For the past 100 years, Georgia gardeners have relied on their local University of Georgia Extension agents for advice on everything from how to treat for Japanese beetles to which tomato variety makes for the best ‘mater sandwich. But answering all of those gardening questions could be a little overwhelming if it weren’t for a group of dedicated trained volunteers.Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteers have helped UGA Extension agents answer calls and deliver educational programs for the past 35 years. 2,321 gardening experts volunteer their timeLast year 435 new Master Gardener Extension Volunteers joined Georgia’s 2,321 veteran volunteers. In 2013, this dedicated group donated 196,663 hours in Extension offices across the state. They answered 457,190 phone calls, gave 9,055 gardening presentations to civic clubs, made 2,538 home garden visits, wrote 741 newspaper articles and presented 4,959 plant clinics.“The Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteers have been especially vital over the past few years of drastic budget cuts in Georgia Extension,” said UGA Extension Associate Dean Beverly Sparks. “Last year alone, they worked the equivalent of 100 full-time employees.”It started at Washington StateThe idea of training gardening experts to volunteer in Extension offices was the brainchild of Extension agents from Washington State University. In exchange for specialized training in horticulture, the gardeners promised to do volunteer outreach work. That was more than 40 years ago, and the program has since spread across the U.S. and into Canada and South Korea. In Georgia, the program began in Atlanta in 1979. Becky Blades of Cobb County was in that first class of volunteers, and she’s still an active Master Gardener. She found out about the Master Gardener program by reading the “Market Bulletin,” a state-wide agriculture publication produced by the Georgia Department of Agriculture.“Obviously things were different way back then: we didn’t have a textbook; or name tags, or mentors, or ongoing county projects to plug into. I have been volunteering (and learning) ever since,” said Blades, who along with her husband, Jerry, has led a Junior Master Gardener class at Midway School since 2006.Teaching children to appreciate horticultureCollectively, Georgia’s volunteers presented 5,724 children’s programs, like the Junior Master Gardener program, last year. Gardening with youth is one of five initiatives the program has identified as focus areas. The other four are environmental stewardship, home food production, the value of landscapes and the health benefits of gardening. Before becoming a volunteer, Blades relied on her UGA Extension agent for gardening advice. “I loved being able to call and have gardening questions answered and receive publications in the mail on the subject,” she said.Blades enjoys expanding her gardening knowledge so she can help Cobb County residents who call on the Extension office. “In fact, what I enjoy most about gardening is that there is always more to learn. If you get tired of growing annuals and perennials, you can move on to flowering trees and shrubs or herbs and vegetables. You can never know it all. I love being able to help others get started,” she said.To find out more about the Georgia Extension Master Gardener Volunteer program, go to www.gamastergardener.org or call your Extension office at 1-800-ASK-UGA1.
State Audit Says Railroad Contracts at Vermont Agency of Transportation Could Be Managed BetterAgency did not competitively bid $7.2 million in construction work; did not charge interest on late lease payments; and did not collect salvage proceeds properly, among audit findingsMONTPELIER (December 5, 2008) – The Office of Vermont State Auditor Tom Salmon, CPA, reported today that oversight of railroad construction contracts in the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) is inadequate and is costing the State money.”One conclusion of the audit is that the Rail Division is not ensuring that the required competitive bidding in these contracts is taking place,” said Deputy State Auditor George Thabault. “Contracts are being ‘sole-sourced’ and this denies other companies the opportunity to compete for State contracts, and may be keeping the State from getting the best price for goods and services.”The rail audit was conducted following a request made by VTrans that the State Auditor investigate the deficiencies of its rail section and suggest improvements.”We recognized that we had some issues within our Rail Division that needed correcting, and requested the Auditor’s assistance,” said VTrans Secretary David Dill. “On our own, we were unable to clearly identify our weaknesses in a way that both we and the railroads could understand. Our goal is to use the findings of this report as a catalyst to forge a new and better relationship with the companies that run our rail systems.”The audit report noted four key findings:1. VTrans and its railroad subcontractors did not follow procurement regulations designed to foster open, competitive bidding, resulting in $7.2 million of recent contracts with Vermont Railway and one of its affiliates not being competitively bid. The largest no-bid contract – for $4,677,727 – was also issued without the required approval of the Secretary of the Agency of Administration.2. Oversight and administration of rail contracts need improvement. For example, auditors found that $82,401 from rail project salvage proceeds was being held by Vermont Railway to offset against future invoices rather than being returned to the State as required by contract. (The Agency has since discontinued the practice of allowing the netting of salvage credits and has adopted new procedures to promptly receive and account for salvage payments.)3. Lease revenues and agreed-to performance requirements of leaseholders are not being verified, and VTrans has forgone $37,000 in interest stemming