News from Banks County...

 May 12, 2000


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OPINION
BCHS deserves new gym floor
Banks County Board of Education chairman Don Shubert was on the mark when he said a new gym floor is needed at the high school.


Neighborhood News...
JACKSON COUNTY
City School Tax Rate May Fall Slightly
Although the tentative 2000-2001 budget of $7,487,817 offered by the Commerce Board of Education shows a 12.53 percent increase over last year's budget, it calls for no local fund increases.

Commerce Council Takes Aim At Junked Cars, Unkempt Property
Junked cars and unkempt property drew the attention of the Commerce City Council Monday night, and it appears that the city is prepared to crack down on both.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
Hull, Athens water dispute lingers on
An old dispute and outstanding debt with the Athens/Clarke County water system apparently still hangs over the heads of Hull's mayor and council.

Relay raises $92,000 to fight cancer
Hundreds of sleepy folks gathered on the recreation department's track last Saturday morning to hear that through their combined efforts they raised $92,000 to fight cancer locally.


SPORTS
Ivey set to jump into state meet
Banks County High School's representative to the Class A boys' track meet will be in action Friday in the 29th Georgia Olympics in Jefferson.

Gridiron Leopards enjoy smooth practice pace
Banks County Leopards began spring practice this week with a familiarity that has coach Rance Gillespie welcome the new season, which is less than four months away.


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Alto still dealing with water lines
By Shar Porier
The replacement of water lines through town continues to be a concern of the Alto Town Council.
At the council meeting Tuesday, May 9, Mayor Jack King said that some connections have not been completed. He said that payment of around $4,000 for some of the contracted work will be withheld until the job is finished.
Blue Contractors of Athens is the company working with the city to up-date the old asbestos lines.
On a related matter, council member Susan Wade commented on the condition of the roads where the work had been done, citing cracking in the roads from improper packing of the ground after the lines were laid.
Former mayor, Grover Stewart, also pointed out that the connection at the Holiness church has not been completed. He also questioned the mayor about the Apple Pie Ridge problem.
King said, "The Apple Pie Ridge well is not a good well. I'd rather not use it if we can avoid it."
However, King reminded the council that for two days last summer, they had no choice but to use the well to supply water to the community. Stewart said the new lines should be disconnected from it to prevent any backflow from the well into the new system.
"I don't think [anybody] wants to drink water from that well, nor their kids," he said.
When the job is completed, an inspector and engineer will check the project out. When they sign-off on the job, Blue Contractors will be paid.
The council also discussed the $12,000 needed to run lines from the end of Cook Street to the end of B.C. Grant Road. King thought that cash flow funds could be used instead of a loan. He also gave an estimate of $17,000 to replace lines on Crane Mill Road from Hwy. 365 to Yonah Post Road.

CHECKING OUT SYSTEM

Shown checking out the system at the Lee Arrendale Correctional Facility in Alto are: Tom Manget, Georgia Environmental Protection Division; Kirk Mays, DOC waste water engineer; Bob Bishop, EPD; Don and Chandra Coffee.
Photo by Shar Porier

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Baldwin café is granted beer and wine license
By Shar Porier
The owners of the Georgia Billiards Café were relieved when their application for a beer and wine license was approved by the city council Monday, amidst some emotional opposition. For the past two months, they have been working to fulfill the requirements of Baldwin's alcohol ordinance by redesigning half of the café into a restaurant.
With no valid grounds to deny the application for the beer and wine license, the council voted 3-2 to grant the application to Georgia Billiard Café. Council members Deloris Thomas and Jeff Bohannon voted against the application.
Thomas reminded the council that "about a month ago, the public showed how they felt about alcohol being served and I don't see the difference in beer and wine. Especially when teenagers are involved. This is a place that attracts teenagers. I'm just very much against it."
So were members of the church community. The Rev. Larry Barnes, of Baldwin Baptist Church, expressed concern about the dangers of people who had been drinking coming out into the fast traffic on Highway 365. He requested the council table the application until the council could review and revise the ordinance.
The ordinance was drafted and placed before voters in 1974 in a referendum that passed and permitted the sale of alcohol in Baldwin, affirmed Mayor Mark Reed.
"It's been in place now for 26 years," he said. "And it would put the city in a poor position [legally] to deny this license. We cannot change the ordinance with an application pending."
City attorney David Syfan added that "under Georgia Law, once you decide to issue a beer and wine license and you set certain guidelines in the ordinance, then basically you make sure the applicant meets those requirements. If the applicant does meet those requirements, it's not a discretionary decision. Your ordinance provides for the issuance of the license. This license should be granted."
Andy Anderson, of the Georgia Billiards Café tried to reassure the community members present that they "wanted the opportunity to show the residents of Baldwin that we can run this establishment responsibly." He went on to say that 90 percent of the Café income comes from food; that under the stringent requirements of the ordinance "about two beers would be all that could be sold." His patrons, averaging in age from mid-20s to 30s, have requested that he acquire the license.
"Anderson has the right to challenge if we turn his license down" added councilman Robert Bohannon. "But I promise to look into the ordinance if this passes, for changes we could make."
Around $75,000 from distributors is collected from the sale of alcohol in Baldwin, plus another three percent in sales tax from the restaurants.
In other business:
·the BP Gas Station on Highway 365 was granted a license to sell beer and wine, again amidst controversy .
·the first reading of the animal ordinance was approved. The ordinance can be read at Baldwin City Hall.


