GOOD EVENING AND THANKS FOR JOINING US..
I'M LEAH JOHNSON.
AND I'M FRANK MALLOY...THIS IS EYEWITNESS NEWS AT 11.
WE'RE LESS THAN TWO DAYS FROM THE OFFICIAL START OF THE PINKEST PARTY ON EARTH... AND THE VENDORS ARE ALREADY GETTING THINGS SET UP.
WE SPENT SOME TIME AT CENTRAL CITY PARK... TO TAKE A LOOK AT THE PINK PREPARATIONS.
It wouldn't be a cherry Blossom festival without rides, food and fun.
Vendors from all over are making finishing touches to get ready for crowds when the festival kicks off Friday.
For Chris Robbeloth from Tampa Florida.....it's his 12th year. He says he has a lot of work ahead of him.
SOT: The first thing is taking it off the trucks, setting the trailers down, setting up the tents and then we gotta clean everything.
Robbeloth's gearing up to satisfy tastebuds with his mobile restaurant.
sot: I sell turkey legs, I have sausage, polish italian sausage, corn dogs. I also bought a new trailer this year. I'm going to be doing some sweet potato ribbon fries and also chicken on a stick and a chicken tenders basket.
William Toland specializes in the rides.
sot: This here is called the tub of fun. We get the youngins and load them up in here. They spin the tub themselves while the ride turns and spins too and they have a good time.
Toland helps get things set up, then operates the rides when the festival gets underway. He says the kids are the best part.
sot: Just seeing a cheerful look on a youngin's face. Them laughing and having a good time. That makes me feel good out here doing somethign for them.
It's the kind of ride that keeps kids coming back for more he says. As for Robbeloth... this is the kind of festival that keeps him coming back year after year... turning a successful profit that he says stays in the community.
sot: We do take some money out of here but we also spend it while here. I keep the money in the economy in this town.
THIS YEAR'S CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL GETS UNDERWAY AT NOON ON FRIDAY... WITH AN OPENING CEREMONY.
TO CHECK OUT THE EVENT CALENDAR... JUST HEAD TO THE FESTIVALS GUIDE AT 13WMAZ DOT COM.
TODAY'S 13WMAZ DOT COM WEB POLL ASKS...DO YOU ATTEND FESTIVAL EVENTS IN YOUR COMMUNITY??
SO FAR.. 50 PERCENT OF YOU SAY YES.. YOU DO.
AND 50 PERCENT OF YOU SAY NO.
VOTE NOW AT 13 WMAZ DOT COM... JUST LOOK FOR THE QUESTION ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE PAGE.
SOME PRIVATE WELLS IN MONROE COUNTY ARE FLOWING WITH RADON AND URANIUM.
THOSE AFFECTED ARE WORKING TO FLUSH OUT THE ELEMENTS.
MONROE COUNTY COMMISSIONERS ARE TEAMING UP WITH MIDDLE GEORGIA REGIONAL COMMISSIONERS TO GET CLEAN COUNTY WATER TO THE AREA.
CHAN LAYSON... WITH THE MIDDLE GEORGIA REGIONAL COMMISSIONERS SAYS.... 32 HOMES IN THE DAMES FERRY AREA TESTED POSITIVE FOR HIGH LEVELS OF URANIUM.
THE GROUP IS APPLYING FOR A COMMUNITY BLOCK GRANT... THAT WOULD EXTEND COUNTY WATER ABOUT TWO MILES TO THE AFFECTED HOMES.
Chan Layson, Middle GA Regional Commissioners: "I think this is probably one of the more important, most important, issues in Monroe County right now. In fact, I would say that the community development block grant that we're working on is actually going to help leverage money from the county in order to solve the problem in this area."
LAYSON SAYS ONCE THE WATER REACHES OLD DAMES FERRY ROAD... THEY CAN USE SPLOST MONEY TO REACH OTHER HOMES.
THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION HAS A NEW WAY TO IDENTIFY STRUGGLING SCHOOLS.
TODAY... THEY RELEASED THE LIST OF 78 "PRIORITY SCHOOLS" IN GEORGIA.
THOSE ARE SCHOOLS WITH MANY STUDENTS ON FREE AND REDUCED LUNCH... THAT ALSO PERFORM POORLY IN THE CLASSROOM.
THEY WERE LABELED "NEEDS IMPROVEMENT" UNDER THE NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT... BUT GEORGIA RECEIVED A WAIVER FROM THOSE REQUIREMENTS LAST MONTH.
17 OF THOSE SCHOOLS ARE IN CENTRAL GEORGIA... INCLUDING TEN IN BIBB COUNTY.
THAT INCLUDES BURGHARD... HARTLEY... KING-DANFORTH... AND INGRAM-PYE ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS...
ALSO HUTCHINGS CAREER CENTER... NORTHEAST AND CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOLS...
