Jackson County Opinions...

 May 10, 2000




Editorials
The Jackson Herald
May 10, 2000

Murders were an inexplicable tragedy
There isn't anyone who will read about the Griffin murders in Nicholson who won't be horrified. How could anyone kill their own children, especially in such brutal way?
It is too terrible to even think about. It leaves us numb.
As investigators sift through evidence and interview friends, neighbors and family, they may be able to draw some conclusions about the events leading up to the murders and suicide. But none of us can get inside the mind of those who commit such heinous acts. At best we can only guess at the combination of influences that might have driven a man to do such a thing to his family.
What is especially troublesome about the Griffin deaths is that there was apparently little visible evidence that such a tragedy was in the making. Most of the time, such violence is preceded by other events that hint at a final explosion of rage. That does not appear to be the case this time, however.
Faced with such tragedies, our natural reaction is to ask Why? As human beings, we have a need to understand the abnormal behavior of those around us. Yet, we know that there are no real explanations for the deaths of two innocent children.
Such events shake our faith in humanity. Is the world really as cold and brutal as this?
We hope not.
What we do know is that everyone who has children will want to wrap their arms around them a little tighter tonight.
It is only in the shelter of a parent's comforting arms that we can hope to keep the flame of humanity alive in the face of such an inexplicable tragedy.


Editorial
The Commerce News
May 10, 2000

Cities, County Should Focus On Impact Fees
Commerce officials are watching what is going on in Cherokee County, and Jackson County officials are awaiting a proposal from county planner David Clabo. The subject? Impact fees for new development.
The problem is one of growth. With so many new developments, there is no way a county like Jackson or a city like Commerce can adequately provide the roads, water lines, sewer lines, schools and other facilities and services as they are needed. For example, Commerce's five-year water and sewer plan contains several million dollars more in construction than the city will get in special purpose local option sales taxes. The city's board of education is already considering construction of a new school because of increased enrollment.
Every subdivision that is built brings with it new expenditures and overhead for the citizens who will occupy it. Space must be made available in schools, water must be provided, sewage treated and a whole array of social services must be expanded. The utility tap fees generally cover the government's cost of hooking a new customer to an existing system, but they do not cover the much greater cost of replacing system capacity.
That's why many communities use impact fees. A recent court decision in Georgia, however, struck down most impact fees because the fees could not be proven relevant to the cost the communities incur. Cherokee County is the first county in Georgia to go back on line with impact fees based on actual costs.
That Jackson County and Commerce are studying the idea is positive. But what about Jefferson, Braselton, Hoschton, Nicholson, Maysville, Arcade, Talmo and Pendergrass?
The whole county is facing rapid growth and will suffer severely if it does not have a means to fund the infrastructure growth requires. Every governing body needs to establish fees that will cover a portion of its costs every time a new home, business or industry is built. At the same time, Jackson County should not have different fees for each of its 10 governmental jurisdictions.
What we need is a unified approach to impact fees, the result of which should be an ordinance or system that protects the taxpayers against costs created by new development. Some of those costs may be covered by increasing tap fees to cover both materials and cost of replacing capacity. Others might only be recovered by impact fees.
Jackson County needs to summon representatives from each city to a summit on impact fees so that each community will have the opportunity to protect its citizens from some of the growth-related costs of new housing developments, mobile home parks, industrial parks or shopping centers. The growth rate has increased to the point that local governments and their taxpayers no longer have the capacity to absorb new demands, be they students or sewer capacity. Some of the costs caused by new development must be borne by the developers and those who move in.


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Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
May 10, 2000

