Saturday, October 25, 2014

Recapping the second half of the year that was 2013


By Pat Cooper

- Heavy rain may be great for the reservoirs, but it’s the death knell for fireworks and outdoor activities. For the first time in over three decades, Peachtree City cancelled its annual parade and fireworks display, the planned Public Safety Expo, veteran’s reception, and concert.
- The NAACP filed a request with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, asking that the county be required to hold a special election to take advantage of the ruling that, through the use of the at-large voting process, the Fayette County Commission and School Board violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
- Just weeks after an appeal was filed to federal Judge Thomas C. Batten, Sr.’s ruling to eliminate at-large voting, the answer came back – a resounding no.
-Fayette County Fire and Emergency Services responded to a house fire on Brogdon Road. The house, which is part of the New Hope Baptist Church north campus, has been used for years by a Boy Scout Troop as a place to hold events and to store gear and supplies. The fire did extensive damage.

- Just weeks after the NAACP filed a request with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals asking that Fayette County be required to hold a special election, they also demanded that incumbents already in place not be allowed to participate in that special election for the newly formed district. Commission chairman Steve Brown says the request form the NAACP is ‘sad’ and ‘appalling’ and proposes actions that the NAACP has charged the county is guilty of doing over the past years by utilizing at-large voting methods.
- Peachtree City lands the Diva Marathon. The Divas Half Marathon Series, with its seven destination events, is one of the premiere women’s races in the United Sates, as ranked by Running, USA in its 2010 annual report.
- For the second time this summer, Fayette County authorities are responding to complaints about the water. And for the second time, the county commission has voted to hire an outside expert to help straighten out the problem to the tune of about $10,000. The commission also reached out to the Peachtree City Water and Sewer Authority for help. WASA pumped the water in the lagoon down to the nearest sewerage outlet then filtered it back through the system. There was a $70,000 price tag attached.
- Fayette County gets 45 days to respond to a scathing report on the county’s water systems by a Department of Natural Resources inspector. The report from Environmental Specialist R. Wayne Jackson gave the county’s water system a grade of 69.4 percent out of a possible 100, noting this puts the county in the “Concerned Performance” category.
- Another stormwater infrastructure problem has popped a leak in Fayette County, in another confirmation of the need to replace the aging system.
- No one is sure why or who, but someone heisted one of Southern Conservation Trust’s rocks. It wasn’t just any rock, though. It was a 20” by 12” by 12” boulder, depicted with a pictograph on it and probably weighed in at over 100 pounds. The boulder was returned within the week. No one has been arrested for the theft.
- An action report from water consultant Dr. Stuart Jeffcoat of CH2M Hill indicated there are problems with the operation of the Fayette County Water System.
- Fire Apparatus Operator Russell Sharpe was honored on as the “American Legion Firefighter of the Year.” The 24-year veteran was selected by his peers at the American Legion Post 105 of Fayetteville, Georgia for the state ward.
- Already under siege for a variety of issues ranging from broken pipes and smelly water to low scores on system-wide inspection reports, the Fayette County Water System is once again facing problems, this time in the town of Brooks. Residents and town officials received in their water bills a notice that indicated the town’s water has not been tested for lead and copper levels in several years and they were, therefore, in violation.
- The Peachtree City council voted to approve adopting a 6.756 mill rate for the city’s Maintenance and Operation and 0.332 mill rate for its Bond. The mill rate of 6.576 keeps it the same as the current M&O rate. The rollback rate is actually slightly higher because the existing tax digest declined by approximately $14.8 million due to reassessments. However, there was also new added growth in the tax digest that offset this decline. The net impact was an overall increase in the net taxable digest of about 1. 9 percent.
