Originally created 03/10/99

Across the area



Edgefield man dies in car wreck

EDGEFIELD, S.C. -- An Edgefield man died when his car left Center Springs Road on a curve and rolled several times, authorities said Tuesday.

Willie Dale Simpkins, 38, died from head injuries he suffered in the wreck just before midnight Monday, said Edgefield County Coroner Thurman Burnett.

Mr. Simpkins apparently was traveling at a high speed along the secondary road, South Carolina Highway 39, when his right wheels dropped off the edge of the pavement, said Cpl. Mark Gosnell of the South Carolina Highway Patrol. The 1988 Toyota skidded across the road and struck trees as it overturned and rolled.

The driver was wearing a seat belt, Cpl. Gosnell said. Mr. Simpkins was a father of four who lived at 1271 South Carolina Highway 23 West in Edgefield.

Anti-litter campaign under way

About 100 anti-littering signs are being posted on Augusta's streets and roads this week warning that littering is a crime.

Littering, a misdemeanor, is punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000 for each offense. Offenders also can be sentenced to up to 60 days in jail.

The signs are in response to a request by Mayor Bob Young's litter task force to inform the public about penalties for littering. The Georgia Department of Transportation is also increasing the number of anti-littering signs on state highways in Augusta.

"Strict enforcement of the littering laws is just one step in the overall effort to clean up Augusta," Mr. Young said in a prepared statement. "I encourage our citizens to report litterers to local law enforcement, and I call on our courts to deal harshly with those who would trash our city."

Inmate escapes from work crew

WRENS, Ga. -- A state prison inmate in Jefferson County took a quick bathroom break from his work detail Tuesday and never returned.

Jorge Cordova, 23, an inmate at Jefferson County Correctional Institution, was working between 12:45 and 1 p.m. with 13 other inmates cleaning ditches on Georgia Highway 351. He told the supervising officer he had to go to the bathroom, police said.

Mr. Cordova went into the bushes and kept walking, authorities said. State troopers, Jefferson County sheriff's officers and a police dog searched for him Tuesday night.

Mr. Cordova was described by police as Hispanic, 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighing 150 pounds, with black hair. He was in prison after a burglary conviction.

Man robbed on way home

A robber confronted an Aiken County man as he returned home from work, sheriff's officers said Tuesday.

Mao Nan Lai, 57, of the 900 block of Magnolia Drive, told authorities he was walking toward his front door at about 10 a.m. when the suspect approached him, put a knife to his chest and demanded money.

Mr. Lai told police he gave the man $230 and the man ran toward Silver Bluff Road.

In a second robbery, Clifford Martin of Graniteville told deputies he was at the Depot store on U.S. Highway 421 in Bath when a truck pulled up to his car at about 3:30 a.m. Tuesday.

A passenger got out and pointed a handgun at Mr. Martin's side, demanding money. Mr. Martin told the man he didn't have any money, but the man grabbed a wallet from Mr. Martin's back pocket and got away in the truck.

Legislator opposes plan for bar

An Augusta bar owner's plans to open a new bar on Ellis Street have met with opposition from state Rep. Jack Connell, who is a neighboring businessman.

Bar owner Josh Williamson wants a liquor, beer and wine license for his proposed business, to be known as Continuum, at 943 Ellis St. But Mr. Connell, who owns nearby businesses and parking lots in the area, objects to the city's issuing the license.

Mr. Connell, whose businesses in that area include Sandwich City, sent his lawyer, Sam Nicholson, to Monday's Augusta commissioners' meeting to object to the license.

Mr. Williamson's proposed bar does not have adequate parking, and Mr. Connell fears bar patrons will use his parking lots and trash them, Mr. Nicholson said. He asked commissioners to deny the license request.

Mr. Williamson, who also operates Firehouse Bar at 1145 Broad St., said he hopes to open the new bar by Masters Week.

The license request will come before the full Augusta Commission Tuesday. Meanwhile, commissioners at Monday's public services committee meeting recommended that Mr. Nicholson, Mr. Connell and Mr. Williamson try to resolve the issue.

City officials to meet group

Mayor Bob Young and Augusta commissioners will meet with the Harrisburg Neighborhood Association at 7 p.m. Thursday at Bible Deliverance Temple, 1857 Fenwick St.

The association has been meeting with city officials and law enforcement for months about correcting problems and getting services to the historic neighborhood.

Guide explains sunshine laws

Residents looking for information on Georgia's open records laws can get a copy of the newly published citizens guide to Georgia's sunshine laws.

The Georgia First Amendment Foundation in cooperation with Attorney General Thurbert Baker published the book, which lists statutes and common questions about open-records laws.

The book is called Georgia's Sunshine Laws: A Citizen's Guide to Open Government.

Foundation Executive Director Hollie Manheimer said people looking for not only the law but an interpretation of the law can contact her office for help. To get a copy of the book, call the Georgia First Amendment Foundation at (404) 525-3646 or contact the organization online at www.gfaf.org.

House OKs gas deregulation bill

ATLANTA -- The Georgia House approved legislation to speed the pace of converting the state's natural-gas market from a regulated monopoly to competition among a handful of companies.

The bill passed 164-0 Tuesday and heads to the Senate for its consideration. It was pushed by House leaders and members of the Georgia Public Service Commission, which regulates the natural-gas market.

In 1997, the General Assembly enacted a law aimed at allowing competition in hopes prices would drop as a result.

Nearly a third of the 1.5 million customers Atlanta Gas Light Co. started with in 1997 have switched.

Under the new bill, the PSC would assign companies at random for anyone not switching before next winter's heating season.