The Commerce News
May 31, 2000
Pleased with development
I am away on business, participating in some management training
for a while and on this sunny morning, needless to say, I miss
Commerce and Jackson County. More importantly, I miss our great
people. Reflecting today on our community, I have a few things
on my mind as Jackson County enters the second half of 2000.
I am encouraged when I see the efforts of the chamber of commerce
to increase employment opportunities with good, meaningful jobs.
The announcement that the Duke-Weeks developers have recognized
the strategic logistics value of Jackson County and will build
a major distribution center in Braselton is a step in the right
direction. For years, many of us have viewed our county as a
"natural" for good-paying, skillful logistics jobs,
which are certainly environmentally safe. We need to press on
with our recruitment of good future employers and reputable developers
who are willing to be a part of our community. We must manage
our growth, but it is imperative that we land more and better
jobs throughout the county. I-85 and SR 441 are two of our best
I congratulate and appreciate chamber CEO Pepe Cummings for his
vision, leadership and hard work. Let's all call Pepe sometime
and let him know we support him; we all need encouragement at
times. We must stop the "brain drain" of our best youth
who leave and make contributions elsewhere and we need to attract
others to come and contribute.
I am further encouraged by the recent reactivation of the "Leadership
Jackson County" program, which will be a vehicle to train
future leaders about the true needs of our community and will
provide a vigorous platform for citizen involvement as we move
into the 21st century.
We must express appreciation to our school system and its leaders,
but at some point, we must seek opportunities to review our systems,
the allocation of resources and the needs of our students.
All of our citizens who pitch in and serve in many ways on no-pay
city and county boards, Habitat for Humanity, Jackson County
Community Outreach, library boards, PTAs and many more too numerous
to mention deserve our appreciation and encouragement. When we
meet these people at the store, church or just on the street,
give them a little praise, because citizen involvement is what
will make Jackson County an even better place than it is now.
I applaud all of our citizens who engage in community missionary
and outreach work of any kind. They are a blessing to our community.
As we enter the election year, perhaps an entirely new board
of county commissioners, the candidates should and must decide
before November if they have the commitment and vision required.
The challenges and opportunities will be significant. They must
find new and innovative ways to communicate their vision and
action plans to us regularly and they must certainly encourage
an "open door" policy, for I believe communities, like
individuals, have a specific "window of opportunity."
History illustrates that these windows close as well as open.
While community pride and athletic competition in our county
are admirable, our new leaders must provide leadership that will
allow our people to put aside "the rivet" adversarial
thinking and work together earnestly to improve our county.
Jim Scott, president, Jackson County Community Outreach
The Jackson Herald
May 31, 2000
finally balancing development rights
Last week, the Jackson County Planning Commission considered
the merits of two rezoning matters and voted to recommend approval
of both in spite of a room full of opposition.
That may not seem remarkable to many people, but it is noteworthy
because that board has too often in the past let popularity decide
the outcome of a rezoning rather than the law. Historically,
the board has turned down rezoning requests simply because neighbors
opposed it. Whether such opposition was valid or not was seldom
But with last week's vote in favor of two subdivisions, one in
Apple Valley and another in Hoschton, the planning board appears
to be moving toward a more balanced approach.
We understand, of course, why some people around new projects
would oppose them. Watching a neighborhood grow and change is
difficult, especially if an area has remained rural for many
But while the zoning process should allow for public input, such
sentiments should not carry all the weight. Although neighbors
have the right to speak against new subdivisions, property owners
and developers also have rights. One of those is the right to
expect our public agencies, such as the planning commission,
to seek a balance between landowner rights and neighborhood concerns
in the rezoning process. Legitimate concerns should be addressed,
but opposition that seeks to slam the door on growth for no valid
reason should be ignored.
The planning board did ignore such opposition last week and the
rhetoric that attempted to play on emotions rather than law.
One opponent termed the proposed Apple Valley subdivision as
"a massive rape... of our rural community and quality of
Slick words, but basically empty rhetoric. What the speaker didn't
say was why the rezoning should be denied from a legal standpoint.
