2018, a year in review!

Staff Written Community, Featured

By Sarah Wibell 

and Brittany Whitley

staff writers

January

Guy Rogers became Morgan County’s new tax assessor. Rodgers previously worked for the county two decades ago.

The “5 Perspectives” art exhibit opened. The collaboration between the Morgan County African American Museum and the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art highlighted work by five contemporary artists celebrating black art.

A hotel/motel tax was passed 3-to-2 by Madison’s city council but blocked by State Representative Dave Belton and Senator Burt Jones. The resolution intended to increase a local tax from 5 to 7 percent. Belton reportedly stated, “The state legislature does not take up these issues without a unanimous or near unanimous vote.”

The community raised more than $12K to aid the Smith family who lost their home in a fire.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Christine May’s lawsuit to allow short-term rentals in Morgan County.

February

Rumors of Facebook developing a data center encompassing 416 acres in Stanton Springs spread as land was sold to “Morning Hornet, LLC,” a code name used for the project until details were finalized. The deal will give Morgan County $13 million over 20-years.

The Hitchcock family received their new home as Habitat for Humanity completed their build.

Morgan County High School’s Coach Aubrey Fortson established the Hope and O.M.G. (Optimism, Magnificence, and Greatness) programs that prepare students for the future.

The Morehouse Glee Club received a standing ovation at a concert held at the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center in partnership with the Morgan County African American Museum.

Morgan County High School students shared their artwork in the exhibit “A Funky Little Art Thing” (AFLAT).

MCHS Seniors Mackenzi Barrett and Cameron McCanless were named this year’s valedictorian and salutatorian.

Morgan County was the site of the state’s largest bond deal – $42 billion – when the Joint Development Authority secured the bonds for Facebook, then operating under code name “Morning Hornet.”

March

Artists from the “5 Perspectives” exhibit held a forum to discuss topics of religion and the complexities of race including questions such as what does it mean to be black in America?

Foster Park – a housing development project – was approved after Madison’s city council and mayor voted 3-to-2 to rezone the property from a Residential 2 zone to a Residential 4 zone with conditions.

The mothers of Michael Rhodes and Brittany Smith, teenagers who died last year in an automobile accident, created a means to remember their children and brighten other people’s days through painted rocks. Known as MOCO Rocks, stones with painted images or quotes are continually hidden around town for others to find, photograph, and re-hide.

Apalachee River residents voiced concerns for the ecosystem and property values over a proposed water intake system to supplement the Hard Labor Creek Reservoir. Opposition to the intake system location in Morgan County that was 

planned by the Walton County Water & Sewerage Authority continued for several months.

One Morgan Capital Campaign was launched by the Morgan County Charter School System to raise $1.5 million for the creation of a new high school and middle school that go “beyond the basics”. A matching-grant of $500K was anonymously given to aid donations.

MCHS students participated in the national movement “March for Our Lives” by walking out of school to protest gun violence, gain law makers’ attention, and advocate for gun control.

The Foster-Thomason-Miller House went under contract to be sold to the Madison-Morgan Conservancy. The 1883 structure, unoccupied for a couple of decades, is being rehabilitated by the Conservancy while searching for a buyer to fully restore the house.

Gensteel, a Canadian-based company that manufactures metal doors and frames, selected Madison for a warehouse relocation – $3 million investment.

Local shop owner, Theresa Bishop, filed a complaint to the Madison Police Department against City Councilman Joe DiLetto in response to a statement in an email retrieved through an open records request. DiLetto wrote an email to City Planner Monica Callahan saying he should have “come over the counter with Theresa” when Bishop was publicly criticizing Callahan in a meeting. “This was hyperbole,” said DiLetto. “It’s just a figure of speech that I used to tell Monica that I should have stood up for her during that meeting where she had been continually abused verbally.”

April

The Fox Family, whose 12-year old daughter Cadence has battled two germinoma brain tumors and is dealing with the lifelong repercussions of treatment, will get a new, safe house to live in thanks to Be the Change-Brandy Angel Foundation, Inc. and many others who have donated money, time, and services.

Tookie Brown, former MCHS basketball player and current junior guard at Georgia Southern University, declared for the NBA draft. Not hiring an agent, Brown retains his college eligibility to play for Georgia Southern in his senior year.

