Local | WABE 90.1 FM

Local

Georgia Power is currently disputing $400 million dollars in cost overruns with its contractors over construction issues for the new twin reactors at Plant Vogtle near Augusta.

Georgia Power's partners, collectively, could be on the hook for an additional half a billion. The total cost of the overruns are projected at about $900 million.  

This year Emory University’s 167th commencement will take place.
Among the graduates will be 31-year old Mariangela Jordan.
Jordan is the recipient of the 2012 Lucius Lamar McMullan Award, one of Emory's highest student honors.
WABE has this report on Mariangela’s non-traditional road to college.

The State Board of Education voted Thursday to deny a petition for Fulton Science Academy Middle School to become a state charter special school. As a result the Academy, which has an enrollment of about 500 students, will cease to exist as a public school when its charter expires on June 30. However, the Academy plans to reopen as a private institution for the 2012-2013 school year.

In an attempt to ease the tax burden on local homeowners, a Gwinnett County commissioner is pushing for a penny sales tax increase. 

Commissioner Mike Beaudreau says his proposal would result in no net tax increase because the sales tax increase would be offset by lower property taxes.

Beaudreau says homeowners have been paying a disproportionate share of the county budget for too long. He says his initiative would spread out the tax burden.

Amid a significant budget shortfall, Clayton county schools will be dropping teachers, increasing class sizes, and reducing technical training opportunities.

Clayton County Schools are trying to fill a $40 million budget gap over the next three years. As a result, average class size throughout the district will increase by two students.

In addition, about 170 teaching jobs are being phased out next year. The Career Technical and Agricultural Education program will take a big hit. The program helps to train students for a trade, as opposed to college.

University of Georgia President Michael Adams will receive more than $2 million after he steps down next year. He’ll receive the money over a five-year period.

Under the agreement, Adams will receive $600,000 a year for two years. Then, he’ll get $258,000 a year for three years. That’s in addition to $600,000 in deferred compensation. Regents’ spokesman John Millsaps says the decision shows the board’s appreciation for Adams’ contributions.

Georgia will get some help from private donors as it rolls out a new child care quality rating system next year.

The Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning has received a $2.4 million grant from The Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation and The United Way of Metro Atlanta. DECAL commissioner Bobby Cagle says the funds will go a long way.

President Barack Obama
whitehouse.gov

As heard on NPR, President Barak Obama is supporting same sex-marriages.

Georgia recognizes marriage as a union only between a man and woman and reaction regarding the President’s comments in Georgia is mixed.

“I have to tell you as I’ve said I’ve gone through an evolution on this issue,” said President Obama yesterday.

That evolution says Jeff Graham couldn’t come at better time especially since North Carolina passed its constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.

In the last presidential election, minorities turned out to the polls in record numbers.

But since then, the NAACP says the voting rights of minorities across the US have been under attack.

To counter what they say is a growing trend towards disenfranchisement,  leaders Wednesday unveiled the “This is My Vote” campaign at Clark-Atlanta University.  

"If you have email... register someone to vote," Rev. Dr. William Barber, an NAACP board member, told the small crowd. 

Georgia jail separates veteran inmates from other inmates

May 9, 2012
The initiative would offer an alternative to jail.
WABE News

Columbus law enforcement officials are keeping veterans separate from other inmates.

According to Georgia Public Broadcasting, the Muscogee County Jail just opened their veterans dorm.

The separate wing of the jail holds 16 people. Right now it’s nearly full. Fifteen percent of the inmates in the Muscogee County jail are veterans.

Muscogee County Sheriff David Darr says separating the jail population makes it easier to target the men for treatment for things like substance abuse and post traumatic stress disorder.

At a hearing today at the Public Service Commission, Georgia Power officials say construction costs so far for the two new nuclear reactors near Augusta are roughly on budget, but the completion dates are being pushed back.

Meanwhile, Georgia Power officials say ratepayers could see significant cost savings on the project down the line.

The first new reactor at Plant Vogtle was supposed to be completed by April 2016. The second unit was set for April 2017. 

Kyle Leach of Georgia Power says those dates will each be pushed back to November.

If you live in DeKalb County, and you own a pit bull, you will no longer be in violation of the law.  The DeKalb County Commission Tuesday unanimously voted to lift the county’s ban on pit bulls as household pets.

University of Georgia

A new University of Georgia report shows African-Americans have increased their purchasing power in the state.

Georgia remains the 5th largest African-American Consumer Market in the U.S. But according to a report produced by UGA’s Selig Center for Economic Growth, buying power for blacks in Georgia has risen to more than $73 billion dollars a year. That’s compared to about $66 billion in 2010. Jeff Humphreys serves as UGA’s director of economic forecasting.

“So we have seen some growth even in recent years despite the great recession.”

 

Today, state transportation officials revealed plans to improve traffic on the busiest stretch of Georgia 400. Southbound drivers could see some relief from Holcomb Bridge Road to the North Springs MARTA station. Starting Monday morning between 6:30 and 9:30, commuters on that five-and-a half mile section of the highway will have the option of using the shoulder. Georgia Department of Transportation commissioner Keith Golden says the plan should ease traffic, but adds it’s not a cure-all.

State agriculture officials are warning Georgians about some dry dog food products distributed by Diamond Pet foods, because of concerns over Salmonella contamination.

Multiple brands of dry pet foods produced by the company at a South Carolina manufacturing facility have been linked to 14 human Salmonella infections in 9 states. But currently no human or pet illnesses have been reported in Georgia. As a precaution, state inspectors are checking local stores to make sure the recalled products are taken off shelves.

