WARNER ROBINS — City police shut down gas stations in Warner Robins on Monday as part of what they called an illegal gambling investigation.
Warner Robins City Council has tweaked local regulations of gaming machines over the past year in a bid to better supervise businesses that could use amusement games more as gambling machines.
Officials with the Georgia Charter Schools Association visited Augusta on Monday to give their pitch as to why residents should be open to the concept of charter schools and what they can do to help launch one here.
They pointed to teachers who are innovative and care about quality education. Parents who are involved and informed. Students who receive a rigorous academic load and an array of extracurricular activities to enrich that education.
Mostly, they told the dozen in attendance for the meeting at the Augusta Public Library that charter schools are meant to offer parents another option if they are not satisfied with traditional public schools but can’t afford a private education.
“Charter schools are not a silver bullet for public education,” said Andrew Lewis, the association’s executive vice president. “Charter schools are simply one additional tool in a tool belt that needs new tools, where some old tools need to be thrown out and some tools need to be sharpened.”
Charter schools are public schools that receive state, federal and sometimes local funding, but are not controlled by local systems and have flexibility in structure, hiring practices and governance.
Debate sparked last year about the merits of these schools before Georgia voters passed Amendment 1 on the Nov. 6
ballot, which created a state committee that can approve charter schools even if a local district objects. Opponents said the schools divert money away from public systems and lack the accountability.
Augusta commissioners, poised to vote Tuesday on extending Heery International’s contract, deny the company’s campaign contributions and gifts are “pay to play” handouts, but Heery’s conduct in other cities and states suggests otherwise.
Augusta has paid Heery and two subconsultants $9.5 million in fees since late 2003 to manage the city’s construction projects funded by sales taxes, such as the $62 million Augusta Judicial Center or $38 million Augusta Convention Center.
Over the years, Heery has made cash contributions to political campaign and community projects supported by city politicians, such as $1,500 sponsorship of the CSRA Classic in 2008. According to Heery internal documents obtained by The Augusta Chronicle, the sponsorship was tied to the firm’s desire to continue its work on sales tax projects:
“We are currently working on the A-R County SPLOST program. They are in the process of developing a project list for the 2009 SPLOST that exceeds $160M,” the memo said.
In 2009, Heery made $1,500 contributions to Augusta Commissioners Corey Johnson and Alvin Mason, who were not up for re-election that year. In 2010, Heery gave $900 to Johnson and Mason again, and $1,000 to unopposed Commissioner Joe Jackson. Heery’s subconsultant Dukes, Edwards and Dukes gave Mason a $500 donation. None of the three candidates reported raising more than $20,000.
Commissioner Bill Lockett, who recently claimed that a lone $1,000 donation from Heery in 2012 helped him retire campaign debt from 2009, reported a $1,000 contribution from “Meery” in April 2010 at Heery’s same 999 Peachtree St. NE address in Atlanta.
Heery has never reported anything to city or state officials about its donations, despite a local requirement that vendors report lobbying and state laws that require reporting of such gifts and donations as lobbying expenses.
On the 49th anniversary of the filing of the Richmond County school desegregation lawsuit, the difference between the school system’s response and attitude in 1964 and Monday couldn’t have been more different.
U.S. District Court Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. set Monday’s hearing to hear any evidence why Acree v. Richmond County Board of Education shouldn’t be closed.
The original lawsuit was filed because eight years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation was unconstitutional and therefore illegal, Richmond County schools were still segregated. They continued to be for several more years as local school officials dragged their heels and attempted to ignore the federal judges’ rulings.
On Monday, however, the plaintiff’s attorney, Ben Allen, also said the case was ready for closure.
Bowen called three school board members to ask whether there was any way that leaving the lawsuit open would assist or hamper the board in its efforts to provide equal educational opportunities to every student. None thought the lawsuit and the accompanying federal court oversight would make any difference.
“I don’t think so, sir,” board President Venus Cain told the judge. The board would not tolerate any racial segregation in any form, she said.
An investment in the future of industry in Floyd County and the development of tourism and recreation are some of the areas covered by proposed SPLOST projects.
The role of the Rome-Floyd SPLOST Citizens Advisory Committee to hear presentations on these projects continues as it works toward making a recommendation of which ones should be considered for the final package.
The next round of presentations will be Thursday at the Emergency Operations Center, 409 E. 12th St. Conservative estimates by the county put a five-year SPLOST at generating between $60-63 million. A final length and amount has yet to be determined.
