News for Friday, January 20, 2006

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James Sheridan

James William (Billy) Sheridan, age 69, of Winder, GA, passed away January 19, 2006. Arrangements by Smith Funeral Home of Winder, GA, 770-867-4553.

Jane Cahoon

Jane Cahoon, 57, of Lawrenceville, GA, died Thursday, January 19, 2006. Arrangements pending by Bill Head Funeral Homes and Crematory, Lilburn/Tucker Chapel, 770-564-2726.

Donnie Johnson

Donnie Lee (Don) Johnson, age 66, of Snellville, GA, entered into eternal rest, January 20, 2006 after a long and courageous battle with carcinoid cancer. He was a loving and ...

Shirley Curry

Shirley Frances Curry, age 59 of Auburn, GA, passed away on January 19, 2006. She is survived by: Husband: Richard A. Curry, Auburn; Sisters & Brothers-in-Law: Elaine Bailey ...

Cary Perez

Carey Perez, age 76 of Lawrenceville, died Friday, January 20, 2006. Arrangements by Tim Stewart Funeral Home, 2246 Wisteria Drive, Snellville, Georgia 30078, 770-979-5010.

Harold Pugh

Rev. Harold G. Pugh, age 62 of Cumming, passed away Friday, January 20, 2006. Mr. Pugh was a member of Mayfield Baptist Church. He was retired from the City of ...

Margaret Balcome

Margaret “La Merle” Tucker Balcome, age 70, of Suwanee, GA, passed away on Thursday, January 19, 2006. She is survived by her: Husband: Herbert Balcome of Suwanee, GA ...

Mary Payne

Mary (Lyndal) Payne, age 71, of Winder, GA, passed away January 18, 2006. Arrangements by Smith Funeral Home of Winder, GA, 770-867-4553.

Merle Sudderth

Merle Jean Sudderth, age 68 of Sugar Hill, passed away Thursday, January 19, 2006 following an extended illness. A Funeral Service will be held at 2 P.M. Sunday, January 22 ...

Dana Wilson

Mr. Dana D. Wilson, age 58 of Lilburn, GA, died January 19, 2006. Arrangements by Tom M. Wages Funeral Service, Inc., Snellville Chapel, 770-979-3200, www.wagesfuneralhome.com.

Business In Brief

Chris Moder leaves Gwinnett COC

for position at University of Georgia

•LAWRENCEVILLE - Chris Moder, a key member of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce economic development team, has left the business coalition for a job with the University of Georgia.

Sports calendar

Baseball

Through February: Early registration for T-ball for players ages 4-8 is $50 through January. It's $60 after. Register online at www.firstbaptist.net or call 770-921-1220 ext. 256. Sponsored by the Recreation Ministry of First Baptist Lilburn.

On patrol

Co-workers celebrate postman's return to work after being shot

CENTERVILLE - A key chain with a Superman emblem dangled from Woody Lazenby's ID badge Thursday as the postal carrier and his co-workers celebrated his return to work at the Centerville Post Office.

Unterman tangles with Cathy Cox over ethics

ATLANTA - The Republican chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee Thursday accused Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cathy Cox of playing politics with the ethics reform package Cox proposed this week.

Sen. Renee Unterman of Buford said Cox has had a ready-made platform for eight years as Georgia's secretary of state to make ethics in government a priority issue and hasn't done so.

Cox is launching "an election-year bid to become the poster child for ethics reform in Georgia,'' Unterman said. "This is too little, too late.''

Cox's plan, unveiled on Tuesday, calls for taking politics out of the State Ethics Commission and State Elections Board by having the members of those bodies appointed by judges.

Democrats criticized the ethics commission recently for firing the agency's longtime head, Teddy Lee, seven months after the panel fined Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue $1,900 based on several complaints filed by the state Democratic Party.

Three of the five commission members are appointed by the governor.

Cox also suggested that countywide offices should be made nonpartisan.

But Unterman said Democrats are pushing to make more elective positions nonpartisan only because their party has been losing ground in recent state and local elections to a Republican upsurge.

Unterman called the ethics reform law the GOP-controlled General Assembly passed last year the strongest in the state's history.

But Democrats and good-government groups have argued that the new law doesn't go far enough.

For one thing, it allows lawmakers to police themselves by creating a legislative committee to investigate alleged conflicts of interest involving members of the General Assembly.

