Originally created 01/07/01

Across the area

Truck driver dies in Friday accident

A McDuffie County man died Friday afternoon after he lost control of a tractor trailer he was driving, authorities said.

Willie Phillips, 62, was driving along Fort Creek Road just outside of Dearing, Ga., at about 3 p.m. when the hood of his 1985 GMC General tractor trailer flew up because it had not been properly latched, according to a report from the Georgia State Patrol.

Mr. Phillips, who was a self-employed truck driver, slammed on the brakes, causing the truck to swerve into a ditch. The truck, which was not carrying a trailer, overturned.

Mr. Phillips was taken to McDuffie Regional Hospital, where he died from injuries to his chest and head. Another passenger in the truck, William Marlow, was not injured in the accident, authorities said.

Afternoon fire guts rental house

Firefighters suspect that a man trying to keep warm in a house without electricity caused a fire Saturday.

The blaze gutted 1623 Luckey St., which was being rented by a man who was not at the burning house when firefighters arrived at about 5 p.m., said Battalion Chief Michael Weathers of the Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department.

"It's under investigation," he said, "but I don't see anything suspicious."

Debbie Lechelle, a neighbor at 1621 Luckey St., said she called the fire department when she saw flames coming out of a rear window.

Firefighters were on the scene two minutes after receiving the call, and it took three minutes to get the blaze under control, Chief Weathers said.

That was enough time to destroy the interior of the one-story house and char parts of the concrete porch.

Meeting will address police grant

The Columbia County Sheriff's Office will have a public meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Appling Courthouse to discuss a $20,000 state grant it recently received.

Capt. Bill Probus with the sheriff's office said the public is invited to attend and give their view of how the money should be used.

He said his department is planning to use the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant to purchase more law enforcement equipment. For more information, call Capt. Probus at 541-3918.

Funds freed for social programs

The East Central Georgia Consortium will hold informational meetings to explain how eligible programs can secure funding that the group is making available for social programs.

The group has set aside more than $750,000 for youth programs, $300,000 for adult programs and $50,000 for dislocated workers' programs. Bidders interested in applying for the funds can receive program specifications - requests for proposals - from the consortium's office, 835 Augusta Road in Thomson, beginning Wednesday.

The bidders'conference for the Adult and Dislocated Workers' Programs will be Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the consortium's office. A similar informational meeting about youth programs will be Wednesday at 1 p.m. at the Thomson Depot Annex.

Team seeks cheerleaders, mascot

The Augusta Stallions will hold auditions for those interested in becoming a mascot or cheerleader for the local arenafootball2 team.

Coordinators are looking for individuals to fill slots in the team's cheer/dance squad and "Tony the Pony" mascot. Candidates are asked to bring a photograph and resume and will have to perform a routine they will be taught at the tryouts.

The preliminary tryouts will be Saturday at Health Central, 945 Broad St., at 3 p.m. Finalists will audition again Jan. 17 and interview Jan. 15.

For more information, contact Tammie Newman at (706) 738-9539 or (803) 270-5050.

Democratic legislator to meet Bush

ROCK HILL - U.S. Rep. John Spratt, one of South Carolina's two Democratic congressmen, will meet with Republican President-elect George W. Bush next week.

Mr. Spratt is among more than a dozen lawmakers from both parties invited to meet with Mr. Bush to talk defense and foreign policy Monday in Austin, Texas.

Mr. Spratt is the third-ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee and the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee.

"John's happy to go," said Rudy Barnes, Mr. Spratt's legislative director.

"He campaigned in part by pointing out he's been able to build bridges over the partisan divide during his tenure, and we think this confirms that's not an exaggeration," Mr. Barnes said.

Mr. Spratt said he's prepared to discuss his two specialties.

"Ballistic missile defense is one of their chief emphases this year," said Mr. Spratt. "The other is the defense budget in the context of the overall budget."

Fire destroys 109-year-old church

MACON - A fire destroyed the 109-year-old Stubbs Chapel Baptist Church, and the church's pastor hopes it was accidental.

"I just hope it wasn't arson," said the Rev. Arthur Hubbard. "I pray it was something else."

Investigators from the FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; the Georgia Fire Marshal's Office; and the Macon-Bibb County Fire Department are looking for the cause of Friday morning's fire.

The church was completing an extensive renovation, including the installation of a security system and fire alarms.

Stores switch to brother's sauce

COLUMBIA - Is this any way to treat your brother?

After some South Carolina supermarkets and retail stores removed Maurice Bessinger's barbecue sauce from their shelves last year, Piggly Wiggly has brought in a sauce made by Mr. Bessinger's brother, Melvin, The (Columbia) State reported Saturday.

Melvin Bessinger owns Melvin's Southern BBQ and Ribs in Charleston and Mount Pleasant. He also owns a Bessinger's Barbecue restaurant in Charleston.

Maurice Bessinger is well known in South Carolina for his outspoken support for the Confederate flag, which has flown outside his restaurants since August. But grocers said his distribution of tracts defending slavery, not the flags, prompted them to stop selling Maurice's Gourmet BBQ Sauce.

Maurice Bessinger last month said his $5-million-a-year wholesale business had fallen off by 98 percent. His sauce business used to operate full time, but it is now down to one day a week. He says he's had to cut 15 employees.


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