A map of Highway 157 at Maggie Bluff.
It is said that the eyes of the Lord are everywhere, beholding the evil and the good, and that not a sparrow falls without his knowing. In small towns, all of us strive to emulate the Creator at least in this regard, and none more so than your friendly neighborhood Planet.
The Planet’s eyes are not perhaps as ubiquitous as their maker’s but they were in any case darting about officiously in Dade Probate Court on Thursday to behold citizen Gary Ball in Act II of his crusade against the local justice system.
Ball had attracted the eyes of The Planet by standing up at last week’s September meeting of the Dade County Commission and accusing the local constabulary, in the person of Dade Sheriff’s Deputy Shawn Craig, of using the Maggie Bluff area of Highway 157 as a speed trap, and the Covenant College students who frequent that section, identifiable by their out-of-state license plates, as a "revenue stream." Ball’s grandson’s girlfriend, and then his own wife, Ginny Ball, had fallen into said trap, the latter presumably because of the Tennessee tags on her company car.
Ball maintained that the deputy was in the wrong not just for “preying on Covenant students" to fill high the sheriff's coffers but for writing speeding tickets at all on this section of the road, because of a Georgia law that precludes doing so on road sections with a grade of more than 7 percent. Ball had bearded his state representative, the sheriff’s department and now the county commission on this point. On Thursday, accompanied by Ginny Ball and by Daniel Pelt, another of the alleged speed trap’s alleged victims, Ball, armed with a letter from the Georgia Department of Transportation listing the grades on 157, sallied forth to joust with Probate Judge Kerri Bray Carter.
The GDOT letter lists the southbound slopes of 157 as 8.6 percent 900 feet north of Maggie Bluff, 10.9 percent 750 feet north, and 6.1 percent 585 feet north. “That’s where they had him get up and lie he wrote the tickets,” said Ball of the deputy after his session with the judge.
Who found Ginny Ball guilty, to the tune of $232 if she pays now, as opposed to $150 if she had paid up when ticketed. Now, said the Balls, they have 30 days to decide whether or not to continue pursuing the matter in Dade Superior Court, providing another opportunity to prove their point but risking accruing more court costs.
Their youthful companion Pelt, watching how the Balls fared, had asked for his case to be deferred until he could be assigned a court-appointed public defender.
The Balls said they were unsure as yet about how they will proceed in this matter; but one thing is certain: The Planet's gimlet eye will remain on the watch for falling sparrows, for the benefit of such readers who would otherwise have been unaware of their fateful downward chute.