MAY 4, 2018
Tifton, Georgia

Photo by Bonnie Sayles
Gov. Nathan Deal,  surrounded by local state legislators, signs $26 billion state budget and rural-related legislation Wednesday at Tifton's Henry Tift Myers Airport.

Effective July 1, Georgia drivers cannot hold a phone inside their vehicle unless it is parked. Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law the "hands-free" legislation Wednesday during a whirlwind legislation-signing tour around the state, including a stop in Tifton.

During visits to Tifton, Statesboro, Blue Ridge, Acworth and beginning in Atlanta, Deal signed the $26 billion FY 2019 state budget and various legislation passed in the General Assembly this past session.

In Tifton, in addition to the budget, the governor signed bills improving access to health care in rural communities and a bill creating the statewide Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation to be based at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, which the Tifton Grapevine already reported on in its April 24 edition.

The state budget Deal signed includes $40 million for ABAC, said Dr. David Bridges, ABAC president. Bridges said the money includes funding for a Fine Arts Building -- the college's first facility to house all of the institution's arts programs under one roof. The Fine Arts Building will be located at the front of ABAC's campus on the site of Weltner Hall along the "Sweetheart Circle."

In Statesboro, Deal signed the so-called "Hands-Free Bill" which prohibits drivers from holding a phone and allowing them to  only use their phones to make or receive phone calls by using earpieces, wireless headphones or a smart watch

Headsets and earpieces can only be worn for communication purposes only and not for listening to music or other entertainment.

The new law also prohibits driver from sending or reading any text-based communication unless using voice-based communication. Also, a d river may not send or read any e-mails, social media or other Internet content may not watch a video and may not record a video (but continously running dash cams are exempt).

Exceptions include: Drivers r eporting a traffic crash, medical emergency, fire, criminal activity or hazardous road conditions; a  utility service provider acting within the scope of their employment; and a  first responder during the performance of their official duties. A driver lawfully parked in their vehicle is also exempt, but this exception does not  include vehicles stopped for traffic signals and stop signs on public roads.

Forest Lakes Annual Neighborhood Yard Sale

OVER 25 Participating Households!! 

8:00 a.m.-1 p.m., Saturday, May 5
(Please no early birds)

~ Houses will be clearly marked ~
 Large selections and great bargains including furniture, appliances, lawn equipment, designer clothing & bags, toys 
and much more!

Directions From I-75 North - Exit 66, turn right on Brighton Road, follow for 2 1/2 miles. Turn left on Old Ocilla Road, 
and follow signs from there!

UNION BOUND | Official Trailer | MPAA-approved
VIDEO:  "Union Bound" (2016) Trailer


Special showings of a Civil War movie about the true story of an Andersonville Prison escapee, with a "Q&A" with one of the actors and a display of the escaped soldier's actual diaries, are scheduled Saturday, May 5, in Fitzgerald.

The Fitzgerald Tourism Department is sponsoring the event. A red-carpet photo opportunity is at 3:30 p.m. Saturday followed by a showing of the 2016 film "Union Bound" at 4 p.m. at the
Grand Theatre. Following the movie will be a live question-and-answer session with the film's producer and one of the lead actors, Tank Jones.

Among Jones' acting credits are television roles in "Breaking Bad," "CSI: Miami," and "Rules of Engagement." He has also appeared in numerous national TV commercials.

"Union Bound" is b ased on the true story of Joseph Hoover and his escape from Andersonville Prison in Georgia. His actual diaries, the basis for the movie, along with uniforms and photos from the film, will be on display at Fitzgerald's Blue & Gray Museum at 116 N. Johnson St. 

Other  production stills from the film will be on display at Fitzgerald's Carnegie Ce nter  on Lee Street.

Hoover had witnessed many moments during the carnage of the Civil War and  chronicled them in two diaries , which will be on  display . In 1864 , he was captured at the Battle of the Wilderness and taken to the notorious camp Andersonville . Four months later, he was transferred to another prisoner camp in Florence, S.C. , where he ultimately escaped with a friend .
They were aided by slaves and what is now known as the "underground railroad" to get to freedom in the North. Hoover was later wounded in the war but survived. 

