THE YEAR THAT WAS 2017

Jesse Walker Community, Featured

By Elizabeth Lanier

staff writer

January

• The Morgan County Board of Commissioners elected Ben Riden Jr. and Philipp Von Hanstein to replace Ellen Warren and Philip Clack who vacated their seats at the end of 2016.

• Morgan Memorial Hospital (MMH) officials presented the details of the recent USDA loan approval to fund the construction of a $35 million new hospital to the Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC).

• A new free program in Morgan County offered another pathway for people to earn their high school diploma. The program is offered through Foothills Charter High School.

• 1998 Morgan County High School graduate, Will Roper appeared in CBS’s 60 Minutes explaining how the Pentagon’s latest battlefield drones operate.

• Madison City Council voted unanimously to approve a residential rezoning request to rezone four parcels of land in one of the city’s historic district overlays on North Avenue from Residential 1 designation to Residential 2 designation.

• Bobby Jones, a senior, was named the 2017 STAR Student for having the highest SAT score in the 2017 Class. Jones selected Jeffrey Rowser, the band director at MCHS, as the STAR Teacher.

• The Madison City Council Friday approved a map amendment and text amendment to its alcohol ordinances that created a new district in downtown Madison that allows certain businesses to sell beer and wine in connection with commerce.

• The Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) and Georgia Trend Magazine awarded the City of Madison the 2017 Live, Work, Play City Award. Madison was one of the nine Georgia cities to be honored with the award.

February

• The Morgan Memorial Hospital Authority (MMHA) honored Beth O’Neil, nursing director at Morgan Memorial Hospital, for her exceptional leadership and dedication.

• The Internal Revenue Service has placed a federal lien on the Morgan County School System’s property because of $700,000 in unpaid taxes from the first quarter of 2015. With penalties and interest, the amount owed by the school system to the IRS is over $1.1 million.

• MCHS senior, Isabella Scoggin, earned the highest grade-point average in the class, making her the 2017 valedictorian. MCHS senior Bobby Jones followed with a close second for the highest grade-point average, making him this year’s salutatorian.

• The Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) received good news from Beth Grimes, of Bates and Carter. Grimes presented the county’s audit, closing the 2016 fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2016. According to Grimes, the county ended the fiscal year with a $600,000 surplus.

• A new county manager was chosen by the Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC). The board announced this week that Adam Mestres will be voted in as the next county manager and is slated to begin on April 10.

• A Madison man, Mentavious Jackson, charged with shooting a man to death over $20 pled not guilty to several charges, including felony murder.

March

• Amici’s received approval to relocate into the old Madison Hardware & Supply Store located at 174 West Washington Street in Madison. The Madison Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) gave owner Mike Torino the green light at a February meeting.

• The Morgan County High School basketball teams both made it to the quarterfinals after another impressive season of hard fought victories.

• The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) has concluded its investigation into the shooting death of a Hancock County man on April 25, 2016 outside a single wide manufactured home in Madison. Martavious Jackson shot and killed Antonio Smith; however, the GBI determined that the shooting was an act of self defense.

• Two Morgan County Middle School students, McCormick Anderson and Sydney Griffith, were selected to serve on the State Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council.

• The Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) unanimously approved a text amendment aimed at preventing large poultry farming companies from setting up shop in Morgan County while protecting small family-owned poultry farms in the county.

• The Morgan County High School boy’s basketball team headed to the State Championship after their Final Four Victory against Calhoun where they were defeated by Pace Academy. The Lady Dogs will not be playing for their chance at a title due to a loss against Johnson.

• Brad Good, a local developer, is hopeful that the dashed plans for the Foster Street Development could still happen in the future as the Madison Mayor and City Council consider the possibility of reinstating Planned Residential Developments (PRDs) within the city’s Historic District.

• Shire, the $1.5 billion pharmaceutical plant in Stanton Springs, is preparing to double the number of employees next year after the company receives its latest round of FDA approvals for new product lines. FDA approval is anticipated to come through before December 31, 2017.

