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Governor's Daily Press Preview
Wednesday, 10 June 2009

June 10--  We thought you might like to see what Governor Perdue's press office sent him this morning to read about what's going on in Georgia.

Morning News Summary

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

  1. Water restrictions could dry up
  2. State in running for specialized police-car plant
  3. Athens may get medical college campus
  4. Ban lifted on new Lake Lanier boat docks
  5. Unemployment benefits extensions on the way
  6. Agencies eager to put stimulus grants to work
  7. Restaurants savor Midtown

Gainesville Times

  1. Easing drought may mean rule changes on water use, docks

Augusta Chronicle

  1. Drought easing, Georgia may ease watering rules today

Macon Telegraph

  1. Group seeks to make Macon “Birthplace of Southern Rock”
  2. Stormwater runoff tax gaining popularity among Macon council
  3. Home Depot raises full-year earnings guidance

Global Atlanta

  1. Georgia State Gets $900,000 from West African University


  1. 1,000 hired for Kia factory
  2. Columbus men raise about $60,000 for charity

Athens Banner Herald

  1. Cyclists on trek across state stop over in Athens

The Sun News

  1. Ga. Peach Festival starts this weekend

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

1Water restrictions could dry up


Stiff watering bans in North Georgia could evaporate.

The state’s top environmental officials are set to decide on Wednesday whether to lift restrictions put in place in the midst of a drought that gripped the Southeast in late 2007.

Heavy rainfall in recent months have helped Georgia and the rest of the Southeast emerge from the worst drought categories. Just a year ago, more than 40 percent of the region was mired in drought. Federal forecasters now say less than one percent of the Southeast is stuck in those dry conditions.

Gov. Sonny Perdue, who once led a prayer service for rain outside the state Capitol, is set to discuss the drought at a news conference at the governor’s mansion.

2State in running for specialized police-car plant

By Dan Chapman

A home-grown Atlanta automobile company will announce today orders for its first 10,000 police cars. Now, it just needs a place to build them.

Carbon Motors Corp., the brainchild of former Ford executive William Santana Li, aims to build the first car designed only for law enforcement. He said the company is considering five states, including Georgia, for the site of a plant that would employ 1,500 people.

A 520-acre site in Hall County, near Braselton, is Georgia’s offering. Li said production would start in 2012.

U.S. police and sheriff’s departments typically convert Ford Crown Victorias or Dodge Chargers into cruisers. The Carbon E7, according to the company, marries cop-specific needs with fuel efficiency.

The 300-horsepower, rear-wheel drive car will run on diesel or bio-diesel. Top speed: 155 mph. MPG: an estimated 28-30 miles per gallon overall —- 40 percent better than current cruisers, Carbon Motors says.

The interior will include computer and video displays and body-armor-friendly seats. A joystick maneuvers spotlights. Back seats are “hoseable.” Flashing lights are built into the roofline.

“It’s a modern-looking piece of machinery, and it comes with all the bells and whistles,” said Lt. Paul Cosper, spokesman for the Georgia State Patrol, which got a demonstration earlier this year but hasn’t placed an order. “The computers, radios and radars are built in. It’s a great concept.”

Li said “several hundred” state, local and federal agencies have signed up for 10,000 vehicles —- all the first year’s production. He wouldn’t name any of them. He said the price will be comparable to the retail price of a passenger car with law enforcement add-ons.

Li said a plant site will be picked this summer after a review of incentives offered by states. Georgia economic development officials declined comment Tuesday.

Li said abandoned Ford or GM plants would not be suitable. “We don’t need mass production, mass marketing, mass distribution techniques,” he said in an e-mail.

3Athens may get medical college campus

By Laura Diamond

The Medical College of Georgia will learn this month whether it received permission from a national accrediting agency to open a campus in Athens to help meet the state’s demand for more physicians.

