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Model Citizens


A 3D model of Evans Towne Center created by Columbia County’s Geographic Information Systems team has been selected as the recipient of the GMIS International award for outstanding service and dedication to the citizens of Columbia County.

The project was submitted to GMIS International after winning the Georgia GMIS Government to Citizen Award earlier this summer.

Team members (pictured) include (left to right, front row): Larry Hobbs, Ernie Phelps, Lindsey Stokes and Julianne Hartman and (back row) Samuel Ball, Grace Jansen and Mark Swain.

Although the department team had no experience in 3D modeling, it was asked by the county administrator to create the model to showcase the county’s new Performing Arts Center, Meybohm Building, future parking deck and other future retail/professional developments.

The team had only two weeks to put the project together to present to the Board of Commissioners and county administration.

Monarch Migration


Get ready for flying color. The monarch butterfly — the only butterfly known to make a two-way migration as birds do — will be putting on a show in town soon. 

Each fall from the end of September until mid-October, monarchs migrate through the area on their 2,800-mile trip from the Northeastern United States and Canada to Mexico.

“We see more butterflies in the fall versus the spring,” says Tripp Williams, UGA extension office, Columbia County coordinator. “They’re not mating and laying eggs in the fall.”

If you’d like to attract butterflies and other pollinators to your yard, plant nectar-providing plants such as milkweed, native flower mixes, dill and fennel in natural, unmaintained, pesticide-free areas from the end of March through October. “Anything that has color to it and blooms is a great nectar source,” Williams says.

Ready for PLay


Columbia County’s newest park is open for fun

Columbia County residents have a new place to play. Lakeside Park, located at 2040 Panther Crossing in Evans, opened to the public in August.

The facility, adjacent to the Lakeside Sports Complex, includes five multipurpose fields, six lighted tennis/pickleball courts and a playground that includes a large play structure with slides and a bridge.

The main pavilion includes concessions, restrooms, a picnic area and drinking fountains. Two additional pavilions near the playground and the tennis courts also feature water fountains and picnic tables.

A lighted, half-mile walking track with varying slopes goes around the perimeter of the park and connects all of its features.

The park project was funded by the 2017 general obligation bond.

Look Before You “Like”


Many posts on Facebook are created by scammers trying to collect as many “likes” as possible and steal your information.

You’ve seen them before. Facebook posts designed to grab your attention and stop your scrolling. But think before you comment or “like” something on Facebook because it may be “like-farming” fraud.

“Like-farming” is when scammers create eye-catching posts designed to get many likes and shares. There are many versions.  Some tug at your heartstrings, others tempt you with offers to win a new car or RV. Posts often give people emotional reasons to click, like, and share, such as adorable animals, sick children, the promise to win big, or political messages.

For example, a post advertising a free RV recently made the rounds on Facebook, using the pandemic to draw attention:

“With a lot of people out of work and Covid-19 keeping them out of work we know money is tighter more now than ever! So by 4 PM Monday someone who shares and also comments will be the new owner of this 2020 Jayco Greyhawk RV, paid off and ready to drive away, keys in hand – Jayco.” 

The actual company, Jayco, a BBB Accredited Business, responded on Facebook, saying:

“We are not running a giveaway for a 2020 Seneca or any other Jayco RV. We have taken the necessary steps to report the page(s) responsible for the misleading giveaways. If we ever do run any official Jayco sales event or giveaway, it will be promoted through our official Jayco company page. In addition, we would never ask for your personal information, under no circumstance should you provide your personal information to anyone.”

Malicious Intent
As with many scams, like-farming has several different aims. When scammers ask you to register in order to win something or claim an offer, this is a way to steal your personal information.

Other versions can be more complex. Often, the post itself is initially harmless – albeit completely fictional. But when the scammer collects enough likes and shares, they will edit the post and could add something malicious, such as a link to a website that downloads malware to your machine.

Other times, once scammers reach their target number of likes, they strip the page’s original content and use it to promote spammy products. They may also resell the page on the black market. These buyers can use it to spam followers or harvest the information Facebook provides.

Protecting Yourself

  • Use your good judgmest. If a post says you can win something just by sharing the post, it’s probably not true. If a post tugs at your heartstrings and isn’t about someone you know personally, be wary about the truthfulness of its contents.
  • Don’t click “like” on every post in your feed. Scammers are counting on getting as many mindless likes as possible, so be sure you only “like” posts and articles that are legitimate. Don’t help scammers spread their con.
  • Be cautious when it comes to sharing your personal information. Never give out personal information, such as your full name, telephone number, address, etc. to a person or company you don’t know or trust.
  • Update your web browser and antivirus. Make sure you always have the latest version of your browser and antivirus. That way, if you do accidentally click on a scammer’s post, you will likely be warned that you are about to visit a suspicious site.
  • Look for the blue checkmark. Many social media platforms verify pages from brands and celebrities so that users can decipher real pages versus copycats. Make sure you look for that trust mark before liking and sharing content.

