Grovetown public safety officers are trying to reach out to the city's growing Hispanic community.
More than 80 residents gathered Wednesday night at City Hall to talk about various issues facing them - including the struggle to get a drivers license in Georgia.
The problem is that only U.S. citizens, or anyone with permission to live in the country - such as a work visa - can be licensed in Georgia.
Other states, such as Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia and Utah, allow illegal residents to apply for a license.
"If you are illegal we can't do much to help you," said Director of Grovetown Public Safety Al Robinson. "But we will do all we can."
According to the Census Bureau figures, Georgia's Hispanic population increased 300 percent from 1990 to 2000. Hispanics make up close to 3 percent of the city's 6,000 residents.
Slaying trials split
Two men indicted in the 1998 slayings of an Evans couple will be tried separately.
Dag L. Rhodes, 23, and his uncle Jimmy L. Rhodes, 43 - both charged in the Feb. 2, 1998, deaths of Fred and Yong-Suk Walker - could face life in prison or the death penalty if convicted.
Superior Court Judge William Fleming granted the defense request for separate trials during a unified appeals hearing Wednesday.
Also, defense attorneys asked the court to waive the death penalty in the cases, because they believe the punishment would be racially motivated and unconstitutional.
Randy Frails, the attorney for Jimmy Rhodes, asked that the death penalty motion be heard in the next hearing, which should be the last before a trial date is set.
Two local legislators have introduced a bill to require the Georgia High School Association to grant a waiver to any school having to travel more than 200 miles roundtrip to an athletic event.
The bill - sponsored by state Reps. Ben Harbin (R-Evans) and Rep. Bill Jackson (R-Appling) - puts state funding to the association in jeopardy if the waiver is not issued.
"At some point, all this traveling, all these students coming in late at night, is going to affect academics," Harbin said. "The purpose of the school is to teach. ... Athletics are important, but we don't need them to start negatively affecting education."
Last year, Evans High School administrators, coaches and parents battled the GHSA over an isolation policy - a proposal which would allow a schools to change a classifications if athletes faced long trips to games.
In Evans' case, the school was reclassified as 4-AAAAA - which consists of suburban-Atlanta schools - for 2000-01. That forced Evans athletic teams to travel an average of 320.6 miles to road contests, resulting in travel expenditures increasing from $6,000 to $54,000 during the first year in the region.
Over the summer, the school was moved to Region 7-AAAAA - saving some travel time, but still requiring more than 200 miles per trip.
In early November, GHSA representatives killed an isolation rule request. Later that month, the principals and athletic directors from other Region 7-AAAAA schools agreed to a plan that significantly cut travel distances for the Evans athletic program during the 2002-03 season.
Evans' teams will travel to play Region 7-AAAAA opponents only 12 times - four each in football, basketball and baseball. The region will be subdivided in baseball, and depending on where Evans is placed, the Knights might travel only three times in that sport.
A 28-year-old Appling man was arrested Wednesday on drug charges after being chased several blocks by a Grovetown police officer.
Keith B. Jessie was charged with possession of cocaine with intent to sell, possession of marijuana and obstruction of a law enforcement officer, said Grovetown Department of Public Safety Capt. Gary Owens. Jessie's bonds totaled $22,150.
Owens said the incident began at the Movie Gallery in Grovetown at 4 p.m., when Officer Robert Banks approached Jessie.
"He saw an individual outside that was extremely nervous," Owens said. "He was going to go and say 'Hey, is everything OK?' When he walked up to the guy, he took off running."
The chase continued to the Food Lion parking lot on Horizon South Parkway. There, Owens said, Banks saw Jessie throw a plastic bag into a car. Owens found marijuana in the bag. He said Jessie then entered the Food Lion, where he also left an amount of crack cocaine on a drink aisle. He was arrested shortly afterward in the store's parking lot.
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