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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

JCARC Out Of $$$$ 1/29/09

By Sid Riley

Local Social Services Organization Is Suffering From Funding Cuts
The local social services organization, JCARC, was started on a modest basis in 1974 with the mission to help the mentally disabled in our community lead a better, more productive and more fulfilling life. It was initially involved with national programs such as the "Special Olympics" and similarly directed programs.
Through the years the scope and costs of its programs has expanded dramatically. Some of the operating funds are generated through internal programs such as the JCARC nursery system, the JCARC woodworking shop, the JCARC yard work and cleaning crews, and other fund generating development-work programs. Other funding is realized through State social services funding. The organization also operates several group homes where clients are able to live in an assisted living environment.
The JCARC has grown and expanded steadily since 1974, reaching a high of sixty employees. It recently built a new operations building which is located in Marianna on Pennsylvania Avenue. This facility houses the horticulture programs and all mobile work crews. There are a total of 58 individuals with disabilities who report to work or for training at this facility each morning. The JCARC currently works with a total of 148 individuals in our community who have these types of disabilities.
The State of Florida is now experiencing severe funding problems and is in the process of budget trimming. The "social services" area is one of the areas where the cuts have been the deepest thus far. This has created the current plight for our local JCARC. Through reductions in the hours of client participation which the State is willing to pay JCARC for their services, and due to reductions in outside contract services for the JCARC cleaning work crews, the organization has already lost over $385,000 in funding.
Reportedly, the organization has been unable to meet its payroll obligations and benefit obligations earlier this month, causing their health insurance program to be cancelled, and employees to go without pay for several weeks. They utilize an employee leasing program for their payroll and benefit systems, and that leasing company has thus been forced to discontinue their participation with JCARC until cash flow can be restored.
The Jackson County Times contacted Program Director, Francis Henderson to find out more about this situation. She stated that their organization is rapidly taking steps to react to this problem. They have reduced their staff by 12, they are relocating the sign shop and woodworking shop to reduce lease costs, and are exploring several other cost cutting measures. Mrs. Henderson did state that the payroll will be brought to current status this week, and the health benefits have already been reinstated. She appeals to the community, civic organizations, and private individuals for help in this very worthwhile organization’s "Time Of Need".

Jackson County Deputy Kevin Wright Dies In Tragic Car Accident 1/29/09

By Sid Riley
Non Duty Related Single Vehicle Crash Occurs On River Road

This Sunday, Jackson County Sheriff Lou Roberts sadly announced the death of one of his senior deputies. Deputy Sheriff Kevin Wright (35) was apparently on his way home, traveling north on River Road near Sneads early Sunday morning in his personal vehicle when the vehicle left the roadway and overturned. He was ejected from the car as it overturned several times. He died as a result of injuries sustained in the incident.
"He was one of those who loved helping others, and he set an example for all who knew him. He will be greatly missed." Sheriff Roberts stated. Wright had been with the Department since 1998, serving as a School Resource Deputy on assignment at Jackson Alternative School and at Hope School on an "as needed basis", at the time of his death.
Deputy Wright was well liked by the students, and always presented a positive image. The flag at Jackson Alternative School will be flown at half mast in his honor until after the funeral. He will be given full departmental honors by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department at his funeral.
Kevin Wright was a 1991 graduate of Sneads High School. He leaves behind an eight year old daughter, Madeline Grace Wright, who is this year’s "Little Miss Sneads". His father, Jimmy Wright, is a Sneads City Councilman. The official obituary is presented in this issue. Our condolences go out to his family.