Other screenings of the movie will be at 7 and 9 p.m. both tonight (Friday) and Saturday, and at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Civil War history is important to the City of Fitzgerald, which was founded by both Union and Confederate war veterans who joined together to create Georgia's "City of Harmony."


ABAC's King Hall and Fitzgerald's AB&A Historic Train Depot were among 28 recipients of awards  recognizing the best of preservation in  Georgia .
ABAC's King Hall
The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation presented the awards during its  41st Preservation Awards ceremony  on Friday in Columbus.

King Hall at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College received an Excellence in Rehabilitation Award. The historic train depot in Fitzgerald was awarded for Excellence in Restoration

Following a year-long restoration, King Hall reopened last summerConstructed in 1939, King Hall contains six classrooms and 12 offices. The $1.8 renovation focused on the interior of the building. The original bricks remain
Fitzgerald's AB&A Railroad Depot
on the exterior. The building now has an elevator for the first time.

The Atlanta, Birmingham & Atlantic Railroad Depot was built at the turn of the 20th century in the Spanish Mission Revival style in Fitzgerald. The city restored the depot as a center for tourism and repository for the city's history. The restoration removed all non-historic building materials that had been added and restored original features. It houses the Blue & Gray Museum, a genealogy room and tourism offices.

"This year's winners represent a tremendous dedication to restoring and revitalizing Georgia's   
historic buildings and communities," said Mark C. McDonald, president of The Georgia  Trust.


The University of Georgia Tifton Campus recognized 32 College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences spring and summer graduates at a special graduation ceremony on Sunday, April 29, at the UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center.  

This class is the largest to graduate from UGA Tifton in one semester.

"The UGA Tifton campus continues to produce students who are well-positioned to make a difference in the agricultural community," said George Vellidis, the Tifton campus academic programs director. 

"The quantity of graduates we have this semester is matched only by the quality of people our faculty and staff have had the chance to work with," Vellidis said.

Moderator Chris Beckham at left with  County Commission District 4 candidates, from left, Jonathan Cassell, Jamie Cater, Ronald Norman and Stan Stalnaker.


Tifton Grapevine

City-county relations, fire departments and school safety were hot topics at the Candidates Forum hosted Thursday night by the Tifton-Tift County Chamber of Commerce

The forum featured four candidates for District 4 County Commissiontwo candidates for District 6 County Commission, two candidates for  District 4 Board of Education, and three  candidates for the District 6 BOE seat. 

Jonathan Cassell said he is not a politician and will accept no salary if elected as Tift County commissioner in District 4. He said he doesn't know enough about the financial situation to discuss the city and county fire department issue. "There's no doubt the city and county don't get along. Two industries I know of went to Lowndes County because the two couldn't get along here," Cassell said.
County Commission District 6 candidates Lester Potts, left, and Greg Wood.

Former Tifton Mayor Jamie Cater is running for the seat, and said he is "friends with every city and county elected official," which will help with city-county relations. After serving as vice chair of the Tifton City Commission in the 1990s and eight years as mayor, Cater said, "I just wanted to get back into it," and he doesn't want taxes to rise. Regarding  fire departments, he said, "I think we should be together. We are small enough that we should have fire departments together."

Ronald Norman said he would like to see better communication with the city and county, and wants to readdress the fire department and EMS. "We c annot keep splitting up the county and the city," he said. "Everybody I talk to says, 'Why do we have two fire departments?'"

Incumbent Stan Stalnaker is County Commission vice chairman. He is a 23-year veteran of law enforcement. "Public service is my job," Stalnaker said. He said he's pleased that public safety was enhanced and the ISO rating for the county went from nine to "a very low 4," an improvement in fire insurance rates "People outside the city were getting substandard service," he said. "We have a good fire department in the city, and now in the county, too."

Lester Potts, running for County Commission District 6, said there is a perception of discord between city and county governments. He is concerned about the proximity of his house to city fire stations while living in the county, and c ounty fire stations being farther away "We've got to work together," Potts said.

