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Lee Commission discusses T-SPLOST projects

LEESBURG — Members of the Lee County Road Committee discussed several potential transportation-special purpose local option sales tax projects during a meeting Tuesday.

The meeting was held an hour before the regularly scheduled Lee County Commission meeting.

“(The T-SPLOST) money is starting to come in, and it looks like about $200,000 a month,” District 2 Commissioner Luke Singletary said. “We’re allocating those funds as they come in to different road projects, whether it be resurfacing or whether that be paving new roads.”

The board discussed the possibility of redesigning Forrester Parkway to include a bike path, and while a decision was not made on the project, the board did determine that the project would cost considerably more and might not be necessary due to the proximity of the nearby Rails to Trails project that runs through.

“We’ll have to talk about it a little bit and figure out which way the commission wants to go, but it is going to be a substantial increase to add a bike path,” Singletary said.

The commission also gave an update on several resurfacing and road paving projects.

The county has committed to paving Taylor Street, Baker Street, Long Dirt Road, Sandy Beach Road and Uncle Jimmy’s Lane, all of which are rock-based roads already.

The county is also having EMC Engineering Services Inc. redesign Mathis Lane, Ackers Circle and Bruner Lane. All three roads are short dirt roads in the southern part of the county.

“(Paving these roads) will ease the burdens of our road maintenance crews to scrape the dirt roads because they drive all the way over there to scrape (them),” Singletary said. “They would spend a day or two over there scraping these roads. Now, we can eliminate that by paving them, and they can spend more time in the north part of the county where there are more dirt roads.”

The road committee also looked at and discussed:

♦ The revisions to the DARTS 2045 MTP project list;

♦ The 2020 Local Maintenance & Improvement Grant program application;

♦ A proposal from Lanier Engineering Inc. for professional land surveying services for drainage improvements to the Liberty Pond storm water retention area.

The commission decided that while looking at future paving and resurfacing projects, for which several citizens made suggestions in the public forum that was part of the meeting, each commissioner will bring in potential projects from his district as possible options.

Shooters can have a blast at Flint Skeet and Trap Club

ALBANY — Watching Ed Stamper and Nick Vagiano making the rounds, blasting clay pigeons, it’s easy to see why sporting clays is referred to as “golf with a shotgun.”

The two made the rounds of 12 stations at Flint Skeet and Trap Club on Wednesday morning as the clay targets were hurled into the air by the two stations at each stop.

Along the way there were several stations that rolled the targets along the ground to simulate rabbits that gave the longtime shooters a challenge as the discs wobbled and bounced and usually escaped safely into the brush unharmed.

“I never saw a clay target until someone took me to a course in Western New York,” said Vagiano, a native of that state who now lives in Americus. “They said you get to shoot at 100 targets instead of three pheasants. I said ‘Let’s go.’”

Skeet and trap shooters are regimented, and there is no banter as they move the 20 feet from station to station to take their five shots, Stamper said. But the sporting clays area is different.

“We like sporting clays because you can talk; we can have a good time,” Vagiano said.

At the club, the sporting clays stations are spread over several acres of woodland, with the stations that toss the moving targets flinging them from odd angles, whereas skeet and trap are lobbed in a set pattern for each station.

“You see in sporting clays people trying to help each other,” Stamper said. “You won’t see that with skeet.”

The club has a long history in the county, formed sometime in the 1920s. It was located next to the former Radium Springs Casino and was headquartered in a log building until it moved to its current location at 1319 Lily Pond Road.

“It moved here from Radium Springs in 1964,” said Stamper, who joined in 2001, became manager a year later and now serves as president and manager.

It has been the site of at least one state championship and competitions among shooters from Alabama, Florida and Georgia. It is the practice site for the Worth County 4-H Club team that won the state and national championships in 2018 and for several Georgia Independent School Association teams.

Sporting clays has gained in popularity at the course, and since the club’s course opened in 2013 it has hosted fundraisers to assist organizations, including Ronald McDonald House. Three other benefits are scheduled through Nov. 9.

“We would be glad to put on charity shoots for anybody who wants to put them on,” said Stamper, who can be contacted at (229) 395-4778 about holding an event or joining the club.

Annual membership is $125. Members get a break on the costs of shooting, but the course is open to the public from 2 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays and Sundays and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. The club also hosts corporate events.

Visitors should bring a 20- or 12-gauge shotgun. Shells are for sale at the club.

Getting into clays shooting is relatively inexpensive, with a suitable shotgun starting at $250, Vagiano said.

“I’m saying for $400 or $500 you can get into this sport and have a good time,” he said.

Stamper said people from all walks of life enjoy the club.

“We get working-class people, we get doctors and lawyers, plantation owners, people who work at plantations,” the owner/manager said. “We get a lot of dove shooters come in a month or so before dove season.”

Phoebe Board approves community health needs assessment
Birth outcomes, diabetes, behavioral health and cancer among listed priorities

ALBANY — The Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital Board of Directors approved on Wednesday a community needs health assessment for 2020-22.

