MARCH 20, 2018
Tifton, Georgia


The City of Tifton's new financial and utility billing software system, which went online within the past month, initially had "a couple glitches" in which residents paying utility bills via electronic check were inadvertently charged a 95-cent fee.

That has now been fixed, says City Manager Pete Pyrzenski, and anyone who was charged that fee will have it reimbursed.

The issue surfaced this week on social media as several residents said they were surprised by the fees.  During City Council's March 5 workshop, Councilman Frank Sayles Jr. noted that e-checks for utility payments were incorrectly being charged the 95-cent fee

"There's a couple glitches," Pyrzenski told council. "We are on top of all that. We're solving those." He said the city's customer service team was " working it hard" and telling customers the 95-cent fee will be reimbursed.

Also under the new system, residents paying their city bills via debit and credit card will now be charged the $2.95 processing fee assessed by the processing company

Previously, the City of Tifton absorbed those card-processing fees, which totaled nearly $80,000 a year.

As Mayor Julie Smith noted on Facebook this week: "The fee is charged by the credit card companies; they keep that fee, not the city. In the past, the city covered that fee, but that amount was near $80,000 over the course of a year (for any payment made via credit or debit card such as water, permitting, tickets, etc.) 

"We decided that money would be better spent in other ways, such as equipment, salaries, infrastructure, etc., and we didn't think it was fair to pay those fees from tax dollars," the mayor said. " We also didn't think it was right to raise the water fees to cover that expense."

While the processing company is charging a fee to customers for paying with debit and credit cards, there are no fees for paying via automatic draft and via ACH (Automated Clearing House) and e-check.

The late soldier's son, Donald Dean, was presented the flag used during the tribute. Second from left is the Rev. Benjy Varnell, pastor of First United Methodist Church. Warren Robinson, who had the mystery military headstone placed at Dean's grave, is third from left.
ceremony on Saturday at Tifton's Oakridge Cemetery  paid  tribute to a World War II veteran who died in 1978 and whose military headstone was recently found buried in Lenox.

Edgar Willis Dean, a Cordele native who served in the U.S. Army and later died in Florida, was honored by the Adel Chapter of the  Vietnam Veterans of America, along with family and others. The ceremony also was in recognition of Dean's military headstone finally being placed at his gravesite.

Vietnam veteran  Warren Robinson said the headstone was found buried on his property in Lenox. No one knows how it got there. It had never been placed at the grave, where the family had erected another headstone.

Robinson had the military stone cleaned and moved to the gravesite, organized the tribute and sought family members. After the Tifton Grapevine published Robinson's story on Feb. 23, he was contacted by some of Dean's family members. Dean's son Donald came to the ceremony from Texas.

"The headstone found in Lenox has now been reunited with the veteran at his grave, where it belongs," Robinson said.

But the mystery surrounding the military headstone remains....

Betsy Sone Jones of Tifton won a backstage 'meet and greet' with Home Free after the concert. She is joined by husband Jonathan Jones and two of their children. 


The a cappella group Home Free had a homecoming of sorts Friday night at the UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center: Group member Austin Brown is a Tifton native and had many friends and family members among the large audience at the concert.

Home Free stopped in Tifton as part of their "Timeless" world tour. The vocal band spent a couple of days in town before the concert and even filmed a music video here that will be released later.

At right is Tifton native Austin Brown belting out a song during Friday's concert.

Photo by Frank Sayles Jr.


Tift Regional Health System (TRHS) recently recognized  Mary Perlis with  The DAISY Award for  Extraordinary Nurses .

The award is part of The DAISY Foundation's program to recognize nurses' care and 
Carol Smith, left, with Mary Perlis.
compassion. Perlis is a registered nurse serving as TRHS outpatient case management director. She helps patients access community resources  and obtain such services as long term care and home care after hospitalization. 

Perlis has been with TRHS since 1991.

"Mary is known for her dedication to our patients, community and staff," said Carol SmithTRHS senior vice president for acute care and chief nursing executive.  

"She has often been described as having the soul of a saint. It is not uncommon to hear of Mary taking food to our patients, getting them to their appointments or just simply stopping by to check on a patient. Her compassion radiates to those around her and her passion for nursing is unmatched. She is a true inspiration to others."

