Originally created 05/17/98

Additional area news



Local attorney to lead association

Richmond County Solicitor General Sheryl B. Jolly will serve as president of the Solicitors General Association of Georgia.

Elected Thursday at the solicitors association meeting at Jekyll Island, she is the first solicitor general from the Augusta area to hold the position, she said.

"I think it's a tremendous honor," said the solicitor. "I think it says a lot for Augusta."

The group serves as a networking link for solicitors from across the state to share ideas, conduct continuing legal education programs and discuss legislation.

Mrs. Jolly's term as president of the solicitors association begins July 1 and will last for a year.

Levee repairs may begin soon

MACON -- After a year of squabbling between federal engineers and local officials, steps are being taken to make repairs to Macon's Ocmulgee River levee.

Repairs to bring the levee up to 100-year-flood protection levels probably will wait until at least 2001, but structural repairs on the back side are set for the next few months, the city Engineering Department said after meeting with the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Savannah on Friday.

The Corps has studied Macon's levee problems and recommended $2.9 million worth of repairs, including raising the 48-year-old levee as much as a foot in four low spots.

Last year, the Corps said it could not approve any improvements to the levee before the city and Bibb County started to comply with the levee's maintenance requirements, including clearing an overgrowth of vegetation.

The city took over half the maintenance of the levee after the Flood of 1994.

Phonics to return to classrooms

ATLANTA -- Phonics, a mainstay of reading teaching from the 1950s to 1970s, is returning to Georgia classrooms this fall.

About 1,200 teachers from 351 schools approved by the state Board of Education for a $9 million program called Reading First will receive phonics training this summer.

They will return to their elementary schools to train others in the reading approach to decoding letter sounds.

David Denton, a reading specialist at the Southern Regional Education Board, said Reading First stresses phonics because it has been neglected in favor of the "whole language" approach.

State school board Chairman Johnny Isakson called it a first step in improving reading comprehension and ultimately reducing Georgia's high dropout rate.

Child advocate accused of abuse

FLORENCE -- A Florence advocate for abused children has been charged with aggravated criminal domestic violence.

Rudy C. Guajardo's 15-year-old daughter told deputies he punched her in the mouth May 9 during an argument about her custody arrangement, according to an incident report. A deputy, in the report, said he saw a large bruise on the girl's lip.

Mr. Guajardo, 45, was arrested Wednesday and released on $10,000 bond.

Governor's spokesman Gary Karr said Mr. Guajardo had been a volunteer in the guardian ad litem program for two years.

Suspect faces child-sex charges

UNION -- Police arrested a Union man after finding videotapes and pictures of him allegedly having sex with children.

Bobby Lee White, 64, was charged with four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, three counts of committing a lewd act on a minor, nine counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and one count of engaging a child for sexual performance.

He was being held in the Union County Jail without bond.

All of the alleged victims were girls under 14; the youngest is 9.

Sheriff Howard Wells said Friday he expects more charges in the investigation. "There appear to be more victims," he said.

A neighbor said on condition of anonymity that Mr. White's yard was always full of children. "We'd see him riding little girls around on his lawn mower," the neighbor said. "The little girls said he would give them Popsicles, but they would have to hug his neck."

Nuclear plant may get longer life

SENECA -- Officials are examining the Oconee Nuclear Station to prepare for a license renewal that would allow the plant to operate through 2033.

Duke Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission engineers are reviewing reports on the plant's efforts to correct equipment, maintenance and personnel problems. Seven plant employees were scalded after a steam pipe split in September 1996, forcing a three-month shutdown of all three reactors.

In August, Duke Energy paid a $330,000 fine for problems with two reactors.

Lawmaker blocks BMW probe

COLUMBIA -- A House leader has blocked an investigation into a state program that reimbursed BMW nearly $200,000 for a leadership training program that included white-water rafting in North Carolina.

The state Legislative Audit Council on Friday delayed acting on legislators' request to audit the Special Schools program and the state Commerce Department after a complaint from House Ways and Means Chairman Henry Brown, R-Hanahan.

"I don't understand the rafting trips," said Mr. Brown, an ex-officio audit council member. "But I don't set the criteria for training. I think this is a witch hunt to try and get back at this incident. BMW has been a great partner of this state."

More than a dozen lawmakers had requested the audit after criticism of the state's paying BMW for nontechnical training of supervisors to develop team-building and leadership skills. The training included white-water rafting trips on the Nantahala River in North Carolina.

Demonstrators protest firing

COLUMBIA -- Blind demonstrators marched in the streets of the state capital Saturday carrying signs and protesting what they called the "unfair" firing of Donald Gist, former head of the South Carolina Commission for the Blind.

"I think the process they used to fire the commissioner was definitely inappropriate," said Solomon Bradford, who organized the march that started at the blind agency's doorsteps and ended at the Statehouse.

Mr. Gist was fired in April by the governing board, which said only that "he no longer meets the expectations of the board." The decision came after a closed-door meeting.