For more information on avoiding scams, visit BBB.org and to report a scam visit BBB.org/scamtracker.

By Kelvin Collins
President/CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving the Fall Line Corridor, Inc.

Fall Reimagined


Augusta Symphony is making new arrangements for its 2020-21 concerts.

Musicians are creative by nature, and the Augusta Symphony will use its imagination this fall to launch the 2020-21 season. The first half of the season, Fall Reimagined, will reflect the signs of the times while still entertaining audiences with the orchestra members’ talents and professionalism.

“Our fall season, though very different than anticipated, will be thrilling,” says Dirk Meyer, music director. “The works we have chosen to perform are fantastic, and I’m excited that we can feature some of our very own musicians as soloists for these concerts. In addition, we came up with a very creative solution to get our patrons involved.”

For Fall Reimagined, the concerts will be limited to current subscribers and will allow for physical distancing. Because fewer patrons will be allowed in Miller Theater at one time, subscribers have three options to enjoy the symphony performances. They can attend the evening concert; they can attend the afternoon dress rehearsal; or they can watch via livestream.

In addition, smaller orchestras will perform in shorter, intermission-free programs.

“We have created a system and programs though which we can limit the amount of people on stage, as well as in the hall,” Meyer says. “This way we are able to perform safely, with social distancing in place throughout the performance. Additional safety measures such as masks are in place throughout the Miller,”. “The key was to create programs that use a smaller orchestra, so that we can ensure enough space between each musician while performing. Thankfully, the chamber orchestra repertoire is vast and filled with fantastic compositions.”

The fall concerts include two performances next month – Smaller Mahler at 7:30 p.m. Friday, October 2 and A Little Night Music at 7:30 p.m. Friday, October 30.

Smaller Mahler will feature Jessye Norman-mentored soprano Laquita Mitchell, and the performance will include Montgomery’s Strum, Barber’s Knoxville Summer 1915 and Mahler’s Symphony No. 4.

Musicians for A Little Night Music will include Anastasia Petrunina on violin, Brian Lyons on oboe and Brian Winegardner on trumpet. The concert will include Assad’s Impressions, Bach’s Concerto for Violin and Oboe, Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Albinoni’s Trumpet Concerto and Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.

In-person Pops! concerts will resume in February, and the next performance in the Family Concerts performance will take place in May. However, patrons who had purchased subscriptions to these series will have access to two exclusive digital concerts – Movie Music Pops! and Holiday Pops! – in their own homes this fall. These concerts will be recorded in October.

“The past few months certainly have tested all of us like never before,” says Meyer. “For performing artists, this is especially true. It has been very difficult to see all our performance opportunities vanish, one after another. For many, that has created enormous financial hardships. Additionally, it is a strange feeling to not be performing – like losing a very important part of yourself.” Once it became clear that we would not be able to start our season like we anticipated, we immediately got to work on a backup plan. And I think we came up with some very exciting ideas.”

The Passion concert from the 2019-20 season, which was rescheduled from March 28 to September 17, has been postponed again to Thursday, May 20. The recording project of Miguel del Aguila’s music will continue at that time.

Ticketholders for E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial Film with Live Orchestra and Brass Transit: The Music of Chicago should expect to see those performances reprogrammed to the 2021-22 season.

Single tickets will not be available for purchase for the fall concerts. However, single tickets for the winter/spring 2021 concerts will go on sale November 2.

Monovision — Ray LaMontagne

Listen To This

Released this summer by veteran singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne, Monovision is a self-contained freight train of surprise and milestones.

LaMontagne’s signature analog approach to recording has been a result of his distain (and lack of patience) for computer-tweaked, digi-fab concoctions. But what started as hesitantly embracing a digital demo process brought forth an unexpected sonic epiphany, with LaMontagne writing all the tunes, playing all the instruments and then solo engineering and producing the 10-song collection.

With a digital DIY mindset and a room full of instruments, LaMontagne found himself crafting some of his most expansive and impactful music to date. Each track was birthed through a simplistic demo-style regimen, and by self-experimentation and instrumentation, he found the purest beauty and creativity within himself that had never been tapped.

Each track reveals the journey of conceptual inspiration over the bridge to a beautifully encapsulated fruition of folk authenticity.

For those who are considering taking up a new hobby or exploring untapped superpowers in these days of isolation, may Monovision be your pro-vision.

– Chris Rucker

Free Music Therapy


Everyone knows that music can be therapeutic, but Augusta Symphony is taking that R&R factor to the next level. 

The symphony is one of just 18 orchestras and youth orchestras nationwide to receive a $30,000 grant from the League of American Orchestras American Orchestras’ Futures Fund, made possible by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.

