Less than a week after two men allegedly robbed a Ringgold gas station with guns in hand, the suspects have been arrested in Tennessee, thanks to a manhunt conducted by multiple law enforcement agencies.
According to the Ringgold Police Department, two men identified as Dewayne Lee Halfacre and Timothy Howell, both of Tennessee, walked into the Mapco Mart convenience store at the corner of U.S. 41 and Ga. 151 just after 2 a.m. Monday morning, Jan. 22, and threatened the clerk with semiautomatic handguns.
Chief Dan Bilbrey says the men pulled out their weapons and demanded cash and cigarettes, but that the haul wasn't quite what they expected.
"They went in armed, and only got about $26 in cash and the cartons of cigarettes," Bilbrey said. "Both men have a criminal history."
Immediately following the incident, the store clerk said the men jumped into a dark-colored passenger vehicle and took off northbound on U.S. 41.
The clerk was unharmed during the incident.
While detectives were investigating the case, the 52-year-old Howell was arrested later in the day on Jan. 22 in Marion County, Tenn., while Halfacre continued to elude authorities.
While Halfacre was on the run, authorities in Rutherford County, Tenn., linked the two men to the armed robbery of the Almaville Market near Smyrna, Tenn., on Friday, Jan. 19.
Authorities say the two are also suspects in multiple other crimes throughout the area over the past week.
On Tuesday, Jan. 23, Halfacre was added to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's (TBI) 10 Most Wanted List.
Schools in the Whitwell area of Marion County, Tenn., were on "soft lockdown" Wednesday and Thursday while the manhunt was ongoing for Halfacre.
Halfacre was finally arrested on Friday morning, Jan. 26 after TBI agents tracked his whereabouts to a location in Whitwell. He is currently being held in the Marion County jail.
This month, the final touches were put on a long-term building and renovation project at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School.
It started several years ago when ESPLOST IV funds provided the school with a new performance gymnasium, redesigned media center, expanded cafeteria, updated office area and front entrance, new visitor restrooms and concessions, new flooring, a new roof and doors, and fresh paint.
ESPLOST V has provided funds to finish the project – new bleachers, a press box and a new track in the athletic fields area – and finally, the new sign.
If you've passed the school recently, you've almost certainly seen the 25-foot-tall sign sporting the school's logo of an Indian Warrior head. Two giant red feathers, measuring 13 1/2 feet from top to bottom, add
to the dramatic effect of the sign. A digital LED display mounted to the sign allows the school to easily show announcements and provide information, like the time, for Battlefield Parkway motorists.
The sign, designed by Ray Boaz and Tripp Mullins with Derthick, Henley & Wilkerson Architects, has a concrete masonry unit structural core and is faced with precast pieces to give the appearance of limestone strata in a mountain. The feathers are painted aluminum.
"The new sign," says Catoosa Schools Superintendent Denia Reese, "is a reflection of the tradition and spirit of LFO Warriors past and present. The sign that can be seen from outside is just a small part of the projects that have been completed inside LFO High School and on its athletic fields. As an LFO alumni the sign reminds me that it's great to be a Lakeview Warrior."
The city of Fort Oglethorpe has approved the purchase of new uniforms for its police department, which will give officers the luxury of more maneuverable material to work in.
During the Jan. 22 City Council meeting, Chief Mike Helton explained that the department has been evaluating the potential uniform change since he was hired last year.
"It's been 2002 since the department purchased uniforms. We've been wearing the same thing out there, but that's not reason for the change," Helton said. "Our uniform is attractive, we have a sharp-looking uniform. But we received quite a few officers when I first arrived that asked if we could review these uniforms, could we relook at them. We appointed a committee to study these uniforms. There are departments around us that have changed uniforms three times and still can't find what they like."
Helton says he appointed four people to the committee: Lt. John McGrath and three other officers. The officers then looked into several options, wore five different uniforms to try them out, and narrowed down what they liked the most and presented it in a report.
"The current uniform and the proposed uniform — there's not a lot of difference until you get close to them," Helton said. "However, functionally, there's a drastic difference. It catches the officers up in time for the things they have to deal with now. There are pockets and things on this uniform to carry things such as the Narcan, tourniquets in order to save limbs in case of shootings, body cam opportunities for our upcoming future, and things like that will be much better equipped on this uniform."
Helton said the lighter material will also keep officers more comfortable.
"In addition to all that, it's water repellent," Helton said. "The current uniform starts sinking the water in right away. It's much more comfortable for a 12-hour period. It's much more comfortable in case they have to go hand-to-hand with someone, or if they have to use their firearm in less-than-favorable circumstances. It's not restrictive like the current polyester uniform is."
The council ultimately approved purchasing the new threads from Summit Uniforms, which was the lowest of three bidders, in the amount of $10,705.
Helton did say that the purchase will be paid for through budgeted funds and drug seizure money.
"This money is budgeted. Of course it's beyond the normal limits, but we do have this in our funds," Helton said. "We'd like to use the uniform line item in our budget, but also take some out of our drug fund because we will have other expenditures in our uniform line such as boots and things that we'll need throughout the rest of the years. So we want to save some of that in there. Since it's drug-related and can help us with those uniforms that carry things related to that, I'm going to use some of those drug funds."
The city of Fort Oglethorpe has been awarded a $3 million loan through the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) to help with its planned sewer infrastructure upgrades.
During the Jan. 22 City Council meeting, City Manager Jennifer Payne-Simpkins explained that the city's sewer system will need upgrades in the near future, and that she and city staff have secured a way to help alleviate some of the financial stress surrounding those projects.
"The city is going to incur some expenses due to our Chattanooga, Tenn., intergovernmental agreement on our sewer system," Payne-Simpkins said. "We applied for a $3 million low-interest loan through GEFA a couple of months ago, and I'm happy to report that the city of Fort Oglethorpe is receiving up to $3 million worth of low-interest loans."
In 2017, the city struck a new agreement with the city of Chattanooga regarding treatment of its waste water. The agreement includes more expensive penalties for flow rate overages. Fort Oglethorpe's transmission system, wastewater collection, and flow rate monitoring were also evaluated resulting in the payment of over $330,000 in recalculated waste water overages for 2015-2016.
The infrastructure upgrades are a way of making the city's sewer system more efficient, and doing so through a GEFA loan will offer the city financial flexibility due to the low-interest nature of the loan.
"We only get the loan if we expend the money, so if we don't need it, we don't have to get it," Payne-Simpkins said. "It's an 0.89-percent interest rate, which is unbelievable for a 20-year term. We're very excited about having these resources to help us offset the expense of doing our inflow and infiltration projects."
Payne-Simpkins said two pump stations will also be replaced as part of the system overhaul.
"We are planning to replace two pump stations with these funds; the Fever Road pump station, which is 25 years old, and the Westside #2 pump station is over 30 years old," she explained. "Both are in need of replacement, and this loan will allow us to do that affordably."