In Defense of Dozier 1/29/09

By Sid Riley

A Multitude of past employees rise to defend the honor of Dozier School.
The recent negative publicity about treatment of residents at Arthur G. Dozier School For boys (Formally Florida Industrial School for Boys) which has now spread to international proportions has generated outrage from many local residents who worked there during the era in question. They feel that they are the victims of a "witch hunt" motivated by media sensationalism and the personal greed of two former detainees of that reform school.
Since the school was opened in 1900 there have been hundreds of thousands of man hours expended by thousands of hard working employees who were dedicated to helping the wayward boys who were sent there. As a result of their work, thousands of Florida’s troubled youth were positively influenced. Many of these former employees have now come forward in defense of the administration of that period, and the environment which existed on the campus of Dozier at that time. This feature will present their side of the story.
We will be presenting this story in several parts in sequential issues. We are beginning with interviews conducted with the past Superintendent of Dozier School for Boys, Lenox Williams. He is retired and still resides in the Marianna area.
Sid Riley – " Please describe the environment at Dozier during the many years you worked at the campus."
Lenox Williams – "You have to realize that the campus conditions, the composition of the residents, established policies, public practices, laws, social norms, levels of staffing and funding, and many other related factors were all in a state of evolution during the 108 years Dozier has existed. You can not take the standards of today, the expectations of today, and the legalities of today and apply them to any past era. We had an open, unsecured campus with full public access. Our resident population consisted of everything from poor little eight year olds, who should not have been there to mean, cruel young adults that were capable of killing. We had over 900 detainees and a staff of only 143 employees. With what resources and funding we had available, our staff delivered more than what could have been expected. They had good food, loving care, good medical treatment, free education, sports programs, and fair treatment. Every cottage had a resident parent who lived upstairs, most of them with their families. Their children played with the residents, and a wholesome, family type relationship existed in many instances. "
Sid Riley – What do you mean when you say the "type" of resident changed?
Lenox Williams – "At the beginning of my term there the population consisted of many, many unfortunate young boys who were the products of broken homes, had no parents, and were ‘street children’ in our cities. They had been deemed as ‘incorrigible’ by the authorities, perhaps for some minor incident, and sentenced to Dozier. Many of them were so innocent and young you could not help loving them. A small percentage of the population was cruel criminals that were mixed into the population. Some were homosexual. Some had mental illnesses. There were no programs to help these individuals. Today, the mix has been segregated so that these various categories have their own places and treatment programs within the State systems."
The fencing was completed in 1982, and it then became a restricted campus. It was installed after the Jackson family incident occurred when three runaway youths were trying to steal a car at the Jackon home and ended up severely beating and injuring the father, son and mother who resided at the home."
Riley- Was it common for boys to escape and run?
Lenox Williams – "Sure, we had those that chose to run away. Often it was just before they were to be released and they did not want to return to their former lives. On other occasions it was because they were under pressure from other boys. Of course some wanted to go home because they were homesick. Sometimes the older boys would run just to go on a binge and to hopefully see some girls. The hardened criminals escaped at times in an effort to return to their criminal lifestyles. I think you will always have some of this occur anytime you try to restrict the movement of people."
Riley –
Was homosexuality and sexual abuse a problem?
Lenox Williams –" I am sure some homosexual incidents took place. I assure you that it never took place with the knowledge of my administration. It might have happened in a ‘boy on boy’ condition, but to my knowledge never occurred between an administrator and a boy. I did have a couple of employees through the years that I was suspicious of their motives, so I quickly had them removed from the staff."
Riley – Tell me about the infamous "white house".
Lenox Williams – " Sure, we whipped their butts if they misbehaved, broke the established rules, and deserved it. Giving a student a whipping was very legal, very accepted, and very anticipated. In my opinion, it had a positive effect on the boys and the campus. It was always done in a controlled, supervised manner, and did not constitute abuse in any way by the standards of that time. There was a policy which listed how many licks they got for various offenses. It was no different than the same type of punishment being administered in every school in the nation at that time. The descriptions being printed about the inhuman beatings of a hundred licks, and the types of paddles used has been greatly distorted by time and/or the media. The outlandish claims of using giant whips and causing blood to splatter are all false.
Riley – Do you believe any boys were ever killed and their bodies hidden?
Lenox Williams – "Absolute Hogwash Bull****! We had a boy drown in the swimming pool, another drown on a fishing trip, and one boy was killed by another boy and left in a drain culvert, but there certainly was nothing hidden or clandestine about those incidents. I do not believe anything such as hidden bodies and administration caused deaths ever happened throughout the entire 100 years of the school’s history, …I know for sure it never happened on my watch!"
" It is unfortunate that the grave yard was not properly recorded and maintained during past eras."
Riley – Do you have any opinions about the claims past residents are making which make Dozier appear to be a cruel, terrible place?
Lenox Williams – "These gentlemen who are making these claims were there before I came onto the scene, but I am very suspicious of their motives. I think their motives may be driven by hopes of books, movies, or a claim against the State. They openly stated they were inspired by the Anderson incident down in Bay County. I think the inspiration may have been generated by the $5,000,000 settlement our fine politicians chose to give that unfortunate family. Some of their statements and claims are so outlandish I can not give any credence to them."
"In my opinion it is all exaggerations which are motivated by hopes for making money on books, movies and other means from opportunities created by the sensationalism. Some unfortunate things happened over the 100 year history of the institution, but many, many positive, good things also happened. Anything that was bad happened because of the acts of an individual who was bad, not because of accepted practices. Remember, corporal punishment was legal, widely accepted, and was being used in almost every public and private school in the nation at the time these events were claimed to have occurred."
This story will continue next week.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Economic Crunch Hitting Home

By Sid Riley
Statistics From Court House Reveal Increasing Level of Struggle For Many Jackson County Citizens.

