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 June 12, 2000


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OPINION
Adam Fouche
I'm going pro in badminton

Last summer, I made an effort to join the pro Putt-Putt golf circuit. Unfortunately, that effort...


SPORTS
Team basketball camp starts Monday night

High school basketball will return to the Leopards' Den next week. Hosting two legs of the Jackson County...


Neighborhood News...
JACKSON COUNTY
BJC closing clinics in Nicholson, Jefferson
Residents of Nicholson will once again have to go out of town to seek medical care. BJC Medical Center announced this week that it will close its...

Teen in NJ stabbing not indicted by grand jury
A Jackson County grand jury decided Monday not to indict Brandon Cody Self, 17, in the May 17 stabbing death of Warren Albert Martin Jr. near Pendergrass.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
Comer hires police chief, city clerk
Two new city employees were introduced at the Comer City Council meeting Tuesday night. New Police Chief Barry Reed will take office...

County shows slight drop on grad tests
Madison County's rising seniors didn't fare as well as the MCHS class of 2000 on the state-mandated graduation tests for students...


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READY TO RECYCLE

Bill Jackson, a realtor with The Norton Agency, had a pickup truck full of articles to recycle at the grand opening of the new recycling center in Banks County. He also won the giveaway and got to take home his own composter.

Mandatory outdoor watering ban in place
A mandatory outdoor watering ban has been put in place for all Banks County water customers.
The outdoor watering ban is in place from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and it includes watering uses such as recreational, lawn and garden and non-commercial car washing.
Customers violating the ban will receive a written citation. County officials say the ban will be in effect until further notice.


Baldwin residents ask to slow speeders
By Shar Porier
Baldwin resident Marlo Mulligan asked the city council at Thursday's work session for help slowing down speeders.
She and other residents of the Templeton Subdivision are concerned for the safety of the children living in Kitchens, Heartwood and Sampling Roads. "They come flying down the streets," she said. "We have a lot of children six-years-old and under. And we're worried."
Mulligan said the city had erected "Slow Children" signs, but that did not help to deter the speeders. The residents would like to have both speed limit signs erected and speed bumps installed on those streets.
Councilman Kevin Gaddis said they would need a petition from the residents agreeing with the installation of the speed bumps. Mulligan replied that "getting signatures would not be a problem."
Mayor Mark Reed added that it would be helpful to have the signatures giving consent from the area's residents, in case of complaints.
The council agreed that getting the speed limit signs up would not be a problem and could be done quickly.
The area is patrolled frequently by the Baldwin Police, according to Mulligan and Police Chief Frank Andrews. Andrews said he would "step up the patrols" and asked if she recognized any of the speeders in particular.
Mulligan will acquire the signatures and present them at another work session so the council can proceed with the speed bumps.