The Liaison Committee on Medical Education will decide whether the Medical College’s School of Medicine can expand its entering class by 40 students starting in August 2010. Those students would attend the Medical College of Georgia/University of Georgia Medical Partnership Campus in Athens.

The state ranks 39th in the nation in the number of doctors per resident, according to the Georgia Board of Physician Workforce.

“We have an established need in our state, and this is a way for two outstanding institutions to work together to address and blunt the shortage of physicians,” said Douglas Miller, dean of the school of medicine at the Medical College.

UGA Provost Arnett Mace said working together is the most expedient and economical way to expand the state’s medical education program.

The Augusta medical school facilities are at capacity, while UGA has room within its planned health science campus.

After students are accepted to Medical College, they can say which campus they’d prefer —- Athens or Augusta, which can accommodate 190 students in each class. Miller said the college will try to grant students’ requests.

Miller estimated it will cost about $12 million to operate in Athens the first year, including faculty, facilities and student services. The campus will employ about 35 faculty members from both colleges.

The Athens campus is just one part of the Medical College expansion. The college’s Augusta campus is planning a new facility that would allow an extra 50 students, bringing each class there to 240 students.

4Ban lifted on new Lake Lanier boat docks


The Army Corps of Engineers is lifting a ban on new dock permits on Lake Lanier in another sign that the epic drought that once gripped north Georgia is fast becoming a thing of the past.

The Corps issued the moratorium in April 2007 as the drought sent levels at the massive reservoir plunging. As the drought grew worse, the lake’s levels dropped more than 18 feet below full pool.

But rainy weather has helped north Georgia emerge from the worst drought conditions, and Lanier is now only about four feet below full pool.

Corps spokesman E. Patrick Robbins said that helped federal engineers feel confident enough to begin accepting new boat dock permits.

5Unemployment benefits extensions on the way

By Michael E. Kanell

The check is not in the mail, but it will be come Thursday.

Payments to unemployed workers as part of the state’s emergency extension of benefits will be mailed Thursday, said Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond today.

The extension provides up to 20 weeks of payments to those who exhausted regular benefits, as well as the first and second extensions on or after Feb. 15, he said.

The state legislature passed the extension earlier this year in the face of rising unemployment: State jobless rates are higher than they have been since the statistics were normalized in the mid-1970s. The unrevised unemployment rate for Georgia in April was at 9.3 percent, while claims for new benefits have continued to run at roughly double last year’s rate.

A report on last month’s jobless claims is slated for Thursday. Announcement of the May jobless rate is due in a week.

If a worker has exhausted that second extension, an application must be submitted online, according to the Labor Department.

The state sent out letters a month ago advising unemployed workers of their eligibility.

6Agencies eager to put stimulus grants to work

By Kristi E. Swartz

 John Bassett wants to make sure that federal stimulus dollars for the Department of Community Affairs will reach rural areas in Georgia.

Jonathan Jones said the Housing Authority of Fulton County could use the money to repair 100 public-housing units in Sandy Springs.

And Raymond Buday Jr. said there’s five years worth of improvement work for senior and public housing that can be done immediately, once this next allotment of stimulus dollars starts flowing down to the Marietta Housing Authority.

The process in getting a portion of the $13.61 billion in stimulus money through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has moved into a new phase.

About a week after President Barack Obama signed the $787 billion law, 75 percent of that money was funneled directly to the states and local groups.

Now, the remaining 25 percent will be awarded through competitive grants. Bassett, Jones and Buday were among a group of agency representatives who met at HUD’s office in downtown Atlanta to learn more about the nine programs that are allocating stimulus money.

The meetings were part of HUD’s “Recovery Act in Action” week, which HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced Tuesday.

The money represents the largest amount HUD has ever had available in competitive grants, Donovan said. It is to be used for specifically defined projects such as making public housing more energy efficient to allow poor people to save money on their utility bills, he said.

Buday, executive director of Marietta’s housing authority, one of 180 in the state, said, “There’s plenty of deferred capital improvements that now have money. In the whole stimulus picture, this is a very good opportunity to put money to work, to put people to work, to put contractors to work.”

Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs has been allocated about $33 million in stimulus money for homeless prevention. About $14 million is going to cities and counties, and the balance is for the state.

Bassett, who is director of the DCA’s housing finance division, said the money will help people who are in danger of losing their homes because they can’t pay the mortgage. The challenge, however, is to make sure the money goes to people who can quickly become self sufficient.

7Restaurants savor Midtown

By Joe Guy Collier

Scott Kilpatrick, co-founder of Arizona-based RA Sushi, eyed the chain’s newest restaurant Tuesday, a day after it opened in the 1010 Midtown high-rise in Atlanta.

Near the entrance, chefs made quick work of sushi roll orders. Waiters in black attire weaved through the tables of this airy space.

The U.S. economy has hit its worst stretch in decades. Midtown’s glass and concrete condos aren’t filling up nearly as quickly as they were a couple of years ago when RA Sushi decided on the location.

“If we spun the clock back today and asked, ‘Would you sign a new lease in Midtown?’,” north of downtown, Kilpatrick said, “I quite honestly think we would still do it. We really like this location.”

Despite the recession and slowing Midtown growth, RA Sushi and three other restaurants in the 1010 Midtown building will open this year or already have.

Noon Midtown, a gourmet sandwich and coffee shop, opened in late April. Lunch traffic has been good so far, Noon’s owners say.

Ri Ra Irish Pub & Restaurant, a Charlotte-based chain, expects to open in July. Piola, an Italy-based chain of pizzerias, plans to open late this year.

The site for these restaurants is just south of a stretch along Crescent Avenue that already has a host of restaurants including South City Kitchen, Vickery’s and Front Page News.

The recession makes for a difficult time to launch a restaurant, but Midtown remains an attractive location, said Harold Shumacher, a local restaurant real estate broker and president of the Shumacher Group.

It has a large concentration of working professionals and residents who are willing to walk from place to place, he said.

“The fundamentals of Midtown haven’t changed,” Shumacher said. “The point we’re at in the cycle has changed.”

Restaurant launches typically take nine to 12 months, Shumacher said. It’s impossible to time it perfectly, he said. “At some point, you just hold your nose and jump in,” Shumacher said.

Katie Birmingham and Ross Davis, wife and husband owners of Noon Midtown, said they felt lucky to land a spot in the Midtown area, particularly close to the office buildings clustered around 14th and Peachtree Streets.

This is the first restaurant for the couple. It features a sleek layout —- white tables, orange accents and an open kitchen wrapped in cherry wood.

“You don’t normally get a break like this,” Davis said. “For a startup, this is a very prominent location.”

The couple decided to start their restaurant two years ago. Birmingham was working as a lawyer in Midtown, but she had previously been a chef at several Atlanta restaurants, including Bacchanalia.

Midtown needed more lunch spots, she said. “I joke that I don’t know if I had gotten tired of being a lawyer or tired of eating lunch in Midtown,” Birmingham said.

The economy has been a concern, but Birmingham and Davis said they believe Noon is hitting an underserved lunch market in Midtown. Noon’s prices, about $7 to $10 for gourmet sandwiches, have helped, Birmingham said.

“If we were opening a fine-dining restaurant, I might be biting my nails a little bit,” she said. “You can get in and out of here at a reasonable price.”

Kilpatrick, the RA Sushi executive, said he also thinks his restaurant hits a niche that works well in Midtown. It serves sushi and Japanese fusion dishes against the backdrop of high-energy music, targeting 21- to 44-year-olds.

RA, which has 23 locations across the United States, is often a first stop before hitting another club, Kilpatrick said. Crescent Avenue already is a popular area for nightlife.

“We like that synergy with places where people are going out,” Kilpatrick said.

The economy is a concern overall for his chain, he said. In addition to Atlanta, RA Sushi is opening restaurants this year in Houston and metro Kansas City.

