History Festival hits $1 million mark

ATLANTA — The Georgia Historical Society announced Monday that the 2016 Georgia History Festival set a new record by raising more than $1 million for K-12 educational programs in the state.

“We are grateful to our 2016 Georgia History Festival co-chairs Alice Jepson and Bill Jones III, and the entire committee who worked so tirelessly to achieve this milestone,” said Dr. W. Todd Groce, president/CEO of the Georgia Historical Society. “It is because of their hard work and our corporate sponsors who support the Georgia History Festival each year that we will continue to bring exceptional Georgia history based educational programs to future generations.”

In September, the Georgia History Festival begins public programs, exhibits, in-school events and educational resources to bring history to life for students and to encourage Georgians to explore the state’s history. The festival culminates in February, the founding month of the Georgia colony, with Founding City events like the Colonial Faire and Muster living history program held at Wormsloe State Historic Site, Savannah’s Georgia Day Parade and the annual Trustees Gala.

In conjunction with the Governor’s Office, the Georgia Historical Society re-established the Georgia Trustees in 2009 to recognize Georgians whose accomplishments and community service reflect the highest ideals of the original Georgia Trustees, a governing body chartered and appointed by King George II of England in 1732.

The 2016 Trustees Gala will feature Gov. Nathan Deal’s induction of Muhtar Kent, board chair/CEO of the Coca-Cola Company, and James H. Blanchard, retired board chair/CEO of Synovus as the newest Georgia Trustees.

Aging services director appointed

ATLANTA — Abby Cox will become director of the Division of Aging Services for the Georgia Department of Human Services in April, DHS Commissioner Robyn A. Crittenden announced Monday.

Cox, administrative director for the Georgia Gerontology Society, will succeed Dr. James Bulot, who has served as division director for six years. Bulot will leave his post at the end of February to work in the private sector, DHS officials said.

“Dr. Bulot has been integral in bringing aging issues to the forefront of our state and is widely renowned for his work to help our seniors age with dignity and grace,” Crittenden said.

Cox, who will join the agency April 1, has a master’s in gerontology from the University of Georgia and is a former aging services coordinator for the Georgia Council on Aging. Crittenden said Cox has “voluminous experience in gerontology and in advocating for issues that allow Georgia’s aging population to age with dignity and in a place of their choosing.”

Mistrial prevents murder retrial

ATLANTA — A Fulton County Superior Court judge’s decision to call a mistrial in a murder case means a man charged with stabbing a 75-year-old woman to death in 2013 cannot be retried for murder, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled Monday in a unanimous opinion.

Geary Otis was in indicted in Fulton County in 2014 for the slaying of Mary Oliver, 75, and aggravated assault for the non-fatal stabbing of Emmanuel Surry, as well as two counts of knife possession during the commission of a felony. When the defense lawyer said in her opening statements to the jury at the April 2014 trial that Otis would pursue a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity without calling an expert witnesses, prosecutors objected because they had not been previously notified of that, according to a summary from the state high court.

Prosecutors asked for a three-day postponement to locate lay witnesses to refute the defense claim, but Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville stated he was unsure that would give prosecutors enough time and that he had “other plans” for the following week. Rather than continue the trial, the judge, who said he didn’t want to hold over the jurys, declared a mistrial without a request from either side and suggested the trial could be placed back on the calendar in less than two weeks.

Otis’ attorney filed against a retrial, saying it constituted double jeopardy, which she appealed to the Supreme Court after the trial judge denied the motion. The Supreme Court agreed that since the defense did not violate the Uniform Superior Court Rules, the mistrial was in error, the high court ruled. “The result is that Otis cannot be retried for the murder and other crimes he is alleged to have committed,” the opinion stated.

CSP program looks to add acreage

ATLANTA — Conservation officials say that that $4.8 million in funding is available for agricultural producers in Georgia through the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). USDA’s largest conservation program, officials with the agency’s Natural Resources Conservation Service plan to add about 10 million acres CSP national rolls during Fiscal Year 2016, which ends Oct. 1.

“As Secretary (Tom) Vilsack said, CSP has become one of our most popular programs with producers because of its ability to get real results for those who are looking to take their conservation efforts to the next level,” State Conservationist Terrance O. Rudolph said. “So whether a producer is focusing on improving their soil health, improving their water resources for them, the wildlife, or just being a good neighbor, CSP is helping to provide benefits for all through innovative management and technologies. We hope our producers will seize this opportunity.”

NRCS accepts applications for CSP throughout the year, but producers should submit applications by March 31 to USDA service centers to ensure they are considered for enrollment in FY 2016. Participants with existing CSP contracts that will expire Dec. 31 have the option to renew their contracts for an additional five years if they agree to adopt additional activities to achieve higher levels of conservation on their lands. Applications to renew also are due by March 31.

NRCS also makes CSP available to producers as an additional opportunity to participate in regional landscape-level conservation efforts, including the Longleaf Pine Initiative. Funding is available for more than 100 kinds of enhancements in Georgia.

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