eyewitness news at 6, 8-15-13

5:50 PM, Aug 15, 2013   |    comments
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 That's flooding...on Gray Highway in Macon today...as drivers navigated their way through standing water and cruised carefully down slick roads.

    Hello everyone.  Thank you for joining us.

    I'm Frank Malloy.

     The conditions...even more hazardous for those driving on dirt roads.

     That's why all Laurens County Schools and Johnson County Schools will be closed tomorrow.

     In Laurens...students and staff will be staying home.

     Superintendent Rob Johnson said the Georgia Emergency Management Agency asked them to shut-down... Because dirt roads easily hold standing water...and become too soft to travel.

     Several buses got stuck today...on dirt roads where students live.

     Again... No school tomorrow ...Friday... For students or staff In the Laurens County school system.

     In Johnson County, Patrice Tanner with the school system says... All students will stay home.  But staff will report at nine.


     Tanner told 13WMAZ...drivers there also had problems with buses getting bogged down.

     School spokeswoman Beth McLaughlin says six children were on the bus.

     One had a bloody nose and another said his arm hurt.

     All six children, the bus driver, and bus monitor were taken to the Houston Medical Center for observation.

      Witnesses say the bus skidded off the road. When the bus driver over-corrected ... The bus spun around.

<once the nose of the bus hit, the bus turned completely up, tilted up on the nose, axel in the air and then flipped over into the ditch>

<because of the softness of the accident, slow motion, I feel like it was nothing more than a ride to them>

    The Georgia State Patrol says they're still investigating...and no one has been charged. But they say the bus was travelling below the speed limit...which is 45.

     Houston school officials say the rain probably helped to cause the accident.

     A Houston County teacher at Lake Joy Elementary... says she's innocent of the child cruelty charge filed against her.

     Warner Robins Police accused 40-year-old Theresa Umbarger of leaving her granddaughter unattended... because she was drunk.

     Lorra Lynch explains both sides of the story.

Theresa Umbarger spent one night in the Houston County jail... After being released on a 5-thousand dollar bond.

She's says she believes the charge will eventually be dropped.

The trouble started last Thursday night... when a police report says a neighbor found Umbarger's three-year-old granddaughter wandering down Wallace Drive.... screaming for her mother.

It was about 11:30 at night... and the child was not wearing clothes.

The report says the neighbor brought the child home... Without seeing an adult.

When police arrived... They found Umbarger asleep.. With alcohol by the bed.

They had hard time waking her up... But when they did... They say Umbarger was highly intoxicated and beligerent.

That's when they arrested her.

Theresa Umbarger and her daughter... Amber.. Told a different story.. To us Thursday.

Neither wanted to talk on camera... But Amber called the case "ridiculous".

She says she was at a movie... While her mom babysat her two children.

Her three year old was asleep... Woke up and when she realized her mom wasn't home... wandered out the door.

Theresa Umbarger said she was drinking that night... but wasn't drunk.

She said she had difficulty waking up when police arrived because she's a sound sleeper.

Umbarger said she wants the charges dropped... And to return to work.

<houston County Superintendent Robin Hines says Umbarger has not been back on the job since her arrest. She's not been fired, but he says they are looking for a permanent replacement for her classroom.>

In Warner Robins.. Lorra Lynch... 13WMAZ.. Eyewitness News>

     Umbarger said she's been with the Houston County school system for seven years.

     As a condition of her bond... She cannot be alone with her grandchildren.

Come January 1st, there will be big changes in law enforcement once the Macon Police Department is dissolved and merges with the Bibb County Sheriff's Office...

They've already changed uniforms, and the logos on their squad cars.

But more importantly, Tom George sat down with Sheriff David Davis, the new top cop, to find out who will be in charge of key departments and how pay will work...


If you take a look behind me, you'll see a Greyhound bus with the word consolidation written on the side...

It sits on Sheriff David Davis' desk as a reminder that in less than five months, a new Macon-Bibb merged government will be here.

And as he says... everyone needs to get on board the bus.

For his office, that means merging the Sheriff's Office with the Macon Police Department to create a new law enforcement agency.

He's been working to fill different slots with people from both departments.

For example...for filling jobs in investigations....that included calling the district attorney and even crime victims to find out who's doing the best job.

