News for Sunday, January 21, 2007

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Local hero dies at home in sleep

GRAYSON - Nikki Blanton had a dream of being a doctor.

But the 26-year-old, who was injured in a traffic collision last year after helping pull a man from a wrecked car, didn't get to see her medical dreams come true.

Birth Announcements

Oct. 18

Nolan Glen Holloway was born on Oct. 18, 2006, to Meredith Smith Holloway and Mark Holloway. He weighed 8 lbs., 7 oz. and was 191⁄2 inches long.

Attend gala fundraiser to help the disabled

On Feb. 24, Creative Enterprises Inc. will host the sixth-annual Masquerade Carnivale at Evergreen Resort & Conference Center in Stone Mountain.

OBITUARIES

BUFORD

HAMILTON, DORIS

Mrs. Doris Higgins Hamilton, age 83, of Buford, GA passed away on Saturday, January 20, 2007. She was preceded in death by her parents, Raymond and Delphia Brown Higgins, sister, Sara Higgins Parrott, and brother, Raymond Higgins, Jr. She is survived by her: Husband of 63 years: Mr. Lewis R. Hamilton, Buford, GA; Son: Joe Hamilton, Winder, GA; Niece: Lynda Dean, Atlanta, GA; Nephew: Mr. & Mrs. Chris Dean and daughter, Andrea, McDonough, GA; Sister-in-law: Floyce Hamilton Bramblett, Tennessee; numerous Nieces, Nephews and Cousins of the Hamilton Family. Mrs. Hamilton was born in Lawrenceville, GA on August 16, 1923. She was a graduate of Lawrenceville High School. Her parents owned Higgins Florist in Lawrenceville, GA for many years and she began her work career in the florist business and co-owned Downtown Florist in Buford, GA. She also worked for Hill Brothers Grocery Store in Buford and Jay's Drug Store as a cashier in Buford, GA. She was of the Methodist Faith. Funeral service will be held on Monday, January 22, 2007 at 3:30 p.m. in the Chapel of Flanigan Funeral Home with Rev. Gerry M. Davis officiating. Interment will be in Shadowlawn Cemetery in Lawrenceville, GA. The Buford Housing Authority will serve as honorary escorts. The family will receive friends at the funeral home on Sunday from 3:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. Arrangements by Junior E. Flanigan of Flanigan Funeral Home and Crematory, Buford, GA, 770-932-1133, www.flaniganfuneralhome.com.

LAURINBURG, NC

PAUL, MARY

Mrs. Mary Margaret McCormick Paul, 93, of Barnes Bridge Road, died Friday, January 19, 2007 at Morrison Manor. Funeral services will be held 11 AM Monday at the Caledonia United Methodist Church with Rev. Dalma Cribb officiating. Burial will follow in McCormick Family Cemetery. She is survived by three sons, John F. Paul and wife Barbara of Clemmons, NC, T. Archie Paul and wife Mary Alice of West Palm Beach, FL, Robert Paul and wife Gina of Laurinburg; one daughter, Ethel Marie Bath and husband, Joe of Lawrenceville, GA; a sister, Florence Bannerman of Laurinburg; seven grandchildren and six great grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband, Kenneth H. Paul and a son, William K. (Billy) Paul. Memorials made to Caledonia United Methodist Church, 15201 Barnes Bridge Road, Laurinburg, NC 28352. McDougald Funeral Home and Crematorium is serving the family.

LAWRENCEVILLE

WILSON, HERSHEL

Hershel M. Wilson, age 78 of Lawrenceville died Saturday, January 20, 2007. Funeral services will be held 2:00 P.M. Monday, January 22, 2007 in the Lawrenceville Chapel of Tim Stewart Funeral Home. Rev. Rex Richards and Rev. Hoyt Frisbee will officiate. Interment will follow at the Gwinnett Memorial Park in Lawrenceville. A United States Navy Veteran serving in World War II and the Korean Conflict, Mr. Wilson was retired from Lockheed - Martin with 28 years of service. He is survived by: Wife of 51 years: Mattie Frady Wilson, Lawrenceville; Children: Teresa and Gary Coley, Lawrenceville; David and Jeree' Wilson, Jefferson; Beverly Wilson, Auburn; Grandchildren: Darea' Wilson and Dallas Wilson; Several Nieces and Nephews also survive. Flowers are accepted or in lieu of flowers the family ask that contributions be made to the Gwinnett Hall Baptist Church Building Fund 1868 Azalea Drive, Lawrenceville, Georgia 30043. The family will receive friends on Sunday, January 21, 2007 from 9 A.M. until 9 P.M. at Tim Stewart Funeral Home, 300 Simonton Road, Lawrenceville, Georgia 30045, 770-962-3100. Please sign on-line guest registry at www.stewartfh.com.

