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Renters laws, NASCAR track and becoming a citizen: Columbus news you need to know

Red Cross volunteers, with local support, bring ‘order out of chaos’ to hurricane shelter

Steven Lohr is among the Red Cross volunteers who helped keep the Red Cross shelter at the Columbus Civic Center up and running for the short time it was open to house about 300 Glynn County, Georgia residents sheltering from Hurricane Dorian.
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Steven Lohr is among the Red Cross volunteers who helped keep the Red Cross shelter at the Columbus Civic Center up and running for the short time it was open to house about 300 Glynn County, Georgia residents sheltering from Hurricane Dorian.

Missed the big stories happening in Columbus and in other parts of Georgia these last two weeks? Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.

New law aims to protect renters

A new Georgia law that took effect July 1 will hopefully curb the number of evictions throughout the state caused by unresolved repair issues.

House Bill 346 can legally protect tenants who seek repairs to their housing from retaliation by their landlords, including rent hikes and eviction.

If a landlord begins eviction proceedings in retaliation to a tenant requesting repairs, the tenant can use that as a defense in court. If a landlord is unable to provide proof in court that an action was not retaliatory, the tenant may recover one month’s rent, plus $500, court costs and attorney’s fees.

Between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018, the Muscogee County Marshal’s Office served 8,854 dispossessory warrants, which means landlords filed with the court to evict a tenant, said Capt. Curtis Lockette.

Want to know more about the new law? Read here.

Former Georgia NASCAR racetrack up for sale

If you’ve got $1.2 million, you could buy yourself a race track.

Middle Georgia Raceway in Byron (about 80 miles from Columbus) is up for sale. Owner and developer Tim Thornton said the property on U.S. 41 includes about 61 acres. It is zoned general commercial and could be an industrial park or a housing development.

However, the owner said he’d prefer to sell it to someone who will keep the track there and even bring back racing.

The property is pretty historical. Nine NASCAR races were held there from 1966 to 1971. Jimi Hendrix and The Allman Brothers Band were among the more than 30 musical acts who appeared there for the Byron Pop Festival. The festival, held in a field adjacent to the track, was one of the largest public gatherings in the state of Georgia, according to a historical marker on the property.

Want to know more? Read here.

Dorian causes power outages, results in evacuations

Hurricane Dorian caused power outages and forced some residents to evacuate in coastal Georgia. But the storm spared much of the state as it remained offshore before tracking north toward the Carolinas.

The Columbus Civic Center housed about 300 evacuees from Glynn County in southeast Georgia. The county includes Brunswick and St. Simons Island. The storm swamped parts of North Carolina. Dorian’s death toll in the Bahamas rose to 45 as of Monday morning, CBS reports.

Immigrants become citizens in Columbus

Jasmina Fitchett was one of 49 people who became U.S. citizens last week during a naturalization ceremony held in Columbus.

Fitchett married a U.S. solider after the pair met in Italy. She followed him to Germany and later to the United States. They have three children, and now, the 27-year-old woman is an American citizen.

“It is a very important day,” Fitchett said. “Citizens need to acknowledge the (United States) was built by immigrants. ...There’s still a lot of hate out there, unfortunately, for immigrants no matter if they’re legal or illegal. ...A lot of people don’t see the process we have to go through. ...It takes time. It takes money. And it takes work.”

Read more here.

Nick Wooten is the Southern Trends and Culture reporter for McClatchy’s South region. He is based in Columbus, Georgia at the Ledger-Enquirer but his work also appears in The (Macon) Telegraph and The Sun Herald in Biloxi.Before joining McClatchy, he worked for The (Shreveport La.) Times covering city government and investigations. He is a graduate of Mercer University in Macon, Georgia.
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