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August 8, 2000


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JACKSON COUNTY
Fletcher 'outfoxes' Stephenson for chairman's seat
Beshara trounces Tolbert in District 3

They were supposed to have been two close races.
They weren't.
With a small turnout of only 2,291 voters county-wide, former county commissioner Harold Fletcher handily won the seat for chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners for the next four years. Fletcher trounced Tommy Stephenson for the seat 64% to 36%. Fletcher lost only one voting district, Wilson, in his romp over Stephenson.
The chairman's race had become bitter in the two weeks following the primary as Stephenson slammed Fletcher's real estate business and Fletcher in turn highlighted Stephenson's history of personal financial problems.
In the District 3 BOC race, political newcomer Emil Beshara trounced Pendergrass Mayor Mark Tolbert for the Republican nomination 64% to 36%. Beshara will face former county commissioner Fran Thomas, a Democrat, in the November General Election.
See Precinict Breakdown

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SPORTS
Ryan Crane top rookie at Caraway
PENDERGRASS' Ryan Crane continued to chip away at Casey Yunick's lead in NASCAR Slim Jim All Pro Series rookie points Saturday with a 12th-place finish in the Caraway 200 in Asheboro, N.C. The finish was the best among only three rookies competing in the $41,750 event at Caraway Speedway.

Local softball, football teams preparing for season
Softball teams from Jefferson and Jackson County were scheduled to join their football counterparts in preseason practice this week. Early-week rains, though a welcome sight, washed out much of the teams' much-needed practice time.


Neighborhood News...
MADISON COUNTY
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.

Confederate grave registration project begins
The local camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans has launched a drive to locate and register the graves of Confederate veterans in Madison County. The drive is part of an international effort to build a database of Confederate burial for memorial and genealogical purposes.




News from
BANKS COUNTY
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.

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.


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ARMED ROBBERY


Jefferson Police Sgt. John Ward (L) holds a piece of wood two unidentified men used to knock Tim Smith (C) unconscious as he came out of the building in the background at the Jackson County Wastewater Treatment plant. Smith said the men took money and prescription medicine from him.

Sewage plant worker attacked, robbed Wednesday
A Jackson County wastewater treatment plant employee was hit in the head with a piece of wood and robbed Wednesday afternoon.
Tim Smith said he was sitting in the office at the facility when he noticed the top of a black pick-up truck pass by the office window. Smith said he waited several minutes for someone to come knock on the office door, but when no one did, he got up and went outside.
"When I opened the door, someone came up behind me and hit me in the back of the head with a piece of wood," Smith said. "I hit the ground and came to about 15 or 20 minutes later."
The suspects, described as two white males in a loud full-size black pick-up truck, ransacked Smith's car and took some prescription medication and money from his wallet, Smith said.
"Whoever did this was after something they knew I had," Smith said.
As of press time Wednesday, the two males and the pick-up truck had not been located.


District 3 to see Beshara vs. Tolbert
Voters will again head to the polls Tuesday to decide two key county board of commissioners seats.
In a race that has become increasingly acrimonious since the July 18 Primary, Republicans Harold Fletcher and Tommy Stephenson will face-off for chairmanship of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. With no Democrat in the race, Tuesday's voting will decide the top spot in local government for the next four years.
In the two weeks since the Republican Primary, Fletcher and Stephenson have attacked each other's qualifications. Stephenson has blasted Fletcher's real estate business, suggesting that having such a business is a conflict-of-interest for the chairman. Fletcher has attacked Stephenson's personal financial problems and his previous record as a mayor, commissioner and legislator.
DISTRICT 3
In the District 3 (West Jackson and North Jackson areas) BOC race, Republicans Emil Beshara and Mark Tolbert will face each other in the run-off. The winner will face Democrat Fran Thomas in November. Beshara was the top vote-getter in the July Republican Primary which featured four candidates. The winner of the District 3 contest will serve only two years before another election in that district. The short term was created in order to stagger seats on the restructured BOC.
Pay for the part-time chairman's position is $15,000 per year and the district seat is $10,000 per year.
There are no run-off elections in the other three BOC districts, but each has one Democrat and one Republican who will face-off in November.
Polls will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Those who voted a Democratic ticket in the July 18 Primary will not be allowed to vote in the two Republican run-off races. Voters are not permitted to switch parties after the primary and vote in another party's run-off race.
Registered voters who failed to vote in the primary can, however, vote in the run-off next week.


