee, said he introduced House Resolution 885 with the proposed Palmetto Pipeline project in mind.

It’s a planned $1 billion pipeline to link North Augusta, with Jacksonville designed to transport 167,000 barrels of refined petroleum daily.

It would essentially parallel the Savannah River, cutting a path across Southeast Georgia.

The goal is to improve the shipment of gasoline, diesel and ethanol from Louisiana and Mississippi to Savannah and Jacksonville which currently get their fuel by more expensive truck haulers.

While motorists in those cities may be anticipating the savings on their fill-ups, landowners along the pipeline’s 360-mile path and environmentalists are

“We wanted to urge the builders of the pipeline to use existing right of way as much as possible,” said Burns, R-Newington.

Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, the company proposing the new pipeline, announced in November that it had sold subscriptions for the available capacity for the next five to 10 years.

It expects to begin construction next year and start service in July of 2017.

Kinder Morgan hasn’t announced the exact route yet. It must wait for the Georgia Department of Transportation to conduct a public hearing.

Burns partnered with Sen. Jack Hill, R-Reidsville, on the resolution. They worked together on another environmental bill last year on establishing emergency procedures for chemical spills in waterways.

Burns said there are multiple pipelines for natural gas and petroleum – as well as for highways and electricity transmission – crisscrossing the state and that it should be possible to share the right-of-way easements along much of the Palmetto Pipeline’s route.

“In order to protect the private property rights of all Georgians, it would be economically feasible for these existing corridors to be used to meet any future pipeline expansion needs, especially when the alternative would be to take new areas of land for such projects,” the resolution

Utilities generally try for what they call co-location because it’s cheaper and reduces the chances of accidents. While the resolution doesn’t directly change the path or operation of the pipeline, its passage does signal that the General Assembly has an interest in the project. And it has killed pipeline proposals in the past when the politics opposed

Categories: Local

Health legislation - Who won and who lost?

Wed, 4/8/2015 12:16 AM

By Andy Miller

ATLANTA — With the 2015 General Assembly session ending last week, here’s a list of the health care winners and losers during the 40 days of the Legislature.

Winners from the Legislative session:

Children’s health – Medical cannabis use was legalized for children with seizure disorders, so Georgia families living in Colorado to get access to the medicine can return home. Legislation was approved to require insurers to cover applied behavior analysis for young children with autism.

Primary care doctors and ob/gyns – They got a long-delayed pay bump of $23 million in state funds for treating Medicaid patients, which will be matched by an even higher amount from the feds.

The hospital industry – It lobbied hard and protected itself from changes to the state’s regulations for health care facilities, known as CON laws. (But hospitals got no legislative action on expanding Medicaid, a step that has buoyed the finances of struggling health care facilities in other states.)

Child safety – A revamp of child welfare laws was approved, and the governor will have direct oversight of the DFCS director. Child sex trafficking victims will be helped by new state legislation. Public school educators will receive suicide prevention training. Yet on the other hand, the General Assembly made sale of fireworks legal in the state.

Older Georgians – The Division of Aging Services was moved out of the Department of Human Services to become a separate agency, attached to Community Health. The budget provided funding for the addition of eight GBI agents to focus on fighting elder abuse, and money to hire 11 Adult Protective Services caseworkers. And with House Bill 72, law enforcement and regulators will gain more tools to fight elder abuse.

Bicyclists (many of whom pedal for their health) – The Atlanta BeltLine could call upon the private sector to help speed redevelopment of the corridor under legislation that gained passage in the General Assembly. And another bill allows riders to make their way through some intersections before a red light changes.

People with chronic health conditions - Not only will the medical cannabis bill allow treatment for some adults, but Senate Bill 51 creates a state structure for the prescribing of drugs similar to expensive “biologic” medications - potentially saving consumers money.


