Looking Back the citizen recalls the news of 2011
Compiled by Dianne Yost and Kathryn Schiliro
It’s become our tradition each year to use the last week’s newspaper as a chance to look back on all that’s transpired for the past 365 days. 2011 was certainly an exceptional year – something that can be a good thing or, in some cases, a bad one.
We like to think the good outweighs the bad and, perhaps more importantly for us, that we delievered the county’s happenings regardless of whether they were positive or negative.
That said, another year has come to a close. We can’t wait to bring you 2012.
Thank you, dear reader.
Morgan County Native, successful lawyer and vice chairman of the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents Felton Jenkins, Jr. passed away New Year’s Day.
A rare winter storm hit the Southern United States and dropped three to four inches of snow, ice and freezing rain in Morgan County.
Morgan Memorial Hospital CEO candidate declines job.
Five men broke into the Morgan County Primary School.
A reduction in property taxes to the tune of $1.771 million is in the works courtesy of Morgan County Board of Education and an over collection of sales tax funds (discovered by the Morgan County Citizen).
Local jeweler, Ben Whidby, owner of Whidby Jewelers, will refund customer’s purchases (under a New Year’s Day 1-inch rainfall promotion) because the error of margin was so thin on the New Year’s Day rainfall.
Morgan County receives two federal grants from the Homeland Security Administration totaling nearly $400,000 for the purchase of firefighting equipment.
Local 9-year-old Anaiah Rucker and 5-year-old Camry Harden are hospitalized following an accident in which Anaiah attempted to save her little sister from being struck on Main Street.
Superior Court Judge John Lee Parrot denies bond for Horace Guinn, Jr., who is charged with 97 counts of sexual exploitation of children.
Morgan County School Board honors Loretta Berryman, a Morgan County school bus driver, for her life-saving service to Anaiah Rucker after she and her little sister were struck by a pickup on Main Street.
Rutledge residents gather at Hard Labor Creek State Park seeking information about proposed clear-cutting of 300 acres of pine forest within the 5,800-acre park.
A Madison man was arrested Sunday after he allegedly entered a church on Hanover Street, stuck a gun to a man’s head and pulled the trigger. Fortunately there was no bullet in the weapon’s chamber.
Morgan County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Stan DeJarnett announced his retirement.
Morgan County High School senior Katherine Key is named Valedictorian and Jordan Hartney is named Salutatorian.
The City of Bostwick gets go-ahead for streetscape project from the Georgia Department of Transportation.
A Morgan County Middle School teacher was arrested and charged with molestation of a student.
In a unanimous decision, the Morgan County Board of Education elected to refund the county’s taxpayers exactly $1,763,744.42 generated by the over collection of Education Local Option Sales Tax II Funds.
The Humane Society of Morgan County starts work on a new animal adoption center on Fairground Road.
Wreck victim and Morgan County Elementary School student Anaiah Rucker returns to Morgan County after spending several weeks in the hospital.
Business leaders, manufacturers and builders called for an end to the City of Madison impact fees during a city council meeting.
Local students and residents protest clear-cutting operation at Hard Labor Creek State Park in Rutledge.
A countless number of trees were lost, properties damaged, utility poles snapped and power lines downed when 70-75 mile per hour winds ripped through Madison and Morgan County.
Madison’s Downtown Development Authority plans to unveil a proposal April 11 before the city council that outlines a 20-year urban renewal development plan aimed at improving neighborhoods, the housing stock and commercial and industrial districts primarily in the north and northwest areas of the city.
Morgan County High School holds its first Morgan County Special Olympics, organized by the school’s Bringing Exceptional Students Together club.
In less than 30 minutes Saturday night one man was shot in the leg and his alleged shooter, a 45-year-old Madison man, was shot and killed after ramming a Madison Police officer’s car.
The annual Morgan County NAACP Branch parade fills Madison’s Streets with music, dance and story.
After two hours of deliberation, a Morgan County jury Thursday returned two guilty verdicts against a man charged with conning an elderly woman out of $3,900.
After a tornado ripped through the county on April 28, Morgan County is declared a federal disaster area with more than an estimated $6 million in structural damage. Amazingly, no injuries have been reported.
Morgan County’s oldest map is located in the late Roy Lambert’s law office in downtown Madison.
Hundreds of garden lovers gather in Town Park to celebrate MadisonFest, while hundreds of equine lovers celebrate EquiFest at the Morgan County Ag Center.
A human skull is found in Estes Road yard in Morgan County.
Amid allegations of ethics violations, the Madison City Council approved both the six areas to be included in the proposed Downtown Urban Renewal Area as well as the agency to govern an ambitious Urban Renewal program.
