Transcript
Page 1: UPW  Urban Pro Weekly

UPWURBAN PRO WEEKLY

MARCH 3 - 9, 2016 VOL. 5 NO. 23

Commissioners seek to unlock bond-issue puzzle

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WildcatsalignLaney H.S. players (L-R) Aubriana Bonner, Jasmine Bartlett, Jazmine Holmon and De’Sha Benjamin wait for gameplay to resume during the 3AAA Elite 8 quarterfinal game against Morgan County at Christenberry Fieldhouse. Photo by Vincent Hobbs

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Commissioners seek ‘nuts and bolts’ of bond process

COMMENTARYNEWS

By Frederick Benjamin Sr.UrbanProWeekly Staff Writer

AUGUSTAStraight answers are hard to come

by in city government. Otherwise, why would commissioners have to ask the same question over and over again — but with slightly different phrasing.

For the past couple of years have been trying to get a handle on the mechanics of multi-million dollar bond issues.

Now, when it comes to the arcane world of municipal finance, the com-missioners couldn’t be more in the dark. The public understands the practice even less. Even the media takes a pass on getting down to the nitty gritty of issuing bonds.

One thing, however, is crystal clear. The bond business in Richmond County appears to be the exclusive province of a few financial opera-tives — including attorneys, finan-cial consultants, underwriting firms and various and sundry financial advisors.

At present, the process is tightly controlled by the city finance director, the city attorney, the city’s defacto resident legal guru, Jim Plunkett, and the county’s financial advisor. And except for when something has to be ratified by the commission to keep the ball rolling, the whole process is kept as low key as possible. The last thing these career professionals want is for commissioners to start wonder-ing how everything works.

Now, that’s exactly what is hap-pening. What commissioners have attempted to find out is, how this “team” came into being and how it has remained intact throughout the years..

But trying to get this info out of the city’s legal and financial advisors is tantamount to filing a brief before the Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, March 1, Plunkett

appeared before the commission ask-ing that the commissioners sign off on the “validation process” for $30 million in bonds authorized when the voters approved the SPLOST VII pack-age in Nov., 2015.

During the discussion, Commissioner Marion Williams took the opportunity to revisit a familiar theme. How is this whole bond thing supposed to operate?

Williams was asking for an explana-tion, in plain English, so that he could better “understand the process” — the “who, what, why, and where” of what gets done.

Mr. Plunkett may or may not have understood what Mr. Williams was asking and, to his credit, he kept his response focused on the motion before the commission at the time.

But what Williams was getting at was something very fundamental, but there was no way that Plunkett was going to divulge the information that Williams was seeking.

Here’s the line of questioning we think Williams should pursue in order to really understand the process.

1. Is the city financial advisor under contract? If so, for how long and who writes the terms of the contract. How much is he/she paid?

2. How is the bond counsel select-ed? Is it through competitive bidding? How many different bond counsels has the government used in the past 20 years? Are we relying on the same select firm(s) year after year? How much is the bond counsel paid?

3. How do we go about making sure that minority and/or women-owned firms get an opportunity to bid on the city’s bond underwriting projects?

4. Is the city willing to set stip-ulations in its RFPs for underwrit-ing firms that require those firms to demonstrate that they provide an opportunity for minority firms to serve as partners in the underwriting

process?The predictable response from

those that currently control the pro-cess is that the firms they have been using have the most experience, are most familiar with our government and have been saving the city money.

That’s all well and good. It stands to reason that if you only do business with a select few firms or individuals that they will undoubtedly be easier to work with.

The task becomes, how can the city ever give minority firms an opportu-nity to get some of the “action” if they are frozen out of the process by larg-er, better financed firms who have grown in stature, in part, because they have unfettered access to the city’s bond issue programs.

Plunkett did shine some light on the process, however. He explained to commissioners that he was “the issuers attorney.”

The “issuer” is Richmond County. Plunkett is not the bond counsel.

“The bond counsel is selected on a transaction by transaction process,” he told commissioner,” Plunkett said.

Moving the process along is what he is paid to do, Plunkett said. He added, “we have an expectation to be paid and a legal expectation to be involved.”

