Michelle Wirth

Reporter

Michelle comes to WABE after working at KMOX, the CBS radio affiliate in St. Louis, as a county government and general assignment reporter. Before joining KMOX, Michelle served as a medical and general assignment reporter at WSAV-TV, the NBC affiliate in Savannah, GA and as a state government and general assignment reporter at KOMU-TV in Columbia, MO. Michelle has a Master’s degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism and a Bachelor’s in Communications from the University of Denver. She lives in Midtown with her husband, Bryan, and her dog, Chewy.

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Local
6:03 pm
Fri July 3, 2015

Atlanta-Area Agencies Increase Security After ISIS Attacks

Police departments and government agencies across the U.S., and here in Georgia, are stepping up security following the recent ISIS attacks overseas.

There are no specific threats to Georgia and Atlanta. But as a result of last week’s attacks, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and those it partners with are taking additional precautions.

“There’s probably about a 10 to 15 percent increase of personnel that are available and working this weekend as opposed to in previous years,” said Jim Butterworth, director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security for Georgia.

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Local
12:21 pm
Thu July 2, 2015

Ga. Law Places Few Restrictions On Setting Off Fireworks

The new fireworks law in Georgia says you cannot shoot them off at gas stations, nuclear power plants or refineries. However, the new law does not address most public places.
Credit City of Sandy Springs

    

With fireworks now legal in Georgia, you might be wondering when and where you can shoot them off.

The new law says you can shoot fireworks between 10 a.m. and midnight. On a few special occasions such as the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve, they're allowed until 2 a.m.

The law places few restrictions on where fireworks are off limits. You can't use them within 100 yards of nuclear power plant, a gas station or a refinery. But the law does not address whether they can be used in public places like parks.

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Features
2:13 pm
Wed July 1, 2015

Ga. Rolls Out New Regulations For Uber, Lyft And Taxis

Georgia will start to regulate ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft along with traditional taxi cab companies.
Credit Nathan Congleton via flickr

As of Wednesday, Georgia will start to regulate ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft. The new law also gives the state the power to oversee taxi cabs. That’s a big change because inspections and permitting used to be handled by local governments like the city of Atlanta.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, taxis are lined up near the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta. Otis Sales is in the third cab back. He’s been driving a taxi part time for over 40 years. But in the past year or so, he’s noticed a drop in business.

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Local
1:50 pm
Tue June 30, 2015

Georgia's High Court Rules Braves Stadium Bonds Valid

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled revenue bond sales for SunTrust Park can move forward.
Credit Atlanta Braves

The barriers are gone for the new Atlanta Braves stadium. The Georgia Supreme Court ruled Monday it’s legal for Cobb County to issue up to $397 million in revenue bonds.

The opinion was unanimous. It says the contract to authorize the bonds between Cobb County and the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority is valid. The opinion went on to say financing for the Braves deal was structured in a manner consistent with revenue bond law and previous rulings on the state’s constitution. Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee says he’s pleased with the decision.

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Health & Science
5:20 pm
Fri June 26, 2015

Doctors Can Sign Up Patients For Medical Marijuana Registry

Now that the state has launched a medical marijuana registry, doctors throughout Georgia can sign up patients.               

Those who qualify to legally possess the oil need to have one of eight different medical conditions. Those conditions include: seizure disorders, some forms of cancer, Parkinson’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease and sickle cell anemia. The registry comes after the signing of HB 1 by Gov. Nathan Deal.

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Local
12:25 pm
Thu June 25, 2015

East Point Block On National List Of Most Endangered Places

East Point's civic block was one of 11 sites placed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's 2015 list of endangered places.
Credit East Point Preservation Alliance

  

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has placed East Point’s civic block on its list of most endangered historic places.

The block includes a condemned auditorium and a city library, which now serves as a storage facility. There's also a City Hall, which is only partially in use. The National Trust says the properties on East Point's civic block, which were built in the 1930s, are "suffering a potential fate of demolition by neglect."

Stasio Rusek, president of the East Point Preservation Alliance, said getting on the list will help save the buildings.

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Local
11:31 am
Wed June 24, 2015

Archdiocese Of Atlanta Creates Climate Change Panel

Susan Varlamoff, director of the University of Georgia’s Office of Environmental Sciences, is leading a local panel that will create a plan of action on climate change.
Credit Brenna Beech / WABE

The Archdiocese of Atlanta is responding to Pope Francis' call to combat climate change. The archbishop of Atlanta, Wilton Gregory, asked a local panel to come up with a plan of action in response to a 192-page letter written by Francis.

