By Patrick Yost
A Comer, Ga., man was arrested on Monday, Jan. 14 on charges of possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute after a two-week investigation by Morgan County authorities.
Bruce Edward Hicks, 31, was charged following a traffic stop by Madison Police Department Officer Jeremy Hoffman.
According to Capt. Chris Bish, Morgan County Sheriff's Office Investigation Division, Hicks was identified by law enforcement officers as a “significant distributor” of methamphetamine in Morgan County. Bish said investigators with the Criminal Investigations Division had identified Hicks as a possible methamphetamine distributor during interviews with confidential informants. Bish said authorities identified Hicks and the vehicle he was driving and issued an alert for law enforcement to “be on the lookout” for the suspect.
According to Hoffman’s report, the Madison Police officer identified the vehicle at approximately 9:30 p.m. on the Madison bypass. Hoffman alleged that Hicks’ silver Honda Prelude was weaving in his lane. Hoffman initiated a traffic stop on Hicks in the former BiLo parking lot.
By Kathryn Schiliro
Halfway through the fiscal year, the Morgan County School System's financial report – which is “as good as it can be” for this time of year, Superintendent Dr. Ralph Bennett said – benefitted from state reminbursement of funds in December.
Receipts for December totaled more than $4.4 million, compared to November’s receipts of more than $2.7 million.
The system’s operating fund started last month with more than $2.8 million and, after the receipts and near $2.4 million in expenditures, ended December with near $5 million.
Local revenues, coming from property taxes, were “still slightly down,” Bennett said. To date this fiscal year, the system’s collected more than $4.7 million out of the more than $11.8 million budgeted amount. At 50 percent of the way through FY13, that’s about 40 percent of the budget. Historically, these local revenues should soon pick up.
“I think the month of January we'll start to catch up,” Bennett said.
To date, the system’s collected more than $11.7 million of its budgeted near $25.5 million in total revenues, or 46 percent.
As far as expenditures to date – again, 50 percent through FY13 – the system’s spent more than $13.4 million of the budgeted more than $27.4 million, or almost 49 percent. This is about 1.5 percentage points below where the system was this time last fiscal year, Bennett said.
The Education Local Option Sales Tax (ELOST) balance for December totals just over $3 million following a beginning balance of $3.2 million, more than $283,000 in receipts and more than $432,000 in expenditures.
Law enforcement veteran chosen from 50-plus candidates
By Patrick Yost
When Captain Bill Ashburn retires on Feb. 28 after more than 30 years with the Georgia State Patrol, he won’t have to wonder what he’ll do to fill his days.
Ashburn, 52, was named the new chief of the Madison Police Department on Tuesday.
According to Madison City Manager David Nunn, Ashburn was the top selection of more than 50 candidates that applied for the job after former Madison Police Department Chief Travis Stapp resigned in October 2012. Following Stapp’s resignation, Assistant Chief Carl Jones, the lead investigator for the department, filled the role.
Nunn said he reviewed the final four candidates with Madison City Council members Whitey Hunt and Fred Perriman and then reached a decision on Ashburn. Ashburn said he has accepted the $70,000-per-year job and expects to begin work in early March after his retirement with the Georgia State Patrol is official.
“It was a good process,” Nunn said. “We interviewed strong candidates from top to bottom.”
Nunn said the final candidates “were all on par as far as experience and education…” but that Ashburn had both local knowledge of the community and impeccable academic and training credentials.
“Bill has a unique combination of work experience and education,” Nunn said. “It’s important that it’s someone the community and the department felt comfortable with and someone they could work with from the outset.”
By Stephanie Johns
About a dozen members of the public were in attendance last Thursday night to hear a resource management plan for Hard Labor Creek State Park.
Their overall reaction to the plan: favorable.
Ray Boyd, a park neighbor, said, “I’m pleased to see the plan.”
Tommy Breedlove, another park neighbor, later added, “As long as you do what you say, we’ll support you 100 percent.”
Randy Tate, natural resource program manager for Georgia State Parks, presented the plan.
The meeting announcement provided to the public said the plan was created following a public meeting held in 2012. During that meeting, the public was invited to comment and provide input for the plan.
The announcement also noted that high priority management areas include forest and timber, fire management, invasive and rare species, wildlife, and aquatic resources.
Stands that have been clearcut recently will be hand-planted through February at a rate of 600 to 750 trees per acre. The new trees will be thinned in about 16 years.
An application of herbicide to remove competing plants preceded the hand planting, which began in December.
Breedlove requested that park management notify park neighbors prior to applying herbicide.
Tate said they could try but application is “very dependent” on the weather. He added there is no more spraying until the fall of 2013.
As noted in the plan, “This plan specifies no clearcutting but this harvest method does have merit and must be retained as one of many forest management tools.”
They plan to thin commercial stands of loblolly pine and to request proposals to conduct final thinnings or seed tree/shelterwood harvests of mature loblolly stands.
By Kathryn Schiliro
Following a unanimous vote by the Morgan County Board of Education (BOE), Dr. Jim Malanowski has officially been named principal of Morgan County High School (MCHS).
Two members of the high school’s School Governance Council were in attendance at Monday night’s meeting and stayed in closed session to offer the council’s opinion on the matter, which seemed to be in support of naming Malanowski principal.
“We do concur with you about changing Dr. Malanowski's status from interim principal to principal,” BOE Chairman Nelson Hale told the council members after the BOE came back into open session to take a vote on the personnel list.
Malanowski was named interim principal of MCHS for the 2012-2013 school year following the resignation of Dr. Mark Wilson, which went into effect at the end of June 2012.
At that point, system administration said the MCHS principal position would be advertised at the beginning of this year; however, it seems this plan changed.
"Basically, with Dr. Malanowski being in the job as principal, he's performed, in our opinion and the School Governance Council's opinion, well," Hale said Monday. "We're comfortable with him in that permanent role... We appreciate his willingness to step in,"
System administration "got the pulse" of MCHS teachers as well, and those opinions seemed to be in favor of Malanowski being named principal, Hale said.
This move to principal from interim principal doesn't include any changes to Malanowski's salary or benefits, Superintendent Dr. Ralph Bennett said.
By Stephanie Johns
Newly elected State Senator Burt Jones visited Morgan County schools Tuesday morning. He shared that he is no stranger to the life of an educator: his mom was a principal and his dad was a superintendent.
During the first part of his visit he heard highlights of the Morgan County Charter School System and each of its five schools: primary, elementary, middle, high and CrossRoads.
Prior to the site visits, Jones met with principals, members of the Board of Education (BOE) and others to hear about the schools.
Superintendent Dr. Ralph Bennett said he was glad to offer Jones the opportunity to see the schools firsthand.
Bennett shared student demographics with those present: 3,300 students with about 50 percent on free or reduced lunch.
He said they strive for personalization of instruction with every student. Money helps this happen.
“We will work toward that, just not as rapidly,” Bennett said. He added that they had a $27 million budget this year but that over the past five years it has gone down significantly.
He noted that they are one of 16 charter school systems in the state.
“There’s not a lot of understanding of what a charter school system is,” Bennett said. “It’s flexibility with greater accountability.”
Jones asked how he liked the transition to a charter system.
“I like the flexibility,” Bennett said. “Accountability’s not a problem.”