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June 20, 2000


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OPINIONS
Mike Buffington
View from the air offers perspective

I've always liked the view from the air. Especially in a small airplane, you see the world from a different perspective - the "big picture" rather...

Mark Beardsley
There's hope for peace between city, Banks Co.

If the Hatfield and McCoy clans in Kentucky and West Virginia can get together for a fun-filled reunion without...


SPORTS
Postseason under
way at JCPRD

The Jackson County Parks and Recreation Department is currently holding its end-of-season tournaments in a number of baseball and softball divisions.

Home not so sweet for Crane in Lanier Slim Jim race
Pendergrass' Ryan Crane was looking to make a big-time run on rookie of the year points Saturday at Lanier National Speedway in the NASCAR Slim Jim All Pro Series.


Neighborhood News...
MADISON COUNTY
Republicans accuse judge of violating election code
Republican leaders may seek a state investigation of county probate judge and elections superintendent Donald "Hoppy" Royston, claiming the 23-year incumbent violated state election law by allowing Democrats...

Madison County's Jedd McLuen to compete in U.S. Open
Talk about starting out with a bang. Jedd McLuen, former Madison County High School golf standout and current College of Charleston golf team member, will get his..




News from
BANKS COUNTY
Ag commissioner gives bleak outlook
Agriculture commissioner Tommy Irvin told members of the Banks County Chamber of Commerce Thursday that he is concerned about the drought conditions...

Mandatory watering ban in place
A mandatory outdoor watering ban has been put in place for all Banks County water customers.


 

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WATERING THE YARD

Jeni Wetherford, Braselton, is shown watering the lawn and plants at her family's new home. She said they try to water once or twice a week, just enough to keep their yard from dying. Water restrictions put in place this week in Jackson County will cut down on outside watering.

WATER RESTRICTIONS

Jefferson adds tighter water restrictions
The City of Jefferson tightened water restrictions Monday, banning outdoor watering between 10 a.m. and midnight. That is a tighter restriction than the statewide 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. ban. Watering in Jefferson between midnight and 10 a.m. will be on an odd-even basis.
Braselton and Maysville had earlier implemented water restrictions due to a three-year drought. Residents of Braselton are under a 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. ban and resident may water only on an odd-even schedule.
In Maysville, outdoor watering is banned from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and includes watering uses such as recreational, lawn and garden watering and non-commercial car washing. City leaders say the ban is in effect until further notice.
The restrictions are not mandatory for those using well water or pumping from a stream or lake, but the EPD has asked for such users to voluntary follow the restrictions in order to conserve all water resources.
This marks the first time in Georgia history that the state has ordered a statewide ban.


Nicholson reviews proposed zoning map
In another step toward bringing zoning to Nicholson, the town council reviewed a proposed zoning map in a work session meeting Monday night.
Lee Carmon of the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center met with the council and made several changes to the zoning designations. The map is not final yet and won't be until at least two public hearings are held. Nicholson residents will be allowed to have input on how their property is zoned. The council will take final action on the map.
This week's work session was occasionally heated with the council members and four area residents at odds over whether the zoning classifications should designate the current use of the property or what is desired for future development.
Much of the input from area residents and some council members has been about limiting the number of new mobile homes developed in the town. Councilman Thomas Gary said that someone who owns two acres should be allowed to put a mobile home on it and not be discriminated against because they don't own more property.
The proposed zoning map shows five zoning classes, including two residential (one allowing both mobile homes and stick-built homes and one for stick-built homes only), agriculture, commercial and government. The council agreed more than one year go to implement zoning and has been working toward it since then.
The first public hearing has not been set yet. The proposed map will be on display at city hall 15 days before this meeting. The map is expected to be ready for viewing in the next few weeks.


EDUCATION

Commerce school budget at last year's level
Thanks to growth in enrollment last year, the Commerce City School System plans to operate its three schools for the 2000-2001 school year with the same amount of local money it used last year.
The Commerce City Council voted to accept the $1,559,875 local school budget and the Commerce Board of Education approved the $7,487,817 total school budget at their regular meetings Monday night.
By keeping the local costs at the same level as last year, the school board has set the stage for a possible reduction in the school tax rate, depending on anticipated growth in the city's tax digest.
Not only is it working with the same local funds as last year, but the school system will also meet four years early the state's reduced pupil-teacher ratios set by House Bill 1187 ­ the school reform bill. It also manages to cover the school's increased costs (from 9.26 to 13.1 percent of payroll) of providing State Merit System benefits for the staff.
"The city school system has made great strides," reported Larry White, superintendent. "Come next fall, we will have met the personnel requirements four years ahead of schedule."
According to White, the system will receive $774,900 more in the upcoming year in QBE funds because its enrollment is up by 78 students. Other sources of income will produce approximately $60,000 more revenue than last year. The total budget is $834,047 higher than last year's budget. The fiscal year begins July 1.
The budget allowed the system to hire eight additional teachers, including four at the elementary school, plus a gifted teacher, two at the middle school and one at the high school.
State tobacco settlement money will give Commerce $42,641 with which to contract with BJC Medical Center for a school nurse.
Also in the budget are funds for 20 extra days of instruction for so-called "at risk" students. That money is being used for summer programs at all three schools.
"I just appreciated them holding the line from last year, and I appreciate the package of information they gave us. You can tell where every dollar is spent," said Mayor Charles Hardy. "We've never had that before."
Board of education chairman Steve Perry expressed appreciation to the mayor and council, city manager Clarence Bryant and city clerk Shirley Willis.
"The city's growing and the schools are growing, and we can't accomplish it without you," he said.


