Top News Stories for the year 10-6

Published 5:24 pm Tuesday, December 27, 2016

10. Governments consolidate services to save money

Over the past year, the City of Bainbridge and Decatur County voted to consolidate two government offices and began working on a plan that will consolidate both entities health insurance for their employees.

In a 5-1 vote, the Decatur County Board of Commissioners chose to consolidate the county’s planning department with the City of Bainbridge at its meeting in January. The consolidation of these offices will streamline the construction process regardless of if a project is in the city or the county.

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At the February meeting of the Memorial Hospital and Manor Authority, the board gave approval to further pursue the effort to consolidate employee health coverage with the City of Bainbridge and Decatur County Commission.

The consolidation of healthcare would, in theory, lead to better rates since it would create a larger number of patients for the hospital.

In May, the two governments joined animal control divisions, with the city responsible for employing a full-time worker and the county a part-time worker. Decatur County voted in November to be responsible for a full-time employee, too, making animal control easier throughout the area.

9. City tries new water bill revenue system, generates $70,000

After reconfiguring the way residents of Bainbridge get charged on their water bills over the summer, the city’s experiment paid off as it saw a large increase in revenue from the reconfiguration.

The city raised the per 1,000-gallon fee for sewer to $1.97, while keeping the per 1,000-gallon fee for water the same at $1.70.  The city also split the base fee into separate water and sewer fees. The base fee for water is now $12.22 and the base fee for sewer is now $12.62 in the proposed budget. Residents that use both services currently pay a monthly base fee of $24.84.

When not adjusted for usage the average bill rose from $43.73 last October to $57.27 this year, an increase of $13.54.

The city generated $71,090 in extra revenue this October when compared to October 2015. With the extra money, the city plans to take on various projects that they have had on their agenda for awhile.

With a more stable revenue system in place, the city is also working to develop a more forward thinking approach that will allow the council to look ahead and begin planning projects for the next 36 months instead of only 12 as they currently do.

8. Money Tree lawsuit reaches verdict in federal court

The bankruptcy trial for Money Tree, Inc., began Oct. 5. at the Federal Courthouse in Albany.

The three-week trial came to an end with the investors being awarded around $3 million. Investors sued The Money Tree and argued the lending group misdirected money to its owners, among other companies, before declaring bankruptcy in 2010.

The lawsuit sought the recovery of numerous transfers from the Money Tree to members of the Martin Family, businesses and trusts controlled by the Martin family and company president Bradley Bellville.

On Thursday, Oct. 13, Judge W. Louis Sands issued an order that disallowed the reference to Money Tree or any other of the entities related to it as a Ponzi scheme.

According to law precedents, a Ponzie scheme “usually conducts little to no legitimate business operations,” according to Sands’ order. Sands wrote that while there is record evidence that some of The Money Tree storefronts were unsuccessful, there is also evidence that others were successful and legitimate operation business entities.

For the remainder of trial, all mentions or references to Money Tree as a Ponzi scheme was prohibited by counsel, parties and witnesses in the presence of the jury.

Judge Sands issued an order for attorneys on both sides to interpret what the verdict meant. An amount to pay the investors has not yet been finalized.

7. BPS makes 30 arrests via Operation “Crack” Down

On Aug. 1, Bainbridge Public Safety, with help from Georgia State Patrol and the Department of Community Supervision, instigated the final stage of Operation “Crack” Down. The operation resulted in the arrest of 30 individuals on a variety of charges related to the sale of illegal narcotics.

“We made undercover narcotics purchases for three months and then we done some other things and then we finally decided it was time to go ahead and make a move and get all these people picked up or identified and picked up,” BPS investigator Chris Jordan said.

The goal of the operation was to help combat the growing drug problem within the city limits. In addition to the arrests, BPS was able to seize a large quantity of drugs, which will further help to combat the drug problem according to Jordan.

The three-month operation required a considerable amount of work from BPS officers as they worked to coordinate buys and identify the suspects. GSP and the Department of Community Supervision provided additional resources during the operation including manpower to assist with the arrests on Monday morning.

BPS continues working to arrest the remaining suspects in Operation “Crack” Down.

6. Flames on the Flint Cook Off grows bigger, hands out $50,000 in prize money

Shake ‘N Bake BBQ team members Tim Scheer and Joe Musinger held their 2016 Flames on the Flint BBQ Cook Off Grand Champion trophy and belt in front of 94 other teams at the awards ceremony finale in March at the Earle May Boat Basin.

Hailing from just west of St. Louis, Missouri, Scheer and Musinger woke up at 3 a.m. the day before the cook off and drove 12 hours straight to Bainbridge to compete in the third annual event.

Shake ‘N Bake BBQ turned in perfect-scoring ribs to the judges, hoisting them high enough in the rankings to snag the No. 1 spot and leave with the $10,000 prize.

A total of $50,000 was handed out to barbecue competitors, $7,000 of which went to the reserve grand champion team of Yes, Dear BBQ.

Cook Off Chairman Ronnie Godwin said the turnout was awesome. More teams than ever flocked to the Earle May Boat Basin to heat up their grills, traditional smokers, or in Shake ‘N Bake’s case, drum smokers.

In addition to the main competition March 11-12, there was a backyard division with its own winners for local teams to enter into. Teams don’t have to be certified by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, but certified KCBS judges will judge their barbecue.