Truck stops and travel plazas within Madison’s Commercial 4 (C4) District was unanimously approved by Madison’s Mayor and City Council.

The Morgan County School System held the K-12 2018 Unity through the Arts Extravaganza with over 500 students showcasing dance, music, theatre, and more.

Old Buckhead Days brought members of the community out for the annual 5K road race, parade, music, vendors, and an all-around fun time.

7th Annual One Morgan Special Olympics (OMO) was held with 55 student athletes participating in the event that celebrates and encourages students with disabilities. OMO Founder Meredith Holloway aims to generate and foster opportunities for those with disabilities and a culture of acceptance and respect.

The number of children in foster care has nearly doubled due to opioids. Fifty children in the foster care system are from Morgan County, yet there are only eight certified foster care homes in the county.

The NAACP held a parade through downtown and a festival in Town Park, which surpassed previous years’ number of attendees. Mayor Fred Perriman was the grand marshal for the parade with Calvary Baptist Church’s Reverend Hoke Smith as the honorary grand marshal.

Amici’s Italian Café moved into the historic Livery Stable building and will open their own craft brewery to complement their classic offerings.

May

Madison Fest had beautiful sunny weather for the festivities, vendors, and music in Town Park. The annual event also promoted living ‘greener’ lives and offered solutions to doing so.

Local Vietnam veteran David Land travelled back to the Southeast Asian country with his son and grandson 50 years after his tour of service to pay tribute to both American and Vietnamese soldiers and civilians who lost their lives.

After 35 years, Assistant Superintendent for the Morgan County Charter School System Sarah Burbach retired at the end of the school year.

Betsy Wagenhauser has created a bluebird “trail” – a series of bluebird houses carefully set up and maintained – in the backyard of her historic home. She encourages others to install such houses with the dream of making Madison the “bluebird capitol” of Georgia.

Madison was selected as one of the best Historic Small Towns in America by USA Today for the second consecutive year.

In collaboration with Steffen Thomas Museum of Art, students from Morgan County Crossroads School created a piece of public art that is permanently displayed at Farmview Market.

MCHS Class of 2018 graduated 210 students.

June

Establishment of a Public Arts Commission was supported by Madison Mayor and City Council to bring artwork into public spaces around Madison. The Commission was proposed by City Councilmember Chris Hodges to both celebrate artists and the artist community as well as enhance local tourism.

The Senior Center held its annual pageant awarding Jerry Echols the 2018 crown.

Madison Police Officers Stacey Eaton and Andre Johnson successfully resuscitated an individual who reportedly overdosed on pills, saving the person’s life. The officers were each presented with a Livesaving Award.

The Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) selected former Madison City Councilmember Bobby Crawford for a prestigious award Lifetime Service Award in recognition of his 39-year career of public service.

Around 20 houses in the Canaan Historic Neighborhood were revitalized through the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing (GICH) with more to be renovated moving forward. About 46 percent of residents in the 300 home community reportedly live below the poverty line with 80 houses showing visible deterioration.

A senior living community was proposed for more than 250 residents on 74 acres in Madison. The all-inclusive campus will provide lifestyle options and a continuum of care. The Wellbridge Community project was later unanimously recommended for approval by the Morgan County Planning and Zoning Commission.

The Morgan County African American Museum (MCAAM) commemorated the end of slavery with the annual Juneteenth Festival. Juneteenth is an African-American holiday that is recognized in 45 states according to Cheryl Bland, MCAAM director.

More than 50 people gathered in Madison in protest of President Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy that separated families from over 2,000 children.

The application for a proposed water intake system on the Apalachee River was withdrawn by the Walton County Water & Sewerage Authority after months of resistance from river residents.

July 

Morgan County received $375,000 from stealthy Facebook site in Stanton Springs.

The local Habitat for Humanity celebrated 20 years of assisting Morgan County residents and has continued to build affordable and decent homes in the city since. 

Georgia hands-free law became concrete and Morgan County officers broke the ice with drivers by initially issuing warnings to warm the public up to the new law. 

