Originally created 05/30/97

Local and area briefs



Richmond County schools out today

Today's the day most Richmond County schoolchildren have waited for since August.

School will be out for the summer starting at 2:30 p.m., when the first Richmond County schools let out.

Most of the 36,000-plus student body won't need to be back in class until August, when the 1997-98 term begins. Others will head to summer school.

Richmond County students get an earlier start on their summer vacation than do their Columbia County and Aiken County counterparts. The 1996-97 term ends in those systems June 6.

Landfill groundbreaking set

Community leaders and elected officials are expected to break ground for the $15 million Three Rivers landfill today, a landfill that will serve eight South Carolina counties for the next half-century.

The landfill will cover more than 1,000 acres at Savannah River Site and is expected to take in 200,000 tons of garbage over the next 50 years. The Department of Energy, which owns and manages SRS, has offered the land to the Three Rivers Solid Waste Authority under a permit.

"In creating a regional landfill we are ... reducing costs and boosting the environmental quality of our region," said David K. Summers, chairman of the waste authority's board of directors.

Children's expo planned

Four area businesses will make health and safety training fun for local children at the first annual Safety-Health-Fitness Expo on Saturday.

"The event will focus on keeping children safe by promoting safety education for families. The event will teach children how to be safe, fit and healthy by learning what community resources are available to them," said Jodi Adams, special events coordinator for WJBF-TV (Channel 6).

WJBF, along with Blue Choice Healthcare Plan, KFC and South Trust Bank, is sponsoring the event as part of the Children First Campaign. The campaign raises awareness of the challenges facing America's children, said Kisha Geer, coordinator of the campaign.

"The campaign involves the participation of the entire community to help children overcome obstacles that may inhibit their growth and learning potential. There is something each of us can do," Ms. Geer said.

The expo will feature art exhibits, a parachute exercise, puppet shows, a fire safety house, bike safety and face painting.

The expo will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Wheeler Road YMCA; it is free to the public.

Suspended agent gets support

ATLANTA - Nearly 100 current and former FBI employees gathered in a light rain Thursday to show support for Don Johnson, the FBI agent suspended for his role in the questioning of former Olympic bombing suspect Richard Jewell.

Supporters lined the walkway going into the FBI's Atlanta office and applauded steadily as Agent Johnson returned to work for the first time since the five-day suspension.

The stern-faced Agent Johnson did not speak but listened as some of his colleagues criticized the punishment handed out by FBI Director Louis Freeh.

Agent Johnson was suspended last week and two other agents - Atlanta Special Agent in Charge Woody Johnson and Kansas City Special Agent in Charge David Tubbs - received censure letters for their roles in the Jewell investigation.

Kidnapped girl rescued

SHREVEPORT, La. - A kidnapped 14year-old Georgia girl was rescued after a caller identification feature on her parents' phone led police to her assailant at a Louisiana rest area on Interstate 20.

The kidnapping suspect, who had not been identified Thursday, allowed Mielka Campoc of Cobb County, Ga., to call home early Wednesday to let her parents know she was safe, said Trooper Chris Johnson, a spokesman for Louisiana State Police.

Police were at the family's home when the call came through. The Caller ID feature on the family's phone told the number she was calling from. Cobb County police called Louisiana police, and the phone number was traced to the rest area east of Minden, Trooper Johnson said.

Educator to donate home

COLUMBUS - A retired professor is offering to donate the childhood home of novelist Carson McCullers to the Historic Columbus Foundation in hope it will bring long-awaited recognition to the prize-winning author of The Member of the Wedding.

Thornton Jordan, a retired Columbus State University English professor, earlier this month bought Mrs. McCullers' 1917 home, built the year she was born, in hopes of honoring the author, who died in 1967 after a series of strokes.

In addition to The Member of the Wedding, written in 1946 about a 12-year-old girl experiencing the pains of growing up, she also wrote The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Reflections in a Golden Eye and Clock Without Hands.

Confederate debate not settled

COLUMBIA - The Legislature started the year with strong momentum toward resolving debate about the state's Confederate symbols, including whether the flag should fly over the Statehouse.

But with a week left, lawmakers failed Thursday to even push through a bill to protect Confederate and civil rights monuments from being renamed or removed from public property.

The House sent the bill back to committee, effectively killing it for the year. The Senate already had passed the bill.

Minister to step down

CHARLESTON - The minister of Charleston's oldest United Methodist Church has been ordered to step down while authorities investigate charges he stole $25,000 from a Greenville congregation.

Delegates at the statewide convention in Spartanburg voted Wednesday to replace the Rev. Washington Belangia until the breach of trust charges are resolved.

The Rev. Belangia had been suspended with pay since March 6 but remained on staff at Trinity United Methodist Church with limited responsibilities. He will now step down as minister but will receive partial pay and a housing allowance.

The minister is accused of diverting $25,000 from Francis Asbury United Methodist Church into a bank account for personal gain.

- Compiled by Jennifer Goodwin Miller