- Peachtree City councilman George Dienhart announces he will step down from his position as councilman to run for the mayor’s seat. Dienhart had not completed his first term when he opted to qualify for the general election.
- The investigation into the actions of former county attorney Scott Bennett regarding the county’s computer hard drive has been dropped.
Special investigator Charles Spahos (Solicitor-General Pro Tempore) - appointed by Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens - told commission chairman Steve Brown that, based on his investigation, the office “declines to file a formal accusation or charges at this time.”
- Two weeks after Fayette County administrator Steve Rapson announced that six employees with upper echelon jobs were disciplined for problems with the county’s water system, the system’s director has been demoted and a search is on for his replacement.
Fayette County Water Director, Tony Parrott, has been demoted to Class I Plant Operator effective immediately. Parrot had been hit with a two-week suspension without pay (making it a financial loss of $4,555.56) and placed on a 120-day probation.
- Another company in Peachtree City is branching out to add to the city’s industrial park and adding another 150 plus jobs to the market. According to Fayette County Development Authority president Matt Forshee, Panasonic decided to stay within Peachtree City after looking at different relocation options in Detroit and Texas, for its expansion process, taking the mostly manufacturing facility into the office space genre.
- Peachtree City council was handed an overturned ruling by the United States District Court of Appeals on a lawsuit filed against the city.
The Bradford Pond property in the Creekside Estates subdivision in the southern portion of the city has had a lengthy embattled history in the city, with neighbors bordering the pond complaining to city officials for years that the deterioration of the pond is a result of the city’s lack of maintenance. The ongoing dispute revolved around a detention pond on Mrosek’s property that is privately owned, but publicly maintained, that receives water from neighboring subdivisions and properties. The pond lies between the stream on the Mrosek property and Camp Creek. The public/private aspects of the pond make it an anomaly within the city. Each property owner’s deed has been subjected to a Stormwater Maintenance Easement in favor of the city. It has a joint ownership among several different property owners, and has recently become the topic of contention between the city and John Mrosek, as well as other members of the neighborhood.
- Fayette County Water System customers get another notification that the water system is in violation of Georgia Environmental Protection Division standards. The current notice, similar to the last one, is for Total Trihalomethanes (TTHM).
- A group calling itself PTC Pride has organized itself to oppose the reelection of current mayor Don Haddix and also to block the election of his wife, Cathy Haddix, who is running against incumbent councilmember Kim Learnard for her Post 3 seat on the council. Cathy Haddix has said she stands on the same platform as her husband. The group doesn’t want her elected either.
- The 20 year-old Jonesboro man who assaulted a woman at an area department store is facing 17 years in prison after a plea agreement was reached with the Griffin Judicial Circuit’s District Attorney’s office. Zaquarious Troyon Stubbs was already on probation for a previous offense when he followed his victim from the parking lot into the Kohl’s department store in the Fayette Pavilion on April 27. According to Assistant District Attorney Jeremy Hayes, Stubbs grabbed the woman by the collar and threw her to the ground. He then took her purse and fled, running north through the Kohl’s parking lot toward Pavilion Parkway. The victim suffered injuries to her arm and neck. She was treated at the scene by paramedics. The incident at Kohl’s was captured on store video and the suspect was seen walking in the store prior to the robbery then fleeing back into the parking lot.
- Fayette County is going to be able to claim an updated fire station with a new address at a cost of $1.8 million. The station broke ground in December.
-The Fayette College and Career Academy steering committee announced plans to put off applying for the state GCCAP grant until 2014. If the county does secure the grant it could be worth a little more than $3 million toward facilities and other costs associated with starting the program.

