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August 28, 2000

Jackson County

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Gridiron teams on display Friday

The 2000 high school football season will kick off Friday night, with a short slate of early games. Additionally, a number of area teams will participate in football jamborees.
Jackson County will welcome Jefferson and Lumpkin County to Panther Field Friday at 7 p.m. for a jamboree. In jamborees, each team is allowed to play a total fo 36 minutes, and no official score is kept.

Red hot Lady Dragons blaze through tournament field
With a blazing performance out of the gate in last weekend's Jefferson Booster Club tournament, the Lady Dragons have served notice that they will be a considerable foe on the softball field in 2000.

Stephens, Academy Visit For Jamboree
Commerce's football team will get a chance to hit a different-colored jersey this Friday night when Stephens County and Athens Academy visit for a jamboree.

Neighborhood News...
Parents concerned about school system's transportation plans
Over 100 parents gathered at a called meeting of the Madison County Board of Education Tuesday night to express their concern over the school bus schedule. At issue were whether county buses would transport kids to a local day care and the length of time busing kids has taken so far this year.

Madison County BOC to hold Sat. budget meeting
The Madison County Board of Commissioners will meet Saturday, Aug. 26, with county department heads to discuss next year's county budget.

News from
Lula may have broken law
Lula's discussions in closed session questionable
The Lula City Council may have violated state law after discussing several broad personnel issues in a closed session Monday night. By law, the council may only discuss issues in closed session related to a specific employee, not a range of employees.

BOE handles personnel matters in called meeting
Four more staff members were hired in a called meeting of the Banks County Board of Education Monday night.
The Jackson Herald
Jefferson, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233
Fax: (706) 367-8056


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So What's So Great About School?

Zach Boyer, 5, center, didn't appear overly thrilled about his first day of school last Friday. The Commerce Elementary School kindergarten student got plenty of encouragement from his mother, Karen Boyer, and his older sister, Heather, a third grader, and settled in just fine ­ along with almost 600 other students at the school.


Regional reservoir 'on time and within budget,' officials report
"On time and within budget" are the five most important words members of the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority like to hear from the people overseeing the construction of the regional reservoir in southwest Jackson County. And they heard those words last Wednesday morning at the August meeting.
The reservoir and a 21 million gallon per day water plant are a $63 million project scheduled to begin providing water for Jackson, Athens-Clarke, Barrow and Oconee counties July 1, 2001.
"Are we within budget?" asked chairman Wendell Dawson of Oconee County as Commerce banker Elton Collins gave a finance committee report.
"Yes sir," replied George Byrd of the engineering firm Moreland Altobelli, the program manager.
"We are within budget in all respects," Collins agreed.
Minutes later, Jim Wrona, project manager, gave a contract-by-contract update indicating that all contracts are on or ahead of schedule.
The most critical of those is the contract for the construction of the 900-foot earthen dam. It is also the most vulnerable to delay.
"Contract five (the dam and spillway) is the only vulnerable contract I see right now that could go to the delay mode," Wrona stated.
A concern now is the delivery to the dam site of the right mixture of earth. The contractor did not find dirt with the right composition where it was expected, but found some elsewhere on the site. The difference means more time and money required to transport the material.
Tamae Partain, also with Moreland Altobelli, projected that the group could begin filling the reservoir April 1. In a year of normal flow of the Middle Oconee River, it would take nine months to fill the reservoir, she said, although the group could start withdrawing water well before the lake comes to full pool.
As for the dam, the contractor had almost completed the tower that delivers water from the lake to continue Bear Creek below the dam. It has also started installation of the seepage collection system, continued work on placing and compacting the material in the core trench (dam foundation) area and continues work on the emergency spillway. The company is also transporting and stockpiling soil.
"I keep looking for that hill of dirt to start," said Dawson, referring to the dam.
Other major contracts include the river intake on the Middle Oconee that will take water from the river to the nearby reservoir, one month ahead of schedule; the construction of lines to carry the water from the intake to the reservoir, completed one month early; the water treatment plant, on schedule; and the construction of lines to carry finished water to three of the four member counties, not yet started.
The effect of the drought still worries the group. Members discussed the varying level of water in the river during recent months. The intake is upstream from an Oglethorpe Power Corp. dam, and when the gates are closed, there is plenty of water in the river. But when the gates are open, the Middle Oconee is extremely low.
"By March, I hope we'll have some winter rains and it's start flowing," Dawson said.
In other business:
·the authority voted to spend about $9,000 with Jordan Jones and Goulding to prepare plans for the implementation of erosion, sediment and pollution control and monitoring plans required by the state.
·the authority balked at accepting a Moreland Altobelli proposal to approve a $44,000 contract to remove debris around the lake after Russell Small, who made the proposal, could give no basis upon which the recommendation was made. The authority directed the company to provide an analysis to justify the cost.