• Filming for the pilot of ABC’s latest series, starring Reba McEntire, kicked off in Downtown Madison with hundreds of local extras crowding Main Street to film parade scenes from the new show.

• Spark Morgan awarded seven local groups with a total of $23,000 in grant awards to aid their vital work in the Morgan County communities.

April

• In light of the growing demand for movies, TV shows, and other film projects to be shot in Madison and Morgan County, both city and county officials adopted new filming policy with set fees to ensure a revenue stream for both governments.

• The annual One Morgan Concert featured the talents of nine Morgan County High School students at Town Park. The nine students who took on the One Morgan Concert this year were Casey O’Neal, Emma Hughes, Nick Lewan, Jacob Walls, Berenice Sanchez, Taylor Pickrell, Kayce Kimsey, Carley Henry, and Valarie Williams

• The fifth annual Bark For Life fundraiser brought in $7,000 this year. All the proceeds for the event were split between the Humane Society of Morgan County and Relay for Life.

• The Madison Mayor and City Council clashed with local citizens opposed to Planned Residential Developments (PRDs) in the Historic District, overcoming educational workshops regarding PRDs. The City Council commissioned city staff to research the issue by consulting Georgia zoning experts and historic preservation experts to educate the council and the public on PRDs. The council pledged to seek further education on the matter before taking steps to lift the current ban on PRDs in the Historic District.

• A Macon man found asleep in his vehicle at a gas station has been charged with possession of heroin.Matthew Cody Spradlin, 24, was arrested on Wednesday, March 29 after a Madison Police Department officer observed a 2003 Ford F 150 pickup truck sitting at the gas pumps at 5 a.m. at the BP Gas station.

• A new technology may be the answer to Morgan County’s broadband problems. The Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) was considering collaborating with Mach3 Technologies to establish countywide access to broadband service through “the latest radio technology” called eLTE (enterprise Long Term Evolution).

• Hayes Tractor in Mansfield was hammered when a violent thunderstorm rolled through Morgan and surrounding counties.

• One of Madison’s most beloved restaurants, Amici Italian Cafe, is expanding its franchise to South Carolina and North Carolina with 20 new restaurants slated to open in primarily college towns. Stonemont Financial Group, a private investment firm out of Atlanta, was awarded with the 20-unit franchise deal, planning to open the first one near Clemson University in South Carolina in the Fall of 2017.

• John Anton, who challenged the Morgan Memorial Hospital Authority (MMHA) in court, agreed to forgo filing for an appeal if the MMHA would meet certain demands. Anton agreed to drop the appeal if the MMHA Chairman, Terry Evans, would step down from the board after his term is up, and if the authority would issue a public statement pledging to never ask the county for additional money outside of the $1 million per year stipend that is currently stipulated in the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) between the county and the MMHA. The settlement agreement also calls for the authority to revise its bylaws to ensure every district in the county is represented on the MMHA board and to possibly establish term limits for the board members.

• A historic home in Madison burned to the ground late in the evening after a neighbor noticed the house consumed in flames called for help. “The house was a total loss,” said Madison Fire Chief Tim Carter. “We were called out there around midnight. The house was fully ablaze and fully collapsed before anyone noticed and called it in.” Fire officials could not determine the cause of the fire, nor did they believe much of an investigation into it will be pursued.

• One of the world’s largest health-care suppliers, C.R. Bard Inc., was bought for $24 billion by Becton, Dickinson & Company, another massive global medical supplier.  Bard has a medical division located in Madison. According to both companies, the merger will create one of the most powerful medical supply chains in the world, offering customers the broadest selection of medical devices and technology.

• High School Sweethearts Michael Christopher Rhodes and Brittany Smith were killed in a fatal car crash on Route 441 in Putnam County, near the Morgan County line. Rhodes, who just turned 18 earlier this month, was set to graduate from Morgan County High School (MCHS) this May. Smith, 19, graduated from MCHS last year and was currently a freshman at the University of North Georgia. Tracey Rhodes, Michael’s mother was driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee, which also carried her other son, Adam, 14. Tracey Rhodes was headed north towards Madison when the car hydroplaned and crossed over the centerline into the south lane of oncoming traffic, colliding head on with a Jeep Compass driven by Kaitlyn Black, 24, of Bethlehem. Tracey, Adam, and Kaitlyn were transported to Athens Regional Hospital. Tracey was reported to be in critical condition.