A nurse is selected for The DAISY Award through nominations by patients, visitors and co-workers. DAISY is an acronym for "Diseases Attacking the Immune System."


Sylvia McWilliams' second-grade class at Omega Elementary has been studying life cycles throughout the school year. They had the opportunity to incubate chicken eggs and observe them during a 21-day period. The eggs were donated by student Gaven Woodall and his family 

Students recorded their observations in their science journals. Eventually, the eggs hatched into the chickens, which the children are holding in the photo. 

As a way to bring "Farm to School" into the classroom, students have learned how to take care of the chickens by feeding and watering them. The chickens are kept on school property in a chicken coop bought with grant money through the Farm to School initiative.   
ABAC faculty and staff participating in the installation of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society on campus: From front row left,  Dr. Sandra Giles, Dr. Joe Falcone, Dr. Darby Sewell, Vonda Fenn, Dr. Leslie McIntosh, Dr. Elizabeth Medley, Beth Thornton and Dr. Renata Elad; back row: Dr. Johnny Evans, Dr. Jerry Baker, Dr. Cyndi Hall and Dr. Andrew Luna.

The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi installed its 346th chapter recently at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.  

Phi Kappa Phi is the nation's oldest and most selective all-discipline collegiate honor society. Its mission is "to recognize and promote academic excellence in all fields of higher education and to engage the community of scholars in service to others." 

"The recognition and reputation of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College as a baccalaureate degree granting institution has dramatically increased over the past 10 years," said Dr. Jerry Baker, ABAC provost and vice president for academic affairs. "It is now time for ABAC to more formally recognize the achievements of our student scholars.To this end we petitioned the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi."

For eligibility, an institution must be a regionally accredited four-year college or university with an established reputation of excellence and express commitment to uphold the society's values. 

"ABAC's focus on engaged learning and its groundbreaking interdisciplinary rural studies degree are exemplars of the growth the institution has seen since its transition from a two-year college over the past 10 years." said Dr. Mary Todd, society executive director.

Officers elected by the chartering group to serve the newly installed chapter include Beth Morehead-Thornton, president; Dr. Johnny Folsom, president-elect; Dr. Joseph Falcone, secretary; Vonda Doss Fenn, treasurer; and Dr. Jerry Baker, primary contact.


"A Day in the Woods" -- a  day of free forest, wildlife and craft activities, begins at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 21, at the Gaskins Forest Education Center, 3359 Moore Sawmill Road, Alapaha.

Following the activities from 1-5 p.m., is a bring-your-own food cookout from 5-7 p.m.; a nature walk, 7-9 p.m.; and an astronomy event, 9-10:30 p.m.

This is the fourth year of this non-commercial community event. There will be more than 30 activities related to forestry, wildlife, and traditional crafts and history are scheduled, including archery, fishing, tree identification, animal print identification, native plant identification, paper making, basket making, pine-cone bird feeders and wildlife calls.

For information, contact Heather Brasell, 229-339-3966,

Grants Available for Agricultural Producers, Homeowners
The Southern Georgia Regional Commission (SGRC) wants local farmers, agricultural producers and homeowners to be aware of grant opportunities for water and soil conservation.

The SGRC has partnered with the Ga. Environmental Protection Division to provide assistance to restore water quality and reduce contamination of local waterways. SGRC staff can help farmers and ag producers through agricultural best management practices with EPD grant funding.
Best management practices, or "BMP's," include cover-crop planting to reduce sediment runoff, installation of fencing to prevent animals from wading in open streams, and installation of irrigation retrofits, watering wells, troughs, and concrete heavy use areas (paddocks) to reduce fecal runoff from animals. 

Homeowners may also implement BMP's through these grant funds with the installation or repair of existing septic systems, installing rain barrels and rain gardens.
All pre-approved BMPs (agricultural and homeowner) receive a 50/50 reimbursable grant from the SGRC/EPD. Applications are being accepted now and are noncompetitive.

For information, contact Charles Nimmo with the Southern Georgia Regional Commission at  or 229-333-5277.
More information about these grant programs is available on the SGRC website,


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