BOE District 4 candidates Jamie Hill and Richard Golden.
Greg Wood, the incumbent, said, "What we have now works well. The two fire departments work together. In the future, we could be one department again."  He said the county staff helps keep costs down. "They are stingy and tight. Our last 12 years, we've had no tax increase because of tightening the budget up."

In the school board races,  Richard Golden and Jamie Hill, both seeking the District 4 seat.

Golden said he served on the BOE for eight years in the past, six of them as chairman, and participated in two superintendent searches.  He said two challenges are keeping kids in school and ensuring their safety. He applauds the school board for making moves to secure schools. "We could do more with more eyes and turning every stone," he said. Other challenges he cited are retention and recruitment of teachers, and "keeping a mindful eye on taxes." 

Jamie Hill said the top challenge is school security. "It ain't going away. We have to learn to live with it. Security costs money, money that will be well spent." The expanded high school campus adds a lot of area that needs to be secured, he said. "We need to spend a little money and hire somebody who knows what they're doing" to protect the school," Hill said. The search for a new superintendent will be the second challenge the board will face in the coming year when the current superintendent retires. 

Tift County BOE District 6 candidate Jimmy Cargle was a teacher for 20 years. He would like to see the 60 acres adjacent to the high school developed into a vocational complex. He believes the biggest challenge the school system faces is discipline. "Our teachers are leaving because of discipline." Cargle said Tift County High is in the top 10 agricultural programs in the state. "I know our school system is very prepared." Cargle said he is 100 percent in favor of arming teachers
BOE District 6 candidates, from left, Jimmy Cargle, Rusty Harrelson and Jo Windom.  

Rusty Harrelson said he has been in state law enforcement for 26 years. He said getting parents involved in schools and school safety are challenges. "There's no amount of security to keep every kid safe. There's evil in this world. It's going to happen." He does not agree with arming teachers, keeping in mind that no one knows what could happen to make a person snap. 

Jo Windom, an investment counselor with Edward Jones, said she wants to be part of a team that takes this school system from good to great. "If you have a strong school system, you have a strong community." Windom blamed some school safety issues on the closing of mental  hospitals

This was the second forum this week. On Tuesday, the Chamber hosted candidates for County Commission and BOE districts 1, 3 and 5. Early voting is already underway for the May 22 primary elections.

GDOT workers clear what will become a right bay for U.S. 82 westbound traffic to turn onto Hunt Road in Tifton.


Georgia Department of Transportation crews are  creating  new turn lanes at the intersection of U.S. Highway 82 and Hunt Road in Tifton, affecting daytime traffic during the next two weeks.

The outside (right) westbound lane of U.S. 82 is closed as drivers approach the intersection. The Hunt Road entrance is also closed while workers are on site. However, the majority of Hunt Road remains accessible all the way to Carpenter Road.

When work is complete, drivers going west on U.S. 82 who want to turn onto Hunt Road will veer to the right instead of turning at the traffic signal. A concrete island with a pedestrian signal will separate right turn and through traffic. Traffic coming off Interstate 75 South will continue to travel across the intersection to reach Hunt Road.

For traffic coming off Hunt Road, crews are installing a right-turn-only lane to go west on U.S. 82, a left-turn-only lane to go east on U.S. 82, and a through lane for vehicles to get on I-75 South.

The improvements are being made to help relieve congestion at the intersection, official say.


Two Tift County High students, Catherine Kemeness and Olivia Thomas, have been named 2018 Georgia Scholars by state School Superintendent Richard Woods.

The state superintendent recognized 208 graduating seniors from across Georgia t hrough the Georgia Scholar program; the Ga. Department of Education identifies and honors high school seniors who have achieved excellence in school and community life. Students eligible for the recognition exhibit excellence in all phases of school life, in community activities, and in the home.

Georgia Scholars are students who have carried exemplary course loads during their four years of high school; who performed excellently in all courses; who successfully participated in interscholastic events at their schools and in their communities; and who have assumed active roles in extracurricular activities sponsored by their schools. Each Georgia Scholar receives a seal for his or her diploma.


