Wednesday, July 27, Eyewitness News at 11

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GOOD EVENING AND THANKS FOR JOINING US..
I'M FRANK MALLOY..
THIS IS EYEWITNESS NEWS AT ELEVEN..
LEAH JOHNSON IS ON MATERNITY LEAVE..

THE MILLEDGEVILLE-BALDWIN COUNTY AREA HAS SEENS ITS SHARE OF COMPANIES CLOSING TAKING JOBS WITH THEM..
BUT THERE A RAY OF ECONOMIC OPTIMISM ON THE HORIZON..
ONE OF THE STATE'S LARGEST KROGER STORES PLANS TO OPEN ITS DOORS IN MILLEDGEVILLE.
AS AMY AUBERT SHOWS YOU... CONSTRUCTION CREWS ARE HITTING THE DIRT... TO KEEP THE 13 MILLION DOLLAR PROJECT... ON SCHEDULE.
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Nats, Surveying property

FOR EDWIN THOMPSON IT'S ANOTHER DAY ON THE JOB...

Edwin Thompson, Milledgeville: "You're setting grade stakes in order for the drainage, you're setting curb and gutter stakes so you can have the proper drainage..."

HE STARTED THOMPSON LAND SURVEYORS INCORPORATED 40 YEARS AGO... BUT LANDED HIS BIGGEST JOB... LAST FALL.

Nats, truck driving by

A 93 THOUSAND SQUARE FOOT KROGER... BUILT JUST ACROSS THE STREET FROM HIS OWN HOME.

Edwin Thompson: "All of the people that live on Lake Sinclair and this area will have easy access to it, and I think it will be very beneficial to the county."

BUT ANGIE GHEESLING... WITH THE MILLEDGEVILLE BALDWIN COUNTY DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY... SAYS THAT'S NOT THE ONLY PLUS.

Angie Gheesling, Executive Director: "Anytime you see construction, they say now that's the true indicator of how your economy is rebounding and for us, this is just one of several sites that we have now under construction, hopefully it gives people some hope that really we are truly on a rebound."

SHE SAYS... THE NEW KROGER WILL BRING AT LEAST 75 NEW JOBS TO THE AREA.

Nats, Thompson: "I'll make it a point to be there first thing in the morning."

AND FOR THOMPSON... THAT'S GOOD NEWS.

Thompson: "Milledgeville has lost so many jobs with so many companies going out, that this is just a tremendous asset, and I am glad to see this come."

SO FOR KROGER SHOPPERS... AND JOB SEEKERS... IT'S A PROJECT BRINGING ECONOMIC PROGRESS... TO THE MILLEdGEVILLE AREA.

Nats, truck leaving

AMY AUBERT... 13 WMAZ... EYEWITNESS.
>> MILLEDGEVILLE CURRENTLY HAS FOUR CHAIN GROCERY STORES... TWO PIGGLY WIGGLYS... A WAL-MART... AND A SMALLER KROGER THAT PLANS TO SHUT ITS DOORS... ONCE THE NEW ONE IS COMPLETE.
THOMPSON SAYS KROGER PLANS TO OPEN ITS DOORS THIS OCTOBER.
A KROGER REPRESENTATIVE SAYS THE STORE WILL HAVE EVERYTHING FROM A PREPARED MEAL AREA... TO A FUEL CENTER... AND DRIVE THRU PHARMACY.

C. JACK ELLIS CALLED IT 'NOTHING SHORT OF GENIUS."
BUT NOT EVERYBODY HAS SUCH FOND MEMORIES OF CITY FINANCES DURING ELLIS TWO TERMS AS MAYOR.
AS ELEANOR LISSITZYN EXPLAINS... CURRENT MAYOR ROBERT REICHERT IS ONE OF THEM.
REICHERT SAYS WHEN HE TOOK OFFICE AT THE END OF 2007... MACON WAS IN A STATE OF QUOTE-"FINANCIAL INSTABILITY."
WE ASKED ELLIS ABOUT CITY FINANCES DURING OUR 13WMAZ MAYORAL DEBATE... AND HE SAYS HE LEFT MACON IN GOOD SHAPE.
"I characterize it as nothing short of genius, considering where we came from, considering the fact that we transferred five and a half million dollars to the county in the sales tax renegoations.

