News from Jackson County...

March 20, 2000


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OPINIONS
State Biggest Threat To Local Water Supply
Even as the county braces for an expected drought, governments in Jackson County are working hard to make sure there is plenty of drinking water available in the years to come.

TBS rules schools
Next week will be an important time in our local schools. The annual ITBS tests will be administered to students in a rite of spring that appears to take on more importance each year.


Neighborhood News...
MADISON COUNTY
Head of the class
Reclassification makes Madison County largest AAA school
Madison County is now the biggest Class AAA school in the state.

Tim Costyn named MCHS STAR student
Tim Costyn, a senior at Madison County High School, has been named this year's STAR student for the graduating class of 2000.

Colbert woman killed in Hwy. 29 accident
A Madison County mother of four was killed Saturday when her vehicle hydroplaned in heavy rain and struck a northbound truck on Hwy. 29 .


News from
BANKS COUNTY
Construction to begin this week on bypass
Construction of the Hwy. 441-Homer bypass is slated to begin this week.
A pre-construction conference with all parties involved in the project was held Friday.

New health department to be ready by mid-April
The new Banks County Health Department building should be ready for occupancy by mid-April.

Republican party to hold convention Sat.
The Banks County Republican Party will hold its precinct mass meeting at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 18, to elect delegates and alternates to the Banks County Republican Party Convention.


SPORTS
Dragons whip Commerce, 6-1
Sophomore pitcher Kyle Potts scattered six singles over seven innings in Jefferson's 6-1 win over Commerce Monday.

Jefferson track teams start well
Banks County and Providence were scheduled to visit Jefferson today, to take on the Dragons' varsity track teams.

Jackson County lays first pawprints on track
Habersham Central will host the Northeast Georgia Invitational track meet Saturday at 9 a.m.

Diamond Panthers in the rough
When his team started its current run of eight consecutive subregion games, Panther baseball coach Rusty Hendricks knew it wouldn't be a cake walk.


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DREAMING OF THE BIG LEAGUES

These boys watched and waited Saturday during baseball tryouts for ages 7-8 held at the Jackson County Recreation Complex. Hundreds of boys and girls from all over Jackson County have begun practice for the upcoming baseball season, with many teams drafted last week and practices beginning this week.

Heart Walk Raises More Than $1,200

In spite of overcast and threatening skies, more than 100 citizens of Banks and Jackson Counties turned out at Hurricane Shoals Park Saturday morning to participate in the Banks-Jackson American Heart Walk. Final figures were not available at press time, but as of Saturday morning, the event had raised more than $1,200, organizers said.

Pendergrass man killed in fire
A Pendergrass man was killed in a fire early Saturday morning in his apartment.
Donald Keith Harris was in his upstairs apartment at the Pendergrass home, located across from the post office at 7154 Hwy. 129, when the fire started. Jackson County Sheriff's Department chief investigator David Cochran said the cause of the fire is not known and the investigation is continuing.
Residents in the other apartments downstairs in the home were not injured.


Jefferson man shot while climbing
in window of estranged wife's home
A Jackson County man was seriously injured in an apparent domestic shooting Friday morning near Jefferson.
Ronald Lee Parker, 31, was reportedly shot several times in the face and chest area as he attempted to enter a Hwy. 15 residence through a bedroom window.
Parker was shot by someone inside the residence. His estranged wife and a man were inside the mobile home, while Parker and another person were outside.
Jackson County Sheriff's Department chief investigator David Cochran said law enforcement authorities were looking for Parker when the shooting occurred. He said that Parker and his estranged wife had been having altercations over several days prior to the shooting. The sheriff's department had also received prior domestic dispute reports concerning the couple.
No charges have been filed yet in the case. Cochran said Monday that the district attorney's office will review the case and decide whether to make an arrest and take the matter before a grand jury. The investigation is continuing.
Parker was taken to Athens Regional Medical where he was in serious condition Friday night. This week, he was listed in good to fair condition.


DFACS board approves expenditures for disaster shelter
By Jana Adams
The Jackson County Department of Family and Children Services board approved expenditure of county funds Thursday for two kits for local disaster shelters.
Board members gave DFACS director Jerry Payne permission to use county funds to purchase various toiletries and related items for the makeup of two shelter manager kits.
Payne has been involved in producing a Red Cross disaster plan for Jackson County and in locating shelter sites across the county. He said that the Red Cross will hold another training session Tuesday, March 21, and that the disaster plan committee is still in the process of identifying shelter sites, particularly at local churches.