Jacquelyn Whetzel, a local mother and self-described “gym rat,” worked as a wellness specialist to design a “Fit4Living” program to help others reach their goals. 

Ninety-one-year-old Troy Dobbs, former city councilman, had a local trail [within Bostwick] named after him for over 50 years of his service to the community. 

Ryan Rickard, a former assistant principle of Morgan County High School was arrested and charged with rape, sexual assault, and sexual battery against three victims from Morgan, Walton, and Oconee counties. 

Madison Mayor and City Council unanimously approved a map amendment to accommodate a proposed large-scale senior living continuum of care campus, The Wellbridge Community, in Madison. 

Meredith Owen, 24 years old, joined the hall of Fame for “Morgan’s Finest” due to her supurb golfing skills performed since her time in Morgan County where she finished third in the state to her time at Mercer University where she competed at the NCAA Division I level for four years. 

The City of Madison planned to transform the 1901 Historical Central of Georgia Depot in Madison into a multipurpose space which will serve as an environmental center and trailhead, as well as a conference, training, community and tourist center. 

Patrick Greco, who held a fundraiser for Secretary of State Brian Kemp at Madison’s historic “Honeymoon”, was accused of buying Kemp’s silence and inaction regarding numerous sexual abuse claims filed against Greco’s formally owned franchise, Massage Envy.

The Morgan County 4-H Compound Archery Team medaled at the 2018 4-H Shooting Sport National Championships in Grand Island, Nebraska. 

Madison’s prime historic attraction, the Thurleston House turned 200 years old this year. 

The Madison City Council unanimously agreed to place a referendum on the November 6 General Election that, if approved by voters, would allow city restaurants to begin serving alcohol at 11 a.m.  on Sunday. 

Governor Nathan Deal was appointed the Honorable Terry N. Massey to the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit. 

Morgan County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to take the state’s proposed rollback millage rate of 11.057 down from 11.194 to lower property taxes. 

Brian Johnson assumed role as the new head coach of the Morgan County High School cross-country program after previous head coach Erin Spinks stepped down. 

Southern Cross Ranch, Madison’s desired horse riding ranch and getaway spot, celebrated their 25th anniversary with around 300 people in attendance.

August

The Morgan Memorial Hospital Authority honored former authority chairman Terry Evans with the title of chairman emeritus.

Jordan Huff, Morgan County High School senior of Class 2019, became one of the state’s most recruited football players as he received scholarship offers from a dozen plus NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision programs and coaches. He later signed on to play for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets next fall. 

 The Firefly Festival brought out at least 400 children and over 1,000 adults to the beautiful Town Park to enjoy festivities, music, and each other. 

Morgan County Commissioners accepted the $375,000 check from Joint Development Authority as a part of Morgan County’s share of the $15 million land sale out at Stanton Springs to Facebook. 

The Madison-Morgan Conservancy opened the doors of the Foster-Thomason-Miller house for a donor appreciation event and paint out where six or seven members of the Madison Artists’ Guild painted masterpieces that were later auctioned.

Russel and Mary Greene celebrated the life of their teenage son, Marcus, who died three years ago due to heart failure by renting two charter buses to transport over 100 people from three different churches to an Atlanta Braves game because baseball games were their son’s favorite.

Morgan County High School science teacher, Alec Johnson, received the opportunity of a lifetime to work with NASA for a little over a month creating educational and outreach materials at the base in Florida. 

Morgan County locals roared over Facebook with strong concerns about Morgan County School System’s predominantly white newly hired teaching staff. The BOE reassured the community, they are working on increasing minority teacher applicants with their Minority Recruitment Task Force.

Justin Slaughter, who was arrested for the murder of his mother and a family friend, was deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial and was immediately sent to a Georgia mental facility. 

The Morgan County School System agreed to allow Madison’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to take over the old Pearl Street High School, which was the high school before integration and holds great historical significance, and devise plans for its future use.

The Historic Madison-Morgan Foundation (HMMF) sponsored the Swingin’ Medallions concert at the Cultural Center as a fundraiser in support of the ongoing restoration of the 1901 Central of Georgia Railroad Depot in downtown Madison and brought in over 200 supporters.

