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Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Tuesday, April 2. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode, we'll learn about an attempt to help people who lost Medicaid during Medicaid unwinding. Sales tax just went up in Augusta-Richmond County. And yes, the pollen is bad this year, but some relief may be on the way. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.


Story 1:

Peter Biello: It's now a little more expensive to go shopping in Augusta-Richmond County. The county sales tax went up yesterday from 8% to 8.5% because of a voter-approved measure to fund the new James Brown Arena. Cedric Johnson, of the county's Coliseum Authority, says a groundbreaking for the $250 million project is expected in June.

Cedric Johnson: This has been about a 10-year planning process to get where we are today, so we're very excited and we're very thankful that the citizens of Augusta-Richmond County saw the vision that we saw that we needed a new arena.

Peter Biello: He calls the James Brown Arena an economic development tour. Demolition of the old one and construction of the new one is expected to take about three years.


Story 2:

Peter Biello: The FBI says a driver rammed a vehicle into the front gate of its Atlanta office yesterday. The federal agency says the driver's motives were not immediately known. They say the driver is not associated with the facility. No one was injured. Several special agents who were passing by took the driver into custody. The investigation is ongoing.


Story 3:

Peter Biello: The coming rain and relatively cool weather could bring temporary relief for allergy sufferers. Atlanta Allergy and Asthma's pollen monitor today reported the third-highest pollen count in its 35-year-history. The only higher pollen count the monitor has recorded came in March 2012 and March 2020. Pollen forecasts in other areas of the state showed similarly high levels.


Story 4:

Peter Biello: Over the last year, more than a half-million adults and kids in Georgia have lost their Medicaid coverage during a nationwide check of program eligibility dubbed Medicaid unwinding. Now, public health agencies are trying to fill in the gaps. GPB's Sofi Gratas has more.

Sofi Gratas: Bibb County Health Department Administrator Jimmy Smith says Medicaid unwinding has meant more people coming in uninsured and unable to pay for basic care. To help reconnect people with insurance and enroll them in other social services, Bibb's health department has hired a support worker from the Department of Family and Children's Services as part of a cost-sharing agreement with the state, signed last September.

Jimmy Smith: I don't want that family or that individual to have to make a decision about their health care based on their income, and that is a decision that a lot of people are making. But I do want the public to know we are there to help.

Sofi Gratas: So far, 15 county health departments are expected to have a worker on site by this summer. For GPB News, I'm Sofi Gratas in Macon.

Cowboy Jones, 91, at a Sparta, Ga.,  protest against a proposed rock quarry project.

Cowboy Jones, 91, holds a sign at a Sparta, Ga., protest against a proposed rock quarry project.

Credit: Krishna Sharma

Story 5:

Peter Biello: Georgia regulators have found in favor of a small railroad in an eminent domain dispute between the company and landowners in rural Hancock County. GPB's Grant Blankenship has more.

Grant Blankenship: The Sandersville Railroad says they need a 4-and-a-half-mile ribbon of land running from Rock Quarry, just outside the town of Sparta for what's called a spur line to connect to larger regional rail lines. The families who own the land around the proposed line objected, saying commercial interests don't trump generations of tradition, which in some cases even withstood the Jim Crow era. Now, a hearing officer for the PSC has said, by promising to connect previously disjointed business interest, the spur would serve a public good. Attorney Bill Meagher represents the families.

Bill Meagher: None of these companies have anything remotely to do with the public good. They're not providing water. They're not providing power. These are companies that are serving their own interests.

Grant Blankenship: Meagher says the families will appeal, beginning with the full five-member Public Service Commission. For GPB News, I'm Grant Blankenship in Macon.


Story 6:

Peter Biello: State transportation officials are awarding Norfolk Southern $8 million to fund freight rail improvements in Henry County. The railroad's line between Macon in Atlanta is an important freight rail corridor linking the Port of Savannah with metro Atlanta. The Georgia Department of Transportation grant will go toward a $21 million project to double the length of a passing track in McDonough. The project aims to ease rail congestion and reduce road blockages for trains, to improve the efficiency of the state's transportation networks.



Story 7:

Peter Biello: Warmer spring weather brings more snakes slithering around Georgia, and that makes some people uncomfortable. But most of the snakes you encounter are not dangerous. GPB's Devon Zwald reports the Georgia Department of Natural Resources is giving advice on what to do when you see one.

Devon Zwald: Daniel Sullenberger is the state herpetologist. He says you can try to identify the snake, but that can be unreliable.

Daniel Sullenberger: The problem is a lot of non-venomous snakes can look like venomous snakes.

Devon Zwald: Sullenberger says it's illegal to harm, keep, catch or kill Georgia's native non-venomous snakes because they're protected by Georgia law. He says your best bet when you see one is to give it some space.

Daniel Sullenberger: Move your body parts, your hands, your feet, whatever happens to be nearby the snake away from it. And typically you can just let them crawl away on their own.

Devon Zwald: He says only seven of Georgia's 47 native snake species are venomous, and the vast majority are beneficial and help control rodent populations. For GPB News, I'm Devon Zwald.

A view of the Dali cargo vessel which crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge causing it to collapse in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S., March 26, 2024. REUTERS/Julia Nikhinson

Story 8:

Peter Biello: The Port of Brunswick is expected to handle a wave of diverted shipments from the Port of Baltimore, where terminal traffic is reduced because of last week's bridge collapse. Baltimore is the nation's No. 1 port for automobile carriers, with Brunswick No. 2. Professor Chuck Easley directs a logistics education program at Georgia Tech.

Chuck Easley: I think what you would see is more volume. I think you'll see a greater sense of being very intentional on how things are delivered, times of day. It can absorb some of it. I think it will be a stretch if it could absorb all of it.

Peter Biello: The Port of Wilmington also is expected to pick up where Baltimore temporarily can't. It could take weeks or months for Baltimore's shipping channel to completely reopen. The Georgia Ports Authority says it's still too early to tell how much cargo will be diverted.


Story 9:

Peter Biello: In sports, The Braves are in Chicago tonight to take on the White Sox again. Third baseman Austin Riley, number 27, turns 27 today. Riley hit a three-run homer last night, one pitch after the end of a 44-minute rain delay. He batted in four of the nine runs in yesterday's shutout. In pro volleyball, the Atlanta Vibe beat the Grand Rapids Rise in four sets on the road last night, the team's third straight win. Atlanta now has at least one win over every other team in the Pro Volleyball Federation this season. And in the NBA, Dejounte Murray and the Atlanta Hawks host Cade Cunningham and the Detroit Pistons tomorrow. The Hawks are 21 and 27 against Eastern Conference opponents.

Peter Biello: And that is it for this edition of Georgia Today. Thank you so much for tuning in. If you want to learn more about any of these stories, check out and remember to subscribe to this podcast. We'll be back in your podcast feed tomorrow afternoon with all the top stories from Georgia. And if you've got feedback, send it our way by email. The address is I'm Peter Biello. Thank you so much for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.


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