This week I conducted an investigation of the activities of several key departments within the court house in an effort to determine how much impact the downturn of our economy is having on households in Jackson County. The results were revealing.
Activities of Jackson County Clerk of the Courts –Mrs. Dale Guthrie
We did an analysis of several economic indicators including statistics on foreclosures, small claims, and evictions here in Jackson County. We attempted to compare activities in 2007 to what happened in 2008, and what is happening during the first few weeks of 2009.

2007 = 134 2008 = 197
This is a 47% increase in foreclosures in our county!
Even more significant is a look at the last three months of 2008, which was when the economic news really began to turn gloomy.
2007 Oct-Nov-Dec = 42
2008 Oct-Nov-Dec = 70
This is a whopping 67% increase.
Even more disconcerting is what has happened thus far in January. During January of 2008 for the entire month there were 20 foreclosures. Thus far in the first two weeks of this year there have already been 20, and at this writing, two weeks are left in January 2009.

Small Claims:
The number of small claims being processed is a measure of how many people are not able to pay their bills. Statistics provided by Beverly Hatcher and Julie Melvin who are on Mrs. Guthrie’s staff show that in 2008 there were a total of 1330 small claims for the year. During that year, 124 were processed in the month of January. For 2009, with only two weeks of the month having transpired, there have already been 152 small claims entered this month. This is a dramatic increase in bad debts. It appears that almost a third of these claims are entered by utilities, again indicating the financial plight of many families.
During 2008 a large increase in filing fees for evictions was implemented (From $80.00 increased to $287), but this did not slow the tide of eviction activity. Although exact statistics are not at hand, Julie Melvin stated that they have tripled in number during the past few months. Many unfortunate people can not pay their rent.
The bankruptcies statistics for our area was not readily available. However, on a national basis, for 2008 the bankruptcies were up an astounding 49% over 2007.
Activities of the Jackson County Tax Collector –
Mrs. Sherry Brown
The Tax Collector’s primary duty is to collect the property taxes for the county through administration of the tax roll. There are several statistics on revenue inflows which reflect the economic health of our area which can be gathered from this function.
We compared the inflow from early payments of tax bills in 2007 and 2008, using November and December. The inflow of funds during the two years was almost identical for these two months, with payments totaling approximately $13,500,000 each year. In conversation with Sherry Brown, she felt that those who pay early are essentially the same property owners each year, and those people would not differ much from year to year. She stated that the most revealing data would come at the end of the collections period on April 1, when the number of delinquencies is revealed. If the downturn in the economy has had an impact, it will be revealed when more people than normal are unable to pay their taxes.
Mrs. Brown did state that she felt the number of "bad checks" encountered where payments did not clear the banks was up this collection year. That is probably a sign of financial stress.
One statistic which does show a worsening economy is the significant number of additional tax deeds sold in 2008 over the number sold in 2007. At the 2007 tax sales there were 1885 total certificates. In 2008 this increased to 2372, an increase of 487 or +26%. Total monies collected in 2007 from tax certificates was $667,119 and in 2008 this increased to $987,833. This is a dollar increase of $300,714, or + 45%.
Another aspect of the tax certificate sales that is an indicator of economic changes is the fact that there were 14 less bidders present at the sale in 2008. Sherry Brown stated that the large banking representatives who normally come for these sales did not show up in 2008. This is probably due to the increased negative pressures that were occurring within the banking industry at that time. Since the large institutional buyers were not present, local buyers ended up with a larger percentage of the certificates, and the interest rates were 3% to 4% higher than normal. The largest tax certificate sold in 2008 was the Hatton House in Sneads, with a tax certificate of $38,781.