 Gainesville Times

8Easing drought may mean rule changes on water use, docks

From Staff Reports

Water use and lake recreation could begin to return to normal as Georgia appears to be pulling out of a two-year drought.

The state’s drought response committee will meet at 10 a.m. today in Atlanta in which State Environmental Protection Director Carol Couch and Climatologist David Stooksbury will discuss the current drought condition and outdoor water use restrictions, according to a news release from EPD.

Couch has convened a meeting of the drought response committee a handful of times during the past couple of years since the state has been experiencing the drought, EPD spokesman Kevin Chambers said.

Today, Stooksbury will brief the committee on the changing drought conditions in Northeast Georgia. Couch likely will make a determination of what to do with the area’s watering restrictions, whether that be to keep them the same, make them more stringent or to relax them, Chambers said.

EPD eased the outdoor water ban a bit in April, allowing municipal water users in the 55-county Level 4 drought response area to water shrubs, trees and flower beds up to three days a week using drip irrigation systems and soaker hoses. The Level 4 area includes Hall and all of the contiguous counties.

Odd-numbered addresses may water on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Even-numbered and unnumbered addresses may water on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

While much of the state was in "exceptional" drought when an outdoor watering ban was instituted two years ago, the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that only the Lake Lanier basin remains "abnormally dry" as of June 2.

Above-normal rainfall so far this year has helped refill the lake, which was at 1,066.67 feet as of late Tuesday afternoon. The last time Lanier was at full pool of 1,071 feet was Sept. 6, 2005.

Following today’s EPD committee meeting, Gov. Sonny Perdue and Couch will hold a news conference at the Governor’s Mansion to discuss drought levels and unveil a new water-efficient irrigation system that has been installed at the mansion.

With water levels on the rise and predicted to remain stable for the near future, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile, Ala., District, expects to soon lift the moratorium on new dock permits.

The corps "will shortly announce the procedure for accepting new permit requests," spokesman E. Patrick Robbins said Tuesday.

In April 2007, the corps announced it wouldn’t accept new applications for private boat dock permits. The Lake Lanier Shoreline Management Plan and accompanying Environmental Impact Statement completed in 2004 limited the number of boat docks on the lake to 10,615.

The dock moratorium was put into place because of low lake levels. A two-year drought drained the lake to its lowest level ever, 1,050.79 feet, on Dec. 26, 2007. Permit applications received before the moratorium were processed, however.

After "issuing permits to those who qualified, Lake Lanier now has about 174 remaining boat dock permits available," Robbins said.

"The corps will set up a process that will give everyone an equal opportunity to submit their request in a simple way," according to a news release from the corps.

The corps has said the hold would remain until Lanier remains at or above 1,064 feet above sea level for 30 consecutive days and the five-week forecast "shows the level or rise is sustainable."

Augusta Chronicle

9Drought easing, Georgia may ease watering rules today


ATLANTA — Encouraged by the replenishing rains, state environmental officials are set to decide today whether to relax water restrictions that banned most outdoor water use across north Georgia.

Just a year ago, about 60 percent of the state was at some level of drought. Federal forecasters now say that the state has emerged completely from the drought and that only a small pocket in northeast Georgia remains "abnormally dry."

The latest encouraging signal came Tuesday when the Army Corps of Engineers lifted a temporary ban on boat docks for Lake Lanier.

Lanier, Atlanta's main water supply, was once 18 feet below normal level, forcing the heavily populated counties who depend on it for water to consider emergency plans. Now it is about four feet below the level.

Still, conservationists are concerned that if the state Drought Response Committee decides to ease or lift restrictions it will send the wrong message to water-conscious residents.

An order that bans most other outdoor watering across north Georgia and limits outdoor watering to three days a week throughout the rest of the state is still in place. And some contend reducing the restrictions is long overdue.

"It's a good idea to ease them somewhat," said Mary Kay Woodworth, director of the Georgia Urban Ag Council, which represents the landscape industry. She argued that residents will not soon forget the lessons of the drought.