County files motion to compel Water Wise info
The Jackson County government filed a motion in Superior Court Friday to compel Water Wise owner Jerry Wickliffe to answer three questions during the taking of his deposition. The action comes as lawyers for both sides in the on-going condemnation lawsuit began preparing for a scheduled Sept. 11 court hearing.
Water Wise is appealing an earlier court decision over the amount the county paid for the old Texfi sewage treatment plant. A judge had earlier said the plant was worth $1.3 million, but Water Wise claims it is worth more than that amount.
Friday's motion came after Wickliffe reportedly refused to answer several questions during pre-trial depositions. One of the key questions lawyers for the county want to know is what Wickliffe did with $2.325 million he borrowed from Prinvest Financial Corp. Wickliffe had borrowed $3.625 million from Prinvest and used $1.3 million to purchase the old Texfi sewage facility. But what he did with the remainder of those funds is unknown and Wickliffe reportedly refused to divulge that information during his August 14 deposition. Lawyers for Jackson County say that information is critical since Wickliffe claims the Texfi facility is worth more than the $1.3 million.
Another question sought in Friday's motion was to compel Wickliffe to answer questions related to a proposed site for another sewage treatment facility in the county. Wickliffe claimed that those plans are "confidential" and refused to answer questions about it, according to court records.
The last issue raised in Friday's court motion asks for a copy of a "tap fee agreement" between Water Wise and the law firm of Tolbert & Elrod. County lawyers believe that Wickliffe had a financial deal with his lawyers, Scott Tolbert and Chris Elrod, to share in tap fee money from Mulberry Plantation, a projected total of $3.7 million.
Wickliffe refused to give the county a copy of such a document during earlier discovery actions. Following questions by The Herald last week, Chris Elrod said that no other tap fee agreement was done between the law firm and Water Wise other than the one the county already has in hand. That agreement places all tap fee money in a joint account between Water Wise and Tolbert & Elrod. Elrod said that arrangement "would have been held in escrow to collateralize the loan made from PrinVest to Water Wise for the purchase of the Texfi sewage facility." Elrod said the other tap fee deal to formalize the escrow account was never done since the county condemned the facility before it could be executed. He also said there was no deal between the law firm and Water Wise to share in the money.

Planners recommend denial of rezoning for truck shop
An effort to locate a commercial truck and dispatch shop on Porter Road didn't pass the first hurdle Thursday night when the Jackson County Planning Commission denied a rezoning request for the project.
The commission recommended denial of a request by Steven D. and Georgianna Senter to rezone 1.5 acres at 1211 Porter Road from A-2 to B-2 to locate a commercial truck dispatch and shop. Concerns about road capacity and adverse effects on surrounding properties were cited.
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners will act on this request and those listed below when it meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 12. The requests will be discussed at a BOC work session at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5.
In other requests on property in the county, the commission recommended:
·approval of a request by Amy Meghani to rezone 20 acres on Hwy. 124 from A-2 to R-1 to locate 20 single-family, site-built homes.
·approval of a request by Dwight Cooper and Kenneth McDaniel to rezone 26.873 acres at 272 Old Hoods Mill Road from A-2 to R-1 to locate 24 single-family, site-built homes.
·approval of a request by Buzzy Hill to rezone 75.05 acres on Wheeler Road from A-2 to A-R to locate seven single-family, site-built homes. Two adjacent landowners spoke of their concerns over future plans, but the property owner indicated there would be no further development.
·approval of a request by Ray Vaughn to rezone 19.91 acres on Davenport Road from A-2 to R-1 to locate single-family, site-built homes, and a separate request by Vaughn to rezone 24.29 acres on Curt Roberts Road from A-2 to R-1 to locate single-family, site-built homes.
·approved for a conditional use permit for Bellsouth Mobility for 433 Hubert Pittman Road, zoned A-2, for the operation of a telecommunications tower. Commission member Jimmy Freeman abstained, citing a possible conflict of interest.
·tabled two requests by Tom Beck, one to rezone 8.4 acres on New Kings Bridge Road from A-2 to R-1, and the other to rezone 48 acres on Wheeler Road from A-R to R-1, both for the purpose of locating single-family, site-built homes.
The planning commission also recommended approval for several proposed changes to the City of Hoschton's zoning ordinances. The Hoschton City Council will take action on this when it meets at 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 11, at city hall.
The planning commission also voted on the following matters which will not require further action by another governmental body:
·approval to Robert Jay Barringer to subdivide 3.96 acres at 320 Ridgeway Road into two parcels for an additional single-family dwelling.
·granted Doug Carroll's request to subdivide 4.093 acres at 473 Woods Bridge Road into two parcels for an additional single-family site-built home.
·approved a request by Harold Lord to subdivide two parcels totaling 6.15 acres at 6126 Highway 82 Spur into three parcels for an additional single-family home.
·approved the preliminary plat for Foxmore subdivision, at the corner of Highway 11 just east of Galilee Church Road. The 44.61-acre site, currently owned by Reginald Sheridan, is to be developed by Appco Enterprises and will consist of 110 lots.

