The Small Stories: Year End Review
by Whitney Skeeters and Kathryn Purcell
photos by angelina bellebuono
On both the global and national level, 2008 wasn't a year short for news: celebrities graced the pages of glossy magazines, 24-hour broadcast news stations brought war into our living rooms and the United States of America saw the election of the next president.
Locally, events shook the pages of the Citizen as well. We saw changes at the city and county levels; we weathered record gas prices and monster hailstorms; and we mourned the deaths of major figures in our county's history.
But there is so much more to Morgan County than the front-page news; this is a place of small celebrations, and of fascinating stories, ones that will pass you by if you aren't paying attention.
And so, this is a glimpse back, a glimpse at the stories that didn't necessarily make front page headlines, but stories that, nevertheless, must be told.
The first-ever First Friday was a success in downtown Madison.
Morgan County Board of Commissioners announced it had over $1 million in unused Special Projects Local Options Sales Tax. They began discussion on the best way to utilize these funds.
The county adjusted to new accounting standards that are more accurate, but also more strict, Although the overall report looked good, officials found more flaws in it by using the new standards.
The BOC commissioners voted to spend roughly $20,000 on a community services study that will serve as a planning tool for the next 10 years.
Jim Ross celebrated 20 years of ministering to Madison Baptist Church.
Councilman Fred Perriman was selected as mayor pro-term.
The Morgan County Recreation Board proposed a new 12-month competitive pool and mini water park. Costs are estimated at $4 million.
Morgan County congratulated its Sheriff's Office after officials seized nearly $1 million in illegal narcotics.
Efforts toward building a new hospital gained momentum after the Morgan Memorial Hospital Authority voted to hire an architect to draw up plans for a new hospital.
Arthur Julian Booker was named valedictorian of Morgan County High School, while Malin Darnell was named salutatorian.
Morgan County prayed for Austin Sharp, a Morgan County High School senior who suffered brain damage after being struck by a car. Citizens kept up with his family’s blog throughout the rest of the year during his recovery.
SMART Boards, interactive whiteboards with touch-controlled screens, appeared in Morgan County classrooms.
The county mourned the loss of Madison native Roy Lambert, a retired Georgia senator and representative.
Hailstorms ravaged the county and caused thousands of dollars in damage to many homes in the region.
Republican Sammy Cathey won the District Five seat on the Board of Commissioners in a special election, earning 64 percent of the vote.
The Buckhead Town Council unanimously approved a 90-day moratorium on any future zoning actions in a special meeting.
The Hispanic Quinceanera custom found a place among Morgan County citizens as Juana Lezama celebrated her 15th birthday.
Morgan County raised more money, faster than any other community in the Southeast region to build a local Boys and Girls Club.
Sandy Creek Baptist Church celebrated its 200th birthday.
The Buckhead Town Council voted to increase its water rates for the first time in five or six years.
Madison gets a makeover as Madison Main Street Coordinator Anne Huff unveils the city’s new and improved logo.
Morgan Memorial Hospital hit yet another revenue record. The hospital also announced it reached an important milestone in its financial growth: For the first time ever, it was self-supporting, pulling in $12,716 for the year without taking into account the county’s $1 million subsidy.
Elections got underway as several candidates announced intentions to run in the local races, including Terry Evans for the
Tax Commissioner’s seat and Ed Prior for the seat of Judge of Probate Court.
Officials surveyed the damage caused by a lightning strike downtown near the Emergency 911 building. Several networks were short-circuited and there was damage to computers, phones and network cards.
The Board of Education announced intentions to implement a random drug testing program for students participating in Georgia High School Association activities or those who wish to obtain a parking pass at the school. They would work in conjunction with the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, who would foot most of the bill.
Buckhead celebrated its 100th birthday with a gala. Citizens gathered for a tractor parade and a brief glimpse into town events and church socials gone by.
The election to determine Morgan County’s Sheriff heated up after Robert Markley, Kenny Pritchett, Keith Fitzgerald and Terry Scoggins all announced intentions to run for the office.
