Upson-lee names 2019 star student and star teacher
Photo by Ellen Tew
Zakiya Imara Davenport, a senior at ULHS, has been named 2019 STAR Student for the Thomaston-Upson School System. The announcement was made today by the Thomaston Kiwanis Club, local STAR program sponsor.
Mrs. Lara Greer, ULHS American literature and composition teacher, was selected by Zakiya as the 2019 STAR teacher. Mrs. Greer was Zakiya's American lit/comp teacher in 11th grade.
The STAR Student is that student with the highest score in one sitting of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) taken through November test date of his or her senior year. The STAR Student must also be in the top 10 percent of his or her class based on grade point average. The STAR Teacher, chosen by the STAR student, is the teacher who has made the most sig
commissioner frank spraggins retires after 20 years
By Jim Wheeless
Commissioner Frank Spraggins retired from his seat as the District 4 Commissioner where he served from Jan. 1, 1999 to Dec. 21, 2018. At the last board meeting in Dec. 2018, Spraggins was recognized by the board of county commissioner and the mayor and city council. Mayor J.D. Stallings read a resolution of commendation from the mayor and city council expressing their appreciation for his twenty years service to the community. Spraggins worked 42 years for the City of Thomaston. In addition to his years of service as a county commissioner and as a city employee, , Spraggins public service includes serving in the United States Navy, coaching football, baseball, basketball and soccer for the recreation department.
Commission board members read letters from U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, Governor Nathan Deal and State Representative Robert Dickey congratulating Spraggins on his retirement and his long tenure of service to the community. Chairman Norman Allen read a proclamation from the board honoring Spraggins for his distinguished service, his integral part in shaping Upson County, and the commissioners and employees' gratefulness for his twenty years of service. The proclamation proclaimed Friday, December 31, 2018 as Commissioner Frank Spraggins Day. County Manager Jason Tinsley and County Clerk Jessica Jones representing the county employees presented Spraggins with a large photo of the Upson County Courthouse.
Commissioner Spraggins said he enjoyed all his years of service and a major accomplishment doing his tenure is the county not having to borrow money to operate in 2019. Another accomplishment he was glad to see was the improvement in the relations between the City/County. He gave the reason for his success is his wife Brenda, who was in attendance at the meeting along with two of his grandchildren.
Spraggins chose not to seek another term and Benjamin Watson assumed the 4th district seat in January.
upson board of education members take oath of office
By Jim Wheeless
The oath of office was administered by Probate Judge Danielle McRae to reelected members of the Thomaston-Upson Board of Education, District 2 Jacqueline Hollis, District 6 Steve Sadler and newly elected member District 4 Brian Salter. Each was elected to serve a four year term.
Ms. Hollis ran unopposed for the District 2 seat in the 2018 election and will complete 30 years of service in June as District 2 board member. Her daughter, Kennise, held the Bible as Ms. Hollis takes the oath of office ceremony.
Mr. Sadler ran unopposed for the District 6 seat in the 2018 election and has served District 6 for twelve years on the board. Mr. Sadler said he was honored for the privilege to serve on the board. Mr. Sadler and his wife Lisa have three children, Brittney Peek, Briggs Sadler and Brianna Wirsu. They have one grandchild Branson Wirsu. Superintendent Dr. Larry Derico held the Bible as Mr. Sadler takes the oath of office.
Mr. Salter won the election for the District 4 School Board Seat and replaces long term member Keith Rohling who served on the Thomaston-Upson School Board since January 1999. His wife Amy Salter and other family members were in attendance. His daughter, Shelby-Paige, held the Bible as Mr. Salter takes the oath of office.
County commissioners take oath of office
By Jim Wheeless
Upson County Probate Judge Danielle McRae administered the oath of office to swear in new members of the Upson County Board of Commissioner. District 3 Commissioner Paul Jones and District 4 Commissioner Ben Watson was officially sworn in before family members Tuesday, January 02 at the County Courthouse.
Commissioner Jones was appointed to fill the unexpired term of late Commissioner Ralph Ellington through December 2018. Jones was elected in the November 2018 election to serve as District 3 Commissioner, and his four-year term on the board started January 2019. Jones and his wife Sandra have three children, three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Commissioner Ben Watson won the District 4 seat in the November 2018 election filling the seat of long term Commissioner Frank Spraggins who retired in 2018 after 20 years of service. Watson will start his four year term on the board January 2019. He and his wife Jessie are blessed with a one year old son, Beckett.
two arrrested in the murder of missing lamer county man
By Jim Wheeless
Two people have been arrested and charged with the murder of the missing Lamar County man Roderick Crawford. In addition to murder, Cameron Jones, 20, of Thomaston and Kiera Williams 18, of Ellenwood were also charged with armed robbery, kidnapping, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm while in commission of a felony.