CTCA – Cancer Treatment Centers of America failed in its quest to lift state restrictions on the number of Georgia patients that it can treat at its Newnan facility. But experts predict another CTCA run next year.
Uninsured Georgians – Despite early rumblings among some lawmakers about the need for a hearing, no action was taken on expanding Medicaid, which would extend coverage to many of the state’s poor.

School bus drivers, school cafeteria workers and school systems – After discussion of ending health insurance coverage for so-called “non-certificate” school workers, the money was finally appropriated in the state budget. But the funds will now come out of school district ­appropriations, which puts a burden on poorer districts.

Tobacco opponents – Though a higher state cigarette tax was discussed, the proposal never gained much traction in the legislative session.

Health insurers – A conservative Georgia Legislature passed an insurance mandate - anathema to the industry - to require autism coverage for children 6 and under. And another bill prohibits health benefit plans from restricting coverage for treatment of a terminal condition when such treatment has been prescribed by a physician as medically appropriate.

Categories: Local

Dog attack killed Wilkes woman, 81

Wed, 4/8/2015 12:16 AM

A traumatic dog attack killed an 81-year-old Wilkes County woman earlier this week, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Friday.

In a news release, GBI Special Agent Pat Morgan said an autopsy also indicated Neta Lee Adams’ death on Gordon Street in Washington, Ga., was accidental.

The GBI and the Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office are continuing the investigation, Morgan said, and authorities ask anyone with information contact either the Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office at (706) 678-2224 or the GBI at (706) 595-2575.

Categories: Local

Guilty plea entered in child pornography case

Sun, 4/5/2015 12:11 AM

A Columbia County man pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court to possession of child pornography.

Jason Genitski, 34, has been held without bond since his arrest on the federal charge punishable by a prison term up to 20 years.

In February, a judge ruled Genitski could not be free on bond due the nature of the charge and the content of e-mail exchanges in which Genitski expressed a desire to kidnap, rape and kill children.

Federal agents traced three different e-mail accounts to Genitski that were used to receive and trade child pornography from August to
November. A sentencing date has not been set yet.

Categories: Local

School cafeteria manager being investigated for missing lunch money

Sun, 4/5/2015 12:10 AM

Greenbrier Elementary School’s former cafeteria manager is being investigated over missing school lunch money, school officials said Thursday.

According to a Columbia County sheriff’s report, Greenbrier Elementary Principal Mary Bridges called deputies on Tuesday to report the missing funds.

Jane Wiggins, director of nutrition for the school system, told police that she had first notice discrepancies with Greenbrier Elementary’s cafeteria accounts in Augusta

Wiggins said it appeared that the cafeteria manager, Debbie Proctor, 56, of Martinez, had been “pocketing the cash transactions from parents’ payments to school lunch accounts,” the report stated. Wiggins said a little more than $243 was missing from the cafeteria account.

School officials said Proctor, who was employed by the school system for 17 years, resigned from her position on March 27, after being confronted with situation.

At the time of the report, Bridges told the deputy that the “Board of Education was handling the situation,” and asked only to file an “informational report,” about the incident.

On Thursday, Super­intendent Sandra Carraway said Bridges had made an error due to a miscommunication and authorities had been called to correct the record and report the missing money as a

Carraway said it was policy to report any potential crime to the proper authorities.

Carraway said the reason it took months for school officials to approach police about the missing money was because it took time to determine whether the discrepancies could be explained as accounting problems or something else.

She said small adjustments in such accounts from time to time are typical, but this situation turned out not to be the case.

“They had to determine the adjustments weren’t legitimate,” she said.

Carraway said the school’s cafeteria accounts from previous years are currently being scrutinized to determine whether any more funds might be

If so, that information with be referred to authorities for possible prosecution, she said.

