eyewitness news at 6, 7-30-13

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  This house in Warner Robins is a total loss... After firefighters spent hours this morning spraying down flames that gutted the home.

     Hello, everyone.

     I'm Frank Malloy

     More on that story in just a moment....

     But first...we begin with a look at how Georgia's texting and driving law is working...three years after lawmakers passed it.

     In tonight's Great Hang Up, Katelyn Heck talked to drivers...including the governor who signed the legislation into effect...about its impact.

   On July 1st, 2010... Georgia drivers had to dial in to a new habit... No more sending text messages while behind the wheel.

<to save lives. Obviously we know that distractions such as texting and driving are very dangerous, very distracting, and they create a lot of deaths on the highway. So, that was the motive pure and simple was to save lives.>

     But after three years... Has the law changed drivers' habits?

     How about the man who proposed the law...and the one who signed it?

<it has, not enough, but it has. 'have you ever texted and driven before?' I have, if that's an admission, my Miranda Rights have not been read this morning. It has definitely caught my attention, but just like speeding, I can't say that i've been within the law entirely the whole time.>

<unfortunately, I still do it every once in a while, but it's kind of like the drunk driving laws. We passed that knowing it would have significant impact, knowing it would change behavior, but still knowing there were going to be lives lost because there would be people that could not control their drinking and then driving.>

     Both former Governor Sonny Perdue and State Representative Allen Peake say the habit doesn't die quickly... But still believe the law has made a difference.

<if it changes behavior in a positive way, it's got to save a life somewhere along the line, and for that, it's worth it.>

     A year after it passed... 13WMAZ asked Central Georgia law enforcement agencies how they were enforcing the law.

     Many ... Including Milledgeville... Forsyth... And Centreville police hadn't written any citations.

     Macon police had the most... 16.

     Two years later... those numbers haven't changed much.

     For example... The Jones County Sheriff's Office wrote three distracted driving tickets within the first year... And in year three... They wrote two.

    Baldwin County Sheriff's Office did jump from two citations... to 7 this year.

     Many agencies told me... The numbers aren't low because people have stopped texting and driving... It's because the law is difficult to enforce.

<it is perfectly legal to be making a call on your cell phone, the law is if you're texting and driving. If you're stopped by a law enforcement officer, what do you think they're going to say? 'i was making a phone call.' and there's no way to prove that.>

<my goal is not to have more tickets written, it's to make all of us understand by making it illegal, that it's a safety issue and we really have to police ourselves.>

     If you want to sign our Great Hang Up pledge... You can find it under the features tab on the right side of our homepage.

     Katelyn Heck 13WMAZ Eyewitness News.

     The Governor's Office of Highway Safety is brainstorming new ways to help officers enforce... And drivers follow... the no-texting law.

     And they now have one-point-six million dollars from a federal grant to help them do it.

     Georgia is one of seven states to receive the grant.

     It's part of President Barack Obama's MAP-21 transportation bill... Which stands for Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century.

     Highway Safety Director Harris Blackwood says some of it will go toward education... And the rest toward developing new enforcement tools.

     Georgia will receive the federal money in October.

     Now if you'd like to take our Great Hang-up pledge... You can do that... By going to our homepage... 13WMAZ-dot-com.

     Look for Great Hangup under the Features section...

     You can watch past editions of the segment...learn about the law...

     And you can also make the commitment to put down the phone when you're behind the wheel.


     In our web poll tonight... We're asking, "how often do you text and drive"?

     72 percent of you say never.

     25 percent say... On occasion you might send a text from behind the wheel.

     3 percent of you say, frequently.

   To vote now... go to 13WMAZ-dot-com...scroll down...and you'll find the question on the right side of the page.

     An early morning fire consumed a house in Warner Robins off Ellicott Drive.

     No one was hurt... But as Judy Le shows us... there were a few close calls.

As the neighborhood became increasingly hard to see and breathe ... Neighbors lined the street ... Wondering about their friends

<i was concerned about blake because we didn't know where blake's at and we hadn't got a hold of him>


The homeowners were not in the house when the flames started around 11:30 Tuesday morning. Once everyone was accounted for ...Two friends started to look for Lexi and Lucy.

<tyler gwynn - the house was on fire and we just look back there and the two dogs were sitting by the fence>

<stephan rome -  we see them running around and one of them was trying to run back into the house


Tyler Gwynn and Stephan Rome rushed to the back of the house ...

<standup - they carried the two dogs to safety and left them at a neighbor's house two doors down>

<because I didn't think no police was going to get them>

<i was like, what the heck, i'll go in and get them>


By that time... about 20 firefighters surrounded the house ...  just as the roof started to cave in. .


<after we got them, the flames went everywhere>


Lexi and Lucy might not have a home to return to ... But at least they can be reunited with their family.


Judy Le 13wmaz eyewitness news

     The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

         Susanne Griffin-Ziebart is the Bibb Schools Deputy Superintendent who stepped in in the interim after Romain Dallemand left... And now, she's headed out herself. 

     We learned today... she'll be heading to the midwest next month...to serve as the Chief Academic Officer for the Minneapolis Public School System.