Macon Telegraph

10                        Group seeks to make Macon “Birthplace of Southern Rock”

By Phillip Ramati

A group of local community leaders will hold a public meeting today to discuss the branding of Macon as “The Birthplace of Southern Rock.”

The newly formed Macon Music and Creative Arts Alliance is inviting the public to attend the meeting at the Cox Capitol Theatre from 2-3 p.m.

The group is seeking to revitalize downtown by using Macon’s musical heritage to give the area a brand.

John Elkington of Proforma Entertainment Real Estate in Memphis, Tenn., will give a presentation about the challenges of reaching the group’s goal.

11                        Stormwater runoff tax gaining popularity among Macon council

By Matt Barnwell

Talk of charging property owners for the amount of stormwater runoff their land produces is growing more serious.

Among the items Macon currently plans to help fund in its fiscal 2010 budget is a feasibility study of the matter. Bibb County and the Macon Water Authority would also participate.

Tuesday, officials from the water authority told City Council members at a work session why such a fee may be needed: The state has made the authority responsible for a federally mandated watershed protection program in Bibb County. But the authority lacks the power to control land use, growth and development that affect watershed quality through stormwater runoff.

To legislate those action steps, it needs the city and county to participate in stormwater management.

And services they would need to put in place to meet federal requirements and to mitigate the harmful impact of stormwater runoff require a funding source.

Stormwater utilities are among the more popular ways to generate money. The amount each individual property owner pays generally is based on the square footage of impervious surface on his property. That size of that area is used to suggest how much of the grimy byproduct of rainstorms is being discharged from the land into local watersheds.

“We just think that it makes sense,” said Tony Rojas, executive director of the water authority.

In Georgia, more than 30 stormwater utilities have been established, including those in Athens-Clarke County, Clayton County, DeKalb County and Henry County. The plan now is for the city, county and water authority to compose a six-member committee that would put together a bid request for firms to provide a study of what a countywide stormwater management plan would require and how it might be funded.

Mayor Robert Reichert said the committee members would report back to their respective governments more specifically what the study would look at.

A stormwater utility has not always been welcome news to property owners in other communities, where voters sometimes see the fee as an additional tax. Businesses or churches, especially those with large parking lots, can become particularly upset.

But Reichert and Rojas said some kind of funding source will be required to make the long term improvements likely to be called for in the watershed assessment that state and federal environmental agencies are demanding. And the city and county’s stormwater infrastructure is aging.

“This is the infamous rain tax that people are going to get after you about,” the mayor told council members. “But it’s not a rain tax. It’s a user fee.”

Council members sounded like they still need convincing. Councilman Erick Erickson dispatched an e-mail to constituents toward the end of the work session calling it his “most absurd night” in city government. They would be paying a tax for how much it rains on their property, he told them.

And he told Reichert that government would be forcing residents to pay for a service.

“That’s a tax,” he said. “That’s a tax.” Councilman James Timley agreed.

“If I didn’t have property,” he said, “I wouldn’t have to pay it.”

 12                        Home Depot raises full-year earnings guidance


ATLANTA -- Home Depot Inc., the nation's largest home improvement retailer, said Wednesday that its full-year earnings from continuing operations may come in better than previously forecast.

The move comes a few weeks after smaller rival Lowe's Cos. raised its full-year outlook. Home Depot's stock climed $1.02 to $25.37 in electronic premarket trading.

Atlanta-based Home Depot now sees earnings per share from continuing operations to be flat to down 7 percent. Prior guidance called for a 7 percent decline.

The retailer also expects adjusted earnings per share to be down 20 percent to 26 percent. Its previous outlook was for a 26 percent decline.

In 2008, Home Depot had earnings from continuing operations of $1.37 per share. Its adjusted earnings from continuing operations were $1.78 per share. This implies 2009 earnings from continuing operations of $1.27 to $1.37 per share and adjusted earnings from continuing operations of $1.32 to $1.42 per share.