LILBURN

SPANGLER, RICHARD

Mr. Richard L. Spangler, age 79, of Lilburn, GA, formerly of Winder, GA and Defiance, OH, passed away on January 19, 2007. A native of Defiance County, OH, born to Harold Spangler and Jennie Mohr Spangler. He retired after 20 years of service with Johns-Manville Corp. Prior to that, he worked for Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in Defiance, OH, for 17 years. Mr. Spangler was a veteran of the U.S. Navy and a former commander of the American Legion, Post 117 in Defiance, OH. He attended church at Free Chapel in Gainesville, GA. Funeral services will be held on Monday, January 22 at the Bill Head Funeral Home, Lilburn/Tucker Chapel, with Pastor Dewayne Wellborn officiating. Interment will be in Eternal Hills Memory Gardens, Snellville, GA. The family will receive friends at the funeral home on Sunday, January 21 from 3 - 5 PM. Mr. Spangler is survived by his wife of 24 years: Shelby Spangler; sons and daughters-in-law: Kevin & Tricia Spangler, Ft. Wayne, IN, and Marc & Nadine Spangler, Buford, GA; daughters and sons-in-law: Jeanne & Tim Weber, Defiance, OH, Nan Eberhart, Winder, GA, Alane & Mark Howell, Watkinsville, GA, and Nora & Greg Elliott, Acworth, GA; step-daughter: Donna Bryson, Lilburn, GA; step-son and daughter-in-law: Chris & Allison Robins, Cumming, GA; twenty-six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by brothers: Keith, Edward and Robert Spangler; a step-daughter: Cheryl Robins, and two granddaughters: Brooke Elliott and Haley Robins. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Cancer Society, 1684 Barnett Shoals Rd., Athens, GA 30605, or Embracing Hospice, 2160 Fountain Dr., Snellville, GA 30078. Arrangements by Bill Head Funeral Home and Crematory, Lilburn/Tucker Chapel, 770-564-2726.

SNELLVILLE

BEAVER, ALFRED

Alfred Morris Beaver, age 64 of Snellville, Georgia, died January 19, 2007. He is survived by his wife of 28 years, Jean Beaver; daughter and son-in-law, Meritt and Jose Hernandez, Douglasville; stepchildren, Lynn and Harold McClure, Snellville, Doug Daniel, Winder, Don Daniel, Tampa, FL; 5 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild. Alfred, a lifelong resident of Gwinnett County, was retired from the City of Snellville as Maintenance Director and retired in 2004 after 28 years. He was a member of Snellville United Methodist Church. Mr. Beaver will be cremated and no services have been scheduled. Tom M. Wages Funeral Service, Inc., Snellville Chapel, 770-979-3200, www.wagesfuneralhome.com.

SAWYER, CHRISTINE

Christine Bennett Sawyer, age 74 of Snellville, died Saturday, January 20, 2007. Funeral services will be held 2:00 P.M. Tuesday January 23, 2007 in the Snellville Chapel of Tim Stewart Funeral Home. Rev. J.B. Reese, Jr. will officiate. Interment will follow at the Snellville Historical Cemetery in Snellville. Mrs. Sawyer was a member of the First Baptist Church of Snellville and the Winsome Sunday School Class. She received a degree in husband engineering from Georgia Tech in the class of 1959. She is survived by Husband of 55 years and 7 months: William C. Sawyer, Sr., Snellville; Children: William C. Sawyer, Jr., Snellville; Elizabeth Anne Sawyer, Snellville; Jeffery B. and Susie Sawyer, Lawrenceville; Brothers: Roy R. and Cybil Bennett, Jr., Snellville; John A. and Dean Bennett, Snellville; Grandchildren: William C. Sawyer, III, Eric G. Sawyer, Cameron B. Sawyer, Chandler D. Sawyer, Morgan Arneson, Ashley Arneson, Jessie Madison Sawyer; Several Nieces and Nephews also survive. The family will receive friends on Sunday, January 21, 2007 from 6 until 8 P.M. and Monday, January 22, 2007 from 2 until 4 and 6 until 8 P.M. at Tim Stewart Funeral Home, 2246 Wisteria Drive, Snellville, Georgia 30078, 770-979-5010. Please sign on-line guest registry at www.stewartfh.com.