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.
Mrs. Wilbanks handed in her letter of resignation at a called meeting of the town council Monday night, but Mayor Steve Wilbanks declined to discuss the issue at the meeting. It will likely be a topic of conversation at the council's regular meeting Monday night at 7:00 at city hall.
At the crux of the issue seems to be strained relations between Mrs. Wilbanks and the mayor, Steve Wilbanks, her former husband.
"I brought to the council issues that they have refused to deal with, so I don't feel like I have any choice," Mrs. Wilbanks stated.
The resignation is effective Sept. 1.
Mrs. Wilbanks says the problems stem from her inability to get Wilbanks to perform functions necessary to the operation of the city. She says he has temporarily moved out of the city, changed his telephone number and his pager number and seldom drops by city hall to sign checks or perform other job-related duties.
Wilbanks is a fireman with Hall County and has two other jobs, making contacting him harder, Mrs. Wilbanks said. He also recently re-married.
The city council tried to avoid the conflict by naming Mrs. Wilbanks city manager, which would have given her the authority to perform most of the mayor's duties, she said. But the day after the council took action, members consulted Wanda David, the city attorney, who told the council that its action was ill-advised.
"She told them they should have declared it a new position and advertised it," Mrs. Wilbanks said.
David said Monday night that the council could have simply added the new duties to Mrs. Wilbanks' job description, rather than creating a new job title altogether.
"If she leaves, it'll be tough for us," commented Councilman Daniel Sailors after the meeting. "She's been running things here more or less for several years. I hope she'll change her mind."


Jefferson students return to classes Friday
It may still be the middle of summer, but one area school system is ready to break out the textbooks for another year.
The Jefferson City School System will open its doors Friday, having added 20 more teachers to meet growth demands.
Among the highlights of the new year is an addition to the elementary school of six new kindergarten classrooms, an expanded Spanish program at the middle school and an apprenticeship and internship program at the high school.
Last year, the school system began capping numbers in some grades due to growth demands. As of Monday, there were still 14 out-of-district kindergartners on waiting lists as a result of grade size capping. Jefferson Elementary School Principal Patsy Lentz said the school would like to admit everyone, but class size must be maintained at 20. Even with the new addition to the school, there is no more classroom space. Adding another class could only be done with a mobile unit.
"Everything depends on registration and the number of in-city kindergartners who come Friday and Monday," Lentz said.
While growth has squeezed some class sizes, school leaders said the impact isn't all bad.
"Every year brings a whole new set of opportunities due to growth itself," Superintendent Dr. John Jackson says. "So, of course we're excited about growth."
Another change for students this year comes as a result of Governor Barne's Education Reform Bill which focuses primarily on those students in need of more instruction in reading and math. An Early Intervention Plan (EIP) will replace the present SIA program. The support will work in the same way although the funding is different.
A second ramification of the governor's bill is 20 days of additional instruction for remedial purposes. This will be done by offering assistance after-school, on Saturdays and during the summer.
Although not on tap for this year, administrators are planning to open a fifth grade academy next year after the new middle school building is complete. When the middle school moves, the current middle school building will be vacant, so the system plans to move fifth graders into that building as a separate "academy." This will give JES more room and provide fifth graders with a unique opportunity to prepare for middle school away from the elementary grades, officials say.
See this week's Jackson Herald for the rest of this story and others that discuss the upcoming school year.