According to a press release from Upson County Sheriff Dan Kilgore, a body was located by an Upson County Deputy Thursday evening, Jan. 3, just before 9 p.m. At the time the deceased was believed to be the missing Barnesville man, Roderick Crawford, who was reported missing from Lamar County on Dec. 29. Sheriff Kilgore said both Jones and Williams are in custody, Williams in Upson County Jail and Jones is in the Clayton County Jail. Both have been charged with murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm while in commission of a felony. Williams is in the Upson County Jail and Jones is in the Clayton County Jail. Sheriff Kilgore said Jones faces an additional murder charge for a separate Clayton County murder.
Sheriff Kilgore said the Investigation reveals that Crawford contacted Williams through an internet escort website and met him in Upson County. He was subsequently murdered and left behind an abandoned house located at 1414 Grantlin Street in Upson County.
Crawford went missing from his home on Howard Road in Barnesville Thursday Dec. 28, 2018 around 7 p.m. According to reports, he told his boys he was heading to Grain Craft Flour Mill at 347 Industrial Road in Barnesville to check his work schedule. Roughly 20 minutes later there was a missed call to his wife and this is the only other contact he apparently tried to make with his family. Any attempt to reach him by phone went straight to voicemail. Investigators Crawford’s phone pinged a cell tower in Thomaston on North Church Street near the Thomaston Fire Department a half hour after the call, and then it was deactivated a short time later. On New Year's Day his Dodge Nitro was found abandoned in Clayton County.
According to police, Williams and a 21-year-old female, Ashanti Dorsey are also charged with murdering a man at in Clayton County on Dec. 21. Police described a similar scenario to Crawford's murder, saying the two used an escort website to lure the man to an apartment before robbing and killing him. When officers arrived on the scene, they found a man, later identified as Mario Rashad Edwards, 28, of Covington dead of at least one gunshot wound. Further investigation later tied Williams and Dorsey to his death.
Police are looking into whether the three may be tied to more crimes across Georgia. Dorsey, meanwhile, had just earned a spot on Clayton County's most wanted list after the Clayton County Sheriff's office said she allegedly killed her boyfriend, Dontavious Morrison and led police on a high speed chase. She was ultimately caught on Panthersville Road in DeKalb County and returned to Clayton County where she remains in custody. Williams is currently suspected of committing two murders. Additional charges against Jones are still pending.
Nine agencies worked this case along with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The investigation is still ongoing.
zowie curry and john armstrong named wendy's high school heisman school award winners
Upson-Lee High School is extending congratulations to Zowie Curry and John Armstrong who were named School Winners for the prestigious Wendy’s High School Heisman Award. Zowie and John, along with almost 42,000 high-achieving senior athletes throughout the United States, submitted online applications for independent review. Students applying for the Wendy’s High School Heisman must be graduating with the Class of 2019, have a GPA of 3.0 or better, be proven leaders and role models within their schools and community, and must perform in at least one of the 43 school-sponsored sports recognized by the International Olympic Committee in the Summer and Winter Olympic Games or the National Federation of State High School Associations. Both Zowie and John play soccer for Upson-Lee High School.
Zowie is the daughter of Sean and Michele Curry. John is the son of Robby and Sarah Armstrong.
The Wendy’s High School Heisman celebrates the achievements of the nation’s top high school seniors both in and out of the classroom. Just as the collegiate Heisman is known for being the highest award in college football, the Wendy’s High School Heisman award is recognized as the most esteemed award at the high school level because it encourages future leadership by acknowledging well-rounded students.
Dunkin' & Baskin robbins coming to Thomaston
35 New Jobs
The City of Thomaston and Thomaston-Upson County Development Authority announced that a combination store of Dunkin’ & Baskin Robbins will be coming soon to Thomaston.
The store’s proposed location is on Highway 19 between McDonald’s and Waffle House.
According to Thomaston City Manager Russell Thompson, “The Dunkin & Baskin Robbins combo store will invest approximately $1,4 million and create 35 new jobs.” Thompson added that the franchisee indicated that the goal is to hire locally.
Dunkin’ Donuts recently announced that starting in January, they will drop the “Donuts” from ads, packages and signage. More details on the store will be coming in the near future.
One of the goals of the Development Authority as well as the City of Thomaston is to create investment and retail jobs along our commercial corridors. The Development Authority is working to reach out to developers as well as research which retail stores would be a good match with our demographics.
The City of Thomaston is committed to economic development and is proud to welcome this latest business to our community. The City will continue to work with existing businesses as well as strive to attract new development opportunities.” – Mayor J.D. Stallings
faith, family, and friendship
Make Every Moment Count
By Debbie Lord
In November, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) dedicated the Flint River Bridge on Highway 36 to one of their own, Carey Ellerbee who died in a tragic accident while clearing roads after a snow storm the morning of Jan. 18.
Ellerbee was employed with GDOT District 3 since March, 1999. Through the years, Carey became very close to his DOT family and was admired by many because of his love and devotion for his family and friends, his strong work ethic, sense of humor and above all else, his faith in God. While at the DOT Carey rose through the ranks and in 2005 was promoted assistant foreman of the Asphalt Chip Seal Crew.