VALRICO, FL

KROLL, DEBBIE

Debbie Kirk Kroll of Valrico, Fl. died January 3, 2007 She was born January 24, 1967 in Atlanta, Ga. Her mother, Dianna Kirk, preceded her in death. She is survived by two sons, Joshua, LaGrange, Ga. and James, Valrico, Fl., father Walter R. Kirk, Jr. and step-mother, Rosemarie Kirk, Ellijay, Ga. One sister, Sherrie Vath and brother-in-law, Rob Vath. Dacula, Ga. and one brother, Walter R. Kirk III and sister-in-law, Shannon Kirk, Flowery Branch, Ga. Step-sister, Teresa Griffith, Tazwell, Va. and step-brother, Timothy Wolfe, Cumberland, R.I., Grandmother, Marie Show, Avon Park, Fl. She also had four nieces and two nephews and a number of aunts and uncles. Friends and Family will be meeting at The Sugar Hill Community Center, located at 1166 Church St. at Noon on January 24, 2007. There will be a graveside service to follow at the Sugar Hill Baptist Church cemetery at 1 P.M.

WINDER

COOPER, ANN

Ann Cooper age 92, of Winder, GA, died January 19, 2007. Arrangements by Smith Funeral Home Memory Chapel, Winder, 770-867-4553*

Sharper Image to give merchandise vouchers to settle purifier suit

SAN FRANCISCO - Sharper Image Corp. has agreed to discount its high-tech gadgets by more than $60 million and make several other concessions to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging the specialty retailer misled customers about the effectiveness of its air purifiers.

Legitimate winner

Going Green: Greenways becoming more popular in parks

SUWANEE - People used to call it Trice's Folly.

Literary Calendar

Wednesday

Thomas Laird, author of "The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama," will discuss and sign his work at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, 441 Freedom Parkway in Atlanta. The event is co-sponsored by the Carter Library and the Georgia Center for the Book. Admission is free. Call 404-865-7100 or visit www.jimmycarterlibrary.gov.

Police track credit cards of slain Snellville man

LAWRENCEVILLE - Stolen credit card activity related to the slaying of a Snellville man is being tracked by law enforcement in at least three states.

One to remember

Primetime roundup: Wheeler falls to Pennsylvania power

NORCROSS - Maybe it would be a good idea for Wheeler to not play before Norcross anymore.

Several Gwinnett County teachers earn national certification

Several Gwinnett County educators have recently earned the nation's highest credential for teachers - National Board Certification.

The Week That Was

A look back at the Gwinnett Daily Post's top stories of the week.

Dems hope to spark comeback

The four Democrats vying to become the party's next state chairman agree by and large on the factors that have relegated their once-dominant coalition to minority status.

They even agree on what needs to be done for Democrats to begin recovering from three straight devastating election cycles in Georgia.

But the two men and two women bring different life experiences and skill sets to next weekend's chairmanship election in Atlanta that each says would make him or her best suited to lead the party out of the wilderness.

The 300 or so members of the state Democratic Committee will choose between Gwinnett County Democratic Chairman Mike Berlon, former state Sen. Carol Jackson of Cleveland, former state Rep. Jane Kidd of Athens and Savannah pastor Jim Nelson, the Democrats' candidate in the 1st Congressional District last fall.

Although Berlon has run for public office twice - for Congress in 2002 and the state Public Service Commission in 2004 - he is the consummate political insider of the race for chairman.

He has been Gwinnett's Democratic chairman for the last four years and has close ties with his colleagues around the state as vice chairman of the Georgia Association of Democratic County Chairs.

Kidd, on the other hand, is more closely aligned with the party's elected leaders. She served the last two years in the House but lost a bid for the Senate last fall in a district that had been redrawn by the Legislature's Republican majority, making it difficult turf for any Democrat to win.

Berlon and Kidd agree that Democrats sowed the seeds of their recent losses in Georgia during the many decades that the party controlled the governor's office.

Until former Gov. Roy Barnes' upset loss to Republican challenger Sonny Perdue in 2002, the Democratic Party operated out of the governor's office, leaving the chairmanship as a ceremonial post.