Did it violate the land use plan? Would it cause undue stress
on the infrastructure? Would it endanger the value of other area
Those are the issues that merit debate, not the simplistic view
of "I've got mine and now I'm going to slam the door on
everyone else!" that is so commonly expressed at planning
Perhaps there is hope for the rezoning process in Jackson County.
Maybe our planning board has come to realize that rezonings are
complex issues which require more thought than a simple popularity
The board did the right thing last week in spite of opposition.
Let's hope they continue to weigh all aspects of future rezonings.
The Commerce News
May 31, 2000
Plenty of water
restrictions will come
Commerce is on the verge of being permitted to double the amount
of water it produces each day. Jackson County is a year away
from having six million gallons of treated water per day and
almost that much in reserve. As the drought of 2000 looms, we
appear to have an abundance of water.
That seeming surplus may lull citizens and public officials into
a false sense of security that could be shattered within a decade.
Every water system in Jackson County is facing multitudes of
requests for water as new subdivisions and other developments
spring up and wells go dry. The yards to water, households to
maintain, landscaping to keep alive and commercial and industrial
use of water are gnawing steadily away at the reserves that bring
us such complacency.
We are lucky to have those reserves. Other communities would
love to be where we are. Look at Atlanta, for example. Or Florida.
If there is a silver lining to the looming water shortage, it
is that other communities will reach it long before we do, and
we can learn from their experience both what to expect and how
to address it.
If today we can water our lawns whenever we please, remember
that there were restrictions last year, and there will be again.
It is not beyond imagination to envision a time when there will
be a permanent ban on watering yards. That ban could be implemented
by local government, but there are signs that the state could
step in and appropriate all authority for allocating water usage.
What Jackson County residents have come to think of as "our"
water could one day be diverted to some other thirsty community.
Somewhere in the future, steps must be taken to reduce the amount
of water a household requires. Low-volume commodes and low-capacity
shower heads are already required in many jurisdictions, but
that won't be enough. One Texas community has already banned
the use of St. Augustine grass because it requires so much water.
The re-use philosophy proposed by the locally infamous Water
Wise will eventually be cost-effective, and residential and commercial
landscaping may be required to feature grasses and plants that
do not require artificial watering.
For now, the emphasis is on selling the water we have to pay
for at the cost incurred in making it available. The future will
require the more efficient use of all that water, not to mention
keeping a close eye on any interest the state government develops
in taking over control of water resources developed by local
The Jackson Herald
May 31, 2000
Fire stations were
Here's a hint for county leaders working on a new courthouse,
and for the Jefferson group working on a proposed civic center:
Talk to Doug Waters. In fact, beg him to meddle in your planning.
Pick his brain. Bribe him with burgers and beer until he agrees
to help you.
Why does Jefferson Fire Chief Waters deserve such solicitations?
Because he is one of the few local leaders who has a proven track
record when it comes to the construction of a public facility.
The evidence of Waters' ability is on display at Jefferson's
two new fire stations.
Except for new schools, the building of major public facilities
is a rare event in the life of a small community. That's especially
true in downtown areas where the image of a community is laid
down in bricks and mortar. Although downtowns undergo periodic
renovations, it is rare for new significant structures to be
built. And when they are done, they often reflect a lack of concern
about the architectural integrity of the community. That's true
for both public buildings and for many private commercial structures.
But Waters managed to steer the City of Jefferson away from the
typical "cheap and quick" mentality by building two
fire stations that resonate with style, grace and beauty. Where
many would have thrown up a cheap metal building that would have
detracted from the community, Waters built two buildings future
generations will appreciate.
In a word, Waters knows how to build with class.
How he did that with the Jefferson fire stations will be fodder
for another story in this newspaper. But every aspect of the
building, including the architectural style, has a meaning. The
five brick columns across the front are symbolic. The arches
over the doors have meaning. The style of the bricks and the
way the mortar was done are all based on historic places and
events. Even the way the building is lit at night was planned
with aesthetics in mind.