Jackson BOC denies request for
Hwy. 53 waste site

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners agreed with West Jackson residents that a proposed inert landfill and construction waste recycling facility is not suitable for a 117-acre tract on Hwy. 53.
In a brief BOC meeting Tuesday night, the BOC denied a request from Kelly Henderson of Buford to rezone the property at 8146 Hwy. 53 from PCFD to I-2 to locate the controversial landfill.
Commissioner Pat Bell made the motion that the request be denied because the proposed use is not suitable to adjacent and nearby property and because it doesn't conform to the county land use plan.
At a BOC meeting last week, numerous people spoke against the plans. More than 200 people also attended this week's meeting and applauded the board's action.
Developer John Buchanan, who built the three Liberty Crest subdivisions near the proposed landfill, led the anti-landfill movement.
On a related matter, the BOC tabled a request from Henderson to rezone 12 acres at 8146 Hwy. 53 from PCFD to B-2 to locate a commercial business park. That action came at the request of Jeffrey Bell, whose family owns the property.



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Airport manager suggests tighter security
Several recent thefts at the Jackson County Airport has led officials to consider tightening security at the facility.
Airport manager Max Allen suggested at a meeting Monday afternoon that the authority look into tightening security measures in the wake of recent radio thefts at the airport. Allen said he would obtain quotes for a new entrance gate and lights in the hangar area.
No action was taken at the meeting due to a lack of a quorum. Members Jack Seabolt, Paul Christensen and Bob Wells were not present for the meeting. Clarence Bryant and chairman Andy Byers were present.
Byers indicated to several local residents in attendance that surveying for the current expansion project should be underway.
In financial news, year-to-date revenues stand at $27,000, while expenditures are $157,000, mostly related to finishing the airport's new fuel cell. After less than a month in operation, the cell has produced $6,700 in revenue.


Commerce utilities rates go up
The cost of living in Commerce is going up this summer.
Thanks to market conditions for natural gas and growth requirements for water and sewage services, Commerce residents will pay more for gas, for water and for sewage treatment.
To meet a $20 million budget, the city council voted unanimously to raise natural gas rates, effective immediately, by 19 percent, water rates, effective July 1, by over 10 percent, and sewer rates, effective July 1, by up to 30 percent.
And if that isn't enough, city manager Clarence Bryant all but promised larger water and sewer rate increases next year and the possibility of further natural gas rate increases in December.
But when all the math is done, the city benefits very little from the rate increases.
The natural gas increase merely allows the city to maintain a $1.75 per thousand cubic foot (mcf) profit margin. In the past, that has been about $2.30 per mcf, according to Bryant. And in spite of some double-digit increases in water and sewer rates, Bryant projected only $80,000 more in annual income from the system.
The change sets a natural gas pricing structure that is based on the market rate plus $1.75 per mcf. For the June consumption, upon which July bills will be based, the rate is $8.12. The city had been charging $6.80.
"It costs us $6.47 now and we're selling it for $6.80," Bryant pointed out.
The high price of natural gas raises other concerns, according to Bryant.
"We're sort of worried about what's going to happen in the winter," he told the council. "Normally, at this time of year they are pumping gas into the ground for storage for winter and normally they're at 80 to 85 percent. Now they're right at 50 percent. Nobody wants to pump $4 gas into the ground."
If there is a shortage of reserves coupled with a severe winter in the north, that could cause natural gas prices to go up further in the winter. But Bryant says officials of the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia, through which the city buys gas, project some reduction. The new city budget is based on gas selling at a $3 average.
Because Commerce's new rates are based on the market price, they will fluctuate, which means gas rates are subject to changing every month.


Republican candidates to speak at forum
The Jackson County Republican Party will hold a forum for local Republican candidates from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, June 22, at the Commerce Civic Center.
The forum will feature Republican primary candidates for the chairman of the board of commissioners, the individual district commissioners and the Jackson County sheriff. Candidates will take questions from a three-member panel and from the audience.
The forum will be broadcast live on WJJC 1270 AM. For more information, call 652-2967.
There is no Democrat challenger for chairman, so the chairman's race will be decided in the Republican Primary on July 18.


Deadline ahead for voter registration
Jackson Countians who are not already registered to vote and would like to cast a ballot in the July 18 general primary only have a few days to register.
The deadline to register to vote is June 19. The voter registrar's office is located in the Jackson County courthouse.
In Georgia, citizens do not register by party affiliation and may choose which primary to participate in on Election Day.