News from Banks County...

 August 8, 2000


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BANKS COUNTY
See Precinict Breakdown

Thomas wins Probate Judge's race

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OPINION
Adam Fouche
Our laws have a mouthful of false teeth
This country's criminal justice system is in a serious need for some dental work. Our prisons are overcrowded. The crime rate continues to rise. And the war on drugs and violence . . .

Drew Brantley
Names In Games Aren't To Blame
When I was in high school, I lived in a town with a dentist named Dr. Payne. It was a big joke. How could it not be? Pain is one thing most people hope to avoid . . .


SPORTS
BCHS adds pads to gridiron practice
The Banks County High School football team added full pads and contact to the regiment this week. Teams are required to wait one week before going with live action.


Neighborhood News...
JACKSON COUNTY
District 3 to see Beshara vs. Tolbert
Voters will again head to the polls Tuesday to decide two key county board of commissioners seats.

Construction Of 3-5 Elementary School Planned In 3 to 5 Years
Some time in the next three to five years, the Commerce Board of Education plans to open a new elementary school for grades 3-5.

Nicholson 'City Manager' To Resign
Her promotion to city manager shot down by the city attorney and her ability to do her job hampered by bad relations with her ex-husband, Nicholson city clerk Dana Wilbanks has resigned.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
Run-offs set for Tuesday
Madison County Democrats will choose Nelson Nash or Tillman Adams as their candidate for county commission chairman Tuesday, while county Republicans will hit the polls to select either Phyllis Dickinson or John Scarborough as their candidate for coroner.

Family drops suit against Madison County school board
A local family has filed for dismissal of its legal challenge of the Madison County Board of Education's school attendance policy. But the county school system still wants a judge to rule on whether the schools' policy is lawful.


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CHARITY PERFORMS


For the first time, Charity Baptist Church performed at the Sunday School Celebration. They performed "Have a Little Talk With Jesus."


GBI makes arrest in 1995 rape at Banks Crossing store
The FBI's new fingerprinting identification system led to the arrest Tuesday of a Georgia man for the 1995 rape of a manager at a Banks Crossing clothing store.
Richard Joseph Porcelli, 29, Sugar Hill, was charged by the GBI in connection with the Jan. 30, 1995, rape of a woman at Geoffrey Beene at Tanger Factory Outlet Center. He has also been charged with two rapes in Wisconsin and is a suspect in another rape in Georgia and one in Kentucky.
He is being held on a $1 million bond and is charged with two counts each of armed robbery, first degree sexual assault and kidnapping while armed.
GBI spokesman John Bankhead said Wednesday that the arrest came after a latent fingerprint from one of the Wisconsin rapes matched to Porcelli. He had been in the Gwinnett County Jail since June on entering an automobile and probation violation charges.
Bankhead said that when the rapes were occurring in the three states, in 1995 through 1998, the various law enforcement agencies submitted details to the FBI's violent criminal apprehension program on the cases.
"What that program is designed to do is see if other agencies might be experiencing similar types of crimes," he said. "They got together and compared notes and found out that the crimes committed in their areas were very similar ­strip malls near interstates, female victims and they were robbed and other specific information."
After these cases were linked by the FBI, the agencies got together and found they had biological evidence in each case, Bankhead said. That evidence was sent to the GBI's DNA section and it was determined that one person committed all these crimes, he added.
It all came together last week when Frank Kendall, a latent print examiner for the GBI, took the print from Wisconsin to an International Association for Identification conference in West Virginia
"The FBI was showcasing their relatively-new automated fingerprinting identification system which is a nationwide system," Bankhead said. "They encouraged those attending to bring prints."
He said the Wisconsin print was entered into the system last Wednesday and by Thursday, they had a match. Bankhead said Porcelli's card was on file with the FBI because of prior crimes.
The GBI got a search warrant and went to the Gwinnett County Jail Friday to get a sample of Porcelli's blood.
"He was charged in the Banks County case because the DNA from his blood matched the DNA on these other investigations," Bankhead said.
Porcelli is an over-the-road truck driver. All of the crimes occurred at retail strip malls near interstate highways. He has a lengthy criminal history, according to officials.
The Pleasant Prairie Police Department in Wisconsin is seeking extradition of Porcelli back to Wisconsin to face the charges there. It is expected that he will also be charged in the other states as well and the order of extradition has yet to be determined.