Last week, the pope called for bold actions to respond to climate change. He said wealthy nations need to take responsibility for how their lifestyles affect the environment and the world's poorest countries.

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Local
11:25 am
Tue June 23, 2015

Precautions Taken As Dog Flu Concerns Grow In Metro Atlanta

Beverley Petrunich, co-owner of DoGone Fun, a Chicago day care and boarding facility, visits with some of her clients. A strain of the dog flu that hit the Midwest seems to be showing up in metro Atlanta. Among the symptoms dog owners should look out for in their pets: fever, cough and lethargy.
Credit M. Spencer Green / AP Photo

The same strain of dog flu that caused a Midwest outbreak appears to be spreading in metro Atlanta.

Several area veterinarians have confirmed cases of canine influenza. It's also been seen at day care and boarding facilities. Jennifer Hunt with WAG-A-LOT in Decatur said her location hasn't had any cases yet but is taking precautions.

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Local
9:32 am
Fri June 19, 2015

Tyler Perry, Fort McPherson Deal Sparks New Road Proposal

Tyler Perry will pay $30 million for 330 acres near Fort McPherson in Georgia. In this photo, Perry attends the premiere of “Selma” at the Ziegfeld Theatre Dec. 14, 2014, in New York.
Credit Evan Agostini/Invision / Associated Press

The authority overseeing the Fort McPherson-Tyler Perry property sale deal has proposed a new road on the property. Critics say taxpayer money shouldn’t pay for the $500,000 upgrade.

There’s a VA medical clinic on the former base. Portions of several roads leading there cut through property that could soon be owned by Tyler Perry Studios. 

So the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority says a new road is needed. It would be paid for with tax money from nearby commercial property owners in the Campbellton Road Tax Allocation District. 

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Local
1:13 pm
Wed June 17, 2015

Georgia Medical Marijuana Registry Gets Underway

The Georgia Department of Public Health has unveiled a low THC oil registry for patients with one of eight different medical conditions.
Credit Georgia Department of Public Health

Georgia’s medical marijuana registry is up and running. That’s according to the state’s Department of Public Health, which is in charge of keeping track of which Georgians can legally possess cannabis oil.

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Local
4:11 pm
Tue June 16, 2015

Some Fear Gay Marriage Ruling Could Spark Discrimination

A U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in favor of same-sex marriage could lead to discrimination from business owners says Georgia Equality’s executive director.
Credit Brynn Anderson / Associated Press

Local gay rights activists hope the U.S. Supreme Court rules later this month that same-sex marriage is constitutional. But some fear the ruling could also cause some Georgia businesses to discriminate against gay couples who want to get married.

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Politics
12:39 pm
Tue June 16, 2015

Georgia Unveils Medical Marijuana Registry

The legislation also says those with conditions such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis and sickle cell disease would have to be near death or have severe symptoms to get the oil.
Credit Michelle Wirth / WABE

Medical cannabis oil is now legal in Georgia for people with eight different medical conditions, but getting it could mean breaking federal law. Georgia lawmakers are working on several ways to address this issue.   

Tuesday, Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald is expected to announce the state has completed a registry for cannabis oil users. 

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Local
6:50 pm
Fri June 12, 2015

Advocacy Groups Push For More Wind Power In Georgia

The future of wind in Georgia Power’s energy portfolio was debated Thursday during a Georgia Public Service Commission committee meeting.

Starting next year, Georgia Power will get enough wind power from Oklahoma to power more than 50,000 homes as part of the utility’s first wind project.

The price of wind energy has been dropping, so advocacy groups say Georgia Power should quickly invest in more wind energy.

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Local
3:34 pm
Wed June 10, 2015

Plan To Sell Alcohol At Six Flags White Water Fails

Park patrons ride the waves in the Atlanta Ocean Wave Pool at Six Flags White Water, in Austell, Georgia.
Credit Bryant Upchurch / sixflags.com/whitewater

Six Flags White Water will remain alcohol free. This week, the Marietta City Council voted against a plan that would have allowed beer, wine and margaritas to be sold throughout the 69-acre park.

Those representing the water park said they want alcohol sales because of customer demand.  Alcohol is currently sold at Six Flags Over Georgia in Austell and at the companies’ other U.S. water parks.