The retailer maintained its outlook for an approximately 9 percent sales decline, which would mean sales of about $64.9 billion.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, whose estimates generally exclude one-time items, predict full-year profit of $1.40 per share on sales of $65.27 billion.

Home Depot reiterated its forecast for same-store sales to decline in the high single digits.

Same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least a year, are a key indicator of retailer performance since they measure growth at existing stores rather than newly opened ones.

Home Depot, which has 2,238 retail stores, will hold its investor and analyst conference later today.

Global Atlanta

13                        Georgia State Gets $900,000 from West African University

By Trevor Williams

Georgia State University has received a $900,000 grant to help a West African university develop its programs.

The president of the International University of Grand-Bassam in Cote d’Ivoire came to Atlanta June 8 to sign an agreement with Georgia State officials expanding a 15-year-old partnership between the two institutions.

The $900,000 is for the 2009-2010 school year, but the grant could total $3 million over the life of the new three-year partnership.

“Today is a very important day in this relationship,” Georgia State President Mark Becker said in a statement. “Fifteen years in the making, this dream is now a reality.”

Georgia State has been working with the International University since 1994, but a civil war in Cote d’Ivoire delayed the progress.  In 2005, classes began with eight students, and 138 are now enrolled. 

The university is currently a two-year institution that offers a general curriculum modeled after Georgia State’s offerings.  Some current majors include computer science, mathematics, accounting, economics and international policy. Officials hope to have 1,200 students by 2014. 

Georgia State will help the school add a third year to its programs this fall and a fourth year in 2011.

Georgia State faculty will take on administrative roles at the university in Grand-Bassam, a city near Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire’s largest city.

Georgia State in April announced a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development to advance its partnership with the university.

Georgia State is developing programs in partnership with university’s all over the world in countries such as Egypt, Russia and Republic of Georgia.


14                        1,000 hired for Kia factory


WEST POINT, Ga. -- Kia Motors has hired almost 700 workers for its west Georgia factory, which is scheduled to go into production in December.

Kia's human resources manager, Randy Jackson, told the Troup County Coalition on Monday that the South Korea-based automaker had just added 90 more employees. The assembly plant expects to have 1,000 to 1,200 workers when it starts production and 2,500 making 300,000 cars per year by the end of 2010.

The new generation Sorento will be the first model in West Point, and a small number of test vehicles have been built since April.

Jackson says suppliers will add another 7,500 jobs, and the ripple effect will bring an additional 30,000 jobs in construction, hotels, restaurants and other businesses to the region.

15                        Columbus men raise about $60,000 for charity

By Larry Gierer

One did it with his wheels. One did it with his heels. Though they used a different mode of travel, Scott Ressmeyer and John Teeples recently went the distance for local charities.

Ressmeyer rode his motorcycle for 20 days through 48 states and Canada to raise approximately $46,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network at The Medical Center. He returned May 29.

Memorial Day weekend, 45-year-old Teeples ran 270 miles across Georgia to Tybee Island and raised approximately $14,000 for the House of Heroes.

Both said donations still are being accepted.

“I was aiming for $20,000,” said Teeples who owns a construction firm in Fortson, Ga. “Still, it was a satisfying feeling to get it done. My tank was on empty at the end when I reached the Atlantic Ocean around 8:45 that Monday night. I couldn’t have gone another day. Hey, I couldn’t have gone another 20 miles.”

He began his run at Fort Benning on May 22 at 4 a.m.

Along the way, he had no trouble with blisters or sore muscles.

His biggest problem was chafing.

“I was wet a lot of the time,” Teeples said. “There was rain, a lot of rain. When it wasn’t raining it was very humid and I sweated a lot.”

This forced him to change from nylon running shorts to spandex.

He laughed and said the only other problem he had was “a few dogs tried to get a piece of me.”

Teeples planned to make the journey alone, but, along the way, some friends joined him for a few miles.