GEMA sets up shop at Morgan County recreation department to assist tornado victims.
Interstate 20 in Morgan County will be included in an estimated $403 million worth of major road projects this summer, announced the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Madison based Rema Tip Top announces plans to expand and add jobs.
Morgan County Superior Court Judge William Prior rejected a defense motion to suppress the midnight confession of accused wife murderer George “Buzz” Price.
A massive fire consumes several acres of tornado debris off Monticello Highway.
The City of Madison plans to expand the Madison Municipal Airport .
The community celebrates 241 Morgan County High School seniors getting their diplomas. The class was recognized as “one of the most celebrated, highest achieving classes that have walked across this stage.”
The Madison-Morgan Chamber of Commerce announces its 2011 Community Award Winners: The Morgan County High School Equestrian Team & Coaches Kat DeMas Mulkey & Kristi Roberson, Linda Gantt, Bruce Gilbert and Ruth Bracewell.
A nationwide ranking of the best high schools in America has for the third year in a row listed Morgan County High School as one of its top picks.
Morgan County Citizen Publisher Patrick Yost was honored by Common Cause Georgia as a recipient of the group’s 2011 Democracy Award.
For the fourth time in a row Georgia’s “Best Weekly” newspaper at the Georgia Press Association’s Better Newspaper contest.
ABC TV’s “Extreme Makeover” is working with Pilot Builders and Smart Properties of the region to build a free home for a lucky family in Northeast Georgia. Four families are finalists for the week-long build.
While strains of “Jailhouse Rock” played on a boom box outside, the Morgan County Library threw open the doors of the old detention center Sunday afternoon in an effort to nab new patrons and encourage current card holders to return. The new library location is temporary while a new library building begins construction.
After 26 years, Morgan County High School Music Director Scott Ellis marks his final year before retiring.
After just seven months at the helm of the Morgan County Fire Department, Chief Jas Farmer has resigned.
Youngblood Motor Co. marks its 50th anniversary.
Opening statements in the murder trail of George Edward “Buzz” Price were heard Monday in Morgan County Superior Court.
Morgan County has entered into an agreement with Fulton County to house a portion of their less violent inmates at the local jail.
Morgan County High School opened the doors of its highly anticipated new weight room to the delight of athletes and coaches.
Following a four-day trial, a Morgan County jury finds George Edward "Buzz" Price guilty of murder and felony murder in the June 2010 shooting death of his estranged wife, Jackie Price.
Long-time Madison-Morgan Chamber of Commerce President Marguerite Copelan loses her battle with cancer.
A $4,000 reward is offered for information on those responsible for tossing three puppies from a car near the intersection of Lions Club Road and the CSX railroad tracks.
The old county library is demolished. In the meantime, the library is housed at the former county detention center.
The Fourth of July means fireworks and festivities in the county's municipalities, as well as the annual Sunflower Festival.
A rally, featuring former University of Georgia football coach Vince Dooley and the Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders, is held in the Morgan County High School gymnasium in anticipation of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition's" arrival.
The "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" team – including host Ty Pennington and rapper Xhibit – arrive in town to surprise Anaiah Rucker and her family with a new home. The week-long build attracts more than 1,000 volunteers from around the area and a benefit concert, featuring Drivin' N' Cryin', is held in Madison's Town Park at week's end as part of the event.
Dr. Ralph Bennett, former Assistant Superintendent, is named the Superintendent of Morgan County Schools following the retirement of Dr. Stan DeJarnett.
The Humane Society of Morgan County opens the doors to its new, state-of-the-art adoption facility on Fairgrounds Road.
Republican Chuck Williams defeats Democrat Dan Matthews in the election for the 113th House District. The election is held to fill the unexpired term of Hank Huckaby, who left the state House to take over the chancellorship of the state's university system.
County administration elects to wait to hold the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) vote until the Presidential Preference Primary in March 2012. The proposed SPLOST will total $26 million.
Former Morgan County High School AFJROTC instructor, Col. Earl Donnell, passes away.
The Madison City Council votes to launch an ethics investigation into Everett Royal, local developer and member of the city's Downtown Development Authority, after he's suspected of sharing "inside information" on the city's Downtown Urban Renewal Development Plan with his daughter, information that allegedly prompted her to invest in real estate in the area. Property owners in the area will be eligible for tax breaks and other financial incentives from the federal government.
Former county school board member Grayson White is found dead in Lake Oconee.
Morgan County High School and the school system don't meet the prescribed mark in regard to Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).
The county Board of Education and school system administration begin plans for the high school's new $3.2 million Freshman Academy.
