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 July 31, 2000


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OPINION
Shar Porier
Take time to talk to strangers
Random acts of kindness.
This catch phrase has been around for a long time now. I don't know who strung those four wonderful words together, but I sure wish I did. Whoever it was gave the world a touch of mercy and taste of grace.

Drew Brantley
GHSA football playoffs 2000: everybody in?
Professional hockey and basketball are often criticized for letting too many teams into the postseason. More than half of each league makes it to the playoffs. Teams with losing records make it in most years.


SPORTS
Leopards open 2000 with bang
For a first day's practice, ending with a bang may have seemed too much to ask for. But Banks County High School's football team combined its play with the weather to end its first day with a lightning bolt.


Neighborhood News...
JACKSON COUNTY
City School Board To Close On New School Site Friday Morning
The Commerce Board of Education plans to close Friday on the purchase of 63 acres off the Jefferson Road where it intends to build a new elementary school.

BOC sued over WJ landfill denial
It looks like Jackson County officials will be going to court again over zoning decisions made by the board of commissioners.
Two lawsuits have been filed against the county over denials by the BOC to rezone property for an inert landfill and a day care center.

Planning Commission OKs Wilson Subdivision
What a difference a month makes. In June, the Commerce Planning Commission pushed developer Daniel Wilson to rearrange the "green space" in a proposed 15-acre subdivision, threatening to reject his plat if he didn't. But Monday night the same panel approved virtually the same plat with a shrug of resignation.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
Sunday winds destroy chicken houses, cause power outages
A storm ravaged parts of Madison County Sunday afternoon, causing power outages for about 2,500 residents, with wind damage putting at least one county chicken farmer out of business.

Counseling program proposed for Madison County
Madison County's Jess Martin wants county commissioners to put $70,000 into a program he believes could change many lives in a positive way. But the board made no decision on the matter during its Monday meeting.


 

 

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CLEARING DEBRIS LEFT BY STORM
Volunteer Battalion Chief Jeff Taylor of Banks County Fire District 4 is shown cutting a tree to clear the road which fell after a tornado touched down in Banks County. Jerry Macko and other volunteers are shown helping clear the cut wood, saving it for the coming winter.


UPDATE
Suspected drug dealer cited
Authorities seized approximately four pounds of marijuana from a Banks County man last week during an undercover operation that turned dangerous for law enforcement.
Toledo was charged with three counts of sale of marijuana; possession of marijuana with intent to distribute; possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime; possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and use of a communications device to facilitate a drug transaction.
Authorities say Aeruro Pompa Toledo, of a Commerce address, was armed with a 9 mm handgun when an undercover agent went to Toledo's Hwy. 59 home to make the last of three drug buys from the 23-year-old. Before the third buy took place, Toledo apparently became suspicious and "went for his weapon," according to Banks County Sheriff Charles Chapman.
"The officer had to take him down and place him under arrest," Chapman said.
Authorities had reportedly captured two previous marijuana sales by Toledo on tape. Agents from the Northeast Georgia Narcotics Task Force and the Georgia Bureau of Investigations conducted the investigation.
"This individual was a major marijuana distributor who had moved into Banks County some time ago," the sheriff said. "He had been moving a lot of marijuana."
The arrest will "drastically" reduce the volume of marijuana distribution in the area, the sheriff said.
Toledo, who was already on probation, and faces outstanding warrants from other counties, is being held without bond in the Banks County Jail.