AND RUTLAND... SOUTHWEST... AND WESTSIDE HIGH SCHOOLS.
THE SEVEN OTHER CENTRAL GEORGIA SCHOOLS INCLUDE DOOLY... PEACH... TWIGGS... AND WILCOX COUNTY HIGH SCHOOLS.
ALSO EAST LAURENS HIGH SCHOOL... HAWKINSVILLE HIGH IN PULASKI COUNTY... AND WILKINSON COUNTY HIGH.
THE SCHOOLS WILL REMAIN PRIORITY SCHOOLS FOR THREE YEARS AND RECIEVE EXTRA STATE FUNDING TO GET ON TRACK.
DISTRICTS WITH PRIORITY SCHOOLS WILL ALSO GET SPECIALISTS IN JUNE TO HELP CREATE SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT PLANS.
AN ATLANTA TEACHER BECAME THE FIRST TO LOSE HIS JOB IN CONNECTION WITH THE MASSIVE CHEATING SCANDAL IN THE CITY'S PUBLIC SCHOOLS.
FORMER MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHER DAMANY LEWIS ADMITTED TO CHEATING FOUR STRAIGHT YEARS.
HE SAYS HE USED A RAZOR BLADE TO CUT INTO TEST BOOKLETS AND MAKE COPIES FOR OTHER TEACHERS.
LEWIS SAID TEACHERS FELT PRESSURED TO IMPROVE TEST SCORES.
180 TEACHERS STAND ACCUSED OF GIVING ANSWERS TO STUDENTS OR CHANGING ANSWERS AFTER TESTING.
THE BUILDING THAT ONCE HOUSED THE GEORGIA MUSIC HALL OF FAME COULD GET NEW LIFE AS A TRAINING GROUND FOR FUTURE DOCTORS.
THE STATE CLOSED THE DOORS TO THE MUSIC HALL LAST YEAR.
BUT NOW... THEY'RE WILLING TO SELL THE VACANT BUILDING TO MERCER UNIVERSITY... TO EXPAND ITS MEDICAL SCHOOL.
RANDALL SAVAGE EXPLAINS.
<<IT'S NOT A DONE DEAL YET.. BUT MERCER UNIVERSITY OFFICIALS ARE MOVING CLOSER TO ACQUIRING THE FORMER GEORGIA MUSIC HALL OF FAME BUILDING IN DOWNTOWN MACON.. THEY WANT THE FACILITY TO EXPAND THEIR MEDICAL SCHOOL OPERATIONS.
LARRY BRUMLEY.. MERCER'S VICE PRESIDENT OF MARKETING.. WASN'T AVAILABLE FOR AN ON-CAMERA INTERVIEW.
BUT NEWTOWN MACON PRESIDENT MIKE FORD SAYS A MERCER MEDICAL EXPANSION WOULD IMPACT DOWNTOWN MORE THAN THE MUSIC HALL DID.
7:11 Mike Ford, Downtown Macon: I think it wouldn't be comparable that the number of people coming to this facility if it's an expansion of the Mercer Medical School would be multiple of times the people who were actually visiting the music hall of fame.
FORD SAYS IT COULD ALSO INCREASE THE NEED FOR MORE RESIDENTIAL AREAS IN THE DOWNTOWN AREA.
2:15:02 Mike Ford, NewTown Macon: The fact that we need lofts badly will be even more important as they come in because of students and professors and the demand should go up for lofts so we think it will have a very big impact on the demand.
02 Randall Savage, Eyewitness News: The Music Hall of Fame has been closed and locked up since last June. But with Mercer University planning to put a medical school down here, it could be busy once again.
AND HANNAH THOMPSON.. A MERCER STUDENT WHO WORKS PART-TIME AS A WAITRESS AT LEMONGRASS AND THAI BISTRO ON CHERRY STREET.. SAYS IT COULD IMPROVE THE DOWNTOWN RESTAURANT BUSINESS.
33 Hannah Thompson, Student/Waitress: I think it will have a good effect. We just had an event for the Mercer med students. We catered their prom. I think it'll bring more business downtown and bring more business here.
RANDALL SAVAGE.. 13 WMAZ.. EYEWITNESS NEWS.
>> THE GEORGIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY MUST APPROVE THE SALE... BEFORE THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CAN MAKE A DEAL WITH MERCER.
HOUSE RESOLUTION 1-3-7-6 WOULD AUTHORIZE THAT SALE... FOR AN UNDISCLOSED FAIR MARKET VALUE.
IT'S EXPECTED TO BE APPROVED LATER THIS MONTH.
JURORS FINISHED THE DAY WITHOUT REACHING A VERDICT IN THE TRIAL OF A CORPORATE ENGINEER ACCUSED OF KILLING A TODDLER'S FATHER OUTSIDE AN ATLANTA-AREA PRESCHOOL.