The county Board of Commissioners denies the City of Madison's request to access the county's rights-of-way for the city's natural gas project. Commissioners contend it's illegal to lay natural gas lines in the same rights-of-way used for public water mains.
The city's Firefly Festival attracts more than 800 people.
Sirderreius Aquan Hodnett, 17, turns himself in to the Morgan County Sheriff's Office. Hodnett is wanted for allegedly shooting his father in the neck.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) lets the county know it won't pick up the entire tab for the clean-up of spring tornado damage.
The Madison Artists Guild hosts a show of Gary Hudson artworks at Town 220.
A search begins for the children of Madison attorney Joe Reitman – a 14-year-old male and 10-year-old female – but ends when Texas authorities confirm that the children are with their mother.
A personnel shake-up at the Morgan County-based offices of the Uncle Remus Regional Library System brings veteran library system director Steve Schaefer back in to do the job.
Morgan County commissioners protest the U.S. Department of Agriculture's plans to close the Madison Farm Service Agency (FSA) office.
School begins for county students.
After a nearly four-hour trial, Yahchanan Christopher Reames, 49, Charleston, S.C., is convicted of speeding in Morgan County Superior Court. Reames claims he's above the law "claiming, among other defenses, sovereign immunity, God's wrath and that the name issued to him at birth was false."
County administration decides to wait to hire a new county fire chief.
Part of a crackdown of county-wide copper thefts, the Morgan County Sheriff's Office arrests two Putnam County men – Robert Alexander Lawson, 29, Eatonton, and Willie Donnel Reeves, 31, Eatonton – for allegedly ripping apart two air conditioning units from a county church to gain access to the copper inside.
The library board decides to award the construction project of the new library to Smyrna-based Benning Construction Co., which offered a base bid of $1.63 million for the project. Later in the month, local government officials hold an official groundbreaking ceremony for the new facility.
The sole surviving puppy of the group of three tossed from a moving car a few months prior, Francis is adopted locally by the Peters family.
Kelly Whitcomb is crowned Morgan County High School's 2011 Miss Football.
Twelve-year Morgan County Sheriff's Office veteran investigator Joshua Curtis Hayes, 31, is arrested and charged with DUI refusal after he allegedly wrecked a county-owned vehicle at the intersection of Bethany Church and Seven Islands roads.
A carbon monoxide leak at Morgan County's Head Start forces an evacuation of the building.
Madison resident Joe DiLetto qualifies to run against city councilwoman Connie Booth in the election for the Madison City Council's District 3.
The State of Georgia honors long-time Madisonian Christine Lambert as a winner of the Governor's Award in the Humanities.
The Madison City Council applies to the state Department of Community Affairs for "Opportunity Zone" designation. This designation means employers in the zone may qualify for tax breaks for new hires.
County and school system administration meet with state officials about redrawing the county's district boundaries based on information provided by the 2010 Census.
A ceremony is held in Madison's Town Park marking the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Amit Patel, P&J Mini Mart store owner, files a civil lawsuit against the Madison City Council after the council denied him a beer and wine retail license. Patel claims the council's actions were unconstitutional.
The $1.7 million in Education Local Option Sales Tax (ELOST) II overcollections – which became millage rate rollback funds – go into the school system's operating funds account.
The school board names Debra White the school system's new Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning. White comes to the county from DeKalb County and is filling the post vacated by Dr. Ralph Bennett, who was named Superintendent.
Newly married just hours earlier, Melvin Little, 53, Bostwick, allegedly set fire to his wife's car while she was inside the vehicle. Little was arrested by Morgan County Sheriff's Office deputies.
The Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton counties voted unanimously to move a $5.6 million bond from Bank of America and a 1.36 percent interest rate to J.P. Morgan and a 1.25 interest rate.
The episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" featuring Anaiah Rucker aired on ABC.
Morgan County High School students' SAT scores hit a five-year high at 1489.
The City of Bostwick received a $80,000 grant from the state Department of Community Affairs to raze the community center.
Famous Southern chef and cookbook author Nathalie Dupree visited Madison as part of a Godfrey Cox Event.
The Blue Springs Smokers won first place at Madison's annual Chili Cook-off.
A partnership between Wallace Grove Baptist Church and the Madison-Morgan Conservancy allows for the preservation of the Wallace Grove Schoolhouse, the last African-American school still standing in its original location in the county. The restored structure is opened for public viewing.
James Lafayette "Bubba" Weldon, 39, Madison, is arrested by Morgan County Sheriff Robert Markley due to failure to pay for timber harvested. In South Carolina, Weldon is charged with a felony count of failure to pay a landowner.
Morgan County native Shelby McLeod is named Miss University of Georgia.