BANKS CO. GOVERNMENT

Tax bills expected to go out late again; may be in the mail by Dec.
Property owners in Banks County may be happy to hear the news: Ad valorem tax bills will not be going out on time this year.
Bills need to go out around the end of October, with taxes due in mid-December, said Banks County tax assessor Andy Scroggs. But this year, Scroggs said he will be happy if bills go out by December.
Banks County school officials won't be happy to hear the news. Without operating funds in reserve to carry the school system until property tax revenues flow in, the board of education (BOE) has to borrow in the interim.
School superintendent Deborah White has been concerned about the timing of tax bills for several months, she told BOE members during two recent meetings. Last year, bills went out in January, with taxes due in mid-February, which was about two months late, officials have said.
The school system paid about $50,000 in interest on funds borrowed last year, White estimated. To avoid borrowing, the school system would have to hike its portion of the millage rate for at least one year, in order to put away enough funds in one school year to meet the demands of the first half of the next year.
The Banks County Board of Commissioners has operating revenue built in to the budget to meet county expenses until property tax revenue is in the bank, county officials have said.
The tax bill delay can't be helped, assessor Scroggs said. The tax commissioner can't send out bills until all assessment values and tax amounts are calculated by Scroggs' office. Scroggs and his staff are working as fast as possible, the assessor said, but the office got off to a late start due to no fault of its own.
"Last year, we went through a complete revaluation (of all property values in the county), and that put us behind," Scroggs said.
Unlike some other tax offices, who hire outside firms for the revaluation process, the staff of the Banks County assessor's office handled the revaluation in house, Scroggs said.
"We tried to do it ourselves, which saved the county money," the assessor said.
The board of assessors made the final decision on how to handle the revaluation, he confirmed.
See this week's Banks County News for the rest of the story.


Tornado hits southwestern Banks County
A tornado touched down in southwestern Banks County Sunday afternoon with trees being uprooted and a chicken house flattened.
Around 2:30 p.m. Sunday, the sky darkened across Banks County and the much-prayed for rain began to fall. But there was no reason to rejoice in it, for within minutes high winds whipped across the southwestern section of Banks County uprooting trees with root-balls the size of small cars, tearing drought-weakened branches and barely-living leaves off trees and shearing the tops of trees off leaving twisted trunks lit ghostly in the myriad flashes of lightening. The air became heavy, the sky black, hail fell and then the funnel cloud touched down.
The storm traveled northeasterly out of Hall County where the first funnel cloud had been reported, according to Banks County Sheriff Charles Chapman. Tornado warnings were issued for Banks around 2:30 p.m.
"The storm hit the western side of Banks and began moving towards Gillsville," the sheriff said. "It passed just south of Homer, where shortly after, another funnel cloud was reported."
Trees were down, blocking several roads, according to Chapman, and the volunteer fire and rescue crews were out clearing as soon as it was safe.
Georgia Power and Jackson EMC trucks were also out cutting trees that had caught on electric wires strung across roads.
Sheriff Chapman was out in the storm himself and had to pull off the road because he was unable to see the road through all the wind-driven rain and hail.
"We were all very fortunate that no one was injured in this storm and damage was minimal," he said. "The winds were very powerful, very serious. And as they moved across wooded areas you could see where the tops of trees had been twisted out and snapped off."
As of Monday morning, all roads were cleared and all power restored.
LOSES CHICKEN HOUSE
George Simms on Simms Road lost a breeder/pullet building to the tornado. It was squashed nearly flat to the ground. Inside were 11,000 chickens, some trapped in the debris and some dead from the force of the pressure. Just how many survived would remain unknown until the next day, explained John Hass of Gold Kist, the poultry company Simms contracts with.
On Sunday, Hass was on a cell phone trying to find a new home for the chickens left alive. The birds are valued at $6 each. It could mean a loss of $66,000 to Simms' operation. Hass said that he did not know of a company policy that reimbursed poultry farmers for such losses.
A spokesman for Gold Kist field operations manager Zeb Bost, said that since Simms is a pullet producer, he is paid weekly for the eggs gathered. He will be paid for the time up to the date of retrieval of the birds.
Simms has had a run of bad luck this year. His house burned down in March and he is still in the process of re-building.
Now with this loss, even though the building was insured, he said that he would not receive enough to rebuild and continue in the chicken business.
He said that most of the tin would be unsalvageable - that it had been bent and twisted in the high winds. Some he could re-use but it would not be enough to rebuild even with the insurance money.
Also damaged on the Simms property was a tin shed his son, Glen, had built for his pick-up truck, deer hunting and fishing gear and his tools. His truck, gear and tools were all fine; but the metal shed was wrapped around a nearby tree. Roofing and pieces of tin littered the area around the spot where the shed used to be.
A downed tree also smashed Simms' satellite dish. And branches covered his yard. No one in the Simms family was injured. They were also fortunate to have many friends that were there Sunday to help in the cleanup.
On Wellborn Road another family's yard was littered with trees that fell during the storm. Mr. and Mrs. John Cisson were gathering odds and ends together to take up to a yard sale when the storm hit. They were having the inside of their house redone on Monday and wanted to get rid of some of their excess, non-used items that had been in storage. When they heard the warnings, they headed for the basement and listened to the sounds of crashing trees and flying branches battering their home. They did not know what they would find when they went up the stairs after the storm passed.
Luckily, their home sustained little damage. It was almost miraculous the way the trees had just missed their new car and their house. In the back, a tree had been uprooted and was thrown into the outside wall of a back room damaging a small portion of the roof, but there was no structural damage. Their yard was littered with the debris of downed trees and broken trees, and branches and leaves.