GROWTH

Jackson Tract Declared 'Megasite,' To Be Marketed Globally By State
By ANGELA GARY
JEFFERSON -- A large piece of property near Commerce is one of five sites across the state selected to be marketed globally for development.
The 1,800-acre tract, located between Georgia 98 and U.S. 441 above Interstate 85, is one of five "megasites" declared by the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism. The other sites are in Coweta, Clarke-Oconee, Troup and Houston counties. The state hopes to attract major developments to the sites.
The Jackson County tract has been considered by Bridgestone, Honda and other top companies that eventually located in Alabama and South Carolina.
The selection of the Jackson County site came after Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce president Pepe Cummings responded to a request from the department of industry and trade for potential "megasites." To be considered a "mega-site," a tract must have at least 500 acres, have easy access to an interstate or main highway, be near an airport and rail lines and have infrastructure such as water and sewer. The projects selected must employ at least 500 people, cost a minimum of $250 million to build and operate a minimum 250,000-square-foot building, according to state officials.
Cummings said the number one thing that lead the Jackson County site to be located is its location between two large economic forces, Atlanta and Greenville-Spartanburg.
"It also has rail, which is almost a non-available commodity for large industrial sites," he said. "Number three, is that it has the potential to have a pretty good water and sewer capacity. We have also historically been a non-union labor force, but more significantly, in the last 10 years, northeast Georgia has had a great reputation as a very quality labor force for metal-working, machine and auto supply companies. All of these factors enter into it being selected."
Cummings said the selection of the site will be a boost to economic development in the county.
"I love having the 'megasite' there," Cummings said. "I think it, without question, helps Jackson County's economic development efforts because it is like having a brand name item that attracts attention that might not otherwise come. I'm not hell-bent on making sure there is a huge user on the megasite. I would want to be very careful about the type of company it is and what its use would be."
Cummings said it isn't necessarily important that the site be developed in the immediate future.
"It helps having the site more than having a specific user," he said.
The chamber president believes the Jackson County site is at the top of the list of the five sites selected by the state.


Memo To Commerce Trash Hauler: Improve Service Or You're Fired
Missed pickups, trash left in the containers or scattered on the road and dumpsters left blocking driveways or overturned in ditches could cost United Waste its contract to pick up garbage in Commerce.
Following a brief discussion at Monday night's meeting of the company's allegedly poor service, the Commerce City Council authorized city manager Clarence Bryant to write a letter to United giving it 30 days to resolve the matter or risk having the contract terminated.
At-large councilman Archie D. Chaney Jr. brought up the issue.
"We are having a lot of problems with our garbage," he complained. "They miss a lot of streets, they pick up trash at dark and leave half of the garbage in the container, and throw the container in the ditch," Chaney said. "The people feel like they've got to pay (for the service) but don't get the service."
Mayor Charles L. Hardy Jr. agreed.
"They leave a lot of trash in the street and they leave the container in the driveway so you have to get out of your car and move it," he stated. "Can we get them up here next meeting?"
Bryant suggested a more direct course ­ a letter giving the company 30 days to resolve the problem or dismiss it.
As of Tuesday morning, Bryant was drafting the letter. According to the city's contract, Commerce must notify the company by the first of the month that it is terminating service by the end of the month. However, there is also a provision by which United has 14 days after receipt of the letter to show that it has corrected or is making substantial progress toward correcting the problem.
In other business Monday night:
·The council tabled discussion of a city code of ethics. The council will hold a work session at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the draft of the ordinance.
·The council approved the annexation of a lot on Jefferson Road owned by Susan Harper, and gave it an R-1 zoning classification. It had also been zoned R-1 in the county. In addition, the council accepted the recommendation of the Zoning Appeals Board and gave variances to lots on Chanticleer Drive to make them R-1 even though they are smaller than required by the city ordinance. The area was subdivided long before the city had zoning.
·The council accepted the only bid for a .09-acre alley by Atlantic Avenue from First Commerce Bank, which plans to expand into the area. The bid was $100.
·Bryant reported that expansion of the city water plant is ahead of schedule, that work should begin in two weeks or less on the B Wilson Road water line, for which he has already had requests from about a dozen people for city water and that the city is working with Jackson County to provide sewer lines along Progress Road as it is being built parallel to Interstate 85.
·The council authorized Bryant to make purchases at an auction in Cornelia Thursday. The city needs a trailer, a dump truck and a back hoe.