Categories: Local

Police Blotter, April 5, 2015

Sun, 4/5/2015 12:09 AM

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

Threatening letter found

An employee of a Martinez funeral home found a threatening letter addressed to a Cleveland, Ohio, insurance company in the business mailbox on Wednesday. xThe employee of Elliott Sons Funeral Home on Columbia Road called authorities on Tuesday after discovering an envelope in the mailbox that was marked return to sender for insufficient postage. The envelope was hand addressed to a woman at The Standard Insurance Co. in Cleveland. The return address was the funeral home’s except with the incorrect ZIP code. The writer of the letter was upset over postings the insurance company employee made online. The envelope also included a live Smith and Wesson .40-caliber bullet.

The deputy researched and discovered the woman who the letter was addressed to was an account manager at the insurance company.

Dugout tagged with graffiti

Two Evans schools were targets of paint-wielding vandals over the weekend.

The principal of Riverside Middle School on Furys Ferry Road called deputies Monday after finding spray-painted graffiti in the baseball field dugout. He said the dugout was not damaged on March 27. But Monday morning, the principal said he found someone spray-painted the word “peins” inside the dugout. He said the vandal or vandals jumped over the locked gate and spray-painted lines on the baseball field. The principal at Blue Ridge Elementary School on Blue Ridge Drive said his school sustained similar damage over the weekend. She said someone used painted a graphic image on a bench located outside of the fifth grade building. She said the maintenance crew can remove the paint.

Woman urinates next to house

A Martinez woman called authorities Monday after seeing a suspicious woman urinate near a neighbor’s home. The woman said she was leaving her home at about 7:45 p.m. when she saw a white sedan with two men and a woman inside, parked in front of a home. She said the woman got out of the sedan, went to the side of the home to urinate. The driver stayed in the vehicle and the other man walked to another nearby home, where the residents were away. Then, all three left.

Categories: Local

Former students can seek high school diplomas under new state law

Sun, 4/5/2015 12:09 AM

Former high school students who were sentenced to a life without a diploma because they failed so-called “graduation tests” got a reprieve this week from the pen of Gov. Nathan Deal.

Deal’s signing of House Bill 91 on March 30, makes results of such graduation tests null and void and allows former students to apply for the diplomas that they were denied in high school going back more than 30 years.

The law covers all graduation tests, beginning with the Basic Skills Test administered to students who enrolled for the first time July 1981.

Individuals who might seek such retroactive diplomas, will have to demonstrate that they passed all required courses and accumulated the required credit hours to otherwise qualify for graduation, said Rose Carraway, director of Student Learning for Columbia County schools. Carraway said about 200 former students dating back to 2000 could qualify for a bonafide diploma under the new law. As to how many might qualify, Carraway said it would be hard to estimate because the school system does not have electronic records that go back that far.

“I couldn’t even make a ballpark guess,” she said.

Carraway said the special needs students also may qualify for diplomas under the new law. Columbia County seniors had been taking subject tests this year that would have decided whether they received a diploma or just a certificate of attendance.

The school system has already created a link on it Web site to allow former students to petition for a diploma. The downloadable form should be sent to the high school the former student last attended.

For the diploma petition form vist:

Categories: Local

Columbia County official considering expanding stormwater penalties

Sun, 4/5/2015 12:08 AM

Columbia County hopes to take a tougher stance on customers behind on their utility accounts by expanding a proposed stormwater policy that would use tax liens, business license suspensions and water service turnoffs to recover unpaid fees, an official said this week.

The new ordinance, removed from discussion before the Columbia County Commission in March for revisions, would work much like the enforcement of city utility accounts in Augusta and Aiken.

If a customer is late on a government bill, including monthly payments for water, sewer and stormwater fees, Columbia County could immediately discontinue any or all services until past-due charges and penalties are paid.

Where Columbia County takes it a step further is allowing officials to file tax liens and suspend business licenses or building permits against delinquent property owners, according to a staff proposal.

“The reason we removed our proposal was because instead of rewriting the ordinance specifically for stormwater, (county administration) wanted to rewrite it to include all departments,” said Gary Bennett, Columbia County stormwater utility manager.