HEMY NEUMAN SAYS HE WAS INSANE WHEN HE KILLED RUSSELL SNEIDERMAN IN 2010.
HIS LAWYERS SAY SNEIDERMAN'S WIFE TOOK ADVANTAGE OF HIS MENTAL PROBLEMS... AND CONVINCED HIM TO KILL HER HUSBAND.
PROSECUTORS SAY JEALOUSY.. NOT MENTAL ILLNESS... LED TO THE CRIME.
IF CONVICTED OF MURDER... NEUMAN COULD FACE LIFE IN PRISON.
THE ARMY STAFF SERGEANT ACCUSED OF KILLING MORE THAN A DOZEN AFGHAN CIVILIANS IS AT AN AMERICAN MILITARY BASE IN KUWAIT... AWAITING CHARGES.
THAT'S LIKELY TO BE ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS THE U-S SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DISCUSSES WITH AFGHANISTAN'S PRESIDENT TOMORROW.
BIGAD SHABAN HAS MORE.
U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY LEON PANETTA LANDED IN AFGHANISTAN AT A TIME WHEN RELATIONS BETWEEN THE TWO COUNTRIES ARE AS STRAINED AS THEY'VE EVER BEEN. AN AMERICAN SOLDIER IS ACCUSED IN LAST WEEKEND'S MASSACRE OF 16 AFGHAN CIVILIANS, MOSTLY WOMEN AND CHILDREN... AND SIX AMERICANS DIED IN RIOTS FOLLOWING LAST MONTH'S MISTAKEN BURNING OF THE KORAN BY U.S. TROOPS.
SOT - Panetta Pipe 1 10:39:10
each of these incidents is deeply troubling. and we have to learn the lessons from each of those incidents so that we do everything possible to make sure they don't happen again.
PANETTA'S VISIT WITH AFGHAN LEADERS WAS PLANNED MONTHS AGO TO DISCUSS A LONGTERM AMERICAN PRESENCE IN THE COUNTRY. AFGHAN PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI HAS CALLED THE ATTACK ON CIVILIANS UNFORGIVEABLE, AND IS UNDER PRESSURE NOT TO SIGN SUCH AN AGREEMENT.
PRESIDENT OBAMA SAID THE INCIDENTS WILL NOT AFFECT THE COALITION GOAL OF A PEACEFUL, SELF-GOVERNING AFGHANISTAN.
SOT - President - flipped SOT, :45
"I don't anticipate at this stage that we're going to be making any sudden additional changes to the plan that we currently have."
... A SENTIMENT PANETTA ECHOED TO THOSE TASKED WITH CARRYING OUT THAT PLAN.
SOT - Panetta - Pipe 1 10:43:43
we will be challenged by our enemy, we will be challenged by ourselves... we will be challenged by the hell of war itself. but none of that must ever deter us from the mission that we must achieve
PANETTA IS SCHEDULED TO MEET WITH KARZAI THURSDAY MORNING.
AN AFGHAN STOLE A NATO TRUCK ON THE AIRFIELD WHERE PANETTA'S PLANE LANDED TODAY... AND CRASHED IT ON THE RUNWAY JUST AS THE PLANE ARRIVED.
THE PENTAGON SAYS IT DOESN'T BELIEVE PANETTA WAS BEING TARGETED.
TONIGHT'S FACEBOOK FAN OF THE DAY IS JAMES WALSH.
JAMES... YOU'LL NEED TO EMAIL FAN OF THE DAY AT 13WMAZ DOT COM TO CLAIM YOUR COFFEE MUG.
SO YOU WANT TO BE FACEBOOK FAN OF THE DAY? YOU? I DON'T KNOW... I HAVEN'T SEEN YOU HANGING AROUND FACEBOOK DOT COM SLASH 13WMAZ... AND I DEFINITELY MISSED THAT MOMENT WHEN YOU CLICKED THE LIKE BUTTON.
BUT MAYBE IF YOU GET INTO THE CONVERSATIONS... WE CAN WORK SOMETHING OUT.
THE OLD BOOKS ARE LAID OUT... PRICED... AND READY FOR A NEW HOME.
THE FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY OLD BOOK SALE OPENS TO THE PUBLIC IN LESS THAN 12 HOURS.
TO CHECK OUT MORE THAN 100 THOUSAND BOOKS... JUST HEAD TO THE SALE'S NEW LOCATION AT THE MACON CENTREPLEX.
THINGS OPEN TOMORROW AND FRIDAY FROM TEN TO SEVEN.
THEN SATURDAY... YOU CAN PICK UP SOME READING MATERIAL BETWEEN TEN AND FIVE.
AND SUNDAY... YOUR WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY RUNS FROM NOON UNTIL FIVE.