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FRONT PAGE - JANUARY 5, 2000 - JEFFERSON, GA

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See Jackson County's 1999 Year in Review

CHECKING OUT SEWAGE PLANT

Jackson County Chamber of Commerce president Pepe Cummings, county executive assistant David Bohanan and Bob Sutton are shown looking over the former Texfi sewage plant in Jefferson Monday afternoon. Sutton will operate the facility on a temporary basis for Jackson County until bids are taken for the project. Jackson County took over the sewage plant following a court order by Judge T. Penn McWhorter.
Photo by Travis Hatfield

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

County takes over sewage plant
Judge signs order giving the county ownership of Texfi sewage plant
BY ANGELA GARY
Jackson County is officially in the sewage business following a court order signed Friday by Superior Court Judge T. Penn McWhorter.
Judge McWhorter agreed with last year's ruling by special master Greg Perry in the condemnation suit filed by the county against Water Wise, Inc. for the Texfi sewage plant in Jefferson. The county took over operation of the plant Monday.
Water Wise officials have not commented on the judge's order or said how they will proceed. Attorney Chris Elrod said Monday that no decision has been reached on whether the company will appeal McWhorter's ruling that the county acted correctly in the deal.
What may be appealed, however, is the amount the county paid for the facility. A jury trial is scheduled for March on that issue and Elrod said the firm plans to proceed with that action. The county paid $1.5 million for the sewage treatment plant. Water Wise paid $1.3 million in June when it bought it from Texfi.
Jackson County Board of Commissioners chairman Jerry Waddell led as county leaders, accompanied by a deputy, walked through the sewage plant Monday afternoon. A county employee had to cut the lock on the gate before those gathered could enter the plant site. That lock, and one on a storage building and several others on the gate around the plant, were replaced. The county will also replace the fence around the facility this week.
"We've been expecting this," Waddell said. "We felt we had presented a good case (in the condemnation hearing). We had hoped for a smoother transition. Water Wise officials were invited here today."
Elrod sent the county a letter Monday morning authorizing the county to take over the sewage plant and take any necessary steps, including cutting the lock and chain that secures the gate to the property. He added that Water Wise would remove the dialing system installed over the holiday weekend for emergency use.
Bob Sutton will operate the plant for the county on a temporary basis until bids are taken.
The judge ruled that the county did not act in bad faith in seeking to condemn the property, but he said some actions by both parties were "suspect."
"While the motives of the condemnors may have been mixed, the weight of the evidence adduced on this point indicates that the condemnors' basic motivation is to expand substantially the present facility for the public use of the people of Jackson County," the ruling reads.
The judge also ruled that the city of Pendergrass' actions to contract with Water Wise in July 1999 violated state law. He said the law requires towns to evaluate any bids for such projects, including prior projects by the company.
"There is no evidence that Pendergrass complied with this mandatory code section," the judge wrote. "Therefore, the special master was correct in finding that the agreement between Pendergrass and Water Wise was not valid."
The judge also ruled that a quit claim deed filed by the City of Pendergrass on the day the hearing was held last year was valid, a decision different from one reached by Perry. But leaders say this will have little bearing on the case since all funds awarded will go to the bank which loaned Water Wise funding for the project.


I-85 exit signs to change next week
The Georgia Department of Transportation will begin renumbering the exits along I-85 next week.
The DOT is renumbering interstate exits throughout Georgia to a mile log system from the current number system. The project is expected to be completed by July.
The work along I-85 will begin on Tuesday at the South Carolina line working back towards Atlanta. All signs will be changed for an exit before moving to the next exit, DOT officials report. There are not expected to be any lane closures associated with the work. No work will occur on weekends.
While changing the exit numbers, all interstate signs and milepost markers will be upgraded to high-visibility reflective sheeting and "breakaway" posts that will flex when hit by a vehicle.
The I-85 exits in Jackson County will be renumbered as follows: Exit 49 to exit 129; exit 50 to exit 137; exit 51 to exit 140; exit 52 to exit 147; and exit 53 (Banks Crossing) to exit 149.


BOC agrees to Mulberry Plantation zoning change
No more homes, but higher density to be allowed
BY ADAM FOUCHE AND ANGELA GARY
All it took was the threat of a lawsuit for the Jackson County Board of Commissioners to back down and approve the changes requested by developer Doug Elam for Mulberry Plantation.
In a called meeting Thursday morning, the BOC agreed to settle with Elam of Buckhead Development on a lawsuit he filed against the county. The agreement, approved in a 2-1 vote, removes the one-half acre lot size stipulation in Elam's Mulberry Plantation, the planned unit development in West Jackson. The agreement also restricts the subdivision to 1,550 units.
"I think we would probably lose in court," commissioner Henry Robinson said in his motion to accept the agreement.
BOC chairman Jerry Waddell voted in favor of the action. Commissioner Pat Bell voted against the motion, saying the agreement is a compromise of the conditions set on the development.
"I worked extremely hard on developing these conditions," Bell said. "Mr. Elam, eyeball to eyeball, agreed to these conditions. I feel like any concessions to these conditions will weaken any future case. I feel like this is the beginning of the dilution of these conditions."
Elam's original plans called for homes on one-half acre lots, but he asked to be allowed to place some homes on one-fourth acre lots. He said his main reason for asking for the change was to allow more homes to be placed around the golf course and the total homes would still be at 1,550.
The Jackson County Planning Commission recommended approval of Elam's request a couple of months ago. At the October BOC meeting, Robinson made a motion that Elam's request be approved, but it died for lack of a second. The BOC never took action on the request.
Elam's lawsuit contended that the BOC's lack of action was not based on any valid or legal reason. He charged the commissioners with discriminating against him in an "arbitrary and unreasonable manner."


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