In a heartfelt ceremony, family, co-workers, church members and so many others gathered to honor the life of Carey. Several people paid tribute to Carey, and his oldest granddaughter Kyia, who is nine years old was one of many speakers. Kyia shared many wonderful memories of her granddaddy with the crowd.
Michael Presley, District 3 Engineer said, “Carey was a man devoted to his country, but also his family and his community. We can see it in his dedication to his family, as members of the asphalt team remember him talking with pride about his children, including Carson, who also made the Georgia DOT his career. They recall when his first three grandchildren were born, how he shared photos and stories like the proud grandfather he was.
We can see it in his dedication to his church, where he was chairman of the board of deacons and choir director.
We can also see it in his dedication to his work at the Georgia DOT, and the service he rendered to the state of Georgia.
Whenever there was an emergency deployment during or after storms, Carey was there, serving on the strike teams.
His fellow co-workers say they never heard him once complain or groan about the hard work or the hours away from his home – they say he led by example and would always make the best of the situation at hand.
The younger members of his crews relate how they would then take their lead from his example. They say he would often take the newer team members under his wing, ensuring they wore their safety gear and got their work done properly and efficiently.
Working in a Georgia DOT maintenance crew can be long and hard, and most of the folks who benefit from their work – citizens who drive on the roadways made safer and more efficient by their efforts – give no thought to the people who made their secure travel possible.
For our crew members, having such a positive, outgoing role model as Carey Ellerbee in their midst, a man who kept up the team’s good humor in all occasions – his presence in their everyday lives was invaluable.
His loss still affects them greatly – and indeed all of us at District 3, and throughout the state.
It is right, and fitting, that we today remember Carey Ellerbee, and name a bridge in his honor.
For a man who cherished his community, it is right, and fitting, that the bridge over the Flint River on State Route 36 be named today as the Carey Ellerbee Memorial Bridge.
It's a bridge that has a particular significance to the Ellerbee family – Carson Ellerbee tells us that stretch of the Flint River is where his family spent many happy days, fishing and floating and other outdoor activities.
It’s a place where members of his community, the city of Thomaston and the Georgia DOT’s District 3, often drive and will be reminded of him and his service to all of us.”
Once the caravan traveling from the main district office made their way to the bridge, Carson Ellerbee, Carey and Tracy’s son was asked to unveil the memorial sign, a task his mother said was a privilege and made him even more proud of his dad.
“We were honored that they cared so much. And believe it will help Carey’s legacy live on. Carson followed in his dad’s footsteps and made the choice to work for the DOT as his career. In February, a month after his father died, Carson was asked if he and his family would allow the DOT to dedicate the bridge in his father’s honor. It was more than comforting to know how much they loved Carey back,” said Tracy.
After the unveiling, Presley read the official proclamation, “Whereas, on January 18, 2018, the State of Georgia lost one of its most distinguished citizens with the passing of Mr. Carey Ellerbee, and
Whereas, Mr. Ellerbee was a member of the Department of Transportation’s District 3 maintenance program and worked diligently to minimize disruptions in Middle Georgia travel and provide safe roadways for travel to the public, and
Whereas Mr. Ellerbee’s life was tragically cut short as he was fatally injured in the line of duty while clearing roads of snow and ice, and
Whereas he was a dedicated husband, loving father and grandfather, and devoted employee whose presence and love continue to be missed by all who had the great fortune of knowing him, and
Whereas he was a person of magnanimous strengths with an unimpeachable reputation for integrity, intelligence, fairness and kindness, and by the example of he made of his life, he made the world a better place in which to live, and
Whereas it is abundantly fitting and proper that this remarkable and distinguished Georgian be recognized appropriately by dedicating a bridge in his memory,
Be it further resolved and enacted that the bridge on State Route 36 over the Flint River in Upson County is dedicated as the Carey Ellerbee Memorial Bridge.”
Tracy said, “Carey died doing what he loved with the people he loved. So you can imagine that this means the world to all of us that they honored his life like they did. Carey was a good man. I miss him, but I also know he’s in a better place. We will be okay, and we are a strong family. We know we will see him again. Our faith and the support of family, our church and our friends combined helps us while we continue to heal. You never know what will happen, it’s important to live every minute and make every single one of them count, just like Carey did.”
RV Owner-occupied amnesty program begins
Registration and Inspection Required by March 11, 2019
Upson County is announcing a ninety (90) day amnesty program which requires registration by those currently living in RVs that are titled and registered in the owner-occupant’s name.
Upson County does not permit establishing or maintaining one’s home in an RV. The Transitional Residential Recreational Vehicle (TRRV) program, allows owner-occupants who register with the County to continue to live in their RVs until such time as the RV is moved from its registered location, the RV is sold or otherwise changes hands or the registered owner-occupant moves from the RV.