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Local
11:41 am
Tue June 9, 2015

DeKalb County Purchasing Cards Suspended Amid Investigation

DeKalb County Interim CEO Lee May, left, stands with Mike Bowers in March as he announces a special investigation to look into potential corruption in the county.
Credit Lisa George / WABE

As of Friday, hundreds of DeKalb County government officials and employees won’t be able to use their county purchasing cards. Interim CEO Lee May is suspending the p-cards amid an investigation into potential corruption in the county.

May decided to suspend the cards, including his own, based on the recommendation of special investigators Mike Bowers and Richard Hyde. The p-cards function like debit cards and allow elected officials and some county employees to pay for work-related expenses. May says the cards have been an “ongoing concern.”

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Business
12:05 pm
Mon June 8, 2015

Cobb County Airport To Add International Arrivals

Cobb County International Airport-McCollum Field will open an $800,000 customs facility on June 25.
Credit Alison Guillory / WABE

Cobb County’s airport will soon offer international arrivals for small planes and corporate jets. Later this month, an $800,000 customs facility will open at McCollum Field.

The 2,900-square-foot structure includes waiting and inspection areas, a holding cell and an interview room.

Karl Von Hagel is the airport’s manager. He says adding customs will help businesses in Cobb County.

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Politics
3:49 pm
Fri June 5, 2015

Democrats Could Challenge Georgia's Voter ID Law

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp says the state’s voter ID laws have been challenged before.
Credit Heather Kennedy / www.flickr.com/Heather Kennedy

An attorney, whose clients include Hillary Clinton’s campaign, recently filed lawsuits challenging voter identification and early voting laws in several battleground states. A new report says Democrats could eventually wage a similar challenge in Georgia.

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Local
1:02 pm
Thu June 4, 2015

Georgia Fuel Inspectors Check For Credit Card Skimmers

Exavier Nash, a Georgia fuel inspector, checks the inside of a gas pump for an illegal credit card skimmer.
Credit Michelle Wirth / WABE

State fuel inspectors are checking more carefully for illegal credit card skimmers at Georgia gas stations. The skimmers are small devices that can be attached to gas pumps and can secretly collect your credit card or debit card information.

Exavier Nash opens up the front of a gas pump at a gas station in the East Lake neighborhood of Atlanta. He’s a state fuel inspector and is checking for an illegal credit card skimmer. Then, he puts his hand on the credit card reader.

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Local
1:03 pm
Wed June 3, 2015

Interim DeKalb CEO Proposes Tax Rate Reduction

DeKalb Interim CEO Lee May has proposed lowering the county's millage rate by .4 mills.
Credit Dan Raby / WABE

DeKalb County residents could soon see a reduction in their property tax rate. Interim CEO Lee May has proposed decreasing the county’s millage rate by .4 mills. The plan would lower the county’s current millage rate from 21.21 mills to 20.81 mills.

The tax rate decrease is part of May’s proposed mid-year budget. If approved by county commissioners, it will mean about a $35 reduction in property taxes for the owner of a $200,000 home.

“I believe whenever we can give our taxpayers some relief I want to do it, and this is an appropriate time to do that,” says May.

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Local
12:47 pm
Tue June 2, 2015

New Ride-Sharing Law To Affect Atlanta’s Regulation Of Cabs

A new state ride-sharing law will change how Atlanta and other Georgia cities regulate cabs. Most of the law goes into effect July 1.
Credit Nathan Congleton via flickr

A new state law that regulates ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft will also affect how the city of Atlanta deals with taxicabs.

The city of Atlanta used to issue permits for taxicabs through its police department. But the new state law will change that. Now, cabs and ride-sharing services will be issued state credentials. The city also loses the power to inspect taxicabs.

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Local
6:14 pm
Mon June 1, 2015

GDOT: ‘Perfect Storm’ Clogged Atlanta Drains, Caused Floods

The Georgia Department of Transportation says yesterday’s flooding of the downtown connector was caused by what could be called the “perfect storm.”

Transportation department officials say two or more inches of rain fell on the connector in a sudden downpour. They got that estimate from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. GDOT also says there were winds of up to 50 miles per hour. 

“What happened was the wind on top of the rain caused debris to roll onto our storm drains, and it did cause the flood,” says GDOT spokeswoman Analise Baker Wilson.

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Health & Science
6:03 pm
Fri May 29, 2015

Report: Georgia Ranks Low In Availability Of Dentists

A student receives treatment in the mobile dental group Help A Child Smile at Peek's Chapel Elementary School in Conyers, Ga.
Credit Gene Blyth / Associated Press

A new report ranks Georgia 45th out of all U.S. states when it comes to the availability of dentists.

