Across the area

Police find 4 kilos of cocaine during stop

A routine Monday morning traffic stop led to the seizure of $250,000 worth of cocaine.

Deputies stopped Jorge Alberto Valladares, 31, of Duluth, after he was caught speeding through a construction area on Interstate 20, according to a Richmond County sheriff's release.

Mr. Vallardares had no license and gave the deputy conflicting information. A search of the vehicle uncovered four kilos of cocaine in a hidden compartment, the release said.

Mr. Vallardares was charged with trafficking cocaine, speeding and no driver's license, the release said.

Shoplifting suspect is arrested after chase

A Hephzibah man was arrested Sunday night after he fled a Richmond County deputy, leading him on a chase that ended in the middle of a busy road, police say.

William Curtis, 47, was arrested in the theft of more than $350 in merchandise from Dollar General at 2464 Georgia Highway 88, according to a Richmond County sheriff's report.

Deputy Hector Torres was letting Mr. Curtis out of the car to be identified by the manager when the suspect struck him in the groin and fled, he said.

After an "extensive" foot chase, Mr. Curtis was caught in the "middle of oncoming traffic on Highway 88," the report said.

He was charged with shoplifting and obstruction of an officer and was released on bond Monday, jail officials said.

County sets record for deer-vehicle crashes

Columbia County has set a new annual record in deer-vehicle accidents, officials said Monday.

"With an entire month left in the year, we have already had 501 vehicle/deer collisions in Columbia County," Emergency Director Pam Tucker said in a statement. "This is 135 more deer strikes than last year."

City council restricts businesses' light use

The North Augusta City Council unanimously approved Monday on final reading an ordinance that restricts the use of lighting by new businesses and multifamily residential developments.

Businesses will be required to reduce their lighting by 50 percent one hour after closing.

The council also approved on final reading an ordinance to restrict recreational equipment at a home unless it is parked behind the building line farthest from the street or in an enclosed building. Residents won't be allowed to occupy the equipment at their home for more than 120 hours within 180 days.

The council also set the date for the 2009 municipal election as April 28. Elections will be held to fill three positions on city council and the mayor's office. Candidate entries will be accepted from Jan. 5-12.

Tree knocks out power to hundreds of homes

Power was knocked out to more than 200 houses near Walton Way on Monday when a large sweet gum tree fell across the road and into power lines near Malvern Drive, closing Walton Way between Malvern and Oberlin drives.

Richmond County sheriff's Deputy Craig Pryor said a woman driving on Walton Way at about 7 p.m. saw the tree fall.

Police said they aren't sure what caused the accident and speculated that drenching weekend rains could have softened the soil, or that Monday's high winds could have pushed the tree over.

Magnet schools hold series of open houses

Richmond County's magnet schools will hold open houses this month. Open houses will be at John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School from 4-5:30 p.m. today; C. T. Walker Traditional Magnet School from 4-6 p.m. Dec. 11; and the International Baccalaureate program at the Academy of Richmond County at 7 p.m. Dec. 16 and Jan. 8.

Applications will be available. The deadline to apply to any Richmond County magnet school is Jan. 30.

Student orchestra will perform next week

The Richmond County All County Orchestra Christmas Concert will be held Monday. Beginners will perform at 6 p.m. and intermediates through high-schoolers will perform at 7 p.m. The free show will be held at ASU's performing arts theater.

School system will hold resource fair

The Richmond County school system's Title I Department and Georgia Pre-K will hold a resource fair in collaboration with CSRA Childcare Centers at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 11 at Henry Brigham Park. The fair will include booths from local organizations, lunch for parents and door prizes. Participating organizations include Healthy Grandparents, Rape Crisis, United Way and Dads In Action.

Traffic update

Construction will close lanes on both sides of Interstate 20 this week near Exit 5 in Aiken County as crews work on the Palmetto Parkway. That area of the interstate could be closed for 10- to 20-minute periods from 8 p.m. until midnight Wednesday, Thursday and possibly Friday, according to a news release from the contractor.