Getting an opportunity to break into the business of working with governments in their bond issues — a multi-million dollar enterprise — has been difficult for minority attorneys and financial firms.

However, those firms exist and they are not difficult to locate. All that is needed is the will to be inclusive

A couple of years ago, there was a mini-brouhaha when a minority securities underwriting firm, FSI Securities had the audacity to ask to be included in the city’s frequent bond issues.

They were soundly scolded by the

city’s procurement department by seeking to appeal directly to the com-missioners.

They did, however, make a pre-sentation to the commission, but the reception from many of the “sta-tus-quo” commissioners was less than cordial and there wasn’t enough support on the commission to push for some change.

Things have changed. If there is a will, the process could be started to make the Richmond County process for welcoming to minority and wom-en-owned firms.

Augusta is facing the same situation as hundreds of municipalities across the nation.

An interesting case happened a few years ago in St. Petersburg, Florida, when its government attempted to be more inclusive in its bond issuance activities.

In 2006, Darryl Rouson, president of the St. Petersburg NAACP, chained and locked himself to a chair for 10 minutes in the city attorney’s office to protest the city’s decision to continue doing business with the same bond counsel it had been using for a dozen years.

“You are going to have the same four or five firms doing this for anoth-er 20 years,” Rouson said. “Because no one can get their foot in the door.”

Now for the general public, here’s all you have to know. Municipalities borrow money for huge infrastruc-ture projects, or any other reason, for that matter, by raising money on the open market. If the city has a good S&P (Standard & Poor’s) rating, it’s relatively easy to get financing. So the thing to understand is that bond issues are the mechanism by which cities raise millions of dollars.

And while the business of issuing municipal bonds for sale, is a highly specialized process — it is not rocket science.

Reevaluation the city’s “bond issuance team” could lead to more minority inclusion

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Urban Pro Weekly2746 Willis Foreman Road

Hephzibah, GA 30815

Publisher URBAN PRO MEDIA

[email protected]

CEO / SalesFREDERICK BENJAMIN SR.

[email protected]

ContributorsVINCENT HOBBS

Photography & New Media

KEN MAKINcontributing columnist

UPW URBAN PRO WEEKLY

Sales PartnerSHAQUANA RICHARDSON

706-910-4357

NOT SO FAST!Commissioners seek more input on in-house probation setup

By Frederick Benjamin Sr.UrbanProWeekly Staff Writer

AUGUSTAOn Tuesday, (March 1) Chief State

Court Judge Richard Slaby appeared before the commission seeking to fast-track implementation of the proposed in-house probation service set to be fully operational by March 1, 2017.

However, commissioners were in no mood to be rushed. Rather than authorize funding for the nearly $500,000 startup cost, they voted to revisit the matter after the state legis-lature finalizes the final version of the so-called Judicial Reform Act (Senate Bill 367- SB367).

SB367 in its final form, may have a significant impact on how the county proceeds with its intention to part

ways with Sentinel next year. Parts of the proposed legislation govern how probation services will be run in the state.

Slaby told the commissioners that his only concern was to have “an effi-cient, professionally run probation service,” and that time was of the essence.

One after another, commissioners told Slaby that, although they support the move and have confidence in the model that he is using. Slaby has put together a plan based on the one cur-rently in operation in Athens-Clarke County).

Slaby’s plan calls for the hiring to begin in September of 2016. The first person to be fired will the Chief Probation officer, who will in turn hire the other probation officers.

Slaby said that, he would select the Chief Probation Officer.

While Mayor Davis stressed that the probation system should not be an executive function or a commission function, some commissioner, never-theless, feel obliged to have a part in creating the “structure” of the service.

Commissioners, however, appear to support the in-house concept, but want to get a better understanding of how everything is to come together.

There are currently, a lot of unan-swered questions. How many new employees will be needed? Who does the hiring, firing and sets the compen-sation for this new service?

Some of that may be cleared up when and if SB367 is passed and signed into law.

Georgia is a mix of public and pri-

vately operated misdemeanor proba-tion services. The recent worldwide publicity that has attended some of the more egregious abuses experi-enced by citizens at the hands of, mostly private, probation services has prompted, Slaby and other local state judges to rethink their relationship with private probation firm Sentinel Offender Services.

