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Monday, January 3, Eyewitness News at 11

11:28 PM, Jan 3, 2011   |    comments
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 <<opening for eyewitness news at eleven>>
GOOD EVENING AND THANKS FOR JOINING US... I'M LEAH JOHNSON.
    AND I'M FRANK MALLOY.
  THIS IS EYEWITNESS NEWS AT 11.

    WARNER ROBINS ATTORNEY JIM ELLIOTT IS NO LONGER EMPLOYED BY THE CITY.
    COUNCIL VOTED FOUR TO TWO MONDAY NIGHT NOT TO RENEW ELLIOTT'S CONTRACT.... AFTER 26 YEARS WITH THE CITY.
    LORRA LYNCH-JONES WAS AT THE MEETING AND JOINS US NOW.
    LORRA WHY DID THEY MAKE THE DECISION?
    THE FOUR COUNCILMEN WHO VOTED AGAINST RENEWING ELLIOTT'S CONTRACT... DARON LEE.. PAUL SHEALY.. MIKE DALEY AND BOB WILBANKS... WOULD NOT GIVE SPECIFIC REASONS.
    BUT SAID THEY DIDN'T FEEL ELLIOTT REPRESENTED THE MAYOR AND COUNCIL EQUALLY OVER THE PAST YEAR.
    MAYOR CHUCK SHAHEEN DISAGREED... CALLING THE DECISION "A DISGRACE."
<<nats-
MAYOR CHUCK SHAHEEN SAID HE DIDN'T SEE IT COMING....
Mayor Chuck Shaheen: "They had no respect to tell the mayor or the other two councilmen."
BUT WHEN HE CALLED FOR THE VOTE TO RENEW CITY ATTORNEY JIM ELLIOTT'S CONTRACT.. ONLY THE HANDS OF JOHN WILLIAMS AND TOM SIMMS JUNIOR... WENT UP.
Mayor Chuck Shaheen: "Daley, Shealy, Wilbanks, Lee. Taking this city, making this a council run city. They're an embarrassment. You can quote me on that."
Bob Wilbanks: "I think it's outrageous when any public official uses his chair to berate other members of the body."
BOB WILBANKS JOINED PAUL SHEALY IN DEFENDING THE DECISION... SAYING DURING THE PAST YEAR... ELLIOTT REPRESENTED THE MAYOR'S INTERESTS... BUT NOT ALWAYS COUNCILS.
Paul Shealy: "Im after an attorney that will go to court with me against of any one of you or this man sitting up here, that's supposed to be your mayor."
SHEALY SAID ELLIOTT "STRADDLED THE LINE".. INSTEAD OF TAKING A STAND ON LEGAL MATTERS... BUT DIDN'T GO INTO DETAIL.
Bob Wilbanks: "I'd say council members have their own ideas and opinions about how things transgressed this year, what we gone done, what we didn't get done, what we need to do in the future and how were going to do that."
Tom Simms Junior: "What's on their mind in the future is something their crystal ball should tell them. I guess I'm not certain where they're getting this information from. I don't agree with it. It's wrong."
nats- "I don't even know why you're on council."
BARBS FROM SHAHEEN TOWARD COUNCIL CONTINUED... AFTER THE FINAL GAVEL...
THE MAYOR SAYING IT'S NOT WHAT HE EXPECTED FOR THE START OF THE NEW YEAR.
Chuck Shaheen: "(40:24) "I don't understand what's wrong with this city. I just don't understand."
>>    LAST YEAR... ELLIOTT PAID 500 DOLLARS OUT OF HIS OWN POCKET... FOR A CITY LEGAL BILL THAT EXCEEDED THE MAYOR'S AUTHORIZED SPENDING LIMITS.
    THAT WAS TO HELP PAY 12-THOUSAND DOLLARS IN LEGAL FEES OWED TO AN ATLANTA ATTORNEY THAT INVESTIGATED A POLICE OFFICER'S HARRASMMENT COMPLAINTS.
    JIM ELLIOTT LEFT IMMEDIATLY AFTER THE MEETING.
    WE TRIED TO REACH HIM... BUT OUR CALL WASN'T RETURNED.
    COUNCIL DID NOT NAME A NEW CITY ATTORNEY... BUT BOB WILBANKS SAYS THEY'LL LIKELY CALL A MEETING THIS WEEK TO TALK ABOUT APPOINTING A NEW ONE.
    THEY DID NOT NAME ANY CANDIDATES.