May

• Despite suffering a $84,000 loss in March, Morgan Memorial Hospital is still showing a profit of $849,076 for fiscal year 2017, CFO Kyle Wilkinson told the Morgan County Hospital Authority. The profit includes a $620,000 contribution to the hospital from the Morgan County Board of Commissioners, Wilkinson said.

• Two days after he allegedly robbed a Rutledge convenience store at gun point, suspect J.T. Armani Warren, 20, Rutledge turned himself in to authorities and faced armed robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. According to Capt. Chris Bish, Investigation Division, Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, Warren turned himself into Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office authorities on Wednesday, April 26. He allegedly robbed the Rutledge Crossing convenience store on April 24 at approximately 6:30 a.m.

• The Madison Mayor and City Council reviewed the proposed FY 2018 budget which amounts to a total of nearly $15.3 million, a $1.4 million increase from the 2017 budget. However, city officials do not expect any increase in property tax revenue and pledged to take the rollback millage rate later in the summer. According to Karen Stapp, finance officer for the City of Madison, the bulk of the projected budget increase is due to a major water and sewage project slated for completion in FY 2018.

• Two murder suspects wanted in Aiken, South Carolina were apprehended with the help of the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office on April 23. According to the Aiken Sheriff’s Office, Jayson Miles, 17, and Kayla Moore, 18, went on the run in the victim’s car after allegedly killing 74-year-old David Mackie and then set his trailer on fire on April 22. According to the Aiken County Coroner, Tim Carlton, the autopsy results revealed the cause of death was due to blunt force trauma and sharp force injuries to his body. The Aiken County Sheriff’s Office credited Morgan County authorities for their role in finding Miles and Moore.

• Two Morgan County schools are got new principals, Morgan County Elementary School (MCES) and Morgan County Middle School (MCMS). Lara Still, a former Morgan County High School graduate and current assistant principal in the Oconee County School System, started as the MCES principal in August. Hillary Meeler, who completed her second year as a principal with the Rockdale County System, started at MCMS in August.

• Bish, the head of the investigations division of the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, said the trend toward opioid abuse and heroin abuse that started in the western United States and the Eastern Seaboard was slowly but undoubtedly headed to Morgan County. With two people arrested for possession of heroin, the department has acquired 50 doses of a drug called Narcan that is designed to save the life of an addict overdosing on a variety of opiates. Bish said the doses, which come in a pre–packaged bag and work as an inhaler, stop the immediate affects of the opiate. The drug has been acquired through a state program called “Death Avoided by Naloxone” (D.A.N). The doses were secured through a $2,000 grant obtained by the department from the state.

• Superintendent James Woodard announced at the Board of Education meeting that the tax lien placed on the school system by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) due to unpaid taxes in the amount of $700,000 from the first quarter of 2015 has been lifted.

• The Morgan County Board of Education Monday approved a revised contract with Parrish Construction of $46 million for the construction of a new Morgan County High School and Morgan County Middle School. The school system also received a new transportation center. The total cost of the projects, according to Dr. James Woodard, superintendent of the Morgan County Charter School system, is roughly $59 million.

• A City of Madison water main broke at the intersection of I-20 and 441 on May 11, causing a water service shutdown for about six hours. Due to the lowered water pressure from the break, the city issued a “boiling water” notice for customers in the affected parts of the city, from McDonald’s to down south across I-10 to Madison Lakes. According to City Manager David Nunn, the shutdown and water boiling notice affected about 150 City of Madison water customers, especially the businesses on that section of 441.