Even though the city renewed its current Sentinel contract for another year, it hopes to use that year to bring the service in-house.

Answers to other questions won’t be known until after implementation. For instance, what responsibility does the commission have in making sure that abuses, that were common under the Sentinel-era, won’t be repeated under a county-controlled system?

For the next 12 months, Richmond County will continue to be served by the private, for-profit Sentinel Offender Services. Photo by Vincent Hobbs

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MAKIN’ A DIFFERENCE COMMENTARY by Ken MakinTHE EXCUSE OUR COMMISSIONERS CAN NO LONGER MAKE

City leaders must exercise political strength(Did you come here looking for my

thoughts on early Super Tuesday vic-tories for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? Two words – Stupor Tuesday. More to come down the road, I’m quite sure.)

It wasn’t too long ago that six white commissioners ruled the roost down at the Augusta Commission. Their political power, combined with then-city administrator Fred Russell’s polit-ical trickery, they gutted city services and made a mess of Augusta’s future.

Back then, we accepted the futility of the remaining (Black) commis-sioners. We appreciated them when they spoke out, but we understood that their vote(s) were stifled by their white counterparts.

I am paraphrasing here, but this is the basic argument deriving from that frustration: “We don’t have the power to do anything.”

Now, before I continue, let me say that the citizenry of Augusta-

Richmond County is also not off the hook. There is a similar frustration that rests with residents, and it comes in the form of voter apathy.

If the truth be told, Black leaders have sought equality/control/influ-ence since consolidation. Their quest for equality was understood then. It was clear that White political leaders had the juice, so they fought tooth-and-nail for a system that would bet-ter represent their communities.

Here’s what is really sad in 2016 – our local political leaders are still conducting themselves in a way that suggests they are powerless.

Here’s the current power structure: We have SIX Black commissioners. We have a Black mayor. We have a Black city administrator. We have more Black elected officials in power, not only in Augusta, but representing Augusta, than we ever have. Yet we as a community are still acting as if we are hitting the glass ceiling.

Why is this? Well, the obvious rea-son – our leaders are not unified, they are egocentric.

This is a hurtful truth, but one that presents itself at every incident of controversy. Not only in the eyes of the public, but behind the scenes, we see and hear of the true character of our “leadership.”

Some may say this has been the case since Mayor Hardie Davis made his power play to gain more authority for the Mayor’s office. That might be true, and certainly didn’t make this easier. I would also say that some of the burden rests with the six commis-sioners who can never see eye-to-eye.

I look back at the public conversa-tions of those six White commissioners, and can only imagine the private con-versations. Sure, they had their (rare) disagreements, but when it was time to vote, they were a six-fingered iron fist.

If the Commission – and the Black “power” structure as currently con-

structed – needs motivation and a game plan to come together, look no further than the needs of your con-stituency.

That’s what the “Gang of Six” White commissioners’ legacy is real-ly all about. It’s about a culture of Republican politics that cares about politics over people and money over everything.

Undo the wrongs of the past – social-ly, racially and otherwise. And let that be the start of the momentum needed to created a much-needed revolution.

Ken J. Makin is the host of “Makin’ A Difference,” an online radio pro-gram available on iTunes and Soundcloud (soundcloud.com/mak-inadifference). Updates on the show are available at facebook.com/mak-inadifferenceshow. You can also reach Ken by email at [email protected], or via Twitter @differencemakin.

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016 SPORTS

Richmond Academy soccer player Jiah Lewis moves down the field during a game against Lakeside at ARC stadium. (February 26, 2016 Augusta, GA) - Photo by Vincent Hobbs

Greenbrier’s Dejah Holman (L) and Richmond Academy’s Clay McKnight (R) go for the ball during a soccer match held at ARC stadium. (March 1, 2016 Augusta, GA) Photo by Vincent HobbsRichmond Academy’s Lucy Simons (center) heads the soccer ball during a match held at ARC stadium.