Subdivision Regulations To Be Subject Of Work Session
Members of the Commerce Planning Commission will give the company drafting new subdivision regulations input at next Monday night's meeting on what should be in the ordinance.
The planning commission, which makes recommendation to the city council on land use and zoning matters, meets at 7:00 p.m. at the Commerce Civic Center.
It has only two items on its agenda, after which The Georgia Group, LLC, Alpharetta, which has been retained by the city to draft the new subdivision regulations, will conduct the work session.
The council has a moratorium in place on approval of new subdivision plats pending the creation of the new ordinance. Specifically, the goal is to develop plans that call for "green space" set aside in every subdivision. In exchange for protecting that land for development, developers will be allowed to utilize smaller lots than currently permitted. The end result will be about the same density per acre overall, but significant land kept free from development.
On the agenda for recommendations Monday night are a proposed amendment to the city zoning map for land along North Broad and Elm streets from Georgia 15 to the Hospital Road.
That tract is zoned C-1 (neighborhood commercial), and the amendment would zone it C-2 (general commercial) to correct an oversight in the current map.
"That never should have been zoned C-1, because none of the businesses there fit," explained Shirley Willis, city clerk. "Under C-1, none of them could expand."
The other matter on the agenda will be to rezone for annexation the 64 acres on the Jefferson Road recently purchased by the Commerce Board of Education.
The proposal is to rezone the land C-1 from its current Jackson County zoning of A-2, then annex it into the city.
The board of education plans to build a new elementary school there within the next five years.
The city council will act on the planning commission's recommendation's at its Sept. 11 meeting.

Tuesday forum to kick off fall election season
State rep., probate judge races to be featured
A forum set for Tuesday in Hoschton will kick off the final dash of local candidates for the November General Elections. Tuesday's forum, hosted by the Hoschton Women's Civic Club, will feature the two candidates for probate judge, Republican Leann Crawford and Democratic incumbent Margaret Deadwyler, and the two candidates in the hotly contested race for state representative, Republican incumbent Scott Tolbert and Democratic challenger Pat Bell.
The forum will begin at 7 p.m. and will be held in the old Hoschton Church of God building in downtown Hoschton.
A second forum in Hoschton is scheduled for Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. in the same location. That forum will feature the two candidates for sheriff, incumbent Republican Stan Evans and Democratic challenger Steve Gary, and the two candidates for state senate, incumbent Democrat Eddie Madden and his Republican challenger Mike Beatty.
The race for state representative has already heated up following several published criticisms by Bell on Tolbert's involvement with the Water Wise controversy. Tolbert is a Water Wise attorney, and other Tolbert family members also had an interest in the firm's bid to locate in Jackson County in 1999. During the last legislative session, he attempted to stop a bill that would have hurt that firm's ability to condemn land in the state without local government approval. Bell has accused Tolbert of using his public position to pursue a private family interest in Water Wise.
Tolbert responded this week to those charges, saying his actions on behalf of Water Wise were an effort to "ease the burden on the taxpayers of this county." Tolbert also said that he had nothing to do with Water Wise's approach to the City of Pendergrass last year where his brother is mayor and his father is a councilman. At the time of the Water Wise and Pendergrass deal last year, Tolbert's law firm, Tolbert & Elrod, represented both parties, a situation that was criticized as being a conflict of interest. Scott Tolbert is also a former mayor of the small town.
"I am no longer affiliated in any way with the City of Pendergrass," he said in an advertisement this week.
Tolbert defended his effort to stop legislation that would have taken the power of condemnation away from private companies without local government approval by saying he is a "proponent of business."
"This was not a bill unique to Water Wise Inc., nor was I arguing on behalf of Water Wise; I was arguing on behalf of businesses across the state."
In the race for state senate in District 47, Beatty has called for Madden to agree to a series of 16 debates in the district. Madden has said he would agree to one independent debate in October.
No other issues have emerged in that race, although it is seen as a highly partisan contest by most observers. With reapportionment looming, the state Republican Party would like to get control of the legislature this year so it would have the power to draw new Congressional districts in the state. State Republican officials have targeted Madden's seat in that effort.