Activities of the Jackson County Property Appraiser – Mrs. Sharon Cox
From information garnered in this function we can evaluate what is happening to property values in our county. Data from sales activities again reflect that the situation worsened during the last quarter of 2008.
The change in the homestead exemption calculations as provided in the passage of Amendment One affected taxable values calculations. However, since this change did not impact the school taxes, we are using those values for our comparison of assessments.
2007 Schools Assessment for county = $1,485,147,618
2008 Schools Assessment for county = $1,553,399,285
(+ 68,251,667 or +4.6%)
New construction in the county created $41,289,496 of the increase.
Land Transaction Deeds:
The number of land transaction deeds filed provides an evaluation of the amount of real estate activity which occurred. This also reflects the demand for real estate.
Year Transactions
2006 3,823
2007 3,177
2008 2,615 (-18%)
Mrs. Cox stated it was the last quarter of 2008 when the slow down in transaction became acute. Also, during the last six months of the quarter a much larger percentage of the transactions on deeds were tax deeds or foreclosures rather than market activity.
She emphasized the fact that although the number of transactions has effectively fallen back to what are "pre-boom" levels, the pricing levels on sales has held. Right now it seems to take longer to sell a home, especially in the higher price ranges.
Compass Lake In the Hills:
Size and diversification in levels of development within this subdivision makes assessing values more difficult. It is hard to find consistency in pricing. From 2002 until 2006 there was essentially no change in valuations at Compass Lake in the Hills. In 2006 she was forced to increase the values. Generally, a vacant lot was valued at $16,000 which was still much lower than actual sales levels.
Values were again reviewed in 2007 and 2008. There were fewer sales, but pricing remained at higher levels and the assessment was thus increased to $16,500. In 2008, especially during the last quarter, sales have fallen. However, many of the sales during 2008 were at very good prices.
"I feel I may be able to reduce the Compass Lake interior lot values for he upcoming 2009 tax roll", Cox stated. "This year Jackson County is under an ‘in depth’ review by the State Department of Revenue. I do not expect any substantial increases in assessments in the 2009 tax rolls. I will have a better picture of the entire county in a few months. The assessment tax roll has to be submitted to the State by July 1."
Other Valuable Information:
· The 2008 tax roll did not include Green Circle Bio, which will have a significant positive effect on the 2009 tax roll.
· In 2008 the largest taxpayers based on taxable value were
§ Gulf Power
§ Embarq
§ West Florida Electric Coop
· The largest taxpayers on Real Property Values were
§ Wal-Mart
§ Arizona Chemical
§ Lowes Home Center
From this analysis it is safe to state that the national economic downturn is also being felt by many families in our county. The increases in the last quarter and especially in the first few weeks of 2009 reflect a worsening situation. Foreclosures, delinquent bills, evictions, increased tax deeds, and falling real estate transactions are all reflecting a growing plight for many. Additionally, Kenny Griffin with the Chipola Regional Workforce Board states that the number of applicants seeking jobs in our area is rising steadily.
Traditionally Jackson County is somewhat sheltered from economic downturns because of the high percentage of our labor force deriving income from federal, state, county, or municipal governments…or from the agricultural base in our local economy. Let us all pray those truths remain in effect.
Editors Note: Our thanks goes to these constitutional officer for their assistance in putting this analysis together.

Rubin Mercer, Local Businessman for 35 Years, Passes Away At Age 71 Founder and Owner of Mercer’s Paint and Body Shop