Mobile home controversies linger
It is perhaps ironic that May is Georgia Manufactured Housing Month - ironic because in many circles, manufactured homes are an anathema. One well-known area developer told a chamber of commerce gathering last week that the growth in manufactured housing in Jackson County was cause for "concern and danger."
Why is that?
Many homeowners don't want manufactured homes near them, fearing that their property values will be hurt.
Many local governments don't like manufactured housing because they don't pay much in property taxes.
Many social service agencies don't like manufactured housing because in rural areas, such housing represents low-income families who may need additional social services.
In short, manufactured homes continue to carry a stigma despite efforts to raise their image. The Georgia Manufactured Housing Association, for example, recently released a media packet of information on the importance of the industry to the state of Georgia - some $4 billion by their estimates. It was, of course, an effort to erase that stigma.
And yet, for all the negative publicity given manufactured housing, a large percentage of people continue to choose "mobile homes" rather than traditional "stick-built" houses. In 1990, one-third of Jackson County's housing was manufactured, a percentage that has likely risen in the decade since.
That's not an insignificant number and local policy-makers have incurred the wrath of some voters who believe manufactured homeowners are being unfairly targeted. Many who live in manufactured homes believe their critics are elitists and snobs.
This negative stereotype is not true everywhere, of course. In many coastal communities where manufactured homes are as ubiquitous as prunes in the morning cereal, the debate is more one of safety during hurricanes than property values. Retirees from the snow belt flock to sun belt mobile homes in droves. Many who spend winters in a Florida mobile homes are far wealthier than most upper-middle-class homeowners in Jackson County.
The success of the manufactured home industry in rural areas, however, is different from their success in retirement areas. Here, and in other rural communities, manufactured housing offers an inexpensive option that reflects more about the community than we may realize. For one thing, the lack of local rental apartments and duplexes opened the door for mobile home rental parks. These low-income rental properties in turn pull in a large transient population from which comes much of the stigma associated with manufactured housing.
Beyond rental property, manufactured homes are the only affordable housing option available for many in the community. While critics point to the depreciation of manufactured housing as compared to "stick-built" homes, that is of little concern to those who simply do not earn the wages to make payments on higher priced housing. Depreciation or not, monthly payments on a $45,000 mobile home are far less than a new $120,000 house.
Reflected in that, of course, are the wage rates being earned by many in the community. Some of that is because too many of our citizens drop out of school or fail to further their education skills. But it is also reflects the lack of white collar, higher paying jobs in the community.
While all of this may be an issue in the community today, that is likely to change in the coming years. More growth will bring in additional housing options and raise land prices to the point that manufactured homes on the property won't be feasible.
That, of course, creates new problems. The lack of affordable housing will mean that finding people to work in service, retail, construction and some manufacturing jobs won't be easy. In areas like Forsyth County, where there is an influx of high-dollar housing, there is also a shortage of lower income workers in that community.
There are no simple solutions to any of these issues. In the long run, the marketplace will address the housing concerns in Jackson County. But there is no guarantee that in fixing one "problem," we won't be creating new problems as well.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.


Column
Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
May 10, 2000


Saying Goodbye To Mother: Sad, But Joyous Too
By Mother's Day, my mother's ashes should be spread over the Gulf of Mexico in accordance with her wishes, just as my father's ashes were spread almost four years earlier.
We weren't there to witness that act, the final statement of the sense of practicality that she and my father shared. We'd said our goodbyes and celebrated her lifetime at the memorial service last Friday morning, which was also a celebration that her suffering was over and that she had traded in her frail and depleted human body for whatever spiritual body is issued in Heaven.
Mom's ordeal began just a month or two before Dad died. It was when he was in the hospital with heart failure that would ultimately take his life that we realized Mom had descended far enough into Alzheimer's Disease that she could no longer live alone. So, overwhelmed as we were that Dad was dying, at the same time we had to find a place for her to live.
The day we took her to several potential homes was the worst I'd experienced. She'd lived in the same house for more than 50 years and suddenly she was losing her husband and her home.
She took it better than we, her children, did. Mom was never one to complain; she never put her desires or needs ahead of anyone else. Alzheimer's robbed her of her life and mind, but even then, she understood there was no choice and with few tears accepted the transition, making it as easy on her children as she could.
In the ensuing years, we never heard her complain about her situation. It would not be accurate to say she was happy, but Mom did not dwell, out loud at least, on her own misfortune. She had always been the family nurturer and, as such, would not respond in a way that would increase our concern.
As her affliction deepened, my sister found a residence in a private home, a move that turned out to be a blessing for Mom, for Laurel and for Esther, the saint who provided more loving care than we had any reason to expect. Somehow, Esther had a bond with Mom that transcended her dementia, that enabled her to communicate with Mom even at the final moment when the last bit of life ebbed away. Some people are called to be preachers or missionaries; Esther is called to minister to Alzheimer's victims.
The reunion with family was tearful, yet thankful and joyous. We all saw Mom's death as God's mercy and the beginning of an eternal life beyond our comprehension. Tears of joy and of our own loss mingled as we shared memories of her life and ours with others who loved her. Often we heard anecdotes from cousins or friends about the thoughtful, sensitive acts in years past that endeared Mom to others.
It is beyond my ability to find words to cover the thoughts and emotions that come with the loss of a parent. They are hardly unique to me. But I am overwhelmingly thankful to have been brought up by Jim and Jean Beardsley, thankful that they were both Christians, and therefore convinced that not only have they already had a joyous reunion, but also that I can look forward to a similar reunion myself some day.

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