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Madison County country music star John Berry entertained approximately 1,000 people in the Madison County High School gym Thursday night. The concert was sponsored by the Madison County Choral Boosters Club.
Photo by Charles Richards


Report card:
County third, fifth graders fare well
on ITBS, 8th graders in middle of pack
Madison County third and fifth graders fared well on the ITBS in 1999, while eighth graders were in the middle of the pack among 180 Georgia school systems.
The Georgia Department of Education recently released rankings showing how schools compared in the state on ITBS, SAT and other tests. The results rank both school systems and individual schools.
Madison County fifth graders were 27th among state school systems on the ITBS last year. Third graders were 54th and eighth graders were 92nd.
Madison County fifth graders finished sixth in the state in the language arts portion of the ITBS. The class was also 41st in science, 32nd in math, 54th in social studies and 34th in reading comprehension.
County third graders were 50th in language arts, 54th in science, 85th in math, 61st in social studies and 69th in reading comprehension.
Madison County eighth graders were 81st in language arts, 113th in science, 135th in math, 95th in social studies and 72nd in reading comprehension.
In high school SAT results based on the latest administration of the test, Madison County ranked 19th in the state. But Madison County also had the 11th-highest dropout rate for ninth through 12th graders in 1998-99 at 11.7 percent.
A complete breakdown of rankings can be found at the DOE website at

It's all in the details
Self-taught artist specializes in wildlife drawings and carvings
A self-described jack-of-all-trades, Rogers Community resident Lowell Atkins believes he has found his particular niche in wildlife art.
The great-nephew of Nashville's own Chet Atkins, and the son of one half of a comedy/guitar-playing team called "The Mayor and Buford," he says he didn't inherit any of the family's musical talent - that has instead been passed on to his son - but has always had an artistic bent.
"What I've learned (about art) is through trial and error," Atkins said of his self-taught skills.
He was working as a security guard at Gwinnett Place Mall about 10 years ago when he became acquainted with well-known wildlife artist Randy McGovern during an art show there.
Atkins says it was McGovern who took him "under his wing," so to speak, showing him the kind of brushes, paint, canvas and other materials he uses to produce his critically-acclaimed portraits of wildlife.
Thanks to McGovern's advice, Atkins now paints mostly in oil, having used pencils up to that time.
But he gives a great deal of credit to his father's comedy team partner, Wendell Watterson, AKA "the mayor of Morrow," who also painted, for giving him his first inspiration and direction in painting. Watterson would take time with him over his childhood drawings, considering each one seriously and pointing out things to make the renderings more detailed.
"Without knowing it, he gave me so much help and encouragement," Atkins said.
"Norman Rockwell was also an inspiration," he added, saying he has felt a kinship to him, especially since his dad once pointed out they have the same Feb. 3 birthday.
Atkins has done a lot of different types of art, from air brush to children and pet portraits. But with wildlife, he feels he has found his own particular talent.
"I have my own style," he said, "and it's not 'photo art': the closer you get, the more detail you'll see in my drawings."
Atkins, who operates under the name Cedar Grove Studios, is currently working on a drawing commissioned by taxidermist Lester Stephens for the National Wild Turkey Federation. The drawing, of two ducks in flight, will be presented for auction at the organization's annual banquet in March.
He usually begins a painting with an image in his head, which he makes a pencil sketch of, trying different things until he is satisfied with what he sees. Then he goes through reference material such as drawings, old sketches and photos to get the detail for that particular creature(s) just right.
Besides oil paintings, Atkins is also an accomplished carver of wildlife, recently winning an honorable mention in an international wildfowl-carving championship. He says he likes to make his carvings soft to the touch - almost as if the bird were an actual stuffed one.
A native of the Stone Mountain area, Atkins, with his wife Anita and 14-year-old son Michael, moved to Madison County four years ago.
His "bread and butter job" is currently working as an electrician's apprentice. "I like working with my hands and the 'sweat of my brow,'" he said.
As a teenager he did some small acting jobs in a number of movies including "Sharky's Machine," "Cannonball Run" and "Driving Miss Daisy," as well as some commercials.

Comer considers well ordinance
The Comer City Council is considering an ordinance that would regulate private wells intended for non-household use in Comer.
A number of residents have expressed interest in installing wells to water gardens or fruit trees, fill swimming pools and for other non-household use. Two problems must be overcome, according to city clerk Steve Sorrells. Any such wells must not interfere with the city's wells, nor must it be allowed to contaminate city water systems.
The aquifer in Northeast Georgia consists of a granite formation with cracks that contain water. Wells have to hit one of the cracks to be productive. The city has three wells that are producing up to 150 gallons each per minute. However, a new well tapping the same crack might reduce the water flow in city wells. This will likely be a problem if a commercial water producer installs a nearby well.
The other problem is back flushing private water into the city water system. State law prohibits having a private well connected to the same plumbing that uses city water, Sorrells said. But contamination can still happen. He gave an example of a homeowner having a swimming pool with a hose left in the water. If the city opens a hydrant for a fire, the pressure could drop low enough to allow the pool water to siphon into the city lines. To protect from this kind of problem, anyone installing a private well will be required to attach a back flow valve between their home and the city water system.
The proposed ordinance requires a $250 application fee and a $1,000 per day fine for violations.
The city attorney is refining the ordinance according to suggestions made at the meeting and will present it for final adoption at the March meeting of the council.
State and federal laws on commercial drivers licenses have created a problem with the city garbage service. The current trash truck exceeds the weight limit that would permit operation by workers without a CPL license, said councilman Randy Williams. It is becoming more and more difficult to find drivers willing to accept the amount the city can pay. In addition, the truck is now 11 years old and is due for replacement.
The solution, according to Randy Williams and Sorrells, is to purchase a lighter truck that can be operated by drivers without the CPL license. To finance a new truck out of operating fees will require an increase of approximately $1,000 per year which would result in an increase of $2 per month. Suggestions from the council included exempting senior citizens and shifting most of the increase to business clients. Mayor Kevin Booth suggested that some city expenses can be trimmed to produce a portion of the needed revenue. One cut he suggested was the use of cell phones by city employees and police.
The council finally voted to "Let Steve (Sorrells) figure it out."
Other topics discussed included traffic control on Spring Circle, unauthorized exits from the Foodlane parking lot and brush trimming.

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