Registration for the program runs from Monday, December 10, 2018 to Monday, March 11, 2019. Registration is through the Upson County Building and Zoning Department located at 305 S. Hightower Street, Suite D-100 in downtown Thomaston, located in the Drake Building. Office hours are from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, except on weekends and holidays. Questions about the program can be answered by calling the Department at 706/647-1297.
Elements of registering for the program include completing an application form, providing a copy of the RV’s registration and/or title, a photo ID and the RV passing inspection. Annual renewal will be required. The fee for the initial registration and annual renewal is currently $25 per year. Decals will be issued and must be attached to the rear of the RV.
Any RV owner-occupants not registered by the March 11, 2019 deadline will not be eligible to register and will be subject to code enforcement action for illegally living in an RV. Those renting the RV that they are living in are not eligible for the program. This program was adopted by the Upson County Board of Commissioners October 9, 2018, through Ordinance No. 266.
Living in an RV has not been permitted in Upson County since 1995, when the County Zoning Ordinance was first adopted. It is Upson County policy that recreational vehicles shall not be considered equivalent to, nor be permitted as, permanent residential structures.
Permanent residential structures are built to meet either State of Georgia/International Code Council (ICC) Building Codes or U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) standards. Recreational vehicles are built for and intended for short-term vacation stays, itinerant travel, temporary emergency shelter, special circumstances housing and the like.
Thomaston-upson sports hall of fame 2019 inductees announced
The 2019 Thomaston-Upson Sports Hall of Fame inductees were announced last week, and they are:
The first member of the 2019 class of the Thomaston-Upson Sports Hall of Fame is Danny Kelly. Kelly is a 1966 graduate of Yatesville High School where he was a member of the Yellow Jackets basketball team that won the 1965 Class C state championship. He has been a Georgia High School basketball official for 45 years and has also umpired high school baseball and softball. He has officiated region and state tournaments in basketball, baseball, and softball.
The second member of the 2019 class of the Thomaston-Upson Sports Hall of Fame is Tommy Parks. Parks is a 1990 graduate of R.E. Lee Institute where he was a starter and major contributor in both football and baseball. He went on to play baseball at Wallace Junior College and Berry College. He was an All-Conference pitcher at Berry and later served as their pitching coach for one season. He was baseball coach at Andalusia High School in Alabama and Harris County High School. He also coached football at Manchester High School and Harris County. His teams won three region championships in baseball and two region titles in football. He was head football coach at Upson-Lee High School from 2014-16 and had a 21-11 record.
The third member of the 2019 class of the Thomaston-Upson Sports Hall of Fame is Helen Middlebrooks Smith. Smith is a 1964 graduate of R.E. Lee Institute where she was a three-year starter for the Lady Rebels basketball team. She was a vital member of the Lee teams that won 59 straight games during the 1963 and 1964 seasons. She was named honorable-mention AAA All-State in 1963 and was selected as the Most Valuable Player on Lee’s 1963 State Championship team.
The fourth member of the 2019 class of the Thomaston-Upson Sports Hall of Fame is Rick Rawlins. Rawlins is a 1972 graduate of R.E. Lee Institute where he was a four-year letterman and starter for the Rebel football team. He received the Most Promising Player Award in 1968 and was named Outstanding Offensive Lineman in 1971. He received honorable-mention on the 1971 AAA All-State team and played in the Georgia High School All-Star game in 1972. Rawlins then received a football scholarship to Georgia Tech where he was a starter in 1973 as a defensive nose guard.
The fifth member of the 2019 class of the Thomaston-Upson Sports Hall of Fame is Ben Daniel. Daniel is a 1962 graduate of R.E. Lee Institute where he was a three-year starter on the Rebel football team. He received the Most Outstanding Lineman Award on the 1961 Lee team that finished 2nd in the state. He received honorable-mention on the 1961 AAA All-State team and played in the 1962 Georgia High School All-Star game. He received a football scholarship to The Citadel where he played for four years.
The team member of the 2019 class of the Thomaston-Upson Sports Hall of Fame is the 1979 Upson High School boys’ basketball team. Coached by John Thrower, the Yellow Jackets had a season record of 27-4. Along the way they won the Troup Holiday Class and the Region 4AAA championship. Behind the scoring of Glenn Ferguson and Robert Caldwell, Upson went on to finish 2nd in the AAA state tournament, losing by one point in the state finals.
Violent Home Invasion on 4th Avenue
A red wave swept through Upson County for the Nov. 6 election. There are 15,930 registered voters in Upson, more than 6,500 cast their ballots early during the three week early voting period held at the Civic Center.
When all votes were counted, a total of 10,592 registered voters cast ballots in Upson during the General Election.
Republican candidates did very well in the area.
Republican Benjamin Watson defeated democrat Aaron Dawson to win the Upson County Commission District 4 seat. Watson received 1,389 (58.71 percent) votes compared to Dawson, who received 977 votes (41.29 percent). Watson will replace longtime commissioner Frank Spraggins, who was not seeking re-election. The seat is a four-year term.