• A 21–year–old Loganville man died tragically in a single car accident on Interstate 20. According to the Georgia State Patrol, Kevin  Kayland Burke was pronounced dead at the scene on, May 16. Reports state that at approximately 6 p.m. the 1995 Nissan Pathfinder, driven by Burke, failed to maintain its lane and drifted into the median. The vehicle travelled 369 feet in the median before the driver overcorrected, causing the vehicle to cross over to the far left lane. Burke overcorrected a second time and the vehicle re–entered the median and then overturned several times. The incident occurred in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 20 approximately a half mile from the Sewell Road overpass.

• County staff proposed the new FY 2018 budget to the Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC), totaling over $25.5 million, a $2.8 million increase from last year’s budget.  The total general fund for the proposed budget comes in at nearly $17.3 million, which was a $672,836 increase from last year’s general fund. The budget proposal did not call for raising property taxes this year through the millage rate, but did not aim to lower property taxes either.

June

• The City of Madison Police Department was awarded a $750 grant through the Medical Association of Georgia to fund the supply of Narcan, a nasal spray form of naloxone for emergency treatments of opioid overdose. The Madison Mayor and City Council unanimously voted to accept the grant at the request of City Police Chief Bill Ashburn.

Raheem Anthony Roberston, 21, Winnsboro, S.C. and his brother Anthony Tavar Robertson, 29, Winnsboro, S.C. both faced multiple charges after a silver Mercedes driven by Raheem fled from officers on May 30. Both men were arrested and the stolen puppies were taken from the vehicle and transported to Morgan County Animal Control.

A fiercely opposed application for an event facility, in order to host parties, picnics and small weddings with no more than 100 people, on Sandy Creek Road in Madison was voted down by the Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC).

Two North Carolina men faced serious drug trafficking charges after they fled the scene of a single car wreck on Interstate 20 and led officers on a brief but intense man hunt in the Rutledge area. Patrick Carlton Harrington 38, Jackson Springs, N.C. was arrested in a field behind a Davis Academy Road horse farm after a canine unit with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office found Harrington attempting to hide in tall grass. Near Harrington, reports state, was a large bag of 76.6 grams of suspected methamphetamine. Harrington and co–suspect Gerald Alan Smith were both arrested on June 3.

A tragic accident on Interstate 20 took the life of 19-year-old Emily Ann Roberson on June 2. She was a student at Georgia College and State University where she was a Young Life Leader and very involved in church and the community.

“The Rock” (A.K.A. Dwayne Johnson) was filming a new blockbuster film right here in Morgan County. Johnson was the lead role in “Rampage,” a sci-fi action movie based on the classic 1980s video game that features monsters destroying cities and iconic American landmarks. Scenes for the New Line Cinema film were shot in a secluded field and wooden area belonging to Williams Dairy out in the county.

Swarms of law enforcement agents descended upon Madison on the afternoon of June 13 in a massive manhunt for two escaped prison inmates wanted for murder. According to authorities, Ricky Dubose, 24, and Donnie Russell Rowe, 43, were accused of killing two correctional officers, Sgt. Christopher Monica and Sgt. Curtis Billue, during an escape attempt from a state prison transfer bus.

A 22–year–old Madison man, Mentavious Jackson, charged with shooting and killing a man over a $20 gambling debt pled guilty to murder last week in Morgan County Superior Court. Jackson was sentenced to life imprisonment by Superior Court Judge Trent Brown, III.

The two armed, escaped prison inmates who led authorities on a harrowing search through Madison were apprehended alive on June 15 in Rutherford, Tennessee. According to authorities, Ricky Dubose, 24, and Donnie Russell Rowe, 44, waved their shirts in surrender to police after a high-speed chase.

The Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) officially adopted the FY 2018 budget on June 20. The BOC unanimously approved the budget, which totals over $25.5 million, and is a $2.8 million increase from last year’s budget.

Alan Busenitz was signed to a Major League Baseball (MLB) team, the Minnesota Twins, as a pitcher. “To make it to the big leagues is definitely a dream come true!” said Alan. “I’m just extremely thankful for the opportunity and hope I can make the most of it.”

