Tuesday, January 4, Eyewitness News at 11

11:08 PM, Jan 4, 2011   |    comments
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    GOOD EVENING AND THANKS FOR JOINING US..I'M LEAH JOHNSON..
   AND I'M FRANK MALLOY..THIS IS EYEWITNESS NEWS AT 11..

       MACON CITY COUNCIL VOTED TONIGHT TO TAKE THE FIRST STEP TOWARDS AN APPEALS PROCESS FOR CITY WORKERS WHO AREN'T HAPPY WITH WHERE THEIR JOBS WERE PLACED ON THE PAY SCALE.
       AFTER HEATED DEBATE LAST MONTH... CITY COUNCIL APPROVED THE MAYOR'S PAY SCALE PLAN... WHICH WENT INTO AFFECT THIS MONTH...
       BUT MANY EMPLOYEES EXPRESSED UNHAPPINESS OVER HOW MUCH... OR HOW LITTLE... CERTAIN POSITIONS WERE MAKING.
       AT TONIGHT'S MEETING... COUNCIL VOTED TO BEGIN WORKING ON A RESOLUTION THAT WOULD HAVE THE CARL VINSONS INSTITUTE... WHICH HELPED CREATE THE PAY SCALE... EXAMINE APPEALS ON A CASE BY CASE BASIS.
       COUNCIL WOMAN ELAINE LUCAS SPONSORED THE RESOLUTION... BECAUSE SHE SAYS CHANGES NEED TO BE MADE...Elaine Lucas: "I did not want this to get cold... I did not want the council members who voted for it to forget that they promised to take another look at that pay scale."    COUNCIL ALSO VOTED IN FAVOR OF ADDING ONE POINT TWO MILLION DOLLARS TO THE FIRE AND POLICE PENSION FUND.
            IN AUGUST... THE CITY'S ACTUARY TOLD THE MAYOR AND COUNCIL MEMBERS THAT THE PLAN WAS UNDERFUNDED.
    TONIGHT'S VOTE MEANS THE CITY WILL FULLY FUND THE PENSION PLAN FOR THIS YEAR... BY CONTRIBUTING ABOUT SIXTEEN PERCENT OF PAYROLL TO THE FUND.
    COUNCILMAN TOM ELLINGTON SAYS HE'S NOT HAPPY ABOUT THE PLAN BECAUSE THE MONEY WILL COME OUT OF THE CITY'S CASH RESERVES... BUT HE SAYS HE SUPPORTED IT BECAUSE THE CITY NEEDS TO MEET ITS LEGAL OBLIGATION..."It's dipping in to the working capital reserve account... which is bascially the city's rainy day fund...and right now thats at about 6.5 million dollars...thats going to dip down based on this to still over 5....but that's moving in the wrong direction."        ACCORDING TO AN ACTUARIAL STUDY...THE CITY HAD BEEN UNDERFUNDING THE PENSION PLAN BY ABOUT TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS A MONTH.       AS PART OF THE ORDINANCE.... COUNCIL ALSO VOTED TO PAY BACK THE MONEY THEY OWE THE PLAN OVER A FIVE YEAR PERIOD... AT AN EIGHT PERCENT INTEREST RATE.
        THAT WILL COST MORE THAN THREE MILLION DOLLARS...