Drought Or Not, City Water Supply To Be Adequate
Saturday's rain notwithstanding, weather prognosticators continue to speak of a La Niña-induced drought this spring and summer.
But even if that happens, Commerce and Jackson County water customers should not experience water restrictions like they did last year, because Commerce is spending more than $2 million to make sure there is plenty of water.
Commerce is the major water supplier to the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority, a situation that is likely to exist until mid-2001, when the county expects to begin taking water from the Bear Creek Reservoir and will itself become a major wholesaler of water.
Last year's dry summer brought about restrictions on watering yards and other outdoor uses of water from both the city and county systems.
Since then, the "high rating" of the city's water plant has been in process. When it is completed in early June ­ and it is running ahead of schedule ­ the city expects to receive a permit from the state to double the amount of water it takes daily from the Grove River.
Last year's restrictions were not due to the capacity of the reservoir, but to the capacity of the plant and the 2.25 million gallon per day maximum allowable withdrawal under the current EPD permit.
"The reservoir went through all last summer in good shape," noted Commerce city manager Clarence Bryant. "The Grove River, even at its lowest conditions, has some seven million gallons per day that could be withdrawn." And although the area ended 1999 with a 12-inch rainfall deficit and had run up a four-inch deficit in 2000 until Saturday's rains, the reservoir was unaffected.
"It may have been down a matter of inches, but it refills and replenishes pretty quickly after a rain," Bryant reports. "It's probably full now."
The city's new permit would be from 4.25 million gallons per day to 4.45 million, Bryant said.
That amount should not only meet the city's needs for a number of years, but should also meet the Jackson County needs until the Bear Creek Reservoir is completed. That includes providing water via the county to the new Georgia Power Plant Dahlberg at Center, the first phase of which is due to be on line this summer.
Jackson County has other sources of water. It's had a contract with Athens-Clarke since its inception, but that contract is loaded with penalties if the county buys more than 50,000 gallons per day at $2.56 per 1,000 gallons. The authority is negotiating to buy up to 288,000 gallons per day from Braselton at $3 per 1,000, but the Commerce water, at $2.35 per 1,000 gallons, remains its best deal. The authority can buy up to 750,000 gallons per day from Commerce, but currently lacks the pumping capacity to take advantage of the maximum amount, which is not a problem, since the county system currently sells an average of only about 500,000 gallons per day.
DROUGHT PROBLEMS
That the drought is posing no problems with the city lake is good news, but people who depend on wells for their water are having problems due to the drought.
"I'm having four to five people calling every month because their wells are dry," reports Paul Mims, superintendent of the county water system. "These are the fortunate people, because they live right there on our system and we can shoot them a meter out there. There's no telling how many people that's happening to who will have to drill another well or extend a well."
Bryant said people with similar problems are calling City Hall, most of them from parts of the territory assigned Commerce through House Bill 489 (the shared services bill), but outside the city limits east of town. He said the city's five-year capital plan for water system improvements includes service to Blacks Creek Church Road, Old Airport Road and Dan Waters Road.


2,400 homes the target in 5-year water plan
Five years and $14.5 million from now, some 2,400 Jackson County homes that do not have county water available should be able to tie onto the county system.
The massive amount of construction required to make that happen will be funded by the proceeds of the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) voted in last November. Collection of the money, which is expected to pour $35 million into government treasuries over the next five years, begins April 1, when the sales tax will climb to seven percent.
The money is divided two ways. First, 70 percent goes to water and sewer work, 23 percent for roads, bridges and sidewalks, 5.5 percent for recreation and 1.5 percent for a fire training facility. Second, local governments share the money, based on their populations.
As a result of the allocation, some $20 million of the $35 million would end up in the hands of the county water and sewer authority, which prior to the referendum committed the money to providing water to areas of the county now without public water.
Once the referendum passed, the next step for the water and sewerage authority was to decide where exactly the projects would be built and in what order they should be built.
The authority has completed the former step and has partly completed the latter.
The map indicates the various projects, numbered one through 10, but to date, the authority has decided only the first three projects to be undertaken. Thus, while the priorities and numbers of the project coincide for 1-3, the numbers 4-10 do not represent priorities.
First, Project 1, is already under way. It takes water to the Plainview area. One of the authority's earliest commitments was to provide water to each of the county fire stations. The Plainview Fire Department is the last fire department in the county without a ready source of water.
Project 2 is the Highway 60 area in northwest Jackson County, where numerous wells are dry or almost dry. Residents of that community have been after the authority for about two years to get water, and the authority placed them in the second priority.
Project 3 and also the third priority, is a combination of four individual projects that stem from citizen requests for water. Those requests were all made before the SPLOST referendum and are households where water quality or quantity is jeopardized.
Although the remaining projects are numbered four through 10, the authority has not prioritized them yet. At last Thursday night's meeting, the authority agreed to table that task until the April meeting.
The Plainview project will cost an estimated $1.8 million and serve 291 households, according to engineering estimates. The Highway 60 project is budgeted at $1.22 million, and will make water available to 129 households. It is the most expensive project based on a per-household cost of $9,419.
More than any other project, Highway 60 work demonstrates the capabilities that the SPLOST provided. Had the county been forced to build projects based on the time of expected pay-back, the Highway 60 project would never be built.
Project three, which serves all of the groups who approached the authority with water problems over the past two to three years, is budgeted at $2.03 million and will serve 380 households.
Projects four through 10 are designed to meet needs of existing residents or areas of the county. None of the projects were created in anticipation of or in response to ongoing development. In fact, the authority has a policy of not running water to new developments (see separate story) unless the developer pays the cost. However, access to county water has spurred residential development, and some lines laid out for system hydrological needs or transmission needs have coincided with development plans.
It should be noted that if Jackson County sales live up to the $35 million forecast, the water authority stands to have $20 million to use over five years. The SPLOST project list calls for only $14.67 million because the $35 million cap was placed beyond real expectations of county sales growth so as to allow the tax to run the full five years. Had a lower cap been set and reached, sales tax collections would have ceased at that point.
FINANCING
The plan for building the projects is to spread them out so that, for the most part, they can be paid for as sales tax revenues come in. Leftover money from the last round of SPLOST, which ended last July, enabled the authority to begin engineering work on the first three projects.
At the suggestion of engineer Charlir Armentrout, the authority agreed to apply for interim financing from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority to cover periods when project expenses are expected to be greater than SPLOST revenue.
The authority anticipates collecting approximately $248,000 per month for the first year and a half, with revenues climbing to $330,000 per month by 2003.