July:

Curtis Lee Young, 34, Greensboro and Whitney Nicole Brock, 27 faced various drug–related charges, including possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug related items, after a Madison Police Department officer made a traffic stop on Main Street.

The Morgan Memorial Hospital Authority (MMHA) approved the 2018 budget, with a total of $14.5 million set in Operating Expenses, which is an increase of $689,000 from the FY 2016 audit.

The Madison Mayor and City Council unanimously voted to pass the new animal control ordinance minus the clause stipulating mandatory sterilization. The council did approve the proposed changes of the ordinance to create a new designation for dogs that do not quite meet the “dangerous dog” requirements but surpass a “nuisance” status.

The Canaan Corner Store opened on the corner of Burney and Fifth streets in Madison on July 18. The store is owned by Rita and Henry Harris, with investor Marilyn Williams, who will create two full time jobs at the store.

The GBI arrested a 71–year–old Jerry Dean Thompson, a Buckhead man, on one count of child molestation.  Thompson was arrested at the Morgan County Detention Center on July 11 for child molestation after he had spoken to investigators. Thompson reports state, bailed out of the Morgan County Detention Center on a $15,000 bail on July 14, three days after his arrest.

Madison’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) formally issued a letter denouncing a rezoning request for the resurrected Foster Park project, a proposed housing development behind the historic Miller Thomason House on South Main Street.

A local Madison man, Monte Jay Franks, 46,  was arrested on July 20 and charged with a sexual crime, including the one count of child molestation. According to Capt. Chris Bish, Investigations Division, Morgan County Sheriff’s Office,  the 17–year–old alleged victim told authorities that she had been abused since she was 15–years–old.

After seven months of construction, the Morgan County School System celebrated the opening of the brand new transportation facility with a ribbon cutting July 18.

August:

After a month long investigation, three teens and three juveniles; ages 10–years–old, 11–years–old and 14–years–old were arrested on July 12 and charged with criminal damage to property and other charges in relation to the destruction of property on a Morgan County farm.

The Morgan County Board of Education (BOE) officially adopted its budget for the 2017-2018 Fiscal Year (FY) in the amount of $32.6 million as well as approving the rollback millage rate of 14.718, down from last year’s rate of 15.264. Both were unanimously approved at the July 17 regular meeting.

The Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) approved a tax levy resolution for the Morgan County School System, as a constitutionally-required backup plan in case the system cannot collect enough revenue through ESPLOST to repay $15 million in bonds borrowed to build the new high school and transportation facility.

Madison made sidewalks safer by adopting bright, orange flags for pedestrians to hold as they cross the street, making them more visible to drivers. Their purpose is to make the crosswalks safer for pedestrians and easier to see for drivers.

The Madison Mayor and City Council unanimously approved a variance application submitted by Everett Royal to alter the minimum lot requirements on two out of three tracts of land on North Avenue in order to build two more houses alongside an existing house currently on the property.

Richard Lowell Messer, a 49–year–old Rutledge man, died Sunday night after the truck he was driving on Brownwood Road left the road and overturned.

A 15–year–old male teen was taken into custody on August 17 after he allegedly stabbed a woman in the arm and held a knife to the throat of his 5–year–old brother as he dragged the brother through a parking area.

The sound of hymns amidst soft candlelight could be heard on the evening of August 27 in Town Park. About 30 people showed up for a candlelight vigil in response to the violence perpetrated by white supremacists during a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month.

Both Robert Lanier and Kathi Russell, owner of the Madison Tea Room, qualified with the Morgan County Board of Elections to run for Mayor of Madison against incumbent Fred Perriman.

September:

An 11–year–old Morgan County Middle School student was arrested on September 5 after he allegedly beat a para–pro so severely that she had to be treated at Morgan Memorial Hospital. Reports stated that the male student also allegedly attempted to attack an administrator and fought with a Morgan County Sheriff’s deputy, at one point, reports stated, the student tried to grab the officers service pistol.

