Good evening, everyone.
I'm Leah Johnson... In the WMAZ studio.
And I'm Frank Malloy... On the road with Ben Jones... In Forsyth.
In a couple of minutes, Leah... We're going to give folks a look at the Grand Reopening of 'grits'.
People may remember the fire last spring that destroyed the old building. Well, now it's back.
Also.. Groundwork being laid for a new fire station... To make response time faster and give first responders an edge.
That's ahead, Leah. Everybody will want to stick around.
Thanks Frank... We'll be looking forward to that.
But first... a judge heard arguments today in two lawsuits against the Bibb County School Board.
Bibb county superior court judge Edgar Ennis just wrapped up about 6 hours of arguments... covering a lease and then superintendent romain dalelmand's contract.
Candace Adorka joins us with more.
It could be a month before Ennis decides whether Dallemand's contract is valid. He wants the superintendent notified that this suit could affect his rights.
Dallemand then has 30 days to decide whether to get involved.
The attorneys have a week to present the judge with the version of the contract that board members discussed the night they made their offer to Dallemand.
It may help him decide if he agrees with the plaintiff -- Brad DeFore of Lizella-- that the contract that Dallemand signed is significantly different from what the board offered.
The school board attorney argues that it's clear what they intended.
But his opponent charles cox says even if it is....the vote was illegal.
<I just think it's crystal clear that the board has violated the open meeting act with its vote and I feel confident ultimately in how the judge will rule >
< I think there's no question, everybody who voted that night understood that they were voting on the document that had been discussed and so there's no dispute whatsovever about that.>
This morning....before taking up that contract, Ennis heard arguments about a lease that Dallemand and board president tommy barnes signed in July.
It obligates the district to rent half of a former school for 5-point-7 million dollars over the next decade.
In his lawsuit, Former bibb county chief financial officer ron collier argues the lease is illegal.
But the school district...and the landlord... say those arguments are irrelevant ...because a different judge has already verified the lease...and the bonds.
Colliers' attorney Jerry Lumley still says the judge should stop any payments under the lease.
<there are a lot of standards for granting a temporary restraining order and the mere fact that theyre not restrained now doesnt mean they cant be restrained in the future.>The lease challenge is part of a bigger suit.
Collier claims he was punished for raising questions about spending
Lumley says that could go before a jury within 6 months.
An employee at a Dollar General store in Wrightsville took discipline into her own hands when an 8 year old boy allegedly caused a commotion inside the business.,
That's according to Police Chief Paul Sterling, who told us... He's never seen a case quite like this one.
And he says... It was all caught on surveillance video.
<Paul Sterling, Wrightsville Police Chief: I think he threw a pack of cookies or a cookie at her... And later while he was in the store, you can see him running in the video... Trying to get away from her, and she comes to him with a belt... That she had taken off. And she was, uh, spanking him behind the counter. >
Store employee Emilia Graciela Bell is charged with simple battery. She was taken to jail... but bonded out this morning.
Chief Sterling said the boy's mother was in the back of the store... and wasn't aware of the incident until she got home.
He said the child told her, the clerk had, quote, "whipped him."
You may remember the devastating fire last March... that destroyed a restaurant that's been a mainstay in Forsyth for years.
Now... Grits Cafe is getting ready for tomorrow's grand reopening.
Frank Malloy joins us now live from Forsyth.. Where the town is buzzing about the big night.
Take a look behind me.
You can see the new front of the grits café... Ready for those doors to open tomorrow night.
But.. There's been a big effort by the owners and the community to get to this point.
Judy Le takes a look at how far the restaurant's come.
The final pieces of the puzzle are waiting to be mounted. That marks the new beginning of Grits café.
Nearly a year ago...a fire ravaged the restaurant forcing the doors to close..
<Angie Ellis, Flowers by Helen owner - I was actually at home with a brand new grandson that day and just got several phone calls that I needed to get up here, that we were on fire and it was just grits. I thought it was my shop>
Adjacent businesses saw smoke damage...but the fire completely gutted Grits café. That was in March...now owners -- Wayne and Teri Wetendorf -- are laying out the finishing touches before the grand re-opening February 2nd.
Their French-southern flair has cultivated a following, bringing visitors from around the southeast..
<Joe McDade, Montgomery, AL - We're just here visiting people in Atlanta and thought we'd drive down to eat lunch here at Grits, but so disappointed it's not opened yet>
< Judy Le Eyewitness News - the couple has run the upscale Southern café in this 125 year old building since 1999>
Built from ash at the original location off West Johnston St...the business is a fixture in the downtown area. Grits may have a new look...but it's got the same taste.