"We became an offshoot of the governor's campaign ... fat and happy,'' Berlon said. "We don't have that luxury anymore.''

Indeed, Barnes' defeat was accompanied by the loss of Max Cleland's U.S. Senate seat to Republican Saxby Chambliss.

Within days of that, four Democratic state senators switched parties, giving the GOP control of the Senate.

Republicans went on in 2004 to capture the state's other U.S. Senate seat and win a majority of the Georgia House, giving the GOP complete control of the General Assembly.

The string of Republican victories continued last fall with the re-election of Perdue and the election of Georgia's first GOP lieutenant governor and secretary of state. Republicans also held onto their legislative majorities.

To get back on the winning track, Berlon said Democrats need what he called a "ground game,'' a grass-roots strategy that builds from the bottom up rather than the top down.

Kidd, daughter of the late Gov. Ernest Vandiver, said her party need look no further than to Georgia Republicans for a model.

"Republicans had 14 to 15 years to work from the grass-roots,'' she said. "They've done it right. That's why they are where they are today.''

Jackson and Nelson say they are particularly well suited to appeal to groups of voters who have abandoned the Democratic Party in droves in recent years: rural Georgians and Christians, respectively.

Jackson served three terms in the state Senate representing a district in the North Georgia mountains, leaving office in 2004.

She considered running for secretary of state last year but said she found that winning statewide nomination as a rural Democrat would be too much of an uphill climb.

That, she said, led her to realize that the Democratic Party in Georgia has strayed too far from its rural roots.

"I think the party has got to be brought back to a more centrist position,'' she said. "Rural Georgia is feeling left out.''

Nelson said his experience as a Methodist minister has made him the motivational speaker Democrats need in a chairman to stir the party's rank and file to work harder and donate more money.

Beyond that, he said Democrats need a chairman who can show Christian voters that Democratic candidates believe in the same values they do, from looking out for the needy to protecting the environment.

"We are not anti-religion,'' he said. "A lot of the things we do are consistent with scripture.''

While the candidates agree on the broad strategies Democrats must pursue to start their comeback in Georgia, two mentioned specific projects they would pursue if elected chairman.

Berlon said he would open several satellite offices around the state as a way to combat the perception that the Democrats have become a party of metro Atlanta.

Nelson said he would seek to make better use of the Internet to communicate the party's message and to bolster get-out-the-vote efforts.

Not everyone gets my jokes

This may come as a surprise to my regular readers - I know it shocks the heck out of me - but some people don't think I'm funny.

And not just my wife. I'm talking about the complete strangers with whom I occasionally share my unusual brand of humor.

In my defense, I came by this habit honestly. I grew up watching my father torment restaurant employees and other service industry workers with his rapier-like wit.

For instance, if we were at a Waffle House and the waitress asked him a simple question like "how would you like your eggs?" he'd probably reply, "Yes, please."

At a slightly more expensive restaurant, a waiter once made the mistake of asking "How did you find your steak, sir?"

"I just moved my baked potato and there it was," my father answered.

I like to think, however, that I've not only inherited his gift for witty repartee but have taken it to new heights. On the other hand, some would probably argue that I've inherited only half my father's wit.

For example, there was the time my son and I were about to launch a canoe at one of Gwinnett County's many fine parks. A police officer spotted us and came striding over, bristling with authority.

"Can't you gentlemen read?" he said, pointing to a sign near the parking lot. "No personal watercraft allowed."

"But officer," I responded, "this isn't our personal watercraft. We borrowed it from a friend."

Then there was the time my wife and I were shopping in a fancy furniture store, "shopping" in this case being a euphemism for "looking at hideously ugly furniture we couldn't possibly afford anyway." After I spotted one particular repulsive piece that had been finished to look like an antique, the following three-way conversation ensued:

Me: (to the saleswoman who had been hovering over us for the last 15 minutes) "This piece is damaged. See where the varnish is all cracked? And the paint has been completely rubbed off in several places. How much would you take off for that?"

Road Closures

n Arnold Road at U.S. Highway 29 will require intermittent lane closures from 9 a.m. to

4 p.m. through January for road widening and alignment improvements.

Just Relax

Engagement Announcements

Houtz - Bramlett

David and Annette Houtz of Lawrenceville announce the engagement of their daughter, Brittany Dyan Houtz of Lawrenceville, to William Daniel Bramlett of Thomaston, son of Dan and Gail Bramlett of Thomaston.