Ag commissioner gives bleak outlook for summer crops
By Shar Porier
Agriculture commissioner Tommy Irvin told members of the Banks County Chamber of Commerce Thursday that he is concerned about the drought conditions that have led to serious problems for farmers across the state.
"We're going through some of the most trying times right now, than I have seen in my 31 years as agricultural commissioner," Irvin said.
As he addressed a full crowd at the chamber breakfast, he expressed deep concern over the conditions farmers across the state are dealing with in the wake of the drought that began in the summer of 1998. Irving said he has gone to several events in the last several weeks dealing with what can be done and what kind of plans can be formulated to avoid the disaster that "seems to be looming over our heads."
He told of how stream and river flows have diminished. The aquifer that runs from Macon into Florida "seems to be in pretty good shape," he said. He pointed out, though, that irrigation is not enough.
"Crops need rain," he said.
He is also concerned that farmers had to begin irrigating sooner this year­earlier than in any time of history in the state. Before even tilling the baked ground, farmers were forced to irrigate, he added. Then to get the seeds up, more water was needed.
Compounding the difficulty of the farmer is the regulation that farmers must have their seed in the ground prior to June 1 in order to qualify for disaster relief, if needed.
"Some of our farmers were forced to sow seed in dust," he said.
Wherever he goes and to whomever he speaks, he asks, "Please pray for rain," as he did at the chamber meeting.
He continued by saying rain may be the only way to save Georgia's two most important crops­peanuts, and cotton. Georgia ranks number one in peanut production and number two in cotton in the nation.
"They are the most stressed crops at this time," he said.
And the problem will be with farmers for some time. According to forecasts, the drought will continue through the winter of 2001.
Irvin said that Georgia farmers are no longer growing corn because of the huge amount of water it consumes. Jokingly, he told of an experience many years ago. He was asked how many bushels of corn is grown per acre up there? His reply, "Bushels? Our folks sell by the gallon."
"We do have a few positives."' he said. We had one of the finest Vidalia onion crops we've ever had in the history of Georgia farming. We started off with a good peach crop, and if we get a little rain, it'll be a good season."
Irvin said some of the future ideas and plans in the works to assist Georgia farmers will be opening up the world market, into Europe, Russia, and even China. The Federal Agricultural Bureau has an office in Brussels, Belgium, which acts as a go-between to get Georgia's crops and meats to European markets.
China is an important market that may soon be open again to sell cotton, and chicken imported form Georgia. he added. With one-third of the world's population in China, it could help the Georgia farmer prosper. Irving is traveling to China in the near future to help pry open the doors to commerce and trade from Georgia markets. At one time, China was a big buyer of cotton and tobacco, ($80 million per year), from Georgia. Irving hopes to re-introduce those products.
Tobacco presents a problem these days, he explained, with all the restrictions and health problems. Consequently, Georgia tobacco farming has been reduced by 40 percent over the past four years. The trade with China could help re-establish tobacco as a top commodity.
One other problem facing Georgia's farmers comes from the federal mandates of the Department of Natural Resources "Clean Water Act". Irving said, "I don't see eye-to-eye" with the DNR on some of their regulations. Too many restrictions can be harmful to the agricultural farmers."
When the floor was opened for questions, he discussed topics about blueberry production, gasoline metering and supermarket scanning, all which fall under the agricultural department. He referenced one instance where a $450,000 fine had been placed on a major gasoline company for scrimping on their meters. Though it was just a small amount the customers were being shorted, over a period of time it added up, he explained. He would like more monitoring to go on at the supermarkets, but more staff would be needed and the funds have not been available to his department.
The popular Farmer's Market Bulletin was also brought up. This is an indispensable tool for farmers across Georgia. It was almost eradicated due to the Republicans voting to refuse the funding for it, he said. The FMB has been around for a long, time and all rural residents and farmers are able to receive it free of charge. Irving reassured the audience that its publication would not be stopped.

EDUCATION

Third graders improve, fifth
graders drop in ITBS results

Banks County third graders this year showed improvement over last year's class in the annual ITBS testing results.
But the school's fifth graders had a significant decline from last year's class, falling below the average results nationwide.
Helped by both rising reading and math scores, third graders pulled a composite score of 63 on this year's ITBS, up from last year's class at 58.
The results are measured as a percentile compared to all other students in the nation who take the test. A score above 50 means that students generally did better than their peers across the nation, while scores below 50 mean that students generally did worse.
While Banks County third graders were making improvements, the fifth grade class had a composite score of only 46, down from last year's class score of 57.
Fifth graders scored poorly in all areas of the test, with the science part getting the highest score with a 50.
Banks County eighth graders scored the same overall as last year's class with a 61 composite score. Eighth grade reading results remained marginal, however, with a reading score of 51 for the second year in a row.
GRADUATION TEST
While elementary and middle school students were struggling with the ITBS this spring, Banks County 11th graders were making a stab at the state-mandated Graduation Test.
As with their peers statewide, Banks County students had the most trouble with the science part of the test, with 27 percent of the students failing that part on their first attempt. That is the same number who failed the science part statewide this year.
Some 18 percent of Banks County students failed the social studies part of the test, compared to 15 percent of students statewide.
Students will have five chances to pass all parts of the test.
Banks County students had less trouble with the English part of the test, with only five percent failing, and the math part, with only six percent failing on their first attempt. Those numbers are in line with the overall state results as well.
On the high end of the graduation test results were two students who had perfect scores on the English part of the test and five students who aced the math part.
One student also had a perfect score on the social studies portion.


Sunday School Celebration to be held
Plans are underway for the annual Banks County Sunday School Celebration.
It will be held Saturday, July 27, at Veterans' Park in Homer. Further details will be announced prior to the event.


Candidate forum coming up Thursday
A candidate forum will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 8, at the Banks County American Legion Hall in Homer.
All candidates are invited to participate and state their platform, leaders say. Audience members are asked to have questions for candidates ready. Refreshments will be provided.
The event is sponsored by the Coalition for Taking Banks County's Rights Back Inc. For more information, call 677-3838 or 677-4937.