(March 1, 2016 - Augusta, GA) - Photo by Vincent Hobbs

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(At left) Laney’s Zephaniah Jasper (R) moves down the court past Morgan County defender DeVorious Brown (L) during the 3AAA Elite 8 quarterfinal game at Christenberry Fieldhouse. The Wildcats suffered a 55-50 loss to the Bulldogs, ending their hopes for a state championship.(February 25, 2016 - Augusta, GA) Photo by Vincent Hobbs

Laney’s Aubriana Bonner looks toward the basket as she prepares for a free throw during the 3AAA Elite 8 quarterfinal game against Morgan County at Christenberry Fieldhouse. The Lady Bulldogs defeated the Lady Wildcats 62-53. (February 25, 2016 - Augusta, GA) Photo by Vincent Hobbs

SPORTS

‘CATS FALL SHORT

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016 The CSRA Business League, Inc

will celebrate 46 years of providing service to the CSRA, on Friday, 18 March 2016 at the Augusta Marriott Hotel & Suites, with the Senior Pasto/Teacher of the Historic Tabernacle Baptist Church Rev. Dr. Charles E. Goodman, Jr., as the keynote speak-er. During the banquet we will honor small business owners and individ-uals around the CSRA with various awards and recognitions.

The community is asked to either become a sponsor, purchase an advertisement in the souvenir jour-nal or purchase tickets to the ban-quet. Proceeds will be used to assist us in continuing our services to small, minority, disadvantaged, veteran and women owned businesses and youth in the CSRA.

Contact: email to [email protected] or by phone to 706 722 - 0994.

CSRA Business League Banquet

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Creative Impressions will present “Genius in Chains” of Saturday, March 5 at 1 p.m. at the Augusta Museum of History Rotunda.“Genius” is a soulful celebration chronicling the diversity and dynamism of African American music harkeing back to its African origins and covering a multitude of genres. The event is free to the public.

AUGUSTAThe Christian McBride Trio, head-

ed by five-time Grammy award win-ning jazz bassist Christian McBride, is set to headline the season fina-le of “The Concert Series Formerly Known As Jazz At The G”. It takes place Saturday May 7, 2016 at The D. Douglas Barnard Amphitheatre on the Summerville Campus of Augusta University. Show time is 6 p.m.

McBride’s abundant virtuosity has made him the most in-demand bass-ist of his generation. He consistently combines his deft musicianship with an innate ability to communicate his enthusiasm to an audience—a warm showmanship that transforms his

own passion into infectious joy. The Philadelphia native describes his sig-nature sound as people music, saying, “People Music is my personal mantra as a musician. Sometimes jazz musi-cians can get too caught up in their own heads; they get so serious and so caught up in their creativity that they’re not bringing the people in. So I figure the best way to communicate is to let the people navigate where you should go.”

The concert includes a special guest appearance by The Jamp Masters with a tribute to “The Godfather of Soul». A once-in-a-lifetime on stage collabora-tion between McBride and The Jamp Masters is also a possibility.

Augusta native Trey McLaughlin is also scheduled to appear, performing a rare jazz set.

Tickets are available at The Maxwell Theatre Box Office, and online at Augusta.UniversityTickets.Com. Tickets are Free for AU Students with Valid JAGCard; $5.00 for all other students with a student ID; $10.00 Military; $10.00 AU Staff & Faculty with Valid JAGCard; $15.00 General Public.

The Concert Series Formerly Known As Jazz At The G is produced by WAGC-90.7FM/GPB Augusta, in partnership with Garden City Jazz, The Augusta University Department of Music, and The Greater Augusta Arts Council.

5-TIME GRAMMY WINNER CHRISTIAN MCBRIDE TO PERFORM AT SEASON FINALE OF

“The Concert Series Formerly Known As Jazz At The G”

“Genius in Chains” at the Augusta Museum

Augusta native, Trey McLaughlin, has been selected as the guest clinician for the Moments a Cor Choir in Menorca, Spain. In addition to teaching, Mr. McLaughlin will be the featured artist in a concert hosted by the ensemble at the Teatre Principal in Mahon, Spain.

McLaughlin graduated from John S. Davidson Magnet School in 2002. While in high school, Trey was a mem-ber of Creative Impressions, serving as both President and Student Director of the organization from 1999-2002.

Trey graduated from Columbus State University in 2008, with a Bachelor of Music – Vocal Performance Degree with emphasis in Vocal Pedagogy.