    LAKE TOBESOFKEE COULD SOON ADD A WATER PARK AND AMPHITHEATER TO ITS LIST OF ATTRACTIONS.
    TODAY, BIBB COUNTY COMMISSIONERS GOT THEIR FIRST LOOK AT THE PROPOSED MASTER PLAN FOR THE FIVE PARKS AT THE LAKE.
    BRITTINY BARBER SHOWS YOU HOW THEY PLAN TO TURN THOSE IDEAS INTO REALITY.<<
Sam Hart, Bibb County Commission Chairman:
"I think this is simply a great opportunity for this community."
    BIBB COUNTY COMMISSIONERS TOOK IN ALL THE POSSIBILITIES FOR THE LAND SURROUNDING LAKE TOBESOFKEE.
nats of presentation
    A CONSULTING FIRM....WOOD AND PARTNERS TOLD COMMISSIONERS THEIR IDEAS FOR A MASTER PLAN....
Sam Hart: " It gives us the ability to go ahead with a definite plan"
    THAT PLAN INCLUDES.... A WATER PARK...ADDITIONAL CABINS AND PAVILIONS.... A CONFERENCE CENTER.... AND TRAILS CONNECTING THE PARKS.
Joe Allen, Bibb County Commission:
"I'm looking so forward that we can finally put the nail  in that we can start building all of these things."
    COMMISSIONERS HAVE WORKED FOR YEARS TO GET TO THIS POINT....  BUT THEY SAY DON'T EXPECT WORK TO START IMMEDIATELY.
Sam Hart, Bibb County Commission Chairman:
"It will not happen overnight, so we're still probably a couple of years away before we see any real progress or movement toward actually putitng anything up."
    THE COMPANY DIDN'T PUT PRICE TAGS ON ANY OF THEIR IDEAS.
    BUT THE BIG QUESTION IS.... WHO WOULD PAY FOR ALL THE WORK?
    THE COUNTY HOPES TO PARTNER WITH BOTH PUBLIC INVESTORS AND PRIVATE GROUPS, LIKE FOUNDATIONS.... TO HELP WITH FINANCING..
Joe Allen: "The public private partnership is the way to go to do something like what we're trying to do here."
BRITTINY BARBER 13 WMAZ EYEWITNESS NEWS
>>    CHAIRMAN SAM HART SAYS COMMISSIONERS WILL DISCUSS WHICH FEATURES THEY WANT TO INCLUDE AND THEY'LL SCHEDULE MEETINGS NEXT MONTH TO HEAR FROM THE PUBLIC.
    THE LAKE TOBESOFKEE RECREATIONAL AREA COVERS ABOUT 18-HUNDRED ACRES WITH 35 MILES OF SHORELINE.
    
      A DISTILLERY IN JONES COUNTY IS ONE STEP CLOSER TO OPENING ITS DOORS.
      GEORGIA DISTILLIING COMPANY CO-FOUNDER BILL MAULDIN SAYS COMPANY OFFICIALS MET WITH COUNTY DEVELOPMENT OFFICIALS TODAY AND SIGNED A LETTER OF INTENT.
    MAULDIN SAYS THE COUNTY WILL CONTACT GEORGIA DISTILLING COMPANY AFTER THEY BUY THE PROPERTY OUTSIDE HADDOCK.
      HE SAYS THEY NEEDED TO HAVE A PHYSICAL ADDRESS BEFORE THEY COULD APPLY FOR FEDERAL GRANTS AND LOANS TO OPEN THEIR NEW LOCATION.
      MAULDIN SAYS THEY HOPE TO OPEN BY THE END OF FEBRUARY.

    A MILLEDGEVILLE CITY COUNCILMAN WILL SPEND THE NEXT WEEK IN JAIL.
    THAT'S ACCORDING TO BADLWIN COUNTY SHERIFF... BILL MASSEE.
    HE SAYS 34-YEAR-OLD PHILLIP JOINER SURRENDERED TO POLICE YESTERDAY AFTERNOON AFTER HE RECEIVED A PROBATION VIOLATION WARRANT.
    THE WARRANT SAYS THAT ON DECEMBER 16TH... JOINER TESTED POSITIVE FOR ALCOHOL... THAT'S AFTER BEING ON PROBATION FOR HIS SECOND D-U-I.
    BUT IN TWO SEPARATE MOTIONS... JOINER'S ATTORNEY CLAIMS THE WARRANT IS INCORRECT... AND SAYS LAB TESTS SHOW THAT JOINER HAD NO DRUGS OR ALCOHOL IN HIS SYSTEM.
    MAYOR RICHARD BENTLEY SAYS JOINER'S ARREST WON'T AFFECT NEXT WEEK'S COUNCIL MEETING.
Mayor Richard Bentley: "As long as he's a member of council, we will conduct busines as usual. We will give him the respect due a city council member. And this is a personal issue that he is certainly dealing with."
    SHERIFF MASSEE SAYS... JOINER WILL BE HELD AT THE BALDWIN COUNTY JAIL UNTIL JANUARY TENTH... WHEN THE CASE GOES TO STATE COURT.
    