Local Photographer Brandy Angel organized the Poker Run at Lake Oconee, a superhero-themed fundraiser where families and friends enjoyed boat rides and playing cards, of which $2000 was raised to support with children battling cancer. The funds were split between the Fox family and the Scott family. 

Local citizens’ concerns for election hacking and resolution to implement paper ballots for the Midterm election continued, and brought national attention to Morgan County through the media. 

Morgan County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a text amendment to allow food trucks to be stored and operated out of all residential and rural home occupations at the last regular meeting of this month. 

State Senator Burt Jones and State Representative Dave Belton praised Morgan County for a growing economy, low unemployment rates, rising wages, excelling academic performances, and investing into the future by building new schools and a new hospital at the Annual State of Morgan forum. 

The 18th Annual Festival of Friends, one of Morgan Memorial Hospitals’ premier fundraisers, brought in over 250 costumed-guests and featured 135 auction items, raffle prizes and music at the Cultural Center. 

After a 150-year history in Morgan County, Pleasant Grove Baptist Church named its first-ever female head pastor, Carrie Peters-Reid, a Madison City Councilwoman and cosmetologist. Reid was ordained and replaced Reverend Alfred Murray who retired after leading the church for 34 years. 

The Horse Tail Bandit returned to a Morgan County horse stable and cut two horses’ tails by two-thirds. The bandit was not caught. 

Farmview Market held the annual Southern Classic BBQ Competition featuring music, crafts, and of course, local southern-style barbecue attracted almost 4,000 barbecue lovers and several amazing BBQ grill masters. Pig and Oak took home first place for the chicken category while Pots and BBQ mastered the pork ribs and beef tri-tips categories.

September

Thomas and Lisa Wagner and their teenage son were rescued from a ravenous fire at their home in Buckhead by two dogs they rescued from the Humane Society just a few years ago named Petey and Zeus. The dogs barked incessantly at a unique tone from downstairs until their owners woke up to flames raging in the attic.

Many prominent buildings in the downtown area were vacated including, Madison Gift Mart, Thomas Wagon Works, and Amici’s old building on Main Street, but city officials feared not and claimed that 2018 has been a “Year of Transition” for downtown and will be heading toward an era of booming business and residential development in the upcoming year. 

Topanga Production, Inc. shot a pilot for a new Showtime series called Queen Fur on Foster Street in Madison. The show will be starring Lily Mae Harrigton, Michael Mosley, Kim Dickens, Jon Foster, Joshua Mikel, Keith Machekanyanga, and Spencer Howell.

Former Chief Executive officer of the Boys & Girls Club of North Central Georgia, Landers Thomas, was indicted on nine counts of theft by taking and stood accused of stealing nearly $50,000 from the club after an arrest in 2017. 

Mayor and City Council unanimously approved a conditional use to allow for Wanda Eubanks’ proposed game center on East Washington Street that will include a pool table, video game consoles, and computers with Internet.

Officials from Madison, local law enforcement agents, local businesses, and religious leaders gathered at a forum to discuss the Bethany Road Intersection at the Madison Bypass, what has been deemed as “the most dangerous intersection in all of Morgan County”. GDOT refused another round of requests for a traffic light and suggested that an R-CUT would suffice. 

A clerical error was discovered in the Morgan County Charter School System’s operating budget for the Fiscal Year 2018-2019, leaving a whopping $1.3 million hole in the budget. The Morgan County Board of Education fixed the $1.3 million hole immediately. 

Hurricane Florence ravaged the shores of the Carolinas sending at least a couple hundred evacuees to Madison who booked up nearly all of the available lodging facilities in town and in turn, increased tourism in the city making Madison the silver lining of the storm. 

The Morgan County African American Museum recognized four African American pillars in the community through their Living Legacy Gala. Willie H. Cook was recognized for his community/civic service, Earnest C. Jackson for his education, Prophetess Stella L. Head for her footprints in religion, and Eddie Wyatt, Sr. for his heights in business. 

The Board of Commissioners further pursue the traffic light solution for the Bethany Road Intersection at the Madison by-pass and do not plan to settle for an R-CUT to be the solution.

The University of the Georgia’s Lamar Dodd School of Art restored a 100-year old mural on the side of the old Chero-Cola Bottleworks Building on the corner of West Washington and First Streets. 