An idea for a local farmers’ co-operative was birthed at a local meeting between farmers, landowners and county planning officials. The co-op would include both dairy and crop farmers and would be a coalition of local producers who work to promote common goals, such as a “Morgan Made” brand.
The BOE voted unanimously to open enrollment for the 2008-2009 school year at Morgan County High School to out-of-county residents, reasoning that class sizes are shrinking and the added enrollment will not create a strain on the administration.
Morgan County citizens participated in the Great American Clean-Up, an effort to beautify the area neighborhood by neighborhood.
Morgan County played host to both Senator Saxby Chambliss and the Oak Ridge Boys. These are just a few notables who visited the area in 2008; guests also included other candidates for Congressional office, the Chinese Ambassador to the United States, a dairy farmer on a fact-finding mission for the Soviet Republic of Belarus, and State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox.
Bostwick received $96,000 from the Georgia Department of Transportation for downtown improvements.
Madison’s official budget for the 2009 fiscal year was set at $29 million This includes a 16 percent increase in property taxes brought on by increases in fuel costs, healthcare and raises in salaries.
The Madison City Council approved a new zoning classification. C-5, a fifth commercial zoning classification, will be used for intensive commercial ventures and for lighter industrial uses, such as warehouse storage, outdoor storage yards and more. Nine different areas were proposed for rezoning.
The Morgan County Citizen won Best Weekly in Georgia for “General Excellence” as part of the Georgia Press Association's 2008 Better Newspaper Contest, just one month after the paper’s sister publication, Lake Oconee Living, won five awards at the GAMMA Awards Conference hosted by the Magazine Association of the Southeast.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources eased the level of the state drought from a Level IV (more severe) to a Level IVb (less severe).
A YouTube video leads to local arrests as two “fight” videos that took place in Madison portray subjects of police investigations. The video was viewed 9,000 times.
Morgan Memorial Hospital officials purchased 8/10 of an acre for future expansion of the facility. Operational cash was used to buy the residential lot adjacent to the hospital, a $100,000 piece of property.
The Board of Elections rejected the petition of Keith Fitzgerald, independent candidate for the 2008 Sheriff's election, because his notary public for all sheets of the petition was also a signed elector on one of the sheets. The pool of candidates for sheriff was reduced to three.
Only 18.5 percent of the county’s registered voters turned out for the General Primary Election, which was much lighter than officials had hoped.
Property values around Town Park began increasing, proving Madison Planning Director Monica Callahan’s prediction that the park is “the catalyst we thought it would be.” Officials estimated the cost of the park to be $3 million, and the city council said in June that it could foot $1.3 million of the bill.
The county mourned the death of Walter Curtis Butler, county commissioner for District One and former state NAACP president. Donald B. Harris, Ezekiel Roy Lambert, III and Ed Latham qualified to run in a Special Election for the now vacant seat.
Morgan County citizens got the opportunity to take home a personal piece of memorabilia from the county's courthouse as renovations there left a lot behind.
Judge Parrot announces he will seek re-election for the judgeship of the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit.
Nearly a dozen Micha Way residents appeared before the Madison City Council to voice concerns over safety in the area.
Political letters began covering the Opinions pages as citizens became active in the upcoming election frenzy.
It is announced at a dedication ceremony for Morgan County High School's new gymnasium that Principal Mark Wilson has been named the 2009 National Principal of the Year for his innovation, dedication, and hard work. This came five months after he was named the GASSP Principal of the Year for 2008.
Local Republican and Democratic parties held kick-off rallies to jumpstart the political season.
A task force composed of Madison City Council members, Madison Police Department and Morgan County Sheriff's Office officials and local residents was formed to respond to complaints in the Micha Way area.
The Board of Elections and Registrations prepared for a historic turnout after Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel warned to expect at least an 80 percent Election Day turnout.
Recycling grew in Morgan County as the amount of materials sent to the facility increased by 37 percent from 2007 to 2008. Morgan County led the facilities contributing to that center, sending in 258 tons of mixed paper, bottles and cans in the last year.