DOC, EPD and EPA deal with problems at prison in Alto
By Shar Porier
A continuing series of problems at the waste water treatment plant for Lee Arrendale Correctional Facility in Alto erupted again last week following a power failure. On May 3, a power failure caused the shutdown of pumps at the waste water treatment facility and resulted in the discharge of waste matter into the Hudson River. When power was restored, three pumps at the treatment plant burned up.
"There were no kill-offs, but there will be an odor for the next few days until the plant is up and running again," said Tom Manget of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
The incident comes on the heels of an inspection of the facility by federal officials following complaints by people living downstream of the plant. On April 28, Chris Hockett of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency toured the plant and river area. During the tour, Hockett expressed some concerns about the plant's ability to meet federal guidelines.
The recent actions at the Alto prison come after several years of problems and complaints about the facility. When the prison was expanded several years ago to a 1,200-unit maximum security facility, the expansion failed to include additional capacity at the waste water treatment plant. The plant, built in the 1930s, lies just below the headwaters of the Hudson River in Banks County on state-owned land.
For the first few years after expansion, the discharge into the waste water facility exceeded the plant's capacity to handle the load. Part of the problem was the additional water required for the inmates and employees. Another problem was organic disposals from the kitchen into the system.
As the additional water and organic material reached the plant, problems occurred with the chlorine "activator" and an alarming amount of chlorine was discharged into the Hudson River.
"It caused a severe chlorine kill-off that lasted for days," said Manget.
Life in and at the water's edge was destroyed for an unknown distance on the Hudson River.
Ray Bohannon, the plant engineer, discovered the emergency situation upon taking pH readings and finding them too acidic for aquatic life. He contacted prison officials and Manget to let them know about the situation.
Chemicals used for stripping prison floors were also flushed into the discharge system and caused another toxic problem.
The EPD then began working with the Georgia Department of Corrections waste water treatment engineers to try to resolve the issues. The DOC removed the organic waste and floor chemicals from the discharge stream and put them in a holding tank to be carried off.
But the problem of too much waste going into too small a treatment facility continued. Bob Bishop, supervisor of the northeast region of the EPD, said, "The problem was that 12 hours of the day they were in compliance (with EPD regulation), the other 12 hours they weren't."
The prison had no personnel working at night at the plant and nighttime was when residents living along the Hudson River began experiencing strange, noxious odors. One resident said "it was like being around an open septic tank. The odor was so bad you gag involuntarily."
Don and Chandra Coffee have two children and were concerned about the kids playing in the river due to these episodes. The Coffees called the EPD and Manget sampled water from below their residence, the discharge pipe at the treatment plant, and from the spillway above the treatment plant during the day. His fecal coliform tests gave "puzzling" results.
Other testing revealed high concentrations of BODs, ammonia, nitrates and phosphates. Some of those levels exceeded or were at the borderline of EPD regulations.
Another test done at night in 1999 showed fecal coliform at 500 ppm along with continued high levels of ammonia, nitrates and phosphates.
Two years ago, the prison received $1 million in state funds for a new facility to meet the EPA standards. But Banks County officials were not notified of the matter.
But that effort stalled when bids for the project came back at over double the $1 million allocated.
Some modifications were put in place due to repeated complaints. But residents say the problems continue to exist.



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EDUCATION

BOE wants new gym floor at BCHS
Doesn't agree to plans to 'patch' the problem
BY ANGELA GARY
After less than one year of use, the gym floor in the new Banks County High School has cracked, warped spots and the board of education wants it to be replaced.
BOE chairman Don Shubert told site architect Mike Raeisghasem of Southern Engineers Monday night that he won't be satisfied with a "patch job." The architect had said the insurance company for the builder would repair and replace damaged areas of the gym floor.
"I don't want a patch job on a $13 million facility which the gym is a very important part of," he said. "...I'm just disappointed. That is a major part of that school."
BOE member Neal Brown pointed out that the board had been told the gym floor would be taken out and replaced. The problem the board members have with replacing only portions of the floor is that other areas may crack later on.
"I don't think your school is a patch job," Raeisghasem said. "You've got a very good school. We bring other people here to show it to them to try and sell them on it."
Raeishghasem said the problem with the floor is due to the bottom layer being sealed too soon and having moisture still in it. BOE members added that a leak at a back door of the facility has brought moisture into the gym.
The architect said he didn't have the authority to approve a new gym floor, but he would go back to his company with the request from the board members.
Other problems at the new facility discussed Monday night included the football field which BOE members say is not level. Raeishghasem is also going to look into this concern and other smaller ones mentioned by BOE members.
Raeishghasem also presented proposals for an agriculture facility and field house. They will be reviewed by the teachers and coaches who would use them before any final decisions are made, officials said.