By Sid Riley

Born in Dellwood in 1937, raised on the family farm in Dellwood, attended Dellwood School, lifelong resident of Dellwood, and died at the family home in Dellwood. Rubin Mercer and his loving family have always formed an integral part of that beautiful community in the eastern part of our county. He will be missed by many.
His father and mother, Henry Grady Mercer and Queen Ester Williams-Mercer, owned a family farm on the outskirts of Dellwood. The Mears farm was located a short distance down the road, where a beautiful little girl named Frieda Mears lived and played. Rubin and Frieda played together as children, "I have known Rubin all of my life", Frieda states. "It was just natural that we would get married when we were old enough. I have always loved him."
When they married in 1957 they were little more than children. But they were deeply in love and were totally dedicated to each other. Thus began a loving, Christian relationship which endured for fifty-one years. Three years later their love spawned a son, Shane Mercer, who was born in 1960.
When Rubin left the family farm to go to work, his first real job was working on the Jim Woodruff Dam which was in the process of being built over at Chattahoochee. Next he went to work in the body shop at Peacock Motor Company in Marianna. Later he worked at McCaskill Ford, and finally Hopkins Pontiac in Marianna. This experience prepared him for starting his own business.
In 1973 he opened Mercer’s Paint and Body Shop, located on the West end of Marianna near the intersection of Lafayette Street and Penn Ave. Then in 1981, after several years of successful operations, he purchased land on the East end of Marianna, in a remote area on Highway 90. He built a building and moved into that location and has worked there for the past twenty-seven years. In 1978 he brought his son, Shane, into the business. He forced Shane to start at the bottom of the organization, doing the dirtiest, hardest work available. He wanted Shane to learn every aspect of the business. "Son, I realize I am a hard taskmaster, but some day you will be running this business and in order to earn the respect of your employees and your customers you must always be prepared to answer any question they may have…and to have the right answer," Rubin explained.
"Dad always put his priorities in order," Shane explained. "First there was the Lord, then his family, then his business. He was totally devoted to all three. Every morning he would come into work, turn on the equipment, start a pot of coffee, and go into a special area for his morning prayers." Rubin and Frieda have always been active members of the Cypress Community Church, where Rubin was Sunday School Superintendent. "He always attributed the success of the business to the benevolence of the Lord."
"He positively impacted the lives of many, many young people who he encountered through his church work or through employing them at the shop", Frieda stated. "He helped many people in need, quietly with only a few people knowing what he had done. He always stressed integrity and a Christian approach to his life and his business."
Shane Mercer will now take the reins of the family business, just as Rubin had intended. His teacher, mentor, and loving father Rubin Mercer has prepared him for the task. Meanwhile, citizens from throughout Jackson County are expressing their love and concern for the Mercer family.

Evidence of Prehistoric Brain Surgery in Jackson County

By Dale Cox
Mound Near Sneads produced Fascinating Evidence of Early Culture

The Mississippians were the ancestors of most of the Native American nations we recognize today. The Muscogee (Creek), Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw and Seminole people can all trace their history to the Mississippian culture. Some older groups such as the Yuchi and Hitchiti are believed to have descended from earlier people already living in the region when the Mississippians arrived.
From A.D. 900 until A.D. 1540, the Mississippians were the absolute masters of the Southeast. In Jackson County, the largest known early Mississippian settlement was the Curlee Site near Sneads. This site was occupied by around A.D. 1000 and consisted of a large village and mound on the banks of the Apalachicola River near where the U.S. 90 Bridge crosses between Chattahoochee and Sneads. Paired with a large seven mound ceremonial center across the river at Chattahoochee Landing, where the remains of a large platform mound can still be seen, the Curlee village was an important center supported by vast fields and a trading network that made use of the Chattahoochee, Flint and Apalachicola Rivers.
Although the mound has now been washed away by the river, the Curlee Site is one of the best researched Native American sites in Jackson County. Prior to the destruction of the site by erosion, archaeologists conducted numerous seasons of fieldwork at the site and learned a great deal about the lives of its inhabitants. They ground grain and baked bread, grew squash, melons and other crops, made both ceremonial and utility pottery, used tiny triangular points to tip their arrows and made tools from stone, wood and bone. They even made bone fishhooks for use in harvesting food from the Apalachicola River.
One of the most stunning aspects of the Curlee inhabitants, however, is that they seem to have developed the capability to perform brain surgery. A skull from the site and now in the possession of a private collector in Chattahoochee had a rectangular hole that had apparently been cut using stone tools. Most surprising, however, is the fact that the bone surrounding the hole had begun to refuse or grow back, confirming to anthropologists that the unfortunate individual had survived his primitive surgery.
Although scientists have speculated as to why inhabitants of Curlee would conduct brain surgery on a resident of their village, the best they can do is guess. Some have suggested that the individual may have suffered from migraine headaches or somehow been injured, but we may never know for sure.
At some point around 1250-1350 A.D., Curlee and other Mississippian sites along the Chattahoochee and Apalachicola Rivers in Jackson County were suddenly abandoned. No one is quite sure why, although it possibly had to do with the arrival of a new, militaristic group in western Jackson County – the Chacato.
Editor’s Note: This article is excerpted from Volume One of Dale Cox’s new book, The History of Jackson County, Florida. The book is available locally at Chipola River Book and Tea in Downtown Marianna and can also be purchased at

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Home Improvement" At the Sheriff’s Department 1/15/09