ELLIS SAYS EVEN THOUGH THE CITY LOST ABOUT FIVE MILLION DOLLARS IN ANNUAL REVENUE TO THE COUNTY WHEN THEY RENEGOTIATED THE SALES TAX MONEY SPLIT... HE NEVER RAISED TAXES.
"I elected not to raise taxes, I elected not to cut services, and I elected not to lay off any employees."

BUT THE BIBB COUNTY TAX COMMISSIONERS OFFICE SAYS.. TAXES ROSE TWICE...BY A TOTAL OF 2 AND A HALF MILLS... IN 2003 AND 2004.
ELLIS ALSO SAYS THE CITY HAD MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN CASH WHEN HE LEFT OFFICE NEARLY FOUR YEARS AGO
"We left office with six million dollars in the reserves, what we call the Filomena Mullis fund, the lock box.'

THE CITY'S EXTERNAL AUDITOR... MILLER EDWARDS... SAYS THAT'S TRUE.
BUT AUDIT DOCUMENTS SHOW THAT'S NOT THE ENTIRE STORY.
THE FIRST CITY AUDIT AFTER ELLIS TOOK OFFICE SHOWED TWENTY EIGHT MILLON DOLLARS IN THE CITY'S GENERAL FUND.
BY THE TIME HE LEFT CITY HALL IN 2007... THAT WAS DOWN TO ABOUT SIXTEEN MILLION DOLLARS...


PART OF THE GENERAL FUND... IS THE FUND BALANCE... IT'S THE SUM OF ALL THE CITY'S ASSETS... MINUS ITS LIABILITIES.
IT SUBTRACTS THINGS LIKE UNPAID BILLS... EMPLOYEE SALARIES.. AND OTHER EXPENSES FROM THE AMOUNT OF CASH ON HAND.
AS AN AUDITOR TOLD ME... IT'S LIKE IF YOU HAVE A THOUSAND DOLLARS IN THE BANK... BUT THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS IN BILLS... THEN YOU DON'T REALLY HAVE A THOUSAND DOLLARS.
THE FIRST AUDIT AFTER ELLIS TOOK OFFICE... COMPLETED IN 2000... SHOWED....THE FUND BALANCE WAS TEN POINT SIX MILLION DOLLARS.
BUT CITY C.A.O THOMAS THOMAS SAYS WHEN ELLIS LEFT OFFICE EIGHT YEARS LATER... THE FUND BALANCE WAS IN THE RED.... BY THREE AND HALF MILLIONJack Ellis: "Thats not true."Eleanor Lissitzyn: "So he's wrong?"
Jack Ellis: "He's dead wrong, he doesn't know what he's taking about. He's wrong. He doesn't know what he's talking about."

THE CITY AUDIT FROM 2007 SHOWS THAT THE CITY'S FUND BALANCE WAS NEGATIVE THREE AND A HALF MILLION DOLLARS.
WE TRIED TO CONTACT ELLIS FOR COMMENT ON THIS STORY.
HIS MEDIA REPRESENTATIVE DID NOT RETURN OUR PHONE CALLS BEFORE AIRTIME.
FOR MORE ON THIS STORY... INCLUDING AN ANALYSIS OF WHERE ALL THAT MONEY WENT... VISIT OUR WEBSITE AT 13WMAZ.COM.