A motion to permit use to of paper ballots was denied again after citizens made yet another appeal at the Board of Elections and Registration meeting. The BOC did not uphold their promise to look into the situation. 

What would have been Midred Owen Landry’s 100th Birthday was promised to be a day of giving to the MMCC, Heritage Hall, the Morgan County BOE, the Morgan County Library, the Morgan County Foundation for Excellence in Public Education, and Madison Baptist Church, who received $70,000 while all other organizations received $40,000 each. 

Corporate defense attorney, author, and advocate Elizabeth “Liz” Huntley shared her personal story that led to her memoir More Than A Bird at a luncheon fundraiser for the Madison-Morgan Boys & Girls Club that encouraged children and adults alike. 

Madison turned up the funk with 250 copasetic individuals who boogied down on the grasses of Town Park at the 1970’s Dance Party to the vibes DJ Zook spun out. 

October 

The BOC began exploring the idea of ensuring broadband service throughout Morgan County due to the lack of internet options from private internet companies. The project would be a multimillion-dollar endeavor, possibly leading to a property tax increase or a new debt service obligation to the county. 

Reagan Reilly received the crown for Homecoming Queen 2018 with her father, Kevin Reilly, right by her side. 

The Madison Mayor and City Council put the two percent Hotel/Motel tax increase back on the table after the motion was squashed last January due to the absence of a unanimous vote. 

The Madison Mayor and City Council bowed to public pressure after a lengthy debate over whether or not the public was given sufficient enough time to review the plan, and the vote was delayed on the Comprehensive plan which could jeopardize grant money for Georgia Safari Conservation Park and other grants.

The Morgan County Varsity Football Team broke its losing streak with a Homecoming night 26-14 victory over Jackson County. 

MCHS celebrated their last homecoming week at the old school with a jam-packed schedule of games, competitions, dress-up days, projects, a parade, a powder-puff football match, and ample amounts of school spirit.  

The Great Folk Art Parade: Down the Lane to the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art festival and exhibit in the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art attracted about 300 people who marveled at the works, bought pieces, and enjoyed music and food. 

The BOE held a bond sale creating more than $10 million worth of revenue to help pay for a new school construction sold out in one day.

Mad Town Festival, a three-year running annual festival in Gilbert Park, got axed due to continuous complaints from local residents over loud music, excessive traffic, and public urination. A new site for the festival is being explored. 

Ty Manning, art teacher at MCHS, threw a farewell party for his students in his studio at the old school building the week before moving to the new school. The teacher sold ceiling tiles for donations to the art program while visitors marveled at his students’ room-filled rendition of Infinity Mirrors.

The Morgan County School System honored teachers who are most beloved by their students. MCHS named Wendy Malcom as this year’s Teacher of the Year. MCMS chose Zonna Fortune, MCES chose Leslie Turner, and MCPS selected Jennifer Haynes. 

Spark Morgan, formerly known as the Morgan Fund of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, awarded over $50K in grants to ten non-profits operating in or benefitting Morgan County for the final time. The recipients were the Boys & Girls Club of North Central Georgia, Camp Twin Lakes, Inc., Habitat for Humanity of Morgan County, the Morgan County African American Museum, Morgan County Foundation for Excellence in Public Education, Rainbow Community Center, Humane Society of Morgan County, Steffen Thomas Museum of Fine Art, Ferst Readers, and Madison-Morgan Cultural Center. 

A local Morgan County citizen, Jeanne Dufort, joined a team of four other voters who filed a lawsuit against Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and now Governor, the Georgia’s State Election Board members, and the members of the Gwinnett County Board of Elections alleging voter disenfranchisement. 

Ambulance service in Morgan County was and still is under scrutiny from several residents who worry just two ambulances cannot sufficiently handle the medical needs of the community after personally experiencing long wait times during dire emergencies. The citizens are asked for a third ambulance to be added in Morgan County. 

An official ribbon cutting ceremony was held to celebrate the grand opening of Shire’s $1.2 billion manufacturing plant, a global pharmaceutical company that specializes in treating rare diseases, in Stanton Springs Industrial Park. The ceremony celebrated the six-year construction and finally completion, along with FDA approval. 

