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News for Wednesday, March 15, 2006

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Grace Alvarez

Grace Elizabeth Harper Alvarez, 91, a longtime member of Stewart Ave. UMC, passed away on March 15, 2006. Mrs. Alvarez retired from the Fulton County Courthouse, and she was active ...

Eric Webb

Eric Christopher Webb, age 28 of Lawrenceville, GA, passed away March 13, 2006. Arrangements by Wages & Sons Gwinnett Chapel, 1031 Lawrenceville Hwy., Lawrenceville, GA 30045, 770-277-4550.

Otha Venable

Mr. Otha Dillmus Venable, age 82, of Flowery Branch, formerly of Cumming, passed away on Tuesday, March 14, 2006 after an extended illness. Arrangements by Evans Funeral Home, Jefferson, GA ...

Louise Shannon

Louise Shannon, 77, of Buford, GA, died Tuesday, March 14, 2006. Arrangements by Bill Head Funeral Homes and Crematory, Lilburn/Tucker Chapel, 770-564-2726.

Howell Little

Mr. Howell David Little, age 82, of Watkinsville, GA died March 14, 2006. Arrangements by Carter Funeral Home of Winder, 770-867-6706.

Tabithia Lancaster

Mrs. Tabithia Green Lancaster, age 90, of Buford, GA passed away on March 14, 2006. She was preceded in death by her husband, Ernest R. Lancaster and son-in-law ...

Urlacher among pros signing for free in Duluth

Brian Urlacher typically receives $30,000 per hour for a scheduled autograph appearance. Hey, when you're the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, you can afford to be a little expensive.

Gladiators' jersey auction nets $46,000 for charity

LAWRENCEVILLE - Plunking down $6,000 for a Gwinnett Gladiator hockey jersey was not part of the plan when Debbie Betourney attended the third annual "Jersey Off Our Backs Charity Auction," but that's what happened.

In brief

local

Buford's Wilson signs with Brenau

• Buford senior Vicky Wilson signed a letter of intent on Tuesday night to continue her basketball career at Brenau University. She is the daughter of Monica and Vic Wilson.

Sports calendar

Baseball

Through April: A new 18-and-over men's baseball league in the North Gwinnett/South Barrow County area is looking for players. All experience levels are welcome and games on Sunday from April through August. Open workouts starting soon. Call Lee at 770-873-4790 or Tony at 404-202-9694 for additional information.

House steps into estate recovery flap

ATLANTA - Georgia lawmakers are vowing to soften the impact of a state plan to recover the costs of treating nursing home patients by going after their estates after their deaths.

The House has overwhelmingly approved legislation that would exempt the first $100,000 of a deceased patient's estate, up from a $25,000 cap proposed by the agency that oversees Georgia's Medicaid program.

The bill, which passed 164-1 during a flurry of legislative activity on Monday night, would amend rules approved by the state Board of Community Health for "estate recovery,'' a cost-cutting policy states have been ordered to pursue by the federal government.

"This has been approved in a lot of other states,'' said House Minority Leader DuBose Porter, D-Dublin, referring to the higher cap. "If other states have $100,000 caps, Georgia should, too. That's the best we can do in a difficult, difficult situation.''

The Department of Community Health began developing the policy almost two years ago on orders from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The feds began imposing estate recovery on states in 1993. Georgia and Michigan are the only states that haven't fallen into line with the mandate.

The program is projected to reduce Medicaid spending in Georgia by $5 million a year, $2 million in state funds and $3 million in federal money.

The DCH has sent out 40,000 letters notifying nursing home patients across the state that the program will begin on May 1, said agency spokeswoman Julie Kerlin.

"People who are in nursing homes and are receiving Medicaid can either withdraw from Medicaid or be subject to estate recovery,'' she said.

The House bill's supporters argued Monday that it's a draconian choice for elderly Georgians who have paid taxes all their lives only to be forced to spend down their savings and go on Medicaid to receive nursing home care.

"This really is taking grandma's house,'' Porter said. "We are a better state than this.''

