News from Jackson County...

June 12, 2000


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OPINIONS
Mike Buffington
Day of partisan politics
has arrived

Although the November General Election is months away, two local Republican candidates are already...

Editorial
Nicholson should spend
some money on library

If Nicholson city officials wonder why it is that the Harold S. Swindle Public Library is so underutilized...


SPORTS
JHS gym renovations
to begin Monday
A long-term renovation plan for the Jefferson High School gymnasium is set to take flight Monday, according to JHS basketball coach Bolling DuBose.

Crane brings rookie
chase to Lanier
Seventeen-year old Ryan Crane will bring his hopes for winning rookie of the year in the NASCAR SlimJim All-Pro Series to Lanier National Speedway in Braselton Saturday.


Neighborhood News...
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...




News from
BANKS COUNTY
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.

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.


 

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A LESSON IN FISHING

Charles Wood and his grandson, Dustin Matthews, recently headed out for an afternoon of fishing. With warm weather and the end of another school year, fishing has become a popular pastime for many Jackson Countians.

COUNTY GOVERNMENT

Crowd rallies against Hwy. 53 'dump'
A proposed inert landfill and construction waste recycling facility in West Jackson got buried under a sea of protesters Tuesday night as some 250 people turned out for a Jackson County Board of Commissioners meeting. The board took no action on a requested rezoning that would pave the way for the Hwy. 53 facility, but a vote is expected next Tuesday at 7 p.m. when the commission holds its regular action meeting of the month.
Observers expect the board to turn down the rezoning next week, in part on technical grounds since two other government agencies who were supposed to be involved were not given proper notice. The applicants would be free, however, to begin the rezoning process all over again.
This week, some 17 people spoke out against the rezoning and plans to locate any landfill near Braselton. Kelly Henderson of Buford had applied to rezone 117 acres at 8146 Hwy. 53 from PCFD to I-2 to locate an "inert disposal" plant for the recycling of natural products, such as stumps and grass, and for a construction waste disposal facility. The Jackson County Planning Commission had recommended approval of the request in a 4-3 vote two weeks ago.
Developer John Buchanan, who built the three Liberty Crest subdivisions near the proposed landfill, led the anti-landfill movement and was among those speaking out against what he called "the dump." He said the three subdivisions, when completed, will have 180 homes with a total value of around $35 million.
Randall Duck of Pendergrass, who also owns property near the Hwy. 53 site, called the request "spot zoning" and said the county must have stability in its zoning regulations. He also questioned whether the request could lead to a full-fledged landfill.
Roxanne Rose of Arcade spoke about the problems she had when she lived in Gwinnett County near a large landfill, including the odor, noise and dust. She also questioned the validity of the rezoning application, pointing out that it didn't name a landfill, or disposal site, as the proposed use. The application lists "industrial use" as the proposed use.
Braselton town clerk Jennifer Scott spoke of the city's concerns about the application, including that it is in its "sphere of influence" under House Bill 489. That legislation requires the county to notify the town within 10 days of a rezoning application if the site lies within that sphere of influence. That was not done, she said.
Scott also said the project is subject to review under the state's Development of Regional Impact procedures. Under that law, the county is required to notify the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center about such projects. That was not done.
Scott also pointed out that the site is near the town's water supply.
Several residents also questioned what area the project would serve. Kevin Hamby of Liberty Crest West said such developments usually serve a 35-mile radius area.

PROPERTY OWNER'S SON SPEAKS
Jeffrey Bell, son of the property owner, said that his dad is 82-years-old and no longer able to farm the land. He said the family had been selective in who it offered the land to and turned down an offer that would have brought a mobile home project to the property. He said Henderson's proposal is more of a recycling center than a landfill.
Bell said his parents had no idea the proposal would "stir up this much interest."
engineer Frank Gray of Eagle Engineering of Alpharetta, spoke on his background and plans for the site. He said he has developed landfills for 16 years.
As for concerns about the additional traffic on Hwy. 53, Gray said 30 to 50 trucks would go to the site each day. He added that it is not economically feasible for someone to drive from south Atlanta or south Georgia to dispose of these items. He said most people do not drive more than 30 to 35 miles to drop off materials.
Gray also addressed the comments about the application not listing the proposed use of the property.
"We just followed the process," he said. "It was never a blatant move to hide anything from anyone."