In exchange for a benefit of the broad public interest, a nonprofit hospital completes a community needs assessment for tax-exempt donations, federal tax exemptions, state and local tax exemptions and tax-free bonds.

For the hospital, the priorities of birth outcomes and reproductive responsibility, diabetes management and prevention, behavioral health and addictive disease advocacy, and cancer prevention and treatment were the needs accepted.

Lori Jenkins, director of strategy and planning at Phoebe, said the birth outcomes and diabetes priorities were carried over from the previous assessment, and coalitions are in place to address them. For cancer, she said the biggest concern is cervical cancer.

Jenkins said a significant part of the problem with cervical cancer is compliance with recommendations for the human papillomavirus vaccine.

“We are off the range (for cervical cancer) compared to other U.S. counties, and it is getting higher,” she said.

The health needs assessment is a community-involved process to identify and analyze health needs and assets to prioritize, plan and act. After the assessment is completed, an implementation strategy, the organization’s plan for addressing the prioritized needs and problems in the assessment, is created.

The process for the 2020-22 assessment, which has involved identifying and collecting data, interpreting that data and defining and validating priorities, began last year. The latest assessment includes the building of the SocioNeeds Index by HCI-Conduent, which highlights the zip codes with socioeconomic need that is in turn correlated with preventable hospitalizations and premature death, as well as input from public health officials and Horizons Community Solutions.

Among the 500 largest cities tracked as part of the 500 Cities Project for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Wood Foundation and the CDC Foundation, Albany ranked 486.

Committees from Phoebe, as well as its sister hospitals in Sylvester and Americus, are presenting their assessments to their respective hospital boards for approval. An implementation is now expected to be formulated for the Albany hospital, which its board will consider in November.

ABAC’s Destination Ag impacts record number of students in third year

TIFTON — The buzz of children’s excited voices easily matched that of the bees inside the observation hive at the Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village.

The observation beehive was one of the new additions to the Destination Ag program at the museum during the 2018-19 year. It was also one of the favorite stations for the record 10,980 students who participated in the program in its third year.

“Destination Ag had a great year,” Museum Director Garrett Boone said. “We have the nuts and bolts of the program in place, and now we’re concentrating on minute details that will provide the best possible fun, educational experience.”

Destination Ag allows school children an up-close and personal look at where their food, fiber and shelter originate. This year, students from school systems in Brooks, Irwin and Lowndes counties, as well as the Valdosta city school system, participated in the program for the first time. They joined pre-K through third-grade students from Tift, Colquitt, Cook and Berrien counties.

“It is vitally important to engage students with the importance of agriculture and natural resources at an early age,” Boone said. “Along with our partners, we are working hard to provide opportunities to increase the awareness on the critical role that agriculture and natural resources play in our everyday lives — from the food we eat, to the clothes we wear, to the house we live in.”

Thanks to an initial gift of $250,000 from the Harley Langdale Jr. Foundation to the ABAC Foundation, Destination Ag began educating students in September 2016. In 2017, the Langdale Foundation committed $1 million over the next four years to continue the program. The generosity of the foundation allows the museum to provide Destination Ag programming at no cost to visiting students.

“Industry partners are the cornerstones of Destination Ag,” Boone said. “We can’t say thank you enough to the Harley Langdale Jr. Foundation and our other partners who make this program possible.”

This year, the program’s partner additions included the Georgia Peanut Commission, the Georgia Pecan Growers Association, the Blueberry Growers Association, the Georgia Peach Council, Stripling’s General Store and Pearson Farm.

Sixteen ABAC students taught at Destination Ag learning stations, adjusting their museum workload around their own ABAC classes.

“According to our surveys, the attitude toward agriculture is much more positive after the students participate in Destination Ag,” Boone said. “Besides our students on-site, we had 3,500 pre-K through 12th-grade students participate in our off-site outreach programs.”

Destination Ag also added a pollinator garden, two Shetliot sheep, two new dairy goats, and Georgia’s state reptile, a gopher tortoise, this year.

“Our goal is to build upon what the students learn each year,” Boone said. “For some of these students, this was their third year attending the program. We get a little more in-depth as the students get older, and we increase their time at the various learning stations.”

Signage for the poultry, beef and dairy industries was added this year. It proved to be particularly popular with the 1,500 adults who attended Destination Ag with the children.

“One of the things we realized early on was that there was a secondary audience composed of the adults who came with the children,” Boone said. “The adults really enjoyed seeing all the facts and figures on the industries that they utilize every day but often don’t really think about.”

Boone said fourth graders from the participating counties will be added to Destination Ag when the new school year begins. He said students from Turner County will also immerse themselves in the Destination Ag experience for the first time, elevating the expected number of children affected by the program to more than 21,000 for the 2019-20 year.

“We intend to make Destination Ag the premier ag literacy program in the country,” Boone said.