"Perdue's team has put the insiders ahead of the people of Georgia,'' said Morton Brilliant, Cox's campaign manager. "This is a great example of why we need a new governor who can change the tune and tone under the Gold Dome.''

Unterman said she is working with one of the groups that has criticized the current law, Common Cause-Georgia, to extend its conflict-of-interest provisions to cover local elected officials.

She said she hopes to have legislation ready for consideration during this year's

session.

"It's not the best it can be,'' she said, referring to the current law. "But we're working on it.''

Getting to Know ... Frank Vashaw

Frank Vashaw, a 1982 graduate of Henderson High in Dekalb County, is set to begin his first year as head baseball coach at North Gwinnett.

Campbell subs for Pelletier on All-Star roster

Gwinnett Gladiators forward Jeff Campbell has been selected to replace teammate Pascal Pelletier on the ECHL All-Star team, the league announced Thursday.

County draws line between itself, Taser

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett County officials have consistently stood behind the company they purchase Taser stun guns from and the county's contracted medical provider for the jail in the face of civil lawsuits. That is, until this week.

In brief

local

Collins Hill's Sever commits to Andrew

College baseball

• Collins Hill senior Ryan Sever has accepted a baseball scholarship offer to Andrew College, located in Cuthbert. Sever, the son of James and Shelly Sever, maintains a 3.7 grade-point average at Collins Hill and scored 1,230 on the SAT.

State's unemployment rate dips in December

LAWRENCEVILLE - Georgia's jobless rate fell to 4.9 percent in December, the state Department of Labor said Thursday.

Auburn considers applicants for planning, zoning boards

AUBURN - Several residents applied for the five open positions on the Planning Commission Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals at Thursday's Auburn City Council meeting.

Job fair for deputy sheriffs, jailers scheduled for Saturday

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett is offering a $2,000 hiring incentive to would-be deputy sheriffs and jailers who qualify at a job fair Saturday.

Police nab child sex suspect

NORCROSS - FBI agents Thursday arrested a 44-year-old South Carolina man accused of traveling to Norcross to have sex with a person he thought was a young girl but who was really an undercover agent.

OBITUARIES

BUFORD

PACE, ANTOINETTE

Ms. Antoinette (Netta) Pace, age 32, of Buford, GA, passed away on January 17, 2006. She was preceded in death by her Grandfathers, Oscar Pace and Herschel Sadler, Sr. Surviving are: Father of Her Children: Anthony Force, Buford, GA; Sons: Mark Force, Buford, GA, Anthony Force, Buford, GA; Parents: Anthony and Anita Sadler Pace, Buford, GA; Brothers: Maurice Pace, Buford, GA, Craig Pace, Buford, GA; Grandmothers: Mildred Pace, Buford, GA, Bernice Sadler, Buford, GA; Special Cousin: Regina Lott; Special Friend: Shirley Force; Aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins. Ms. Pace was born in Gwinnett County, Buford, GA. She was employed with Color Five in Suwanee, GA. She was a graduate of Buford High School, class of 1991 and a graduate of Gwinnett Business College. She was a hairdresser. Funeral service will be held on Saturday, January 21, 2006 at 3:30 p.m. at the Chapel of Flanigan Funeral Home with Elder Travis Clark, Elder Richardson, and Rev. Sue Earls officiating. Interment in Broadlawn Memorial Gardens, Buford, GA. The family will receive friends at the funeral home on Saturday from 2:30 - 3:30 p.m. Arrangements by Junior E. Flanigan of Flanigan Funeral Home and Crematory, Buford, GA, 770-932-1133, www.flaniganfuneralhome.com.

DECATUR

SLAYTON, JACK

Major Jack W. Slayton, Sr., age 82 of Decatur, GA, passed away on Wednesday, January 18, 2006. He is survived by his sons & daughters-in-law: Jack W. & Bobbie Slayton, Jr. of Athens, TN, John Franklin & Kaye Slayton of Snellville, GA, George Stephen & Claudia Slayton of Conyers, GA; 8 grandchildren; 12 great grandchildren. A memorial visitation will be held on Sunday, January 22nd from 2:00p.m. to 4:00p.m. at Wages & Sons Gwinnett Chapel. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to your local Humane Society. The remains will be buried at Ft. Mitchell National Cemetery on Monday, January 23, 2006 at 11:30 e.s.t. Wages & Sons Gwinnett Chapel, 1031 Lawrenceville Highway, Lawrenceville, GA 770-277-4550.