TIftarea Academy held its third annual Almost Alumni Day celebration on Thursday

The celebration honors the accomplishments of TA's seniors by encouraging them to wear a T-shirt displaying the college they plan to attend in the fall. The seniors took a victory lap through each building on campus as underclassmen cheered and congratulated them on taking the next step after graduation. 

Heather Fletcher, development & marketing director, said she is especially proud of the Class of 2018. 

"This class of 43 students has been offered over $1.6 million in merit scholarships, excluding HOPE. They will attend a variety of colleges across the Southeast, including but not limited to, the University of Georgia, LSU, Georgia Tech, Auburn, ABAC, Georgia Southern and many more," Fletcher said.

"One member of the Class of 2018 has elected to serve our country by joining the U.S. Army. We could not be more proud of this group." 

Tiftarea Academy will graduate 43 students at 6 p.m. next Friday, May 11, at First Baptist Church in Tifton

Simmons with Officer Saylor
A GOOD DEED: Tifton police officer Sydney Saylor recently recovered a missing bicycle that a local man used as his only form of transportation, and returned it to him within a few hours Officer Saylor  found the bike being used by another   individual who said he had found it. Saylor returned it to its rightful owner, Gary Simmons, who uses the bike to get to work at First Products. Simmons was overjoyed and expressed his thanks to Saylor and the Tifton Police Department. ...  NEW 
Fitzgerald and Ben Hill County schools are among 38 school districts awarded Literacy for Learning, Living and Leading in Georgia grants by the  Ga. Department of Education . ... SRTC NURSING: Southern Regional Technical College's nursing program has been accredited through 2025. The  Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing recently granted the full continuing accreditation following a site visit and comes on the heels of the implementation of two new instructional sites in Tifton and Moultrie.


The Tifton-Tift County Chamber of Commerce's youth leadership program "TAL:K" ( Tomorrow's Aspiring Leaders: Kidsheld its graduation ceremony Tuesday at the UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center

The group is comprised of eighth-grade students from Eighth Street Middle School and Tiftarea Academy. ABAC's Mike Chason delivered the keynote address and entertained the crowd of students and parents with his message about leadership

The program is sponsored by Tift Regional Medical Center, Heatcraft, Georgia Power, Colquitt EMC, Synovus and South Georgia Banking Co.


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         . a Glance

  • Clint Black in Concert, 7 p.m., UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center, Tifton

  • Chasing Jefferson Davis Marathon, 6 a.m., Following Jefferon Davis' route to his capture, Abbeville to Irwinville
  • Wiregrass Farmers Market, 9 a.m.-Noon, Ga. Museum of Agriculture, Tifton
  • Annual Turpentine Still Operation, 9 a.m., Ga. Museum of Agriculture Historic Village, Tifton
  • Civil War Movie Event, 3:30 p.m., Grand Theatre, Fitzgerald
  • May Mayhem Pro Wrestling,  7 p.m., Adel Church of God, Adel

In Memoriam

Betty Radney, 88, Morven
Robert "Bruce" Bennett Sr., 85, Ashburn
Geraldine Ring Stringer, 62, Fitzgerald
Joseph Charles "Cebo" Summers, 94, Ashburn
Wade Eugene Kelly, 63, Albany

Lindellious "Lil Boss" Rogers, 78, Tifton
Jimmie Sue Wright, 86, Ocilla

Mary Frances Paul Spradley, 86, Tifton
Tommie Smith Nichols, 84, Fitzgerald
Carl Jasper Pafford, 82, Nashville

Betty Hanks Nichols, 75, Cecil
Jimmy Bryant, 71, Fitzgerald
Annie Lee Brogdon, 79, Silverhill, Ala.
Gerald "Matthew" Strickland, 44, Barwick

Cecelia Joanne Jefferson, 64, Omega

Charles Range, Sylvester

Sandra Ann O'Quinn Cromer, 77, Tifton
Mattie Lou Gregory St. John, 91, Tifton
Barbara Alaine Spence, Ashburn
Haskle Mauldin, 89, Tallahassee, Fla.
William "Bill" Foy, 64, Quitman

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