Republican Paul Jones was elected to the Upson County Commission District 3 seat. He ran unopposed. The seat carries a four year term.
Incumbent republican John F. Kennedy retained the State Senator from the 18th District seat. The district seat serves Upson County and other surrounding counties. The candidate did not have opposition in this year’s General Election.
At press time Republican Ken Pullin was in the lead over democrat Chris Benton with 70 percent of the vote in the district for State Representative of the 131st District. Pullin defeated incumbent Johnnie Caldwell in the primary election held earlier this year on the republican ticket. Pullin received 7,047 votes in Upson, while Benton gathered only 3,337 votes.
Republican incumbent Drew Ferguson defeated democrat Chuck Enderlin to retain the U.S. Representative in 116th Congressional District of Georgia seat. Ferguson gathered 7,057 (67.99%) votes in Upson, compared to Enderlin, who received 3,323 (32.01%) votes.
UL senior Aniya Ellerbee was crowned Homecoming Queen Friday, Oct. 26 at Matthews Field during halftime festivities of the UL vs. West Laurens football game.
Tyra Perry was named 1st runner up followed up Chazmeon Walker who was named 2nd runner up. This year’s court consisted of 12 seniors.
Madison Walker was crowned Junior Princess. Shadarius Hobbs was crowned Sophomore Princess, and Carlie Murphy was crowned Freshman Princess.
By Matt Sharpe
During the past few weeks, the Thomaston City Council has heard from several citizens who oppose the sale of the Silvertown triangle at the corner of Hwy 19 and Goodrich Avenue. Former City Manager Patrick Comiskey, who resides in the Silvertown area, and Jerry McDonald, chairman of the West Village Association, voiced their concerns on the sale of the property during the council’s Tuesday, Jan. 16 meeting.
In December, one bid was received for the lot which includes Park Drive road. Charles Mixon Properties of Atlanta offered $500,000 for the 1.179 acres. Being proposed for the site is a “sit down restaurant.” No other details about the site have been received by the city. City hall has stated meetings with the developer are scheduled to learn more information on his proposal for the area. A decision to accept the offer has neither been denied nor accepted.
Those who oppose the sale have stated the land was given to the citizens of the city and county for recreational purposes and should not be sold, and selling the land violates the intent of the gift from BF Goodrich. Others oppose the sale wanting to keep the area a “greenspace” and, in doing so, protect the entrance to historic Silvertown and the Greatest Generation Memorial Park. Several residents of the Silvertown community were in attendance to oppose the sale.
According to news articles, the purchase of the land began back in the early 1990’s when community reaction to a plan to locate a shopping center project in the pine grove-the land between the catfish pond and R Street. Community reaction pushed city leaders towards rejecting a rezoning request for the property.
The BF Goodrich land was eventually sold to the city for $890,000. The deal included a three phase plan. A total of 21 acres would be sold. The area included the 9.45 acre pine grove site and 3.71 acres near the tennis court site. The tennis court area, surrounding island tracts, Silvertown Ball Park and other road frontage properties would be donated as part of the deal. In return, the final phase involved BF Goodrich asking for, and receiving, 231 acres to be rezoned for the development of those tracts. At that time, the rezoning requests were in line with the city’s zoning policies. Funds for the purchase of the land came from several sources including private donations, grants, and a SPLOST.
Comiskey said there was nothing wrong with someone approaching the city government about purchasing or selling property and agreed that its “part of the business operation of the city to make or receive such inquiries”. Comiskey added that a businessman inquired about buying the parcel several years ago, but at that time, Mayor Hays Arnold advised him there was not any interest in entertaining a proposal because of the land being the entranceway to the historic Silvertown West Village.
Comiskey said if the property was going to be put out for bid it should have been placed in the city utility bill information so citizens could see the information.
“If the city was going to entertain such a proposal, it is my opinion, the city should have put the proposal information onto a flier and sent it out to every citizen through the utility bills a month in advance of the meeting date the issue was being decided. This was the very approach the city utilized to educate citizens on projects in the past such as the Weaver Park improvements and the Lake Thomaston project. This gave citizens ample time to learn about the issue and present their views to the mayor and city council. Everyone received the information showing what it was going to look like and how much it was going to cost and they had it as soon as we had it,” he said.
Comiskey said he was concerned that the efforts of the past four administrations to protect and beautify the Route 19 corridor would be diminished with the sale. The official gateway extends from Potato Creek Bridge to Goodrich Avenue.
“The Greatest Generation Memorial Park, Mayor Hays Arnold’s initiative with $1 million assistance to date from the Hightower Family, has been a $3 million investment in the quality of life of this city. Imagine Thomaston today, without the Greatest Generation Memorial Park.
The Walmart shopping center developer had to follow the gateway ordinance for greenspace so why wouldn’t we try to require other developers to do the same,” said Comiskey.