         MACON CITY COUNCIL'S APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE VOTED TO PAY THE POLICE AND FIRE PENSION FUND ONE POINT TWO MILLION DOLLARS..
  LAST AUGUST - THE CITY'S ACTUARY TOLD THE MAYOR AND COUNCIL MEMBERS  THE PLAN WAS UNDERFUNDED..
  COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN MIKE CRANFORD SAID FOR ABOUT A YEAR AND A HALF THE CITY WAS ONLY PAYING ABOUT SIX PERCENT OF IT'S PAYROLL IN TO THE PENSION PLAN WHEN THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN PAYING CLOSER TO SIXTEEN PERCENT..
THAT MEANT THE CITY WAS OUT OF COMPLIANCE WITH THE STATE... AND RISKED LOSING STATE FUNDING...
CRANFORD SAYS NOW THE CITY WILL BE IN COMPLIANCE... THE COMMITTEE VOTED TO TAKE THE ONE POINT TWO MILLION FROM CASH RESERVES AND THEN REPAY IT OVER A TWO YEAR PERIOD...
  Mike Cranford; "It's already back up to a hundred and sixty million dollars plus.... so it's well funded. It never was a situation where it was in danger of being under funded it's just a situation, there's a rule, there's a formula, we have to follow that formula."
    THE ISSUE IS SCHEDULED TO BE VOTED ON BY FULL COUNCIL TOMORROW NIGHT..

    NEGOTIATIONS TO LOCATE A NEW DISTILLERY IN JONES COUNTY ARE NEARLY A DONE DEAL.
    DEVELOPMENT OFFICIALS SAY THEY'VE ALL BUT SIGNED ON THE DOTTED LINE WITH GEORGIA DISTILLING COMPANY... WHICH WANTS TO OPEN UP SHOP AT THE OLD CHEROKEE PRODUCTS BUILDING IN HADDOCK.
    DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY DIRECTOR DOUG REDMOND SAYS THAT COULD MEAN 20 OR MORE JOBS FOR THE AREA.
     HE SAYS THEY PLAN TO SIGN A LETTER OF INTENT TUESDAY WITH THE COMPANY... WHICH HOPES TO START IN FEBRUARY.
    ONE SMALL BUSINESS OWNER SAYS SHE HOPES THE NEW DISTILLERY WILL BRING A SHOT OF LIFE TO THE AREA.
Patricia Jordan "For my business it's been really slow. It's scary. It's just been really scary. We're hoping that if this comes to Haddock it'll be a big plus"
    REDMOND SAYS THE COUNTY WILL APPLY FOR HALF A MILLION DOLLARS IN GRANTS... WHICH WILL COMPRISE ABOUT 90-PERCENT OF THE MONEY NEEDED TO BUY THE PROPERTY FROM THE BANKRUPTCY TRUSTEE.
    HE SAYS THE REMAINING 10-PERCENT WILL COME FROM LOCAL FUNDS.
    GEORGIA DISTILLERY COMPANY OWNERS SHAWN HALL AND BILL MAULDIN SAY THEY ORIGINALLY PLANNED TO LEASE THEIR PROPOSED SITE IN JACKSON BUT LATER DECIDED THE BUILDING WOULD BE TOO SMALL.
    THEY ALSO SAY THE BUILDING'S OWNERS DIDN'T OBTAIN THE PERMITS THEY NEEDED IN TIME.

    A COMPANY THAT MAKES ANIMAL HEALTH PRODUCTS SAYS IT PLANS TO BRING 250 JOBS TO UPSON COUNTY OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS.    THE THOMASTON-UPSON COUNTY INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT BOARD APPROVED ANIMAL HEALTH AND SCIENCES INCORPORATED FOR A FIVE-POINT-SEVEN MILLION DOLLAR BOND.
    THE COMPANY TOOK OVER THE FORMER YAMAHA PIANO PLANT AND HAS ALREADY STARTED RENOVATING THE BUILDING.
    IT PLANS TO BEGIN OPERATING AT THE PLANT IN THE SPRING.... AND HOPES TO HIRE 100 PEOPLE WITHIN THE FIRST YEAR.
J.R. Charles, Executive Director, Thomaston-Upson County Industrial Development Authority: "For a lot of people this is an answer to prayers it really is, because they're hurting for jobs right now and we're glad theycan have an opportunity to work for a company like this."
    ANIMAL HEALTH SCIENCE IS NOT ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS YET.
    J.R. CHARLES SAYS THEY SHOULD OPEN UP THE HIRING PROCESS WHEN THE PLANT IS READY TO BEGIN OPERATIONS..