The bride-elect is the granddaughter of Clarence and Ethel Houtz of Lawrenceville, and the late George and Margaret Hibshman of Myerstown, Penn. She is a 2006 graduate of the University of Georgia, where she received a bachelor's degree in political science and a bachelor's degree in public relations.

The future groom is the grandson of Margie Bramlett and the late Dan W. Bramlett of Winterville, and Pauline Fowler and the late William A. Fowler of Alma. He is attending the University of Georgia and plans to graduate in May with a bachelor's degree in graphic design.

The wedding is planned for June 16 at the First United Methodist Church of Lawrenceville.

Spicy dish can be made from scratch or with shortcuts

Whether you prefer spicy cuisine or mild dishes, there's nothing quite like curry. While curry dishes can vary greatly, depending on the region where the recipe originated, all of them feature rich flavors.

If you're short on time, we've provided a recipe for a simple Thai curry dish. Companies such as a Taste of Thai and Thai Kitchen make products like red curry paste and fish sauce that can help you save time in the kitchen.

A cozy book makes for good cold weather reading

Especially since it's finally gotten cold, this month seems particularly appropriate for cozy reading - the kind of books you can curl up with while drinking a cup of hot tea.

Students to dance for cause

SNELLVILLE - Students from Brookwood, Grayson and Parkview high schools will put on their dancing shoes next week as they participate in a four-hour dance marathon to raise money for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

Holt apologizes for annexation comment

Doug Holt may have gotten the city wrong, but he still believes Georgia's annexation process isn't fair.

Prep roundup: Winchell's 26 leads South over Berkmar

LILBURN - Alex Winchell scored 26 points for South Gwinnett to help beat Berkmar 82-42 on Saturday.

Norcross rolls past another challenge

NORCROSS - Afterward, head coach Eddie Martin said he thought it was the best his team had played all season.

Whirlwind trip hits Rome, Florence, Venice in a week

As a kid growing up in the Midwest, I loved to go to Italian markets to sample their offerings. The various salamis and pastas soon became my comfort food.

I yearned to experience this food again, but I wanted to go to the source: Italy. Aside from the food, I wanted experience the country's art and architecture.

For someone who hasn't been to Europe in years and is content with traveling the Southeast, the trip was a big undertaking. Months of planning, budgeting and learning the language became the scene in our house.

My wife and I made our decision: We were to visit Rome, Florence and Venice in a one-week period. I dubbed this whirlwind tour The Italian Sampler.

Romantic Rome

After a nine-hour flight, we were greeted by Rome's golden sun peeking at us through the darkness. It was a sight for sore eyes. Even though we didn't sleep a wink, we were ready to tour Rome when we arrived at Fiumicino Airport.

There is no need to rent a car in here. Simply find your way to the local train, which whisks you to the Termini central station. From that point, it's best to set out on foot to explore this city filled with ancient ruins, world-class museums and amazing cuisine.

When we arrived at Termini, we were pleasantly surprised to find many hotels located across the street. We chose Hotel Mediterraneo, a restored property that is reasonably priced and puts you in a central location.

A front desk employee pointed us in the direction of the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, the Trevi Fountain and local museums. By purchasing a Roma pass, a tourist discount card, we were able to jump to the front of the line at the Colosseum, see other attractions at a reduced price and ride the transit system during the two-day stay.

After breakfast at the hotel, we embarked upon our tour of the Vatican and its museums. The nearby train quickly brought us to this magnificent site. The line was long, but it would have been longer if we went later in the day. The key is to arrive early and stick with what you would like to see.

For myself, I had to see the Tombs of Popes. Just as I suspected, Pope John Paul II's tomb drew massive crowds. After visiting the tombs, I spent much of my time in St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel.

Business Briefs

Yoo named president of Korean-American association

DULUTH - Re/Max Around Atlanta Duluth office Realtor Michell Yoo was recently elected president of the Georgia Korean-American Real Estate Association.

Established for Korean Realtors in 2002, the organization provides better service to the Korean community and also helps Korean agents involved in the real estate industry.

Yoo, who specializes in real estate in Gwinnett and northern Fulton, has been an agent for 13 years, 10 of which were with Re/Max Around Atlanta in the Duluth office.