Coming up with funds for operations shouldn’t be a problem, according to Comiskey who said, “When Hays Arnold came into office, the city had just over $2 million in the bank. When Hays Arnold left office the administration was left with $20 million in resources to work with...$10.8 million in cash in the bank, $1.6 million cash in a restricted fund to become available over 36 months, and about $4 million of SPLOST revenue to in over six years for sewer and storm water replacement...$200,000 of the SPLOST restricted for Silvertown Tennis Courts and $4.1 million placed by the Arnold administration in a restricted fund for new power generation.
Again, $20 million in financial resources. The Arnold administration left the city government in rock solid financial condition. There should not be a need to sell land in order to make ends meet.”
Comiskey said that implying the mill village is at fault for the city need to raise taxes or sell the land to avoid a property tax, “is nonsense or to phrase it in common Irish, it is a bunch of malarkey. Last year, the city passed a 40 percent increase on residential sewer, a 26 percent increase on residential water, and added $96 to every household’s yearly base electric rates. This amounted to an approximate $332 annual increase in utility fees to the average household. And they did not increase many of the large water and sewer users and they lowered the electric rates of high usage customers. In essence, they shifted the burden toward the mill village resident and other average households. The $300 increase in bills amounted to a 400 percent increase in city property taxes of a mid-range West Village mill house. These bill increases were made when the city water and sewer utility had an operating income in excess of $72,089 and the water/sewer fund had $1.7 million in the bank. The city electric utility had revenues in excess of $2.5 million. Using the mill village as an excuse to sell this land is wrong.”
Planning accordingly to enhance long term economic development for Thomaston is a concern for Comiskey. “We need not just maintain, but improve our quality of life. Selling off historically significant greenspace for a parking lot on a gateway corridor is not progressive planning. It’s not quality economic growth."
Jerry McDonald, chairman of the West Village Association, addressed council and said the association’s goal is to monitor the greenspace and keep the character of West Village.
“We’ve had to fight to keep that greenspace there and fight off everything from a billboard to a taco stand...and now, speaking on behalf of the people I have polled in west village association committee...the one thing they are saying...we don’t want to smell a new restaurant in Thomaston. Do not pollute our air with liver and onions. What we’re saying is...let’s not give up the quality of our life for a short term capital gain for something that will actually be a long term nuisance.”
According to the city council, a Town Hall will take place once all information from the developer is received.
City issues press release on
City officials have issued a press release regarding the sale of the Silvertown triangle. The release was issued following the council’s Tuesday, Jan. 16 meeting. During the meeting, the council heard from two citizens who opposed the sale of the triangle.
Here is a look at the press release:
“In August of 2017, the City of Thomaston was contacted by a developer who expressed interest in purchasing the property located at W. Goodrich & Church Street. This property consists of 1.179 acres and includes a section of Park Drive, as well as a triangular piece of land that was deeded to the City of Thomaston by B.F. Goodrich.
Georgia law regulates the procedure by which a municipality may sell property. The mayor and council chose to advertise the property and receive sealed bids in accordance with the statute and also as permitted by the City Charter, a legislative act. Prior to advertising, the property was surveyed and appraised. The procurement and solicitation ran in the legal organ the week of November 6th. In addition, notification was displayed on the city’s website and Facebook page.
Bids were received on December 8th, and the city had one respondent. The bid price for the 1.179 acres was $500,000.
In the bid package, the city required the following stipulations in efforts to protect the corridor and the Silvertown community:
• If, after the expiration of two (2) years from the date of conveyance of title out of the City of Thomaston, the purchaser has not completed construction on the primary building, structures, or facilities, parking areas, loading areas or landscaping, the city shall have the option to refund 75% of the purchase price and enter into possession of said property. The City reserves the right to extend this time limit or waive or alter the above stated conditions for good cause.
• No “discount stores” shall be constructed on subject property.
• If subject property is bundled with any adjoining parcels for a multi-parcel development, then the following shall also apply:
• The Development, if applicable, shall have a double setback with landscape buffer along the back alley of 4th Avenue, SW.
• The Development, if applicable, shall not place any trash receptacles along the back alley of 4th Avenue, SW.
• The Development shall not use the back alley of 4th Avenue, SW for commercial access to subject property, or contiguous properties tied to said development.
• The Development shall use Hwy 19 for ingress/egress for commercial trucks.
• Where feasible the Development will be all electric and shall be served by the City of Thomaston Electrical Department.
• The Development shall be responsible for paying for the relocation of any City utilities which interfere with Developer’s site plans.
• The City of Thomaston reserves the right to approve the material used in connection with exterior façades of any building facing a public street or roadway if such facades differ from those proposed in bid.
• The Development shall adhere to the provisions of Sections 71-31 through 71-50 of the City of Thomaston Code of Ordinances as currently enacted, unless a variance is specifically approved by the Mayor and City Council.
• The development shall meet all City of Thomaston Building Codes, unless a variance is specifically approved by the Mayor and City Council.