GRAYSON

GRAY, JOSEPH

Joseph Fredrick (Fred) Gray Sr., a resident of Grayson, Georgia, and native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, passed away Wednesday, January 18, 2006. Mr. Gray was formerly employed at Western Union in Chattanooga, TN and with Sperry & Hutchinson in Norcross, GA. He was a member of Avondale Patillo United Methodist Church. Visitation in Chattanooga will be from 6:00 - 9:00 PM on Friday, January 20th and 3:00 - 4:00 PM Saturday, January 21, at the Chattanooga Funeral Home, North Chapel, 5401 Highway 153, Hixson, TN. Services will be at 4:00PM on Saturday, January 21st at Chattanooga Funeral Home, North Chapel, with interment immediately following at Hamilton Memorial Garden. Mr. Gray was born March 16, 1930 to the late Charles and Julia Gray. His wife, Mickey Keener Gray, preceded him in death on February 7, 1997. He is survived by one brother, Charles H. Gray, Jr., Apison, TN; 2 sons, Joseph F. Gray Jr., Grayson, GA and Dr. Mikel L. Gray, Charlottesville, VA; daughter-in-law, Ruth C. Gray; granddaughter, Samantha E. Gray; step-granddaughters, Susan S. Bright and Stephanie L. Shoopman; step-great granddaughter, Maya M. Bright; and numerous nieces. Tom M. Wages Funeral Service, Inc., Snellville Chapel, 770-979-3200, www.wagesfuneralhome.com.

HOSCHTON

GRAVITTE, CHARLES

Mr. Charles Lewis Gravitte, age 72, of Hoschton, passed away on January 18, 2006, after a sudden illness. Arrangements by Evans Funeral Home, Jefferson, 706-367-5467.

Fields gets called up to AHL

Gwinnett Gladiators goaltender Sean Fields received his first callup to the American Hockey League late Wednesday night.

Challenging future

Police briefs

Man robbed

DULUTH - A helpful citizen was robbed at knife point last week in the parking lot of Home Depot at 3755 Shackleford Road.

Democrat seeks photo IDs for senior citizens

ATLANTA - A Democratic state senator called on Gov. Sonny Perdue on Thursday to help his elderly constituents cope with the effects of stricter voter identification requirements the General Assembly is expected to enact next week.

Sen. Sam Zamarripa of Atlanta asked the Republican governor to issue an executive order making the state's photo ID van available to the large concentration of elderly voters living in high-rise apartment buildings and nursing homes in his inner-city district.

"There are thousands of voters in these facilities,'' he said. "Many of these people are disabled. ... Voting is hard for a large number of them.''

The Senate is expected to vote Monday on a new version of a law the Republican-controlled Legislature passed last year requiring voters to show a photo ID at the polls. The House passed the measure last week, voting largely along party lines.

GOP legislative leaders brought the issue back this year after a federal judge issued a temporary injunction last fall that is keeping the state from enforcing the requirement.

Under the revamped bill, the state would provide photo IDs free to people who don't have driver's licenses or passports. IDs would be available at state driver's license offices and registrars' offices in all 159 counties.

Like most Democrats, Zamarripa opposed the bill last year after trying unsuccessfully to exempt elderly voters from its provisions.

But with the new measure expected to pass, he said the least Perdue could do is make it easier for seniors to get photo IDs.

"With the exception of a Medicaid card, most (forms of photo ID) are pretty foreign to these people,'' he said.

But Perdue spokeswoman Heather Hedrick said there's no need for an executive order because the state's photo ID van already has visited many facilities where seniors live and is available to serve more.

"The Department of Driver Services already does all the things Senator Zamarripa is proposing,'' she said. "They even have a (toll-free) phone number set up like he proposes.''

Zamarripa said that if the governor doesn't issue an executive order, he will introduce a bill to accomplish his goal.

Collins Hill boys rolling in '06

The Collins Hill boys basketball team didn't fare too badly in 2005, but 2006 has been quite nice so far.

Suwanee police and GBI team up to stop Internet predators

SUWANEE - The Suwanee Police Department is working with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to nab and prosecute Internet sexual predators who use computers to prey on children.