The Board of Education eliminated the fall intersession, which was held during the fall break to help students benefiting from some remediation.
Construction by Rendrag Construction began on the concert pavilion in Town Park.
The national gas crisis hit home as serious oil shortages plagued Morgan County. Stations in the area ran dry sometimes for days at a time.
Citizens are urged to “stay-cation” in Madison to save gas and money. Local activities this month included the Firefighter Games, the annual fair, and Madison's Chili Cook-Off.
Plans for the new hospital began to form as the Morgan Memorial Hospital Authority approved a $150,000 budget to hire an architect, project manager and a Certificate of Need consultant.
Micha Way residents finally reported progress in the area. Several arrests were made and one citizen stated it was “amazingly different.”
The Madison City Council amended the alcohol sales ordinance, giving alcohol vendors in the city three city-approved options for training employees in alcohol sales.
Mayor Tom DuPree and the Madison City Council held a workshop to discuss impact fees and the possibility of funding a study to re-align three roads in Madison.
Three political forums were held for citizens to question local candidates. The first forum was held for county-wide positions, including Sheriff, Tax Commissioner, and Probate Judge, and attracted nearly 150 residents. There were also forums for the District One and District Five county commissioner seats.
Several retailers in Madison reported they noticed many citizens are feeling the impact of the downturn of the national economy as foot traffic downtown has decreased.
Several incumbents are voted back into office as the results from the elections are announced. Markley definitively won the Sheriff's race with 69 percent of the vote; Cathey won the District Five seat with 66 percent; Astin won the Tax
Commissioner seat with 58 percent; and Bracewell won the Probate Judge seat with 68 percent. Harris won the District One Special Election with 50 percent of the vote.
Morgan County High School celebrated another Homecoming Week, naming Gary Walker the Homecoming King and Greta Pritchett the Homecoming Queen. The seniors won the Powder Puff Game, and “Dasi” took home the crown at the Womanless Beauty Pageant.
The City of Madison began preparations to celebrate its 200th birthday with a glamorous Bicentennial Ball.
Lance Pailer presented a proposal to the Board of Education that would exempt senior citizens over the age of 65 from the school portion of Morgan County’s tax bill.
Downtown Madison merchants announced their first-ever consolidated marketing campaign, which would encourage citizens to stay home for the holidays and offer events and specials every day in November and December.
Morgan Memorial Hospital CEO H.D. Cannington announced he will return to Iraq to be part of an International Medical Corps team that will build a children’s hospital. The trip would last at least 6 months, so MMH began a search for a new CEO. Madison resident Brandon Jolly was chosen for the position.
A tree owned by locals Joel F. Eidson, III, Neal W. Bolton and David Newton was chosen to be used as the state Capitol’s Christmas Tree. The huge red cedar donned over 40,000 lights.
Saxby Chambliss won the seat for Georgia Congressman in Morgan County, and in the state. More than 47 percent of the electorate voted, an extraordinarily high turnout for a run-off election.
The annual Thanksgiving Day dinner for the disadvantaged and shut-in, a community effort to bring a home-cooked meal to all citizens, served 375 people.
The Board of Education denied the request to exempt seniors from the school portion on the county’s bill because of the burdens that would fall on other tax payers.
Morgan Memorial Hospital Authority members learn that a new facility could be opened as early as late 2010.
Further, Morgan Memorial got a much improved assessment from accountants, as gross revenue for the year increased to $25 million, as opposed to $20.6 million in 2007.
The Morgan County branch of the United Way meets its fund-raising goal of $20,000, despite a dismal economy.
The Board of Commissioners gives the go-ahead to project manager Ray McFadden to order $1.9 million worth of steel cells, marking the first major expenditure for the project.
The City of Madison's financial status is deemed "solid" by accoutants, as the city's finances meet or exceed acceptable debt to revenue ratios.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution elects to pull circulation and distribution of the publication from Morgan County.
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Published in the January 1, 2009 edition.