The bid that the City received was not specifically responsive to the terms and conditions that were required in the bid document. Therefore, the Mayor and Council authorized the City Manager and the City Attorney to negotiate with the sole bidder and to report back to the full body with specifics regarding these stipulations and protections. The City has been in contact with the developer but has not finished negotiations and does not have the full specifics of the proposed development.
Regarding rumors and myths:
• The City does not know what business or businesses are interested in locating within this project.
• No one has suggested or offered that the island will become a parking lot.
• The City has not violated any laws or taken any vote in private concerning this property.
• The City’s Mayor does not make unilateral decisions that affect our community. He is the City’s chief advocate of policy, but all matters pertaining to real estate go before the entire City Council.
• The City is not in a desperate position to come up with cash. The City’s reconciled unrestricted cash position at the end of December 2017 was $6,934,957. Do not confuse this total with amounts that have been touted by others which include restricted accounts. The City is still in receipt of these same restricted accounts which include deregulation funding, SPLOST, intergovernmental funding, escrowed funding held in generation trust accounts and flexible spending accounts at MEAG, etc... Any citizen interested in the financial condition of the City is encouraged to contact the City Manager's Office.
• Neither the Mayor nor any Council member has taken the position that property tax increases will be necessary because mill village values are declining. The City’s net tax digest has declined and that is fact. Despite this fact, millage rates have remained constant.
• One could argue that declining property values within the mill village are directly related to the closing of the mills, which in turn resulted in thousands of lost jobs. This effect ultimately led to higher densities of rental properties. Ergo, the City Council is interested in educated exploration of any and all opportunities related to economic activity.
• The City’s decision to raise water and sewer rates in 2017 and to restructure electric rates was not done in an effort to shift the burden to small business and residential customers. The decision was made after conducting a cost-of-service study by an outside agency, a study that was promised by this administration. The City has many water and sewer issues that need addressing. The City Council eliminated the summer electric rates and instituted a blended rate to soothe cyclical swings for people on budgets.
• The piece of property being considered for sale is not part of the Greatest Generation Park, and is not part of the Park’s master plan.
• Note that one or more of the trees on this lot are diseased and removal has been recommended by an arborist. This action has been delayed in anticipation of the potential selling of the property. Whether it is sold or not, the diseased trees will have to be removed.
• The City Council is aware of a petition that is circulating concerning the potential sale of this property. There is however concern that signatures are being sought without the provision of complete and accurate information.
Why sell this property, if the City does not need the money?
(1) The price is advantageous and a consideration.
(2) Citizens have expressed to the Mayor and Council a need for more jobs in the community, an issue since the mills were closed and abandoned. Note, the photographs in the newspaper ad of dilapidated property are not properties owned by the City.
(3) Citizens have expressed to the Mayor and Council a desire for new dining and shopping options.
(4) Development in the City is a mark that our City is growing and will inspire interest by other employers and citizens in moving to the City.
(5) Adding new businesses will add taxpayers and also generate revenue through electric and water service.
At the time this Mayor and Council were elected, many citizens vociferously objected to the development of a park at the City Reservoir. This administration took note and the park was not developed. The Mayor and Council interpreted citizen concerns to be that a park was an unneeded luxury and that economic development was a priority.
The City Council has made no decision to date regarding the sale of the referenced property. This administration is greatly concerned and interested in promoting economic development and quality of life for all of our citizens. That means that outside-the-box thinking is prudent, and that any endeavor that might bring jobs and positive activity should be investigated and vetted. This administration is not interested in killing development prior to having all of the facts. Once all of the facts have been gathered, representatives from this administration will be more than happy to conduct town hall meetings to address any concerns that citizens might have. We do not have all of the details yet, but we are working on it.
We want to thank all parties who have come out, both in protest and in support of this process. We are here to represent you, the Citizens of Thomaston, and the Mayor and Council will strive to make the best decision for our community after receiving all of the information needed to act.
Here’s How They Scored
Overall- Combined total score
Riverside Health and Rehabilitation: 5 out of 5 stars
Harborview Heath Systems: 4 out of 5 stars
Providence Healthcare of Thomaston: 1 out of 5 stars
Health Inspection- Total number of health deficiencies, complaints, faculty reported incidents, fire and safety
Riverside Health and Rehabilitation: 5 out of 5 stars
Harborview Heath Systems: 3 out of 5 stars
Providence Healthcare of Thomaston: 1 out of 5 stars
Total number of licensed nurse, RN, LPN, CNA, Physical Therapy staff hours per resident per day
Riverside Health and Rehabilitation: 3 out of 5 stars
Harborview Heath Systems: 2 out of 5 stars
Providence Healthcare of Thomaston: 3 out of 5 stars
Quality Measures (Self Reported)-
Patient improvements, re-admissions, ER visits, successful discharges, new or worsened ulcers, vaccinations, pain issues, new prescribed antipsychotic medicines.