   WARNER ROBINS' CITY COUNCIL AND MAYOR CHUCK SHAHEEN ARE SCHEDULED TO MEET TOMORROW MORNING TO TALK ABOUT HOW TO REPLACE CITY ATTORNEY JIM ELLIOTT.
   COUNCIL FIRED ELLIOTT BY A 4-2 VOTE DURING LAST NIGHT'S MEETING.
     THIS MORNING... ELLIOTT'S OFFICE WAS CLOSED AND CITY HALL STAFF MEMBERS SAID THEY HADN'T SEEN HIM.
     ELLIOTT DID NOT RETURN OUR PHONE CALLS YESTERDAY OR TODAY.
    TOMORROW'S MEETING IS SCHEDULED FOR 10 A.M. IN THE CITY HALL CONFERENCE ROOM.

    MAYOR CHUCK SHAHEEN MARKED THE COMPLETION OF ONE YEAR IN OFFICE TODAY.
    HE TOOK THE OATH OF OFFICE ON JANUARY FOURTH 2010 IN CITY HALL CHAMBERS.
    HE CALLED KEEPING THE NORTH DAVIS DRIVE POST OFFICE OPEN FOR ANOTHER YEAR... AFTER THE POSTAL SERVICE DECIDED TO CLOSE IT... HIS BEST ACCOMPLISHMENT.
    SHAHEEN SAID IN 2011... HE WANTS THE PUBLIC TO SEE THAT HE AND THE COUNCIL CAN ACCOMPLISH A LOT TOGETHER.
        SHAHEEN SAYS HE ALSO HOPES TO IMPROVE HIS POLITICKING... AND SEE GROUND BROKEN ON THE LAW ENFORCEMENT CENTER AND SPORTS COMPLEX THIS YEAR.

     TODAY'S 13WMAZ DOT COM WEB POLL QUESTION ASKS... WHO DO YOU BLAME THE MOST FOR CONTROVERSY AT WARNER ROBINS CITY HALL INVOLVING TEH FIRING OF CITY ATTORNEY JIM ELLIOTT?
     SO FAR 47 PERCENT OF YOU SAY MAYOR SHAHEEN.
     53 PERCENT OF YOU SAY CITY COUNCIL.
     YOU HAVE UNTIL MIDNIGHT TO VOTE.
     LOOK FOR THE QUESTION ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF OUR HOMEPAGE.

    BIBB COUNTY'S NEW DISTRICT ATTORNEY WAS SWORN IN TODAY AT THE MACON COURTHOUSE.
    Nats of Gregg "So Help Me God, Congratulations (4 SEConds)
    GREG WINTERS TOOK THE OATH WITH HIS WIFE AND DAUGHTER BY HIS SIDE AND WITH A COURTROOM FULL OF SUPPORTERS.
    WINTERS IS A LONGTIME BIBB COUNTY PROSECUTOR.
    HE BEAT OUT DAVID COOKE IN A NOVEMBER RUNOFF.
    HE SAYS HE WANTS TO MAKE THE MACON CIRCUIT DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE THE BEST IN THE STATE.... AND SAYS HE'S READY TO GET TO WORK.
Greg Winters "Im ready to keep going to begin work, we've already begun work but we have a great place to live.  We have a wonderful community and our job is to make it better"
   WINTERS REPLACES HOWARD SIMMS...WHO SERVED A DECADE IN THE D-A'S OFFICE.
   SIMMS WAS SWORN IN YESTERDAY AS A BIBB COUNTY JUDGE.
   BOTH MEN WORK IN THE MACON CIRCUIT..WHICH COVERS BIBB...PEACH AND CRAWFORD COUnTIES.