     IT LOOKS AS THOUGH THE GEORGIA SPORTS HALL OF FAME WILL STAY IN MACON..
      BUT THE FATE OF THE GEORGIA MUSIC HALL OF FAME PROBABLY WON'T BE DECIDED UNTIL THIS SPRING.
  LAST YEAR - STATE LAWMAKERS INVITED CITIES IN GEORGIA TO MAKE BIDS TO HOST EACH HALL.
   MACON IS THE ONLY CITY THAT BID FOR THE SPORTS HALL.
   THAT'S ACCORDING TO BEN SAPP...THE INTERIM DIRECTOR.
    HE SAYS THE STATE BOARD THAT RUNS THE MUSEUM MUST STILL DECIDE WHETHER TO APPROVE THAT BID.
   MUSIC HALL OF FAME DIRECTOR LISA LOVE SAYS FIVE CITIES WANT TO HOST THAT MUSEUM.
    THEY ARE MACON... ATHENS... DUNWOODY... DAHLONEGA... AND WOODSTOCK.
    SHE SAYS THE STATE BOARD THAT RUNS THE MUSIC HALL HAS UNTIL APRIL 15 TO DECIDE.

     PRESIDENT OBAMA WILL BE BACK IN WASHINGTON TOMORROW... A DAY BEFORE THE NEW CONGRESS IS SWORN IN.
      AND AS JOEL BROWN REPORTS FROM WASHINGTON... HE'LL BE DEALING WITH A NEW POLITICAL LANDSCAPE THIS YEAR AS REPUBLICANS IN POWER PUSH THEIR OBJECTIVES.
<<
Republicans who will have the majority in the House of Representatives won't waste any time trying to push through their priorities.

The new majority leader promises the House will approve a measure to repeal President Obama's healthcare law -- on January 12th....a symbolic vote before his State of the Union address.

87 new Republicans will be sworn into the House Wednesday....giving the GOP control of the chamber.

They've vowed to repeal and replace what they call Obamacare.

nats vote/last session

Republicans are asserting their power after a period of bipartisanship late last year in which Congress approved a number of laws-- including extending Bush era tax cuts for another two years, repealing the don't ask don't tell policy and ratification of the START nuclear treaty with Russia.

:46-1:00 Standup: (Joel Brown/Washington) "But Democrats will not go quietly. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid fired off this letter to John Boehner, who will soon be the Speaker of the House. It says Democrats will block any repeal of the healthcare legislation ."

Even if Republicans are successful in repealing the healthcare law in the House....it will likely not pass the Democratic-led Senate.

But Republicans promise to push their agenda in other areas....such as limiting government spending.

It all adds up to what could be a contentious few months for the President....who's coming off a restful family vacation in Hawaii.
>>
    IN CENTRAL GEORGIA... TWO JUDGES ELECTED IN NOVEMBER TOOK OFFICE TODAY.
    SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE HOWARD SIMMS WAS SWORN IN THIS MORNING... AND SAYS HE ALREADY HAS A FULL SCHEDULE FOR HIS FIRST WEEK.
Howard Simms: "We got a calendar on Wednesday, and that'll be followed next Monday by a trial calendar. So, we're really gonna hit the ground running."
    IN HOUSTON COUNTY... JASON ASHFORD WAS SWORN IN AS A STATE COURT JUDGE.
    HE REPLACES JUDGE BOB RICHARDSON WHO RETIRED AFTER 25 YEARS.