     Griffin-Ziebart came to Bibb County in July 2011... Following Dallemand from her hometown in Rochester.

     She stepped in as acting superintendent for three months after the school board bought out Dallemand's contract in February.

     Griffin-Ziebart says she learned a lot from her time in Macon... But wanted to move to a bigger school system... And be closer to home. <i wasn't looking for just any job, I wasn't wanting to leave macon necessarily, but this was just one of those opportunities that had lights around it and arrows pointing to it, because it really had all of the challenges and opportunities lined up well with my passions and skills>

Griffin-Ziebart's last day with Bibb Schools is August 9th.

     Nearly eleven hundred special olympians will visit central georgia at the end of next month...When the masters bowling tournament is held in Warner Robins

     Less than a month from the event... More help is still needed

     At least four hundred volunteers are needed to make the event run...

     Convention and visitors bureau director Marsha Buzzell says...

     There are many ways for volunteers to lend a hand

<not only giving the awards the medals at every game but also the score for one thing, to get the athletes to the right lane, particularly those athletes who are in wheelchairs, to get them lined up with the special equipment that we have to get the ball rolling down the bowling alley>

The City has already contributed four thousand dollars

Buzzell says they need about four thousand more... In donations from the community

If you are looking to donate money, time, or both, check out our story on 13wmaz.com...

    People who live on Vickie Drive in Warner Robins... Call their street the forgotten area of the city.

    That's because they say they can never get anyone to come out and fix anything where they live..including all this overgrowth.

     Jennifer Moulliet went out to see why they're so fed up.

     L-M McRae says he can't remember the last time someone cut the grass in this lot next to his house.


<i'm not sure what kind of snakes, if we have snakes out here in this field, could be rattlers. Could be a lion, tiger or bear laying out here in all these bushes as far as we know  >

     He says the housing authority will cut the lot next to it... But leaves this one untouched.

     His neighbor Eloise Kendrick says the overgrown yard isn't the only problem.


<they used to keep the ditch clean and the whole area back there clean  >

<a lot of times it gets stopped up and backed up with water and it stinks and we can't get nobody to come down here and do anything. >


     He says they've called the city several times to complain.

<you never get an answer all you get is the run around treatment, we'll be in touch with you let me transfer you to somebody else >


<I spoke with city marshall terry wood who said a complaint came in on July 23rd and he said that land is actually owned by the housing authority.  unfortunately the director for the housing authority was not in to make a comment they did say they thought that land was owned by the city.  >

<they hardly ever come over here and do anything, there's nothing to be done over here. Why? I guess it's the forgotten part of the city>

<somebody owns this field if I was to have it cleared off and paid to have it cleared off and put me a double wide over here I bet you somebody would know who owned that field because they'd want me to move my double wide off of their land they would show up then  >


In warner robins jennifer moulliet 13wmaz eyewitness news.

     We reached out to McRae right before the show...

He says the housing authority came out around five this afternoon to clear the field next to his house.

     Here's a look...

     Oscar Mason with the Warner Robins Housing Authority says they received the notice yesterday and took care of the problem today.

      He says We aim to be a good neighbor and correct any deficiency once it is bought to our attention.

     As you get older it becomes more and more important to stay fit...both mentally and physically.

     Today one macon woman celebrated her 99th birthday at the Wellness Center...and while the required birthday cake was on hand... So were some super-healthy yoga routines.

     Elise Brown introduces us to her.


Yoga Breath.

Some Tree and Pigeon poses....

These older adults are staying fit with a modified..chair-based... yoga.


<it's very energizer as well as strengthening.>


Meta Monteleone is turning 99 on Sunday and enjoys working out with her daughter.


<that's the only way to be healthy is to work at it.>


<it's so important for the elderly to be around a variety of people and have lots of different stimuli for their brain.>


Bill Mallard says yoga is a lifesaver.

<because as you grow older and if you're sitting on the sofa doing nothing, you loose all your muscle tone.  >



Mallard turns 90 next month. His goal is to keep up with Monteleone.

<I told her I was gonna try to beat her. She's 99, so I'm gonna try to atleast reach that age. >


Infact...Monteleone has made so many friends at yoga....they threw her a birthday party.

<it was just unbelievable. It made me so happy I cannot describe it. >



When asked about her secret to a healthy...long life...Monteleon, who served as a nurse during world war II... has this to say.

<well, I'm very careful at picking my parents.>


Martha Duke...Monteleon's daughter...says longevity runs in the family...and as far as making the most of those golden years, her mother's set the bar pretty high.

<I don't know what I'm gonna do, I gotta do a lot of yoga and a lot of scrabble.>


Elise Brown, 13WMAZ Eyewitness News.

     The Yoga Class you saw is part of the Wellness Center's Fitness Program for seniors... You can find more information on that by searching for this story at 13WMAZ-dot-com.

    As for Monteleon, she'll be celebrating her birthday throughout the week...

     She's most looking forward to a trip to the Fox theatre in Atlanta.

     Happy Birthday Meta (Meeta).

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