CITY GOVERNMENT

Slow pace on zoning
frustrates Nicholson Council
The Nicholson town council is frustrated over the slow development of its zoning ordinance.
At Monday night's city council meeting, there was unanimous agreement that the zoning map presented the city by the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center was inadequate.
"We've got some questions. We need to talk to Mrs. (Lee) Carmen about it," understated Mayor Steve Wilbanks.
According to city clerk Dana Wilbanks, the map is missing several parcels and does not show details in some parcels that have been divided or developed. It shows five zoning classes, including two residential classes, agricultural, commercial and government.
"I feel real frustrated myself, to say the least," noted council member Margaret Ward. "We need to get her out here. We've been dragging this along for too long. I just feel like we're getting nowhere."
"That's not what I was expecting," Mrs. Wilbanks agreed.
The council has the final draft copy of the ordinance, but feels it cannot move forward until the map issue is resolved.
The council voted May 3, 1999, to implement zoning. The process was supposed to have taken 180 days, but 13 months later it has yet to come up for final approval.
The council will try to organize a work session at which both Mrs. Carmen and David Clabo, Jackson County planning director, are present.
"He really helped me a lot with understanding it," said Ward in recommending that Clabo be asked to attend.


Water authority puts plan in place for water restrictions
Even though it has been assured of a virtually unlimited supply of water this summer, the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority approved a four-step water restriction strategy last Thursday night.
The authority approved the policy after superintendent Paul Mims reported that Commerce had not been able to deliver sufficient water to the county system the past couple of weeks and was having some problems getting its newly-renovated water plant fully operational.
"We'd like to take a lot more than we've been able to," Mims said. "We're full by Wednesday, but then it goes down from there."
Commerce city manager Clarence Bryant said the city expected to get state approval Monday to operate its plant at a higher capacity. The city experienced a delay when an official who was to install the control panel had a heart attack as he was coming to Commerce.
The work was completed last week, and the EPD Monday authorized the city to pump 3.75 million gallons per day. Previously, the city could pump 2.2 million gallons per day, but demand during the drought got a lot higher late in the week as residents began watering lawns. That is why neither the county nor the city could maintain sufficient levels in their tanks. By the end of summer, the city expects to be able to pump 4.5 million gallons a day.
The shortages led Keith Ariail to ask "Do we have contingency plans for water restrictions."
Attorney Julius Hulsey provided the answer, presenting a four-step "water shortage management" plan borrowed heavily from Gainesville plan. The authority voted to ask the Jackson County Board of Commissioners to make it a county ordinance.
Under the plan, when water levels fall below 75 percent of what the county feels is sufficient, the authority posts notices at its office and on the courthouse bulletin board and notifies the media that outdoor watering and non-commercial car washing are banned.
Three other steps follow if step one does not do the job. In the most extreme cases, the ordinance would give the authority the ability to close off parts of its water system and to distribute water directly through fire hydrants to people with containers. Medical facilities and fire flow would get top priorities in the worst case scenario.
In a related matter, the authority also voted to ask the board of commissioners to accept Hulsey's proposed ordinance dealing with the unauthorized use of county water. Basically, the ordinance provides a means by which the authority can punish people who illegally open fire plugs to get water or who illegally tap county water lines, particularly for construction water.
If the commissioners approve the ordinance, authority members and law enforcement personnel would be able to cite those people taking water, after which they would be summoned to Magistrate Court and subject to a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 60 days in jail.



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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 Nicholson and Jefferson clinics June 30.
"The Nicholson clinic really isn't being used at all. I think it's getting 10 to 15 patients per month," said Oscar Weinmeister, public relations official for the medical center. "In Jefferson, the idea when the clinic was opened was that we figured we would fill a need. But now there are more doctors than the market can support."
Meanwhile, the Homer clinic, which attracts more patients than its Nicholson counterpart, will remain open.
"We decided that the clinics had run their course, but since there is no doctor in Homer, that clinic still serves a purpose," Weinmeister stated.
Staff from the clinics will be offered work at BJC Medical Center. Both clinics have a nurse practitioner and the Jefferson clinic has three nurses as well.
"We've got enough openings around that we can accommodate them," said Weinmeister.
The decision to close the clinics was made by the administration. It has not been discussed by the medical center's governing authority at its regular monthly meetings.
Weinmeister indicated that the hospital will try to build relationships with the Jefferson physicians who are not already on staff. Some are affiliated with Barrow Medical Center and others with Athens hospitals.
Both the Jefferson and Nicholson clinics operated at a deficit, but that was not a surprise, according to Weinmeister.
"There is always an assumption you will be losing some money when you open a clinic, but I think we were losing more money than we set out to lose," he said.
Meanwhile, LifePointInc., Nash-ville, TN, which bought Barrow Medical from Columbia Healthcare System in 1999, is reportedly trying to sell the facility, perhaps to some other regional health care provider.


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.
District attorney Tim Madison said that based on the facts in the case file, he agrees with the decision.
Madison said he presented the grand jury with the investigative file prepared by Jackson County Sheriff's Department chief investigator David Cochran.
Martin, 31, was pronounced dead at the site of the incident in a field near the intersection of Old State Road and Martin Road. The stabbing occurred during an early morning domestic dispute between Martin and his girlfriend, Samantha Hulsey, who is also Self's mother. Self apparently intervened in the dispute and knives were drawn by both men, according to Cochran. The investigator added that after the incident, Self went across the road and called 911.