Gaddis named partner of Re/Max Around Atlanta

DULUTH - Cleve Gaddis was recently named partner of the Duluth Re/Max Around Atlanta office. Gaddis, who became one of the managing brokers of the Duluth office last year, heads the eight-member Gaddis Team, ranked in the top 25 of RE/MAX of Georgia real estate teams in '06.

Buchwald's last column: Goodbye, my friends

Tribune Media Services

Editor's note: Famed columnist Art Buchwald asked that this column be distributed following his death. Buchwald had written the column on Feb. 8 after deciding to check into a hospice, suffering from kidney failure. He had discontinued dialysis and also had one of his legs amputated below the knee. He subsequently was released from the hospice, wrote a book about his experience and also resumed writing his syndicated newspaper column. He died Wednesday at his home in Washington, D.C., surrounded by family members.

sports calendar

Athletics

Feb. 17: The Brookwood community plans to honor longtime Bronco athletic director and head football coach Dave Hunter with a celebration dinner on Feb. 17. All friends, colleagues and former players of Hunter are invited to attend the event, which will be at the Gwinnett Marriott on Pleasant Hill Road. For more information or to purchase tickets to the dinner, go www.brookwoodbroncos.org or contact Marc Cain at mcainbia@bbia.net.

Some lives are never overbooked

When I applied as a substitute teacher for Gwinnett County Public Schools, I had no idea what a mental drain it would be filling out my work history.

Many companies are only interested in past jobs that are relevant to the position for which you're applying. Most don't care that you learned how to check heads for lice as a camp counselor when all they want to know is how proficient you are in JAVA.

Relay for Life kickoff

Coming to a neighborhood near you

RZM-06-015, CIC-06-025 A requested rezoning from M-1 light industry to R-TH single-family townhome and C-2 commercial for 30.71 acres south of Norcross to be developed with 140 townhomes and villas and 60,000 square feet of retail space. The property is at the 6600 block of Governors Lake Parkway and the 2700-2800 blocks of Jones Mill Road. The applicant is Asian Village Atlanta, Norcross. The property owner is MJE Corp. & WG-75, Atlanta.

Hands On Network book tries to inspire change

Are you aware of an event or project that benefits our community? Contact Anna Ferguson at 770-963-9205 ext. 1308 or anna.ferguson@gwinnettdailypost.com.

'High-rises are in the future of Gwinnett Place'

LAWRENCEVILLE - High-rises will come to Gwinnett Place Mall whether or not a proposal that was denied by planning commissioners Tuesday meets the Board of Commissioners' muster this week, a revitalization leader said.

Parkview meets its match against McEachern

MACON - After dominating for the last two years, Parkview finally met its match.

Microsoft's Vista launch quieter than '95 frenzy

AP Technology Writer

Here comes a new Windows operating system from Microsoft Corp. Long delayed, it's the first in several years, so the company plans an enormous marketing campaign to tout the software as a way to get more out of computers.

Gwinnett adds pair to slim roster

DULUTH - Concerned with the number of bodies, or lack thereof, Gwinnett Gladiators head coach Jeff Pyle called on former NHLer Scott Pearson to take the ice in Saturday's home game against Florida.

Barrow Water Authority questions Auburn water ratesEngineer: County will need new water source by 2012

WINDER - Members of Barrow County's Water and Sewerage Authority are sending questions about Auburn's water rates to County Commissioners.

Spa businesses bring massages to the masses

Don McMahon used to be a frequent flyer. For his job, he made about eight international trips a year, was constantly commuting between Miami and Georgia and was always on the go. All this travel was hard on his body, and he became accustomed to receiving massages.

Yet one thing continually irked him - stepping foot into a spa, he never knew exactly what kind of service he would be receiving. Laying facedown on a massage table, cloaked by a sheet and nearly naked, it sometimes felt like a vulnerable situation.

"As a guy especially, it could make me a little nervous," he said. "I never knew what I was going to be getting, when I just wanted to relax and de-stress. Not knowing what kind of place it was before going, or how good it would be, that could cause more stress."

Vermont coddles another criminal

Once again the state of Vermont has let a vicious child molester off lightly, and once again a child's life has become a political cover-up.

Wesleyan wins first state title by single point

MACON - On Dec. 30, Wesleyan came up one point short against Lafayette, falling to the Ramblers 31-30. On Saturday night, that one precious point swung in favor of the Wolves.