Airport under temporary operations
The Jackson County Airport Authority is considering hiring a full-time airport manager to replace its former fixed based operator. Max Allen's contract to manage the airport as an FBO expired July 31.
Monday night, the airport authority voted to allow Allen to run the airport on a temporary basis for 90 days while the board studies whether to enter into a new long-term FBO contract, or to hire a manager who would work for the county.
Allen will continue to collect tie-down fees and will be paid $5 for each fee he acquires. The authority also voted to raise the monthly tie-down fee from $25 to $30 to keep income stable. Chairman Andy Byers said that other local airports charge at least $50 a month for tie-downs, meaning Jackson County's new rate is still low.
The authority also voted to sell Allen fuel for his personal plane at 10 cents per gal. above cost in exchange for his time spent daily testing the fuel. Byers reported that Allen uses roughly 200 gallons a month.
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners had discussed with Byers paying for a part-time position because of the airport's increasing revenue. The authority discussed that possibility, but decided that if the airport wasn't going to enter into another FBO contract, a full-time management position would be needed.
Member Clarence Bryant suggested that the authority enter into another FBO contract because he said the airport couldn't afford to employ a full-time manager until the fuel system is paid for. Byers asked Bryant and members Jack Seabolt and Paul Christensen to pull together ideas and meet with Allen and other interested parties about the possibility of managing the airport on an annual basis.
The three are also going to review policies of other airports similar in size to Jackson County's and make their recommendations at a later meeting.
For the rest of this story, see this week's Jackson Herald.

Water Wise not under probe, says owner
Federal investigators looking into reports of public corruption in Fulton County and the City of Atlanta have reportedly been asking questions about firms connected with the owners of Water Wise Inc. Water Wise is the private firm that last year attempted to go into business in Jackson County, but was halted after the Jackson County government condemned the company's treatment plant. Water Wise continues to have a lawsuit filed against the county government over the price paid in that condemnation. (see related story on this page)
Last week, Water Wise owner Jerry Wickliffe was quoted in an Atlanta Journal/Constitution article about the federal probe into the City of Atlanta. In addition to Water Wise, Wickliffe also owns The Wickliffe Co., which sells sewage treatment equipment.
Wickliffe said this week that none of his firms' records had been subpoenaed in the federal probe and that there was no investigation into his dealings with Atlanta officials. Wickliffe also said that he had not given any testimony to a federal grand jury about the probe into the City of Atlanta. The records of several other private sewage firms have been subpoenaed in the Atlanta investigation.
In a related issue, Wickliffe said federal investigators had pulled records of those who had made contributions to former Fulton County Commission Chairman Mitch Skandalakis. Wickliffe said he held a fund-raiser for Skandalakis.
"They are just pulling the records of anyone who ever contributed to Skandalakis," he said. "That doesn't mean they are investigating them. I had a fund-raiser for Skandalakis at my house."
Skandalakis and other Fulton County officials have been under federal investigation for allegations of public corruption.
"There is no investigation of Water Wise and price fixing in Fulton County," said Wickliffe. "If the newspaper prints anything like that, not only will I get an attorney, I will come up there and kick his (the editor's) ass."
Last spring, Water Wise was given a contract by Fulton County for a sewage treatment facility in the Johns Creek area of North Fulton.
Federal investigators have reportedly traveled to Jackson County asking questions about Water Wise's dealing here and several other public issues. But Justice Department officials said they wouldn't comment on any local probes.
"The Department of Justice doesn't comment one way or another about whether there is an investigation," said John Fitzpatrick.