Amber Wilson is crowned Morgan County High School's Homecoming Queen.
Jury selection in the trial of Christopher Hawkins, 29, Kingston, N.C., charged with cocaine trafficking, begins. The defendant is infamous for being accused of buying former University of Georgia wide receiver A .J. Greene's Independence Bowl jersey – "Jerseygate." The jury, however, can't reach a unanimous decision in the case and a mistrial is declared.
Following a three-month investigation by law enforcement agencies, John "Bubba" Swain, 32, Madison, and Myrtle Pilcher, 36, Madison, are arrested on crack-cocaine charges.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed gives the keynote speech at the Morgan County Democrats' annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.
Margaret Ruark Burge is named Bostwick Cotton Gin Festival's Cotton Queen.
The Madison City Council elected to get out of the Downtown Trick-or-Treat business after an incident involving an out-of-control car in downtown Madison last year. Instead, the primary school held a "Family Fun Night" at Town Park.
Rutledge Grocery is destroyed by a fire.
Joe DiLetto beats incumbent Madison City Councilwoman Connie Booth in the race for the District Three council seat.
Joshua Stowe, 21, Madison, and Shaun Timothy Shepherd, 20, Madison, are charged on two felony counts each of burglary and one felony count of criminal damage to property after they allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of art objects and rare musical instruments from a Sandy Creek Road residence.
The Ferst Foundation hands out their three-millionth book.
Commissioner Sammy Cathey proposes to the county Board of Commissioners that they place a Sunday alcohol sales referendum on the March 6, 2012 Presidential Primary ballot. Other commissioners were divided on the issue.
Former Morgan County High School AFJROTC instructor Col. Earl Donnell is honored with a tree in the school's arboretum following a Veterans' Day service in the school's gym.
A CSX train collides with a pulp wood truck and rips through the East Jefferson Street Icehouse condominium complex. Fortunately, no one was killed.
Morgan Memorial Hospital receives 40 percent of a $380,000 reimbursement from Medicaid for the implementation of their electronic health records system.
The City of Madison submits a a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant request for storm water relief in the 169-household Canaan neighborhood.
The Morgan County Sheriff's Office receives four new Ford F-150 pickup trucks to use as replacement patrol vehicles.
Morgan County Middle School teacher Beth Moss is named the school system's Teacher of the Year.
Two Morgan County High School students, one 14-year-old and the other 15-year-old, are charged with felony arson in the first degree after they lit three paper fires in the school's old gymnasium in an attempt to burn down the school.
A tip from a victim leads to the arrest of Patrick Donnell Williams, 40, Covington; Darryl Lamar Williams, 49, Covington; and Kenneth Bryant, 42, Barnwell, S.C. on felony theft-by-taking charges relating to a local chop shop operation.
Anaiah Rucker is asked to headline the Children's Christmas Parade in Atlanta, sponsored by Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
The newly proposed district boundaries are approved by the county commissioners and school board and are sent to the state legislature then the Department of Justice for approval.
Madison Mayor Bruce Gilbert declares Nov. 22 Ross Mason Day.
The county Board of Commissioners adopts a motion to place Sunday beer and wine sales on a county-wide referendum in July.
The annual Christmas Tour of Homes, sponsored by the Madison-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, brings in $70,000 and nearly 3,000 tour-goers.
The Department of Community Affairs approves the City of Madison's application for "Opportunity Zone" status for an area including most of the west side of North Main beginning at the Burney Street area, the airport, the old Piggly Wiggly complex, Second Street, the Icehouse development and the Godfrey's Warehouse area.
Madison's annual Caroling by Candlelight in Town Park draws adults and children alike.
The Madison City Council votes to end the inquiry into ethics violations by local developer and city Downtown Development Authority member Everett Royal.
County Commissioner Sammy Cathey dies suddenly in the parking lot of a Madison restaurant. His funeral days later at Madison Baptist Church is attended by an overflowing crowd. The following week, the Board of Commissioners decides to hold a Special Election in July for someone to fill his unexpired term.
The Madison City Council gives their approval to an application for a grant that would fund a storm "safe room" in the city, which would be located in the Washington Park area.
Nearly half of Morgan County's public school students are said to be enrolled in the Free and Reduced-Price Meal program.
Amit Patel, P&J Mini Mart store owner, files a motion for summary judgement in county Superior Court to have the Madison City Council's refusal to grant a beer and wine retail license reversed by the court.
The Madison City Council considers changes to its ethics ordinance so that the ordinance covers all volunteer committees.
A straw poll of the local Republican Party shows Newt Gingrich as the front-runner for the Presidential nod, at least according to locals.