    TALK OF WHITE SHEETS AND POSSIBLY COMPARING GEORGIA REPUBLICANS TO THE KU KLUX KLAN COULD INFILTRATE THIS YEAR'S CITY ELECTIONS.
     DURING A TAPING OF 13WMAZ'S CLOSE-UP PROGRAM - MAYOR ROBERT REICHERT WEIGHED IN ON SENATOR ROBERT BROWN'S WHITE SHEETS COMMENTS..
  REICHERT CALLED THE COMMENTS RACE BAITING.. AND SAYS THEY COULD OVERSHADOW PRESSING CAMPAIGN ISSUES.
Robert Reichert, Macon Mayor: I think that it may unfairly slant the real issues that we ought to be talking about in the mayoral campaign. How can we be more efficient?...
  BROWN MADE THE WHITE SHEETS COMMENT DURING LAST WEEK'S CLOSE-UP.
   REICHERT..BROWN AND FORMER MAYOR C. JACK ELLIS ARE EXPECTED TO BE DEMOCRATIC MAYORAL CANDIDATES THIS YEAR.
    YOU CAN CATCH THIS WEEK'S CLOSE-UP WITH MAYOR REICHERT AT NOON SATURDAY AND AT SIX A-M SUNDAY ON 13WMAZ.

   TWO PEOPLE ARE IN CUSTODY AFTER A BANK IN FORSYTH WAS ROBBED THIS MORNING.
    A NEWS RELEASE FROM THE MONROE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE SAYS A MAN ENTERED THE BANK OF AMERICA ON SOUTH LEE STREET AROUND 10 A.M. AND GAVE EMPLOYEES A NOTE DEMANDING MONEY.
     HE RAN OUT WITH SOME CASH.
    THE NEWS RELEASE SAYS THE MAN AND ANOTHER SUSPECT WERE CAUGHT WITHIN MINUTES AT THE NEARBY INTERSECTION OF LOVER'S LANE AND HUNTER STREET.
     THE RELEASE SAYS OFFICERS RECOVERED THE  MONEY.
    THE TWO SUSPECTS ARE BEING HELD AT THE COUNTY JAIL...BUT THEIR NAMES HAVEN'T BEEN RELEASED.
     BOTH THE SHERIFF'S OFFICE AND FORSYTH POLICE ARE INVESTIGATING.

    THE JONES COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE SAYS A DEPUTY IS RECOVERING TONIGHT AFTER HIS VEHICLE COLLIDED WITH A LOGGING TRUCK ON HIGHWAY 18..
     CAPTAIN GUY MOSTELLER SAYS SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICER SERGEANT ROBBIE WALKER WAS DRIVING TO A SCHOOL AROUND 10 30 -  WHEN A TRUCK DROVE THROUGH A RED LIGHT.
            IT HAPPENED AT HIGHWAYS 18 AND 11 IN GRAY.
    MOSTELLER SAYS THE TRUCK'S BRAKES MAY HAVE MALFUNCTIONED.
    HE DID NOT KNOW THE CONDITION OF THE TRUCK'S DRIVER... BUT SAYS WALKER WAS CHECKED OUT AT A HOSPITAL FOR MINOR INJURIES.  