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Georgia Power Center facility named 'Plant Dahlberg'
Georgia Power's gas-fired peak generation plant under construction in Center has a name. It is officially "Plant Dahlberg," in keeping with the Southern Company's tradition of naming power plants after its chief executives.
Bill Dahlberg is president and CEO of the Southern Company. Georgia Power is a subsidiary of the Southern Company.
In a twist of irony, some of the power generated in Center will go to a Southern Company competitor which once considered the same location for a peak generating unit. Dynegy, Inc., a Houston-based energy company, has contracted to buy 225 megawatts of electricity from the plant. Dynegy pitched its cause to Jackson County officials at about the same time Georgia Power officials were negotiating for water service to their plant.
The Center plant will serve wholesale customers. Its first phase of eight 80-megawatt jet-like generators is under construction, and five of those are expected to be on line this summer. In fact, one of the units was scheduled to have been test-fired this week.
So far, some 800 megawatts of generation from Plant Dahlberg are under contract. Recently, the company announced plans to build two more 80-megawatt units at the Center site, presumably the result of the sales contract with Dynegy. Eventually, Plant Dahlberg is expected to have 16 of the units in operation at the plant.

The plant is designed to provide electricity when electric demand is at its highest, which would normally be in the summer.


Jefferson approves rezoning for offices, subdivision
BY ANGELA GARY
A professional office complex and another subdivision will likely locate in Jefferson following zoning requests approved by the city council Monday night.
The council approved a request from Charles Whitlock, Commerce, to rezone a one-acre lot on 389 Athens Street from R-1 to C-2 for the location of professional offices. Whitlock said he has a buyer who plans to locate a chiropractor's office at the site.
In the other request, the council approved the rezoning from A-R (agricultural farm district) to R-1 of 158 acres on Benton Farm Road owned by Wiley Black and Clyde Turner, who hope to attract a buyer to develop a large-lot subdivision. The request is tied to a request to have the property annexed into Jefferson. The council followed the recommendation of the planning commission that the rezoning come with the stipulation that the developer submit a concept plan prior to subdividing.
On another matter, the council approved the annexation of a 3.22- acre tract owned by Randy Moore and B.L. Williamson on the Winder Hwy. Williamson said plans call for locating a restaurant or similar development on the property.
OTHER BUSINESS
In other business, the council:
·agreed to a request from Brian Ferguson to construct a picnic shelter and foot bridge near the Jefferson Clubhouse as his Eagle Scout project.
·agreed to a request from Carol Burnett for the Little League organization to hold a celebration and parade on April 8. The season starts April 10.
·tabled a request from Randy McKinney, Stacy Britt and Jeff Potts to extend a water line to Hwy. 11 for a 87-home, 28-acre subdivision. The council postponed action until it receives more information on the cost of the project and the water pressure available in the area.
·heard from Carlotta Shields concerning a vacant trailer in front of her home. She said it is a nuisance and hazard for children playing in the area. The council asked city attorney Ronnie Hopkins to look into any legal action they can take on the matter.
·tabled a request from Hilda Corbett for a $500 donation for the summer day camp program.
·approved resolutions validating the results from the school bond vote and approving a business and retention project sponsored by the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce.
·learned that the apparent low bid for a road improvement project on Stringer Lane is $60,457 from E.R. Snell.
·approved proposed updates to the city's ordinances presented by police chief Darren Glenn, including the city wrecker ordinance, traffic control and a merit system of compensation.
·heard a request from councilman Steve Kinney to consider implementing impact fees, such as for water and sewer for new development.