 The symphony is expanding its free music therapy program to include a mindfulness-based music therapy initiative. 

Symphony musicians and university students will provide live music for group therapy sessions, facilitated by Augusta Symphony’s music therapist, that focus on guided relaxation, imagery and mindfulness practices to positively affect the lives of participants such as those suffering from chronic illnesses as well as community members interested in self-care and wellness.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Literary Loop

According to Shakespeare scholars, the names Hamnet and Hamlet were interchangeable in Elizabethan England. In the 21st century, novelist Maggie O’Farrell — interested in determining the connection — recreates a fictional account of the short life of Shakespeare’s son.

A young Latin tutor — penniless and bullied by a violent father — falls in love with an eccentric young woman. She is a wild creature who walks her family’s land with a falcon on her glove and is known for her gifts as a healer. Once settled with her husband in Stratford-upon-Avon, she becomes a fiercely protective mother and a steadfast, centrifugal force in the life of her young husband, whose career on the London stage is taking off when his beloved young son succumbs to sudden fever from the bubonic plague.

“This novel is at once about the transfiguration of life into art — it is O’Farrell’s extended speculation on how Hamnet’s death might have fueled the creation of one of his father’s greatest plays — and at the same time, it is a master class in how she, herself does it,” says the New York Times Book Review.

“So gorgeously written that it transports you from our own plague time right into another and makes you glad to be there,” says The Boston Globe.

In the Money


If you want to stretch your dollars, you’re in the right place. Columbia County ranks third among Georgia counties on a list of places where people can make their dollars go the furthest, says a study by financial technology company SmartAsset. Nationally the Columbia County ranks 231.

The study compares median income and cost of living data nationwide to find the counties where people hold the most purchasing power.


Back to School


Covid-19 has given new meaning to school choice.

Columbia County schools will open as planned on August 3, but classrooms will not be quite as full as normal. Students have been given two educational options for 2020-21 – traditional in-school instruction and a learn-from-home (LFH) model – because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Sandra Carraway, superintendent of schools, says that this fall about 85 percent of the district’s students will return for in-school learning. The remaining 15 percent, or 4,535, of the district’s students have chosen the online option. The projected enrollment for the upcoming school year is 28,864.

“The vast majority of our parents are ready and eager to send their children back to school. For those who aren’t, we certainly understand,” Carraway says. “We’re pleased to be able to offer an option.”

The first day of school for LFH middle and high school students will be August 10, and LFH elementary school students will start August 17.

Based on guidance from a number of state and national resources, the district will open schools under Enhanced Mitigation Measures. These measures require middle and high school students and staff members to wear face coverings during transitions, when gathered in large groups, on the bus and when social distancing is not possible. Masks are recommended under the same circumstances for elementary school students and staff members.

Additional safety and sanitation measures will be implemented on school buses, and the school district will follow Georgia High School Association guidelines for sporting events and practices.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics has clearly stated that children need to be in school,” Carraway says. “Students miss their friends. They miss their teachers. They miss the structure.”

When an in-school student or staff member tests positive for covid-19, the symptomatic person with a confirmed case or a suspected case (based on direct contact with an individual who tested positive) can return to school after at least three days pass since recovery (defined as having no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms). In addition, at least 10 days must pass since symptoms first appear before an infected individual can return to school.

Asymptomatic persons with confirmed covid-19 can return to school after at least 10 days pass since the positive test and the person remains asymptomatic.

Carraway says the LFH curriculum will be much more rigorous during the 2020-21 academic year than it was in the spring when it was used as a stop-gap measure. High school students must commit to a learning model for a semester at a time, while middle and elementary school students must commit for a nine-week grading period.

Of the LFH students, 16.22 percent are in high school, 16.06 percent are in middle school and 15.1 percent are in elementary school.

If covid-19 cases surge in the area, the school district has contingency plans in place. In the case of moderate spread, students will attend school on a staggered basis. One group will go to class Monday and Wednesday, and the second group will go to school Tuesday and Thursday. All students will learn from home on Friday.

If the spread becomes substantial, then all students will learn from home.

“We’re watching the positive cases in our area, and we’ll modify our plans as need be,” Carraway says.

School board member Kristi Baker also cautions the community to remain vigilant. Just because schools are opening, she says, this is “not a free-for-all.”

Clear the Shelters


Adopt a new best friend. Columbia County Animal Services is taking part in Clear the Shelters, a national pet adoption campaign, during the month of August.

In previous years, the campaign has taken place on a single day. This year, however, the campaign will last all month to give potential pet parents the ability to follow social distancing guidelines. The shelter is open for walk-ins Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“We have a lot of outdoor visitations, and we have four large play areas that are separate from each other,” says Linda Glasscock, the Animal Services manager.