With the federal government leaving the state no room to avoid enforcing estate recovery, lawmakers decided to push for a more generous exemption.

Ann Williams, legislative chairman of the Georgia Council on Aging, said a $100,000 cap would make a big difference for families affected by the program.

"You can't buy a chicken house for $25,000,'' she said.

At one point during Monday night's debate, Rep. Jeff Brown, R-LaGrange, chairman of the House budget subcommittee on health care, proposed setting the cap at $50,000.

He said DCH Commissioner Rhonda Medows was concerned that the federal CMS would not approve a $100,000 cap.

But Rep. Mickey Channell, D-Greensboro, convinced lawmakers to go with the higher exemption when he argued that it would be better to risk running afoul of federal bureaucrats than to shortchange Georgia seniors.

"There is no manual at CMS that says how much the exemption should be,'' he said. "We need to make our case in Washington.''

The bill now goes to the Senate.

Williams said she's optimistic that it will get a positive reception.

"We can't be certain how this will play out in the Senate,'' she said. "(But) there are a number of people over there who are sympathetic, and they are influential.''

Lawmakers return from Middle East

LAWRENCEVILLE - Just months before the return of thousands of Georgia troops from Iraq, a contingent of high-profile politicians took a trip to the Middle East to say thanks in person.

Campbell gets his first callup

DULUTH - Two days after posting a dramatic game-winning goal in overtime and setting a new team record for points in a season, Jeff Campbell received his first American Hockey League callup.

South siblings enjoying a special season together on soccer field

Back in the spring of 1998, a South Gwinnett girls soccer player made a proclamation to then head coach Joe O'Neal.

Heard makes pitch for massive annexation

LAWRENCEVILLE - Everyone is welcome to Lawrenceville, including the cows, officials said Tuesday at a public hearing on a legislator's proposal to annex 3,500 acres into the city.

My sister, my coach

Gwinnett Village takes next step

LAWRENCEVILLE - Paperwork for the creation of the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District was turned in to the county Tuesday.

Barrow ambulance, paramedics to move downtown temporarily

WINDER - An ambulance will move downtown temporarily while Barrow County builds two new fire stations.

OBITUARIES

BUFORD

LANCASTER,

TABITHA

Mrs. Tabitha Lancaster, age 90, of Buford, GA, passed away March 14, 2006. Service and Arrangements will be announced later by Junior E. Flanigan of Flanigan Funeral Home and Crematory of Buford, GA, 770-932-1133, www.flaniganfuneralhome.com.*

LEAK, MARGIE

Mrs. Margie E. Leak, age 71, of Buford, GA passed away on March 13, 2006. She was preceded in death by her husband, Billy Leak. Surviving are: Son and Daughter-in-Law: Ted and Brenda Leak, Tarpon Springs, FL; Daughter and Son-in-Law: Cindy and Kenny Karr, Buford, GA; Grandchildren: Brandi Leak, Trevor Leak, Amanda Barrett, Holly Barrett, Andrew Leak, Ethan Leak; Sister and Brother-in-Law: Sarah and Gene Mullinax, Cumming, GA; Nephews: Todd and Tracy Mullinax, Tim and Leann Mullinax; Niece: Danielle Mullinax. Mrs. Leak was a native of Forsyth County, GA. She was a graduate of Forsyth County High School. She was a retired cashier from Burel's Grocery Store in Buford, GA. She was a member of West Buford Baptist Church. Funeral service will be held on Wednesday, March 15, 2006 at 3:00 p.m. at the Chapel of Flanigan Funeral Home with Rev. Jerry Bennett officiating. Interment in Hillcrest Cemetery, Buford, GA. Arrangements by Junior E. Flanigan of Flanigan Funeral Home and Crematory, Buford, GA, 770-932-1133, www.flaniganfuneralhome.com.

DULUTH

WILLIAMS, J.