A local couple, Gigi and Hal Gerhardt, teamed up with local business (Hard Labor Creek Golf Course, Amici’s Italian Café, Chophouse, Madison Produces, and Gussies Flowers) and held a raffle drawing to raise money for their daughter, Deanna Raymond, who is battling a rare type of breast cancer. The Gerhardts hope that, in their efforts, their story brings awareness about breast cancer. 

The new MCHS building opened immediately following the students fall break. The building was complete with the much-anticipated College and Career Academy, a new biotechnology lab with an adjoint aquaponics set up, a mechatronics engineering lab, a school store with a large storefront for the Marketing program, a Google room, for team projects connected to the library, a hands-on culinary lab attached to the cafeteria, and more.

Earl voting in Morgan County churned out record numbers with 15 percent of the county’s register voters voting three weeks before election day. A total of 2,186 ballots had been casted by October 23 and doubly exceeded the election officials’ expectations. 

The Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit of the 8th Superior Court District of Georgia let us in on the process of the Drug Court and the rewards of investing in those who are in need, offenders who have deeper needs than what they typically present. 

Morgan County moved into the Sweet Sixteen of the Volleyball State Playoffs with an easy three-of-five sets win over Haralson County. 

Fourteen bands, and five hours of live music rocked the crowd at The Last Jam concert at the MCHS auditorium.

The Fifth Annual Anti-Bullying Rally, sponsored by the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, drew in over 225 people. Children ages 8-15 gathered for a variety of fun activities and educational lessons on the devastating effects of bullying. 

November

Former Morgan County High School student, Tysheannia Nicole Alexander, 18, who was arrested in March after a text message she sent to six other students caused authorities to lock down Morgan County schools was sentenced to three years of probation and fined $500. Alexander pled guilty to six counts of terroristic threats, one count of harassing communications and one count of disrupting a public school in Morgan County Superior Court.

 Governor Candidates Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp sought out votes in Madison with a huge crowd at Amici’s downtown. 

Drug Court continued to make a mark in the lives of its participants and Morgan County. Clinton Jones graduated from the court along with others. 

The 48th Annual Freedom Fund Banquet, sponsored by NAACP, was held at the MCHS cafeteria and drew in about 150 guests. The event celebrated the NAACP’s work for racial equality and the advancement of people of color and its member who work to further that goal day in and day out. The event primarily encouraged the crowd to vote in the Midterm Election.   

About 9,574 ballots were casted in Morgan County during this year’s Midterm Elections, and about 6,804 ballots were in favor of the Republican Candidate, Brian Kemp, for Governor. 

Many costumed-locals gathered at Town Park to celebrate Halloween and, then, creeped downtown to enjoy a special parade that included live music and loads of free candy. 

The 29th Annual Cotton Gin Festival in Downtown Bostwick drew an unprecedented crowd with at least 7,200 people who attended. The parade filled the afternoon with music, food, and family-friendly fun. 

Former CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of North Central Georgia pled guilty to one count of theft by taking and was sentenced to 15 years of probation with the first 60 days served at the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department and ordered to pay restitution of $49,770 to the BGCNCG and fined $1,000. 

Jennifer Haynes, one of the Teachers of the Year, was selected as the System-wide Teacher of the Year and went on to compete with teachers from across Georgia for the title of State Teacher of the Year. 

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held to celebrate the newly completed MCHS. 

Local veterans and families gathered at MCHS to celebrate veterans. About 2,000 people turned out for the event, which featured patriotic songs performed by the MCHS Chorus and Band, and a special guest speaker, Colt Savard, who has served in the US Air Force for the last five years, with Lieutenant and Colonel Derrick Dailey led the event. 

The Madison-Morgan Boys & Girls Club brought the stars to Madison again with their Dancing with the Madison Stars fundraiser. Ar’Mond Wright, MMBGC Youth of the Year, opened with a speech, Maddox & Mary Hollis Pugmire were titled People’s Choice bringing in $12,000 in votes, and The Fetch House Trio took home the Judge Choice title. 

BOER approved extended polling hours for two days during the early voting week for Run-Off Election for Georgia Secretary of State and Public State Service Commissioner. 

