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Arctic front brings freeze watch to Glynn County
 lhobbs  / 

The waning days of January will bring something like actual winter to the Golden Isles beginning overnight Tuesday when an arctic cold front arrives with wind chill factors in the low 20s and a freeze watch issued by the National Weather Service in Jacksonville.

That cold front will be preceded by a 60 percent chance of showers early Tuesday night. Then, temperatures are expected to dip to at least 32 degrees along the coast overnight Tuesday and slightly lower inland, said Ben Nelson, chief meteorologist with the weather service in Jacksonville. With winds out of the chilly northwest at 15 mph, it will feel more like 22 degrees in Glynn County overnight Tuesday and early Wednesday, he said.

The weather service on Monday issued a freeze watch in effect for Glynn County from late Tuesday night through Wednesday morning, Nelson said. Folks should find shelter for outdoor pets and cover or take in susceptible plants, he said. Home space heaters should be checked to make sure they are operating properly.

More of the same is expected overnight Wednesday, following a day when the afternoon high will likely fall short of 50 degrees despite sunny skies, he said.

“We’re going to have a nice little shot of cold air moving through,” Nelson said. “You’re going to feel it Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. By the time we wake up on Wednesday morning the wind chills will be down to the low 20s. The actual temps will be right around freezing.”

Temperatures will hover around freezing overnight Wednesday along the coast, and possibly dip into the upper 20s inland, Nelson said. The daytime high will be around 50 degrees.

“Wind chills will be in the low 20s both nights,” Nelson said. “The chilliest inland might be Wednesday night, with temperatures in the upper 20s.”

Things will begin to improve Thursday as the winds shift to a northeasterly approach, Nelson said.

Overnight lows Thursday will be in the upper 30s, giving way to an afternoon high Friday of around 60 degrees.

This will set the stage for a balmy first weekend of February, with daytime highs in the mid to upper 60s Saturday and Sunday and overnight lows in the low 50s.

“We have not had a hard freeze so far this winter, but this will be the coldest air mass of the winter,” Nelson said. “Thankfully it won’t stick around.”

HBCU Fair raises awareness about education opportunities
 lmcdonald  / 

Jordan McClinton and Sabrina Luckey are on the cusp of making one of the most significant decisions of their lives.

Both are seniors in high school with just a few months left before they receive their diplomas and embark on the next part of their journeys. And because they’re both high-performing students who have schedules packed with extracurricular activities, they’ve got to decide which of several college offers to accept.

At the top of the list for both, though, is a Historically Black College and University, or HBCU.

“I haven’t chosen a school yet, but it’s between Georgia Tech and North Carolina A&T,” said McClinton, a senior at Glynn Academy. “I plan on majoring in computer engineering.”

Luckey earned acceptance into several HBCUs, she said, and she’s yet to decide where to go.

“I would like to major in biology, in hopes of attending medical school to become a forensic pathologist,” said Luckey, a Brunswick High senior.

McClinton and Luckey became familiar with the many HBCU options in Georgia and around the country by attending the annual HBCU Fair held in Glynn County.

The seventh annual fair will take place Feb. 22 from 9 a.m. to noon in the new gym at Glynn Academy.

The event will include HBCU recruiters from schools in states including Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana and more. The HBCU representatives will be able to discuss opportunities for students to apply.

Nearly 400 students typically attend the fair, from Glynn and surrounding counties.

The event began seven years ago, when Aundra Vaughn, who is now a senior counselor at Glynn Academy, recognized a need to increase local students’ awareness about HBCU opportunities.

“At that time, I was a counselor at the Career Academy,” said Vaughn, one of the original organizers of the event. “When I started talking with students about where were they going to college, they just had a mindset that because they were at the Career Academy they weren’t going to college.”

She said students need to keep all options open, including college, technical school or apprenticeship opportunities.

“College is not a career,” Vaughn said. “It’s a point on the journey.”

Many students seemed to be unaware of postsecondary options that exist outside of this area, Vaughn said.

“Students who live in big cities like Atlanta, they have great, huge fairs all the time. We’re on the coast of Georgia,” she said. “… This is a way that we can provide that information and access. It’s on a smaller scale, but our students also have that opportunity to get the information from these competitive colleges.”

There has been a nationwide push recently to energize students to apply to HBCUs, Vaughn said.

“They have such a unique and storied history from the beginning,” she said.

School buses will bring students from Brunswick High and local middle schools to the event, said Marty Simmons, transportation director for Glynn County Schools.

The Fourteen Black Men of Glynn has partnered with Glynn County Schools to host the fair since the event’s inception. This year, though, the Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc., sorority’s Zeta Iota Omega chapter has come on as an official partner as well.

“Each year, we keep adding and growing,” Vaughn said. “And so the different fraternities and sororities and service organization are also a big part.”

Brandi Whitfield, an HBCU graduate and member of the sorority, said she hopes to see the fair continue to thrive.

“We were so excited about the opportunity to assist and to help the program grow and to really expose as many individuals and as many students as possible to the HBCU experience,” she said.

The 14 Black Men also offers three scholarships each year to students attending HBCUs. Applicants for the scholarships must attend the HBCU Fair and will be interviewed onsite.

Local alumni to HBCUs typically attend the event and often serve as mentors to the students at the fair. Military recruiters will also be there.

“They also talk not only about possible enlistment but mainly about the college portion of it,” Vaughn said.