“It really helped because it can get kind of lonely out there, especially during stretches where there wasn’t much to see,” he said. “I don’t listen to music when I run because I like to stay aware of my surroundings.”

After he got back here, he found his muscles were more beat up than he thought.

 “Except for some time in the office, I just ate and slept,” Teeples said.

And he’s thinking about doing it again next year. “Maybe we’ll make it a relay,” he said.

Cross country trip

Ressmeyer said he isn’t likely to make a repeat ride.

“This was unbelievable,” said Ressmeyer, a co-owner of Country’s Barbecue. “I went the back roads and just met so many people. Everyone was nice to me. Really, everyone. The landscape in some places was fantastic. But I tell you, it was mentally draining. There was a lot of rain, and that takes a lot out of you because you really have to concentrate. At the end of 9,483 miles, I was tired but really not sore.”

He admitted he hasn’t been on his Harley-Davidson, Dyna Wide Glide, since he has been back.

“We need a break,” Ressmeyer said, laughing.

He said there were some surprises on the trip.

“I was out West, and it was 95 degrees, and heard it was 40 back in the South,” he said. “It was really windy in the Dakotas. The wind would blow my bike across lanes.”

Athens Banner Herald

16                        Cyclists on trek across state stop over in Athens

By Lee Shearer

If you were thinking the number of bicyclists in Athens had multiplied overnight, your eyes didn't deceive you.

The annual Bicycle Ride Across Georgia, or BRAG, rolled into Athens on Tuesday for a one-day layover in a journey from Hiawassee in the North Georgia mountains to a resort near Clarks Hill Lake.

Riders turned Clarke Middle School into a big campground Tuesday as they pitched tents, hung wet laundry up to dry, repaired wheels, lined up for showers and rested aching muscles after completing the third leg of their journey, some 65 miles from Mount Airy to Athens.

Many of the 1,400 BRAG riders will be tooling around Athens today, some just soaking up the charms of Athens, others pedaling one of the planned sightseeing rides out College Station Road to Watkinsville and scenic areas as far south as Social Circle.

The two-wheeled caravan will pull out of Athens on Thursday morning on its next 54-mile leg as the cyclists pedal through East Athens and Winterville on their way to Watson Mill Bridge State Park and Elberton.

The weeklong tour of about 400 miles, mainly following back roads, ends Saturday near Lincolnton.

This year's tour is the 30th anniversary for BRAG, which began in 1980 with about 120 riders, following the lead of some Iowa newspaper reporters who organized a cross-state ride in that Midwestern state.

Now, about half the states have similar rides, said BRAG's CEO, Jerry Colley of Lilburn.

This year's BRAG contingent is about half the size of groups in the mid-1990s - BRAG peaked with 2,800 riders in 1996, when Atlanta and Athens hosted the Centennial Olympic games.

But BRAG is just as much fun as ever, said one veteran BRAG rider.

The Sun News

17                        Ga. Peach Festival starts this weekend

By Jenny Gordon

The World’s Largest Peach Cobbler will make an appearance once again as part of the 2009 annual Georgia Peach Festival, which starts this Saturday.

By the way, that giant cobbler recipe includes 75 gallons of fresh sliced Georgia peaches, 150 pounds of self-rising flour, 150 pounds of sugar, 32 gallons of milk and a whopping 90 pounds of butter.

This year’s festival officially begins Saturday night, but two events will be held Friday in Byron. At noon Friday, the Byron Historical Society will host its annual luncheon at Byron United Methodist Church’s Christian Fellowship Center, 103 W. Heritage Blvd. Tickets are $10, which also includes a performance of a day in the life of the old Vinson/Robertson Drugstore. For more information, call 956-2409. Also, at 7 p.m. the Peach Community Choir will perform at Byron Baptist Church.

The festival kickoff with opening ceremonies will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at The Peach Shops of Byron, followed by an 8 p.m. free concert. A fireworks show will be held at dark.









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