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All voters allowed to cast ballot in run-off
All registered Banks County voters, irregardless of party, will be allowed to vote in the Aug. 8 run-off for probate judge between Ben Whisnant and Betty Jean Evans Thomas.
An earlier article in The Banks County News mistakenly reported that only those voters who cast a Republican ballot in the primaries would be allowed to vote in the run-off.
The News regrets the error.


Peace march to Oak Ridge passes through Banks County
The second annual Peace March to Oak Ridge in Tennessee, the site of a Y-12 plant, quietly passed through the tranquil countryside of Banks County over the weekend.
Following Hwy. 441, the solemn marchers chanted and beat upon drums as they proceeded on their mission, finding relief from the hot sun by merging their minds with the rhythm of the drums and power of the chant or concentrating on the thought of their mission and what the future would hold when they arrived.
The small group of seven began their march in Atlanta Sunday, July 16, at the Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta. The group, led by Buddhist Monks Brother Utsumi and Sister Denise Luffan, makes the pilgrimage to Oak Ridge in order to keep awareness of the destruction and contamination caused by nuclear weapons and the environmental harm done through the by-products, like spent uranium, in the minds of the public.
Other members of the group included: Michelle Blau of Ashville, N.C.; Erin Atkinson of Atlanta; Halima Hutchins of Atlanta; John and Martina Linneham; Amanda Hill of Atlanta; Jim Watkins of Lawrenceville; and Janice Daves of Clarksville. Each has similar views about the quest they are on and similar compassion for the victims of the industry. They say they are appalled by the "incomprehensible stupidity of the government-regulated nuclear industry." All are of different faiths, but they united in this one cause.
Some group members march only for an hour, others for few hours, and others for a day. Some go all the way. As the march proceeds, more and more people join the ranks.
Brother Utsumi, of Japanese origin, feels an especially intense and heartfelt commitment to the abolition of all nuclear weaponry.
"Look at Hiroshima and Nagasaki," he said. "You would think that my own people would have avoided nuclear production at all costs. Yet, they participate in that industry. They shame me...Oak Ridge stands for violence and death."
He is committed to walk the long path with other people who also oppose the government's renewed endeavor to manufacture isotopes for weapons. Great concern appears in his eyes as he speaks of the escalation of India, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Korea and other countries who are developing the techniques to build bombs of the ultimate destruction of life.
"We would have killed each other by now if we did not have an inherent love of man within each of us," he said.
In his optimism, he believes that the end of nuclear industry will be seen in our lifetime.
"We are not stupid," he said. "We are survivors."
The group stopped late Friday afternoon just north of Homer. At a predetermined location, a car picked them up to take them to the home of Mary Ann Myers of Alto. Caring people who support the movement take the marchers in for the night and provide a healthy dinner, showers and a quiet place to rest. Myers became involved through her friendship with Adele Kushner, also of Alto, who knows Brother Utsumi and Sister Luffan and their quest to stop nuclear proliferation.
Many citizens of Oak Ridge join the protesters from around the country who attend the yearly event to make the government aware that opposition to nuclear proliferation and radioactive contamination still exists in the minds and hearts of Americans.
For the rest of this story, including pictures, see this week's Banks County News.