Police review storm travel ticket rumor

A Richmond County sheriff's car is seen slowly driving down Highland Avenue as sleet, ice and fallen trees are seen in the Hill area as a winter storm hits the Augusta area on Wednesday.

 

Richmond County sheriff’s officials said there is no truth to the rumor that police are writing tickets for unnecessary travel in the ice storm aftermath.

“It’s not true,” said Sgt. Michael McDaniel, who acknowledged he had heard the story several times. “We’re not purposely writing tickets for people going from point A to point B.”

Nearly all sheriff’s office employees were called in to help with the storm cleanup. McDaniel said the sheriff’s office didn’t have the resources to pull people over. They were too busy with tree removal and road clearing and traffic control at intersections still operating without power.

“If people are actually saying they got a ticket (for unnecessary travel) then there’s more to the story,” he said.

Police could write someone a ticket who disregards directions from an officer. For instance, if an officer is trying to control traffic and a driver disregards him, the officer has the right to issue a citation because of the potential for an accident. Columbia County officials are also dispelling rumors.

Pam Tucker, the director of Columbia County Emergency Management, said there is no truth to the rumor that residents’ water is being turned off because of problems with the filtration system from a power outage. Tucker said all of the county’s water utility locations have power.

Rumors are also circulating about looting and price-gouging for lodging during and after the storm. Officials said they are unaware of these accounts.

Shawn Conroy, spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection, said he is not aware of any complaints about price-gouging for lodging. A look through hotel booking Web sites show prices that are within a normal range.

Right now, the only item covered under the price-gouging law in Georgia is propane gas, which was included in an executive order signed by Gov. Nathan Deal on Jan. 27.

“The way the law is set up, unless the governor itemized a specific item during an emergency it’s not subject to the price-gouging statute,” Conroy said.

When a state of emergency has been declared in Georgia, the governor has to identify which items – such as food, lodging, gasoline, propane gas, lumber and other necessary supplies – will apply.

Conroy said he has not heard of any plans to extend the item list beyond propane in light of the recent storm.

Complaints about price-gouging of propane can be filed at consumer.ga.gov.

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