The reduced fee of $10 for a cat adoption will remain in place during the campaign, says Glasscock, and, depending on how many dogs are available for adoption, adoption fees might be reduced for them as well.

Animal Services also will offer gift bags and drawings for items such as free microchips.

In the Money


In spite of the coronavirus pandemic, sales tax revenues in Columbia County are on the rise so far this year.

From the beginning of the year – and continuing through the height of the statewide shelter-in-place orders due to the coronavirus pandemic in the spring – Columbia County has seen an increase in sales tax revenues.

The county showed an 8.9-percent increase in sales tax collections in the first quarter of 2020 over sales tax revenues in the first quarter of 2019. In the first quarter of this year, the county collected $5.8 million in sales taxes. Last year the county collected $5.4 million in sales taxes in the first quarter.

That trend continued in the spring as well. The county received $2.08 million in sales taxes in April and $2.32 million in sales taxes in May. Last year the county received $1.98 million and $1.97 million in sales taxes during April and May, respectively.

“We were concerned that April wouldn’t be as good because of the Masters being postponed and covid-19, but April was the best month we’ve ever had,” Scott Johnson, county administrator, says. “We collected $100,000 more in sales taxes in April of this year than we did in April 2019.”

He also says counties in metro Atlanta were showing a negative number in sales tax revenues in the first quarter of 2020.

Johnson says sales tax dollars benefit county residents in a number of ways. The one-cent SPLOST supports special purpose projects such as the construction of parks and buildings. The one-cent E-SPLOST goes toward new school construction, and the one-cent Local Option Sales Tax offsets property taxes.

“The more LOST money we get, the more we get to roll back property taxes,” says Johnson.

The county administrator attributes the increase in this year’s sales tax revenues to several reasons. In April, a law that the state legislature passed last year enabling counties to collect sales taxes for online purchases went into effect April 1.

“A lot of people were at home and shopping online,” says Johnson.

He also believes the stimulus checks that people received from the federal government this spring during the coronavirus shutdown likely contributed to increased sales.

“People had an influx of cash that they were willing to spend,” Johnson says. “The stimulus checks were disposal income for some folks.”

In addition, Johnson says, as an unincorporated county, the local government did not have the authority to mandate business closures during the shutdown.

“As long as businesses could stay open and follow the rules, we wanted them to stay open,” he says.

However, Johnson says of the increase in sales tax revenues, “I think the natural growth in Columbia County is probably the majority of the reason for it. As we continue to grow, I think the numbers will continue to go up.”

Get the Bug


You may have completed your household census, but there is another census coming up as well.

The UGA Cooperative Extension is conducting its annual Great Georgia Pollinator Census on August 21 and 22, and it is counting on volunteers to help.

People of all ages can participate. Simply watch a flowering plant in a garden or a park for 15 minutes and count and identify the pollinators – bees, butterflies, wasps, flies and other insects – that land on it.

An insect identification guide and a page to upload counts are available at ggapc.org.


Vision 2035


Based on community input, Columbia County is updating its comprehensive growth and development plan

Columbia County is updating Vision 2035, its comprehensive growth and development management plan, and county officials hope to adopt the new plan by the first quarter of 2021. The plan, approved by county commissioners in 2016, requires an update every five years. Commercial and industrial development such as White Oak Business Center and the expansion and development of the Gateway area in Grovetown.

“We will continue to pursue our objectives in the most appropriate way possible and in the locations that make the most sense,” Sterling says. “And we need to absorb the growth caused by Fort Gordon.”

While growth, including development and redevelopment, is occurring throughout the county, he says there is more land to develop in western Columbia County.

“We’re trying to grow smart and figure out where new development needs to go. We have development standards in place, and we need to minimize the effect on infrastructure,” Sterling says. “We’ll continue to work through the update process, and we’re looking at additional public outreach with more hearings in the fall or early winter.”

The Waterfall II— My Morning Jacket

Listen To This

It’s not often that a sequel stands toe-to-toe with the original. In 2015, Kentucky’s own My Morning Jacket released The Waterfall, a departure record that swam in very mellow and bitter waters. Thankfully, the sessions were boiled down with a good bit of leftovers.

Fast forward to 2020 and MMJ now delivers a kind reminder that we can make the best of any situation with music. The Waterfall II is the blazing hot ray of sunshine that was absent from the previous and is a perfect companion to summer’s end. Frontman Jim James claims there is no relation between the two waterfalls, but there is definitely a river running through them.

This release is an optimistic, warm, technicolor catalog of healing during our quarantined summer. MMJ’s signature lush, dreamscape, jammy arrangements are in full soul effect, while a snap of sugar pop creates a sonic milkshake that is refreshing and uplifting. For diehard fans, do not worry; there are plenty of hard-riffing, funk-fused olive branches to go around.

– Chris Rucker