SOME CANDIDATES IN NEXT MONTH'S RUNOFF ARE ASKING IF A DEMOCRAT SUPPORTED BY A REPUBLICAN IS REALLY A DEMOCRAT.
THE ISSUE CAME UP IN THE RUNOFFS FOR MACON MAYOR AND STATE DISTRICT 26.
SOME REPUBLICANS SUPPORTED MAYOR ROBERT REICHERT... AND SENATORIAL CANDIDATE MIRIAM PARIS.
THAT HAS OPPONENTS C. JACK ELLIS AND DAVID LUCAS ASKING... IF THAT MEANS REICHERT AND PARIS AREN'T REAL DEMOCRATS.
POLITICAL SCIENTIST CLIF WILKINSON SAYS THE FINGER-POINTERES ARE USING THE REPUBLICAN LABELS TO TRY AND TAINT THEIR OPPONENTS.
Clif Wilkinson, Political Scientist: The idea really is to kind of taint it just a little bit, throw some caution to those individuals who may not be totally decided as to how they would vote in the election.
PARIS AND LUCAS WILL MEET IN THE RUNOFF FOR THE DISTRICT 26 SEAT.
REICHERT AND ELLIS FACE EACH OTHER IN THE RUNOFF FOR MAYOR OF MACON.
THE ELECTION IS AUGUST 16..

TODAY'S 13WMAZ DOT COM WEB POLL QUESTION ASKS... DO YOU VOTE STRICTLY ALONG PARTY LINES?
SO FAR 76 PERCENT OF YOU SAY NO YOU DON'T.
24 PERCENT OF YOU SAY YES... YOU DO.
YOU HAVE UNTIL MIDNIGHT TO VOTE... LOOK FOR THE QUESTION ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE HOMEPAGE AT 13WMAZ DOT COM.

WE HAVE AN UPDATE ON A STORY WE TOLD YOU ABOUT LAST WEEK ON EYEWITNESS NEWS..
A MIXED BREED DOG WHO WAS NEARLY DECAPITATED DIED TUESDAY AT A FORSYTH VETERINARY CLINIC..
THAT'S ACCORDING TO THE VET WHO WAS CARING FOR THE DOG..
THE DOGS' OWNER -19 YEAR OLD MONTERION DIONTE DAVIS OF FORSYTH - WAS CHARGED WITH AGGRAVATED CRUELTY TO ANIMALS, WHICH IS A FELONY ACCORDING TO SHERIFF JOHN CARY BITTICK..
DAVIS' BOND WAS SET AT $15 THOUSAND DOLLARS..
ANIMAL RESCUE WORKERS HAD NAMED THE DOG "HOPE"..

MACON POLICE WANT TO KNOCK OUT RUMORS ABOUT THE LAUREN GIDDINGS HOMICIDE CASE.
GIDDINGS WAS LAST SEEN ALIVE A MONTH AGO AND POLICE CHIEF MIKE BURNS SAYS RUMORS ABOUT THE CASE ARE RUNNING RAMPANT.
Chief Mike Burns, Macon Police: "We're not hiding any bodies, we don't have a serial killer running loose, we hadn't found any murdered bodies in the river, it's all rumors."
POLICE DISCOVERED GIDDINGS' BODY NEAR HER HOME LAST MONTH.
BURNS SAYS PEOPLE MIGHT BE MORE INCLINED TO BELIEVE WILD STORIES... BECAUSE INVESTIGATORS HAVEN'T SHARED MANY DETAILS ABOUT THE CASE.
Mike Burns, Macon Police Chief: "There's not but four people who know everything about this case and that's the two lead detectives on the case, Major Stone, and myself.
BURNS SAID HE DOES NOT KNOW WHO STARTED THE RUMORS... AND THAT DETECTIVES DON'T HAVE TIME TO TRACK THEM DOWN WHILE THEY INVESTIGATE THE CASE.
BURNS WOULD NOT SAY IF THEY'RE CLOSER TO AN ARREST... BUT SAID INVESTIGATORS EXPECT TO MEET NEXT WEEK WITH BIBB COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY GREG WINTERS.

BIBB COUNTY SHERIFF'S INVESTIGATORS NEED YOUR HELP IDENTIFYING THE BODY FOUND IN THE OCMULGEE RIVER SUNDAY MORNING.
SERGEANT SEAN DEFOE WITH THE SHERIFF'S OFFICE SAYS THE BODY IS A WHITE MAN ABOUT 45 TO 55 YEARS OLD.
HE IS SIX FOOT TWO INCHES... HAS A SIZE 13 FOOT... A SHAVED HEAD... AND A FULL BEARD.
DEFOE SAYS THE MAN HAD SEVERAL TATTOOS ON HIS CHEST... INCLUDING A UNICORN... TWO ROSES... A CASTLE AND A FLOWER.
IF YOU HAVE ANY INFORMATION ON WHO HE IS...YOU CAN CALL THE BIBB COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE AT 478-746-9441.
AGAIN... 746-9441.