Fletcher Vs. Stephenson, Round 2
Voters will again head to the polls Tuesday to decide two Jackson County primary races, but a lot of Commerce voters can't participate.
Republicans Harold Fletcher and Tommy Stephenson will face each other in a run-off election August 8 for chairmanship of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.
That means the more than 1,000 voters who participated in the Democratic Primary will not be able to vote Tuesday, including some 597 Commerce area voters who cast ballots in the District 2 Democratic race for the board of commissioners.
There is no Democratic candidate, and an independent candidate failed to qualify for the ballot (see separate story), so the winner Tuesday will be unopposed in November.
Stephenson is a former mayor of Commerce and served briefly on the board of commissioners before resigning to run for another post. Fletcher is chairman of the Jackson County Industrial Development Authority and is a former county commissioner.
In the primary, Fletcher edged Stephenson by just 42 votes, 1,233-1,191. The keys to the election for both candidates are voter turnout, which is expected to be low, and where the 614 primary votes for Roy Grubbs will fall in the runoff.
In District 3, which is the West Jackson and North Jackson areas, Republicans Emil Beshara and Mark Tolbert will face each other in the run-off for a seat on the board of commissioners. The winner will face Democrat Fran Thomas in November.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Those who voted a Democratic ticket in Tuesday's primary will not be allowed to vote in the two Republican run-off races. Voters are not permitted to switch parties after the primary and vote in another party's run-off.
Registered voters who failed to vote at all in the primaries may vote in the primary run-off, however.



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68 Shed Blood
For Good Cause
Sixty-eight people were willing to shed blood last Thursday for the benefit of people they will never know or see.
That's how many pints of blood the American Red Cross collected during a drive at the First Baptist Church of Commerce Family Fellowship Center, a drive that surpassed its goal by 36 percent.
Red Cross officials set a goal of 50 pints for the drive.
Helping surpass that goal were 18 employees of Southeast Toyota, located on Georgia 334, Commerce.
Toyota employees who gave blood included Katie Williams, Diane Patrick, Danny Dean, Louise Minish, Jeff Oyster, Chuck Waggoner, Connie Duncan, Lloyd Alexander, Jeff Geisler, Kenneth Lord, Bobby Bradberry, Susan Gordy, Jody Ferguson, Duane Dowaker, Leigh Ann Watson, Jason Casey, Amy DeGeorge and Emily Bradberry.


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.
The board voted in a called meeting last Thursday night to spend $480,000 for 64.05 acres on the Jefferson Road, then completed the transaction with the owner, Dr. Joe Griffeth, Friday morning. The board paid $7,500 per acre for the land.
Superintendent Larry White said the site has been approved by the Georgia Department of Education facilities division and has passed an environmental evaluation required by the DOE.
According to the board's facilities plan, the new school would be built for 450 students. At one point, the board considered using the current middle school as an elementary school and building a new middle school. However, the cost of building a new middle school would be higher, due to state requirements, according to White.
In addition, the system is growing more rapidly at the elementary level, and the Governor's Reform Education Act of 2000 requires the reduction in class size in grades K-3.
Funding for the new building will come from a combination of state sources and the renewal of the special purpose local option sales tax for education.
The new site, adjacent to Deer Trail Country Club, could accommodate two schools.
"This should provide the school system with plenty of flexibility and space for growth in the years to come as our student and community population continues to grow," White stated.
In other business Thursday night:
·Following a closed session for the discussion of personnel, the board voted to accept the resignation of Patti Bearden, a middle school teacher and technology specialist, and Lesa Lewis, secretary and clerk at the high school.
·The board hired Carol Wilkie as a special education paraprofessional for CHS; approved the transfer of Kerri Drew from special education teacher to social studies teacher at CMS; hired Shawanna Fitzpatrick as a special education paraprofessional at CMS; hired Misty Cox as a half-time speech language pathologist; hired Toni Mason as a school psychologist, a position shared with Jackson County; and named CMS teacher Melanie Matthews as the school's yearbook sponsor.


Independent candidate bid falls short
Jackson County probate judge Margaret Deadwyler said this week that a man seeking to run as an independent chairman of the board of commissioners didn't have enough valid signatures to be on the November ballot.
Jerry Presley, 26, submitted the signatures of 855 countains, but 109 were declared not valid because the signees are not registered voters, Deadwyler said. Presley needed 792 signatures in order to be placed on the ballot.