As 2010 comes to a close, the Courier put together a year-in-review from the year’s top headlines. The dates listed are the dates on which the Courier published these stories, not when the events occurred. The following is a look back at stories from January 2010.
• Altamaha Riverkeepers discovered huge, old-growth cypress trees in Long County. Altamaha Riverkeeper James Holland found a giant cypress tree specimen measuring more than 43 feet in circumference. Holland was also reported to have found the tree’s big brother — an old-growth cypress measuring 44.5 feet in circumference and standing more than 100 feet tall. Holland and state officials examined the trees and found some of them to be hollow, but still alive.
• Work on a new plant in Tradeport East Industrial Park in Midway began. Liberty County Development Authority officials remained mum on the company’s identity. “We have been sworn to secrecy,” Anna Chafin, marketing director for LCDA, said. The new plant was the business park’s third major employer. Target and the Tire Rack had established distribution centers there.
• Mattie Pearl Mathis Hicks, a longtime teacher and member of Liberty County Board of Education, died Dec. 30 at age 87. Those who knew Hicks said she always put children first and worked to ensure they received a quality education. Former school board member Barney Rocker said, “She was a good board member. She did what she was supposed to do, she was well-informed and she kept up. I always enjoyed being with her on the board.”
• Liberty County’s newest large employer was unveiled at a news conference on its Tradeport East construction site. Firth Rixson, Ltd., a U.K.-based manufacturer of engineered forged-metal products announced it would bring 200 jobs to area residents at its closed-die forging plant. Construction on the 200,000-square foot facility was slated for completion later in the year.
• More than 100 people were expected to share their views on proposed state budget cuts that could eliminate as many as 10 days from the 2010 school year in Liberty County. Teachers hoped to make area lawmakers understand the negative impact that losing school days would have on the academic success of students. Sen. Buddy Carter and Reps. Ron Stephens and Al Williams were scheduled to attend the forum.
• A Fort Stewart soldier, Spc. Marc Hall, was arrested for releasing a rap song titled “Stop Lossed” because the song’s lyrics were characterized as threats. Hall was assigned to the 2-7 Infantry Battalion, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. He was initially charged with three counts of violating Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Conduct. Hall allegedly threatened his chain of command through his song’s lyrics, which included a description of shooting his superiors. Hall’s rapper persona was called Marc Watercus.
• The Liberty County Board of Commissioners approved a loan for a proposed public marina site. The county bought land on Cattle Hammock Road in April 2008 and took out an initial loan for just over $1.5 million. The loan the commission approved in Jan. 2010 was for $1,086,227.91 and carried a 3.15 percent interest rate.
• Two-month old infant Jayce Michael Riley died in a Midway house fire and his father, Christopher Riley, was seriously injured when he re-entered the burning house in an attempt to save his son. A next-door-neighbor, Dwight Thompson, was credited with rescuing Christopher Riley. The fire was ruled accidental and investigators determined a wood-burning stove located near the center of the 70-plus year-old house had caused the blaze.
• Two Liberty County schools received statewide recognition from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement for their improvement and achievement during the 2008-09 school year. Taylors Creek was recognized with a Gold Award for Greatest Gain. Waldo Pafford was recognized with a Silver Award for Greatest Gain.
• When Army Spc. Alexis Hutchinson, a cook stationed at Hunter Army Airfield, missed a scheduled deployment in Nov. 2009, she faced charges of missing movement, absence without leave, dereliction of duty and insubordinate conduct toward a noncommissioned officer. Hutchinson, then 21 and a single mother, was due to deploy with her unit to Afghanistan. Her supporters said she missed her deployment flight because she didn’t have childcare for her then 10-month old son, Kamani. Hutchinson had reportedly arranged for her mother to care for her child, but claimed the arrangement fell through days before her scheduled deployment.
• Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield officials announced non-essential services on post would be cut to help conserve funds. Dumpsters were emptied less often and the post gym and motor pool’s operating hours were shortened. However, Army Family Covenant programs such as child care services were not affected.
• Riceboro residents John and Yvanette Stone were relieved to have good news of Yvanette’s family in Haiti, following the devastating earthquake there. The island nation experienced a 7.0 magnitude earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010. The quake’s epicenter was about 16 miles west of Port-au-Prince, the country’s capital.
• Local resident Clay Sikes used his connections in Washington D.C. to help spur an effort to assist the people of Haiti following a major earthquake. “Ironically, our efforts in Washington over the Fort Stewart issue (cancellation of a fifth brigade) put us in touch with a lot of different people at a lot of different levels, including the White House,” Sikes said.
• A sculpture of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was found to be stored at Fort Stewart’s museum. The metal sculpture was a gift to the 3rd Infantry Division from the Iraqi government and came to the post in pieces after Operation Iraqi Freedom 3 in 2006, according to Fort Stewart museum director Walter Meeks.
• A Long County woman now missing for three years was featured in a segment on “America’s Most Wanted.” Melanie Clark, the mother of missing woman Debora Gail DeLoach Moody, said the show gave her an opportunity to talk about her daughter’s case. Moody disappeared on Dec. 4, 2007.
• The school board fielded questions from parents and teachers about teacher furloughs and the board’s then-recent purchase of the Brewton-Parker campus in Hinesville. The Liberty County Board of Education bought the property with SPLOST dollars.
• For the first time the Liberty County Health Department and the department of preventative medicine at Fort Stewart planned to hold joint H1N1 vaccination clinics in local schools.
• A 3rd ID soldier found dead in his barracks on Fort Stewart the night of Jan. 22 was identified as Pvt. Adam Kiedrowski. Kiedrowski was attached to the 87th Combat Service Support Battalion. Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson said the soldier’s cause of death did not appear to have resulted from foul play.
• A rabies case appeared to have been isolated, county officials said after a Lake George couple had to quarantine two of their three dogs following an attack by a rabid raccoon. The raccoon was captured, killed and sent off for testing.
• Members of the Fort Stewart Growth Management Partnership agreed to send a proposal to the Office of Economic Adjustment and to Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston that detailed how they would spend $40 million in federal impact aid to be distributed to public entities in the wake of losing a proposed fifth brigade in July 2009.
• Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas joined 230 mayors from across the nation to meet with President Barack Obama and other high-level officials in Washington D.C. at the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
• Board members of the Liberty Humane Shelter brought the issue of a county-wide spay-neuter ordinance back before the Liberty County Commission for consideration.