from late payments of monthly leases for State-owned track.4. The Agency did not adequately follow up on past audits which reported $436,000 of questioned costs related to contracts with Vermont Railway.For the project, auditors selected four contracts totaling $7.2 million dollars, approximately 44 percent of the total active rail construction and railway upgrade contracts during fiscal years 2007 and 2008. All contracts were between VTrans and Vermont Railway and Green Mountain Railroad, two companies of the Vermont Rail System (VRS), a privately held, affiliated group of short-line rail transportation companies that operates in Vermont.Auditors recommended that AOT strengthen and clarify the language within its rail agreements, improve the oversight of contracts, enforce penalties for violations of the terms and conditions of its contracts and lease agreements, and provide for better fiscal management of its contractors and service providers.In its response to the report, the Agency of Transportation generally agreed with the report’s recommendations and pledged to provide the State Auditor with quarterly status reports on corrective actions.”VTrans already has put in place new business practices that correct some of the Auditor’s concerns, and we certainly will make additional changes to rectify the remaining deficiencies,” Dill said. “VTrans recently hired a new Rail Program Manager, and one of his top priorities is to improve our rail business operations.”Background:The oversight of the railway network in Vermont is the responsibility of the Vermont Agency of Transportation Rail Program. Vermont’s rail system consists of approximately 748 miles of track or rail right-of-way. The State owns approximately 427 miles, of which 305 miles are currently active. Ten railroad companies operate or have the rights to operate on the rail lines in Vermont.For Fiscal Year 2009, the AOT total budget is $412.2 million. The Rail Section is allocated $16.8 million of this budget. The Rail Section currently has eight staff positions of a total of approximately 1,050 positions in the Agency. The complete audit report is available at www.auditor.vermont.gov(link is external). Click on “Audits & Reports” and then “Special Audits” to access the new audit report.
The home at 39a Guthrie St, Paddington is one of 141 being auctioned in Brisbane this week.THE Brisbane auction market has started the year firing on all cylinders with a solid number of homes going under the hammer and strong clearance rates.This week, 141 homes are expected to be auctioned on the back of stellar results last week when the river city recorded a clearance rate of 62.1 per cent on 176 auctions. CoreLogic auction expert Kevin Brogan said Brisbane was experiencing a “fairly steady” auction market. “This week’s volume is down on last week but … 141 is a reasonable activity,” he said. “And looking back over 2016, the clearance rate achieved in Brisbane last week was as strong as we’ve seen for a year.“The higher clearance rate may signal for people to come into the auction market.”One of the 141 properties going under the hammer this weekend is a Brighton property with two houses on it. It is expected to be auctioned at 9am on Saturday, March 4. More from newsMould, age, not enough to stop 17 bidders fighting for this home2 hours agoBuyers ‘crazy’ not to take govt freebies, says 28-yr-old investor8 hours agoOne of the two homes being auctioned together in Brighton.Tim Taylor and his five brothers joined forces to sell the 1457sq m property on two titles, which had belonged to their parents. “A few of the brothers have mixed feeling about it, but really it’s a fairly unique opportunity for buyers,” he said. In Paddington, an architecturally-design home with city views, at 39a Guthrie St, will be auctioned on Saturday at 10am. The home at 39a Guthrie St, Paddington has an open plan living area.The home has family living on the lower storey with floor to ceiling glass doors linking the front deck and the rear entertaining area with in-ground pool.For those looking for something with a little more classic character, 44 Taylor St, Windsor will go under the hammer at noon on Saturday. The home at 44 Taylor St, Windsor will appeal to buyers looking for character.The colonial home has high ceilings, polished floorboards, open plan living and a fireplace. The house sits on a 405sq m block 3km from the Brisbane CBD.
HERMON — The Ellsworth boys’ basketball team clinched the No. 2 seed in the Class B North tournament with a 44-29 win over Hermon in Saturday’s game at Hermon High School.Despite the absence of center Isaac Varney, who will miss the remainder of the season with a foot injury, Hermon (11-5) took an 11-4 lead over Ellsworth in the first quarter. The Eagles would bounce back, though, ending the half on a 15-2 run to take a 19-13 advantage into the break.After Ellsworth (14-3) stretched its lead to 32-16 early in the third quarter, Hermon went on a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to nine entering the fourth. Yet the Eagles came through on defense in the final eight minutes and even got a dunk from Jackson Curtis with 58 seconds to play to close out a big road win.Austin Harris had a game-high 14 points for Ellsworth along with three rebounds, three assists and two steals. Jackson Curtis (13 points, nine rebounds and four assists), Hunter Curtis (eight points and three rebounds), Connor Crawford (five points, one assist and one steal) and Darby Barry (four points, three rebounds and four assists) also contributed for the Eagles.This is placeholder textThis is placeholder textEllsworth is set to close out the regular season Thursday, Feb. 6, as it takes on Mount Desert Island at 7 p.m. in Bar Harbor. The Eagles will then get seven days of rest before taking on the No. 7 or No. 10 seed in the Northern Maine quarterfinals at 8:30 p.m. next Friday, Feb. 14, at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.