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Warm winter saves road work money

GAINESVILLE, GA. — Georgia road crews are still wary of winter taking a wicked turn, but they are celebrating a slow season so far.

The Department of Transportation has spent about $50,000 combating the elements statewide this year, mostly in northeast Georgia.

That compares to nearly $2.6 million last winter and $1.4 million the season before that was spent scraping away packed ice and snow in northeast Georgia alone.

Last year’s winter was one of the roughest in recent memory for north Georgia residents.

The area was slammed by a January storm that brought snow and ice, trapping many people in their homes for days.

This winter season has brought much milder weather. Transportation officials are quick to note, though, that they’re not in the clear yet.

1,400 jobs come with big price tag

ATHENS, GA. — Taxpayers in Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties will pay a stiff price for the 1,400 jobs that Caterpillar is bringing to northeast Georgia.

The two local governments paid almost $10 million to buy 252 acres for land that straddles the county line. The governments will spend millions more to build more roads and utility lines to service the 1.2 million square-foot plant.

It will cost $17.6 million for the land and the improvements.

That’s not including property tax abatements that will save Caterpillar $12.4 million over the next 20 years and another $45 million in state incentives.

Georgia economic officials say the package is typical for a project this size, but some analysts warn the incentives aren’t always worth the cost.

Public’s tips help to catch arsonist

SNELLVILLE, GA. — Authorities say tips from the public helped lead them to a 23-year-old suspect accused of setting a fire inside a Snellville church.

Investigators said David Wayne Stone Jr. was arrested late Friday and charged with setting the blaze in the kitchen of Zoar United Methodist Church on Thursday.

Fire department spokesman Capt. Tommy Rutledge says Stone has been charged with first-degree arson and burglary.

Police say the blaze was deliberately set with the intent to cause significant damage and that they found evidence of vandalism in the church gymnasium.

Authorities are investigating a possible motive. They say they don’t believe Stone attended the church.

Woman faces jail for stolen benefits

FLORENCE, S.C. — A South Carolina woman could get up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine after her conviction for using her husband’s name to collect veteran’s benefits.

Federal prosecutors say 26-year-old Megan Mosteller of Pickens was convicted by a federal jury trial in Florence of stealing more than $37,000 from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Mosteller married Jeremy Mosteller but separated from him after a few months in 2007.

The Marine died in March 2008. Megan Mosteller filed for survivor benefits days later, claiming to have continuously lived with her husband until his death.

She remarried five months later, but kept using the Mosteller name to continue collecting government benefits.

U.S. District Judge Terry Wooten will impose sentence after reviewing a presentencing report.

Body found in vacant house

LANCASTER, S.C. — Authorities are investigating the death of a woman whose body was found in an abandoned home Lancaster.

Sheriff’s Maj. Matt Shaw says that the body of 54-year-old Linda Massey Gaymon was found inside a dilapidated house about 11 a.m. on Friday.

Authorities say they have not yet determined how Gaymon died, but Sheriff Barry Faile says that evidence suggests foul play.

Fisherman’s body found in S.C. lake

CROSS, S.C. — The body of a missing South Carolina fisherman has been found two weeks after he was last seen.

Berkeley County authorities say the body of 28-year-old Michael Muse was found Saturday about noon on Lake Marion.

Muse had been missing since Feb. 11 when he and Douglas Smith didn’t return from a fishing trip.

Their boat was found the next day.

Authorities say Muse drowned and that they believe his death was an accident.

Smith has not been found, and Coroner Bill Salisbury says searchers will continue looking for him.

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