- Peachtree City may see improvement on traffic congestion problems on city’s west side as a result of a study and recommendations by the Georgia Department of Transportation. The multi-million dollar traffic control study will cost city absolutely nothing.
-The three juvenile carjackers that lead authorities on a wild chase into Atlanta were sentenced as adults, each given twenty years by Judge Fletcher Sams. Kevin Jamal Matthews, Quentin L. Hardy and Quintez Deshon Smith entered guilty pleas for the March 14 incident in which the three, all under 16 years old, threatened a woman with a gun and sped off in her car.
-An actor on the set of The Walking Dead in Senoia was run over by a military vehicle that was part of a scene being filmed. The man was not seriously harmed.
-The Board of Education finalized the sale of Rivers Elementary to Rivers Rock, LLC. The $5.1 million price tag netted back a little less than half of what the school system paid originally for the Rivers property and building.
-A Union City man was charged with murder of another man at the Kenwood Landing mobile home park in Fayette County. Authorities said Kevin Jemario Pope, 25, of Union City shot Oscar Fuentes Jr. 22, of Atlanta multiple times while the two were completing a drug transaction. Pope claimed Fuentes had attempted to rob him with a knife.
-A number of residents on or near Grady Ave. in Fayetteville came to a city council meeting to oppose the construction of a proposed 348 unit apartment development adjacent to the Waterfall center on the corner of Grady and Ga. Highway 54.
-The 20-year-old Jonesboro man who assaulted and robbed a woman at the Kohl's in the Fayette Pavilion was sentenced to 17 years in prison. Zaquarious Troyon Stubbs followed his victim through the Kohl's parking lot, grabbed her and threw her to the ground, then fled with her purse.

- Justin Hampton was sentenced to 30 years in prison for trafficking meth - 20 to serve and 10 on probation - as well as fined $200,000 by Superior Court Judge Tommy Hankinson while the mother of his unborn child watched and wept.
- On September 6 former Fayette GOP leader Lane Watts filed suit against five members of his own party, charging them with defamation of character after a year-long battle for control of the party leadership.
- The city will be spending just over $1.6 million to repair two dams in Peachtree City before there is a disaster which could, conceivably, cost lives. The cost of the repairs is significantly higher than the $600,000 a piece the city had initially allocated for the projects.
- The Georgia Economic Developers Association (GEDA), one of the leading organizations for economic development professionals in the U.S., presented Pinewood Atlanta Studios and the Fayette County Development Authority (FCDA) with the 2013 Deal of the Year Award in the Large Community category.
- Glenloch Recreation Center reopens after extensive rehab.
- Covington resident Lee Pope is the newly announced head of the Fayette County Water System.
- In a unanimous decision, the Fayette County Board of Commissiners voted to rehab the county’s old jail to deal with the increasing prisoner population and award a bid to renovate the old jail facility to Gleeds Incorporated for $50,675. The project will use residual bond proceeds to renovate the old jail facility, establish three new jail deputy positions, abolish one records clerk, and convert one Administration Assistant into an Administration Specialist.
- According to the Peach State is an up-and-coming spot for job seekers and Peachtree City is number four on the list of top places within the state. Georgia’s Department of Labor forecasts that the state will be adding 480,690 jobs in the next 10 years, including 120,130 in healthcare and 63,790 in education. NerdWallet crunched the numbers to find the best places for job seekers in Georgia.
-Two armed men entered the China Cafe 8 and attempted to rob employees, but a gun fight ensued when one of the employees drew a weapon, shooting one of the armed robbers in the head. His accomplice returned fire, hitting the employee, before the two suspects fled, driven by a third suspect. The body of Alonzo Starks, 25, of Morrow was later found in an abandoned home, where his accomplices likely left him after he died. The get away driver Alvin James Scott 26, of Jonesboro, was arrested. The third suspect Leandro Bernard Johnson, 27, of Ellenwood was tracked down by authorities but shot and killed himself as they broke down his door.