Additional community partners have come on board this year. Those include Rich Products and King & Prince Seafood.

“It used to be a school thing, but it is really going to become a community event,” Vaughn said.

Recruiters will often accept applications onsite, so students are asked to bring transcripts and any other information they may need to apply.

Some recruiters will also offer admission and scholarships onsite, Vaughn said.

The event is open to all students. Those who recently graduated high school and are interested in exploring higher education opportunities can also attend the fair. Non-students need to sign in at Glynn Academy’s front office.

McClinton and Luckey, who are both now considering enrollment at HBCUs, encouraged others to attend the fair and expand their awareness about these opportunities. These schools offer a unique family atmosphere that isn’t found at many colleges or universities, they said, and have strong, successful alumni bases.

“The HBCUs, they have a completely different atmosphere than most universities,” McClinton said. “When you go there, you know you’re going to be taken care of. You know that people truly do care about you.”

Jury selection begins for alleged narcotics conspiracy
 wwolfe  / 

Criminal cases in federal court rarely go to a jury — federal prosecutors tend to seek charges and prosecute in cases where the evidence shows the defendant would almost certainly be convicted. More than 90 percent of all federal criminal matters end with a plea bargain.

However, there are exceptions to the rule, and today jury selection begins for the trial of Andrew Jackson, one of 16 people indicted in the Glynn County drug shed case. He’s accused of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distributing cocaine, crack and marijuana, along with possession of 500 grams or more of cocaine with intent to distribute.

In a document listing facts stipulated by both parties, prosecutors state that investigators found more than 5 kilograms of cocaine and more than 25 pounds of marijuana at various locations used by other people named in the conspiracy allegation who have since pleaded guilty.

Jackson was living in Orlando at the time of his arrest in March, but formerly lived and worked in Glynn County. One of his work colleagues was Darrius Merrell, who pleaded guilty in this case Oct. 15 to the lesser-included offense of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute and distributing a quantity of cocaine. He’s to be sentenced Feb. 6.

In a Jan. 18 filing, assistant U.S. attorneys Matthew Josephson and Greg Gilluly stated they may call to the stand several people as expert witnesses, including two Drug Enforcement Administration senior forensic chemists and an agent with the Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Team.

An Orlando federal judge granted Jackson pretrial release after his arrest, and once he made his initial appearance in Brunswick, was also released here following the deposit with the court of $1,250. His pretrial order dictates he be at home from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily, but Jackson filed one of the more unusual travel requests considered by the court. A Jamaican national, Jackson received permission to travel to the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa at Montego Bay in April for his wedding. The court ordered a private detective primarily employed by the firm of Jackson’s attorney to accompany Jackson “at all times” during the trip.

The conspiracy charge carries with it a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, and the second charge includes a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.

In other federal matters, the three weeks of federal funding approved by Congress allows civil cases involving federal agencies to go forward, including a number of environmental lawsuits.

“While we operated with reduced staff during the lapse in government funding, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia continued to investigate and prosecute cases and to work toward making our communities safer,” U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine said in a statement Friday. “Public safety is our top priority, and I am grateful that our dedicated staff continued to meet and exceed our office’s high standards during the past few weeks.”

Business owner discusses impact of shutdown
 gjackson  / 

ST. MARYS — The government shutdown is over, but that doesn’t mean it’s business as usual for Jerry Brandon, owner of the Riverview Hotel in St. Marys.

Brandon was in Washington on Jan. 25 at the invitation of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation when the announcement was made about the end of the 35-day shutdown.

He was the first of nine business owners to speak about the shutdown’s impact to his business, which is heavily dependent on Cumberland Island National Seashore tourism.

He told Chamber officials how Hurricane Matthew flooded his business on the St. Marys waterfront in 2016 and how his hotel, in his family more than a century, sustained serious roof damage from Hurricane Irma in 2017.

“This year, we had a manmade disaster,” he said. “This has nothing to do with me trying to run a business, but it’s me suffering.”

Federal employees who worked without pay are getting reimbursed and those furloughed will get paid, but Brandon said his business will never get back the thousands of dollars it should have made over the Christmas holidays and into the new year.

“Most every time you hear about the shutdown, it has to do with federal employees working and not getting paychecks,” he said. “There are thousands of small businesses just like mine who have no recourse. What do we do, sue the federal government?”

Employees were laid off, and vendors and contractors that normally do business with the hotel also suffered because Brandon could not purchase goods and services when his hotel was empty.

The owner of the ferry concession that provides transportation to and from Cumberland Island had to refund all the customers who reserved tickets and quit taking new reservations until the shutdown ended, Brandon said.

Another business owner who spoke in Washington told Chamber officials about the impact to his information technology company that contracts with the federal government.

Brandon said the business owner said he had to lay off 200 of his 350 employees because of the shutdown. Those workers, like Brandon’s laid off employees, will never be able to make up for the lost wages, he said.

The Chamber also heard about businesses that helped laid off federal employees such as the owner of a Washington-area pizza business that gave away 30,000 pizzas.

“There were some positive things about it,” he said.

Brandon said he believes a compromise of some sort will be reached that will prevent another shutdown in less than three weeks.

“I think they’ve learned their lesson,” he said. “It’s dumb.”

But the possibility of another shutdown will continue to affect tourism until the issue is resolved.

“People from Atlanta who wanted to come here during spring break will probably make plans to go to other places like Orlando,” he said. “There’s still going to be some uncertainty.”