< Some instances we've had investigators that have been investigators for quite a while and the District Attorney looks at us and says we don't even know who that person is. So you can imagine if an investigator has not made themselves know to a D.A., then obviously they haven't done too many cases that have gone to prosecution.>


Davis says Macon Police outnumber Sheriff's deputies 2 to 1, and leaders from both departments will take some of the top roles.

People from the Sheriff's Department will be in charge of property crimes, the gang and sex offenders units, forensics ... And the important Internal Affairs Department.

That's the office that handles officer discipline and follows up on public complaints.


Some big names from Macon Police will run other departments.

Former Internal Affairs Director Jimmy Barbee will run the persons crimes division.

Other MPD officers will runh special investigations, warrants, and the training division.


Leaders from both departments will head up squads in the Violent Crime Unit.


But in some cases, there may be a difference in pay.

For patrol officers, right now the starting salaries are about the same in each department....around $30,000.

But Bibb County has a pay scale that goes up based on service, while Macon police do not.

Take a look at one example ... A 25-year veteran private from Macon police is still making just over $30,000 ... On the Bibb pay scale he would been made $57,000.


Davis says there's an average disparity across the two departments of $5,000 per person.

The grand total for what it would cost to fix that.....1 point 4 million dollars.

And he wants the new government to address it.

< It's a give and take, we need to work together in this because it's not only just a Sheriff's office issue, it's a county issue, it's a community because you want to have the best-trained, the best paid officers to go out there and serve the public.>


While Davis says for the first few months, they may be some division between ex-MPD and former Sheriff's people.

But he wants to remind them that come January, they're all serving one community.

Tom George, 13WMAZ Eyewitness News.

Davis says he can't guarantee that county officials will work to balance the two department's salaries...or that anyone will get a raise.

But he said no one's pay will be cut.

     The six men seeking the top spot of the new Macon-Bibb government met today at the Douglass Theatre to talk about how to move the community forward.

     The Macon-Bibb Chamber of Commerce hosted the forum and members submitted the questions.

     Candidates discussed a variety of topics... such as how to reduce crime.

<allen: we've got to get out in this community. There's a lot of black on black crime in this community. We've got to get to the people. We've got to find a way to get those individuals to start working with the children. A lot of these kids, they don't want to get involved in the crimes, they want to make money. the best way to make money is with education, find a job.

Bishop: there are some things we can do also, besides support the sheriff. it's our duty to fund him. it's our duty to make sure he has the opportunity to maintain and train and keep a good workforce. we dont want bottom of the barrel. we've got to put incentive packages together for public safety. that will make us have to top law enforcement unit in the southeast.

cousino: when you have the sheriffs out there and they're walking the path talking to the people in the streets, talking to the people in their homes, what do you have? community awareness. the thugs, whoever is out there, when they see the sheriffs that are out there on the streets and actually getting out of their cars and talking to the people, they're going to be evading from that neighborhood.

ellis: you can put an overlay of any part of this town and see where crimes are committed and poverty is rampant and they will so hand in hand. let's not paint this with a black face. Having said that, what we must do is have early intervention and prevention by afterschool programs and things of that nature.

hart: what we are doing with the juvenile justice center is we are creating a campus-like atmosphere so we can bring teens together and intervene very quickly to get them back into productive situations as quickly as we can. so we have to be proactive there. we also have too look and see if we can't do something about those people who have dropped out of school.

reichert: intervention first, prevention second, and rehabilitation third. By intervention you have your neighborhood watch programs, you try to prevent crime, you have your youth programs, you try to steer kids away from drugs and gangs and violence. But then you have your prevention and that's your active police enforcement.>

     To find out more about the candidates' responses during the hour and a half session... Look for this story on our website... 13WMAZ dot-com.

     Macon-Bibb voters can choose their picks for the new government on September 17th. Early voting begins Monday, August 26th.

     More video from earlier today...that's facing downtown Macon...as heavy rains flooded ditches and saturated streets.

     Ben's in to show us how long this is going to continue.


     Bears in Africa?

     You bet!

     Suzanne Lawler has some pictures to show off.


< suzanne ad libs >


< suzanne ad libs >


     You can find more pictures in our photo gallery... Just look for slideshows at 13WMAZ-dot-com.

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