Editor's note: The Post's reporters were asked to review the stories that happened on their beat this year and pick the 10 biggest. Today, Christy Smith ranks her choices for the top 10 Barrow County stories of 2007.
This spring I will celebrate my eighth year as a Gwinnett Daily Post reporter. I covered five city governments in North Gwinnett for 61/2 years before switching to Barrow County in October 2006, where I covered all topics. It's been a great year for news in Barrow County. These are my picks for the top 10 Barrow stories of 2007.
10. Winder-Barrow Middle School eighth-graders in danger of failing the math portion of Georgia's Criterion-Referenced Competency Test are studying in single-gender math classes. The pilot program was implemented last fall following math teacher Erica Boswell's research into the study of biological differences that cause boys and girls to learn in different ways.
9. Auburn- and Braselton-area residents living near the site of a proposed high-voltage substation and power lines fought all year against the projects. Georgia Transmission Corp. officials originally planned to construct the substation on 3.5 acres at the intersection of Dee Kennedy and Harmony Grove Church Roads on property that had been in the Lyle family for more than a century.
The location of the proposed substation was moved last summer to a spot near a tributary of the Mulberry River that supplies water to Bethlehem, Carl, Winder and parts of Auburn.
8. Spc. Christopher Shore, 25, of Winder, will face third-degree murder charges in the death of an Iraqi detainee, despite a military investigator's recommendation that those charges be dropped.
Shore and his platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Trey A. Corrales of San Antonio, were accused of killing an Iraqi detainee during a nighttime raid in a village near Kirkuk in Northern Iraq.
Shore testified that when Corrales ordered him to "finish off" the Iraqi man who was already mortally wounded, he turned his gun to the side and fired, missing the man.
Shore and his fellow soldiers later went forward with the information about Corrales.
7. Barrow County students returned to school about three weeks later than usual due to construction upgrades on five schools. The upgrades allowed the school system to cut the number of trailers in use to 71 from 115.
Although construction nearly doubled the size of Statham Elementary, the school was 200 students above capacity in December, prompting the Board of Education to redistrict those students from Statham to Holsenbeck Elementary School.
6. Barrow County's Board of Commissioners voted in November to build a $19.9 million, two-story Northeast Georgia Arts and Convention Center at the intersection of Ga. Highway 316 and Ga. Highway 53. The project is a joint effort of the Barrow County Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education.
County officials will search for loans or explore floating bonds to combine with the $4.5 million it has to finance the development.
5. Barrow County officials broke ground on a new $46 million courthouse/jail facility on 30 acres near Pearl Pentecost Road in February. The jail will hold about 325 inmate beds and four courtrooms. The existing courthouse, built in 1920, will be used as office space. Construction will be financed through bonds and paid back with one-cent sales tax funds, said Keith Lee, Barrow County's chief administrator.
4. A 10-member committee that includes teachers, students, parents and community members since June has discussed whether to offer Bible-based classes to Barrow County high school juniors and seniors.
The courses would cover the history and literature of the Old and New Testaments.
In a poll taken last spring in Apalachee and Winder-Barrow High Schools, just under half the students polled expressed an interest in taking the classes, should they be offered.
The committee recommended offering the classes in fall 2009.
3. Winder police arrested 12 students at Winder-Barrow High School in April and charged them with numerous drug charges.
Eight of the students arrested were adults.
The arrests were the result of a six-month-long undercover sting operation in which a 20-year-old Winder policeman went under cover and enrolled as a student.
All the students except one were adjudicated and most received a pretrial program, according to Capt. Dennis Dorsey, spokesman for the Winder Police Department.
2. Tim Madison resigned in May as district attorney for the Piedmont Judicial Circuit, that covers Banks, Barrow and Jackson counties, following allegations that he and his wife, Linn Jones, forged Banks County timecards in 2005 and 2006 for 25 hours she never worked.
Madison and Jones were indicted in August following a six-month investigation led by the state Attorney General's office. They each face four counts of making false statements in connection to the time cards.
Madison also faces single counts of felony theft by taking, theft by receiving, attempting to defraud a political subdivision and violating his oath of office for allegedly misusing Banks County funds.
Jones is charged with a single count of conspiracy to defraud a political subdivision.
Former Assistant District Attorney Anthony Brett Williams faces single counts of felony theft by taking, theft by receiving and violating his oath of office for alleged thefts in 2005.
The three are free on bond set at $1,000 per count. Madison had served as District Attorney for 24 years.
1. Felicia Williams Hill, 26, pleaded guilty in March to stabbing to death her two children, 9-year-old Elexis Nicole Hill and 4-year-old James Ross Hill, and to having hit her father, Charles Barnes, in the head with a vase.
At 5:15 p.m. Jan. 3, Barrow County sheriff's deputies responded to a 911 call from 691 Tanners Bridge Circle in Bethlehem. Deputies found both children dead of stab wounds and Barnes suffering from a head injury.
Hill was the prime suspect. After dropping out of school in the ninth grade, Hill amassed an arrest record that included prostitution, burglary, theft, shoplifting and parole violations. She was caught six days later in an Atlanta apartment hiding in a closet under a pile of clothes.
Hill's guilty plea spared her the death penalty, but with two life sentences she might never be free. Hill will celebrate her 86th birthday before she is eligible for parole.
Hill gave birth to a boy, Isaiah Chance Williams, on Sept. 7. The boy is being cared for by Hill's mother's sister, Annette Barnes said.
"Felicia seems to be doing fine, when she calls," Annette Barnes said.