Riverside Health and Rehabilitation: 5 out of 5 stars
Harborview Heath Systems: 5 out of 5 stars.
Providence Healthcare of Thomaston: 3 out of 5 stars
Riverside Health and Rehabilitation: 5 out of 5 stars- zero penalties in the past three years
Harborview Heath Systems: 4 out of 5 stars- zero penalties in the past three years
Providence Healthcare of Thomaston: 1 out of 5 stars- Providence was fined and paid $13,507 in 2014 for deficiencies
By Debbie Lord
Choosing a nursing home for your loved one is a major decision. When making that decision, the quality of care the nursing home provides should be at the top of the list.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 1.3 million people receive care each day in over 15,500 nursing homes in the United States that are certified by either Medicaid or Medicare, or both. Although the federal government requires nursing homes to meet minimum standards as a condition of Medicare and Medicaid payment, nursing home reports of quality problems still exist. Key problem areas include low staffing levels, new pressure ulcers (bedsores), and fire hazards. All are serious issues given the frailty and vulnerability of nursing home residents.
While some states have added to the federal standards and requirements for licensing, Georgia has not. For instance, Georgia only requires a registered nurse be on duty eight hours per day. That leaves 16 hours a day without a trained professional on duty if a problem should arise.
Upson County has three nursing homes; Riverside Health and Rehabilitation, Harborview Heath Systems and Providence Healthcare of Thomaston. All three are Medicare and Medicaid certified, inspected and must meet federal minimum standards. Medicare grades all certified nursing homes across the country using a five point star rating system. It posts the scores on medicare.gov and will even allow you to compare up to three nursing homes. It also tells you if a nursing home has deficiencies and if the homes were fined. The main purpose of the grade system is to hold nursing homes accountable and to ensure it is providing quality care for its patients.
Two out of the three local nursing homes scored above average on Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare. Riverside has 73 certified beds and is a non-profit; it scored an overall five out of five stars, much above average. Harborview has 114 certified beds and is for profit; it scored four out of five stars, above average; and Providence also a for profit with 110 certified beds, scored 1 out of 5 stars, much below average. Medicare uses a star rating system reflecting the quality of care provided by each nursing home. The star ratings for the overall rating and each category are graded from 1 star, the lowest score to 5 stars, the highest score available; more stars indicates better quality. Nursing homes are judged in three general areas: health inspections, staffing and quality measures with several subcategories under each of those. The overall rating is the combination of all three areas.
The Beacon asked all three nursing home directors if they would like to add any additional information, here’s what they had to say:
Harborview’s Executive Director, Nelva Lee, LNHA, Ph. D said, “Harborview scores 5 out of 5 in Quality Measures and 4 out of 5 Overall on Nursing Home Compare website.
We have improved our staffing, lowered our turnover and are proud of our zero deficiency survey this year. We are the only facility in Thomaston that accepts VA residents and have also passed our VA survey with flying colors. We have a lot to be proud of and welcome the community to visit our facility.”
Donna Ramey, Providence’s administrator said, “I want you to know that I am extremely proud of the compassionate care we provide here at Providence Health Care. I’ve been Administrator here for just under two years, and I can tell you the people who work here not only care for our patients, but also care about them.
I also want to acknowledge that we are working hard every day to improve our “star ratings” that appear on some websites. The welfare of our patients and residents is our primary concern, and if any measure ever shows we are in need of improvement, we take that to heart and take decisive action.
Please understand that the type of rating you’ve asked me about is driven largely by state survey data that is 2-3 years old. In our case, our recent star rating is based on an inspection from July 2015, which well before I came on board as Administrator. That 2-year-old survey identified a number of what are called “deficiencies” or “tags” – and we took them very seriously. Those deficiencies identified mainly revolved around our dietary program. At that time, the community experienced some significant employee turnover and needed to replace our dietician. I’m happy to say that problem was resolved immediately and satisfactorily, per reinspection by State authorities.
Again – this was a 2-year old survey. For comparison, I am pleased to report that our most recent State survey earlier this month resulted in only one minor deficiency. We immediately instituted a plan to correct the one minor deficiency, and it’s already been approved by the State. We hope and expect that our ratings will improve dramatically when this new survey is reflected, however, as stated earlier, it could take another 2-3 years for us to see a positive star rating impact.
At Providence Health Care, the wellbeing of our patients and residents is our number one priority. We are working as hard as we can to be sure we deliver the very best possible care for the community we are privileged to serve – and I’d invite you to come visit with me and see for yourself.”
Riverside’s director chose not to comment.
The five star rating gives you important information to help you compare nursing homes and provides a "snap shot" of the care individual nursing homes give. Medicare.gov suggests you use a variety of resources when choosing a nursing home. You should always do an in person visit, consider what types of specialized care you may need and what each home offers and how many hours per day an RN is on duty, along with the nursing home’s Medicare’s star rating, to make a final decision.
For more information on the rating system and choosing a nursing home that is a good fit for your needs, visit Medicare.gov.