    VISITORS TO BONAIRE MIGHT EXPECT TO FIND BARBECUE AND BOOTS...
     BUT THERE'S A MORE EXOTIC PRODUCT TAKING ROOT... BAMBOO.
    THE PLANT IS AS COMMON TO CHINA AS PINE TREES ARE TO GEORGIA.
    BUT AS LORRA LYNCH-JONES SHOWS YOU... ONE LOCAL MAN BELIEVES BAMBOO OFFERS FAR MORE USES.
<<nats- digging
ROBBY RUSSELL SPENDS MOST OF HIS TIME BENEATH THE QUIET OF A BAMBOO CANOPY...  
nats-
BUT WHEN HE VENTURES OUT... HE'S OFTEN SURROUNDED BY QUESTIONS.
Robby Russell: (19:49) "They just go why? What do you do with it? (cover) "Depending on the mood I'm in, I'll try to explain to them."
RUSSELL TELLS FOLKS ABOUT BAMBOO'S USE FOR LANDSCAPING... AS ONE OF THE FASTEST GROWING PLANTS IN THE WORLD.
nats-
IT'S USED FOR CRAFTS...
nats- "You can cut the bamboo and split it, you get just simple serving trays."
AND IT'S A GROWING PART OF THE "GREEN INDUSTRY...."
nats- Pull! Pull, pull, pull (dragging bamboo)
RUSSELL'S FRIEND AND AUTHOR OF A BOOK ON BAMBOO... DAPHNE LEWIS... DEVELOPED AN ECO FRIENDLY METHOD FOR HAULING IT.
nats- "They're sled dogs. So, they like pulling."
RUSSELL SAYS BAMBOO'S MULTI-PURPOSES SOMETIMES SURPRISE EVEN HIM.
Robby Russell: (10:58) "Bow makers, flute makers, ethanol plants, anything you can think of. I had a guy show up one time, wanted stems for making opium pipes with it. "
TRADITIONALLY... BAMBOO STEMS ACCOMPANY CHINESE DISHES... BUT FOR PANDAS... THE SHOOTS MAKE-UP THE MAIN COURSE.
RUSSELL SAYS WHEN TWO ARRIVED AT THE ATLANTA ZOO.. THEY ASKED HIM TO HELP CATER TO THEIR "PICKY" PALATE.
Robby Russell: "You never which kind they want to eat."
HE OFFERS 60 VARIETIES... SAYING THE CROP MAY SEEM EXOTIC... MAKING SOME THINK HE'S ECCENTRIC... BUT THAT'S ALL POINT-OF-VIEW.
Robby Russell:(20:37) "If I was in the Orient, people wouldn't, you know I wouldn't be anything there, but because I'm in a Western society, they find it odd you would be involved in it."
HE SAYS PEOPLE JUST NEED TO OPEN THEIR MINDS... AND LET THE POSSIBILITIES OF THE PLANT... SHINE THROUGH.
nats-
STD>>
    RUSSELL SAYS THE SOUTHEAST IS AN IDEAL CLIMATE FOR BAMBOO... BECAUSE THERE'S ADEQUATE AMOUNTS OF RAIN AND GOOD SOIL.
    BAMBOO IS MOST WIDELY GROWN IN EAST ASIA... AND USED FOR BUILDING MATERIAL AND FOOD SOURCE.

   THE HOLIDAYS ARE OVER AND PARENTS ARE BACK AT WORK.
   THAT MEANS KIDS ARE GEARING UP TO HEAD BACK TO SCHOOL AROUND CENTRAL GEORGIA.
    STUDENTS IN THE AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAM AT BRIGHT STAR LEARNING CENTER ON PRICE ROAD TOOK A FIELD TRIP TO STEVIE B'S RESTAURANT IN MACON FOR A LITTLE FUN TIME.
    BRIGHT STAR TEACHER... CYNTHIA ANDREWS SAYS THE STUDENTS HAVE BEEN WORKING HARD DURING THE HOLIDAYS.
           BUT WITH JUST TWO DAYS LEFT BEFORE THEY GO BACK TO SCHOOL... THEY WANT THE KIDS TO ENJOY THE REST OF THEIR HOLIDAY BREAK.
Kids "We been on field trips, I went ice skating and I went to my firends house, I went to Atlanta"
Cynthia Andrew "They have been with us all during the holidays and we enjoy the kids, we really do.  We enjoy having them around but it is time to go back to school"
            JONES AND HOUSTON COUNTY STUDENTS HEAD BACK TO SCHOOL TOMORROW
     BIBB AND BALDWIN COUNTY STUDENTS RETURN WEDNESDAY.
             AND MONROE COUNTY SCHOOLS RESUME NEXT MONDAY.

   AND ONE LAST QUICK LOOK AT TOMORROW'S FORECAST WITH CHIEF METEOROLOGIST BEN JONES.

    THANKS FOR JOINING US.... FIRST MORNIN COMES YOUR WAY AT 5 A-M.
   THE NEWS IS ALWAYS ON AT 13WMAZ DOT COM.
 ON LETTERMAN TONIGHT:BRIAN WILLIAMS AND PAULA ABDUL..  HAVE A SAFE NIGHT EVERYONE.

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