Jackson County Opinions...

 May 31, 2000


Letter To The Editor
The Commerce News
May 31, 2000

Pleased with development in county
Editor:
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 sales tools.
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




Editorial
The Jackson Herald
May 31, 2000

Planning board 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 discussed.
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 years.
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 rural life."
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 property?
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 meetings.
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 poll.
The board did the right thing last week in spite of opposition. Let's hope they continue to weigh all aspects of future rezonings.


Editorial
The Commerce News
May 31, 2000

Plenty of water now, but
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 government.

Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
May 31, 2000

Fire stations were done right
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 town.
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 projects.
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.


Column
Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
May 31, 2000

A letter to a high school senior who will graduate Friday
Dear Steven:
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.
Dad

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