PATRICK

J. Patrick Williams, age 35 of Duluth, GA, passed away March 13, 2006. Arrangements by Crowell Brothers Peachtree Chapel Funeral Home, Norcross, GA, 770-448-5757.*

JACKSONVILLE, AL

STAMPER, RUBY

Mrs. Ruby Ellen Mahaffey Stamper, age 74, of Jacksonville, AL, and formerly of Lawrenceville, GA, passed away on Monday, March 13, 2006. Mrs. Stamper was preceded in death by her husband, Mr. Harry Stamper; son, Richard Parker; her mother, Ruby Parr Mahaffey; parents, Jewell and Vera Mahaffey; sister, Evelyn Holte; and brothers, J. W. Mahaffey and Robert Mahaffey. She is survived by her: Daughter and Son-in-Law: Rosetta and Henry Polek, O'Hatchee, AL; Sons and Daughter-in-Law: Steve and Karen Parker, Cumming, GA, Julian Respress, Houston, TX; Daughter-in-Law: Irene Rodriquez, Houston, TX; Grandchildren: Luke Pathridge and Jennifer Comer, Houston, TX, Samuel Polek and Matthew Polek, O'Hatchee, AL, Nathan Parker and Matthew Parker, Cumming, GA, Janet Respress, Germany; Sisters and Brothers-in-Law: Kathryn and Willard Ethridge, Woodstock, GA, Betty Jo and James Reepe, Buford, GA, Becky and James Watson, Waco, GA, Liz and Kenneth Bagwell, Lawrenceville, GA; 4 Great Grandchildren; 16 Nieces and Nephews; many Cousins. Mrs. Stamper was a native of Lawrenceville, Gwinnett County, GA. She attended Lawrenceville High School. She was a retired hospitality cashier in Metro Atlanta and also an in-home caregiver. She was an avid gardener. She was of the Baptist Faith. Graveside services will be held on Thursday, March 16, 2006 at 2:00 p.m. at Shadowlawn Cemetery in Lawrenceville, GA with Rev. Tommy Ledbetter officiating. The family and friends will please assemble at the cemetery by 1:45 p.m. Arrangements by Junior E. Flanigan of Flanigan Funeral Home and Crematory, Buford, GA, 770-932-1133, www.flaniganfuneralhome.com.

LAWRENCEVILLE

BALIAN, BERGE

Berge Balian, age 81 of Lawrenceville, died Tuesday, March 14, 2006. Arrangements by Tim Stewart Funeral Home, 300 Simonton Road, Lawrenceville, Georgia 30045, 770-962-3100.*

JOHNSON, JEANNE

Jeanne Skelton Johnson, age 83 of Lawrenceville, GA, passed away March 13, 2006. Arrangements by Crowell Brothers Peachtree Chapel Funeral Home, Norcross, GA, 770-448-5757.*

WOOD, BILLIE

Billie (Patterson) Wood, our beloved mother and friend, died peacefully March 12, 2006 at the age of 75. She is survived by: sons, Charles, Sherman and Phillip; daughter, Natalie; her sister, June; and eleven grandchildren. She loved reading, politics, and real estate, and volunteered for many years at Northside Hospital. Caring and cooking for those around her who were unable to do so proved that there are Angels here on earth. Everyone who was blessed to meet her loved her dearly. Private services will be held on Wednesday, March 14 at Applewood Towers #2 in Lawrenceville. Wages & Sons Gwinnett Chapel, 770-277-4550.