Hurricane Irma tore through Morgan County, causing widespread power outages and damage to power lines, trees, and properties throughout the county.

A local daycare, Daystar Christian Childcare in Madison, has declared bankruptcy and closed on Sept. 22, leaving dozens of families without children care until the facility can reopen under new ownership.

Morgan County mourned the loss of another faithful community leader, Laura Butler, the president of the Morgan County branch of the NAACP. “Laura Butler was such a great person because she believed in serving people,”  said Morgan County Board of Commissioners Chairman Donald Harris.

On Sept. 19, hospital officials, elected officials, state officials and community leaders gathered at the site on Lions Club Road in Madison, to commemorate the event with a groundbreaking ceremony of the new $35 million hospital building for Morgan Memorial Hospital.

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) announced a statewide initiative to improve broadband access and telecommunications.

October

The Morgan County Charter School System announced that the graduation rate for the Class of 2017 came in at 91.8 percent. There haven’t been any new policies put in place to improve graduate rates, but a renewed focus in recent years to guide students across the graduation finish line.

The Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) approved three requests from The Georgia Safari Conservation Park, hoping the long-awaited project will pick up the pace and finally come to fruition. The park will ultimately feature a walk-through zoo, safari ride, up to seven amusement rides (barring rollercoasters) and lodging facilities and will be located on about 500 acres of land on Highway 83, with 436 acres residing in the county’s jurisdiction.

Deshunden Robertson, a 15-year-old Morgan County high school student was shot in the right cheek by some type of pistol while sitting in a car on Micha Circle.

Brandon Horton, a 27–year–old Madison man, was arrested on October 17 after Morgan County Sheriff’s Office deputies executed arrest warrants from Walton County on charges of rape, child molestation and sexual battery.

Dakota Jarret Feathers, 18, Covington, turned himself into police on October 14. Feathers is charged with shooting Deshunden Robertson one time in the face in the Madison Commons Apartment complex off Micha Way.

November:

A new senior community in Madison earned a national award. Silver Lakes, owned by the Woda Group, won the Affordable Housing Finance’s (AHF) 13th annual Readers’ Choice Awards competition out of 36 finalists across the country.

The Morgan Memorial Hospital Authority accepted $1.4 million in charitable contributions from the hospital foundation on October 26.

Construction began on the old Madison Hardware & Supply Store building located at 174 West Washington Street in Madison. The nearly 10,000-square-foot historic building will be transformed to house Amici’s restaurant and its corporate offices.

Bojangles, a fast-food restaurant specializing in chicken and biscuits, will be built beside the Rite Aid on Hwy. 441 in Madison, pending final approval from the Corridor Design Commission in coming months.

Starbucks is looking to open a store beside Steak-N-Shake on 441 and is working with the Corridor Design Commision  as well as Madison’s Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC) to move forward.

A request from a local restaurant led the City of Madison into considering changing a local ordinance to allow for brewpubs to set up shop within the city limits. The council also expressed interest in altering the ordinance to possibly allow full breweries inside the City of Madison.

Morgan County Sheriff Robert Markley hired Bostwick’s Keith Howard to be the new chief deputy at the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office. Howard filled a slot left vacant by former Capt. Chris Bish, who accepted a state position with the Georgia Department of Corrections.

Incumbent Fred Perriman was reelected for a second term as Madison’s Mayor, beating out contenders Robert Lanier and Kathi Russell. Incumbent Chris Hodges was also reelected for another term for the District 5 City Council seat, beating out Woody Burriss. Eric Joyce was elected to the District 2 City Council seat, beating out Jennie Newton.

Brandie Owens was elected to Rutledge’s City Council, beating out Jennifer Buzbee.

William Howard Paden, 47, Madison allegedly tried to lure law enforcement officers into a VFW Lane house that he had doused with some type of accelerant. He threatened to kill himself if approached by law enforcement officers one day after his wife had gone to the sheriff’s office seeking protection.

The Historic Foster-Thomason-Miller House on Main Street in Madison, which has sat unused and in disrepair nearly 20 years, made The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation’s “Top 10 Places in Peril” for  2018.

