South Georgia feels the impact of 2005 - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

South Georgia feels the impact of 2005

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December 31, 2005

Albany- From soldiers saying goodbye to Habitat for Humanity changing hands it's been a busy year in south Georgia. 2005 was a first for many things in Albany. The Good Life City got its first arena football team, the Wildcats, and its first new chain hotel downtown, the Hilton Garden Inn. There were many events in 2005 that touched so many.

2005 is full of events that have impacted the lives of south Georgians, but the biggest and most talked about is job loss. In August, it became official, the fight to keep an 86 year old piece of Albany history, Bobs Candies, ended and jobs were outsource to Mexico.

"I think our legislators need to do something about that to keep the jobs here, because that is what made this country strong is the fact that we've always been able to support ourselves," said James McAllister, of Albany.

In November, Merck announced in late 2006 the Albany plant will close as part of a global restructuring. Another 350 jobs will be lost. "With Merck closing, that's a tough thing and hopefully other industry will come in and consider this attractive," said Jay Reppert, of Albany.

For the tender hearted, the images of water rushing in homes in New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina came ashore was too much to bear.

"I sat there and cried quite a bit, when I watch it," said Dot Forehand, of Leesburg.

Hundreds evacuated to south Georgia. The gulf coast was then ravaged by Rita as many watched the record setting hurricane season in horror. Hurricane Dennis left local damage that is still facing repair. In May, members of the 48th Brigade, held tight to loved ones as they said good bye to families and friends for a 18 month tour of Iraq.

"I had a brother that went to Iraq earlier this year in April and that had a big impact on my family," said Darran McGill, of Sylvester.

For five south Georgia families, that trip was tragic, two soldiers from Valdosta one from Worth County and one from Sumter County were killed.

"I hope they come home as soon as possible to be honest with you," said Leroy Stewart, of Americus.

The biggest collective sigh however, came in May when the BRAC committee announced their list and neither MCLB nor Moody Air Force Base were on the closure list. Many say that's one worry they'll continue to have for years to come.

"We're on pins and needles every year about the base closing, and you know we survived another year." McGill.

There are other memorable stories that have affected so many lives, racial tensions ignited when five Hispanic community members were killed in Tifton, there was the indictment and conviction of Albany City Commissioner Henry Mathis.

The search will continue in 2006 for missing Irwin County teacher Tara Grinstead and the GBI will continue to investigate a list of Albany Police Officers accused of double dipping.

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