City has no plans to annex islands

WINDER - While Auburn faces a court battle with Barrow County over November's forcible island annexations, Winder officials are taking a hands-off approach toward theirs.

Winder's city limits hold eight islands totaling about 90 acres, but the city has no immediate plans to annex them, Mayor Buddy Ouzts said.

Special needs scholarships bill renews voucher fight

ATLANTA - Most of the education agenda being pushed by Gov. Sonny Perdue and Republican legislative leaders early in this year's General Assembly session is enjoying widespread support.

Organizations representing teachers and school administrators have had little but good to say about the governor's plan to expand his graduation coaches program from Georgia's high schools into the middle schools. The same is true for Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle's proposals to establish more charter schools and career academies.

But the good feelings stop when it comes to legislation that would allow parents of disabled students attending public schools to receive state scholarships to send their kids to private schools.

Although it's much more limited in scope than the private school voucher bills Republicans have pushed unsuccessfully during past sessions, the education lobby and its legislative allies are gearing up to fight anything that smacks of the "v'' word.

"That's sort of a back door approach to vouchers,'' Rep. Jeannette Jamieson, D-Toccoa, a member of the House Education Committee and its former chairman, said of the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Act.

"Anytime you talk about vouchers, you're talking about a way to fund children going to private schools and depleting the money that's going to public schools.''

The bill, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Eric Johnson, would allow parents of students with certain physical, emotional or learning disabilities who attended a public school during the previous year to apply for a scholarship to attend a private school of their choice.

The state Board of Education would choose which schools would be eligible for the program.

The legislation is modeled after Florida's McKay Scholarships, one of three private school voucher programs begun in that state by former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, who left office at the beginning of this month after eight years in office.

No budget buster

Johnson, R-Savannah, said Florida's experience with McKay Scholarships shows that a similar program wouldn't break the bank for public schools in Georgia. He said only 5 percent of the Florida students who are eligible for the scholarships are receiving them.

"Parents know that public school systems are doing a good job with 95 percent of special needs students,'' he said. "But there's always going to be a child who wants to go somewhere else.''

Johnson said there's a huge upside to having a program that could help bring students with similar disabilities together in numbers that wouldn't be possible in public schools.

"You could create a school for autism, or for deaf students or blind students,'' he said. "The discipline and self esteem of the students would improve. They end up in a school where they're more comfortable.''

But Tim Callahan, spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, said he doesn't believe private schools would be falling over themselves to compete for special-needs students.

"Special education students are very expensive and difficult to educate,'' he said. "Private schools are probably not going to be extending a big welcome mat to them.''

Sis Henry, executive director of the Georgia School Boards Association, also questioned whether private schools could be held accountable for services delivered to special-needs students.

A federal law enacted in 1975 that requires public schools to deliver a range of services to those students doesn't apply to private schools, she said.

"Parents of handicapped children need to understand that services are not guaranteed,'' she said.

Choice lauded

But Sharon Lang of Alpharetta, who has a 6-year-old daughter enrolled in the Forsyth County schools, said public schools aren't necessarily a guarantee of quality special education, either.

She said she hasn't been satisfied with the services being provided to her child, Madison, and would love to have the option of sending her to a private school.

"Any time a parent has a choice, it's great,'' she said. "It's better for competition and quality.''

Lang said she would also like to see the bill include an option allowing parents to transfer their special-needs children to another public school.

Johnson said that's one of two amendments he plans to introduce when the bill reaches the Senate Education Committee.

The other would limit the scholarships to state funds rather than including federal dollars.

Still, the major bone of contention the bill's opponents have is the "slippery slope'' argument that scholarships for special-needs children could lead to a more comprehensive voucher program that would cover all students.

Democrats repeatedly beat back Republican attempts to bring private school vouchers to Georgia during the years that the Democratic Party controlled the legislature.

Concerns over vouchers have also prompted Democrats to oppose a constitutional amendment proposed by Perdue allowing faith-based charities to receive state funds to deliver human services.

Although Democrats were in the minority in the last two legislative sessions, they had enough votes to deny the governor the two-thirds majorities he needed to pass the amendment.

"I feel this bill isn't a particularly sincere effort on behalf of special ed students but a well thought-out effort to get vouchers started in Georgia,'' Callahan said.

But Johnson said there aren't enough votes in the General Assembly to pass a broader vouchers bill, and he has no plans to introduce one.