According to America’s Health Rankings, last year Georgia only had about 47 dentists per 100,000 people. That’s compared to more than 60 dentists nationally per 100,000 people. Frank Capaldo, the CEO and the executive director of the Georgia Dental Association, doesn’t refute those numbers, but he says there are plenty of dentists to go around.

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Politics
1:45 pm
Fri May 29, 2015

What A Hillary Clinton Nomination May Mean For Ga. Democrats

If Hillary Clinton does clinch her party’s nomination and is at the top of the ticket in 2016, what will that mean for Georgia Democrats?
Credit Richard Shiro / Associated Press

Hillary Clinton was in Atlanta yesterday for a closed door fundraiser. The former Secretary of State is one of the Democratic Party's front-runners for its presidential nomination. But if she does clinch her party’s nomination and is at the top of the ticket in 2016, what will that mean for Georgia Democrats?

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Local
12:44 pm
Fri May 29, 2015

CDC Investigates Anthrax Shipment From US Military

The CDC is looking into a shipment of live anthrax that the Pentagon says was accidentally shipped from an Army facility in Utah.
Credit John Lorinc / WABE

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating what the Department of Defense says was an accidental shipment of live anthrax. The suspected samples were shipped from an Army facility in Utah to laboratories in nine states.

Georgia did not receive any of the live spores, but the CDC has confirmed at least one lab in Maryland received live anthrax. CDC spokesman Jason McDonald says 17 others are under investigation.

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Local
2:50 pm
Thu May 28, 2015

Atlanta Parking Ticket Fines Could Rise During Festivals

You may soon have to watch where you park during Music Midtown, the Dogwood Festival and the Peachtree Road Race or risk a larger fine.
Credit Stephen Harlan / flickr.com/gogostevie

Those who park illegally in neighborhoods during Atlanta’s largest festivals could soon pay triple the amount for a parking ticket.

Right now, your ticket would be $25 if you park illegally in a neighborhood with permit parking during a festival. But the Atlanta City Council could soon decide whether to raise those tickets to $75 during festivals that draw crowds of more than 50,000 people. Those include: Music Midtown, the Dogwood Festival and the Peachtree Road Race.

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Supreme Court
6:13 pm
Tue May 26, 2015

US Supreme Court To Hear Georgia Death Row Inmate's Case

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether prosecutors engaged in racial discrimination in the jury selection process for death row inmate Timothy Foster.
Credit Jonathan Satriale / flickr.com/politicalpulse

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of Timothy Foster, a Georgia death row inmate. The justices will decide whether prosecutors racially discriminated in the jury selection process.

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Local
1:00 pm
Fri May 22, 2015

Georgia Joins Fight Against Four Charities Accused Of Fraud

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens says the public was defrauded by four cancer charities.
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press

The Georgia Attorney General’s Office and the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office have joined in a federal complaint against four cancer charities. The charities are accused of defrauding residents in all 50 states out of more than $187 million.

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Features
11:54 am
Thu May 21, 2015

Local Honey As A Cure For Allergies: The Debate Buzzes On

Master beekeeper Linda Tillman checks a frame of honey to see if it's ready for harvest.
Brenna Beech WABE

The tree allergy season is winding down, but for those with grass allergies, the misery is just beginning.

And if you’ve had itchy eyes and a runny nose, you’ve probably heard the advice to eat local honey. WABE took a look at whether it can help with allergies, or if it’s just an old wives' tale.

About 1,000 bees fly all around in Linda Tillman’s Atlanta backyard. She’s been a beekeeper for about a decade and swears by her daily dose of local honey.

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Local
12:52 pm
Wed May 20, 2015

Georgia Could See A Heavy Mosquito Season

If Georgia experiences a wet summer, the remainder of the mosquito season could be heavy.
Credit AFPMB / flickr.com/afpmb

Despite a wet start to the spring, so far the number of mosquitoes is typical for this time of year, says University of Georgia Extension entomologist Elmer Gray. But he says it could get worse.

“It has been wet up to this point, and now it’s begun to dry out,” Gray says.

But Gray says seasonal forecasts call for wet weather.

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Politics
3:24 pm
Tue May 19, 2015

Georgia Negotiates Over Developmental Disability Transfers

Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Frank Berry, middle, and advocates speak during a forum at The Carter Center about the state of the 2010 settlement Georgia reached with the federal government.
Credit The Carter Center

Georgia is in negotiations with the federal government over a 2010 settlement reached with the U.S. Justice Department. By June 30, the state was supposed to move all people with developmental disabilities out of state-run hospitals and into community settings. But the state is not going to meet to that deadline.

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