News from Madison County...

 May 10, 2000


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OPINIONS
Pleased with election qualifying
Qualifying for this year's elections has ended. I am encouraged by the results.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
Baldwin café is granted beer and wine license
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.

BOE wants new gym floor at BCHS
Doesn't agree to plans to 'patch' the problem
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.


News from...
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.


SPORTS
Hybl finishes third in state
Madison County's Ryan Hybl wrapped up a stellar high school golf career with a two-over par 74 in the Class AAA state championship, good enough for a third place finish in the individual tournament at Goshen Plantation in Augusta Monday.

Ben Jeffers KO's 18 in Ranger win
Fireballer Ben Jeffers of Zeb's Rangers struck out 18 batters in his team's 4-3 win over the Modern Body Mets in Madison County Major League action Saturday.


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MOTHER AND SON SURVIVORS

Teresa Hix and her son Velton Hix IV are both cancer survivors. They are shown walking hand in hand, with other survivors, during the "Survivors Walk," the opening relay for last weekend's second annual Relay for Life. (See page 1B for a full-page color spread of Relay for Life photos.)
Photo by Margie Richards

LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Hull, Athens water dispute lingers on
BY MARGIE RICHARDS
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.
The council agreed Monday to "acknowledge the debt with Athens/Clarke County, with the stipulation that any revenue such as water sales and impact fees be applied to the city of Hull's outstanding debt."
This action followed a 20-minute closed session Monday night with city attorney Pat Graham to discuss "potential litigation." The council returned to open session and voted unanimously for the measure. If this condition is met, the council will agree to "budget payments to Athens/Clarke County (ACC) into future budgets."
The matter stems from a water line extension contract signed by former Mayor T. Wayne Phillips and council members with ACC in January 1991 to run a new water main loop down Davis Road to Old Elberton Road and back to the red light.
According to the contract, Hull was to be "financially responsible" for the extension of the new line.
A dispute over payment of the line came to a head in a meeting in February 1998 when a property owner was refused the installation of a water meter by ACC's water authority, which owns and maintains all the water lines in Hull.
Gary Duck, head of ACC's water department, confirmed at that time that he had made an "administrative decision" not to install any more water meters in Hull until an accumulated balance of $13,618 in back payments had been paid.
Duck confirmed by phone Tuesday that that "administrative hold" on water meters was still in effect.
Although part of the project was paid for jointly by the county board of commissioners and Hull, a remaining balance was to be paid in installments to ACC over a 20-year period, according to Duck.
Duck also said in 1998 that none of the payments, which were to begin in May 1994, had ever been made.
Current mayor B.W. Hutchins and the Hull council have maintained that they understood that Hull would get "some revenue" from the water line to offset the debt, but that no credits had ever been given.
Hutchins said in 1998 that the city has "no control of the line whatsoever, no say as to how much to charge or whatever" and that he found ACC's position in the matter "questionable."
The dispute was never resolved, and came up again at Monday night's council meeting.
Graham said Tuesday that he was contacted on Monday prior to the meeting by an attorney representing a Hull landowner who had been refused water service to their property by the ACC water authority.
"This is just an ongoing situation in which I could see future litigation evolving from landowners wanting water and not being able to get it," Graham said of the reason for the closed session.
He will now draft a letter on Hull's behalf notifying the ACC water authority of the council's action at Monday night's meeting.
It is unclear how Madison County's new water system in the nearby Dogsboro Community will affect the current situation in Hull. No comment was made on that issue in open session.


Comer seeking police officers, city clerk
BY FRANK GILLISPIE
The Comer City Council struggled with personnel and finance problems at their May meeting Tuesday night. The city must find replacements for its entire police force and a new city clerk. Police Chief Jeff Strickland is leaving this month to join the Madison County Sheriff's office and City Clerk Steve Sorrells has accepted a position as transportation director with the Madison County Board of Education.
Chief Strickland provided a report showing that the city offers the lowest pay for police of any department in the area. He advised the council to find a way to improve salaries for the police department. The council voted to increase the starting salary for a patrolman from $18,000 per year to $20,000. They agreed to improve pay for Sergeant and Chief positions based on experience. Sorrells said that money saved due to the current vacancies will cover the increase for the rest of this year, but the budget will have to be modified for coming years.
The city will continue to receive applications and resumes until the positions are filled.


 
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Relay raises $92,000 to fight cancer
BY MARGIE RICHARDS
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.
The May 5-6 event was the second annual Relay for Life in Madison County. Last year, some $42,000 was raised and the goal for this year was set at $50,000.
"This is the most determined, hardiest and sleepiest group of people in Madison County - and I'm so proud of them," an emotional Ramona Booth of the Relay Committee told the crowd during the closing ceremonies.
According to Karen Lewis of the American Cancer Society, Relay for Life 2000 was more than a success, it was "incredible, fantastic (and) unbelievable!"
Almost half the money (over $40,000) was raised through the combined efforts of the county's six schools.
Colbert Elementary edged out last year's fund-raising winner Ila Elementary by several hundred dollars. Both schools brought in more than $12,000 each. Ila won the competition last year by raising a total of just over $5,000 - more than any other team.
"That's incredible," Lewis exclaimed of the school system's efforts. "You have blown away counties around you - you have no idea."
The festivities began around 6:30 p.m. Friday evening with opening ceremonies and a Survivor's Lap in which cancer survivors of all ages walked the quarter-mile track to the applause of the crowd. Next was a Caregiver's Lap, in which family members and friends walked with their loved ones, followed by a Team Lap in which all team members - many in costumes - walked behind their respective banners, most decorated with team slogans.
The participants then "got down to business" with one member of each team taking to the track to walk in relay fashion through the night until the conclusion of the event on Saturday morning.
Community-spirited events kept things interesting, including a "Miss Relay" pageant, dance contests and a scavenger hunt.