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Residents oppose planned duplexes
Confusion leads to tabling of request
A number of Jefferson residents turned out for Thursday's meeting of the Jackson County Planning Commission in opposition of the proposed construction of a commercial office building and eight duplex lots on Washington Street.
Marshia Hunter and Dale Overstreet had applied for rezoning of 9.9 acres from Jackson County's A-1 designation to the City of Jefferson's C-2 and R-2. Under the proposal, approximately 1.9 acres with frontage on Washington Street would be used for a pair of 4,500 square-foot commercial office buildings, with the remaining eight acres at the rear of the property used for eight duplex units of 2,100 square feet each.
The commission at first denied the request, but later tabled it after receiving advice from its attorney.
Six neighboring residents spoke in opposition to the plan, and several others were present but did not address the commission. Those who did speak voiced concerns over a number of issues, including the increase in traffic the development would bring. One resident estimated that as many as 70 more vehicles daily would be entering Washington Street in the Bell's Food Store area.
The commission first recommended denial of the request, saying the use would adversely affect adjacent property, and that it would cause undue street overcrowding. But long after opponents of the proposal had left the meeting, the commission's attorney, Lane Fitzpatrick, informed members that since the request involved property within the City of Jefferson, it required a recommendation from the commission as to how the property should be zoned according to the city's code, rather than a recommendation for approval or denial. The commission determined the best course of action would be to table the request until the September meeting.
"They're wanting us to vote on this again, after all the opposition has left," said member Larry Benton. "Not me!"
Other recommendations concerning properties within the City of Jefferson included:
·the approval of a request by Marshia Hunter to rezone 1.52 acres on Washington Street from R-3 to C-2, to conform to the existing use.
·tabling of a request by Freddie and Mary Damons to rezone 1.52 acres on Magnolia Avenue from R-1 to R-4 to locate a manufactured home on the property. The applicants were not in attendance.
·recommended approval to the Jefferson City Council's proposed changes to its zoning ordinances.
The Jefferson City Council will act on these recommendations when it meets at 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 11, at city hall.

Chamber: Support For Child Care Center Should Be 'No-Brainer'
Officials of the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce have a proposition for Commerce area industries that is so good they're calling the decision "a no-brainer."
That proposition is the support of an industry-based child care system whose construction and operation would largely be funded by money that would otherwise be spent by industries on Georgia income taxes.
The idea is that participating industries would fund up to $1.6 million to cover the $1.3 million construction cost plus the first year of operating expenses. In return, those industries would be able to offer their employees with children quality day care as part of their benefits package, solving one of the most critical needs of employees.
By law, companies can recover 100 percent of the construction cost through tax credits and up to 75 percent of the operating costs.
"It is absolutely the most important thing we are doing," declared Scott Martin, chairman of the chamber's Economic Development Committee. "We need this so badly in every one of our communities in some form or fashion. They (employees) have nowhere to take their children ... There is nothing that I have worked on in economic development that is as important as this."
The "Childcare Jackson County" consortium operating under the auspices of the chamber has developed a plan for an 8,562-square-foot facility located on Georgia 334 adjacent to the Southeastern Toyota plant. It would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Jeff Geisler, plant manager at Toyota, has headed up the project, which was discussed briefly at last Friday's meeting of the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors.
Having decided to proceed, the chamber is in the critical stage of getting commitments from Commerce area business and industry in support of the project.
According to Martin, the chamber's approach to sometimes-reluctant plant CEOs is to ask them "to work with their comptrollers and tax attorneys."
"They can either write a check to the state of Georgia (income taxes) or to Childcare Jackson County to help themselves," he concluded.
In other matters, Rob Jordan, chairman of the Member Services Committee, reported that his group is working to collect dues from members who have lapsed or who have not fulfilled commitments.
Also last Friday:
·President Pepe Cummings reported on the progress of the renovation of the chamber's headquarters by the city of Commerce, including the fact that the chamber offices will be moved to the other side of the building in four to six weeks. When the renovation is completed, Cummings said, "We are going to have the nicest office in Commerce and certainly the nicest chamber office in Georgia, and a business incubator that will be the envy of every community in the state."
·Martin reminded members of the Developers' Day planned Tuesday, Oct. 3, to introduce statewide economic development officials to Jackson County.
"One of the big keys to the whole thing is the turnout we have from here (the board)," added Jim Shaw, chamber chairman.
·Cummings announced that Thomas & Associates, Atlanta, has purchased the former Mitsubishi No. 1 building in Braselton. The company plans to call the 400,000-square-foot facility the "Braselton Technical Center" and market it to high-tech businesses. Mitsubish currently has a seven-year lease on 207,000 square feet, which it uses as a distribution center. Thomas & Associates also has an option on the 156,000-square-foot Mitsubishi building No. 2.
·Cummings presented a slide show on the results of the Business Retention and Expansion Program (BREP) survey conducted through the Department of Community Affairs. The survey questioned business and industry in regard to expansion plans, needs and attitudes.