MONROE

HIGGINS, EVELYN

Evelyn G. Higgins, age 80 of Monroe, GA, formerly of Buford, died Tuesday, March 14, 2006 after an extended illness. Funeral Service will be held Thursday, March 16, 2006 at 11:00 A.M. at Hamilton Mill Memorial Chapel. Rev. Radford Brownlee will officiate. Interment will follow in Level Creek United Methodist Church Cemetery, Suwanee, GA. The Family will receive friends on Wednesday, March 15, 2006 from 2-4 and 6-9 P.M. at the funeral home. Mrs. Higgins was preceded in death by her husband, Howard Thomas Higgins and son, Leon Higgins. Surviving are: Son and Daughter In-law, John and Jane Higgins, Monroe, GA; Daughters, Brenda Greeson, Buford, Barbara O'Rouke, Buford; 5 Grandchildren and 7 Great Grandchildren; Sisters and Brothers In-law, Kathrine and Robert Lay, Dallas, GA, Geraldine and Brentley McCoy, Dallas, GA; Sister, Helen Gower, Lawrenceville, GA; Sisters In-law, Evelyn Maddox, Buford, GA, Julia Higgins, Buford, GA; Sister In-law and Brother In-law, Marie and Doug Allen, Suwanee, GA; Nieces, Nephews and Cousins. Mrs. Higgins was a life long resident of Buford and a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church, Dacula, GA. She was formerly employed by Dolco Packing Corp. and retired from Scientific Atlanta. Mrs. Higgins was a loving mother, grandmother and friend. She will forever be in our hearts. Hamilton Mill Memorial Chapel, 770-945-6924, www.hamiltonmillchapel.com.

NASH, BILL

Bill H. Nash, age 81 of Monroe, GA died March 13, 2006. He was preceded in death by his parents, Claude E. and Mamie Holland Nash; brothers, Summie Nash, Ernest Nash, Guy Nash; and sisters, Runelle Griffeth and Gladys Nash; and is survived by his daughter and son-in-law, Jenny and Alton McMillan of Dacula; son, Michael Nash of Monroe; step daughter, Cathy Edwards of Lawrenceville; sister, Hazel Cruce of Madison; brother and sisters-in-law, Dennis C. and Evelyn Nash of Lilburn; grandchildren, Diane and Dale Reynolds of Auburn, Dana McMillan of Lawrenceville; great grandchildren, Mason and Victoria Reynolds of Auburn; sisters in law, Annie Lou Nash, Dorothy Nash and Barbara Nash. Mr. Nash was a member of First Baptist Church of Monroe, a US Army Veteran of WWII and a former owner of Bill Nash Chevrolet in Monroe for 25 years. Mr. Nash was an avid golfer and was a member of Summit Chase Country Club and Monroe Country Club. Funeral services will be held Wednesday, March 15 at 2pm at Wages Snellville Chapel with Rev. Franklin and Jeff Nash officiating. Interment Friendship Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery. The family will receive friends Tuesday from 4 until 8pm at the funeral home and Wednesday until service time. Those desiring may make donations to the Friendship Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery Fund in memory of Bill Nash. Tom M. Wages Funeral Service, Inc., Snellville Chapel, 770-979-3200, www.wagesfuneralhome.com .

OXFORD

PETTY, KAREN

Karen Petty, age 38 of Oxford, died Monday, March 13, 2006. Arrangements by Tim Stewart Funeral Home, 670 Tom Brewer Road, Loganville, GA 30052, 770-466-1544.*

SNELLVILLE

PITTMAN, ROBERT

Mr. Robert E. (Bob) Pittman of Snellville, formerly of Doraville, died Monday morning, March 13, 2006. Bob, a member of Embry Hills United Methodist Church since 1966, was an Army veteran of WWII and was retired from the Equitable Society of the U.S. Memorial Services will be Sunday, 2:00 P.M. at the Embry Hills UMC. The family will receive friends Thursday 7-9 P.M. at Lowndes & McLane Funeral Home, Tucker, 770-491-3021.

WINDER

WELLS, GERTRUDE

Mrs. Gertrude Wells, age 86, of Winder, died March 13, 2006. Funeral plans will be announced by Carter Funeral Home of Winder, 770-867-6706.*

Duluth boys defeat rival Peachtree Ridge

SUWANEE - Duluth continued its hot start to region play in some chilly weather Tuesday, topping rival Peachtree Ridge 4-1.

Nuclear expert visits Five Forks Middle

LAWRENCEVILLE - Students at Five Forks Middle School had the chance Tuesday to learn about energy from a man who was once a top administrator for America's nuclear energy initiatives.

