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Top Stories of 2009

The year 2009 was full of changes across the state, nation and world. The McDuffie Mirror Editorial Department selected the top stories of the year that had significant impact on our community. One simply brought an overwhelming response from our readers. Following are five of those stories. The other five will be printed next week.

The year 2009 was full of changes across the state, nation and world. The McDuffie Mirror Editorial Department selected the top stories of the year that had significant impact on our community. One simply brought an overwhelming response from our readers. Following are five of those stories. The other five will be printed next week.

1.

Education system endures cutbacks

By LYNN DAVIDSON

Staff Writer

The McDuffie County School System is enduring its most financially challenging year ever, according to comptroller Tom Smalley. The challenges began last March, when employee contract renewals were delayed several months as school officials awaited their revenue allotment sheet from the state.

After meeting more times than ever before to work on the yearly budget, school board members approved a tentative budget in June that was more than $3,000,000 lower than the previous year's budget. In spite of the cuts, the budget did not contain any job losses, millage increases or a fund balance decrease.

Instead, the decrease came from expenditure cuts by each department, attrition and pay-raise freezes, changes to pay scales, pay cuts and furloughs.

But the balanced budget did not last long. In July, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue implemented an additional three percent cut across the board in Quality Basic Education funds from the state and an additional mandatory three-day furlough for all certified employees. McDuffie School Superintendent Jim LeBrun said the total revenue loss to McDuffie County exceeded $880,000.

More furlough days were implemented, as well as a change in the use of substitute teachers. Schools now use various employees, such as a teacher of another subject or a teacher who has a free period, to fill in a classroom throughout the day. The high school also unscrewed light bulbs in the hallways and front office to conserve energy, saving approximately $3,000 per month on their energy bill.

Just when it seemed the situation couldn't get any worse, the local tax digest was delayed not once, but twice, significantly reducing cash flow into the school system. The board voted in December to pursue a Tax Anticipation Note until taxes start coming in next month.

2.

Thomson Relay for Life on hiatus

By LYNN DAVIDSON

Staff Writer

For 12 years, McDuffie County was heavily involved in the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life. The event, which takes place in cities across the nation in May, is the primary fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

Fundraisers were held year-round in the community, bringing an annual increase in the amount raised. McDuffie's relay has been named either first or second in the nation for money raised per capita for several years.

In 2009, the co-chairs and team captains elected to end the Relay at midnight, as opposed to the usual 24-hour event.

Then, at the annual celebration luncheon in July, Co-chairman Bob Knox announced that McDuffie County will not participate in the 2010 Relay For Life. When Mr. Knox asked for comments, one person said they were "just shocked;" another said they'd heard "people saying they've been hit so hard for so long;" others asked about raising money for American Cancer Society without a relay, and still others worried the event would get dropped altogether and discussed ways to prevent that.

For information on making a donation to the American Cancer Society, call McDuffie County's Community Manager Representative, Danielle Truan at (706) 731-9900.

3.

McDuffie Museum opens

By LYNN DAVIDSON

Staff Writer

History was made in McDuffie County in January with the opening of the county's first museum.

Located at 121 Main St. in downtown Thomson, the museum is in the old First National Bank of Thomson and adjacent pharmacy buildings, which were remodeled by Two State Construction Company and 2KM Architects, Inc.

The ceiling inside the building was restored to its original height, the old, tall windows were replaced with efficient ones in the same style, original furniture to the bank was donated back to the museum and the old vault remains as it was, but is serving as a mini-theater.

At its grand opening, the museum's only exhibit was a traveling one from the Smithsonian Institute. The exhibit told how Americans produce, prepare, preserve and present foods.

One week after the museum opened, the board hired a curator/director, Jenny Lindsey, who since has filled the main exhibit room with displays exclusively about McDuffie County. The newest addition to the McDuffie Exhibit is a reconstruction of folk artist Jake McCord's front porch. The smaller exhibit room is used for traveling or temporary exhibits, and now features a century of clothing.

4.

Industry grows in slow economy

By LYNN DAVIDSON

Staff Writer

McDuffie County Development Authority experienced good news in 2009 with local industries.

Thomson Plastics, Inc. consolidated its Sandersville plant and added 50,000 square feet to its facility on the Warrenton Highway.

The expansion, which was celebrated in October, added 24 machines to the custom plastic injection mold operation, and 70 employees to the 210 already at work.

In February, Amcor, Inc. began the addition of 30,000 square feet for production to its 20,000-square-foot facility.

A manufacturer of shrink film, plastic bags and packaging additives, the company employs 45 who work at the corporate office and manufacturing plant on the Warrenton Highway in Thomson and at the distribution center in Warrenton.

In March, Advanced Primary Minerals kaolin processing plant opened in Dearing. Located on the same property as Eubank Lumber company, the plant processes kaolin currently being mined from 80 acres on Tudor Road.

CEO Ken MacDonald said the company will expand to other areas of the county over the next 10 years.

The clay will be slurried through a pipeline to the Dearing processing facility. Although the plant currently employs fewer than 10, Dearing Mayor Sean Kelley said the town and McDuffie County are receiving an economic boost from the plants'

5.

County creates new 'in-house' alternative school

By LYNN DAVIDSON

Staff Writer

McDuffie County students who require an alternative education have seen a few changes recently. For many years, students attended CrossRoads Learning Center in the old Pine Street Elementary School on Martin Luther King Jr. Street. In 2008, the school board voted unanimously to close CRLC at the end of the school year and replace it with Ombudsman Alternative School. Offered through Educational Services of America, Ombudsman is a contracted, turn-key operation set up in a business setting, rather than a traditional school setting.

One year later, the school board voted 5-1 to terminate its contract with Ombudsman and create their own "custom-made" alternative program. Shortly thereafter, McDuffie Achievement Center was born. It is located in the newly-remodeled old Pine Street Elementary School. Cecil Strong, former assistant principal of Thomson-McDuffie Junior High School, is principal of MAC.

In 2007-08, the school system paid $834,160 for CrossRoads Learning Center. In 2008-09,



Web posted on Thursday, December 31, 2009













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