Significant Changes Underway Under New Administration
By Sid Riley
Lou Roberts has been the "High Sheriff" for Jackson County for ten weeks now. I made an appointment with him this week to see what changes he has implemented after the long, successful regime of John McDaniel.
I discovered that many changes have already been made, some are in the process of being implemented, and others are planned for the future. It is a steady, careful process where Lou is becoming completely familiar with an area of the operation, and then making what changes he feels are needed and justified.
Changes have already been implemented in organization, responsibilities, procedures, scheduling, administration, and a degree of modernization. It is an ongoing process.
Under the previous administration in the uniformed division of the department, the patrol staff was broken into four, 12 hour shift groups, with four Lieutenants, four Sergeants, and four Corporals divided equally with each shift. This has been modified into Two Groups (A & B), which work alternating 24 hour shifts.
Each group has one Lieutenant and two Sergeants. The Sergeants each work as a Watch Commander, working their portion of the group on a 12 hour shift. The Group Commander, the Lieutenant, works from mid-shift of Group A until mid-shift of Group B, thus providing his input into each shift. Deputies within a group can have their specific work hours juggled to provide heavier coverage during peak periods, or to help staff special events. This approach often reduces the need for overtime. A third Lieutenant works at the Sheriff’s facility receiving citizens filing charges, processing felon and sex offender registrations, and handling administration.
Physical Arrangements:
Within the facility Sheriff Roberts has rearranged the layout and assignment of offices to better fit his management philosophies. He likes to have his key team members located near his office. He has moved his office up to the front of the facility, into the office previously occupied by Chief Deputy John Dennis. Further down the hallway are the offices of the investigators. Around the corner from his office and next to his office you will find the offices for Chief Deputy Donnie Branch, and the two Captains.
The Uniformed Division has a centralized area near the center of the facility, where all offices and meeting areas for these functions are located. In the back, moved into a quieter, more private area Roberts has moved the administrative functions. The Drug Task Force and Special Projects Forces are also housed in a secure area near the back of the facility. The Communications Center is up front on the West side of the building.
Sheriff Roberts is in the process of increasing the level of modernization of various processes within the function. He has discontinued use of a Polaroid camera system for taking registration photos and booking mug shots. A digital photography system is now in use.
The deputies in the field complete required reports and administration on lap tops while in the field, down load these onto discs which are transported to the main facility. This reduces time lost in travel to and from the office for administration, and yields more patrol or field work time. They hope to eventually have systems in place that will allow direct transmission of this data.
Lou has begun to aggressively attack problems with the communications systems used by the patrol deputies and fire and rescue. There are several "dead spots" for communications in the county. He obtained the go-ahead from the County Commission this week for placing a booster for communications on the water tower in Sneads, which hopefully will eliminate one of the worse problem areas.
He has initiated a patrol vehicle leasing concept which will enable him to immediately replace ten aging units which are now in use. Approval for this new approach was approved by the Commissioners at this week’s meeting.
In the Communications and Dispatch Center, he hopes to eventually install the GPS monitoring system that allows tracking of every vehicle from the main office. This will aid dispatchers in directing response, and will improve management of activities.
A portion of the booking process was moved to Jackson Jail by McDaniel, but Roberts hopes to eventually have the entire process occur there. At present, the suspects still have to be first taken to the Sheriff’s Office for researching of computer information on outstanding warrants. Eventually, computer linkage could make it possible for this research to occur at the Jail.
When asked about the future of the helicopter unit, Roberts stated it is still under evaluation. "The final outcome will depend on budgeting in the future and what we determine to be the main priorities", Roberts stated.
Community Relations:
Sheriff Roberts plans to soon begin conducting community "town meetings" to encourage stronger ties between his function, citizens, and community leaders. Also, he plans to better organize use of the Auxiliary Force and the Junior Deputy Force. He plans to keep all forces out in the field as much as possible, and the public should see a more visible Sheriff’s function.
A lot has already been done, and much remains to be done. Lou Roberts is a very busy man these days….but he loves every minute of it.