<angie - Their french onion soup...>
<joe - Stopped here by chance one other time and really enjoyed it. Had a delicious meal and wanted to come back again. >
<Craig Keller, Marietta - Shrimp and grits, I'll be trying the shrimp and grits
<angie - it's got the best taste. A lot of onions in it. It's wonderful>
You might have to wait to get your own bowl ... Because the restaurant is fully booked opening night.
< Craig - Actually I'm going to work through Ann from Ann's café to see if she can pull some strings for me to see if she can pull some favors for me>
There's a palpable excitement around the courthouse square as followers near and far wait for Grits return.
Judy Le 13wmaz eyewitness news
Since the fire last March...community members came together to raise money to rebuild Grits Café.
Their hard work came to fruition... as the restaurant doors open tomorrow.
One man who clearly remembers the day the Grits café burned.. Is Forsyth Mayor John Howard.
<adlib invu with Howard.. Ask about Grits, county line>
Grits isn't the only change to the landscape.
Five years ago...People in Forsyth start talking about a new Georgia State Patrol Post.
Two years later... more talk about a new Fire Station off Hwy 18.
Now residents in Forsyth will start seeing some changes.
Judy Le visited the works in progress.
In Forsyth...safetys got a new look...and it all starts with a pile of rubble
<Judy Le - This was once the home of the Georgia State Patrol post, located off Hwy
18. But as you can see it's demolished. That's because a new gsp post no 44 that
costs $750,000 will be built in its place>
That's the reason why state troopers are operating out of the Department of
Corrections at Tift College.
The old post on Patrol Rd. was built in 1970 and it was about time to get an upgrade that focuses on amping up security measures.
<lee major, gsp sgt - we're looking at a modest design. We're looking at office space, a few barricks, >
It's been a work in progress...just like the new fire station that will be built about 6
miles away from the GSP post.
<Ronald Norris, EMS chief - it's kind of a rural area right now, but the plans are that
it will hopefully be developer out there>
There are currently 12 fire stations in the county...this will be number 13.
Construction is projected to start on April 1st.
<(standup) I'm going to give you a tour of the new fire station, but you're going to
have to use your imagination ... this will be the green space... this area will be the
recycling center...and over where the stakes are will be the new facility>
This 2,000 sq feet fire station will be modeled after station no 12 off Johnstonville
Road with a few modifications to capitalize on space
<Ronald Norris, EMS chief - by making classrooms, maybe have a central supply for
equipment there, maybe try to make it a training station>
Like all county fire stations...lucky number 13 will be a combination department
filled with full timers...part timers...and volunteers
Judy Le 13wmaz eyewitness news
State Patrol Sgt Lee Majors estimates post number 44 will be completed within the year and will most likely be done before the new fire station.
Fire station number 13 will also be paid for by SPLOST and general fund money.
It has a Scottish name and a rich Central Georgia history...
We're "on the Road" to Culloden...next on Eyewitness News at Six.
While Forsyth is the biggest city in Monroe County... it's not the oldest.
That title goes to Culloden.
It's a town with fewer than 200 people...that's not only older than Forsyth...but the county itself.
Austin Lewis spoke to people who call it...the historical gem of Monroe County.
Is the way that Sarah Jane Ray would describe early memories in Culloden.
A barefoot little girl playing in her town with her parents
<Sarah Jane Ray, Culloden: it's home and the history and I love it because it is home. >
That history started back in 1780..it was named after another small town...an ocean away in Scotland also called Culloden.
Founder William Culloden...now rests in the town that he established nearly two centuries ago...
<Charles Edd Norris, Culloden: He got on a mule and started riding north he got to Culloden, he stopped and he never left and um he came here in 1780 which is just a little bit after our independence. >
The history remains here...from the well that helped turn Culloden into a town...stands at its center.
<the idea was the well had a trough where you watered your horse and the story was you could not drink yourself until you water your horse.
Another historical structure.... Culloden United Methodist...
It's one of the oldest churches in the state...with a foundation made of solid stock
<Charles Edd Norris, Culloden:And the brick in that methodist church came from England and it came by ship to Savannah and from Savannah to here it came by ox-car >
It's stories like this....that former mayor and local historian Edd Norris says makes the history of Culloden fly off pages.
<Charles Edd Norris, Culloden: What you know about Culloden and what it did in the past, it's hard to get it out of your heart>
But as for...Ray...she says...it's good to have a home in history.
Austin Lewis 13WMAZ Eyewitness News.
Many of the sites that we went to were off Main Street in Culloden.
For more information on the city.... check out this story at 13WMAZ dot com.
Leah.. Back to you.
Tonight at 7:30... Another Central Georgia teen competes on Jeopardy!