"The only thing that will create momentum for a broader voucher bill is continued poor performance of public school systems,'' he said.

Auburn installs four storm warning sirens

AUBURN - Four storm warning sirens have been installed in the city of Auburn, and the noise they make is not expected to be soothing.

The devices will be tested at noon the first Wednesday of every month, Police Chief Fred Brown told the City Council Thursday.

"These things are going to be loud," he said. "We will have some complaints, but if a tornado comes roaring down, you'll be glad."

Under a program begun about a year ago, the sirens have now been placed on Wages and Carter roads, at Appalachee Church at Jones Road and on Kilcrease Road at Brown's Bridge Road.

In a formal outline of "2007 Short-term/Long-term Priorities for the Auburn Police Department," Brown touched on several matters including Neighborhood Watch video cameras and community forums for residents.

Officer Jason Lynch has been assigned the task of organizing the Neighborhood Watch program, he said.

"We want to expand and continue to foster these programs in the city," the chief said.

The city will also begin buying video cameras with new digital technology with the goal of replacing the existing ones in all 12 marked patrol cars under one system, Brown said.

Under the establishment of a quarterly "Community Forum," residents would be invited to discuss issues and police procedures openly with the chief.

Other police department plans include:

• Obtaining state certification through making sure that all policies and procedures now in place meet national standards, a status that would mean a rate reduction in Auburn's liability insurance, Brown said.

• Buying an Intoxilyzer 5000 machine to be used within the department for alcohol tests on anyone arrested.

• Hiring and training a drug investigator within the department's Criminal Investigation section who also would investigate vice and gaming violations.

• Requiring all mid-level supervisors to complete state-approved training at three levels.

• Providing professional development training for all civilian support staff, including customer service and/or office practice instruction,

• Finding and developing improved methods for recruiting officers and civilian staff through the Internet.

Wedding Announcements

Brand - Branch

Kimberly Alicia Brand and Thomas G. Branch Jr. were married on Dec. 8 at the home of Joe and Jalaine Brand in Dacula. The Rev. Chuck Christy officiated the ceremony.

Bobcats beat Hawks second straight time

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Matt Carroll scored 22 points and Charlotte shot a team-record 65 percent in a 104-85 victory over Atlanta on Saturday, the Bobcats' second win over the Hawks in two nights.

Gladiators build on first place with win

DULUTH - The Gwinnett Gladiators added some reinforcements, but it was Andy Contois and Brad Schell leading the charge against the Florida Everblades for the second straight night.

Man found shot dead at apartments

NORCROSS - A 19-year-old man was reportedly shot and killed Friday night.

Norcross girl survives near miss to win county bee

HOSCHTON - For a girl on stage with people hanging on to her every word - no, letter - Sonam Vashi was nonchalant.

Community Calendar

Send items for the Community Calendar to calendar@gwinnettdailypost.com or the Gwinnett Daily Post, P.O. Box 603, Lawrenceville, GA 30046. The fax number is 770-339-8081. Please include event name, address, phone number and cost. Deadline is two weeks prior to the event.

County begins search for company to spread wireless internet

LAWRENCEVILLE

This week, Gwinnett County will begin its search for providers to spread wireless Internet access across its 435 square miles.

Teachers' alliance seeks end to micromanagement

LAWRENCEVILLE - A newly formed teachers' alliance group in Gwinnett County is calling for an end to micromanagement within the school system, the group's executive director says.

Gwinnett figure skater to compete at 2007 U.S. Nationals

When most other kids his age are getting ready for school, Alex Zahradnicek, 15, is already hard at work at the IceForum Duluth. The Suwanee figure skater trains for hours every day.

Gwinnett Gab

Basketball kickoff to be held today

•LAWRENCEVILLE - GNLI Gwinnett will offer basketball games Friday nights and Saturday mornings.

Girl Scouts offer new Sugar-Free Little Brownies

An occasional look at what's new on the grocery store shelves.

County offers school bus application help

LAWRENCEVILLE - People who need help filling out the online applications for open school bus driver and bus monitor positions can visit the Gwinnett County Public Schools Transportation Department at 610 W. Crogan St., Lawrenceville, school system officials said.

Chamber shocked by Morris arrest

DULUTH - He enticed Hewlett-Packard to Gwinnett, the first company to take advantage of a new tax incentive program, and he lead the effort to envision the county's future.