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FRONT PAGE - JANUARY 19, 2000 - HOMER, GA

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See Banks County's 1999 Year in Review

MANEY RECOGNIZED

Tommy Maney was recognized by the Banks County Board of Commissioners for 50 years of service in the road department. Maney was presented a plaque by chairman James Dumas during the commission meeting last week as members Ernest Rogers and Pat Westmoreland look on. Photo by Sherry Lewis
GROWTH

Real estate sales, building permits fall in 1999
BY SHERRY LEWIS
Real estate sales dropped to $23.9 million during 1999, a decrease of 17 percent over 1998, when they topped $28.8 million.
Likewise, residential construction also declined, but by a much smaller margin. In 1999, the Banks County Planning Office reported $9.69 in residential construction compared to $10 million last year.
Local realtor Bess Crawford, of Scales Development, said she is not concerned about the decrease.
"I believe Banks County is the next booming county," she said. "It's just a matter of time."
She believes the lack of available land has contributed to the slowdown.
"I had several metro Atlanta contractors contact me about land and I couldn't get it," she said. "Nobody would turn loose of it for the price they were willing to pay. People are waiting for their land prices to go on up before they will be willing to sell."
Also, building permits decreased from 108 in 1998 to 95 this year. Mobile home permits also decreased from 182 in 1998 to 173 in 1999.
Crawford said this decline could have something to do with more stringent regulations.
"There are some state regulations that make it hard," she said referring to septic tank regulations.
Crawford said she has high hopes for 2000.
"The new high school is a definite plus," she said. "People need to know that our schools are good and our students do as well as anybody when they get to college."


Baldwin operating under budget
City more than breaking even midway through fiscal year
BY SHERRY LEWIS
The City of Baldwin's general fund is operating under budget midway through the fiscal year.
Beth Grimes, certified public accountant with Bates, Carter and Company, told the council Monday that the $489,865 in revenues brought into the city outweighs expenses by almost $5,000. The total city budget for the fiscal year, July 1 to June 30, totals $1 million.
"Right now, you are more than breaking even and property tax money is not even coming in yet," Grimes explained to the council during a work session on Monday.
Grimes did point out a few areas that were over budget. The city has already reached the $25,000 budgeted for attorney's fees in the general fund. Grimes suggested that the council increase that amount by an additional $25,000 due to the ongoing litigation with the City of Demorest over the water plant. There is also a $10,000 contingency fund that can be used to offset the attorney fees, Grimes said.
Building repair is over budget by $2,000 due to paving the parking lot. The fire department is also $500 over budget in equipment and equipment repairs, but fire chief Joe Roy said he has $10,000 budgeted for vehicle repairs and suggested a budget adjustment to offset those costs.
Grimes gave the council an overview of the water fund budget, although it will be amended since Aqua Source took over the water and sewer operations on Jan. 1. Midway through the year, the year to date revenues totaled $482,039, while the expenses were $472,963.
In other business, the city council:
·created a new account for asset forfeiture money in the police department. The state requires that all money obtained from the sales of seized property must go back into the police department.
·discussed withholding taxes from the paychecks of the mayor and council.
·discussed a verbal rezoning request from Travel Inn to make a portion of the rooms into apartments. Operators must come into compliance with all building codes and public health codes with rooms already in existence before applying.
·held a first reading for a special events permit.


Lula mulls over employee drug policy
City council to consider draft policy at next meeting
BY DREW BRANTLEY
Employees of the City of Lula may work under a new drug policy in coming months. The city council discussed preliminary steps to forming standards on alcohol and substance abuse by its employees at its regular meeting Monday night.
City attorney Brad Patton told the board he proposed a working draft that the council could work from.
The new policy would call for testing under four situations: If there is the suspicion of substance abuse, an on-the-job injury where worker's compensation claims might be made, for pre-employment and a random test.
Council member Buster Autry asked if there would be any provisions to allow employees to go through rehabilitation.
"You'll have to look at just how you want to deal with that," Patton said. "But there are provisions for a rehab."
Mayor Tim Allen said the council could look over the draft and reconsider the issue at the next meeting.
In other action, the council:
·held the first reading on an annexation request for a parcel of land on Duncan Road.
·heard from Patton that the city had received word from the owner that the dilapidated house owned by Sam Roberts on Carter's Alley would be torn down.
·heard from Allen that waste water licensing classes would be available for the city's employees at a cost of $50 for a six-hour course that would make them compliant with the EPD.
·discussed purchasing communications equipment for the city's employees. Allen will bring costs to the council at the next meeting.
·voted to pave Shockley Road at a width from 14 to 16 feet for a cost of no more than $14,100, as well as a portion of Harris Road to widen the entrance.
·heard Allen ask if there is an interest to rent the old city hall. The council asked him to see if historical renovations prohibited renting the property.
·heard of a plan to annex 35 acres of land in Hall County on Belton Bridge Road. The proposed developer would ask to be zoned highway commercial to bring a grocery store, video store and fast food restaurant to the town.



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