Originally created 07/09/98

Local and area briefs



University systemhealth costs rising

ATLANTA -- The University System Board of Regents gave final approval Wednesday to a 15 percent rate increase for employee health insurance rates.

Other state employees saw their rates climb 12 percent last year and 8 percent in 1998, according to Don Davis, the regents' associate vice chancellor for human resources.

For system employees, the change will mean an increase of about $14 a month for workers with insured dependents.

The system employs 31,790 faculty and staff.

Insurance claims exceeded premiums by $8.3 million in the last 12 months. The university system received no additional state funds for its health insurance plan for fiscal 1999, which began last week.

The university system rate increase would coincide with a delayed 6 percent pay raise to take effect Sept. 1.

The insurance rate increase would also take effect Sept. 1.

Barnes joins pollution chorus

ATLANTA -- Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Barnes joined the pollution-fighting politicos Wednesday, unveiling his proposal to restructure the powerful Department of Transportation, curb urban sprawl and provide tax incentives for people who live near work.

He joins opponents David Poythress and Steve Langford -- both of whom have already called for tough measures -- in promising solutions to Georgia's air-quality woes.

Mr. Barnes also faces Secretary of State Lewis Massey, James Morris and Carlton Myers in the July 21 Democratic primary.

Though most of the measures are aimed at stopping air pollution in Atlanta -- which has prompted the federal government to cut off road funding -- Mr. Barnes said his plans will help all of Georgia.

"If the Atlanta region falters, then all of Georgia falters," Mr. Barnes said at a Capitol press conference, flanked by former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson and developer Joel Cowan, who served as former Gov. Joe Frank Harris' chief of staff.

State's quarter to sport peach

ATLANTA -- The new Georgia quarter to be produced in 1999 by the U.S. mint will not feature a Coca-Cola bottle, a Delta jet or a peanut, though schoolchildren suggested all three.

Instead, the Peach State will be represented by a peach.

Gov. Zell Miller announced the design Wednesday, saying the commemorative quarter -- part of a minting effort that eventually will recognize all 50 states -- "will be a lasting symbol of Georgia and the principles we cherish."

The design came partly from the Georgia Council for the Arts, which was asked to submit five concepts for the coin to Washington.

The mint sent four proposed designs back. The council then selected the final design, said spokeswoman Caroline Leake.

Under a law signed by President Clinton last year, five states will be honored with coins each year for the next 10 years. Georgia's coin is among the first to be produced.

Injured deputy dies at hospital

PHENIX CITY, Ala. -- A Russell County sheriff's deputy died at a Columbus, Ga., hospital, 10 days after being struck by a car while directing traffic.

Jimmy Roberts, 59, of Seale, died Tuesday of injuries suffered June 27 when he was struck while directing traffic out of the Twin Cities Classic Horse Show at Austin Sumbry Park on U.S. Highway 431.

Police said his death appears to be accidental, and District Attorney Kenneth Davis said he doesn't expect to file charges against the car's driver, 38-year-old Billy Thurman Jackson of Phenix City.

Mr. Jackson, a former Kansas City Chiefs player, runs the Boys & Girls Club of Phenix-Russell.

Authorities said the investigation will be turned over to the Alabama State Troopers and will be presented to a grand jury in August, a routine step.

Airports may get more flights

NEW YORK -- A federal appeals court says the government may allow more flights at LaGuardia Airport to increase nonstop service to Atlanta, Denver, Chicago, Knoxville, Tenn., and Melbourne, Fla.

The city, which is considering an appeal, opposed the added flights on grounds that it would create noise and traffic problems.

"The airspace over New York City is among the most crowded -- if not the most crowded -- in the United States," said Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

"We need commercial flights, obviously, and we want Kennedy (International Airport) and LaGuardia to have the maximum number that is safe. But we were not convinced they had really adequately assessed it when they permitted these additional flights," the mayor added.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater had the right to award additional takeoff and landing slots at the airport without conducting an environmental-impact study.

The additional slots were awarded to regional carriers Frontier Airlines and AirTran Airways.

Retaliation suspected in slaying

MACON -- Five people have been charged with gunning down a Macon woman as she looked through the peephole in her front door.

The suspects, all from Macon, are accused of shooting Johnnie Mae Coley, 39, on Monday. She apparently was investigating a noise outside her apartment, police said Tuesday in announcing the arrests.

Police said the shooting was believed to be in retaliation for an earlier confrontation between the suspects and a member of Ms. Coley's family.

Arrested were Andrew Curry, 31, Taurus Newsome, 26, Roy Herman Ford, 27, Horace Curry, 17, and an unidentified 15-year-old. All were charged with murder.

Suits alleging racism dismissed

SPARTANBURG -- Lawsuits alleging the state Revenue Department denied bingo license renewals because of racism have been dismissed.

The charities had not pursued all their appeals with the department, Circuit Judge Clary said Tuesday. Their lawyer, Fletcher Smith, offered to withdraw the complaint when he learned during a hearing that the charities' head, Woodrow Lewis, had not asked for a formal appeal. Mr. Smith thought the department had not given Mr. Lewis an appeal.

Mr. Lewis wanted Mr. Clary to issue the bingo licenses to his charities and force the Revenue Department to release funds that allegedly belong to them. Mr. Lewis claimed the licenses were denied because the groups serve a predominantly black population.

The Revenue Department said the charities were fictitious.