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Grads turn
tassels at BCHS

It was a time to share the memories of the past 13 years, from the new friendships in kindergarten to the relationships in high school. It was a time to solemnly remember and honor the loved ones they had tragically lost. And it was one last time to gather together with the classmates they had grown so close to.
But most importantly, for the Banks County High School Class of 2000, Friday night was a celebration of accomplishment and hope for the future. It was the beginning of a new path in life.
"Up until this point, we've traveled the same road through life," valedictorian Amanda Coley said in her speech. "Tonight, we begin to create our own paths. If I could travel all over the world and hand-pick 83 people to share this honor with, I could not find a more wonderful group of young adults to be a part of than this class, the Banks County High School Class of 2000."
Salutatorian Amanda Turpin also spoke to her classmates Friday night.
"It only feels as if we just took our first drink out of the fountain of life, but when I look closer, several delicate glasses have been drained," she said. "As we sip the remaining water of life, we must take time and remember all that is happening, and reflect on all that has passed."
From the opening bars of "Pomp and Circumstance" to the turning of their tassels and rings to the tossing of their hats at the close, the emotional ceremony made an impact on each of the graduates. Many of them cried. Some sat quietly. Others remembered the years that had passed by.
"Together we've triumphed over phenomenal odds, and together we survived the loss of loved ones," Coley said tearfully. "We will never forget the Miami Dolphin-loving assistant principle, the tough yet kind-hearted Lady Leopards catcher, and we all were touched in some way, whether we loved golf or didn't know how to drive, by Mr. Morris and the fact that no matter how busy he looked, he always had time to stop and ask how you were doing."
Scott Harris read the poem "Dear Child in Heaven" to his daughter Alana, who would have graduated Friday night. She was killed in a car accident last year. Superintendent Deborah White also called for a moment of silence to remember Alana and coach Bobby Morris, who died last week.
After the solemn remembrance, the graduates looked to the future. And as they move on, Coley asked her classmates to continue to remember their time together.
"As we go our separate ways, never forget the long, long, long thirteen years we have spent together to get to this day," she said.


Development Authority discusses website
By Shar Porier
The Development Authority of Banks County is looking at developing a website to bring more exposure to the area.
At a meeting Thursday's morning, the authority discussed creating of a website to bring more exposure to the property for sale in what is now called the Banks Crossing Business Park.
Oglethorpe Power and Georgia Power have websites that give specifications on available land, according to Horace Campbell. The authority could have a link from their page to show what is available for sale in the county.
Jerry Bolings said that with the two-year option on the acreage, visibility of the land needs to be increased as soon as possible. The area is in a prime location and a large company would be ideal for the tract, officials said. He said that the ideal solution is to be a part of the county's website, the state's website and link with Oglethorpe Power and Georgia Power, as well.
A motion was approved to recommend that the county board of commissioners initiate the contracts to secure the services of setting up the county's website, with the Development Authority linked to it. The link could include available building sites and information. Permit information and applications could be included on that site.
Campbell pointed out that a decision needs to be made as to what type of business would be acceptable at the Banks Crossing site.
"As long as land use and zoning requirements are met, everything's fine, but we wouldn't want to go out and solicit a junk yard," he said.
Boling answered, "We can't exclude someone, but we don't have to actively solicit such a business. In the meantime, realistically, if we have it on the market for three years, someone is going to come along and want it. It could be a business with high water usage or low salaries and not much of a tax base."
Rather than be passive, Boling wants to actively pursue the kind of business that would pay high wages, that would be easy on our infrastructure and be high-tech boosting the tax base.
He said he has been looking into one company, which has a branch called a logistics company. In that logistics company, distribution warehouses are being built across the country through their real estate division. This could be a good potential customer for the property since it is high-tech and provides better salaries and puts less pressure on the county's infrastructure, he said.
It would be a computer-based business that would create a possible 50- 70 jobs, not including the support job opportunities that would be created. "Georgia Power has offered to perform a survey of a new business to see if it would be a negative impact or positive impact on our tax base," he added.
Banks said he had received a letter from a real estate firm stating that a distribution business is looking for 30 acres of property. He said the land would have to be sold for $32,000 per acre, including the realtor's fee.
The company that needs a 40,000 square foot distribution building creating possibly 70 new jobs. It could run off of a septic tank and there would be little water usage, officials said. Banks sent a picture of the property and additional information to the real estate company.
He went on to point out a negative aspect of the project. The road would have to be re-done to handle semi-truck traffic, since it basically would be a truck terminal. Bolings commented that such a business would not add much to the tax base.
Banks, Boling and Norman Cooksey all agreed that they should set up covenants as to the possible property uses. Boling questioned whether they had the authority to do this or whether it would have to come from the county zoning board. But Campbell said such a move would be "premature until we own the land."