    NATURE LOVERS IN PERRY COULD SOON HAVE MORE TO APPRECIATE.
    LAST NIGHT... CITY COUNCIL APPROVED PLANS TO GO FORWARD WITH PHASE TWO OF THE BIG INDIAN CREEK WALKING TRAIL... AND ADD ANOTHER HALF MILE TO THE PATH.
    THE CITY SAYS THE ADDITION IS PART OF A LARGER PLAN TO CONNECT ALL CITY PARKS...DOWNTOWN... AND FAIRGROUNDS WITH TRAILS.
    DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT MIKE BEECHAM SAYS... THE CITY APPLIES EVERY YEAR FOR GRANTS... AND WILL ADD ON TO THE TRAIL AS THEY RECEIVE MONEY.
    ONE OUTDOORS ENTHUSIAST SAYS SHE'S READY TO WALK A LITTLE BIT LONGER.Lewis "Of course there's plenty of sidewalks, and traffic is very little in the neighborhoods, but if you want to run dogs, it's fun to run them on a dedicated trail."    CITY MANAGER LEE GILMOUR SAYS THE NEXT STEP IS TO PUT THE HALF-MILE PROJECT TO BID.
    BEECHAM SAYS THE CURRENT TRAIL IS LESS THAN A MILE LONG...
    HE SAYS THE CITY ESTIMATES THE ADDITION COULD COST ABOUT 98 THOUSAND DOLLARS.

     THE STEPMOTHER OF A DISABLED 10-YEAR-OLD NORTH CAROLINA GIRL TOLD POLICE THE GIRL DIED MORE THAN TWO WEEKS BEFORE SHE WAS REPORTED MISSING.
     ACCORDING TO SEARCH WARRANTS UNSEALED TODAY... ELISA BAKER TOLD POLICE IN NOVEMBER THAT THE GIRL DIED IN LATE SEPTEMBER.
     BAKER SAID HER STEPDAUGHTER'S BODY WAS DISMEMBERED AND DISPOSED OF THE NEXT DAY.
     THE WARRANT DOES NOT SAY HOW THE GIRL DIED.
      HER PARENTS REPORTED HER MISSING ON OCTOBER NINTH... AND SAID SHE DISAPPEARED DURING THE NIGHT.
      NO ONE HAS BEEN CHARGED IN THE GIRL'S DEATH.

       A TEXAS MAN SENTENCED TO 75 YEARS IN PRISON SAW HIS CONVICTION OVERTURNED TODAY- THANKS TO SCIENTIFIC TECHNOLOGY.  
       CORNELIUS DUPREE WAS RELEASED IN EARLY JULY.....BUT NOW HE'S TRULY A FREE MAN.
       TERRELL BROWN REPORTS FROM NEW YORK.
<<
nats clapping
 
A Texas courtroom erupted in applause after Cornelius Dupree was declared innocent of a crime for which he spent 30 years in prison.
 
nats "You're free to go."
 
A judge officially overturned Dupree's conviction during a hearing.
DNA evidence exonerated the 51 year old- who was found guilty of raping and robbing a 26 year old Dallas woman in 1979.
 
:20-:25 SOT: (Cornelius Dupree/Conviction Overturned) "I'm happy. I'm kind of feeling mixed emotions."
 
Dupree could have made parole and spent less time in prison if he admitted he was a sex offender. But he would not, always maintaining his innocence.
 
SOT: (Dupree) "It was only by the grace of God that I was able to sustain over the long way."
 
Dupree spent more time in prison than only two others across the country freed by DNA evidence.
He's the 21st inmate in Dallas whose conviction was overturned because of DNA tests...the most of any city.
The New York legal center, the Innocence Project, helped free Dupree.
 
(too short to cg) SOT: (Barry Scheck/Innocence Project Co-Director) "This is just extraordinary."
 
Dupree left the courthouse with his wife Selma. They married the day after he was released in July. She met him in prison and waited two decades to become his wife.
 
 1:09-1:12 SOT: (Selma Dupree/Dupree's Wife) "It is a wonderful, wonderful thing to have him home."
 
Dupree is eligible for a 2 point 4 million dollar tax free settlement from the state for the three decades he was wrongly incarcerated.
>>      TEXAS HAS FREED 41 WRONGLY CONVICTED INMATES THROUGH DNA, MORE THAN ANY OTHER STATE.

    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: TIM MCGRAW AND SHAQUILLE O'NEAL..
 HAVE A SAFE NIGHT EVERYONE.































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