In 2014, Mr. McLaughlin had the honor of conducting a Master Class and performing at the L’Opéra de Massy in Massy, France. In October of 2015, Trey conducted a 300-voice choir in Krakow, Poland as the guest clini-cian of the annual 7x Festival.

Currently, he serves as the Director of Barefoot Productions, Inc. /Creative Impressions. Trey is also the founder and director of his own gospel ensem-ble (Trey McLaughlin and the Sounds of Zamar), and serves as the Director of Music at The Historic Tabernacle Baptist Church.

Trey McLaughlin selected as guest clinician and artist

in Menorca, Spain

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RICHMOND COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION PROPOSAL NUM. B-14-037-4062 Bond Issue Program SOUTHSIDE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION OF RICHMOND COUNTYINVITATION TO BID

Sealed proposals from Contractors will be received for the Southside Elementary School RenovationsProject by the County Board of Education of Richmond County at the address below until 3:00 p.m. local time, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, at which time the bids will be publicly opened and read. No extension of the bidding period will be made.

A Pre-Bid Conference will be held Wednesday, March 09, 2016 at 11: 00am local time at the Southside Elementary School, 3310 Old Louisville Road, Augusta, 30906.

Drawings and project manual on this work may be examined at the Department of Maintenance and Facilities, Richmond County Board of Education, 1781 15th Street, Augusta, Georgia 30901.

Bidding documents may be obtained at the Office of the Architect: KSGW Architects, LLC, 2700 Cumberland Parkway, Suite 550, Atlanta, GA 30339, (770)-619-5913. Applications for documents together with refundable deposit of $ 400 per set should be filed promptly with the Architect. Bidding material will be forwarded (shipping charges collect) as soon as possible. The full amount of deposit for one set will be refunded to each prime contractor who submits a bona fide bid upon return of such set in good condition within 10 days after date of opening bids. All other deposits will be refunded with deductions approximating cost of reproduction of documents upon return of same in good condition within 10 days after date of opening bid.

Contract, if awarded, will be on a lump sum basis. No bid may be withdrawn for a period of 35 days after time has been called on the date of opening.

Bid must be accompanied by a bid bond in an amount not less than 5% of the base bid. Personal checks, certified checks, letters of credit, etc., are not acceptable. The successful bidder will be required to furnish performance and payment bonds in an amount equal to 100% of the contract price.

The Owner reserves the right to reject any and all bids and to waive technicalities and informalities.

BID LIST: The Richmond County Board of Education maintains a bid list for many categories that are let for bid each year. If your company wishes to remain on our bid list, we must receive a response either through a bid or by a no bid response. If we do not receive a response, your company’s name will be removed from our bid list. Please call the bid office at 706-826-1298 if you fail to receive a post card.

To promote local participation, a database of Sub-contractors, Suppliers, and Vendors has been developed by the Program Manager, GMK Associates. Contact Jeanine Usry with GMK Associates at (706) 826-1127 for location to review and obtain this database.

Bids shall be submitted and addressed to: Dr. Angela Pringle County Board of Education of Richmond County Administrative Office 864 Broad Street Augusta, Georgia 30901 c/o: Mr. C. Gene Spires

The Secret Lives of Women: Researching Female Ancestors Using the Sources They Left Behind On Wednesday, March 16, the Georgia Heritage Room will host a free Legacy Family Tree webinar with genealogist and women’s his-

tory scholar, Ms. Gena Philibert-Ortega. This webinar will go over the specific heirlooms women left behind, including signature quilts,

community cookbooks, journals, and diaries.

The program will be held at the Augusta Public Library HQ bldg

at 823 Telfair Street, downtown, Augusta. The program starts at 2 p.m. Registration is required. Call 706-826-1511 to register.

The Latina Expo will be held on Friday, March 11 from 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm and Saturday, March 12 from 10 am to 4 pm at the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System Headquarters Branch on 823 Telfair St., Augusta.

The Latina Expo organiz-ers are excited to expose the CSRA to some of those busi-nesses that are right here in our community.

The public will get the opportunity to meet Latina entrepreneurs, businesswom-en, and change agents at this free, bilingual event.

