Originally created 02/11/01

Across the area

School referendum vote nears

The future of Columbia County schools could hinge on only 15 percent of its voters, an election official predicts.

Voters will go to the polls March 20 to vote on a referendum to reauthorize the 1-cent special purpose local option sales tax.

When the 1-cent sales tax was first instituted in 1997, only 13 percent of the voters cast their ballots in that election, 6,246 of 47,024 registered voters. The county now has about 59,046 registered voters, but the interest in the election is still expected to be limited, said Deborah Marshall, executive director of the Columbia County Board of Elections.

Monument honors Watergate guard

In a ceremony featuring Sen. Charles Walker as the keynote speaker, a North Augusta church memorialized the contribution that a former member played in shaping modern history.

The Mount Transfiguration Baptist Church unveiled a 4-foot granite monument to Frank Wills, a North Augusta native who died in September at age 52 from a brain tumor.

Mr. Wills was the Watergate security guard who discovered an open door at the posh office and apartment complex that touched off the Watergate scandal and President Richard Nixon's resignation.

Injured toddler clings to life

An 18-month-old Aiken toddler is still battling to stay alive in a hospital after police say she was nearly shaken to death by her mother's boyfriend.

Makaylia Coleman is in critical condition at the Medical College of Georgia Children's Medical Center. She has been on life support since Feb. 3.

Saquan Tyrone Bostick, 26, is charged with inflicting bodily injury on a child. If Makaylia dies, he could face life behind bars for homicide. Sheriff's investigators say the incident happened in an apartment that Mr. Bostick shared with the girl's mother, Avis Moore, 19, who was not home at the time.

Authorities expected the toddler to be removed from life support Thursday, but they aren't sure now when her removal will happen.

EDITORS NOTE: In December 2004 Saquan Tyrone Bostick was found Not Guilty of inflicting great bodily injury upon a child.

'Neighbors' sections will change

Subscribers to The Augusta Chronicle can expect to see some changes to the Richmond County Neighbors section beginning Thursday.

The section will change from a tabloid to a broadsheet format. In addition, the South Augusta Neighbors, which was in the Wednesday papers, will now be a part of the Richmond County Neighbors.

Live rounds kill training soldier

FORT BENNING - An Army sergeant was killed when he was fired on at close range by a soldier who was mistakenly given live ammunition during a training exercise, Fort Benning said Saturday.

Sgt. Richard M. Robak Jr., 25, of Vona, Colo., was pronounced dead early Friday at the Medical Center of Columbus, the Army post said in a statement.

The soldier fired two rounds on Sgt. Robak at close range during routine "blank-fire" night training that began just after midnight Friday, Fort Benning spokeswoman Elsie Jackson said. The soldier had inadvertently been given a magazine of live ammunition, she said.

A team from the U.S. Army Safety Center based at Fort Rucker, Ala., was investigating Saturday at Fort Benning, just south of Columbus along the Georgia-Alabama line.

Military police ruled out criminal intent, the statement said.

The Army post did not identify the soldier who fired on Sgt. Robak or release other details of the accident, citing the investigation.

"It's a terrible thing that happened here," Ms. Jackson said. "I'm sure we're going to get to the bottom of what happened. We want to make sure this doesn't happen again."

Sgt. Robak was part of 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) and served in the Army about seven years, the last nine months at Fort Benning, Ms. Jackson said. She said Sgt. Robak's wife was notified Friday, and the couple had no children.

Salmonella outbreak hits prison

COLUMBIA - Health officials are trying to determine the extent of a salmonella outbreak at a South Carolina prison.

Hundreds of prisoners at the Kirkland Correctional Institution were exposed to the bacteria after they were served chicken that had been left unrefrigerated, a Columbia television station reports.

Prison officials first learned of the problem Tuesday when a few inmates reported stomach problems. Further testing by the Department of Health and Environmental Control confirmed at least seven cases of salmonella, scientist Mark Huff said.

The sick inmates have been placed in lockdown to protect the rest of the prisoners, WLTX reports.

"We are giving them plenty of fluids. Our medical staff has been tremendous. They are providing around-the-clock treatment for the inmates," prisons spokeswoman Cheryl Bates-Lee said.

Salmonella is caused by a bacteria most commonly found in milk products or chicken that is left unrefrigerated too long or is not properly prepared.

Suit dismissed against officer

GREENVILLE - The lawsuit against a Greenville police officer accused of falsely arresting three people after the shooting death of another officer has been dismissed.

Judge Charles Simons ruled Friday in favor of Officer Mark White, who was being sued by Nancy Workman, Anthony Sheppard and Clarence Thornton for their arrest after the 1996 shooting of Officer Russ Sorrow.

Officer White's lawyer, Howard Boyd, said he was pleased by the ruling. Officer White acted in accordance to standards at all times during the investigation against Joseph Sheppard, Anthony's nephew, Mr. Boyd said.

Joseph Sheppard was sentenced to life in prison for the shooting of the officer.

Ms. Workman, Anthony Sheppard and Mr. Thornton questioned whether a witness in the case actually gave and signed a statement to police. Officer White testified he obtained warrants against the three people based on the witness' statement.

There was insufficient evidence to support the claims by the three people, Judge Simons said. There also was probable cause to arrest them, the judge said.

Governor will move into mansion

COLUMBIA - Gov. Jim Hodges was sworn into office more than two years ago, but only now is he preparing to move into the Governor's Mansion.

Mr. Hodges will move into the renovated mansion Tuesday after living in a rented home in the Shandon community since he became governor in January 1999.

The renovations are still incomplete.

"The outside of the mansion is still a construction site," said Ryan Zimmerman, director of the mansion complex.

No date has been set for when the building will reopen to the public, Mr. Zimmerman said.

It has taken more than two years and cost $5.6 million to renovate the 16,400-square-foot mansion, which was built as a military facility in 1855.

The renovations include new oak floors, new walls, plumbing and a heating and air-conditioning system.


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