BANKS CO. GOVERNMENT

Whisnant, Thomas headed for run-off
Voters will again head to the polls next week. This time, to elect a new probate judge for Banks County.
In the recent primary election, Betty Jean Evans Thomas and Ben Whisnant were the top two vote-getters in a field of six for the non-partisan post.
Since neither of the two could get enough of the 2,923 votes cast for a full victory in the primary, a run-off is necessary.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 8, for the special election.
All registered Banks County voters, regardless of party, will be allowed tovote in the Aug. 8 run-off for probate judge between Whisnant and Thomas.
The results of the run-off election will be posted on mainstreetnews.com Tuesday night as they are announced.


Planners deny zoning request in split vote
The county's planning board of appeals will likely hear its first case in more than a decade in coming weeks, following the planning commission's contentious Tuesday night denial of William Jackson's subdivision plat.
Planners turned down Jackson's 49.9 acre subdivision plat in a split vote.
Jackson wants to divide his existing tract into seven smaller tracts for sale. Four of the lots would front Yonah-Homer Road and not create a problem, planners said. But the remaining lots would front John Morris Road, a narrow dirt road, and that would further exacerbate a problem which already exists, said planners opposed to the project.
Planners who favored the denial cited safety as their primary concern. At least two planning members, Ed Lindorme and Alicia Andrews visited the site and presented photographs to the board to explain their opposition.
The photos depict a narrow road, where two cars are not able to pass safely unless one driver pulls to the grassy shoulder of the roadway.
Under Jackson's proposal, residents of the rear lots of his subdivision would have no access to Yonah-Homer Road through Jackson's property.
Instead, those residents would be forced to utilize John Morris Road several planners said.
Each of the three new homes could potentially add two or three vehicles to the narrow road, they argued, creating additional danger on a road already utilized by a county school bus to reach one or two existing homes.
Access points along the dirt road would create problems for emergency service providers too, several planners said.
One member cited problems fighting a recent fire at a home off a narrow dirt road, saying officials were forced to station flagmen at each end of the road to direct fire trucks. Only one emergency vehicle could enter the road at a time, the planner said, due to its narrow width.
Planner Joe Barefoot, who motioned to turn down the project, said he has personal experience with the potential danger of narrow dirt roads and is "very concerned" about safety on the road. Andrews also voted against the proposal. Lindorme abstained from voting and Barbara Poole voted in support of the project. Poole had earlier motioned to approve the project but did not receive a second on the motion.
For the rest of this story, see this week's Banks County News.

 

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Cross-county school issue discussed at special meeting
Some Alto and Baldwin parents are unhappy with proposed state rules to govern how students are allowed to attend an out-of-district school system.
Last Thursday, around 80 people and their children met at the Baldwin Church of God to discuss proposed rules related to public school choice. A hearing will be held in Atlanta Sept. 13 on the rules and the Georgia Board of Eduation may take action at its board meeting the following day, according to officials.
At issue are the proposed travel times included in the rules that define "excessive" travel and distance for students to attend an out-of-district school. The issue has been one of long standing in Baldwin, where elementary school students live close to a Habersham elementary school, but whose families actually reside in Banks County.
Under the proposed rules, "excessive" travel is defined as being 45 minutes longer on a school bus or 15 miles further to an in-district school than to a closer school that is in another district.
But Baldwin mayor Mark Reed and Alto city council member Susan Wade would like those items changed to 15 minutes longer rather than 45 minutes and five miles further rather than 15 miles. The two would also like the rules to mandate that once a child attends an out-of-district school, he or she would be allowed to stay in that system until graduation.
"Baldwin wants a secure place for Banks County's children in Habersham County schools," said Reed.


New gym floor to be replaced at BCHS
The Banks County Board of Education stood firm in its demand for a gym floor to replace the one at the new high school, and it looks like it will pay off.
Superintendent Deborah White told the BOE at a called meeting Monday night that Southern Engineering and Bowen and Watson had agreed to replace the floor, which has warped and cracked spots.
At first, the firms had planned to only replace the damaged part, but BOE members insisted that all of the floor be replaced.
BOE members have been concerned for several months about problems with the gym floor at the high school, which has been used for only one year.
At an earlier meeting, architect Mike Raeisghasem said the problem with the floor is due to the bottom layer being sealed too soon and having moisture still in it. BOE members added that a leak at the back door of the facility has brought moisture into the gym.
The process to replace the gym floor is expected to take eight weeks and White has said she will closely monitor the progress.
There is still some debate as to whether the logo on the floor will also be replaced. White said that a representative of Bowen and Watson said the commitment to replace the floor did not include the logo. The BOE members don't agree with this and are adamant that the logo should also be replaced by the firm.