Bill Hopkins Wins Prestigious Award 1/15/09

"Mark Out" Coffee Club Gives Special Recognition
By Sid Riley
The "Mark Out" coffee club is the oldest coffee group in Marianna, both in length of existence, and in average age of its members. Started in 1962 by five local businessmen, the club now regularly hosts nearly twenty when it meets each morning at 8:30 at the Gazebo Restaurant. Of those original charter members, only Dick Hinson and Hubert Mitchell are still regular attendees after all of those years.
Through the years the club has been interviewed by several national news organizations in order to get local opinions on issues and elections. These have included ABC, NBC, and NPR.
The name "mark out" comes from a special game which is played each morning to determine which attendee will have to buy the coffee. Accurate records are kept on how many cumulative cups of coffee each member pays for during the year.
At Friday’s meeting a special plaque was presented to Bill Hopkins, owner of Hopkins Pontiac GMC, for being the largest club benefactor for 2008. During last year Bill treated the membership to a near record 374 cups of delicious coffee. Thanks Bill, Keep up the good work!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Burglary and Grand Theft Auto- 1/09/09

On January 9, 2009, at approximately 8:20 AM, the Jackson County Sheriff's responded to two reported business burglaries, one was at 231 Tire and Auto located at 856 Hwy 231, Alford and the second was at S & M Auto Sales ar 860 Hwy 90 231 Alford, Fl. Both of these businesses are located approximately 2 miles north of the Bay County line. Sometime during the evening hours of January 8 or the early hours of January 9, 2009, unknown individuals burglarized both of the businesses by pring open the doors of the offices and mechanic shop.
S & M Auto Sales reported that they were missing a 1999 Ford F350, four door, dually truck, gold in color. The vehicle at the time it was stolen did not have a tag displayed ont he truck. The owner also reported that a dealer tag that was displayed on another vehicle had been stolen also. The tag number reported stoeln was Florida tag MIF88R. This tag is registered to S & M Auto Sales and is possibly being used on the stolen truck.
231 Tire and Auto reported that a Honda CR125 Dirt Bike, Orange in color, had been stolen from their business. Also taken from the business was an assortment of Snap On, Craftsmen and Mac tools. These tools include air wrenches, sockets, wrenches and screwdrivers. The tools are engraved with the letters "JAC". The total value of the tools stolen is approximately $10,000.
Anyone with information regarding these crimes is asked to contact the Jackson County Sheriff's Office at 850-482-9624 or the Jackson County Crime Stoppers at (850)526-5000.
A photograph of the stolen truc is available upon request.

Fugitive from Justice- State of Georgia 1-9-09

On Friday, January 10, 2009, Investigators with the Jackson County Sheriff's Office received information from Decatur County Sheriff's Deputies that a former Marianna Native, Raymond Douglas French, had active warrants out for his arrests.
Decatur County Deputies advised that they had active warrants issued for two counts of Aggravated Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer and one count of Fleeing and Eluding a Police Officer. Decatur County Deputies also advised that French was possibly armed with a 9mm handgun and was suicidal. French was last seen wearing a camo jacket and driving a 1993 Chevy 1500 pick-up truck, possibly maroon and silver in color. French was last seen traveling in the direction of Quincy, Florida on Georgia Highway 302.
At approx. 11:06 AM, Investigators with the Jackson County Sheriff's Office observed French's vehicle traveling west on Jackson Street in the city limits of Marianna. Investigators with the Jackson County Sheriff's Office and Troopers with the Florida Highway Patrol Contraband Interdiction Program were able to stop French's vehicle on Hwy 90 near Cypress, Florida. French was taken into custody without incident. French was later taken to the Jackson County Correctional Facility to await extradition.
Raymond French's arrest was successful due to the working relationship and cooperation of the Jackson County Sheriff's Office with the Troopers of the Florida Highway Patrol Contraband Interdiction Unit.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Jackson Hospital Birthplace of the NEW YEAR’S BABY