Suwanee's City Council voted Tuesday to team up with the GBI through the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children task force. The task force is partially funded by grants from the Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

The task force provides Suwanee police officers with funding for investigative training, a computer and software, community education to prevent crimes and media releases. By working with Suwanee and other police departments, the GBI adds more officers investigating suspects and minimizes the chances of various agencies targeting the same suspect or disrupting an ongoing investigation.

Gladiators' rookie York on patrol

DULUTH - To make ends meet, most ECHL

players find it necessary to get a job in the offseason.

Baker leads UGA women to easy win

ATHENS - Sherill Baker had 15 points and 10 of Georgia's season-high 21 steals, leading the No. 13 Bulldogs to an 81-42 win over Mississippi State on Thursday night.

2006 State of the County address

Editor's note: Below is the draft text of Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Charles Bannister's state of the county address. It has been edited for style and grammar. Also, today's Bill O'Reilly column appears on page 9A. Kathleen Parker's regular column will appear at a later date.

Parents of disabled children decry Medicaid crackdown

ATLANTA - For two years, parents of children with severe disabilities have fought off state attempts to charge monthly premiums for Medi-caid coverage.

Now, those families are waging another battle with a crackdown on eligibility that threatens to throw many of them out of the program.

"Our children are being shamefully treated because the state wants to streamline the government to run like a well-oiled machine,'' Mark Howell of Locust Grove, father of a 4-year-old girl with Down syndrome, told a Senate subcommittee Thursday. "Our kids are in the way of that machine.''

The Katie Beckett program, named for the disabled Iowa child who moved President Ronald Reagan to launch the initiative in 1982, is an optional extension of Medicaid available in Georgia and 19 other states.

Available to families with incomes too high to qualify for basic Medicaid or PeachCare for Kids, it pays for medical expenses beyond what is covered by private insurance. That can amount to thousands of dollars a month for children who need extensive medications or therapies.

The state began tightening eligibility requirements last year partly because of exploding enrollment growth, said Mark Trail, chief of medical assistance plans for the Georgia Department of Community Health.

Nearly 6,300 families were receiving benefits during 2004, an increase of 250 percent in just five years, he said.

But Trail said the DCH also discovered that many children with relatively mild disorders were being enrolled because the state was not correctly applying eligibility criteria set by the federal government.

Since the state began using stricter criteria last June, 1,085 families applying for yearly renewal of their coverage - about one-third - have been denied.

Only about 10 percent of them have had their coverage reinstated after appealing, Trail said.

As a result, the program's enrollment had dropped to fewer than 5,300 by last October.

Some of the parents who testified during Thursday's public hearing said they weren't even aware of the eligibility changes until they received a denial notice in the mail.

Melissa McMann of Winder, mother of an 8-year-old boy with cystic fibrosis, said she relies on the Katie Beckett program for the costs of transporting him to therapy appointments because she is blind and can't drive him herself.

"We desperately need this program,'' said McMann, whose coverage was reinstated this month after being dropped last September. "It means the ability for my husband to continue to work and to keep my son at home.''

Members of the Subcommittee on Human Development were taken aback by the sudden nature of the crackdown. Several said they had received many calls from constituents complaining about the situation.

"Did you not foresee you'd be yanking the rug out from under people and you needed an alternative?'' Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, the panel's chairman, asked Trail.

"This is something they've come to depend on for their children,'' added Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon.

Trail said the issue can't be addressed through Medicaid because the federal government is requiring the state to enforce the current criteria, and a federal audit of all states to measure "payment errors'' is due to begin next year.

He suggested the state might look to school systems to cover some of the services now offered through the Katie Beckett program.

"Where do schools get the money? From property taxes,'' Unterman shot back. "In the end, government is going to pay.''

Bannister talks about accomplishments made, goals to meet

DULUTH - Charles Bannister had an inhaler in his pocket and got a shot from a doctor earlier in the day, but the county commission chairman refused to let a case of laryngitis stop him from talking about the successes of his first year in office.

Justice in Vermont not equitable

Ralph Page is a problem. The 35-year-old Vermont man has twice been convicted of drunk driving, and now faces charges of theft and assaulting his girlfriend.

He's a typical low-level offender who shuffles around causing trouble and clogging up the justice system.

Roles reversed at state duals meet

Heading into tonight's Class AAAAA state duals in Macon, the script has most definitely been flipped.