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
12:03 pm
Thu July 30, 2015

Marietta Councilman Calls For Changes In Ga. Fireworks Law

Marietta Councilman Johnny Walker says cities should have more of a say over their own noise ordinances when it comes to fireworks.
Credit Stephen Gunby / flickr.com/stephen_gunby

Marietta City Councilman Johnny Walker said a new state law that legalizes fireworks should be rewritten. The call comes after residents complained. The issue was discussed Wednesday night during a Marietta City Council committee meeting.

Walker said since the new state law went into effect July 1, many residents aren't happy about fireworks going off late at night.

“Small children don’t like it; people that have to work, the fire department really doesn’t like it; the police department doesn’t like it. People just don’t want to hear sounds constantly,” Walker said.

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Business
2:24 pm
Tue July 28, 2015

Decatur Water Boil Advisory Negatively Affects Businesses

The Slide in the City event, expected to bring thousands of people to Decatur, was shut down due to DeKalb County's water problems.
Credit IQRemix / flickr.com/IQRemix

A water boil advisory that was in effect for three days in DeKalb County hurt some local businesses.

The county issued the advisory because crews had to drop the water pressure three times within 36 hours to repair a transmission line that broke late Thursday. It all started last week when a fire hydrant was struck by a crew that was mowing the grass along the road near the transmission line at Henderson Mill and Evans Road.

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Local
3:36 pm
Mon July 27, 2015

Emory Receives $1M Donation For Religious Freedom Instruction

Emory University’s law school has received an anonymous $1 million gift to train law students in religious freedom.
Credit Daniel Mayer / Wikimedia Commons

Emory University’s law school has received an anonymous $1 million gift to train law students in religious freedom. The donation comes as state lawmakers wrestle with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights and religious freedom legislation.

The project is supposed to give students hands-on experience and provide non-partisan information on religious freedom. 

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Education
3:20 pm
Fri July 24, 2015

Metro Atlanta Schools Search For Special Education Teachers

Several area school systems still have teaching vacancies in the area of special education.
Credit Martha Dalton / WABE

Georgia's largest school systems are still searching for dozens of special education teachers. The districts only have a few weeks before students head back to the classroom on Aug. 10.

So far, the Gwinnett school district has hired more than 1,400 new teachers. But it still needs to fill nearly 40 special education positions. Gwinnett County Public Schools spokeswoman Sloan Roach says a nationwide shortage of special education teachers has made hiring them more challenging.

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Local
11:30 am
Thu July 23, 2015

Blue Cross Blue Shield Accused Of Overcharging For Insurance

Former Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine is representing a group of surgical centers and patients in a lawsuit against Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia. In this 2010 file photo, Oxendine talks to reporters.
Credit John Amis / AP Photo

Eleven surgical centers and hundreds of their patients are suing Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia.

In the lawsuit filed this week, the centers allege the insurer is overcharging those with preferred provider organization policies, or PPO policies, while reimbursing out-of-network doctors less than they did several years ago. PPO policies allow patients to visit both in-network  and out-of-network doctors.

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Local
10:55 am
Thu July 23, 2015

Gwinnett Residents Allowed To Keep Chickens On Smaller Lots

Gwinnett County commissioners voted 3 to 2 to allow residents on lots of 10,500 square feet or greater to have backyard chickens.
Credit Kristine Paulus / www.flickr.com/kpaulus/

Gwinnett County residents will now be able to have backyard chickens on smaller lots.

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Local
11:40 am
Wed July 22, 2015

Media Mogul Honored As Ted Turner Drive Is Unveiled In Atlanta

Ted Turner stands with his daughter, civil rights leader Xernona Clayton and Atlanta City Council members Tuesday during a ceremony to unveil Ted Turner Drive.
Credit Michelle Wirth / WABE News

Media mogul and philanthropist Ted Turner said he's happy a portion of Spring Street in downtown Atlanta has been named in his honor. Ted Turner Drive runs between Whitehall and West Peachtree streets.

Dozens clapped and cheered in a hot parking lot on Ted Turner Drive as the street's namesake was approaching the podium. Turner said he’s humbled by the honor.

“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it, but I really do. This is a wonderful honor,” Turner said.

Ted Turner Drive runs past Ted's Montana Grill, which is owned by Turner and close to CNN Center.

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Local
12:09 pm
Tue July 21, 2015

Officials Defend Atlanta Streetcar’s Accident Record

The Atlanta Streetcar has been involved in eight accidents since January. Richard Mendoza, commissioner of the city's department of public works, said the number of accidents isn't alarming when compared to other cities with streetcars.
Credit Brenna Beech / WABE

The Atlanta Streetcar has been involved in eight accidents this year.

Richard Mendoza is the commissioner of the city's department of public works, which oversees the streetcar. During a City Council committee meeting last week, he said the number of accidents isn't alarming compared to other cities with streetcars like Seattle.

“Our performance on industry standard incident rates for our streetcar is acceptable and in line with the industry standard,” Mendoza said.