Columbia County commissioners now can only establish policies and procedures for handling and collecting unpaid utility accounts “by resolution adopted from time to time,” according to its Code of Ordinances.

Bennett said county administrator Scott Johnson and attorney Chris Driver are rewriting the ordinance, which has been in the works for almost a year. Neither returned phone or e-mail messages seeking comment.

Efforts to beef up enforcement of past-due ut­ility payments comes a month after Columbia County officials announced they were going after property owners responsible for more than $130,000 in unpaid stormwater fees, despite years of collection letters being sent out requesting payment.

Columbia County records show that more than 1,000 property owners have at least $30 in delinquent stormwater fees and have not paid in a year. At least 300 of them owe more than $300, and a handful owe more than $1,000, according to documents obtained by The Columbia County News-Times.

Bennett said the county doesn’t have a good history of collecting overdue fees, in part because it hasn’t had a good system to pursue the debts or a way to compel owners to make timely payments.

“For sure,” Bennett said of the ordinance giving the county more power to go after delinquent accounts. “We have actually seen several people with past-due charges call to bring their accounts up to date.”

Bennett said “there could be the potential” to enforce tax liens, license suspensions and water turnoffs, but those measures are not the goal of the ordinance.

“It’s to help resolve the large number of accounts that are past due and collect the high volume of fees that are outstanding,” he said.
In December, commissioners approved three years of rate increases for 44,000 parcels of land in Martinez and Evans.

The fee – now 8.75 cents per 100 feet of impervious surface – increased by 3 cents in January and will again by the same amount at the beginning of 2016 and 2017, before maxing out at 17.75 cents.

When measured on a 1,000-square-foot scale, the current rate (87 cents) is about three times greater than North Augusta’s (28 cents) and Aiken’s (32 cents), but substantially less than the $2.90 being proposed in Richmond County to generate $12 million in revenue for drainage infrastructure.

Once adopted by the Augusta Commission, the fee will be added to monthly utility bills, which if unpaid can result in the city shutting off a property’s water and charging a $25 late fee, according to city ordinance.

It’s the same consequence in North Augusta, where by law, nonpayment can result in termination of all utility services, consisting of stormwater management, and water, sewer, sanitation and outside fire services.

The only city that files liens is Aiken.

If bills for water, sewer or stormwater services remain unpaid for 20 days after the issue date, any or all services may be immediately discontinued until the customer has paid the past due charges and penalties.

For properties without active accounts, outstanding fees are billed semiannually to owners listed on property tax records. If the fees are still not paid, the city can by law place a lien against the property and after giving written notice, add the past-due fees to property taxes.

Tanya Strickland, North Augusta’s stormwater manager, said the South Carolina city only gets into filing tax liens when a problem arises with “stormwater impairment” and her staff must intervene because of property owners not maintaining their land.

She said liens, along with utility turnoffs, are uncommon.

“It rarely comes to that,” she said. “If someone’s services are cut off, they are pretty quick to make sure any issues with their accounts are resolved.”

Categories: Local

Rezoning request pulled for Scuttle's Island

Sun, 4/5/2015 12:08 AM

Developers of a proposed water park near Grovetown withdrew Thursday a rezoning request to move forward with the $20 million project.
Three hours before he was set to go before the Columbia County Planning Commission, Benjamin Bell announced he had temporarily suspended plans for Scuttle’s Island, a 45-acre water park to be located on Louisville Road.

He said he made the move “upon the advice of legal counsel,” citing an ongoing dispute with Columbia County Planning Services over whether he had provided documentation showing his proposal could support the volume of traffic, wastewater and noise pollution associated with a water park.

Bell maintains he has furnished almost all of the approved site plans and permits requested, and completed a Level 3 traffic study, but now he said the county wants a traffic impact study that will cost $7,000 and take more than a month to complete.

Andrew Strickland, director of Columbia County Planning Services, did not return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment.