- Fayetteville's city council had three seats open - with one incumbent running and two retiring from public office. Incumbent councilman Paul Oddo will be joined by political newcomers Scott Stacy and Jim Williams. All ran unopposed. Stacy and Williams walked into the seats currently being held by outgoing Walt White and Larry Dell, respectively.
- Apparently, the answer was no to the county’s proposed Core Infrastructure SPLOST. The other county referendum, which concerned Sunday sales of alcohol by the drink passed, 5,731 votes to 2,969. In the Tyrone election, Pota Coston lost to incumbent councilman Ken Matthews by the slimmest of margins, 653 votes to 659. Councilmember Gloria Furr slid in unopposed.
- In Peachtree City, voters were deciding on three council posts and the mayoral position. Vanessa Fleisch at 39.1 percent and Harold Logsdon at 27.37 percent were the highest vote gatherers in the five way election. The two faced off in a Dec. 3 run-off. Incumbent mayor Don Haddix slipped into last place with 5.05 percent of the count. Council Post 3 incumbent Kim Learnard held onto her seat with 85.74 percent of the ballots cast. Challenger Cathy Haddix, wife of incumbent mayor Don Haddix, received 13.18 percent. The race was closer for the city council post 4 seat Fleisch left open when she opted to run for the mayoral post as opposed to reelection. Former Peachtree City police officer Terry Ernst garnered 65.12 percent while Stephanie Franz boasted 34.57 percent.
- One of the city’s longest running EEOC suits was settled to the tune of $305,000. for Lisa Ficalore. Additionally, the city settled with former employee Tamara Babb who filed an EEOC complaint claiming intentional sex discrimination against the city and police chief. In the spirit of compromise, both parties agreed to pay Babb $1,000 which will come from the city fund and Babb also agreed to refrain from ever seeking employment with the city
- As a result of a ruling by the Georgia Court of Appeals, prosecutors may have to hold new trials for five men convicted in Fayette County. The ruling was a result of the revelation that their trial court judge was having a romantic relationship with the defendant’s attorney.
Long-time Griffin Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Paschal English was having an affair with assistant public defender Kim Cornwell. English resigned from the bench during the ensuing investigation by the state’s Judicial Qualifications Commission. Cornwell also left the public defender’s office.
The three judge panel said English violated the code of judicial conduct for not disclosing the affair and the judge’s impartiality was compromised during the time of these trials.
- The Fayette County Board of Commissioners gave a nod of approval to spend over $312,000 with the county’s water engineer of record CH2M Hill.
- Interim fire chief Joe O’Conor was awarded the 2013 Firefighter Silent Hero Award For Leadership from the Ronnie Thames Foundation. The Ronnie Thames Foundation is a non–profit organization established in loving memory of Ronnie Brian Thames. At the same meeting, O’Conor was appointed to the chief’s position on a permanent basis.
- Harry “Butch” Parris, 69, was arrested and charged in January after a months-long joint investigation between the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Parris was terminated from his position in the FCSO jail division, where he had been employed since 1993, at that time. He received a five year sentence on charges of sexual exploitation of children.
-Fayetteville city council officially appointed Chief Scott Pitts and Major Jeff McMullan to lead the Fayetteville Police department.
-The Fayette County Sheriff's Office apprehended their Pillowcase Bandit, suspected responsible for multiple burglaries in north Fayette County and in other counties. Suspect Terry Jamaal Anderson, 31, of Forest Park was dubbed the Pillowcase Bandit because of his alleged pattern of stealing a pillow case from each home and using it to carry away items from the home.

- PTC elects a new mayor. With 72.15 percent of the vote, former city councilmember Vanessa Fleisch will be taking her place in the mayor’s seat come after a runoff victory. Fleisch will also be the first woman to hold the position in Peachtree City history. Former mayor Harold Logsdon took 27.85 percent of the ballots cast.
- Three members of so-called Felony Lane Gang are arrested in Peachtree City after car break in and chase.
- WWII veteran Helen Denton dies. The 91 year-old was best known for her ongoing activities with local veterans groups, her book World War II WAC, and her position as aid to General Eisenhower, typing up the plans for the D-Day invasion.
- County residents find out they will start seeing stormwater utility bills coming their way by the beginning of 2014.
- County gets slapped with $9,000 fine from EPD over water problems.
- The Fayette Visioning Initiative Steering Committee aims to get public input to create a plan for Fayette’s future. Made up of a diverse group of citizens and leaders of Fayette County, the initiative is organized to create a vision plan for the future of the county and is moving forward to a critical phase of the process—public input.
-Truett's Luau, a new Hawaiian restaurant conceived by Chick-Fil-A founder Truett Cathy, opens in Fayetteville.
-Board of Education member Mary Kay Bacallao announces her plan to resign from her board position to run for State Superintendent.
-The Board of Education votes to restore two furlough days, and associated pay, to teachers and other eligible district employees.


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