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Local
12:42 pm
Fri July 17, 2015

Fulton County Jail Could Get Federal Immigration Agent

The Fulton Sheriff's Department could soon reach an agreement with U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement that would allow a customs and immigration agent to work inside the Fulton County Jail.
Credit Alison Guillory / WABE

The Fulton County Sheriff's Department could soon reach a new agreement with federal immigration officials. It comes amid a national discussion on “sanctuary cities.”

Local governments that get the controversial label of a “sanctuary city” generally have policies or laws that limit the amount they cooperate with federal immigration authorities. The proposed agreement in Fulton County would let a federal immigration agent work inside Fulton's jail. The agent would be funded with federal money.

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Business
12:33 pm
Tue July 14, 2015

Atlanta's Airport Receives Bond Ratings Upgrade

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport has received a bond ratings upgrade from Fitch Ratings. The cost savings will help the airport pay for future projects such as a parking deck expansion.
Credit Victor Villanueva / flickr.com/bikoy

Atlanta’s airport has received a bond ratings upgrade from Fitch Ratings.

This week, the agency boosted two of the airport’s bonds from an A to an A+.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport’s Chief Financial Officer and Deputy General Manager, Roosevelt Council, says upping those bond ratings, which represent the corporation's bond credit quality, will save the airport millions of dollars in borrowing costs. He says that the cost savings will help Hartsfield-Jackson pay for current and future projects. 

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Local
11:17 am
Tue July 14, 2015

Study: Cumberland Shuttle Service Has Widespread Support

Cobb County Department of Transportation Director Faye DiMassimo, shown in March, said officials are still looking at options to fund a shuttle service. A study said a shuttle would cost about $1.2 million a year to operate.
Credit Brenna Beech / WABE

 
According to a new study, there’s large support for a shuttle system that would go to places like the new Atlanta Braves stadium, Cumberland Mall and the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. The study was done by AECOM, a design, engineering and construction firm.

In preliminary results from the study, 94 percent of those surveyed said they’d be interested in the new shuttle service. The study also found the shuttle would cost about $1.2 million a year to operate.

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Local
11:55 am
Mon July 13, 2015

New Atlanta VA Clinic Expected To Help Reduce Wait Times

Atlanta VA Medical Center director Leslie Wiggins said the new clinic in Decatur will be able to serve 20,000 veterans.
Credit Michelle Wirth / WABE

    

On Friday, the Atlanta VA Medical Center celebrated the grand opening of a new specialty and primary care clinic in Decatur. Center officials say the clinic is supposed to help cut down on primary care and specialty wait times for veterans.

Last year, the Atlanta VA was among the facilities nationwide criticized for lengthy veteran wait times. Center director Leslie Wiggins said the new clinic will help the Atlanta VA with a growing number of veterans.

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Local
8:00 am
Fri July 10, 2015

Georgia Growers Producing 'Flavorful' Peach Crop

Georgia Peach Council President Lane Davis III says this year Georgia orchards produced an especially ''flavorful'' crop of peaches.
Credit Chris Fannin / flickr.com/abbydonkrafts

It’s peak peach season, and a Georgia growers says this year's crop is especially tasty.

Duke Lane III, the president of the Georgia Peach Council, describes the peaches he's eaten this year from the Georgia orchard owned by his family as the perfect of blend of sugars and acids.

"Flavor is grand this year. It's kind of a vintage year for Georgia peaches with regards to flavor," says Lane.

He says the dry weather in June contributed to this year's perfect-tasting peaches.

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Local
1:21 pm
Thu July 9, 2015

Ga. State Senator Wants To Expand Illegal Immigration Bill

State Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, said during a Wednesday news conference that he would explore sanctions against counties that don't fully cooperate with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.
Credit Michelle Wirth / WABE

State Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, said he’ll push for sanctions against counties that don’t cooperate with federal immigration officials.

McKoon said there should be financial penalties for counties that release people living in the country illegally that the federal government has asked them to hold.

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Local
8:00 am
Thu July 9, 2015

DeKalb County Kicks Off Mobile Farmers Market

DeKalb County unveiled it's new mobile farmers market on Tuesday. The market runs Tuesday through Thursday through Oct. 22.
Credit DeKalb County

A new mobile farmers market will roll its way through DeKalb County.

Starting this week, a remodeled yellow bus that used to belong to the DeKalb Sheriff's Department will begin to make stops throughout the county. The goal of the market is to carry fresh and affordable produce to residents who live in food deserts – areas without grocery stores or farmers markets.

County spokeswoman Emily Schwarz says the county hopes the mobile farmers market improves the health of DeKalb residents.

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Road Projects
6:02 pm
Mon July 6, 2015

Ga. Road Projects Could Stall If Congress Doesn’t Reach Deal

If Congress doesn't reach an agreement on the federal Highway Trust Fund, Georgia could have to reduce the number of highway projects it moves forward with starting in September.
Credit April Williams / WABE

Congress has until the end of the month to find a way to replenish the ailing Highway Trust Fund. If federal lawmakers don’t reach an agreement, it could affect Georgia highway projects.

The state says it has the $300 million needed to move forward with road projects for the next two months. But if Congress can't figure out a short- or long-term fix for highway funding, Georgia would have to delay a number of the projects it has planned for the rest of the year. 

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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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