No detail went unnoticed. Significant thought went into the project
long before the ground was cleared.
To prepare for this construction project, Waters traveled around
the northeastern U.S. looking at fire stations and other public
buildings in an effort to get ideas. From that, and other sources,
he pulled together the final plan and oversaw the construction.
The contractors and architects probably thought he was a pain
in the butt. Now retired, Waters had time to hang around and
watch the buildings go up. He had time to critique and criticize,
cajole and cuss.
And his bosses, the Jefferson City Council, also probably wondered
what Waters was doing with all that city tax money. Outside of
water and sewer construction, the fire stations are the largest
single expense in recent city history. At $2.2 million, the fire
stations and new fire trucks are no minor matter for a small
Of course, Waters didn't come to this project without some public
service background. A former city councilman and a former director
of the county emergency services, Waters has been around government
projects for decades. He knows the system and has a thick hide
when it comes to dealing with all the egos involved in large
And yet, this project was more than just the result of political
experience. From the vision to the final execution, Waters' attention
to detail created something the entire community should be proud
of. A lot of people could have built a fire station, but few
could have done it well.
No doubt, the fire chief would like to take a little time off
now, although he has another county fire project waiting in the
wings - a training facility for local firefighters to be paid
for by the recently approved sales tax.
But if he has a few moments to spare, the county government also
has a courthouse to build and Jefferson needs a community center.
Both of those groups, and we as citizens, would be lucky if Doug
Waters could leave his imprint on those projects as well.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Commerce News
May 31, 2000
A letter to a high school
senior who will graduate Friday
It was just four years ago that I wrote your sister upon the
occasion of her graduation. Those years have passed quickly;
it hardly seems possible that the kid who came kicking and screaming
into the world on Sept. 1, 1982, is already out of school.
I look forward to the graduation ceremony, because I know you
have been eagerly anticipating it for years. I also know many
of your classmates and am glad for them as well. Through elementary
school, middle school, high school, church and recreation department
teams, we pretty much know all of the names and faces. It's a
good group that will walk up to the stage to seize their diplomas
from the chairman of the Commerce Board of Education.
An era in our lives ends Friday night, just as an era in yours
ends. We will no longer be present to witness those last-night
scrambles to write a paper or complete a project. At college,
you'll be able to procrastinate without getting any grief or
hearing "I told you so" from one or both parents. Honesty
compels me to admit that your grades never appeared to suffer
from such tactics.
Actually, you've been a very easy son to raise, and your conduct
in the world has resulted in your mother and me getting a lot
more credit than is probably due. We appreciate that. We also
didn't have the experience of a late-night call from the police
station or even a summons from an angry school administrator.
Your placement of a pair of tweezers into an electrical outlet
in a CHS science class is not even on your Permanent Record,
though it seems to be part of the Class of 2000 legend.
But for your mother's stellar academic record, I would have to
say your high school success is a triumph over genetics. You
will not have to suffer the indignity of your children laughing
at your report cards, which I can tell you from personal experience
is discomforting. You qualified for the HOPE scholarship quite
easily, and we anticipate that you'll maintain that critical
B average as you take courses at the University of Georgia.
There were few tears shed over your school career, and little
or no sweating on our part over grades. If anything, school seemed
too easy, or maybe just not intellectually challenging. I suspect
there are few in your class who read more than you, who keep
up better with national and world events and who appreciate literature
more than you. All of those traits will stand you in good stead
for the rest of your life.
In the fall, you'll leave the house seeming very empty when you
go off to college. It just won't be the same without your clothes,
books, car keys and mail spread all over the kitchen and living
room, and I can't say I'm looking forward to caring for your
two cockatiels. But I am going to miss the Saturday or Sunday
afternoon trips to Athens and Atlanta, the conversation, the
sound of your VW coming up the driveway, and the companionship
that only a son can provide. I do not look forward to the transition.
Steven, always know that your mother and I are proud of you and
love you. Congratulations.