2013 began with a major change in the government, as Rusty Blackston was sworn in as Upson County Commission Chairman, replacing Maurice Raines, whom Blackston had defeated in the General Election in November 2012. Also sworn into office was a new Sheriff, Dan Kilgore, and a sort of new Probate Judge, Danielle McRae, who had served as Probate Judge since Gary Hamby’s retirement in 2011, but had won her first election to the office in November 2012. The rest of 2013 was also filled with changes and happenings.
Everyone, I’m sure, has their own favorite story of 2013, and if we tried to remember every story of significance for the past 12 months, it would probably take another 12 months to get them all in. Instead, we have chosen to highlight the top news story (in our opinion) for each of the past 12 months and present a brief look at them to you as our look back at 2013.
Below each of the stories are some of the other noteworthy headlines for that month. We are presenting our look back at 2012 in two parts. This first part will take us from January through June. The second part, which will be in the next edition of The Thomaston Times, will go from July through December.
A new year, new chairman
Former District 3 County Commissioner Rusty Blackston was ready to start work as the new Upson County Commission Chairman. Blackston stepped down from his District 3 seat to run for chairman, and defeated incumbent Maurice Raines for the seat in November 2012. The first order of business Blackston wanted to deal with was the LOST negotiations between the county and the City of Thomaston. Once that was settled, he hoped the two parties could work toward mending their relationship and work together to bring industries to the community. He also wanted to look at the county finances, and review the ordinances and personnel policies, to see if any needed to be updated.
Other January Headlines:
• VFW Post 6447 rises from the ashes
• Suspected arsonist caught in Lamar Co.
• County unveils new mass early warning system
• Dr. Martin Luther King remembered
• Yatesville Council concerned about business sign
• Donna Auth named ‘Host of the Year’
• Pobiddy Road getting new bridge over Flint
Upson County ordered to turn over all records to Thomaston
Upson Superior Court Judge W. Fletcher Sams ordered Upson County to turn over all requested records to the City of Thomaston in relation to the division of the one percent Local Option Sales Tax (LOST). The city alleged the county failed to follow a Consent Order issued by Judge Sams in September 2012 to release its records to the city. Thomaston’s concern was that the late release of the files may not give enough time to make a proposal on LOST before Senior Court Judge Stephen Bosworth in March.
Other February Headlines:
• Yatesville Council seeking advice on zoning ordinances
• Dr. Eugene Walker honored by Upson County SCLC at banquet
• Ranjit Singh is 2013 ULHS Star Student
• GBI called in to investigate theft of Sheriff’s funds
• Claire Shaver chosen 2013 Miss Upson-Lee
• Alleged arsonist released on $150,000 bond
• 2013 Hall of Fame honorees inducted
BOC approves sending ‘liquor by the drink’ vote to citizens
In a 3-2 vote, the Upson County Board of Commissioners passed a motion to put a “liquor by the drink’ referendum on the ballot for November 2012. The issue had been a hot topic as of late, and during a town hall meeting in February, the opinion of the public present was heavily against the possibility of liquor by the drink sales going to a vote by the general public. The City of Thomaston already has an ordinance in place to allow mixed drink sales at restaurants inside city limits. Despite the opposition, Commissioners Steve Hudson, Ralph Ellington and Lorenzo Wilder voted in favor of putting the referendum on the ballot, with Hudson saying it was the only fair way to settle the matter.
Other March Headlines:
• Clearwater Paper announces closing of Thomaston plant
• Upson-Lee High teacher Jim Argroves remembered
• Upson County ranks low in quality of health
• Law enforcement, BOE discuss using private drug dog for searches
• STD and teen pregnancies are above state averages in Upson
• Problems with Yatesville water concerns council
• Stormy weather wreaks havoc, keeps emergency crews busy
• City, county agree to reopen LOST negotiations
• Dantazias Raines found guilty of 2011 murder
• Parking fee will be charged at Sprewell Bluff starting Saturday
Sprewell Bluff overlook plans include deck, meeting room
County Commissioner Steve Hudson announced that engineering plans for a deck and facility at the overlook at Sprewell Bluff are now complete. The plans include a 60-foot wide deck and a building which will house restrooms, a meeting room which can be used for events such as business meetings, receptions or family reunions, and a kitchen, all of which will be available for rental from the county for small fee. Once completed, due to the risk of vandalism, the deck and building will only be open to the public anytime there are volunteers available to monitor the usage.
Other April Headlines:
• Jasandeep Kaur, Jade Shumate win Distinguished Young Women
• ULHS Valedictorian and Salutatorian named
• RUSH 2013 features Willie and Si from Duck Dynasty
• Four Upson County lawmen called DUI Agency heroes
• Jordan Bosworth receives Hubert Hancock Leadership Award
• Piggy Park featured in tourism commercial
• West Georgia Generating Plant renamed in honor of retired CEO Edward L. Addison
Fine Arts Center opens with ribbon-cutting
The Thomaston-Upson School System held a ribbon-cutting and two open houses Monday for its new $8 million Fine Arts Center, built on the campus of Upson-Lee High School. The Fine Arts Center was funded by the Education SPLOST approved by voters in 2010.
Other May Headlines:
• Archivist Claude Burgess receives state award for historical project
• TUIDA okays revenue bond for $9.5 million
• Pastor accused of stealing from church member
• School system looking at $32.1 million budget
• Keadle Lumber reportedly being sold
• BOC approves new park rules
• Renewed push being made for Hwy. 74 corridor
• We are graduates at last!
“Coach” Wallace Rhodes passes away
Long-time Thomaston City Council member and retired educator Wallace Rhodes, 77, passed away Wednesday, June 5, 2013. Rhodes was finishing up his fourth consecutive term on the City Council representing District 4. The Rhodes moved to Thomaston in 1964. During his time in Thomaston, Mr. Rhodes has held positions as a teacher, coach, assistant principal, and principal at R. E. Lee Institute, before serving the final 10 years of his career as superintendent of Thomaston City Schools. He retired from this position in 1990. Coach Rhodes was inducted into the Thomaston-Upson County Sports Hall of Fame in February of this year.
Other June Headlines:
• 1962-63 Drake High Yellow Jackets State Champs honored
• Triumph Packaging closing its doors
• Veterans Rest & Recreation area planned for Lincoln Park Community
• BOC trims Sprewell Bluff plans back to deck only
• Thomaston Council okays FOG law
• BOE approves budget; looking into age exemption
• Body of missing man found in Flint Friday
• BOC approves airport lease by 4-1 vote
• Upson County Meals on Wheels prepares, delivers 120 meals a day
• Yatesville well running dry; new one may be needed