Right to know essential part of free society

Never before in recent memory, if not in this country's history, has there been such a struggle between the right to know and the right to privacy. In some instances, we find the debate on the issue of government's right to know versus the public's right to privacy, and in other instances, the roles are reversed.

Senate OKs bill to help military families

ATLANTA - Georgia students would be allowed time off from school to spend time with military parents who have been sent to an overseas war zone under a bill passed Wednesday by the Senate.

The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Mike Coan, R-Lawrenceville. It would require local school districts to grant students up to five excused absences per school year to visit with a parent serving in the military either before he or she is deployed or while on leave.

The Senate expanded Coan's bill to include legal guardians. Because of that change, the measure now must return to the House.

State's foreclosures drop slightly in February

LAWRENCEVILLE - Georgia's number of new foreclosures dropped slightly in February compared to the same time a year ago, according to Foreclosure.com.

Letters to the Editor

'Liberal weenies' column ignores conservatives' plight

Dick Yarbrough manages to regurgitate every cliche in the book that right-wing zealots like to use when describing who he refers to as "liberal weenies" ("Wondering about all you liberal weenies," Perspective, March 11). He dredges up the usual suspects as Democratic examples to debase, namely Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy.

He is in total lock step with the Bush administration and overlooks and ignores the multitude of gaffes and almost unbelievable missteps that have prevailed since the beginning of the Iraqi invasion.

There isn't room on this page to recount them, so let's be fair and just say that if anybody is out of touch with the mainstream thinking in this country besides Howard Dean, it is Yarbrough and his diehard knee-jerk compatriots. Unless of course, he believes that a presidential performance approval rating below 40 percent is just peachy keen.

I like Yarbrough and usually enjoy his column, but his one-size-fits-all criticism of Democrats, especially liberal Democrats, is not only unbecoming, it is downright mean. I hope this doesn't cause Yarbrough to "upchuck his biscuits," but his assessment of liberal thinking is flawed by his own prejudice.

I sometimes believe there are folks in this country who would rally around a one-party system in a heart beat; a monarchy with King George at the helm.

Mortgage fraud sting nets one arrest

ATLANTA - A U.S. Department of Homeland Security employee is accused of mortgage fraud in trying to purchase a $3.3 million home in Duluth.

Authorities said 38-year-old Brinson Allen of Alpharetta expected to walk away from a loan closing Monday with $800,000 in cash, but instead he left in handcuffs. An FBI sting operation revealed that Allen allegedly falsified his income information to show he made $62,000 a month and told bankers he had about $1 million deposited in various bank accounts.

What it takes to win elections

If Bobby Kahn turns out one more press release on Georgia's economy, I think I'll cut off my fax machine.

Hasn't the state Democratic Party chairman figured out anything? Doesn't Kahn know most people don't care about the state's economy? They'd rather giggle at the governor bumping into a wall again than hear about another plant closing or to learn of a new one opening in the state.

Lanier reviewed for pollution

LAWRENCEVILLE - Lake Lanier could be added to a federal list of polluted waterways because it has too much chlorophyll a.

Bear still loose after car crash

LAWRENCEVILLE - It was just another half-hour commute to Lawrenceville for teacher Christie Moon. That is, until a 250-pound black bear ran in front of her car, causing her to slam on her brakes. She hit it anyway.

Norcross biotech company to buy British company

LAWRENCEVILLE - Biotechnology company Serologicals Corp. is expanding.

Perdue speaks to Scouts as volunteers honored

LAWRENCEVILLE - Three Gwinnett residents were honored Tuesday at the sixth annual American Values Dinner, which featured Gov. Sonny Perdue and was hosted by the Northeast Georgia Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

Rollins' complete game leads South past Pope 2-1

MARIETTA - South Gwinnett starter Neil Rollins (1-2) hurled a complete game on Tuesday against Pope, allowing one run on four hits with three walks and 11 strikeouts as the Comets beat the Greyhounds 2-1.