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This week's Commerce News

This week's Commerce News

This week's Commerce News


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Learn About Air-Paramedics

Members of the Aerospace Club of Maysville Elementary School gathered around Ken Ranalli of Phoenix Aircare last week at the Jackson County Airport. The group learned about the air service, which is based at Lyle Field. Members also shot rockets.
Photo By Travis Hatfield


Schools Would Get More Teachers
Governor's 'Education Reform' Bill Would Result In The Hiring Of At Least Five More Teachers In Commerce City School System
If Gov. Roy Barnes' education initiative passes the General Assembly without major changes, one result will be the addition of at least five full-time teaching positions in the Commerce School System.
Superintendent Larry White said that the legislation will add four positions at the elementary school, and that the Commerce Board of Education decided at a retreat last weekend to advertise for a math/science teacher for Commerce High School.
Further, within the next five years, construction should start on a new school for students in grades 3-5.
"The only thing (about the governor's plan) that will really help us in the long run is the lowering of the pupil-teacher ratios. That will pay us dividends in the long run," White said. "Take away everything else, lowering the teacher-pupil ratio is a positive move. Is it easy? No. Is it the right thing to do? Without a doubt, I think it is."
Based on current numbers, Barnes' proposal would allow the addition of a first grade teacher, a second grade teacher, a third grade teacher and a fifth grade teacher.
"We're working on classroom space right now," White laughed.
"At the high school, we felt there are two areas we need to bring our students up in, math and science. We are advertising for a person who can teach both math and science. That would help us reduce class sizes and offer more courses."
It is possible, the superintendent added, that the system might hire two part-time teachers instead of a full-time teacher, depending on what is available.
"We can be flexible," he said.
Flexibility will have to be the school system's new watchword, particularly at the elementary school, where the legislation contains strict restraints on class size.
Only one of 34 Senate amendments to the bill has been approved, and it allows schools to phase in the reduced class sizes over four years. However, it also mandates slightly more stringent reductions than Barnes' original package.
In grades 1-3, schools must reach a 1:19 ratio in four years. In academic courses in the upper grades (4-12), the ratio will be 1:26 in four years. Under Barnes' proposal, it would have been 1:28 for the next school year.
"The board has made a commitment to do this and not wait four years," White said. "Whatever shakes out of this thing, we plan to be as close to it as we can."
One concern, says the superintendent, is how the regulations for the new system will affect schools. Those regulations will be written not by Barnes or the General Assembly, but by the Department of Education, which has been at odds with Barnes over the bill.
School administrators like White hope for flexibility ­ the leeway to move some part of state funds around to meet needs specific to the individual system.
By law, each school system must have a five-year facilities plan, and the Commerce Board of Education is working on its plan right now. The cornerstone of that plan is a perceived need for a new school.
The options include building a new middle school and utilizing the current CMS as a school for grades 3-5; and building a new facility for grades 3-5. White has expressed confidence that the system could fund a new building out of special purpose local option sales taxes on education and state "growth" money.
While the outcome of the latest education "reform" has garnered the attention of the public, White notes that costs for health insurance for school personnel are going up dramatically.
In the current year, the cost of insurance was based on 9.26 percent of state base pay. In the 2000-2001 year, that figure goes to 13.1 percent. Factor in a small state increase in pay, add the new rate, and Commerce's cost for providing health insurance will be about $140,000 more than last year. In a system where a mill of taxes will probably bring in about $97,000, the board of education (and city taxpayers) must pay the equivalent of 1.4 mills more of taxes just to maintain the status quo.


Chamber Considering 5-Year Lease In Commerce
It appears that Commerce will be the home of the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce for the next five years.
Although no action was taken by the chamber's board of directors at their February meeting last Friday, the group appears to be ready to sign a contract with Commerce to keep its rent-free quarters for the next five years.
The contract, which Commerce seeks as it prepares to spend $150,000 or more to remodel the building into a small business "incubator" with the chamber as anchor tenant, was the subject of an Executive Committee meeting following Friday's board meeting.
President Pepe Cummings explained how the proposal would work, noting that the renovated structure will have a conference room capable of handling the monthly board meetings.
"There will be ample room to host both our chamber and other meetings," he observed.
Essentially, the chamber will manage the "common" areas and services, such as copying, faxing, switchboard and other needs of the chamber and one or two start-up businesses that could be housed in the same building.
"To the best of our knowledge, this is the only venture of this type in the state, and one of only a few in the United States," Cummings told the board.
Commerce mayor Charles L. Hardy Jr. said work on the project has started, and predicted total costs to the city at $150,000 to $160,000.
The mayor said the city proposes calling the building, "The Chamber Building."
"We are very excited about it," Hardy stated.
The proposal has the endorsement of Cummings, Chairman Jim Shaw and immediate past chairman Richard Cathey, who noted that there have been some comments from other sections of the county, but no offers to match Commerce's rent-free proposal.
"The city of Commerce has stepped up to the plate," he pointed out.
The business incubator is a project of the Commerce Downtown Development Authority. Under the program, new companies with limited resources could use the building, paying a competitive rent, but taking advantage of the common areas and services that might normally be beyond a start-up company's means.
A floor plan prepared by the city's architect shows nine offices, a reception area, a copy, mail, fax room, men's and women's restrooms, the conference room and a break room.
Keith Ariail, who in addition to being on the chamber board and its executive committee, is also a member of the DDA, pointed out that tenants of the building will be pushed out of the building after a certain length of time.
In other business at Friday's meeting:
·Shaw accepted the offer of Ariail to chair a task force on retail business in Jackson County. The group would promote buying in Jackson County and seek ways of helping retail establishments. It would also stay in contact with the Commerce and Jefferson business associations.
·Scott Martin reported on work of the Economic Development Committee, which is working on the Business Retention and Expansion Program (BREP) through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. Teams of five to six members plan to interview executives of 60 Jackson County companies to learn about their needs, concerns and plans for the future.
·Cummings reported that there are five teams so far lined up for the 2000 membership drive, the goal of which is to take membership over the 500 level for the first time. The chamber's current membership is just under 400, according to Cummings. The membership kickoff will be March 16 at noon at Jackson EMC.
·Cummings also announced that Georgia Trend magazine will feature Jackson County in its May issue. Just how much space it devotes to the county will depend upon how much advertising Jackson County businesses purchase, according to Cummings.
·Harold Fletcher, chairman of the Jackson County Industrial Development Authority, reported that Direct Supply has bought seven acres in the Central Jackson Industrial Park upon which it plans to build a 7,000 square foot building. The IDA is negotiating with another firm looking for six acres in the same industrial park, and is talking with an existing Commerce firm that wants to expand.

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