Next year, the citizens of Morgan County will be asked to vote on the next Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), a one-penny sales tax used to fund capital outlay projects. The Morgan County Board of Commissioners has begun the planning process for the next SPLOST, which will be placed on a referendum ballot to be voted upon on May 22, 2018.

The PZC voted unanimously to recommend approval for a zoning change that is necessary in order for Starbucks to open a store at the company’s preferred location beside the Steak N’ Shake on U.S. 441. The PZC also voted to allow for pawn shops in the C1 District of the City of Madison.

Heather Jackson, a teacher at Morgan County Middle School for over 10 years, has been chosen to represent the entire school district and will be considered among the other Georgia District Teacher of the Year winners for the state Teacher of the Year.

Three former employees at First Franklin Financial were accused of fraudulent activity, with one employee creating various fraudulent loans worth nearly $40,000 and the two other employees pocketing more than $700 in cash payments from customers.

Morgan County will receive more than $500,000 from a state grant to resurface 10 miles of road in the county. “The county has chosen to resurface Newborn Road form the I-20 overpass to the Newton County line, and Apalachee Road, from Highway 441 to Highway 83.

The deputy commissioner of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources faced DUI charges and, along with a Madison woman, is also under investigation for moonshine after 14 bottles were found in a Corvette driven by Deputy Commissioner Walter Rabon, Jr.

December:

Jane Laseter, who has served as the Morgan County’s clerk for the past 21 years, is retiring at the end of the year.

An ongoing federal criminal investigation involving a local assistant principal prompted Homeland Security Investigation officers to visit Morgan County High School. Dr. James Woodard, superintendent of Morgan County schools explained, “We take the safety of our students seriously and have taken action we deem appropriate. The school administrator will not be present at school. As a personnel matter, it is the district’s practice not to discuss the specifics in public.”

Lander Thomas, 51, Norcross turned himself into Morgan County Authorities on November 17. The former chief executive officer of the Boys & Girls Club of North Central Georgia was arrested and charged with stealing nearly $50,000 from the organization.

Justin Slaughter, a 22–year–old Madison man faces two counts of murder after he allegedly killed his mother, Paula Slaughter, 54, and a family friend, Colin Smith, 53, with a .20 gauge shotgun at his family’s Slaughter Veasley Road residence. He appeared at his first appearance hearing before Morgan County Magistrate on December 7 where Judge Holt explained that what Slaughter is facing is possible death or life imprisonment.

Rep. Dave Belton (R, District 112) gave the Morgan County Board of Education a preview of this year’s legislative agenda. Belton, a former member of the Morgan County Board of Education, said he would continue to promote education spending in Georgia and said that next year, 62 percent of the budget will be spent on education.

After 37 years of service on the Madison Mayor and City Council, Councilman Bobby Crawford is saying goodbye to a life of public service as he enters retirement.

New updates to the City of Madison’s zoning ordinance will allow Amici Italian Café of Madison to add an in-house beer brewing component to the restaurant chain’s repertoire. The Madison Mayor and City Council approved a series of revisions to the city’s zoning ordinance including an allowance for brew pubs and dual locate sites in the C4 zoning district.

In a 4-to-1 vote, the Madison Mayor and City Council approved a controversial rezoning request in the Historic District for Alex Newton’s property located at 406 South Main Street on Dec. 11. Newton requested the property be rezoned from a Large Lot Residential District 1 (R1) zone to a Medium Lot Residential District 2 (R2), which reduces the minimum acreage from .75 acres to .5 acres and could potentially allow for Newton to subdivide the land into a total of four buildable lots. The council voted to approve the map amendment.

A memorial bench honoring the legacy of a fallen Morgan County High School student, Michael Rhodes, was erected in a special garden beside another memorial bench honoring Seth Stapleton, a fellow MCHS student who died in 2015. The two granite benches have been placed near the main entrance of the Bill Corry Stadium to honor the two young football players taken too soon from this world.

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