The Expo’s exhibitor show-case begins on Friday, March 11 at 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm and features Latina entrepre-neurs and businesswomen as well as local social ser-vice agencies. The Expo will reopen on Saturday, March 12 at 10 am for a full day of discussions, speakers, enter-tainment, and door prizes. Highlights include the panel discussion “Latinas in the Restaurant Business” at 10:30 am, the keynote “Latina Businesswomen in Their Own Words” at 12:30 pm, and a final panel discussion, “Latino Social Services” at 2:30 pm.

The Latina Expo is spon-sored by the Asociación Cultural Hispanoamericana, the Augusta University Libraries, Anibalshow.com, and the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System. The panel discussions are part of the Augusta University Libraries’ Latino Americans: 500 Years of History pro-gramming series. Latino Americans: 500 Years of History has been made possi-ble through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association.

First Latina Expo to showcase Hispanic Women Entrepreneurs

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StressPhysical Inactivity

Family History of Cardiovascular diseaseObesityDiabetes

High Blood PressureHigh Cholesterol

Cigarette Smoking

ARE YOU AT RISK?

HEART ATTACK • BRAIN ATTACK • PREVENT ATTACKEast Central Health DistrictHypertension Management Outreach Program

Richmond County 706.721.5800

RICHMOND COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION PROPOSAL NUM. B-14-037-4062 Bond Issue Program SOUTHSIDE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION OF RICHMOND COUNTYINVITATION TO BID

Sealed proposals from Contractors will be received for the Southside Elementary School RenovationsProject by the County Board of Education of Richmond County at the address below until 3:00 p.m. local time, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, at which time the bids will be publicly opened and read. No extension of the bidding period will be made.

A Pre-Bid Conference will be held Wednesday, March 09, 2016 at 11: 00am local time at the Southside Elementary School, 3310 Old Louisville Road, Augusta, 30906.

Drawings and project manual on this work may be examined at the Department of Maintenance and Facilities, Richmond County Board of Education, 1781 15th Street, Augusta, Georgia 30901.

Bidding documents may be obtained at the Office of the Architect: KSGW Architects, LLC, 2700 Cumberland Parkway, Suite 550, Atlanta, GA 30339, (770)-619-5913. Applications for documents together with refundable deposit of $ 400 per set should be filed promptly with the Architect. Bidding material will be forwarded (shipping charges collect) as soon as possible. The full amount of deposit for one set will be refunded to each prime contractor who submits a bona fide bid upon return of such set in good condition within 10 days after date of opening bids. All other deposits will be refunded with deductions approximating cost of reproduction of documents upon return of same in good condition within 10 days after date of opening bid.

Contract, if awarded, will be on a lump sum basis. No bid may be withdrawn for a period of 35 days after time has been called on the date of opening.

Bid must be accompanied by a bid bond in an amount not less than 5% of the base bid. Personal checks, certified checks, letters of credit, etc., are not acceptable. The successful bidder will be required to furnish performance and payment bonds in an amount equal to 100% of the contract price.

The Owner reserves the right to reject any and all bids and to waive technicalities and informalities.

BID LIST: The Richmond County Board of Education maintains a bid list for many categories that are let for bid each year. If your company wishes to remain on our bid list, we must receive a response either through a bid or by a no bid response. If we do not receive a response, your company’s name will be removed from our bid list. Please call the bid office at 706-826-1298 if you fail to receive a post card.

To promote local participation, a database of Sub-contractors, Suppliers, and Vendors has been developed by the Program Manager, GMK Associates. Contact Jeanine Usry with GMK Associates at (706) 826-1127 for location to review and obtain this database.

Bids shall be submitted and addressed to: Dr. Angela Pringle County Board of Education of Richmond County Administrative Office 864 Broad Street Augusta, Georgia 30901 c/o: Mr. C. Gene Spires

The Secret Lives of Women: Researching Female Ancestors Using the Sources They Left Behind at 823 Telfair Street, downtown, Augusta. The program starts at 2 p.m. Registration is required. Call 706-826-1511 to register.

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016 THE LAW OFFICE OF ATTORNEYS AT LAW

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