Voters will decide in November on a 1-cent special purpose, local option sales tax that would replace the current tax that ends on June 30.
Jason Broome, director of Floyd County Animal Control, would like to see a new 26,000-square-foot shelter that includes a dog park and adoption center.
His proposal for a $5.97 million facility funded through a 1-cent special purpose, local option sales tax draws on support from the community — including a crowd of at least 50 who came out for his presentation to the Rome-Floyd SPLOST Citizens Advisory Committee last week.
No site has been chosen, but Assistant County Manager Noah Simon said sites have been visited in North Rome, South Rome and West Rome. “We would require a site with considerably more exposure, and centrally located to benefit the community,” Broome said in his application.
The existing 7,500-square-foot shelter on Mathis Road has 88 cages for small animals and 41 large cages.
The new facility would have room for 80 large cages and 140 cages for small animals, Broome said.
That would mean hiring two more workers, but an expected 30 percent to 40 percent increase in adoptions would add revenue to offset the cost.
“Adding a dog park to the facility will also bring in visitors more frequently,” he noted, adding that “The additional room and acreage would also provide a suitable place to house other domestic animals such as horses, goats, pigs and many other animals we deal with frequently.”
ATLANTA — In a case that could impact all charter schools in Georgia, the Georgia Supreme Court heard arguments Monday on how local school districts divvy up their funds between charter schools and traditional campuses.
Atlanta Public School System appealed a Fulton County court order, which was ruled in essence that the system’s charter schools can receive $900 more per student than students who attend traditional Atlanta schools. Local charter schools are public schools that operate under the authority of the local school system.
In May 2012, the school system decided to take $38.6 million from its local revenue to satisfy a shortage of funds in its pension plan since the 1980s. That money funds both the charter schools and the system’s traditional schools.
The charter schools’ share of that reduction comes to $2.8 million or about $900 per student. In August 2012, the charter schools believed they should not have to suffer a loss due to a liability that occurred before they existed, and so they sued the school board. They filed a petition to force the school system to distribute its local revenue without a reduction to cover the pension system.
The Atlanta Public School System played a major role in the start up of charter schools by having the most of any system in the state.
Pooler officials discussed lowering the city’s millage rate during a weekend retreat at the Savannah Quarters Country Club.
The county’s second largest city experienced a substantial 4.7 percent increase in its 2013 net tax digest on top of getting a larger share of local-option sales tax revenue known as LOST.
But even an automatic tax reduction rate isn’t enough for some.
The city’s current millage rate is 4.635, which is projected to raise $4.79 million, if the City Council votes to keep it in place.
However, the automatic rollback millage rate is 4.595, which is estimated to raise $4.75 million. Councilman Steve Wall suggested it be reduced even further, considering the growth in the tax digest and LOST.
“That’s a lot of money, and we should give it back to the citizens,” he said.
Gulfstream’s flagship G650 business jet landed at Paris-le Bourget Airport Saturday for the 50th annual Paris Air Show with three new city-pair records on its résumé — Savannah to Paris, Nice to São Paulo and Las Vegas to Madrid.
The records are pending confirmation by the National Aeronautic Association.
The most significant record was a 3,899-nautical-mile sprint between Savannah and Paris that broke a record held for 25 years by the Gulfstream GIV. The G650, with three crew members and five passengers on board, left Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport Friday, arriving in Paris-le Bourget in 7 hours and 12 minutes, shaving more than an hour off the GIV’s time of 8 hours and 16 minutes.
The aircraft flew at an average speed of Mach 0.90.
Solar energy is going to play an increasingly important role in the next 20 years, Georgia Public Service commissioners said Monday during a panel discussion of the state’s solar industry.
The commission is wrapping up hearings on Georgia Power Co.’s 2013 integrated resource plan, which is a long-range plan for the utility that forecasts electric power needs for the next three years.
The commission, a state agency that regulates utilities, is expected to issue a decision on the plan July 11.
Georgia Power’s plan doesn’t include any new capacity including solar, coal and nuclear. The utility company does plan to convert some coal plants to natural gas. The only additional solar comes from a 2012 initiative for Georgia Power to buy 210 megawatts of solar capacity for about 20,000 customers.
Many people emphasized the significant drop in the cost of solar technology, but criticized commissioners for not taking advantage of the alternative energy sooner. Eaton said the benefit of Georgia’s conservative energy strategy is it can take advantage of current lower capital costs and improved technology.
“Obviously, solar is getting a hard look at the commission these days,” Eaton said. “There’s some huge benefits to it that I see.”