The long-anticipated Georgia Safari Conservation Park had groundbreaking ceremony to kick off the construction and development of Phase I of the park which feature a drive-through safari complete with exotic animals such as giraffes, zebras, bongos, kudu, and ostrich, and is set to open in 2020. 

Historic-District residents Theresa and Dean Bishop, Elizabeth Bell, James Orr, Celia and Walter Murray, Robert and Dena Lanier, and Penelope Foote filed a lawsuit appealing the City of Madison’s controversial zoning vote to accommodate a housing development behind the Historic Foster-Thomason-Miller House on Main Street.

The Madison-Morgan Conservancy objected a proposed route for the new $27 million energy project that will feature a six-miles transmission line running from the new Facebook Data Center in Stanton Springs to Verner Farms in Rutledge. The conservancy is worried that the concrete poles, 80-120 feet high, will denigrate the scenic view of a historically significant area in Morgan County. 

Alec Woodard officially signed on the dotted line to play for the Governors at Austin Peay State University in Clarkesville saying, “I thought it was a good fit for me.” 

Madison Main Street’s first Shop, Sip, & Stroll promotion attracted scores of shoppers from the local community and from surrounding cities like Athens, Atlanta, Covington, and the Lake Oconee area. Nearly every shop and restaurant in the downtown district participated by hosting a Holiday Open House with refreshments or by offering special discounts or giveaways during the day. 

In her ruling, Morgan County Superior Court Judge Amanda Petty found that “the Petitioners were given reasonable notice and opportunity to be heard on the application in question,” and that “the court further finds that the mayor and councilmembers voted freely without bias, and without prejudging the issues as a result of any ex-parte communication from the parties” and therefore, ruled in the City’s favor on all counts. 

Madison prepared for Christmas with the success of many events: Cookies with Santa at Mint Juleps Kitchen, Holiday Tour of Homes at Heritage Hall, Holiday Market at Farmview Market, Make a Wreath at Madison Artists Guild, Community Holiday Concert at MMCC, Student Series: A Christmas Carol at MMCC, the 17th Annual Gingerbread Workshop at MMCC, and more. 

In honor of Giving Tuesday, MCPS ran a week-long Giving Market that was used as a way to teach children the essence of giving during the holiday season and help the primary school raise funds.   

December

Morgan County government and the City of Madison agreed to pass a joint resolution expressing their united desire for a traffic light at the Bethany Road Intersection.

Another city meeting took place to discuss the Hotel/Motel Tax increase. The Madison-Morgan Lodging Association (MMLA) insisted that there was more that could be done to increase revenue from lodging than increasing the taxes. The Madison-Morgan Convention and Visitors Bureau and MMLA agreed to work together to resolve this issue.  

This year’s Holiday Tour of Homes, orchestrated by Heritage Hall brought about 2300 visitors and featured 12 privately-owned historic homes, three museum houses, three museums, and five churches.

MMCC dashed into December with their Community Holiday Concert, sponsored by United Bank, which was comprised of a variety of talented members throughout the community and served as an opportunity to donate to The Caring Place with loads of canned goods supporting locals brought as their admission. 

The is underway Morgan County Middle School and broke ground this month.

The new $35 million Morgan Medical Center held a traditional ribbon cutting and community tour to show off the brand-new facility.

Owners of Thrifty Mac, Nancy and George Launius, showed their employees the immense appreciation for their hard work and dedication to the company by taking them on a trip to New York.

Morgan Medical Center officially opened its doors and began treating their first patients Wednesday, December 19. 

Over 160 Families woke up Christmas morning to generous spreads of gifts for their children thanks to the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office annual Empty Stocking Fund program. 

Morgan County was one of several schools honored at Mercedes Benz Stadium as “Team of the Decade” particularly during its long line of success during 1955 to 1962. The school was represented by Otha Knight, Eugene Sidwell, and Richard Jones at a ceremony held in between games at the Georgia high school championships. 

Syreeta Lumpkin and her two children received the best Christmas gift yet: a new house. Habitat for Humanity celebrated the completion of the three-bedroom-two-bathroom-Whitehall street residence after 6 months of construction and less than 15 volunteers. 

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