STARTING TOMORROW MORNING ... EIGHT LITTLE LEAGUE SOFTBALL TEAMS WILL FIGHT FOR THE CHANCE TO GO TO THE WORLD SERIES
THEY'LL MEET IN THE SOUTHEAST LITTLE LEAGUE SOFTBALL TOURNAMENT IN WARNER ROBINS.
JIMMY AUTRY... SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF FLINT ENERGIES... IS COORDINATING THE 170 TOURNAMENT VOLUNTEERS.
HE SAYS AS MANY AS 6-THOUSAND PEOPLE CAME OUT TO THE GAMES LAST YEAR... WHEN THE WARNER ROBINS TEAM WAS IN THE TOURNAMENT.
HE SAYS HE EXPECTS IT TO BE JUST AS BUSY THIS YEAR.
"There's a sense of excitement this morning just as the girls from the other states were rolling in. everybody's excited about that. We know we're going to have a great tournament for the girls and three day's later, we'll start all over for the boys."
THIS YEAR'S GEORGIA CHAMPIONS ARE FROM BARTOW COUNTY.
THEIR FIRST GAME IS TOMORROW AT ONE P-M AGAINST TENNESSEE.
THERE'S NO ADMISSION COST FOR THE GAMES... BUT COOLERS AREN'T ALLOWED.

EVERY WEEKDAY... THE GEORGIA COLLEGE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM OPENS ITS DOORS TO VISITORS.
IT'S NESTLED ON THE GROUND FLOOR OF HERTY HALL ON THE COLLEGE CAMPUS... AND FEATURES MILLIONS OF YEARS OF HISTORY.
THE MUSEUM HAS A CIRCULAR DESIGN... THAT LEGS YOU WALK THROUGH THE LIFE CYCLE OF A FOSSIL.
EXHIBITS LINE ALL FOUR WALLS OF THE COLLEGE'S NATURAL TREASURE... AND THE VIEW FROM INSIDE DOME PLANETARIUM IS OUT OF THIS WORLD.
IN THE CAVE REPLICA... YOU CAN CHECK OUT HOW WATER CONSTRUCTED THE ROCK.
MUSEUM MANAGER ASHLEY QUINN SAYS THE ARTIFACTS... ARE LIKE PART OF THE GEORGIA COLLEGE FAMILY.
Ashley Quinn, Museum Manager: "Eighty percent of what you see in the museum are actually collected by students who have gone to school here at Georgia College over the last twenty-five to thirty years. About two hundred students and their professors have been involved in collecting the fossils that you see in the museum."
QUINN SAYS THEY'RE WORKING ON A HALLOWEEN EVENT CALLED A NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM.
FOR MORE INFO ON THE MUSEUM... LOOK FOR THE DAY TRIP DESTINATION STORY AT 13WMAZ DOT COM.

MARIA MARTINEZ... YOU'RE TONIGHT'S FAN OF THE DAY!
EMAIL FAN-OF-THE-DAY AT 13WMAZ DOT COM TO CLAIM YOUR COFFEE MUG.
WE'RE ALWAYS LOOKING OUT FOR THE NEXT FAN OF THE DAY... AND FACEBOOK DOT COM SLASH 13WMAZ IS THE PLACE TO BE IF YOU HAVE AN ITCH THAT ONLY A COFFEE MUG CAN SCRATCH.
ALL YOU HAVE TO DO... IS BECOME A FAN.

THANKS FOR JOINING US.... FIRST MORNIN COMES YOUR WAY AT 5 A-M.
THE NEWS IS ALWAYS ON AT 13WMAZ DOT COM.
LETTERMAN'S NEXT..
HAVE A SAFE NIGHT EVERYONE


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