eyewitness news at 11, 9-3-13

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< I want the election halted so that we can work on this thing and make sure that everybody is in the right place... >

      Tonight on Eyewitness News at Eleven... Find out why this Macon City Councilwoman and consolidated commission candidate wants the September 17 elections halted.

      Plus... It's a community landmark in Eatonton... Worse for the wear thanks to the weather. We show you what needs to be done to restore the Putnam County Courthouse to its glory.


 <They want to know if America will rise to this moment and make a difference.>

      why the U.S. Secretary of State says political unity is more important than ever in its dealings with Syria. >

   Hello, Everyone, and thanks for joining us.

   I'm Frank Malloy.

   We have more on those stories ahead tonight... But first, as we begin Eyewitness News at Eleven... Here's a look at your Tuesday in sight and sound.

<four mercer students went on a rafting adventure on the Ocmulgee Monday, only to get lost in a swamp until almost midnight.

They were dressed in swim attire. Swim trunks, bathing suits, bikinis, things like that. So they weren't dressed .... To be going through the swamp..

It took almost three hours to find them and bring them out.

They were eventually found through G-P-S cellphone signals on Walker Swamp Road...

the U.S. and Israel conducted a joint missile test in the Mediterranean.

Israel's Defense Ministry confirms it successfully tested its Arrow 3 missile defense system.

Russian media first reported the launch saying two ballistic objects were fired eastward from the center of the sea - roughly in the direction of Syria.

Lightning fast changes in technology are slaying giants and remaking some of the world's biggest corporations. It happened again today, one day after Verizon and Vodafone announced their breakup, Microsoft said it's buying Nokia's line of mobile phones in a deal worth more than 7 billion dollars.

It's in this area right in here.

Bibb County engineer David Fortson says 437 feet of what he calls the studied seepage area lies here along the Macon levies. Today, a seepage problem won't take down the levy, but one day, it might.

And while it's not an emergency, that needs to be corrected, it is a very important problem because it has the potential to cause a levy failure at some point. >

     Tonight... On Eyewitness News at 11...an update on that last story we brought you in our day in review.

     The City Council has placed decisions on how to repair seepage from the Macon Levee in the hands of its Appropriations Committee.

    The levee protects areas south of downtown from flooding...like during the floods of '94... when water levels rise in the Ocmulgee River.

     Members are looking at a possible contract with an architectural engineering firm, and they're expected to take up talks in the next few weeks.

     And while, as you heard a moment ago...any seepages in the levee don't pose an immediate threat... It's been one rainy summer.

     Tonight...no exception for some folks, with a few severe thunderstorm warnings early on...but those pop-up hotspots seemed to fizzle out as the night continued.

     Ben Jones in the weather center with more.

   Thanks Ben.  We'll talk to you again a little later in this newscast.

   In other news tonight, continuing coverage...of more apparent glitches in the troubled September 17th Macon-Bibb election.

   Last week...we told you how hundreds of voters...were listed in the wrong district.

   That prompted candidate Elaine Lucas to ask election officials to stop the voting...to verify that all the voter rolls were correct.

   And today...two voters in ANOTHER district told 13WMAZ's Randall Savage...that election officials placed them in the wrong district...voting in the wrong race.

   This time.. It happened to James Turner and his wife.

    They live in District 6 on Dixon Road in West Bibb County.

     Turner.. Who declined to speak on camera... Says he noticed the problem two weeks ago. He learned that county records put him in District 7.

     Turner says he pointed it out to election officials who told him the problem had been fixed.

     But when the Turners went to vote this morning.. Their ballot contained the District 7 candidates.

      Turner says they pointed it out to election officials... who finally gave the couple District 6 ballots.

     Elections Supervisor Jeanetta Watson said she wasn't aware of the latest problem.

< Jeanetta Watson, Elections Supervisor: The state put all of the correct streets in the correct districts when we asked them to do that.  That should have been done by this morning.  He may have come in while they were still making the changes, but they have been done. >

     Watson says she turned the Lucas letter over to County Attorney Virgil Adams for review and advice.. She hasn't heard from Adams..

     Lucas says the District 6 problem shows that the elections should be halted... until all bugs are worked out.

     And the question now is whether or not more voters are affected.

< are these 800 all that's been put in the wrong place and I think all the voters should be asking that: am I in the right district?>

Early voting is underway in Macon and Bibb for the mayor's race...and for nine seats on the new county commission. Early voting ends next Friday...the 13th....and Election Day is September 17th.

    Meanwhile, in district 9... Macon council member Henry Gibson says the Board of Elections did not make fair decision about Al Tillman's candidacy.

    He filed an appeal with the Bibb County Superior Court last week.

    The board voted last month to allow Tillman to run for the district 9 commissioner's seat.

    Gibson says Tillman rented an apartment in that district... But still lives in his home across the street... Which is in district 8.

<the board was incompetent if you ask me. I felt the feeling that everyone in the room was affiliated with Al Tillman, and I wanted a fair, impartial hearing because I feel I have some valid points that I wanted to bring out.>

     The appeal hearing is scheduled for this Friday... With Judge Stephen Boswell.

     At the same council meeting where we caught up with Gibson...Macon council woman Nancy White said...she wants to cut down on the stray animal population in the city... By requiring pet owners to spay or neuter their animals.

     White introduced a similar idea last year... But city council did not pass it.

     Councilman Rick Hutto was one of the members who opposed it.

     But he says this version lays out clear exceptions... And he plans to support it.

<i has lots of exemptions, for example, if you have a hunting dog, if you have a show dog, if you have a dog or a cat that you use for breeding professionally and you have a certificate that says so and your veterinarian says so, you have exceptions for all of those things.>

     Pet owners who do not fit those criteria.... Or a few others... Would have the option to pay a fee instead.

     Council's public safety committee will discuss the ordinance in their next meeting.

     Meanwhile.... Council member Tom Ellington has been working on a different spay and neuter ordinance.

<mine simply deals with animals that are coming through the animal shelter. So, if you're adopting a dog or a cat, that would require that animal be spayed or neutered before it left the shelter. There's also a provision that i'm working on to deal with strays that are being redeemed by their owners.>


     Ellington says he plans to put the ordinance on the next full council agenda in two weeks.

     For decades... Macon council members have tried to think of new ways to get rid of abandoned homes in the city.

     Tonight... City council voted to allow neighborhood groups and other organizations to pitch in.

     The Economic and Community Development department will try to partner with outside groups... Who are willing to help demolish empty homes.

     Council member Lauren Benedict says this will help speed up the city's plan to knock out blight.

     Council also passed an ordinance that will allow volunteers to clean up debris and weeds building up on vacant lots.

<i know every one of us on council has had calls from people in the community saying 'i'll come mow that yard. I'll come take away that trash. I'll clean up my neighborhood.' But they can't do that right now, it's not legal for them to do that. So the legislation we passed today is simply just another tool in the toolbox that allows us to clean up this blight.>

     Volunteers must go through Economic and Community Development... And sign a waiver before cleaning up the property.

     From community improvements...to restoring a key community landmark.

     The Putnam County Courthouse is one of Eatonton's most visible buildings.

     But hailstorms last winter caused some serious damage to the building.

     Crews have been working for the last four months to fix the courthouse dome and clocktower, costing just over 400 thousand dollars, which is covered by insurance.

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