Originally created 08/27/99

HUD denounces cut in funding



WASHINGTON -- A report Thursday by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development denounced a proposed $1.6 billion cut that would cost Georgia $40 million, including $2.06 million in Augusta.

Augusta's funding is the fourth-largest amount of HUD money in Georgia. Additionally, 226 fewer families would get needed HUD programs such as housing vouchers, said department spokeswoman Debbie Pickford.

The House Appropriations Committee approved a $1.6 billion cut in HUD's budget in July. The full House is expected to vote on the issue in September. The committee prioritized spending under tight budget constraints, said Elizabeth Morra, a committee staff member.

Cuts at Augusta Housing Authority would make it harder to maintain public housing, and waiting lists for housing would grow longer, said Richard Murray, administration director for the authority.

"We get a lot of our funding from HUD and if it was cut, it certainly would hurt us. We couldn't survive for long," said Mr. Murray, adding that the authority gets $10 million or more a year from HUD for programs ranging from anti-drug programs to modernization of buildings.

The agency's numbers note that almost 2,000 jobs would be lost throughout Georgia with the cuts, 65 of those in Augusta. The numbers reflect proposed jobs that would not be created because of loss of funding, not current jobs, Ms. Pickford said.

Court upholds death sentence

ATLANTA -- A federal appeals court Thursday upheld the death sentence of Alexander E. Williams IV, condemned for the 1986 kidnapping, rape and murder of a 16-year-old Beech Island girl in Richmond County.

Mr. Williams, who was 18 at the time of the slaying, was convicted of accosting Aleta Carol Bunch, a high school student and part-time model from Beech Island, at an Augusta area shopping mall parking lot. He forced her to accompany him to a secluded area, where he raped and killed her, then took her jewelry, pocketbook and automobile.

After arguing that his defense lawyer was ineffective, Mr. Williams won a new hearing, and the latest appeal argued his second lawyer also was ineffective.

In a 2-1 ruling, 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judges R. Lanier Anderson III and Ed Carnes upheld a district judge's finding against Mr. Williams. Judge Rosemary Barkett dissented, saying Mr. Williams had the right for a jury to hear mitigating circumstances that his first lawyer failed to present during the sentencing portion of his trial.

City to seek help with cleanup

Augusta city officials will seek financial assistance from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to remove waste tires from a bankrupt, abandoned scrap metal yard off Gordon Highway.

Mayor Bob Young said Thursday the city will apply for grants from EPD's statewide fund to remove and dispose of scrap tires.

The Augusta site is the former Goldberg Brothers recycling business, which declared bankruptcy last year. Augusta has also received a $200,000 federal Brownfields Grant to finance an environmental site assessment of the property.

Cedar Creek water called OK

An order to boil water was lifted Thursday for residents in the Aiken County subdivision of Cedar Creek.

Test results arrived Thursday and found the water suitable for consumption, according to the New Ellenton Public Works Commission.

Residents were told early Thursday that their water was suitable for drinking. They had been asked to boil their water this week until test results were received on water purity. The utility commission took the precautionary step after a water line broke last week.

Repairs were made Monday and the line was flushed, but the water still had to be checked for contaminants under state and federal regulations. No other problems have been reported with the line, utility officials said.

Nix to seek GOP chairmanship

AIKEN -- David Nix said Thursday he intends to run for chairman of the Aiken County Republican Party.

His name will be placed in nomination when the party holds its convention Oct. 16 at Midland Valley High School. His likely opponent is Chairwoman Diane Giddings.

Mr. Nix has served on the Aiken County Voter Registration and Election Commission for eight years, a position he will have to vacate if he becomes GOP chairman. During his tenure on the commission, Mr. Nix said he has not held party office or contributed to candidates or the party.

"I've been out of the loop, basically," said Mr. Nix, an Aiken native who worked in Columbia for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. Now he is an environmental engineer at Savannah River Site.

Money earmarked for rural use

ATHENS -- Gov. Roy Barnes said Thursday he wants to use tobacco settlement money to create a billion-dollar fund to stimulate rural development.

"South of Atlanta, there are 60 counties in extreme economic distress -- as poor as any place in the world, almost," he said. "We cannot allow Georgia to be polarized between its rural agrarian areas and its urban areas."

His plan would use about one-third of the $4.8 billion Georgia expects to receive over 25 years from a recent nationwide settlement between the tobacco industry and several states. Another $22 million annually will go specifically to tobacco farmers who could suffer reduced crop sales if anti-smoking campaigns succeed, as mandated under the settlement.

The governor said he wants to use money for agricultural research and to attract food processors from Florida, expand export markets, build rural water and sewer plants, provide tax incentives for industries moving to rural areas, build new roads, and provide vocational and technical training.

Men afraid to testify in smuggling

SAVANNAH -- Foreign sailors held in jail as witnesses in an immigrant smuggling case told a federal judge through their interpreter they fear for their lives and their families if they testify.

The eight sailors, who have not been charged, are being held as material witnesses in the case against seven men accused of smuggling 132 Chinese into Savannah two weeks ago. The immigrants were hidden in the hold of the Prince Nicolas, a freighter.

In an affidavit supporting the arrest of the accused smugglers, cabin boy Sun Cheng is quoted as threatening the lives of crew members -- and their families -- if they talk about the operation.