“It doesn’t make sense to drag out the current rezoning application while the county keeps moving the goal,” Bell said in a statement. “We will re-file for zoning when we’re ready and the county is fully on-board. This gives us the time to look at every option for a successful venture.”

The Columbia County Planning Commission voted unanimously March 5 to give Bell one month to produce missing state and federal permits and address infrastructure and traffic concerns before it decided on a rezoning request for a proposed water park off Interstate 20.

During a public hearing, about 75 people opposed the project on concerns the proposed site – serviced by a system of two-lane roads, septic tanks and drain fields – lacks adequate infrastructure to serve upwards of 300,000 customers annually from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

County staff stated this week in a nine-page report it still recommended – like it did last month – the commission reject Bell’s proposal because of concerns it could “cause excessive burden to existing roadways and utility infrastructure.”

Among the documents Columbia County has requested that records show Benjamin Bell has obtained include a nationwide permit the Army Corps of Engineers approved on Dec. 31 to disturb 0.21-acres of wetland and 140 feet of U.S. stream for Scuttle’s Island.

The county’s report, however, still says Bell needs to complete an as-built survey of the proposed water-park site and submit data to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to amend the land’s map because rear parking lots and a detention pond fell within the Special Flood Hazard Area.

The county also estimated the water park will generate more than 10,000 gallons of wastewater a day, which exceeds the permitting authority of the local health department and must be submitted to Georgia Environmental Protection Division for approval.

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

He said early findings of the review show Georgia law allows the site’s septic tank to handle 175,000 gallons of wastewater a day, which is well within the 30,000 to 40,000 gallons the firm expects the park to generate.

He said the study will take another one to two months to complete and cost $40,000, but if completed, his attorneys told him all legal requirements for his proposal should be fulfilled.

“I promised people we’re going to build a water park and we are going to build a water park,” Bell said. “We are not going anywhere.”

Categories: Local

Doctor accused of operating unlicensed pain clinic

Sun, 4/5/2015 12:07 AM

A Columbia County physician is being held on a felony charge accused of operating an unlicensed pain clinic in Martinez, authorities said.

Imo F. Ndem, 55, of Darwood Drive in Grovetown, was arrested March 17 at his office on Old Petersburg Road, according to a Columbia County sheriff’s report.Ndem, who has been licensed to practice medicine in Georgia since 2008, is charged with a violation of the Georgia Pain Management Act.
The law, enacted in 2013, was designed to curtail the existence of so-called “pill mills” or pain clinics that dispense prescription pain killers indiscriminately.

Mike Marbert, special agent with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, said Ndem’s practice had been under investigation for more than a year, and authorities had served search warrants on his clinic in

Ndem is being held at the Columbia County Detention Center on bonds totaling $10,100.

Categories: Local

DUIs, April 5, 2015

Sun, 4/5/2015 12:04 AM

William Charles Dominguez, 61, of the 700 block of Devon Road in Grovetown, was charged with driving under the influence on Nov. 11, 2014, and was fined $1,055.

Regan Cheek Landau, 35, of the 900 block of Bartram Ridge in Evans, was charged with driving under the influence on Jan. 3, 2015, and was sentenced to 12 months probation and a $1,080

Johnny Ray Moore, 57, of Appling, was charged with driving under the influence on Nov. 24, 2014, and was fined $1,055.
Rayshun Deon Whitfield, of the 2100 block of Travis Road in Augusta, was charged with driving under the influence on March 1, 2015, and was sentenced to 31 days in jail.

Edith Mitchum Ostrihon, 49, of the 4000 block of Vernon Street in Martinez, was charged with driving under the influence on Dec. 31, 2014, and was sentenced to 12 months probation and a $1,080 fine.

Elizabeth Jane McBurnett, 22, of the 100 block of Fornum Drive in Grovetown, was charged with driving under the influence on Nov. 21, 2015, and was fined $1,055.

Categories: Local
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