Water Wise hearing to stay in county
A motion by the private sewage firm Water Wise Inc. to have a Sept. 11 court appeal against Jackson County moved to another location was denied by a Superior Court judge this week.
Judge T. Penn McWhorter ruled Monday against the motion filed by Water Wise, PrinVest and the City of Pendergrass for a change of venue. The court trial revolves around a contested value for the old Texfi sewage facility in Jefferson. Water Wise purchased the facility in mid-1999, but the county government condemned it a few days later.
The trial is being held to determine the value of the plant which Jackson County condemned last year. In a trial in early January, a $1.5 million value was given for the plant, but Water Wise appealed that. A hearing is set for Sept. 11 and depositions are currently under way.
In calling for the change of venue, Water Wise cited the pre-trial publicity on the case and said The Jackson Herald had printed more than 20 "inflammatory" articles on the matter. The articles, including news stories, columns and editorials, were attached to the motion filed at the courthouse.
"A change of venue is warranted because of the pervasive pre-trial publicity in Jackson County...," the motion reads. "...This matter was raised at the initial pre-trial conference on Feb. 17, 2000, and additional and highly prejudicial press reports have been published since that time."
But the judge ruled against that.
"It is far from clear to the court that the pre-trial publicity in this case has created a general atmosphere in the community that is sufficiently inflammatory that prejudice can be presumed. The court does not believe that a change of venue is warranted at this time."
In the motion, Water Wise also said a Jackson County jury couldn't be impartial because of "the financial interest in the outcome of this case by potential jurors who are taxpayers in Jackson County."
But McWhorter ruled that "...a potential juror's status as a taxpayer, citizen or even employee of a county does not act as an automatic disqualification of that potential juror."

Survey Shows Companies Like Doing Business Here
A survey of 31 local manufacturing plants and other businesses shows that while the companies may have problems getting qualified labor, they all like Jackson County as a place to do business.
In fact, "community as a place to do business" rated a 100 percent approval rating in the Business Retention and Expansion Program survey conducted by the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce under a program offered by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.
Volunteers from the chamber interviewed owners, presidents, CEOs, CFOs, vice presidents, human resources directors and general, plant and manufacturing managers of participating businesses this past spring.
Among the findings:
·45 percent of the firms export their products and 64 percent of those exporting firms project an increase in trade activities.
·Asked to rank the most important factors affecting their current and future product environment, 58 percent listed labor as the primary factor.
·Nonetheless, 65 percent of the businesses surveyed are considering expansion, and two of the businesses are considering relocating to another facility in the county. Ten percent of the expansions are estimated at more than $5 million in investment, 45 percent projected at from $1 to $4 million and 35 percent are expected to cost less than $1 million. Sixty-eight percent plan to modernize or improve their facilities or equipment in the near future.
·The 31 businesses surveyed employ 4,439 people, compared to approximately 2,794 employed by the same industries five years ago. That's a net gain of 1,645 jobs, a 59 percent increase. New firms created 730 jobs, and existing firms created 1,039 jobs through expansion, while eliminating 124 jobs.
·Asked about the difficulty in finding qualified employees, 74 percent of firms indicated they had problems obtaining qualified employees. In addition, 55 percent indicated they encountered problems with employee work ethic.
Under the category entitled "satisfaction with local services and institutions," the survey found the following rates of satisfaction:
-- sewer services, 68 percent.
-- police protection, 68 percent.
-- traffic controls and highway access, 71 percent.
-- water, 81 percent.
-- solid waste management, 84 percent.
-- street maintenance, 84 percent.
-- code enforcement, 87 percent.
-- fire protection, 90 percent.
-- drainage, 94 percent.
-- state as a place to do business, 94 percent.
-- economic development, 94 percent.