Kevin and Carla Barton of Blountstown are the proud parents of Remington Luke Barton, Jackson and Calhoun Counties’ New Year’s 2009 Baby. Master Barton at 8 pounds and 3 ounces was born 4:22am on Thursday, January 1, 2009 at Jackson Hospital, 4250 Hospital Drive, Marianna.
Master Barton, who will be called by his middle name Luke, is a 5th generation on the Williams and Hansford side of the family and 4th generation on the Barton’s.
Paternal Grandparents are Mike & Janet Barton. Maternal Grandparents are Angel Williams, and James & Lisa Chafin.
The Hospital had several contenders for the New Year’s Baby designation. Throughout each year, Jackson Hospital delivers about 650 babies.
Luke joins big brother Hunter, who is 3 years old. The brothers complete the Barton family for now.
Kevin Barton works as a Correctional Officer for the State of Florida in Blountstown. Carla Barton is a licensed Cosmetologist with Bliss Salon, Marianna.
Maternal Care Nurse Manager Christina Conrad, BSN, RN, on behalf of Maternal Care Co-Manager Connie Swearingen, BSN, RN, and the entire Maternal Care Nursing Unit and, The Hospital’s Board of Trustees, Administration and Staff of Jackson Hospital, presented the parents with a New Year’s Baby Gift basket containing a case each of diapers, formula and baby wipes. Also included was a reusable baby bag containing American Baby magazine, a baby calendar, and a $50 gift card for baby supplies.
Superior Bank encourages and promotes saving for the future. As part of the Bank’s mission, they provide the savings seed money for the County’s New Year’s Baby. Tanya Tableriou, Branch Manager, Superior Bank, and also third cousin to the New Year’s baby, presented the parents with a $50 Savings Bond in Luke’s name. Superior Bank is the principal subsidiary of Superior Bancorp (NASDAQ: SUPR).
Jackson Hospital, Marianna, is the region’s only community hospital which offers maternal care and labor & delivery services. The hospital is a two-time, consecutive year winner of the coveted Thompson Top 100 HealthCare Improvement award; the only rural hospital in Florida to achieve such designation.
Jackson Hospital’s mission is to provide the highest quality healthcare to those it serves, enhancing life in a compassionate environment. The hospital counts Jackson County and neighboring counties as its service area.
If you would like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with Mrs. Christina Conrad, Maternal Care Co-Manager, please call Rosie at 850/718-2696 or email her at

Note Put Inside Bottle In Chipola River Returns To Writer 42 Years Later

Creshull Harrison III put note in coke bottle while cub scout
By Sid Riley
"What goes around, comes around". It even comes around after sitting in the mud on the bottom of the Chipola River for 42 years. Recently a diver from Dothan named David Sumner was looking for relics in the bottom of the Chipola about three hundred yards downstream from the Yancy Bridge, when he encountered a crusty, old coke bottle with the old style raised lettering imbedded in the mud. He pulled the bottle up to examine it and observed what appeared to be a slip of paper inside the bottle.
The bottle was unsealed, but the opening was so full of mud he had to break the bottle to get to the piece of paper. Amazingly, although exposed to water for years, the writing on the sheet of paper was still very clear and legible. It was a note written by cub scout Cresh Harrison III in 1966, when his cub pack #2 was on an excursion at Yancy Bridge. As a project, all eight scouts wrote a note, corked it inside a coke bottle and turned the bottle loose to bob away in the river current, heading towards Apalachicola.
Sumner took the note with him when he returned to Dothan that evening. He contacted his father, who works as a private investigator in Louisiana, and described the discovery to him. After a little detective work, he located Cresh Harrison II in the Jackson County telephone directory. He left is number with the senior Harrison, expecting a call from the one time scout within a few days.
Unfortunately, the telephone number was lost before a responding call could be made, and time passed. Then after about a month, Greg Lamb of Marianna, who is also a diver, encountered a diving friend, David Sumner while shopping in Dothan. Sumner asked Lamb if he knew Cresh Harrison, and related the story of the bottle to him. Upon returning to Marianna, Lamb contacted Harrison and gave him Sumner’s e-mail address.
Thus contact was finally made. Within a few days the note arrived at Cresh’s real estate office, carefully folded inside a plastic bag. Cresh has vague memories of the scouting adventure, but can not remember writing the note. However, one of his school friends who was also along on the trip clearly remembers the group writing the notes and releasing the bottles.
So the Chipola River has given up another hidden memory. Are the other seven bottles and their messages still hidden somewhere on the river’s bottom? Time will tell…..

Four More Years!... Four More Years! 1/8/09

Judge Hatcher Swears In Our Constitutional Officers
By Sid Riley
In a packed court room on Tuesday morning, Judge Woodrow Hatcher officially swore in five of our six constitutional officers for another four year term of office. The incoming Superintendent of Schools, Lee Miller was sworn in by Judge Bill Wright on November 18.
Taking the oath of office at this event were Clerk of Courts, Dale Guthrie; Tax Collector, Sherry Brown; Property Appraiser, Sharon Cox; Supervisor of Elections, Sylvia Stephens; and Sheriff, Louis Roberts. Many of the inductees brought special family bibles for use in the ceremony, and had loving family members with them as they recited their oath. Thus, all of the Constitutional Officer positions are filled, office staffs are ready, and our county government is ready for action.
To all office holders we say CONGRATULATIONS! Good luck, and we appreciate your service.