A charter school recognized last year by the U.S. Department of Education for standardized test achievement may soon have to shut its doors. The state’s charter schools division has recommended the denial of Fulton Science Academy Middle School’s application to become a state chartered special school.  State charter schools division officials say even though the charter school’s academic performance is comparable to other schools in the area, they’re recommending a denial of the petition due to concerns over governance, legal compliance and financial accountability.

The president of Georgia Perimeter College has been forced to step aside after state officials uncovered what they say is a staggering mismanagement of school funds.

No criminal activity is being reported for now, just gross mismanagement.

About $16 million is unaccounted for, according to Georgia's university system chancellor Hank Huckaby.

 

Georgia’s new license plates are making their debut today.  The new design was chosen from 500 entries in a contest last year. Vicki Lambert, the director of motor vehicles for the Georgia Department of Revenue, says older license plates will be replaced first.

 

 

Georgia gas prices keep dropping

May 7, 2012

 

The average gas price in Georgia has dropped again as demand for fuel continues to decline.

The average price for regular unleaded in the state is $3.61. That price is .07 cheaper than last week and .24 cheaper than last month. AAA spokeswoman Jessica Brady says gas prices are dropping while some indications of consumer confidence are rising.

Legal action in Atlanta Airport case

May 7, 2012

The new international terminal at Atlanta’s Airport opens next week. As preparations continue, a group that lost its bid to sell inside the airport will fight the city in court.

Jim Burress / WABE

Robert Champion’s parents say there needs to be a federal anti-hazing law.

Champion, who was from DeKalb County, died last year after a hazing incident at Florida A&M University.

In an interview with NPR, Pam Champion said state-by-state hazing laws do little to stop the practice. 

We need “federal laws across the country, where every state is abiding by the same law," says Champion.  "This law needs to be stiffer than what it is today.  It sends no strong message.”

news.emory.edu

Emory will soon offer a new P.h.D. in Islamic Civilizations Studies. The university’s board of trustees recently approved the new program for Emory’s Laney Graduate School.

University officials say the new P.h.D program is needed because demand for specialists in the Islamic world and Islamic studies is high and is expected to remain that way for at least the next decade. Dr. Vincent Cornell chairs Emory’s department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies:

Interest rates on federal student loans could double if Congress doesn’t take action by July 1st.

Today consumer advocates, the Georgia Public Interest Research Group released data on how the loan increase could impact Georgia students.

WABE’s Rose Scott has more.

Right now it’s 3.4 percent and could double.

The Georgia Public Interest Research Group is urging senators Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss to keep the current interest rate.

Rich Williams is a federal higher education advocate with Georgia PIRG.

Georgia Peaches In Season Early

May 4, 2012

Due to the mild winter, Georgia’s peach crop is ahead of schedule. The first peaches of the season will be hitting stores this weekend.

Georgia farmers began picking last week.

Lauren Carey of the Peachtree Roads Farmers Market says Atlantans will begin to see jordache peaches in many of the markets across the city.  

“We really didn’t have our usual cold and our extended freeze period so everything, including peaches is coming in early.”

Due to the warm dry winter, she says the peaches won’t be as big and plump as years past. But they will be sweeter.

Georgia officials have been lobbying for hundreds of millions of federal dollars to help fund the port deepening in Savannah.

Everyone from Governor Nathan Deal to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed says the project is vital. They say it will help the port stay competitive after the Panama Canal is widened to allow for bigger cargo ships in 2014.

But some supply-chain experts says the economic impact isn't so clear.

Jim Burress / WABE

The parents of Robert Champion -- the Florida A&M University drum major from DeKalb County who died after a hazing ritual -- say the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.

Wednesday, prosecutors in Florida charged 13 people in Robert Champion’s death.  Eleven face felony charges with a maximum penalty of six years in prison.   Two others face misdemeanors.

In an interview with NPR Friday, Champion’s mother, Pam, said  her son’s death needs to send a stronger message.

The lineup is out for this year’s Music Midtown.

The two-day music festival will feature some of the biggest recording acts.

And as WABE’s Rose Scott reports, there’s something for everyone.

In the words of the self-proclaimed King of The South, “you can have whatever you like.”

Atlanta’s own T.I will take to the stage the first night of Music Midtown.

Hip hop is just one of the many kinds of music festival promoter Peter Conlon says will provide a balance for fans.

 

May is “Jury Summons Amnesty Month” in Fulton County. And so far, there have been few takers. Fulton County Superior Court judges have extended an olive branch to more than 30,000 people who skipped jury duty last year. Fulton County Superior Court Administrator Yolanda Lewis says no-show jurors are getting a second chance.

 

“Amnesty month is really an opportunity for those individuals who’ve received jury summons and follow-up letters and have not responded to come back in and reschedule their services.”

 

The Dekalb County Schools will launch its first-ever social media channels tonight as the district honors its top students. Spokesman Walter Woods says it will be a "social media debut" of sorts. 

 “Tonight is our Valedictorian and Salutatorian event," Woods says, "This will be the first-ever content that Dekalb Schools ever puts up on social media. So we thought that was appropriate to launch it tonight. So we hope people will watch it live on twitter this evening.”

 

New criminal justice legislation seeks to drastically reduce Georgia’s prison population by funneling out those with mental health or drug issues.

Ultimately it means more stress on community-based recovery services, an area historically underfunded by the state.

Neil Kaltenecker of the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse strongly supports the reforms. She says the $10 million for mental health courts and community-based programs is a positive sign.

Still, Kaltenecker says the state has a long way to go.

Pages